The GoT makers gave us quite a show, not only with its impressive plot, aesthetic appeal and visceral effect, but particularly with its showcase of intriguing personalities.
More than just a battle between armies, the Battle of the Bastards was a battle between personalities. And not just the personalities of the bastards, but those of the many key players on the epic “Game” of Thrones.
The Battle of the Bastards highlighted many of the strengths and weaknesses of some of the major characters on the show, and there is much we can learn from it.
Jon Snow brought his bravery, compassionate spirit and combat prowess to the table. But his sensibilities were his very undoing.
He had quite the plan. Aware of the wildlings’ relative weakness in the face of the cavalry or the ‘mounted knights’, Snow needed Bolton’s army to charge at them, because he was counting on the trenches they’ve dug to provide them with their much needed defence. And to make sure that Bolton does charge at them full tilt, he tried to make him angry by humiliating him through his refusal to a duel.
But it is almost impossible to play with the emotions of a man who is as calculating as he is vicious. One cannot appeal to sensibilities where they do not exist. Bolton was able to turn the tide against Snow. In the end, Snow was the one so filled with rage he was practically at his wit’s end. He was the one who ended up charging at Bolton full tilt.
Jon Snow has much to show in terms of combat skills, but still has a lot to learn in terms of political machinations. He has yet to learn to read through people’s character and motivations, failing to predict how they will subsequently act. It was his downfall at the nights’ watch. It cost him his very life. But if his past misadventures have yet to completely “kill the boy”, the Battle of the Bastards might have.
Vicious monsters have a reputation for getting blinded by their thirst for blood they fail to think with their brain first (Remember Joffrey?). But Bolton was no such mindless monster. He was as clever as he was vicious, making him as fearsome as fearsome gets. His ability to rouse fear was both his strength and his weakness. His ferociousness allowed him to bend people to his will, but it was also his very undoing. It was Sansa’s utter fear of Ramsay, after all, that motivated her to take matters into her own hands.
From the moment he sent Rickon Stark (which turned out to be Bolton’s greatest asset at the battle) to his death, it was clear to see that Bolton had everything calculated. It was Rickon’s death that turned the tide of the battle, causing Snow to turn feral, forgetting all battle tactics in his wild state … charging right ahead, and falling into Bolton’s trap. It was all downhill for Snow from there, and it was easy to see from the signals Bolton was making to his own men that everything was going according to plan, the ultimate end of which was a pincer movement, or the so-called double envelopment. And he could not have executed the pincer movement any better, creating an encirclement that was virtually impossible to break down or to escape from.
If you would look at things from Bolton’s point of view, you would see that it would not have been difficult to figure out the points of strengths and weaknesses on Snow’s side of the battle. Still, his army maneuverings were nothing short of genius. By far the best battle I have ever seen.
Sansa Stark is one major reason Snow won the Battle of the Bastards. And it was because she stopped acting like a Stark.
The Starks are a virtuous bunch, and are very gifted in the realm of combat. Not only are they capable of yielding a sword, they are also quite adept at formulating war strategies and tactics. But they have one major flaw. Their inability to see things from the perspective of other people. They expect other people, who are not driven by the same virtues, codes, emotions, character and life background, to act as they would. Jon Snow drew up his war plan based on what he would do and how he would react given certain situations. Not surprisingly, the same things he expected Bolton to do was exactly what he himself did. He angrily reacted to what Bolton fed him, charged furiously right ahead, and fell into the same sort of trap he himself had drawn up.
Snow’s own father, Eddard Stark, started to have his own head rolling when he informed Cersei Lannister of his plans. He lost his head the moment he trusted Littlefinger to give him the reinforcement he needed when he confronted the Lannisters. Had he seen things from Littlefinger’s and Cersei’s perspectives, he’d have known that they would have acted as they did, with Littlefinger pointing a dagger to his neck and Cersei preemptively setting things in motion so he won’t be able to go on as he had planned. It wasn’t any different for Robb Stark, who counted on Walter Frey’s favours, even after he had taken away his bargaining chip or what Frey wanted (marriage to his daughter). He also trusted someone like Roose Bolton, who had himself shamelessly displayed his propensity to put material rewards above everything else. We all know just how bloody all these turned out to be. It was called Red Wedding for a good reason. Jon Snow also managed to bring death upon himself when he failed to appreciate just how strongly some of the night’s watch guards felt about the wildlings being let into the wall.
Sansa Stark came out victorious because she looked at things from Ramsay’s perspective. She used her knowledge of Bolton’s character and his past actions to predict how he would subsequently act, or ‘not’ act for that matter. If she’d have had this knowledge when she was younger, she’d have not expected King Joffrey to act justly. Maybe she wouldn’t have had to literally watch his father’s head roll.
Also, Sansa was able to manage to play footsie with someone she considers her enemy. Littlefinger is the man who “saved” her from the monsters who killed her family, only to feed her to another set of monsters who also killed her family. She once asked Littlefinger if he knew about Bolton, after which she said that if he didn’t he was an idiot … and if he did he was her enemy. Sansa is well aware that Littlefinger is NOT an idiot.
The Starks have much to learn from the likes of Tyrion Lannister, who has managed to survive the odds and even thrive in the process, in spite of his SHORTcomings (pun intended), all by asking people only one thing, either directly or indirectly: “What do you want?”
And then there’s Littlefinger. You may still remember his rather famous words:
“Chaos isn’t a pit. Chaos is a ladder.”
You may have noticed Littlefinger’s resolve to take advantage of the chaos, and to use it to climb the “ladder”. What you may have failed to recognise is just how much Petyr Baelish contributed to the creation of the chaos itself.
Season one starts with the death of Jon Arryn, the Hand of the King. Season four later revealed that it was Lysa Arryn, Jon’s wife, who killed him, under the order of Littlefinger himself (Lysa, along with Catelyn Stark, was Petyr’s childhood friend and was a woman in love with him). We all know that the many misfortunes that befell the Starks started when Eddard ‘Ned’ Stark had to take the place of the dead Hand of the King. Littlefinger further caused Ned’s downfall by calculatingly directing him to the discovery of the incestuous relationship between Cersei and Jaime Lannister. Ned Stark then confronted the Lannisters, all while counting on Littlefinger to augment his limited manpower, only to eventually find Petyr pointing a dagger to his neck. These, among other things, were apparent manipulations by Littlefinger to create conflict between the Starks and Lannisters, setting off a ripple of events that eventually resulted to massive chaos in the realm. Peter Baelish subtly and backhandedly started the war of the five kings. He didn’t stop there with his political machinations, of course. He went on to devise an alliance with the House of Tyrell, working with them on plotting the assassination of King Joffrey, then married Lysa Arryn, killed her, and took some degree of control over the Vale and its army, among many other things.
Not many people pay enough attention to Littlefinger. But that is how he intends it to be. It is one of his many strengths – people underestimating him – in addition to his political savvy and KNOWLEDGE. He once emphasized the power of knowledge while in a verbal sparring with Cersei, which Cersei dismissed, arrogantly demonstrating that “Power is power.” But judging from how things have turned out … Baelish silently and steadily rising in power, while Cersei almost helplessly watches her own domination crumble down … it is easy to see that LittleFinger was truly onto something. And it is something that two other formidable players in the Game of Thrones, Tyrion and Lord Varys, recognize and have astutely used to their advantage – Knowledge is Power.
One can only wonder what Littlefinger intends to do next. Oh wait, why wonder when we can use his character and past actions to predict what he’s up to this time! 😉
Author: Tahna de Veyra
Voracious eater. Coffee dependent. Book sniffer. Music addict. Profound thinker. Certified ambivert. Life-hungry maverick. Nonchalant realist. Hesitant blogger.