On this week’s episode of Game of Thrones, (spoilers ahead) fans were treated to one of the show’s greatest and most elaborately staged military battles yet: a clash between the bulk of the Lannister army, under the able command of Jaime Lannister, and a band of Dothraki headed by Daenerys Targaryen, who also brought one of her three dragons.
It’s the kind of fantasy match-up that military strategy nerds live for, and like last season’s Battle of the Bastards, the episode did not skimp on the details. Director Matt Shakman meticulously tells the story of a military disaster from the perspective of the losing side, showing how a few critical errors on Jaime Lannister’s part cause a snowball effect that neutralizes the Lannister army’s ability to be an effective fighting force. Here are the five biggest mistakes Jaime made in his battle against Daenerys and her Dothraki warriors.
1. Don’t Get Into a Fight With a Dragon.
As military geniuses from Sun Tzu to Dirk the Daring have observed, dragons are difficult to kill and can set things on fire. For this reason, it’s best to consider the odds that you will end up in a fight with a dragon before you commit your troops. Jaime Lannister’s poor planning on this front landed him smack in the middle of a fight with a dragon, setting the stage for failure.
2. Don’t Let a Dragon Set Your Troops on Fire.
Not letting dragons set your troops on fire would have been a revolutionary concept for most medieval generals, so perhaps it’s unfair to blame Jaime for letting a dragon set his troops on fire. Still, this is a show with all kinds of anachronisms, from modern slang to overly trimmed pubic hair—is it that hard to imagine a military mastermind like Jaime Lannister improvising this tactic in the heat of battle?
3. Transporting Valuable Cargo? Keep it Away From Dragons!
When the battle begins, Jaime is trying to haul the spoils from his victory at Highgarden in last week’s episode back home. It’s important that his wagon train arrive safely back at King’s Landing: he looted crucial grain supplies to help Cersei during the coming winter. Or that’s what the grain was intended for, anyway, before a dragon gets too close and burns it to ashes. A critical error on Jaime Lannister’s part, and one that may prove decisive.
4. When a Dragon Heads Your Way Maybe Don’t Hang Around.
One of the crucial decision points for Jaime’s doomed command was determining how to react when a dragon flew right towards him at high speed. Unfortunately, rather than the more militarily sound option of heading someplace where the dragon wasn’t, Jaime stayed where the dragon was. It’s the kind of classic rookie mistake that had armchair generals yelling at their televisions all over the country, and it may have doomed House Lannister.
5. Don’t Ride a Horse Into Battle Against a Dang Dragon!
I simply can’t emphasize this enough: dragons can set things on fire. They’ll set you on fire, then they’ll set your horse on fire, then they’ll set everything around you on fire. Being on fire really hurts, and sometimes it’s even fatal. Jaime should know better than anyone that the key to Tywin Lannister’s greatest military victories was not being on fire. And not being on fire starts with not riding your horse into battle against a dragon!
Wow. It’s clear that for all his experience, Jaime Lannister still has a lot to learn before he can win the kind of decisive victories that will secure Cersei’s crown. Let’s hope the remaining Lannisters are a little more familiar with the basics of military strategy I’ve outlined above, or at least are able to learn from Jaime’s mistakes! Otherwise, the war for the Iron Throne will be over faster than you can run from a dragon.