Spoilers for last night's episode of Game of Thrones below.
A few weeks ago, I made the case for the White Walkers taking Westeros' Iron Throne. I didn't spend much time on why the Starks were particularly ill-suited for the big chair, because it seemed so obvious. But a few folks complained about the lack of attention paid to Eddard's line.
I can't imagine they're still complaining after last night. Yes, Jon Snow won the Battle of the Bastards and expelled the wicked Ramsay Bolton from the ancestral Stark home. It's a tribute to the show's unrelenting commitment to cruelty that it seemed certain for a few moments that Jon Snow was going to die as ignominiously as possible, crushed beneath the boots of the Wildlings he himself had saved.
His miraculous escape—and the even more miraculous appearance of the Knights of the Vale—obscure the fact that Snow one hundred percent deserved to lose. As I'll explain in a moment, he did everything in his power to die, everything he could to tip the scales in Bolton's favor.
We shouldn't be surprised that Jon Snow is a strategic incompetent, however. If there's anything you can count on the Starks to do, it's screw things up and blunder horribly at key moments. Let's run through their shortcomings, shall we?
- Ned Stark: The Stark paterfamilias was simply too honorable for Westeros, believing that he could take the Iron Throne from the Lannisters simply by proving that Joffrey was a product of incest. He further miscalculated by admitting his guilt in the hopes that a psychopathic brat would show him leniency. A good man, but one obviously ill-suited for the scheming of King's Landing.
- Robb Stark: He backed out of a strategic military alliance for love. (GAG.) Then he went to the wedding he backed out of, which was hosted by an evil, bitter, vindictive old man, with his whole army in tow! The slaughter at the Red Wedding may have been a violation of basic Westerosi ethics, but it's one that Robb Stark probably should've seen coming. If he wasn't a moron, anyway.
- Bran Stark: Bran stupidly disobeyed the Three-Eyed Raven because he was bored and went into dreamworld (or whatever that place is) on his own, leading to the Night King's discovery of their lair and also Hodor's mental impairment and demise. What a selfish jerk.
- Arya Stark: Arya is the closest thing there is to a smart Stark, and even she went for a stroll totally unarmed in a city where a girl who could look like literally anyone wants to kill her. Also, she got blindsided by the waif who was wearing a mask Arya had touched. The only reason she's not dead is that she was wearing +12 Plot Armor.
- Rickon Stark: I swear to God that last night, as Rickon was running in a straight line from a guy who was armed with just a bow and arrow, I had to stifle the urge to scream "ZIG ZAG MOTHERF—ER ZIG ZAG." I mean, are the Stark kids all brain damaged?
- Sansa Stark: Look, I know we're not supposed to like blame the victim or whatever, but that Sansa sure knows how to pick 'em, huh? First Joffrey, then Ramsay. Yikes. I realize that life is tough for a woman in Westeros, but you have to do a bit better at your strategic marrying, dear. I also don't think we should give Sansa too much credit for sending for Littlefinger last night, given, you know, that she didn't bother to tell anyone that a few thousand horsemen were coming. (And also that she turned him down in the first place because she was dumb enough to give herself to Ramsay.) A coterie of mounted men might have given Jon Snow a slightly better chance, huh?
- Jon Snow: Jon Snow is the one Stark who has been shown to be somewhat tactically skilled on Game of Thrones, and even that dumb-dumb got murdered by his own men last season. But last night was one of the most amazing derelictions of duty I've ever seen in a filmed battle. First off, he goes into battle outmanned and under-armed. Then he rides directly into the long-range arrow kill zone in order to save his (possibly brain damaged, definitely stupid, non-zig-zagging) brother. His men rush in to save him and the corpses pile up, creating a natural wall on one side, which the superior Bolton forces pin them against in a sort of modified phalanx. The only reason they didn't all die was because his bratty little sister finally set aside her pride and called in the
deus ex machinaKnights of the Vale.
The whole family is remarkably incompetent. How these jokers held Winterfell for thousands of years, I'll never know. Let their words disappear. Let their house disappear. Let their name disappear. Let all memory of them disappear. It's time for some new blood up north.