In Defense of Stannis Baratheon

There’s not a lot of love thrown around for the character of Stannis on HBO’s excellent Game of Thrones. I think it’s time to enumerate some of Stannis’ many positive qualities. And just maybe the naysayers will come around to consider dead King Bob’s younger brother as the right man to run Westeros. After all, at least he’s not Joffrey.

Usual spoiler warnings apply. I’m not going to be revealing anything that hasn’t happened on the show, although there’s always the chance that I’ll bring in some book detail from the same period that’s covered by the TV series. But this is going to otherwise be all HBO show-related. (Look, just watch the show.)


Quick recap of Stannis’ story from the first three seasons of HBO’s Game of Thrones

Robert Baratheon has two brothers, crabby Stannis and charming Renly. When Robert rebelled against the mad Targaryen king, Stannis did his part by defending the Baratheon ancestral stronghold, Storm’s End. Nearly starved doing so. After the war, little brother Renly got to succeed King Bob as the lord of Storm’s End, and Stannis got some rocks.

King Bob eventually gets boar-gored, Stannis knows that his older brother has no legitimate children (the acknowledged heir is actually 100% not a Baratheon), and expects everyone to respect his claim to the throne. The country goes wild, two kingdoms secede, and little brother Renly decides he’d like to be king too. Stannis bumps off Renly with shadowy magic, nearly takes the capital city of Westeros but loses most of his men at the Blackwater Bar-B-Q, and looks like he’s out for the count.

He misses the opportunity to have his witchy-counselor Melisandre generate some mega-magic from sacrificing one of King Robert’s surviving bastards, but opts instead to respond to the Night’s Watch call for help.

Don’t remember the details? I have a much longer recap of Stannis’ story here. You’re welcome.

Stannis! He’s a Complicated Cat. No One Understands Him But His Woman. And He’s the King!

Okay, maybe he’s isn’t as cool as Shaft, but I really enjoy how Stephen Dillane plays the angry, grouchy, uncompromising Baratheon on HBO’s Game of Thrones. But this isn’t about Dillane. It’s about Stannis.

King Stannis. I don’t think anyone seriously disputes his claim to the throne.


Okay, we can argue that Daenerys should be Queen, because she’s from the previous dynasty and we all like her (except for those of you who don’t – you know who you are) but if you want to bring her up, you need to read my essay on the legitimacy of power in Game of Thrones. And I doubt anyone wants to do that.

So let’s limit his competitors to the other members of the War of the Five Kings.


Robb Stark and Balon Greyjoy: They’re both seceding from the Seven Kingdoms, not trying to take the Uncomfortable Chair. Not in competition. (And Robb’s dead too. So really not in competition.)


Joffrey: Oh yeah, he’s the rightful king. Do I actually have to debunk his claims of legitimacy?


So that leaves Stannis’ younger brother Renly. Well, Renly does has a claim. Being Robert’s brother, and the fact that Robert had no legitimate children (sorry Joffrey), he’s certainly in line for the throne.

After Stannis. And that settles that.

But why should anyone support Stannis (other than boring legitimate claims, blah blah blah.) It’s a fair question, and I think its worthwhile to examine the aspects of Stannis, the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The Good

Westeros is in need of a military man to put some things right. There’s a tyrant on the throne that needs desposing, a kingdom of pirates to be put down and brought back in line, and three kingdoms ruled by men who orchestrated the Red Wedding.

Not to mention three looming invasions, of Wildlings, Icy Demons, and Dragons.

Who Messed Up the Table? Oh, That’s Right. I Did. Don’t Care: Got Laid.

Stannis thinks about military matters, a lot. You know that big map table Stannis has? He puts in so much overtime planning military campaigns that he sleeps on that thing. (Just joking. He sleeps with Melisandre on that thing.)

What about the common folk of the kingdom? Will they see any betterment of their position? Or will it continue to be the usual privileged few lording it over the powerless masses? It’s hard to say. They probably wouldn’t fare worse, and there’s a chance things can improve. Because, and this might seem unexpected, Stannis is probably the most enlightened nobleman on the show.


Stannis rewarded the smuggler Davos with a knighthood for his bravery, raising him up from his low birth as a crabber’s son to become a minor noble. When Renly betrayed Stannis’ trust and made his claim to the throne, many noblemen who should have served Stannis defected to go with the loveable charismatic Renly.

Stannis rewarded Davos by promising to make him his Hand of the King. Davos felt that this would breed discord and jealousy among the other lords who served Stannis, but the king was not concerned, because loyalty and service should be the measure of a man, not just the factors of his birth. If the lords were jealous and irked, they should strive to be more worthy.

I think this egalitarian and meritocratic sentiment speaks well of Stannis, and this might have been a good influence on the realm.

Stannis understands right from wrong. He really tries to do the right thing. He certainly took his grammar lessons to heart.


But he’s not all good.

The Bad

I agree that Stannis has some bad qualities.

He’s a big lobster (to quote dead Renly), and wouldn’t be the most diplomatic of kings.

Did I mention “dead” Renly? Stannis did that. Not cool, Stannis, not cool.

Fratricide is a problem (as is kinslaying in general), and the fact that Stannis killed Renly with a shadowy assassin birthed by Melisandre is just kind of unclean. But it’s not like he’s the only one in Westeros engaging in terrifying and unconventional warfare. Stannis actually isn’t the worst offender.

His uncompromising nature and crabbiness might be a problem, but probably more to the counselors on the Small Council. Stannis’ bad qualities might bring a positive light to the corruption and intrigue at court. By putting a few more heads on the walls, not because they were contrary or troublesome, but because they were poisonous to the realm.

Littlefinger and Varys
Let’s Break the Ice with King Stannis by Pranking Him! You Go First, Varys.

Peytr “Littlefinger” Baelish is clearly a schemer and a plotter, and would probably not thrive in a Stannis administration. It’s no wonder he tried to persuade Ned Stark into not supporting Stannis’ right to the throne.

Lord Varys, equally a schemer and as skeevy as Baelish, had other concerns about Stannis. Largely in regards to his connection with Melisandre, the incendiary red priestess. And that brings us to the next category.

The Ugly


Stannis has a public relations problem, and it’s not just his unpleasant personality. It’s because he recently converted to a foreign religion, and is following some pretty hardcore guidance from the mysterious Melisandre of Asshai.

When Tyrion was preparing the defenses for King’s Landing, Varys offers a motivational pep-talk, centered around Stannis’ religious zealotry and reports of Stannis burning his enemies alive. There’s some truth to that, although it’s pretty much Melisandre’s way of removing her political enemies. But Stannis allows it.

He’s got a weakness when it comes to saying “no” to her. And that’s a problem.

Melisandre decides to start burning her political enemies at Dragonstone? Stannis is too bummed out about Blackwater to do anything other than say “whatever.”

Melisandre shows up with a captive Gendry wanting to burn him up, Stannis isn’t really into it, but has to get Davos to take the fall and insist on a magical test of blood first.

Robb Stark ends up being killed at the Red Wedding, and Melisandre is really quick to take credit as proof of her power. Stannis is pissed off, not only at the Red Wedding treachery, but now he has no choice but let Melisandre BBQ the bastard. Davos luckily takes action and frees Gendry, sparing his whipped king from having to do something really horrific.

Evil! Really Attractive! Evil!

So Melisandre is a problem, Stannis is certainly under her influence, but as long as Davos is around, there’s some checks and balance at play. It’s debatable how much influence Melisandre would have once Stannis became king, since it’s her promise of getting him to the throne that’s largely the tie that binds him to her. (Well, other than that she’s incredibly attractive.)

In Summation…

Look, I just like Stannis. I think he got a raw deal in most of this, he’s done some bad things, but I don’t think he’d be a bad king for Westeros. This guy agrees with me:

Stannis? He’s Awesome!

This guy doesn’t agree with me:

Stannis? He’s My Second-Least Favorite Uncle

I could have ended my argument there and saved everyone a long read.

Okay, time for a poll, because why not?

Most images from HBO\\™s Game of Thrones, obviously.

I make no claim to the artwork, but some claims to the text here, so there.

(For more stuff like this, as well as articles on things not related to Game of Thrones, feel free to check out my blog over at

(Originally published November 26th, 2013 at

© Patrick Sponaugle 2013 Some Rights Reserved


In Defense of Arya Stark (She Needs Defending?)

Arya Stark might be the most popular of Catelyn and Ned Stark’s kids. She’s great.

The Only Stark Who Wears a Helmet

But bizarre as it sounds, occasionally I hear people complaining about Arya. Oh, they don’t complain about Arya the way they do about Sansa. No one seems to find Arya annoying or her story boring. So why am I defending her? What is there to defend?

(This post will be talking Game of Thrones. Mostly in reference to the television show on HBO, up through Season Three. I’m steering clear of any spoilers for the books, please respect that in the comments.)

Typically, the perceived negativity falls into two categories.

  • Arya mismanages her three murder wishes while at Harrenhal.
  • Arya’s badassness is over-hyped.

These complaints are usually from non-book readers, so I try not to judge the complainers too harshly. They don’t have the perspective of knowing Arya’s thought processes like the book readers do. But I really think these claims should be examined and see if there is any merit.


Arya discovers that a prisoner she saved from a fiery death, Jaqen H’ghar, feels it necessary to balance her saving his life and the lives of his two companions (the despicable Rorge and Biter) by having her specify the names of three who should die as replacements. He’ll take care of it.

A Man Does Not Always Choose to be in a Cage, But when a Man Does, a Man is Still Awesome.

Arya will soon discover that Jaqen is a pretty dangerous dude and if he says he’ll kill someone for you, it’ll probably get done. But when he first makes this offer, serving the Lannisters as a mercenary at Harrenhal, for all she knows he’s just a skeevy dude with weird hair and an under-utilization of pronouns.

In a short amount of time, Arya gives Jaqen the name of the torturer employed by Gregor “the Mountain” Clegane. Boom, the Tickler is found with his head looking the wrong way. (Book readers, I’m just talking the show here. Don’t get overly excited.)

You might consider the first name a testing of the waters.

Arya is forced to toss out a second name when Ser Amory Lorch is rushing to report to Tywin Lannister that his cupbearer has been stealing messages. Or something. Lorch suddenly comes down with a severe case of poison dart in the neck, and doesn’t get the chance to inform Lord Tywin.

I don’t think anyone complains about that use of the second name.

So Arya had one name left for her personal murder-genie to assassinate. And Arya had a long list of candidates.

Arya’s Like Santa Claus. Only This List is All Naughty.

There were lots of predictions (from people who had not read the second book…) about the third name Arya would use.

Maybe King Joffrey would finally get his. Maybe Cersei would end up snuffed out. Or maybe Arya would have Tywin killed, to prevent him from leading his troops against her brother Robb.

People made their predictions, put some emotional investment into them, and then were surprised when Arya gave the third name.


Arya is stuck at Harrenhal. She currently has a protected status as Tywin Lannister’s cupbearer, but as soon as he leaves, she’ll be Clegane’s cupbearer. That’s pretty much a death sentence. And not a gentle, passing quietly into the night, death sentence.

She could ask Jaqen to kill Tywin but that would doom her. She does toy with the idea, but Jaqen implies that it would take some time. There’s no point in putting a hit on Tywin if it wouldn’t take place before the battle with Robb’s northmen.

Asking that Joffrey or Cersei be killed wouldn’t help her out, or even help Robb since Tywin was Robb’s problem not the Lannisters in King’s Landing.

(Killing the Mountain might just mean that she gets killed later by someone less big. Harrenhal is filled with brutal thugs.)

So rather than try to assassinate anyone, Arya demands that Jaqen help her escape Harrenhal (and therefore Death by Mountain), along with her friends Gendry and Hot Pie.

Now, some might try to argue that this wasn’t just the most awesome thing ever, but they’d be wrong. Arya’s out-maneuvering of Jaqen showed what a smart cookie she was. And she knew how to maximize her advantage.

Later in Season Three, the show gave a voice to the people who wanted Jaqen to kill Joffrey by having Gendry the blacksmith Baratheon bastard question Arya’s decision.

Gendry: You mean, you could have had this guy kill King Joffrey? And you didn’t? That could have ended the war!

Arya: We escaped, didn’t we?

This scene just underscored how much Gendry inherited from his father, dead King Robert. Not only did he inherit his strength, he inherited his naivety and lack of understanding of politics. Killing Joffrey wouldn’t end the war.

What? An Assassin Just Killed Joffrey? I Don’t Have Time for a Funeral, I Have a War to Win! Send Some Flowers and Tell Cersei Not to Bother Me With Trivial Matters!

So, Harrenhal was a win for Arya. It was a complete surprise and cleverly decided on. She should get respects for her coup, and not second-guesses.

I welcome to hear wrong opinions to the contrary. So I can bluster and mock.

Arya and the Hype

Book readers, this is all our fault. It’s pretty obvious that everyone was very jazzed with what a great little actress Maise Williams was, and it became clear to our show watching siblings and niblings that Arya (like Tyrion) was a favorite character.

I See a Darkness in Those Eyes.

So those who hadn’t read the books watched Arya with heightened expectations. Expectations that Arya was going to be kicking ass right off the bat. Okay, I’m not saying everyone felt that way. Some people probably had a realistic opinion of what a small child would be capable of. But I’ve heard things.

  • There were people that thought Arya was going to save Ned Stark.
  • There were people that thought Arya was going to kill Tywin (without Jaqen’s help) when he first showed up at Harrenhal or when Arya had opportunity as his cupbearer.
  • There were people that thought Arya was going to outfight Thoros of Myr when she pulled a sword on him in the tavern.
  • There were people that thought Arya would kill the Hound when she lunged at him after Beric’s death during the trial by combat.
  • There were people that expected that Arya would prevent Melisandre from taking Gendry away.

Now, I shouldn’t say that these were really complaints, more like unfulfilled expectations. They came to my attention from podcast conversations by people who had not read the books. Statements like these:

I can’t believe they cut off Ned’s head. I mean, I really thought that Arya was going to save him. She was there, she had a sword, she knew how to fight. I really thought she was going to rush up and kill the headsman or something.


I kind of thought Arya should have done better against that Thor-what’s-his-face guy in the tavern. She knows how to fight, that guy Syrio taught her. It was a big let down when that guy just disarmed her like nothing.


Oh my god. When Arya got all in Melisandre’s face, that was the best.”

Really? It wasn’t just another case where Arya has a chance to be badass or something, and doesn’t end up having any effect? So disappointing.

Don’t be talking shit about my girl, Arya.

I understand why people get crabby when their expectations aren’t met, but lets be realistic. Arya is a little girl. We book readers think she’s badass not because she’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer or River Tam; we love her because she’s tough, she’s clever, she perseveres, and she handles things well despite being a child.

  • Arya avoids capture when the Stark household is wiped out.
  • She absolutely establishes a “don’t f— with me” relationship when stuck in with the Night’s Watch juvenile delinquent recruits.
  • She has a list of names of people that she’s going to kill. Dude.
  • She fools Ser Amory Lorch into thinking they’ve killed Gendry.
  • She matches wits with Tywin Lannister, and earns his respect.


  • She forces murder-genie Jaqen H’Ghar into killing a lot more than her one remaining name to secure an escape from Harrenhal.
  • She’s bold as brass to everyone, to Thoros, to unkillable one-eyed Beric, to Melisandre, and especially to the Hound.


  • And she completely suckers that Frey into dropping his guard for an Arya-shiv’ing. Whoa.

Some saw Arya’s killing of the Frey as a “FINALLY SHE DOES SOMETHING” moment, but they’ve just not been paying attention. She’s been awesome all along.

And when she doesn’t rise up to meet some crazy expectation? I don’t think I have to really debunk things, but here goes.

  • Arya Saving Ned: Arya would not have been able to do so, and would be captured or killed. Clearly.
  • Arya Killing Tywin: It might have happened. And she would have been killed. Probably pretty horribly.
  • Arya Outfighting Thoros of Myr: Really? The Thoros of Myr that famously was the first one through the breach of the curtain wall at Pyke, waving a flaming sword? They don’t have Chuck Norris references in Westeros, they have Thoros of Myr references. Be serious. Arya couldn’t defeat Thoros if she had a gun.
  • Arya Kills the Hound: REALLY? Did you not just see the Hound slice up Beric Dondarrion? Arya weighs 50 pounds. Be real.
  • Arya Prevents Melisandre From Taking Gendry Away: How? If Gendry couldn’t stop it from happening, how would Arya do so?

I’m not saying these things to make fun of Arya, I’m saying these things so people can manage their expectations going forward.

Either Arya is awesome, and has been awesome, or we book readers have been conspiring to trick all the non-book readers. If you don’t think she’s excellent, I will channel Dan Harmon, show runner of NBC’s Community, and say that you are not watching Game of Thrones correctly.

Alright, this post didn’t have much substance, because really Arya doesn’t need defending, and I think her storyline is pretty strong. And full of potential. Am I wrong? I know earlier I implied that I’d mock dissenters, but I promise I won’t. Feel free to tell me that Arya is a lame character.

Valar Morghulis.

Quick Poll:

Images from HBO\\™s Game of Thrones, obviously.

I make no claim to the artwork, but some claims to the text here, so there.

(For more stuff like this, as well as articles on things not related to Game of Thrones, feel free to check out my blog over at

(Originally published January 15th, 2014 at

© Patrick Sponaugle 2014 Some Rights Reserved


In Defense of Sansa Stark

This post will be discussing plot points from the first three seasons of HBO’s Game of Thrones. I won’t be dropping any spoilers from the books, and I ask any commenters to respect that as well. Now, lets talk about Sansa Stark.


Most people who watch HBO’s Game of Thrones like and sympathize with the Starks (unlike one of my colleagues who is all-in with House Lannister.)

But usually that affection is withheld from the eldest Stark daughter, Sansa. People don’t necessarily want her to die (like they do with Theon) but they find her so annoying. Although in some ways this feeling is justified, but in general I don’t like the amount of hate that Sansa generates and I’d like to respectfully state my case in her defense.

So what is the nature of this hate? Usually it boils down to these three points:

  • Sansa Makes Bad Decisions
  • Sansa is Too Passive and/or Too Flighty
  • Sansa’s Storyline is Boring

I’d like to talk about this. The above points all kind of flow into one another (her bad decisions are because of her romantic notions and her lack of action makes the storyline boring to some, etc) so my defense will be kind of rambly.


Decision-Making Skills

Sansa, who is still a child, does make some bad decisions. That’s true. When faced with telling the hard truth about her fiancee the prince, she opts to misremember and act confused.

One Moment My Dear. I Sense the Perfect Opportunity to Express My Future Mad King-ness.

When Ned explains that he is sending Sansa and Arya away from Kings Landing for their safety, she alerts Queen Cersei which gives the Lannister a timeline to thwart.

Sansa becomes a pawn of Cersei in legitimizing Joffrey’s succession to the Iron Throne.

Bad decisions, you young child. Bad.

Sansa, Flighty and Passive

Unlike her younger sister Arya, Sansa is full of romantic notions of knights and ladies, heroic chivalry, and the elegance of the court.

I Swear, She Has Better Muscle Tone Than Noodle-Arm Loras. (I was Hoping For a More Athletic and Believable Knight of Flowers, HBO.)

And unlike Arya, Sansa adopts a more passive behavior. She does not try to escape. She does not fight. She is meek and obedient.

Oh, the Boredom

Okay, I can’t necessarily bring in concrete examples, since a reaction to a storyline is so subjective (and I don’t find Sansa chapters boring.) I’m just saying that I’ve heard or read enough “OMG if I have to (read another Sansa chapter|watch another Sansa scene) I’ll…” types of statements to believe that people aren’t invested in her storyline.

People who can’t stand Sansa, you are free to share your experiences with me.

Defending Sansa

Sansa is the eldest daughter of Catelyn Stark and probably received special attention from her mother in matters relating to the customs of the gentry from the south. Just as Robb was groomed by Ned to be Lord of Winterfell, Catelyn was raising Sansa to be a proper lady. (Arya was just hopeless.)

And If Your Husband Ever Brings Home One of His Bastard Sons, You Can’t Send the Boy Away, But You Can Make His Life Hell…

Catelyn probably felt that Sansa had a good future ahead of her. Should she be married off to a Northern lord, they would certainly be respectful towards her rather than risk Ned’s wrath.

Sansa would probably enjoy similar respectful protections should a match be found in two of the other major dominions (the Riverlands were governed by Sansa’s Uncle Hoster Tully and the Vale of Arryn by her Uncle Jon Arryn.) Catelyn could have indoctrinated Sansa in the darker aspects of courtly power, assassinations, betrayals, the joy of accusing people of crimes without proof and having them killed as a fait accompli.

Instead, Sansa heard a lot of poetic stories of beautiful maidens and pure hearted knight paragons.

It’s quite possible that Catelyn encouraged this overly romanticized view of southern chivalry as a reaction to her own marriage to “North as North Can Get” Ned (the Wildlings would dispute Ned being a northerner, but no one cares what they think. Sorry Craster, no one cares!) The North, while beautiful, is kind of a harshly practical and unromantic place. Cat probably wanted to have a living reminder of her youth in Sansa.

Once Bran fell, Cat became a huge mess and there was no chance for mother-daughter strategy sessions on how to survive the capital.

During the time at Winterfell following Bran’s fall and for the trip south, Sansa had only Queen Cersei, her future mother-in-law, to guide her.

At the capital, Ned had a lot of things on his mind, but at least he tried to mend the fence between Sansa and Arya. Unfortunately, the only daughter he was qualified to talk to was Arya.

Young Lady, You Were Packing a Blade? You’re My FAVORITE!

Ned had a wonderful, almost poetic discussion with Arya, stating that petty quarrels were for the summertime, but in winter the wolves banded together. They must do this to survive.

Arya came to realize what a dangerous place they had come to. Sansa was not given this guidance.

I don’t blame Ned, he had an affinity with Arya that he didn’t share with Sansa, and my being the father of someone close to Sansa’s age (more or less) has let me experience the problems in trying to communicate about things to the unreceptive tween/teen.

So when the shit hit the fan, Arya was prepared. Sansa was not.

Alright, how does this relate to the three charges I stated in the beginning?

Sansa was raised to be a fanciful, obedient, lady-in-training. It’s hard watching her make wrong decisions, but they are the kind of decisions she’s likely to make.

The idea of marrying a prince when she’d been expecting one day to marry some hairy northern nobleman (or if she was really lucky, a heroic knight from the Vale, maybe a Royce) must have blown her mind. Even seeing him cruelly treating Micah the butcher’s boy is going to be filtered by the sense of “oh no, if I tell what happened, I’LL NEVER BE HIS QUEEN!”

I don’t like that she didn’t back up Arya’s story, but I understand.

Her total focus on Joffrey at the capital when he resumed showing her affection is completely understandable. She’d been cut off from her mother by the trip, the events at the Trident had cost her her direwolf and built a wall not only between her and Joffrey, but her and the queen. (You might think that’s a good thing, Cersei being Cersei, but I’m sure Sansa was quite delighted to have been in her company. Cersei can be quite charming.)


But when Joffrey, acting under Queen’s orders, smoothly apologised and turned on the charm, it’s no wonder Sansa’s thoughts were up on cloud nine (or the Westeros equivalent.)

This made her quite vulnerable to inadvertently betraying her father, when she told Queen Cersei about the plans to send the girls away.

Ned, this stuff doesn’t work.

Ned: Girls, I’m sending you all home.
Arya: Yippee!
Ned: Shut it! Let us never speak of this again.

Ned, I’ll say it again, that stuff doesn’t work.

Anyway, Sansa’s head was all filled with romantic notions and naivete because she hadn’t experienced anything seriously real, ever, to replace it. And when reality intruded, she didn’t have a good external compass to guide her. She really tried her best under the circumstances.

Would things have turned out differently had she been more like Arya? Indeed. She would have been killed.

Why Sansa, How Much You Remind Me of Your Mother. She Was Once In Love With Me, You Know. She Never Said the Words, But a Man Knows. Oh Yes.

Or possibly would have had worse things befall her.


Okay, okay. Look, I’ve already said that I don’t find her storyline tedious or boring  Sansa represents tremendous potential. Not in the same way that Arya does (that little murder-angel is full of potential violence. Preach it, Melisandre!)

Sansa represents potential for all kinds of political maneuverings and shenanigans, being pretty much the only Stark (and therefore inheritor of the North) anyone believes to be alive.

Robb: dead.

Catelyn Stark: dead.

Bran and Rickon: presumed dead.

Arya: missing, assumed dead.

Jon Snow: What? He’s still a Stark in my book, yo! Stuck at the Wall, with no *legitimate* claim to Winterfell.

So Sansa is the Great Northern Hope. Sort of. Look, her position as Lady Stark makes her super important. And now that she’s married to Tyrion, The Most Interesting Man in Westeros… her storyline is even more significant.

So be bored if you wish. I’m just saying Game of Thrones is a show that builds on all kinds of things, and it’s best to pay attention. To everything. It is known.

Mustering My Banners

This post was largely inspired by another blog entry I’d read, defending Sansa. I really liked it:

I don’t agree 100% with her uncompromising defense of Sansa, but that is mostly over the blogger’s irritation of Sansa being called a victim. I’d still call Sansa a victim, but I’d also call her a survivor. I think that word can be used without blaming the victim.

But I agree that calling Sansa nothing more than a victim is incorrect. She doesn’t embrace her victimization and let that be all she is. She’s still a Stark. She’s sister to Arya, and they represent two sides of the same coin. And we all love Arya, n’est-ce-pas?

Anyway, the blogger’s article was very honest and passionate and I enjoyed it a great deal. I’ve rarely found anyone standing up for Sansa, and it made me want to do the same.

Courtesy is a Lady’s Armor

I guess I grudgingly respect Sansa because despite her childlike aspect, she somehow survives. She’s been through serious trauma, but she hasn’t broken. And she’s held on to her innocence (or at least some of it) which I think is admirable. People sometimes bash on Game of Thrones for being so bleak, and how everyone has such a horrible time. But I’m hoping that Sansa will weather her situation and not become evil or crazy.

Hey, Sansa Actually Got Pretty Sassy in Season Two

I almost forgot to mention that Sansa gets her digs in with Joffrey whenever she can. She knows just how to prick his honor without forcing a reprisal.

Sansa, You Scamp!

The Blackwater pre-battle was the best when she asked Joffrey if he would be heading into the thickest fighting, like her traitorous usurper brother, and if he planned on engaging directly in combat with Stannis so she could (as Joffrey promised) taste the blood.

Of course Joffrey is a coward and wouldn’t be caught dead doing that. Actually, if he did that he would be dead. What a weird phrasing.

Anyway, I really enjoyed Sansa calling Joffrey a coward, twice.

In Summary

It’s okay with me if you don’t like Sansa. I won’t think ill of you.

It’s okay if she’s your absolutely favorite character. I won’t think you are odd.

She’s not my favorite, but I certainly wish her well and look forward to seeing what (potential) adventures she’ll be a part of.

I guess I’m saying that everyone needs to decide where they fall on the Lannister scale. Are you a Sansa-hater like this guy:

NEGATIV_Blackwater_Sansa Stark, Joffrey Baratheon

Or more like this guy:


Your choice. I know which Lannister I associate with.

Hey, here’s a great point for another poll:

Images from HBO\\™s Game of Thrones, obviously.

I make no claim to the artwork, but some claims to the text here, so there.

(For more stuff like this, as well as articles on things not related to Game of Thrones, feel free to check out my blog over at

(Originally published January 8th, 2014 at

© Patrick Sponaugle 2014 Some Rights Reserved


In Defense of Joffrey Baratheon (Yes, JOFFREY)

This post will be touching on the first three seasons of HBO’s excellent series Game of Thrones. If you’re not caught up on the story, be forewarned that I’ll be dropping plot spoilers for the TV show.

Bring Me a Puppy! A King Has a Schedule to Keep!

There isn’t a lot of good things that can be said about the eldest son of Queen Cersei…

  • Executing Ned Stark? Bad move.
  • Torturing Sansa with severed heads, having her publicly humiliated? Extremely ungentlemanly.
  • Killing Ros? There’s nothing that I can say that would adequately express my horror and disgust.

But, and as odd as it sounds, I’m not here to condemn Joffrey Baratheon (although he is worthy of condemnation.) I’m here to defend the one time he was solidly, entirely right. And as a bonus (or the opposite of bonus) I’ll try to cast some reasonable doubt on some of the atrocities attributed to him.

Even the Mad King 2.0 can be surprisingly correct on occasion.


In Defense of Catelyn Stark

Yes, even Catelyn Stark gets a defense.


This post will be spoilery for the first three seasons of HBO’s Game of Thrones. If you’re not up on the series WHY NOT? Go watch it, then come back. I’ll wait.

Now that they’re gone, let’s get started.

In general, people who read the books or watch the show seem to like and appreciate the Starks. Even the flawed ones. It is typical for everyone to love Arya, to like Ned (but regret his code of honor), to be okay with Robb (but wish he’d have not been so … Robb), etc.

But often people complain about Lady Catelyn Stark and her (arguably) rash decisions. I’m on board with some of that.

  • Deciding to be just a horrible person to Jon Snow? Oh Cat. (Although I can probably understand…)
  • Believing Peytr Baelish’s insinuation that Tyrion Lannister was behind the assassination attempt on Bran? Bad Cat.
  • Deciding to take Tyrion prisoner after bumping into him in the Riverlands? Bad Cat!
  • Freeing Jaime Lannister which weakened her son Robb, the King in the North? Bad Cat! Wait! I’m actually okay with that.

What? Well, I’m not super okay with the end result of his release undermining Robb’s authority and all the events that followed. But I think Catelyn’s move was rational. Hopefully you’ll hear me out and if you think this was just another of Catelyn’s bad moves, maybe I can win you over to my way of thinking.

Jaime’s Captivity

Before I get started, I do want to state that although I’m a fan of the Starks, their treatment of the Kingslayer was not all that honorable.

In Deference to Your Noble Rank, I’m Bringing You this Playful Pet. Who Might Maul You.

Apparently, Jaime’s accommodation was a wooden pen where he’d be chained all the time, out in the open, traveling along with Robb’s army. Ser Jaime is a member of the Kingsguard and the son of one of the great houses of Westeros. He’s a valuable hostage, and the Starks are responsible for his health and well being, especially since the Lannisters hold Lady Catelyn Stark’s daughter Sansa (and although Arya has escaped, the assumption is that Arya is held captive as well.)

Why Jaime is chained up like an animal, at risk of dying of exposure is beyond me.

It’s understandable why Jaime tries to escape, his captivity is somewhat uncivilized and I’m sure he had had just enough. (My complaints are informed by the very different treatment and storyline in regards to Jaime from A Clash of Kings. He eventually does end up in squalid conditions, but there are meaningful differences.)

Jaime’s Value as a Hostage

I Hope Jaime’s Clothes are Super Comfortable, Because He’s Going to be Wearing Them for a Year or So.

As soon as Jaime was captured, Catelyn hoped to exchange the Kingslayer for Ned and the girls. Unfortunately, Joffrey decided to behead Lord Eddard, which changed the equation dramatically. Robb, now elected King in the North, had little interest in handing over his prize trophy of Jaime, even for his sisters. He felt Jaime was more of a wartime asset that couldn’t be traded away.

Catelyn wanted revenge on the Lannisters for Ned’s death, but she was also a practical person. While the Lannisters held the girls, they would have power over the North. (Tywin marrying Sansa to Tyrion was proof of that.)

Regardless of how Robb and Catelyn disagreed on what role Jaime should play as their captive, either hostage or bargaining chip, Jaime’s well being and survival was important to them both.

And then Lord Karstark became a problem.

Death of a Karstark

While Robb was away from camp, accepting the surrender of a Lannister stronghold, Jaime tried to escape. During the attempt, Lord Rickard Karstark’s remaining son was killed (Jaime had killed the other son in battle during the initial capture.)


Had Catelyn not been on hand when Jaime was returned to the camp, the Karstarks would have killed him. With Jaime’s death, Robb would have lost a hostage and Catelyn would have lost her only hope to free Sansa and Arya.

Not only would she lose her hope, Jaime’s death would have put Sansa at least in grave danger. Joffrey had already had Sansa publicly beaten and humiliated.

Cat isn’t a stupid woman. With the Karstark’s blood up, with Robb away from the camp, the Kingslayer’s future could be measured in hours.

The Honor of the Kingslayer

Desperate, Cat goes to see Jaime. He seems quite prepared to die.

During their talk, she gets Jaime to talk about how impossible it is to stay true to all the oaths that are sworn, in the end one or more must be forsaken.


Jaime turns the table on Cat, stating that her honest nature could not let her do anything but hate Jon Snow, the little son that honorable Ned brought back from the war.

Cat had had a similar conversation with Jaime in Season One, where she bluntly demanded to know how Bran fell from the Old Tower, and Jaime bluntly told her that he had pushed the boy out the window.

Catelyn: Why?

Jaime: I’d hoped the fall would kill him.

This conversation about honor, oaths, and honesty drove Catelyn to make her decision. She freed Jaime, had him swear to exchange himself for Sansa and Arya, and tasked Brienne to get Jaime safely to the Lannisters for the exchange.

It was a gamble, a big gamble. But Lady Catelyn had very little options. Before the dawn, Jaime would have been dead.

Why would Catelyn think this was even a good idea? It seems releasing the Kingslayer had zero chance of success, so he was already no better than a dead man.

It’s because there was a small chance of success. Catelyn had established that although she probably couldn’t trust Jaime too far, in his way he was honest and honorable.

Catelyn is Preparing to Play Rock Paper Scissors With Jaime, But She Only Has Rock, He Only Has Skull

In Season One, he had admitted to pushing Bran off the tower. He had no reason to tell the truth, in fact it was very dangerous for him to do so. Catelyn had already clubbed him with a rock. Jaime, for all of his dishonorable repute, disliked lies. He was an honest man. (Maybe too honest at times.)

When Catelyn went in to see Jaime with the Starks and Karstarks nearly at sword point, she had to evaluate if he would fulfill a sworn oath to her.

She was smart enough going in not to tip her hand.

Catelyn: Hey, if you swear to exchange yourself for my daughters, I’ll totally let you go. But you have to swear!

Jaime: Lady Catelyn, I’m happy to swear anything you want me to if it gets me out of this pen and away from Karstark swords.

That actually wouldn’t work out. Jaime swearing an oath under fear of death (because if he doesn’t swear and she doesn’t release him, he’ll be dead) is pretty much a non-binding oath.

Instead, Catelyn started the ball-rolling by insinuating that he had no honor. And instead of laughing and spitting on honor and whatever, he kind of defended himself. How he’d tried to be true to his oaths but it’s a paradox. How he was true to his devotion to only one woman. That he was at least as honorable in his own way as Ned, and was as honest as Catelyn’s hate for Jon Snow.

This got him on the track of being invested in carrying out any oath that he might swear.

Catelyn didn’t get him to swear not to try to escape, she wasn’t releasing him on his own recognizance. Brienne was there to get him to his people. In exchange, if he was an honorable man, he’d do the right thing.

The mere fact that Jaime is trying to escape at times underscores this. Why bother trying to escape if Brienne is literally bringing him home? Unless he’d be honor-bound to fulfill the oath?

Alternative possibilities

Considering the damage that was to come when Robb returned and Jaime was gone, wouldn’t it have been better to just write off Sansa and Arya?

It’s highly likely that when Robb returned and found that Lord Karstark had murdered Jaime Lannister, Robb would have to behead Karstark like he does later for the murders of the Lannister squires at Riverrun. Otherwise Sansa and Arya (who they believed captive) would be at risk.


Couldn’t Brienne just squirrel Jaime away for a day, until Robb returned and made sure that Jaime was safe?

I don’t think that would have worked out either. For that to work, she’d have to rat out Lord Karstark. Something that she doesn’t do to justify her actions.

Catelyn has a really good defense for her action when Robb questions her. “Lord Karstark was going to kill Jaime and that’d be The Worst.” But she doesn’t say that.

She just says she did it “for the girls.”

Accusing Lord Karstark of planning on killing Jaime Lannister would only bring a wedge between Karstark and Robb, and possibly cause the Karstarks to leave earlier. Lord Karstark was angry that Jaime was gone, but he stuck with the northern alliance until he had his chance to kill the squires. (Something that no one realized would happen, regrettably.)


Had Catelyn accused Lord Karstark either with Jaime on his way to King’s Landing with Brienne, or with Jaime in hiding, it would have caused serious issues to be exposed, like a raw nerve. And Jaime back in the camp would be even more of a problem.

It was in Robb’s interest to recapture Jaime, to have as a hostage, but also in his interest for Brienne to get Jaime to the Lannisters. Either the hostage exchange would be made, or the Lannisters would owe the Starks for returning Jaime unharmed.

And the Lannisters always pay their debts.

Ser Jaime and Keeping Oaths

Regardless of the dangers of releasing the Kingslayer and Jaime’s questionable honor (something only Catelyn could see instinctually) Jaime’s journey with Brienne was a positive stroke in making the hope of freeing the girls a reality.

After Jaime and Brienne were captured and abused by the Bolton goons, Roose Bolton felt it in his best interests to send the Kingslayer alone to King’s Landing, rather than risk Tywin’s wrath. (There were other reasons…)

On parting from Brienne, she reminded Jaime of the oath that he swore to Catelyn.


Choked up at being respectfully addressed by Brienne, Jaime agreed to honor his promise. I’d be happy to enter the boxing ring against anyone who says Jaime didn’t mean it.

After a short ride, a discussion about morals with ex-Maester Qyburn, and a fight with a bear, Jaime fetches Brienne and together they return to King’s Landing.

At Least Brienne Isn’t Wearing that Awful Dress

It’s highly unlikely that Jaime would bring Brienne along if he didn’t intend to honor his promise. She’d kick his ass. It is known.


If we focus on Catelyn’s primary ambition of freeing her daughters, her action to safeguard the Kingslayer and release him makes sense. Boom.

Season Four will inform us if the gamble pays off. (I know, I know, oh oh oh.)

Images from HBO\\™s Game of Thrones, obviously.

I make no claim to the artwork, but some claims to the text here, so there.

(For more stuff like this, as well as articles on things not related to Game of Thrones, feel free to check out my blog over at

(Originally published February 18th, 2014 at

© Patrick Sponaugle 2014 Some Rights Reserved


In Defense of Ned Stark

Hi everybody, P.G. Holyfield here. I’m happy to be adding a new feature writer to the site\\¦ the one and only BTW super fan, Patman! He’s been a great supporter of the Beyond the Wall podcast, and he’s a damn fined writer. If you like this article, you can expect more in the future\\¦ and if you can’t wait, you can go directly to his site to see more of his stuff!! (see link at the bottom of the page)


In Defense\\¦ of Ned Stark

by Patman

(Warning, SPOILERS for the first book in a well known series that’s been out for a long while, and has been made into a cable television event.)

People love to bash on Lord Eddard “Ned” Stark. I get that. But I don’t have to stand around like Barristan Selmy and let it happen. Let me tell you a story…


Once upon a time, there was a nobleman who lived with his loving family and loyal retainers in their ancestral seat of power. Things were good.

Then, by royal request, the nobleman was forced to leave the security of his home for an allegedly better position (a request that was not to be refused.) Despite his misgivings the nobleman relocated, left security behind and entered a dangerous situation.

He did what he could, tried to provide for the security of his family, tried to make allies, dealt with threats, but in the end was betrayed, dying while captive of a jealous, noble house that had been in bed with his liege.

I’m talking of course, about Duke Leto Atreides, the father of Paul Muad’Dib from the novel Dune, by Frank Herbert. (Oh, SPOILER ALERT for Dune, a book that’s been in print for 48 years.)

You Were Expecting Someone Else?

Oh, you thought I was describing Ned Stark, from A Game of Thrones? That sounds like him too. If you didn’t think I was describing Ned Stark, I apologize for assuming you thought that. Or for spoiling A Game of Thrones. D’oh.

(SPOILER ALERT: The following will be referring to plot points in Season One and Season Two Game of Thrones. Fair Warning.)

Now, I’m not saying that Dune and the first book of A Song of Ice and Fire are super similar (both are epic) but I do want to point out that although Ned Stark is often seen as the butt of Internet jokes for failing to deal appropriately with Queen Cersei, (we’ve all seen various stupid Ned Stark meme entries, right? I included one at the very top of this post. Even if it is Boromir) Duke Leto tends to be given a pass, despite ending up a similar tragic character.

I guess in some ways, it’s fair to be more charitable to the Red Duke. Leto does seem to be the guy with his finger on the pulse: he knows Arrakeen will be a Harkonnen trap, he plans accordingly. But we’re not surprised especially when the trusted Dr. Yueh single-handedly drops the Atreides’ defenses to allow in the Harkonnen troops. And more importantly, the Imperial Sardaukar (disguised in Harkonnen livery.)

So, in some ways, Leto gets screwed, and isn’t the architect of his own destruction. Or, is he? The Emperor wiped Leto out because the duke had a dangerous combination of ideals, good leadership, decency, and a cadre of fighters who (if not stepped on) could have gone on to form an army equal to the Sardaukar. Duke Leto became a nail sticking up, and had to be hammered down. Leto, don’t be so awesome! It’s totally his fault.

(And no, Duke Leto was NOT creating some stupid sonic weapon that made the Emperor nervous. Don’t believe the lies of the 80s movie. LIES.)

It was a slightly different situation for Ned Stark, relocating to King’s Landing to serve as Hand of the King. It wasn’t necessarily a trap, and with King Robert’s support, Ned was relatively safe. Ned’s discovery of Jaime and Cersei’s incest and his laying the cards on the table in front of Cersei, although not extremely wise, was not actually his undoing. Ned was still operating from a position of strength. King Robert’s return was all that was required for him to see justice done.

Unfortunately, Cersei had already arranged a hunting accident for King Robert.

If Smug was a Cake, I\\™d be the Icing. And the Actual Cake Part Also. I\\™m All Smug.

Ned’s pivotal moment of defeat was not so much in trusting Littlefinger, but in trusting in the legitimacy of King Robert’s rule. Littlefinger had it only partly right in saying that the city guard would follow who pays them. That’s one option. Varys was more insightful when asking Tyrion the riddle of the three men and the sell-sword.  You know the riddle I’m talking about.

VARYS: Three men are in a room. A king, a septon, and a rich man. Each of the three bids a sell-sword to slay the other two. Whom does the sell-sword obey?

TYRION: You’re telling this ALL WRONG. The charming yet fun-sized Hand of the King strolls into a tavern. Inside are three beautiful women, a queen of an exotic land, a high priestess of the Summer Island multi-teated Love Goddess, and the richest woman in Westeros who happens to be so rich that she can pay handsomely for men to forget that she’s only slightly less stunningly beautiful than the queen or the well-trained high priestess of love.

VARYS: I was not telling a joke, my lord.


Back to Varys’ legitimate (if not necessarily salacious) riddle about power: Who would the sell-sword obey? The king, the septon, or the rich man? In truth, the sell-sword would obey whom he has loyalty to: the crown, the gods, or to gold.

Had King Robert inspired sufficient loyalty in his men, King Robert’s last wish in granting Ned the regency would have been enough. Ned’s experience with Robert was largely informed by the military campaigns he shared with Robert, and he knew that the men of Robert’s army loved him. Sadly, Kings Landing’s City Guards were not King Robert’s men.

Ned had two decision points when facing the death of King Robert, either accept Renly’s offer of Highgarden men in exchange for supporting Renly as King, or follow Littlefinger’s suggestion to not challenge Joffrey’s birthright but seize control by force, putting Joffrey in “protective custody”, to deny the unpleasant and unpopular Stannis an ascension to the throne.


Neither would necessarily be the wisest move. Ned knew that Renly had no legitimate claim to the throne, and supporting him would make Ned a traitor in the eyes of the rightful king Stannis. Although Stannis had no love for Ned (seeing him as someone who robbed him of Robert’s fraternal attention) Ned had deep respect for Stannis, and saw no benefit in betraying him. I can respect that. Kings Landing would be at war with at least the Stormlands (those not backing Renly) and the Lannisters (unhappy with Joffrey being put aside.)

(And we can imagine Ned being on the losing side when Renly still gets assassinated by shadow-Stannis.)

(What? I hear you say… Pat, you can’t factor in Stannis and Melisandre’s magic into Ned’s decision process! That’s true, but since everyone is condemning Ned mostly with 20/20 hindsight, I feel it’s fair to consider some of these factors.)


Doing a shadow coup-d’etat as Littlefinger suggested actually requires even more trust of Littlefinger by Ned. Let’s examine the coup scenario in relation to what Ned actually does.

Coup: Ned needs Littlefinger to bribe the city guard to back him up as he siezes power.
Actual: Ned needs Littlefinger to incentivize economically the city guard to back him up if the Lannisters refuse to obey Robert’s dying wishes.

Either way, Littlefinger can either help Ned or screw Ned. Ideally, for Littlefinger, if Ned sticks his neck out for a coup, he gets the extra advantage of Ned dishonoring himself and being thrown in the black cells.

NED: Littlefinger, I totally need you to guarantee that Janos Slynt’s men will back me when I legally assert my right as regent, in case Cersei flips out.

BAELISH: You got it man!


BAELISH: Hah! Loser!

SELMY: Egad, I’m not all that comfortable about this, but am not willing to back up decent Ned.


NED: Littlefinger, I totally need you to guarantee that Janos Slynt’s men will back me when I do as you suggest and take Joffrey and Cersei prisoner “for their own protection” even though it’s a Richard III level act of skeeviness.

BAELISH: You got it man!



SELMY: Egad, Ned Stark you villain!

So, although Ned might not have considered this aspect, his instinct for preserving his honor might have served him well in at least not having the absolutely worse thing possible happening. Things don’t go well for Ned, but they could have been worse.

I have a lot of sympathy for Ned. Clearly, the Peter Principle (or is that the PEYTR PRINCIPLE???) of “People Will Eventually Rise to their Level of Incompetence” was in effect for Ned. He was an awesome warrior, and great Warden of the North, a righteous Lord of Winterfell, and a pretty decent Hand of the King (in that he wasn’t a tool and didn’t want to screw over the smallfolk like an ass). The one thing he wasn’t was a treacherous horrible creep.

Maybe people get all negative emotional about Ned and not Duke Leto, because Leto was clearly not the hero, his son Paul was. But Ned was in many ways perceived as the big hero of the story. And when he died, we have to justify his death. That it wasn’t random, or that bad things happen to good people. So I guess it makes sense that the more we pile on Ned’s stupidity, the better we feel.

I don’t necessarily want to feel better about Ned’s death. I want some recognition of him being a great guy.

I guess I came not bury him, but to praise him. (I sense Shakespeare preparing lawyers…)

Okay, I’m done. If you want to bash on Ned, I won’t stop you. JOFFREY LOVERS!

Wait! I Thought I was Duke Leto! (You were, Hurt. The boring one. In the better adaptation though\\¦)

(For more stuff like this, as well as articles on things not related to Game of Thrones, feel free to check out my blog over at

(Originally published September 4th, 2013 at

© Patrick Sponaugle 2013 Some Rights Reserved