Joan of Arc monument in Philadelphia

Jon Snow’s Piss-poor Defense of Winterfell during “The Long Night”

Removing all shadow of a doubt that Jon Snow indeed Forest Gump’d his way through the Battle of the Bastards, the defense of Winterfell during “The Long Night” episode of Game of Thrones was one of the saddest wastes of resources recorded in medieval or fantasy history.

First of all, it’s long been a principle to not send cavalry directly into infantry, as the English learned at Falkirk (1298) or the French learned at Crecy (1346). I didn’t think we’d need to reemphasize this point when it’s so dark that you can’t even see what you’re charging into. Obviously there are exceptions to the rule when cavalry can overpower infantry through shock tactics, which the Dothraki are obviously accustomed to utilizing. But as we all know, the dead are not shocked by anything (except fire, sometimes). It was a sad waste of valuable troops.

Second, the trebuchets were cool and gave us the medieval feel, but why would you place siege artillery outside your walls to fire at infantry? Trebuchets are highly accurate weapons meant to tear down walls. They are not meant for killing troops in the open field. More importantly, what was the use of just blindly firing into the darkness? Worse, if and when the dead overwhelmed the troops stationed outside of Winterfell, the trebuchets were in the perfect position to fire at Winterfell (those arms do swing both ways!).

Third, why would you station the bulk of your troops outside the protective walls of Winterfell? Theon ominously told us, “Ned Stark always said 500 men could hold Winterfell again 10,000.” Well imagine defending Winterfell with 10,000 men (and women!). For those concerned about room for all those troops, spend all the resources involved in building pointless trebuchets in digging ditches, towers, and walls just as Caesar did at Alesia (52 BC). There is plenty of timber in the area. Build choke points where the dead have to filter down and face a stationed dragon that lights them up. Get creative. Bottom line–if you know an assault is coming, then never stop building defenses!

Fourth, who was in charge of Winterfell when the battle started? Who even ordered the Dothraki charge? If Jon Snow was truly in charge of everything, he shouldn’t be flying around on a dragon, especially when the enemy has its own dragon. While we love to romanticize commanders on the front line, Alexander the Great needlessly exposed himself to danger in several battles and sieges, suffering injuries and the ire of his own troops. If Snow was commanding from his dragon, then at no point did he ever communicate troop positions or commands. Everyone was just on their own.

That brings us to the final issue.

Finally, the Unsullied were misused and they should have been in command of everything. The only trained, disciplined army at Winterfell were the Unsullied. After them, you have a variety of experience between Wildlings, Dothraki (who should not be charging into the night!), and random battle survivors throughout the North. There was no other cohesive army. The Unsullied are the equivalent of Spartans, and when it came time to challenge Athenian hegemony in Ancient Greece, the other Greek city-states sought leadership from slave-state Sparta. The Unsullied, like the Spartans, spent their lives training for war. Put them on the walls and in charge of everyone and everything; don’t just station them outside where they’re most vulnerable. And don’t just keep them as a separate unit.

So if you watched “The Long Night” and had issues with Jon Snow’s strategy and tactics, you’re not alone.