Jon Snow, who is obviously very dead and never coming back, may have been the key to the whole A Song of Ice and Fire story. Whoops!
At least, that's what Andrew Beveridge and Jie Shan of Math Horizons argue in a new research paper that maps out the insanely complicated social networks of Westeros. The authors used the third book in the series, A Storm of Swords, to generate their list of characters and connections, which explains why the also-dead Robb Stark is featured so prominently. (RIP Robb, I'll always remember when you ruined my life with your stunning jawline and laughably bad decision-making.)
The authors considered two characters connected if they interacted, spoke of each other, or were mentioned together. Similar to the world that you and I live in, the authors noticed that the social network had several, super-dense "subnetworks," which were part of a bigger, loosely-connected global network. In the real world, subnetworks are centered around "highly influential people." When you're playing the Game of Thrones, they're known as MVPs.
power is power, jk friendship is power!
As you can see, the subnetworks are roughly Lannisters / King's Landing, Robb / Northern Armies, Bran and co., Arya and a lot of dead people, Jon Snow (RIP) / anyone near The Wall, and Daenerys / everybody in the Eastern hemisphere. Tyrion ranks highly because he sits in the center of the world's political machinations, and is connected mainly to other people who are also well-connected. Sansa also ranks highly because of her geographic proximity to the power players of King's Landing (at the time), her political connections to the North, and her emotional connections to both Arya and Robb's subnetworks.
Jon Snow (RIP) takes the cake (or throne? No, just kidding, he's dead) because of his unique situation as a character with connections to various high lords of Westeros, an enormous population of Wildlings, and the Night's Watch, which was kind of his personal militia until they really and truly killed him for good.
If you remember the back half of the 1989 classic Steel Magnolias, you might be painfully familiar with how much a story can struggle to not suck after its main character is snuffed out, gone forever and ever, no way of coming back, not even by magic, and definitely not as an ice zombie. I have to say, it feels like George R. R. Martin has painted himself into a corner. Maybe that's why he keeps writing blog posts about minor league sports teams instead of finishing the next book in the series.
SPOILERS for A Song of Ice and Fire and probably HBO's Game of Thrones (a girl can dream!) follow
Catelyn Stark is a more central figure than I might have guessed. I wonder if she has any role left to play in this narrative. I just really wonder. No, no, death is very final and is never reversed. Silly thought.
If you have any ideas as to how Game of Thrones or A Song of Ice and Fire will carry on without their extremely deceased, very lifeless hero, please let me know in the comments. If you're here to tell us that Jon Snow isn't dead, then you should be ashamed of yourself. Have some respect for the dead dead dead dead dead.