Sunday, June 26, 2016

(Cont.) Season 6, Episode 9. Analysis: What about Baelish

OK, very quickly now, because some people have asked, and I meant to post this sooner.

The other day, we argued that Sansa didn't tell Jon about the Vale soldiers because she thought that the only way Ramsay could be defeated was to give him the (extremely realistic) impression that victory was imminent, thus lulling him into abandoning his defensive positions.

Today, I'll discuss a wrinkle that I omitted before for the sake of simplicity (though I intended to get back to it)--namely, Baelish's potential role in this plan. Who's plan is it really, Sansa's or Baelish's? In truth, there's no way to know at this point, but it really doesn't affect the specific question of why Sansa didn't reveal the plan to Jon. Whether the plan originated with Sansa or Baelish, Sansa concealed its content from Jon for the reasons we've established -- she thought it was necessary to have Jon clueless and near-defeat in order to ensure that Ramsay would fall.

Of course, if Baelish is the one who hatched the plan, he likely has different interests from Sansa. Sansa's primary interest, I would argue, is to defeat Ramsay. She doesn't care what it takes to do so -- if Jon's army is savaged,  if Jon himself is killed, that's collateral damage to her overall goal of seeing Ramsay defeated and dead. Baelish, however -- assuming he designed the plan -- might very well have intended for Jon to be killed. Overall, do I think it was Baelish's plan or Sansa's? I'd have to guess that Baelish drew it up. Sansa admitted in the last episode that she has no experience with battle plans ("I don't know. I don't know anything about battles"). Hopefully, this week's episode will at least deal with the origins of the plan, to some degree.


Ok, back now to Sansa's decision not to tell Jon about the Vale soldiers. What I started pointing out last week -- and wish now to elaborate upon -- is just how RIGHT Sansa was to recognize that Jon was ill-prepared to effectively plan an attack against Ramsay. If you look at it in retrospect, it's  clear that the show was hitting us in the face with evidence that Jon and his army were truly outmatched.

(1) We mentioned that Sansa and Jon had grossly different approaches to the matter of Rickon, as evident in this exchange:

JON: Alright, tell me. What should we do? How do we get Rickon back?SANSA: We'll never get him back. Rickon is Ned Stark's trueborn son, which makes him a greater threat to Ramsay than you, a bastard, or me, a girl. As long as he lives, Ramsay's claim to Winterfell will be contested, which means he won't live long.JON: We can't give up on our brother.

What we didn't stress in the earlier post, however, is that in this conversation, Sansa essentially predicted  that Jon's sympathy for Rickon was going to lead to his downfall; in fact, that's exactly what happened. Jon's army was supposed to be patient and not charge first. However, Jon's foolish need to try to save Rickon led him to abandon his battle plans and singlehandedly charge (toward) the opposing army. This, in turn, led Davos to send in the army after Jon. All of this would have been avoided had Jon heeded Sansa's explicit warning, but he didn't, and Sansa knew he wouldn't.

(2) Jon's confrontation with Ramsay the day before the battle also highlights how savvy Ramsay is and how pointless is Jon's effort to provoke him:

RAMSAY: Come, bastard, you don't have the men, you don't have the horses, and you don't have Winterfell. Why lead those poor souls into slaughter? There's no need for a battle. Get off your horse and kneel. I'm a man of mercy.
JON: You're right. There's no need for a battle. Thousands of men don't need to die.
Only one of us. Let's end this the old way.You against me.
RAMSAY: (chuckling) I keep hearing stories about you, bastard. The way people in the North talk about you, you're the greatest swordsman who ever walked. Maybe you are that good. Maybe not. I don't know if I'd beat you. But I know that my army will beat yours. I have 6,000 men. You have, what, half that? Not even? 

In this exchange, Jon attempts to provoke Ramsay into deciding the battle via single-combat. Ok, worth a try -- no faulting Jon for giving it a shot. However, it didn't work. At all. Ramsay calmly explains that he has an advantage in resources that he would be a fool to waste. 

Accordingly, when in conference with his officers and Sansa, Jon explains, "I wanted to make him angry. I want him coming at us full tilt"-- we should know full well, as Sansa does, that his strategy will not work. Ramsay does not fly off the handle and make mistakes. The same cannot be said of Jon.

(3) As mentioned previously, Jon's assurance to Sansa that he would protect her ("I won't ever let him touch you again. I'll protect you, I promise.") rings hollow to a girl whose mother and brother were murdered by supposed friends, and who has been engaged to one man and married to another who have mercilessly abused her, the first of whom also killed her father.

(4) There's a very short back-and-forth involving Tormund and Jon that also highlights what a ragtag group of men Jon leads.  

TORMUND: It's not his men that worry me. It's his horses. I know what mounted knights can do to us. You and Stannis cut through us like piss through snow.
JON: We're digging trenches all along our flanks. They won't be able to hit us the way that Stannis hit you, in a double envelopment. A pincer move. (Tormund is confused). They won't be able to hit us from the sides. TORMUND: Good.

This bit of conversation seems like it's added to the show for a bit of amusement. And it is, from a certain angle (the viewer's angle), kind of funny. You have this ranking leader of the army, Tormund, who doesn't even know classic battle terminology and tactics. But from a different angle -- Sansa's standpoint -- this misunderstanding is not very funny at all. This army in whose hands she's placing her life and freedom is entirely incompetent. It has a commander too emotional and idealistic to recognize his deficits and craft an appropriate strategy, and it has leaders who don't even know the basics of military tactics and strategy. Small wonder, then, that Sansa would prefer using these misfits as part of a larger plan that has a better chance of defeating Ramsay. Inshort, Sansa calculates correctly.

No comments:

Post a Comment