(Welcome to Debate of Thrones, where a panel of Citadel-trained experts explain why someone deserves, or doesn’t deserve, to sit on the Iron Throne. In this edition: Jon Snow knows nothing and would be a terrible king.)
You’ve heard the stories, I know. The bastard son of Eddard Stark has carved out quite the reputation over these past eight years. A man who went beyond The Wall and lived to tell the tale. A man who defended the realm against invasion. A man who took command of the Night’s Watch, died, and came back to life. A man who took back his family home, became King in the North, and allied himself with the Mother of Dragons herself, Daenerys Targaryen. All of this while also being a war hero. A leader of men. A commander who draws respect like a magnet draws metallic shards.
Yes, you’ve heard the stories. You’ve heard the tales. You’ve heard the songs. But do you know the truth? Do you know why Jon Snow (or Jon Stark, or whatever other name may be lurking in the dark crevices of his family tree) sounds too good to be true? Because he is too good to be true. This is just another case of a Westerosi man with noble blood and luscious hair continuously failing upwards, inching closer and closer to the Iron Throne with each fumble. There are few men in our Seven Kingdoms who should be kept further away from a seat of power.
A Failed Leader of Men
One of the first things you hear about Jon Snow is that he is a military force to be reckoned with, a man with supreme command of the battlefield. And while a keen military mind does not automatically make a man fit to serve the realm in a larger capacity, it is certainly a nice bonus. Such a man would have an eye for strategy, a sense of when to attack, when to defend, and when to wait. It certainly helps that he comes from a long line of strong battlefield commanders – Ned Stark and Robb Stark share his blood, after all.
But what happens when we take a magnifying glass to Jon Snow’s actual military history? Sure, he is a skilled warrior, capable of brave deeds in direct combat thanks to his training at Winterfell and Castle Black. But there’s a reason we don’t simply sit the strongest warrior on the Iron Throne. Shall we examine the actual battles where Lord Snow was in charge on the battlefield? We shall.
First, the Battle of the Wall. To Jon’s credit, he did repel the Wildling invaders with the forces on hand, but only for a single night. An act of stubborn bravery on his behalf, and on behalf of his fellow members of the Watch, but Mance Rayder was already sending other scouting parties to climb The Wall and he still had a massive army at his command. The battle was won not by Jon Snow himself, but by the arrival of Stannis Baratheon, who used his forces to tremendous effect, capitalizing on his calvary to rout the Wildling forces. If the battle had gone on for one more night, Castle Black would’ve been lost. Stannis won that fight, not Jon.
What about Hardhome, when Jon Snow attempted to rescue thousands of stranded Wildlings and only resulted in adding most of those thousands to the army of the dead? We can possibly forgive him, as he was fighting an enemy he did not understand yet, but this was his second major military failure and should be noted.
That brings us to the Battle of the Bastards, a much-talked about, much sung-about affair that returned Winterfell to Stark control and saw the capture and execution of Ramsay Bolton. However, the battle itself was a mess, with Jon Snow’s forces effortlessly outmatched by a better organized, better equipped, and better commanded army that surrounded and brutalized his forces. The battle was effectively lost when Sansa Stark and Petyr Baelish rode in with reinforcements from The Vale, saving the Stark army from utter annihilation. Once again, Jon Snow lost this battle and had to be rescued by outside forces with whom he had no communication.
And what of the Battle of Winterfell, which saw countless thousands perish in defense of not just the Seven Kingdoms, but the very concept of living human beings on this continent? Stronger military minds than mine have already explained in-depth how this battle with a total strategic and tactical failure. There is no forgiving Jon Snow’s lack of defensive planning, lack of communication, and failure to provide a back-up plan for when the battle inevitably tipped in favor of the invaders. Eyewitnesses even claim he stood up and screamed an undead dragon in the face when all was lost – a defiant gesture for sure, but not a smart move. Once again, the battle was won by someone else. Arya Stark defeated the Night King, destroying his army and saving the realm. Maybe she could be queen, but reports suggest she has left Winterfell after turning down a proposal from Gendry Baratheon. A pity. We could use her right now, not the guy who needs to be pulled out of the flames during every major military conflict where he’s been in command.
A Man Who Knows No Loyalty
The men of House Stark are renowned for their loyalty and how seriously they take their oaths. They’re unbendable, often to a fault, and Jon Snow has earned a reputation of being very much a Stark in this regard. And honestly, the Seven Kingdoms could use a Stark right about now, someone with a code that is taken seriously even in the face of utter peril. However, Jon Snow has a habit of paying lip-service to loyalty while frequently breaking all bonds.
While we can possibly forgive Jon Snow for murdering Qhorin Halfhand, as he was egged on by the veteran Night’s Watch ranger to do so as part of a plan to go undercover, his actions following that betrayal run deeper. Joining forces with Mance Rayder’s Wildlings, he broke his oaths and slept with a woman. Some would say he was maintaining his cover. Others would say he was tempted by the flesh. In either case, he created a conflict of interest, one that ultimately climaxed with him taking several arrows in his back. A man who stumbles into scandal because he shattered his vows and almost gets murdered for it is not fit to make his own life decisions, let alone make decisions that impact an entire nation.
Even if we chalk that dalliance up to a young man making mistakes and learning from them, Jon Snow’s loyalties continue to be soft clay in the hands of any woman he finds remotely attractive. He was the new King in the North for all of five minutes before Daenerys Targaryen had him in her grasp. First, he pledged his loyalties and the North to her, without consulting with the commanders and family members who had helped secure his position. Then, he entered her bed, solidifying a relationship that will only lead to broken hearts and piles of dead men, women, and children when it reaches its inevitable break-up. Jon Snow is not beholden to House Stark or the North or the Seven Kingdoms. Jon Snow is beholden to his cock.
Following his assassination at the hands of several mutineers (his resurrection is the subject of debate amongst Citadel scholars, but I have come to believe in its truth), did Jon Snow stick around to help rebuild the Night’s Watch? Did he stay true to his vows to protect the realm? He did not. The Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch promptly left Castle Black, never to return. You could say that his watch ended when he “died,” freeing him from his vows. I call that a cowardly reading. A Lannister loophole, if you will.
And finally, and most damningly, we come to Jon Snow’s most recent betrayal. After years of being forgotten, sidelined, left alone in the wilderness and generally ignored, Lord Snow has given up ownership of his direwolf Ghost, who he was raised since he was a pup. Some reports say he’s been sent to live beyond The Wall, which sounds an awful lot like he was sent off to live on a farm. And everyone down here in the South knows what that really means. For shame, Jon Snow. That doggo deserved better.
A Genetic Mess
To paraphrase a close friend, all secrets eventually become information. And because loose lips sink Targaryen ships, Jon Snow’s greatest secret is quickly becoming widespread information. He is not the bastard son of Eddard Stark at all. Rather, he is the son of Lyanna Stark and Rhegar Targaryen, making him the rightful heir to the Iron Throne. And this should send chills down your spine.
As the offspring of House Stark and House Targaryen, Jon (or rather, Aegon) would seemingly appease citizens from every corner of the kingdoms. He’s a northerner. He’s a southerner. He’s the offspring of two popular and long-dead nobles. Surely he could combine the best aspects of both families! But no, he does not. Starks have a reputation for being noble, but for also being overtly stubborn and bull-headed. He is very much the latter. Targaryens have a reputation for being fiery commanders, but for also being unpredictable. He is very much the latter. Jon/Aegon on the Iron Throne is a keg of wildfire – how long until that combination of stupid and unpredictable ignites and lots of people die?
Plus, this revelation makes his sexual intimacy with Daenerys Targaryen all the more disturbing, as nephews sleeping with their aunts is frowned-upon in a post-Robert’s Rebellion Westeros. Remember what can happen when a product of incest sits on the Iron Throne. Remember King Joffrey. We can ill-afford another Joffrey.
An Instantly Divisive Leader
Jon Snow/Aegon Targaryen is a compromise made flesh. He is half of what some people want and half what others want, which means that he is nothing to everyone. His very existence is controversial, the result of a secret wedding between two people whose own history has been intentionally obscured. To place him in the spotlight would dredge up buried grudges, ask too many unnecessary questions, and force our already traumatized kingdom to reckon with events that have left lasting wounds. Jon Snow is a stitch being torn open. He is an infection. He is the lingering pain of a conflict that we decided to leave behind when Robert Baratheon overthrew the Targaryen dynasty. To resort to him is to ignore decades of progress. Troubled progress, yes, but progress nonetheless.
We do not need a leader that reminds us of the past. We need a leader who can point us toward the future. We need a clean slate, someone who can unite us, not divide us. By his very nature, Jon Snow is divisive. Put him on the throne and we’ll be at war again within a decade. Winter is here. We do not need another war when we’re all struggling to eat.
Speaking of his divisive leadership, it should be remembered what happened the first time he was put in charge of something. He was assassinated. By his own men. The second time he was put in charge of something, he handed the keys to the kingdom to Daenerys Targaryen without batting a pretty eyelash. Is that what we need in a leader?
A Dim Torch, to Put It Kindly
The list of of what Jon Snow doesn’t know can fill a tome or three. He didn’t know the nature of the Night’s Watch until he actually arrived. He didn’t know that Ramsay Bolton was leading him into the world’s most effortless ambush during the Battle of the Bastards. He didn’t know that an expedition beyond The Wall to capture a wight would have catastrophic results. The man can swing a sword. He can win a fight. He can look really handsome in armor. But he’s not a thinker. He can only see three feet directly in front of him, with no eye for the long game and no plan for Westeros. He is a disaster in human form, a reminder of the foibles of the past. He is not what the Seven Kingdoms need in this era of change.
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