The choices of all three Starks on Game of Thrones this week

first_imgIt feels like this past Sunday’s episode of Game of Thrones on HBO ended up being more divisive from a character standpoint than episode writers and showrunners DB Weiss and David Benioff intended. “Battle of the Bastards” promised to deliver the anticipated showdown between Jon Snow and his Stark loyal armies and Ramsay Bolton, the Warden of the North. The sequence of events that made it to screen ended up having some predictable moments and odd gaps in character logic, constructing events so all three Starks that appeared in the episode made decisions that appeared dumb to the audience. All your Starks have failed you, and this is a symptom of how the show chose to plot the episode.Spoilers for “Battle of the Bastards” follow. Also spoilers for some Lord of the Rings stuff, but not beyond the movies, you’ll be fine.“The Battle of the Bastards,” like the Battle of Helm’s Deep in Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, was fated to have a large force show up at the end. In the JRR Tolkien world, Aragorn is aware that Gandalf has gone to fetch aid. The good guys holed up in Helm’s Deep don’t have a choice about when to engage Saruman’s forces: the orcs show up to storm the castle. All those narrative planks fit together to create a circumstance where the characters we’re watching are making decisions we can understand because they’re working with as much information as we, the audience, have.There’s another way fiction can use the audience and characters having different sets of knowledge to great effect, which is when the audience knows the outcome but the characters don’t. An audience can’t shout into the television, so they are automatically withholding. A story can roll with this and build in-story tension by letting the audience know the characters are working with less information, and build the stakes of the plot around the characters working it out. Take, for example, Ron Howard’s Apollo 13. A quick Googling will tell you the fate of the astronauts, but the narrative still holds tension by anchoring to the real and logical emotional reactions from the characters.Each Stark’s failings in “The Battle of the Bastards” can be traced back to one illogical decision and that illogical decision was to forward the plot in a specific manner.Rickon StarkWhat Happened: Rickon was shot by Ramsey Bolton while running away from the Bolton lines toward a charging Jon Snow on horseback.Complaint: Rickon shouldn’t have run in a straight line, that just makes it easier to shoot arrows at him. Run in a zig-zag, Rickon!Ramsay is an accomplished hunter, which has been established in earlier seasons. Sometimes he even hunts men! That, coupled with the impression that the first few arrows Ramsay shoots off are just to frighten Rickon, means Ramsay was probably able to hit Rickon even if Rickon made it difficult. Ramsay needed Rickon dead at all costs, and the writers have Sansa explain this to Jon. Ramsay wouldn’t have let Rickon run if he thought there was any way Jon would get him back. Later, when the Bolton archers send a volley of arrows into Rickon’s corpse, it’s obvious that the younger Stark was in so many crosshairs that he’d never get out alive. Additionally, Rickon is young and has had no previous experience running from arrow volleys — not that it’s a great excuse to run in a straight line.The real reason that Rickon doesn’t run in a zigzag — or run backwards while trying to dodge the single-volley arrows — is because the writers needed him to die in dramatic fashion by Ramsay’s hand to set up Jon’s illogical actions that followed. Everyone who dies in dramatic fashion has to die because of Ramsay so we feel better watching a dog eat his face at the end of the episode. Plot logic starts to trump the logic in the moment, and that’s where things start to feel weird.Jon SnowWhat Happened: Jon takes no one’s advice throughout the episode. Blinded by rage after Rickon’s death, he makes a suicidal charge at the Bolton lines.Complaint: Jon is invincible because we need him for the show’s endgame, but that doesn’t excuse getting everyone killed.Maybe because Melisandre hinted his purpose could simply be to die, Jon Snow ignores his sister’s warnings that Ramsay was going to provoke him. His own tactic of wanting Ramsay to be angry when he attacked ended up flipped around, and Jon was the one blinded by rage. Jon’s horse is quickly killed during his rage-charge, and he stumbles to his feet only to be saved by cavalry catching up just in time. All of that looked super cool, but none of it made any sense.Jon Snow, the magical (maybe) Chosen One, survives a medieval battle mostly because he has to for the show to continue. Or, at least, that’s what it feels like when Jon avoids becoming part of the wall of corpses, survives getting trampled, and somehow doesn’t get impaled by any spears or arrows. Later, in Winterfell, he doesn’t force Ramsay to surrender despite having him covered with Wildling forces. He picks up a shield and walks toward a bow-wielding Ramsay, seemingly just so he can have a cool moment before beating the Bolton’s face into a pulp. All of these moments are cool, but for a commander of an army and a warrior in a medieval battle, they are absolutely the wrong tactical decisions.Tactics have never been Jon’s strong suit, but the show went out of its way to have Davos warn him to be patient and to have Sansa warn him not to try and save Rickon. He ignores it and acts illogically. Why? Because Jon has to be the center of the majority of the battle’s big moments, and a smart commander wouldn’t do that. A smart commander would ask questions like: “Where did Sansa go? Shouldn’t she be here for this?”Sansa StarkWhat Happened: After Jon doesn’t listen to Sansa during a strategy session, she disappears until the end of the episode when she shows up (just in time) with Littlefinger and the Knights of the Vale.The Complaint: She never told Jon she wrote to Littlefinger a couple episodes ago or that the Knights of the Vale were coming.This one looks like it might be the source of more discussion in the season six finale, but Sansa writing to Littlefinger to request the aid of the Knights of the Vale should have been brought up by Sansa before the battle. There is a list of potential reasons why she didn’t, but all of them assume things about Sansa and Jon that the show doesn’t back up. The only reasons Sansa wouldn’t at least mention to Jon during the strategy session that one of Westeros’ larger armies could be on their side is so their appearance when the battle turns dire would be a cathartic television storytelling moment. Now that we’ve seen how the reveal played out on the show, there are only more questions to be asked, and they all make Sansa look bad.Sansa knows that you cannot trust Littlefinger, but withholding the information that she sent a raven to him makes her somewhat complicit in the death of all the Stark bannermen. Especially when, during the strategy session, her and Jon argue about how there are no more men to be gained, so they might as well attack Winterfell now. That would be the perfect time for Sansa to mention she wrote to Littlefinger. She could explain that Littlefinger isn’t always trustworthy, but then at least Jon would have all the relevant information about when to attack.Here’s another question: why include her mysteriously writing a letter to Littlefinger in a previous episode if she’s going to end up riding in with the Knights of the Vale at the end of this episode? Doesn’t that just foreshadow a solution to the audience, then withhold it from the in-show characters? In order for her to ride in with the Knights of the Vale, she would’ve had to depart from the Stark camp pretty soon after arguing with Jon. We’re supposed to expect that no one noticed she was gone?Game of Thrones has had a tumultuous relationship with Sansa Stark over the past few seasons. Last year, she took the place of a non-Stark character from the books and the show faced some backlash when Ramsay’s horrible nature was on full display on their wedding night. This year, Sansa took a big step towards advancing her character arc by telling off Littlefinger, but has thus far proven to be a terrible tactician.Monday PSA from @Da7e— A Storm of Spoilers (@StormofSpoilers) June 20, 2016last_img

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *