Season 8 of Game of Thrones premiers Sunday. The anticipation is enough to make any fan explode. The usual Puritan malcontents denounce it as porn, showing that they know even less about porn than they do about Game of Thrones (and if you’re such a good Catholic, how is it you claim to know so much about porn?). I don’t care how good of a Catholic you think you are, if you don’t love a good story as much as you love Jesus and his Mother, you ain’t a good Catholic. And as I’ve written before, Game of Thrones is one awesome story.
The next best thing to exploding is writing. So here’s me, nerding out on Game of Thrones.
In 2017, in the weeks leading up to Season 7 of HBO’s Game of Thrones, a Facebook friend and I had a friendly disagreement over what Daenerys Targaryen could or should do when she landed in Westeros. “Attack and sack Casterly Rock,” I said. “Take out the Lannister stronghold.” My friend disagreed: “She should occupy Dragonstone! Her ancient family fortress! Dragonstone!”
My friend was right: that’s exactly what she did. But he was only half-right: it was a boneheaded move from which she gained no tactical advantage. It was disastrous. By the end of Episode 2, her fleet was mostly destroyed by Euron Greyjoy and the Dornish army was wiped out. By the end of Episode 3, Highgarden had been sacked and the Tyrell army wiped out.
Daenerys’ two chief allies were gone. She mounted a successful retaliatory raid on the Lannister loot train, but it still gained her little in terms of a tactical advantage. In her fury, she killed a vital bannerman (I know Randyll Tarly was prick, but still…). And the wagon carrying the Tyrell gold made it back to King’s Landing anyway. With it, Queen Cersei paid off the Crown’s debt to the Iron Bank, allowing her to take out another loan, with which she hired the Golden Company—to be ferried to Westeros from Essos by Euron’s fleet, thanks to Daenerys not destroying it.
Daenerys was furious with her advisors, chiefly Tyrion and Varys. For a time, she suspected them both of plotting against her, so poor had their advice been. She was alone, without allies, brooding at Dragonstone.
Hindsight is 20/20, they say, but I was saying this back in 2017. So now, though it means nothing because it’s already history, here is my take on what Daenerys should have done – would have done if I had been advising her.
- Immediately have the Dornish army muster and head north, meet up with the Tyrell army. Both armies should begin marching to Lannisport and Casterly Rock.
- You have air power, use it. Send the dragons to find Euron’s fleet (which you know exists because Yara and Theon told you it did). It will probably still be near the Iron Islands. Meanwhile, the Dothraki will be useless in a sea battle. Put them ashore where the Ocean Road begins the hug the coast so they can protect the Tyrell/Dornish right flank. And deal with any enemy they encounter.
- Close with and destroy Euron’s fleet. The Unsullied should be perfect for this. Kill Euron – you don’t want him around. Any Ironborn who surrender, have them bend the knee. You’ll need the ships.
- By now, your land forces should have invested Lannisport, if not yet the Rock. Sack Lannisport. You will of course have standing orders forbidding rape and the killing of innocent civilians. But allow looting. Armies need incentive. Food stores are to remain untouched. Winter is coming. And in fact, generosity/mercy here will go a long way with the people, both smallfolk and highborn.
- Leaving a token occupying force in Lannisport (commanded by a lord who bent the knee), the army should move north to Casterly Rock. Your navy will have surrounded it from the sea (with no Euron fleet to sneak up and destroy it – see how that works?). With the intel from Tyrion about the secret entrance, taking the Rock should be pretty quick and bloody.
- Liberate Edmure Tully from whatever hole the Lannisters stashed him in. He’ll be so eager to bend the knee you won’t even have to ask him. Once the Rock is secure, accompany him to Riverrun and help him take it back. Round up his bannermen and have them bend the knee. I bet they’ll be happy to also. Send him north to take the Twins. Kill any remaining Frey heirs that may have slipped Arya’s grasp. The wives and children will bend the knee.
- Now, you can rest, take stock. You have Dorne, the Reach, the Westerlands, and the Riverlands. Any bannermen of the Tyrells and the Martells who have not yet bent the knee, have them bend the knee, including the Master of Oldtown. Have the Citadel send you a maester—but watch him closely. According to the books, the maesters were the real culprits behind the downfall of the Targaryen dynasty.
- This also would be a good time to send Yara and Theon to the Iron Islands to settle any troubles there. Root out anyone still loyal to Euron. Install Yara as Lady of the Iron Islands.
- The point is, you have now achieved an almost insurmountable tactical advantage. You control more than two-thirds of the territory of southern Westeros. The Vale, while not aligned with Cersei, opposes you. But its army is in the North, and with winter coming, is likely to stay there. With sea power and control of multiple ports, you can resupply from Essos. You can reinforce your army and provide for your subjects. You can blockade King’s Landing. It may fall without you having to do anything. All you need is patience.
Install Tyrion as lord of Casterly Rock? Hard to answer. By law it belongs to Jaime. But he’s still with Cersei and thus an enemy. And Tyrion has always wanted it. He’s already proven himself a good manager (“All the sh#t found its way to the sea.”) and a loyal adviser. Give it to Tyrion.
You don’t need to assault an enemy’s capital first, when trying to take over a country. In fact, it’s a bad idea. What would happen to you is what you’ve already done to Cersei—isolation. She is cut off. All she has is the Crownlands (which includes Dragonstone, but so what? All in good time) and the Stormlands. With the Baratheons all gone, I have no idea who occupies Storm’s End. Cersei is isolated. You can wait her out. And if things get bad enough, the people may rise up against her, as they have already shown themselves capable of doing. Which leaves…
The North. Always the independent variable. And the one kingdom in the South that you have not taken and that is not controlled by Cersei, the Vale, hates you. And is allied with the North. By now, your conquest of most of the South will have reached the ears of the King in the North. He won’t care much because he’s occupied with the threat from beyond the Wall. But (though we don’t know this yet) he needs dragonglass, and he knows there’s a motherlode of dragonglass beneath Dragonstone. Tyrion should send a raven to Jon Snow, asking him to meet you at whatever castle you’ve set up temporary headquarters. You’re in a much stronger position to treat with him than you would have been had you listened to Tyrion and Varys, and occupied Dragonstone first. And Jon Snow needs allies.
So that’s it. Pointless and moot, I know, since we can’t undo what has already happened. But arguing over what should have happened is one of the blessings of fandom. Please join me Sunday night, as our watch begins in the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones, and we learn who wins, and who dies.
(image courtesy of http://tinyurl.com/y5krhn8d)