What 'Justice League' Can Learn From 'Game of Thrones' Season 6

What 'Justice League' Can Learn From 'Game of Thrones' Season 6

May 23, 2016

The following post contains spoilers for both Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Game of Thrones season six. You know what to do.


Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice ends with an echo of one of the most famous comic book storylines of all time. The mutant monstrosity Doomsday is wreaking havoc throughout Metropolis and Gotham City. Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman can barely contain him. The future of the planet is on the line. So Superman is forced to make the ultimate sacrifice, managing to kill Doomsday but dying in the process. Although the details vary, this is the broad strokes of the famous Death of Superman comic book storyline, where the man of steel killed Doomsday and lost his own life in process. And Superman stayed dead. For a little while.

And then he came back.

Superheroes don’t stay dead – they just take breaks. Even Batman v Superman teases Superman’s return in its final moments, as the dirt on Clark Kent’s coffin begins to mysteriously shake. Yep, the big blue boy scout will be back in time for Justice League. Because of course he will.

When it comes to presenting and dealing with the inevitable resurrection of Superman, Snyder and his collaborators should learn from an unlikely source: the most recent season of HBO’s ever-popular fantasy series Game of Thrones. Yes, there is some irony in a superhero movie (based on a genre where no one dies) needing to take notes from a series where characters famously die and stay dead, but here we are. Game of Thrones recently broke one of its core rules and the results have been spectacular.

I am, of course, referring to the death and resurrection of Jon Snow, the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch who was stabbed to death in the season five finale and revived this season by the Red Witch Melisandre. Jon’s return from beyond the grave inspired countless angry headlines and knee-jerk responses from writers and television fans who couldn’t see the forest for the trees. In the moment, many argued that this was Game of Thrones going soft. The show that once mercilessly beheaded its main character was now cutting corners. It was rescuing its heroes from death. It was, gasp, playing by comic book rules!

Jon Snow

But as subsequent episodes proved, Jon Snow’s demise and return did not represent the series’ producers and writers backtracking on a previous decision. This was not a case where a popular character was brought back to appease fans, undo a blunder, or provide a “shocking” twist. Jon’s situation is none of the above – he died because his eventual return to the world of the living would reshape his arc, alter his world, re-order his priorities, and leave him a different person. You don’t get murdered by your supposed friends and then return from black nothingness without a new disposition. Resurrected Jon Snow has proven fascinating and the character is now free to pursue story threads he could not before. His resurrection has been the catalyst for more storytelling, for interesting decisions, and for a profound change in how others interact with him.

And this is the best we can hope for with Superman’s eventual resurrection. The truth is that everyone with even a smidgen of pop culture knowledge know that Superman is coming back. His “death” in the comics was only an excuse to let his world change enough to give him something fresh to which he could return. It’s easy to imagine a Justice League movie where Superman comes back to life and the rest of the superheroes look on in awe and it’s treated like a grand reveal, a big twist, the upheaval that kickstarts the plot.

However, the braver choice, the more interesting choice, would be to directly grapple with what it means to come back to life. How has this process changed Superman? How does the world view him now that he’s been buried and mourned? Does his viewpoint change at all? Heck, this would be the perfect opportunity for Warner Bros. and DC to quietly reinvent Superman as the positive and hopeful character of the comics and do away with the brooding alien of the recent films.

Game of Thrones proved that a character resurrection can actually matter. Jon Snow’s return was an actual step forward in his growth as a character. Everyone and their next-door neighbor knows Superman is coming back, so why even treat it like a surprise? Treat it like a development that will make us care about what he does next.

Categories: Features, Geek
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