Here’s why those sightings of Jon Snow DON’T necessarily mean he’s alive after all…

Season six of the fantasy drama is set to feature many more flashbacks than before - in particular as seen through the eyes of Jon's half-brother Bran

Following the apparent murder of Jon Snow at the hands of the Night’s Watch during the Game of Thrones season five finale, theories have abounded as to how and why Jon might come back from the dead, courtesy of fans who just cannot handle the thought that Kit Harington’s character is gone for good.

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Adding what seemed like inescapable legitimacy to the idea were sightings of Harington, fully kitted out (if you’ll pardon the pun) in Jon’s gear at filming locations for series six, plus, not least, this poster featuring a bloody but apparently unbowed Jon. Seriously, why would he be on set in costume if he was dead? And why would the producers release a poster that lied (they’ve always been straight with us in the past, right?)

Given the way Game of Thrones has unfolded so far (along with our desperation to believe Jon is alive), fans could be forgiven for dismissing the obvious answer: flashbacks.

Five series in and Game of Thrones has been a largely linear story, punctuated by only one or two brief scenes from the past and some memories of moments we’ve already seen. With five doorstep novels to get through you can understand why. But with the show having now caught up with George RR Martin’s books, and the story entering a period when the significance of events from the past is set to become clearer, it seems we can expect to see many more trips back in time.

One of the ways this is apparently going to happen is via Jon Snow’s young half-brother Bran Stark, who returns after a season away (presumably spent doing magical training montages in a cave with the Three-Eyed Raven) much more grown up and with what sounds like a far stronger grasp of his mystical powers. And it appears that those powers will very much include the ability to see into the past…

“Previously Bran’s seen tiny glimpses of future or past but never has he been very much in control in the situation,” Isaac Hempstead-Wright, who plays the Stark seer, told Entertainment Weekly. “Now we’re given looks into very important events in the past, present and future of this world and Bran is beginning to piece them together like a detective, almost as if he’s watching the show. Equally, he’s now discovering how crucial he could be in the Great War. It’s quite Inception-y.”

So Bran is having a great time watching virtual reality Game of Thrones, Inception style. Sounds like a lot of fun and, yes, we are envious. But what stories in particular might he be concentrating on?

Well it seems highly likely he’d want to know what his brother Jon Snow had been up to. Apart from the fact that Bran – along with every other Game of Thrones viewer – will be wondering whether Jon is even alive, the Stark bastard’s backstory is one of the main mysteries of the series and we’ve already had hints that we will be going back into Jon’s true origins.

On one hand then, it seems there is a very good chance that Jon Snow will appear in Game of Thrones season six (yay!). On the other, those set pictures of Kit Harington in action may well just have been scenes from Jon’s tumultuous past and don’t prove anything (boo!) and neither does that poster (after all, Jon’s bound to have received a bloody eye at some point during his Night’s Watch career – and there’s no evidence of such an injury after his murder).

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Does this mean Jon Snow is definitely dead? Of course not, it just means the speculation between now and season six can begin again in earnest – which, after all, is all we really want to get us through this long and bitter Thrones-free winter, isn’t it…?