• The Nonsensical Game of Thrones

    DURGONS!
    DURGONS!

    Spoiler alert: This post might spoil your ability to enjoy lazy, shallow teleplay writing. Oh, and plot points too, I guess.

    Game of Thrones is one of the best dramas on television, which is a bit like being the very best of all prizes found at the bottom of a cereal box. While it can be pandering, I like the grit. The viewer is unshielded from more-authentic human language, violence, and bodies. This isn’t much, really, but it’s a far sight better than faux-reality shows that are more manicured than a miniature golf green or the raucous babble of a sitcom laugh track frenzied for no discernible reason. Still, taken on its own, it is pop fare produced for an assumed 8th grade-grade audience without burden of understanding of psychology, anthropology, history, combat, or war. Internal coherence is also not much of an apparent concern.

    Caveats: This is by no means exhaustive, just a few of the more obnoxious bits. Also this is about the television series, not the books. Those are different products, similar but different universes. Please do not try to correct me using anything from the books, this is not about them.

    Almost every single character is too dumb to live

    And indeed, they usually walk right into their misery or doom. It’s hard to feel bad for these characters.

    Ned Stark knew the Lannisters for decades without ever hearing the slightest whisper of the depth of their treachery. He acts as if he just met them all yesterday. As he is set up for his fall almost everyone around him (e.g. Littlefinger, Cersei) lies to him and plays him for a fool, even Joffrey at the very end. He believes it every time, or at least fails to sensibly respond.

    Sansa Stark watches young Joffrey sadistically assault a defenseless boy (ultimately leading to his death) and try to kill her sister —for no reason. She not only refuses to speak this truth later, she defends Joffrey, never considering that his demonic attention might turn toward her.

    Cersei & Jamie Lannister, having just enacted a plot to kill The Hand (edit: or at least aware it exists and benefits them, see comments) to eventually get at the King, decide that a road trip far away from their home turf is a good time for a roll in the hay. The discovery of their affair would ruin their lives entirely: it could establish Joffrey is probably not heir to the throne, it would be powerful evidence of the conspiracy against the king, it would get Jamie and/or Cersei executed.
    Like Sansa, the otherwise crafty Cersei never considers maybe Joffrey’s kinghood is a ticket to total perdition, until he’s already king.

    Joffrey is sadistic, sure, but rather than confining his evil to private acts, he indulges himself by insulting everyone and obnoxiously lording his power and greatness over his own subjects. It never occurs to him that fomenting enemies among virtually every group and in every direction might be a bad idea. True, he is king, but so was the Mad King right before his own family off’d him, as Joffrey knows well.

    Jon Snow really does know nothing. He trusts red and the sworn-enemy wildlings when he has no reason to; they do they same. I am not sure which are dumber or more out-of-character in a bleak, brutal world where trust is rare and hard-won.

    Daenerys, mother of idiocy. Most of her choices are articulated as an 8-year-old might. She almost immediately throws her weight around as queen, even without Khal to legitimate her position. These are people who kill each other for any reason or no reason, and she’s a Janey-come-lately whose claim to rule is a brief marriage with the dead King. Her dragons are stolen and her life imperiled (they don’t kill her… why?) when she later walks in to the most obvious of traps.

    Exceptions (so far): Arya, Tyrion.

    The Night’s Watch

    The Watch is painted as some sort of noble cause complete with oath and flags, and yet is primarily stocked with bastards, criminals, and slaves forced to serve under penalty of death.

    1. It makes no sense to force somebody to take an oath. The whole point of an oath is that someone voluntarily promises to do something, and that their word means something.

    2. There’s no honor or status serving in a force of murderers, thieves, rapists, et c. It doesn’t matter if it used to be different.

    3. This would be the worst army ever, as its members would kill and steal from each other before probably just leaving anyway because being a fugitive sounds better than a life of celibate servitude with violent criminals. Also, since the Wall is highly isolated, there’s no chance word of your fugitive status would get to the deeper south any time soon, or even that the lords or would-be kings of those regions even care about the business of the Night’s Watch to begin with.

    4. Why doesn’t the Iron Throne see to the manning of the Wall, if it’s important? The King is the “Protector of the Realm” but is unconcerned. If there’s no threat, then why not just moth-ball the fortress and invest in the professional army instead?

    5. Why do they have to be celibate? Seems like a big problem at the Night’s Watch is dwindling numbers. Not being celibate is a great way to get higher numbers in a few years.

    The Horse Lords

    Arguably the most racist and ignorant part of Game of Thrones. The horse lord people are a modern warming over of “violent savage” tropes mixed with bits from Attila the Hun and the like. The problem is that empire-building Huns aren’t much like indigenous tribal peoples and GoT mixes and matches bits of each playing anthropological Mr. Potato Head.

    1. If weddings average at least two deaths (“less than 3 deaths at a Dothraki wedding is considered a dull affair”), this would mean each generation would annihilate itself and the society would implode. Even if the average is much less than two, remember there are premature deaths for many other reasons than weddings. This makes no sense at all.

    2. Those common party-related deaths would incense family members into blood feuds which would cost many more lives and cause much chaos. State-like laws and limits on the use of violence prevent this in more orderly societies, but there are no such laws among the Dothraki, the murders receive only shrugged shoulders or applause.

    3. The Dothraki are raiders who leave behind a sick or wounded leader who can’t ride a horse. Why would this be true? Are there no carts? If a thousand of Drogo’s riders went to do some raiding, they would ride out on horseback with weapons and water. Then they’d score whatever loot they were after and put it… where? The carts they don’t have? If they do have carts, then a leader could ride in it instead. This would also make a lot more sense because riding a horse is exhausting, and raiding would work much better if the raiders weren’t all exhausted. Moreover, in a battle of 1,000+ men the leader’s value is not swinging a sword, it’s in his tactical command skill and experience. The ancient, real, horse lords knew this. Cross-reference under “too dumb to live”.

    The Iron Bank

    1. How can a sophisticated financial institution exist in a world without any unified laws or protections?

    2. Why doesn’t anyone, including the Iron Throne who is indebted to it, not simply take control of it? If it is so fabulously wealthy, it would be a magnet for any despot with an army.

    3. Such a large institution needs highly trained, educated accountants, analysts and so on. Where are these people coming from? The college that doesn’t exist? Has the Iron Campus not been introduced yet? I can’t wait to see the Iron Beer Pong Tournaments.

    4. Everyone seems to respect its might, but why? Nothing has been said of it having an army, just a city guard. What will they do if the Iron Throne refuses to pay its debts? Invade Westeros? Wouldn’t that cost more money than they are due? Maybe they would sever relations with the throne, but wouldn’t that make their credit worthless and maybe provoke expensive, destructive war?

    Dragons

    The Iron Throne learns the dragons are back and commanded by an enemy who aims to conquer them. At the time they learn this, Dany is relatively vulnerable and so are the baby Dragons (at least, as vulnerable as Dragons can be). Since three full size dragons sound like an impossible fight in a few years, why not send some assassins to kill one or both of them? She’s none too bright, already repeatedly taken in by strangers and allies who trick, deceive, and manipulate her. It wouldn’t be hard. Instead, the Lannister/Baratheon’s decide the smart thing to do is nothing, allowing Dany and her monsters much-needed time to grow powerful. Again, almost every single person is too dumb to live.


     

    There’s a pattern to most of these. It’s writing based on a superficial mish-mash of tastier bits of history, psychology, and anthropology. Most viewers will not much notice because we get drawn in by the characters and we watch to see what happens to ones we like and hate. Unlike most fantasy, Game of Thrones is not about the characters as people, but the roles that they play. That is why they come and go, live and die so easily, they don’t really matter. None of them matter. Their role in driving the narrative does. This is why the opening video is so genius. It features no people, just a gameboard and shifting patterns of flags and strengths. The people really are just game pieces that the Gods of the GoT world care nothing for.
    Maybe that’s also why the teleplay is badly flawed. Television producers wish to luxuriate over characters, even at the expense of creating a coherent world to put them in, and the source material makes it worse because the characters weren’t intrinsically important to begin with.

     

    Category: Critical ThinkingfeaturedFeatured InchumorNonsensicality Series

  • Article by: Edward Clint

    Ed Clint is an evolutionary psychologist, co-founder of Skeptic Ink, and USAF veteran.
    • jg29a

      Most of your points seem to attack tropes of narrative fiction more generally, in a way that supports my thesis: the amount of fiction we are exposed to in the developed world is, on balance, bad for our minds.

      • I don’t think any of these would apply to say, Tolkien. I’m not even sure they apply to the GoT books. I have never read them. If you mean television… I wouldn’t have these sorts of objections to Carnivale or The Shield (though I have other criticisms for them).
        The “every single character is stupid or ineffectual” does find broad import today. E.g. Mad Men, Orange is the New Black, House of Cards, Big Bang Theory, Walking Dead. I stopped watching Walking Dead after season 2; There just wasn’t one single character that I cared about, they were all so painfully dumb.

    • Dave Allen

      Embarrassed as I am to get my nerd on Ed there a few things I’d consider:

      Jaime and Cersei didn’t plot to kill the Hand. Littlefinger and the Hand’s wife did it. They just look guilty because they admit that it’s convenient for them and are quite glad it happened.

      At least two attempts to assassinate Dany are depicted in the show – a poisoned wine seller and a girl with a scorpion-like creature. Arguments between Ned and Rob as to the degree to which they pursue Dany are a feature of the first season, and it is possible that at least one (and probably two) of Rob’s closest advisors are working for Dany in some capacity, and therefore further hampering any attempt at organising an effective assassination.

      I had assumed that only the Dothraki elite were granted the right to (the sort of) marriage (we see in the show). If so Ilyrio’s remarks about deaths at a wedding might only refer to deaths at a (royal) wedding.

      I would also assume the point of getting even dishonourable people to swear an oath is to set fair precedent. “You can’t say you didn’t know not to abandon your post – we all saw you take the oath” type thing.

      • re: Jaime & Cersei
        Possible, but it isn’t really portrayed that way. The Hand’s wife (Lysa) sent word to Cat that she “fled” the capitol and the Lannister’s killed Jon. So, the claim here is that Petyr and Lysa killed Jon because he knew the truth about the Lannister children to keep the secret. Then, she tells the story of the conspiracy to the very people most highly motivated and able to investigate the death and uncover that same truth (which is what happens)? We know, for a fact, Cersei is responsible for Robert’s death later; but she has no part in the conspiracy to protect her own secrets? Really?

        You might be right, particularly about Jamie, but this just introduces even more problems and nonsense. None of this changes the stupidity of them hooking up in Winterfell, or the consequences I outlined.

        re: Dany

        Yes, attempts are made to kill her, which change nothing about her attitude or wariness. If Rob’s “closest advisors” are working for Dany, all one really need do is tip her off with a little bit of evidence to that fact- later Dany does exile Jorah after finding out his true past. Even if they didn’t do that, assassination isn’t that hard in GoT as the most powerful people in the realm get murdered every month or so, including the most well-guard and protected. But the teenage girl with nomadic horse riders is untouchable? Yeah, sure.

        re: Dothraki weddings
        It is never said or implied the killing is restricted to “royal” weddings. Indeed, the Dothraki have no royalty, no aristocrat classes to begin with. The remark is so matter-of-fact that it sounds like it would apply to any big celebration, in fact.

        re: Oaths
        That would be accomplished by a rule list taught. And the oath itself is not an acknowledgement of rules, but flowery prose about duty:

        Night gathers, and now my watch begins. It shall not end until my death. I shall take no wife, hold no lands, father no children. I shall wear no crowns and win no glory. I shall live and die at my post. I am the sword in the darkness. I am the watcher on the walls. I am the shield that guards the realms of men. I pledge my life and honor to the Night’s Watch, for this night and all the nights to come.

        Will an errant Crow be punished for failing to die at their post as they promised? You were supposed to die at your post! Now you’re really in trouble because the oath! We see the word “pledge” which means solemn promise. You can’t force somebody to give a solemn promise or an oath. That is not what those words mean. To use them this way means you don’t know what words mean, or the writer doesn’t know how to correctly describe what is actually happening in the story because the Crows do act like the oath is an oath, not a legalistic “gotcha” clause or rule list. If it’s just a rule list, then the reluctant Crows should disingenuously mouth the words and later shrug their shoulders at any mention of the stupid pointless oath. That isn’t what any of them ever do.

        • Dave Allen

          Littlefinger and Lysa killed Jon because Littlefinger has convinced Lysa (who has carried a flame for Littlefinger since childhood) that once Jon is out of the way they can get together and rule the Vale.

          This particular plot hasn’t anything to do with the Lannisters other than make them look culpable to anyone who knows about the incest (which is almost certainly why Littlefinger tips Ned off to the closeness of their relationship).

          So whatever their intent, they really are innocent of the deed.

          Dany certainly accrues a lot of enemies, but if we are talking specifically about Robert’s attempts to have her assassinated then the notion that the job was made difficult has a good few reasons behind it:

          – Jorah, his inside man, was charmed by her and astounded by the events surrounding the birth of the dragons. So he turns double agent.
          – Varys is shown working with Ilyrio, and is later revealed to have been a Targaryen loyalist all along in his conversations with Tyrion. As spymaster he would probably have been the one to arrange for assassinations, and so he could have simultaneously arranged for the tipping off of those assassinations, or inept assassins and so on.
          – Ned is also highly reluctant to assist in the assassination – it isn’t explicit but he almost certainly swore to protect at least one Targaryen child. He is shown talking Robert round on the issue.
          – The treasury is empty.
          – Robert soon has a bigger problem in the form of a boar, and Joffrey has a bigger problem with the war.

          – Joffrey alienates Barristan, who joins Dany, presumably with a certain degree of know how as to pre-existing plots to stop her.

          So if we’re talking about efforts by the Iron throne to assassinate Danys then I’m not sure they stretch credibility – the ability of certain figures in history to foil assassinations through luck could be said to be even more unlikely (albeit without the dragons and stuff). There’s also a certain reluctance of powerful people to simply kill each other because of the precedent it sets. Even today the accepted method of regime change seems to be expensive (in terms of money and lives) wars as opposed to tidy operations to remove key players. Aristocrats don’t like living in a world were simply killing aristocrats gets things done.

          As to why the warlocks of Qarth are so inept at doing her in … that’s another matter.

          Regarding the oath – I agree that it’s flowery, but in terms of being a stretch of credibility I’d suggest a lot of pledges required to join societies in real life are also less to do with a fair interpretation of the words as they are about saying something vaguely inspiring.

          There’s a certain theatre to things such as pledging allegiance and so on.

          As for deserting the post – I imagine the commanders at the wall take a more utilitarian view of individual soldiers in individual circumstances – but we know that desertion carries a death sentence. As to whether or not a tactical withdrawal in the face of overwhelming force counts as desertion is surely down to the opinion of the commanders.

          If the Dothraki “Khal” is to the Mongolian “Khan” then a notion of dynastic nobility is implied, I’d say, though I’ll admit I don’t know. There’s certainly a notion of him being the chieftain, a big man who was the son of a big man.

          If so then whilst marriages may or may not be common in the society a wedding (as in the celebration and ritual surrounding a marriage) might be something only important types get.

    • Phil Giordana Fcd

      So, you don’t like fun, light-hearted entertainment? I’ll grant that this new season sucks so far, and I’d rather re-watch the whole of Vikings, but it’s still a pretty good show. Maybe Honey boo-boo would be better suited for your reality-seeking obsession (no worries, I say that in jest)

    • Hidalgo Huellah

      This is totally on point about The Night’s Watch. Also, the Lannisters. However, I do think that the Dothraki aren’t nearly as racist as they might seem to some & that their historical precedent is the Mongols, not the Huns, who had been steadily driven back & marginalised by expansionist Chinese states in the centuries before their 12th century unification & their subsequent campaigns world conquest.

    • jjramsey

      Cersei & Jamie Lannister … decide that a road trip far away from their home turf is a good time for a roll in the hay. The discovery of their affair would ruin their lives entirely…

      And this sort of folly is unrealistic … why? People make all sorts of bad and risky sexual decisions. If there were a fictional president who had sex with an intern and got caught, would you consider that unrealistic? Or if a powerful banker got caught sexually molesting a hotel maid, would that be too far-fetched for you? Furthermore, as bad decisions go, this was realistically risky. It is entirely understandable that Jaime would not expect his sexual liaisons to be spied upon from a second-or-third story window that requires a dangerous climb to reach from the outside. It’s not as if he and Cersei weren’t trying to hide their incestuous relationship.

      Joffrey is sadistic, sure, but rather than confining his evil to private acts, he indulges himself by insulting everyone and obnoxiously lording his power and greatness over his own subjects.

      Again, his sort of folly is unrealistic … why? Why expect an adolescent bully who is given nigh-absolute power to be so restrained?

      Sansa Stark watches young Joffrey sadistically assault a defenseless boy (ultimately leading to his death) and try to kill her sister —for no reason. She not only refuses to speak this truth later, she defends Joffrey, never considering that his demonic attention might turn toward her.

      Let’s see now. She has a bit of a thing for Joffrey, and he’s her ticket to being queen. Those are both nudges that would lead her to cover for and rationalize his behavior.

      Why doesn’t the Iron Throne see to the manning of the Wall, if it’s important

      Because it’s ignorant of a danger that has long been sleeping. Remember that magic and the supernatural had been on the wane in Westeros for a long time, to the point that few took things such as the Whlte Walkers seriously. It was only recently in the GoT universe that it had begun to revive.

      Yes, plenty of characters in GoT make bad decisions, but those decisions are hardly implausible given what we know of human foibles.

      since the Wall is highly isolated, there’s no chance word of your fugitive status would get to the deeper south any time soon, or even that the lords or would-be kings of those regions even care about the business of the Night’s Watch to begin with.

      The isolation of the Wall also makes it harder for a fugitive to survive. There are a some nearby villages, but they would serve more as places to steal food from than as places of refuge. Maybe a fugitive might just stay homeless and live off the land — provided that he knew how. Given those hardships, the shelter and food supply available at Castle Black isn’t so bad. Heck, the celibacy “requirement” isn’t that much of a hardship, given that the leaders of the Night’s Watch mostly turn a blind eye to its frequent breaches. I think you’ve grossly overestimated both the benefits of being a fugitive and underestimated its costs.

      • And this sort of folly is unrealistic … why? People make all sorts of bad and risky sexual decisions.

        Usually those decisions won’t get “people” and their children executed while destroying their royal legacy for centuries to come. And my claim is not that the story itself is unrealistic, but that every character, including these “shrewd” smart calculating people, are idiots. Lastly, this one mistake by itself doesn’t establish that. It’s just one of many. Cersei in particular screws up her own life almost constantly.

        Again, his sort of folly is unrealistic … why? Why expect an adolescent bully who is given nigh-absolute power to be so restrained?

        I didn’t say it was unrealistic. I said he’s dumb. Really dumb. He is.

        Let’s see now. She has a bit of a thing for Joffrey, and he’s her ticket to being queen. Those are both nudges that would lead her to cover for and rationalize his behavior.

        Agreed. But I’m guessing she also loves her sister and wouldn’t like to see her eviscerated in front of her. Also, she watches as Joffrey mutilates the boy. He does it slowly, he’s enjoying it. That’s the guy she’s thinking about a lifetime with and it doesn’t raise any red flags? Is she fantasizing about a throne of blood and misery, watching people (or her) tortured every day for his amusement?

        Because it’s ignorant of a danger that has long been sleeping.

        I agree. But that also means that service at the wall doesn’t really mean anything to anyone anymore (once yes, but not now). But the characters, even those who aren’t part of The North, act like it does. These can’t both be true. Moreover, the King should object to resources and men being diverted needlessly to a useless fortress that does nothing. It isn’t clear why the Starks care either. There have been no Walkers or anything else in centuries.

        The isolation of the Wall also makes it harder for a fugitive to survive.

        I don’t see how. Maybe during winter. During the summer the land seems quite nice, and many people, especially criminals, are adept at surviving the elements and traveling about. We see all sorts of people on journeys, often under disguise, all the time. Arya & the Hound, Tyrion and a series of people, the disabled Bran Stark and his little band of misfit weirdos- they’re even in the dangerous North.

        • jjramsey

          And my claim is not that the story itself is unrealistic, but that every
          character, including these “shrewd” smart calculating people, are
          idiots.

          Maybe I’m just more cynical than you about the average level of human intellect, but they seem less like idiots to me and more like normal flawed humans. And they’re not supposed to be all shrewd. Some of them are. Some of them aren’t as smart as they think they are (with Cersei being a prime example). Some of them don’t try to be chessmasters or schemers but just try to get by as best they can.

          As for your criticisms of the Night’s Watch, it seems like it’s an institution that’s almost like a vestigial organ, atrophied but persisting in some form out of inertia. Again, that’s a very human sort of thing.

          We see all sorts of people on journeys, often under disguise, all the time. Arya & the Hound, Tyrion and a series of people, the disabled Bran Stark and his little band of misfit weirdos- they’re even in the dangerous North.

          Bran Stark has barely scraped by, and it’s not as if he has a relatively comfortable castle with food as a fallback — unlike a Night’s Watchman considering running away.

          • Maybe I’m just more cynical than you about the average level of human intellect, but they seem less like idiots to me and more like normal flawed humans. And they’re not supposed to be all shrewd.

            This whole show is about power struggles. It stands to reason key players ought to be, at least, shrewd and discerning. Not every character, but I didn’t single out The Hound, Drogo, or that cool dude that fights the mountain, for a good reason… I don’t expect them to be puppet masters or master strategists.

            One thing I find jarring is internal inconsistencies. In one scene, the character is perceptive, wise, measured, intelligent. Then in a very similar scene later, they’re inexplicably stupid.

            The other thing is that entire episodes go by and there isn’t a single character to root for, because every one of them feels so vapid. I don’t mean flawed or poorly motivated. Strong, well-written characters are all flawed or ill-motivated; they are not required to also do dumb things constantly in order to prove they are imperfect. You can do smart things, and still lose (and thus, you have story drama), like Tyrion who tries to hide his prostitute girlfriend to protect her. It didn’t work out, but it also wasn’t him being a moron. It was a good idea.

            I’ll give you two drama series as counter examples, if you know them. Carnivale is an HBO fantasy series as well. It’s also about the struggle for power. Characters like Samson and Ben are richly-drawn and believable. They are flawed and make mistakes, but neither are idiots. Samson in particular is highly sensitive and understands complicated situations, like when a crowd’s anger has to be diffused but not dismissed or ignored; and he knows ways to do it. Sometimes he gets tricked. It happens because other people are more powerful, more crafty, or more motivated… not because he magically, spontaneously becomes a moron for the sake of the plot for exactly 3 minutes.

            I also recommend The Shield. This gritty cop drama has genuinely stupid main characters who cause their own demise; so dumb they had me shouting at the screen at times. But their level of dumb is consistent throughout the show. And there are plenty of smart, capable (but imperfect) characters in the cast, too and that keeps it both plausible and interesting to the viewer. The struggle between two characters in a winner-takes-all high-stakes game is only interesting if they each have potencies, things that make them formidable such as smarts, instinct, toughness, or cunning. Without those things it’s a race between snails.

            • jjramsey

              This whole show is about power struggles. It stands to reason key
              players ought to be, at least, shrewd and discerning. Not every
              character, but I didn’t single out The Hound, Drogo, or that cool dude
              that fights the mountain, for a good reason…

              Yet the characters that you do single out aren’t the characters that are supposed to be the shrewdest ones. Ned Stark is far more of an honorable man than a pragmatic one. Sansa doesn’t even try to be a schemer, at least not in the first few seasons. Cersei isn’t as smart as she thinks she is, in-universe, and Tywin Lannister says as much to her face. As a schemer, Jaime is a master swordsman, and his character arc was more about becoming more empathetic than shrewd. Joffrey’s supposed to be childish and insane. Then you have Jon “You know nothing” Snow, and an idealistic adolescent Daenerys. If I were to think of characters who are supposed to be master schemers in-universe, Varys or Littlefinger, and to some degree Tyrion, would come to mind sooner than any of the ones that you mentioned.

              One thing I find jarring is internal inconsistencies. In one scene, the character is perceptive, wise, measured, intelligent. Then in a very similar scene later, they’re inexplicably stupid.

              And an example of this is?

            • I am restricted also by which characters are key to the story presented. And I said said “shrewd” not “the shrewdest” in the land. My bar there is fairly low. Ned is very experienced as a leader, soldier, and administrator of a major keep. He should be not-dumb. I don’t mean he should be a cross between Mr. Burns and Varys. But he should be plenty worldly, he should have seen plenty of cheats, liars, frauds, and con men in his day. He should have met a few corrupt and two-faced barons and bureaucrats. But he acts as if he never has. His moral character is irrelevant to this.

              I don’t think Jamie is supposed to be a “schemer” and that isn’t my criticism. That’s a moral and occupational distinction I am not making.

              Joffrey is one of the best characters in the early seasons because of how hate-able he is. There’d be nothing bad to say of the character if it wasn’t part of a larger issue of having almost zero reasonably smart characters. He’s just one I add to the long list. Being insane or sadistic doesn’t mean you are dumb. He’s dumb, too, just because. No one raindrop is a rainstorm, does that mean there is no storm?

              And an example of this is?

              Ned. He reads the signs of trouble in Winterfell: Direwolves below the wall, wildling incursions. Reports of white walkers. He does not believe in “white walkers” and says so, but he knows shit’s about to go down.
              Now, fast-forward to his conversation with the King when they’re on the hunt or whatever. Robert points to ill signs like the reports about the Targaryens making progress with the Horse Lords. The signs are just as real and just as serious as those Ned has been seeing. Rather than agree with the King, Ned dismisses the King’s worries out of hand with “she’s just a girl” and “let them get 100,000 men, let them get a million, we will turn them back to the sea if they cross it” (paraphrase). Er, what? What is this dismissal based on? It’s totally reasonable that the Targaryens could secure a lethal army and find ships to cross the narrow sea. They’re halfway to that, with Drogo enlisted.
              This also alienates the King, who is looking for some support from his now most-trusted ally. All of this is just dumb on Ned’s part and makes no sense.

              This is also something you see with Cersei plenty. As much as she over-estimates herself, and yes that is part of her written character, she’s very good at securing and utilizing strategic partnerships, like the kind she has with Petyr. She even mitigates and controls Joffrey’s insanity for a surprisingly long time because she knows how not to push people too far.
              Except, when she inexplicably does. She botches her relations with Tyrion, for example. She pushes him too far, overestimates her leverage, and underestimates Tyrion making a powerful enemy she didn’t need to have. These are all mistakes she deftly avoided in the past with Tywin, Joffrey, and various Starks.

            • jjramsey

              Rather than agree with the King, Ned dismisses the King’s worries out of hand with “she’s just a girl” and “let them get 100,000 men, let them get a million, we will turn them back to the sea if they cross it” (paraphrase). Er, what? What is this dismissal based on?

              It’s based in no small part on him just not having the stomach for political assassination. Contrary to what you seem to think, honor before reason has been a weakness in Ned Stark from the start — and ultimately a failed one. He’d rather stab an enemy’s army in the front on the battlefield than stab a lone enemy in the back in the shadows.

              She botches her relations with Tyrion, for example. She pushes him too
              far, overestimates her leverage, and underestimates Tyrion making a
              powerful enemy she didn’t need to have.

              Because, of course, no manipulative schemer would ever have someone who just gets under his/her skin to the point that he/she behaves irrationally towards that person, especially when that someone is a close family member.

            • It’s based in no small part on him just not having the stomach for political assassination. Contrary to what you seem to think, honor before reason has been a weakness in Ned Stark from the start

              This makes no sense either. He cut off a guy’s head because he defected from the Watch. The man had fled in fear of his life. An honorable thing to do would be to show mercy under an extenuating circumstance. Instead he murders the man to keep to the law. But that isn’t the only law of the land. Another law is that traitors, especially ones that aim to invade and destroy your entire family, are to be put to death. Dany is a traitor who poses a direct threat to the kingdom and everything Ned values. Even the law calls for her death. His objection to killing her but not the totally harmless guy fleeing the wall makes no sense on any grounds. It isn’t more decent, it’s not more honorable because the law and safety of the empire is not a game.

              Because, of course, no manipulative schemer would ever have someone who just gets under his/her skin to the point that he/she behaves…

              In principle perhaps, but you asked for a specific example, and your retort does not explain it away as you may suppose. Cersei is someone who has endured incredible (to her mind, anyway) indignity and torment for decades. She relates some of this to Sansa during the blackwater battle. It’s clear these things deeply upset her. But she played the game, with calm composure, as she advises Sansa she must do as queen. But Tyrion’s impudence is too much for her? That doesn’t wash.

            • jjramsey

              This makes no sense either.

              Well, yes, it makes no sense if you elide the difference between front-stabbing and back-stabbing, and if you define “traitor” as a descendent of someone who betrayed the kingdom.

              your retort does not explain it away as you may suppose.

              Yup, Cersei is totally not a specific instance of the kind of person I described — and such a person is hardly unrealistic, especially when the person getting under his/her skin is family.

              Look, if you want to say that Ned Stark and Cersei Lannister are “idiots,” so be it, but your arguments that their flawed behaviors are somehow unrealistic are really thin.