Game of Thrones: The Strategy to Defend Winterfell Was Really ... Dumb

Night King on Game of Thrones

WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Game of Thrones Season 8 Episode 3, "The Long Night."

Game of Thrones just showcased potentially the biggest battle the series has ever attempted with "The Long Night." It was a massive battle between the forces of the living and the army of the dead, and it featured plenty of exciting moments, thrilling scenes and heart-wrenching deaths.

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But it also featured potentially the dumbest strategy for victory imaginable. The heroes didn't win through tenacity or clever planning, they won through the last-minute unplanned moves of MVP Arya Stark. If it hadn't been for her last-second killing of the Night King, the heroes would have lost the battle.

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That's Not How Cavalry Works

So, the living have solidified their defense inside Winterfell. They're prepared for the siege, or as prepared as they could possibly be. Going up against the seemingly limitless undead warriors fighting for the Night King, an outright charge against the endless horde isn't going to be super effective. So, it's very surprising to see that is indeed the first course of action for the heroes.

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The Dothraki ride out on their horses to confront the Wights head-on and are quickly decimated by the horde, primarily because that's not how you use horsebound cavalry. The purpose of the cavalry is to strike the enemy from the side or behind after they've engaged the main infantry, allowing the speed and sheer power to cut the enemy army in half.

That advantage is wasted by putting them up front at the beginning of the battle. Plus, on top of Daenerys no longer having that army in the long term, the defenders now have to deal with the Night King raising those wiped out warriors to replenish his army.

Game of Thrones Season 8 Episode 3

Should Have Built More Trenches

Lighting trenches on fire to hinder the advancement of the Wights isn't a bad idea. Fire has proven to be one of the few things that can stop the dead once and for all, but the defenders only built a single trench in front of the castle, meaning that plan is eliminated as soon as the White Walkers roll up.

Their natural ability to eliminate fires with their mere presence means this was never going to be the be-all, end-all plan for the heroes. Even if that was the case, they needed more time out of the trenches than they got.

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Instead of setting up multiple layers of trenches, thereby buying their troops on the front line more time to retreat and re-position, the heroes built a single trench. This led to the Unsullied being quickly forced back against it, trapping many of them behind enemy lines and dooming them once the trench was lit.

It didn't take long for the Night King to realize he didn't even need to send the White Walkers out to counter the flames when a pile of bodies could have the same effect. And on top of all of that, the dragons were apparently the only plan to light the trenches, which seems silly considering they would probably be pretty busy fighting the undead dragon in the sky.

Don't Duel The Necromancer

Jon Snow is a heroic man with noble intentions and a kind heart. He is also a giant doofus who is terrible at military strategy. Much like with the Battle of the Bastards in Season 6, Jon let his emotions get the better of him and he almost lost his life trying to set up a duel that the enemy was never going to go in for.

This time, Jon was stranded outside Winterfell after his dragon, Rhaegal, was grounded fighting it's undead brother, Viserion. Seeing the Night King on the battlefield, Jon decided now was the perfect time to try and take him on one-on-one.

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Apparently, Jon also forgot about how the Night King is a necromancer who can raise the dead despite having literally seen him do it. Jon tried sprinting to him through a field of freshly dead Dothraki, Unsullied and Wildling corpses to reach him.

The Night King just had to raise his hands and he had a fresh wave of Wights to send after Jon and the rest of the people in Winterfell. Notably, this includes all the bodies buried in the crypts, meaning the idea of hiding those who couldn't fight in the crypts also backfired spectacularly.

Much like Sansa's last-minute save during the Battle of the Bastards, Jon was only saved from his stupid plan by the timely intervention of one of his younger cousins.

Theon And His Bucket O' Arrows

Bran turned out to be right in saying the Night King would primarily target him during the battle. It really was the best chance to lure the villain into the open, but the defenders of Winterfell didn't focus their defenses there or have some brilliant trap waiting for him.

Instead, it was Theon and the remaining Iron Islanders who were set to defend the most important person in the world. Theon brought a bucket of arrows to help him do it instead of, say, a direwolf or a dragon.

We're not saying Theon didn't redeem himself holding the line. His death was a quiet and moving final moment of glory for the character. We're just saying it would have probably been more useful to have Arya there the whole time, waiting to pounce on the Night King instead of having to navigate through dark halls around zombies.

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The fact that she still managed to win the day for the heroes is a triumph for Arya, not for the "brilliant" minds who designed the defense of Winterfell. Because those dopes almost got themselves and everyone else in the world killed.

Airing Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO, Game of Thrones stars Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Jaime Lannister, Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister, Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen, Sophie Turner as Sansa Stark, Maisie Williams as Arya Stark and Kit Harington as Jon Snow.

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