'Game of Thrones,' 'The Walking Dead' Play fast and loose with the truth

Watch the second 'Game of Thrones' season 6 trailer
Watch the second 'Game of Thrones' season 6 trailer

The cover-up is often worse than the crime. And in television lately, coyness, obfuscation and occasionally outright lying can be worse than major plot twists that are snatched away like Lucy pulling the football from poor Charlie Brown.

Those who aren't caught up with "Game of Thrones" should probably read no further (spoilers ahead). Fans who avidly watch the show, however, seemingly got an answer to the question "Is Jon Snow really dead?" on Sunday, after months of assurances that the character was gone and the actor who played him, Kit Harington, was moving on.

"Dead is dead is dead is dead," HBO's programming chief, Michael Lombardo, told reporters in July 2015. (Like CNN, HBO is a division of Time Warner (TWX).)

Broadly, the implication that Snow would be revived is easier to swallow within the show's fantasy format. After all, in a world with dragons, shadow creatures and a mortally wounded warrior turned into a giant killing machine, reanimating a corpse represents less of a reach.

Related: in 'Games of Thrones' twist, Jon Snow is...

Indeed, the latest "Thrones" flourish actually feels less objectionable than the "Is Glenn dead?" scenario that played out on "The Walking Dead" in its most recent season. In that case, the producers not only put the character in a seemingly inescapable predicament, but then issued a cryptic statement about his fate and removed his name from the credits.

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Fans of "The Blacklist," meanwhile, have been told one of the program's leads died. Skepticism lingers, though, because the actress who plays her, Megan Boone, is pregnant, creating a pragmatic reason to temporarily sideline her.

TV writers can be forgiven in their efforts to tickle the nerve endings of an increasingly savvy and jaded audience. Moreover, the ardent fan base for shows like "Game of Thrones" or "Walking Dead" magnifies attention surrounding every wrinkle. Media outlets disproportionately cover these series, knowing they reliably light up traffic as loyalists scour the Web for whatever information they can find.

Related: 'Walking Dead' premiere down, but series still very much alive

For all that, it's simply bad form to lie, whatever the intentions. TV networks and producers aren't protecting national security. And the constituencies they deal with -- here, mainly the press and public -- have even less reason to trust them when they resort to sleight of hand or parsing words ("Well, he was dead at the time") to sidestep uncomfortable moments.

In the wider scheme of things, a fictional character's fate shouldn't be that big a deal. Yet the millions who watch "Game of Thrones" or "The Walking Dead" deserve respect. Simply put, a "no comment" is always preferable to falsehoods.

Some fans will no doubt be grateful to have characters they enjoyed stick around. Other programs, such as Fox's "Sleepy Hollow" and the CW's "The 100," have notably angered fans with recent deaths, raising charges that certain kinds of characters are more disposable than others.

By playing fast and loose with the truth, however, "Game of Thrones" and "Walking Dead" have suffered another kind of casualty. Glenn or Jon Snow might live on. But the producers' credibility is a goner.


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