This is the third part of a series, defending Olly of Game of Thrones from a variety of charges. (I kicked off the articles here.) If you don’t know who Olly is, haven’t watched the show, then I don’t know why you’re here.
Last article, I talked about Olly and his role regarding Ygritte. This post is about Jon Snow.
Quick Disclaimer: We can assume that people who haven’t watched the show deserve to be spoiled for reading this, but I wanted to warn people that I’ll be referring to some book details in regards to Jon’s story. Just wanted to warn off people who want absolutely no knowledge from the books (even if it’s not all *that* spoilery. Trust me, warrior.)
Jon Snow and the Conspiracy. The Jonspiracy.
I’ve already mentioned that people were hating on Olly even before the end of season 5.
When Olly, along with a coterie of assassins, stabbed Jon “for the Watch.”
Now, straight up: I’m not going to try and defend Olly’s participation in stabbing Jon as a good thing. It’s a bad thing. Bad Olly. I completely get that people are upset that Olly, Jon’s steward, fell in with this plot to assassinate Jon.
I’m not going to try and defend Olly from that, at all.
But it’s more than just that. A lot of people stabbed Jon, but Olly seems to be the one to get the bulk of the blame.
And often Olly gets all of the blame.
Recently, I advertised on Twitter that I was going to be writing a defense of Olly post. One of my followers retweeted that, and someone I didn’t know sent me an “EFF OLLY” tweet, signifying his dislike of the little stabber. Since I like talking to people on Twitter, and I like hearing opinions, I had a discussion with the Olly detractor. It wasn’t what I expected.
There are some interesting points here, and please understand that I’m aware that any one individual’s opinion should not be considered representative of everyone not liking Olly. I just think this makes for a good discussion.
The case for the prosecution, roughly paraphrasing above, is that Olly either pressured the Night’s Watch members into stabbing Jon, or him just being present, an orphan whose life was destroyed by the Wildlings, was enough to inspire the Night’s Watch members into planning tyrranicide.
Olly the Mastermind
I absolutely can’t believe that Olly would have decided on his own that the right course of action would be to kill Jon Snow, and then bullied the other black brothers into following his lead.
Bowen Marsh: Y’know, I really feel weird about Lord Snow letting those Wildlings through. It just aint right.
Alliser Thorne: I find in most disagreeable as well, Marsh. But he’s our Lord Commander, fairly elected. What are we to do, but follow his orders?
Olly: You could kill him.
Marsh: What? Now see here, that just isn’t done!
Olly: Go change your diapers. It’s time man up and do the right thing. Fat Sam said as much to me.
Thorne: We’re to take your advice based on some words Ser Piggy told to you?
Olly: He’s inexplicably fat, but he’s right. You lot need to do the right thing and kill that bastard Jon Snow. Unless you’re all cowards!
Thorne: Stop! My fragile ego can’t handle both losing an election and your scathing observations! I’ll do as you say!
It’s not that I want to defend the character of the men of the Night’s Watch, but this idea of Olly being the one to pressure them into killing Jon doesn’t speak very well of them as, well, men. Adults rarely listen to children, and it would be bizarre for that scenario to happen among the grizzled and grumpy Crows.
Olly the Inspiration
As well, I’m not inclined to label Olly as the primary but passive motivator for the Night’s Watch decision to kill Jon.
Alliser Thorne: It breaks my heart to see young Olly there, serving as steward to the Lord Commander who has more affection for the Wildlings than the poor folk that they slaughter.
Bowen Marsh: Aye. I was content to follow Snow’s orders, but Olly’s cherubic countenance haunts my dreams.
Alliser Thorne: I don’t know what some of those words mean, but maybe it would cheer the young lad up if we perforated Lord Snow’s thorax and pulmonary cavities.
Bowen Marsh: I don’t know what those are, but if it’ll cheer Olly up, it’ll cheer me up too.
This particular prosecutorial thread implies that had Olly not been at the Wall, the grumbling brothers who were not fond of Jon Snow’s immigration policies would have never found their rallying point, the focus to unite them into a knife wielding mob of
righteous revolutionaries murderers.
Really? I like Olly and I feel sorry for him, but I don’t think he’s so awesome that he’d melt the hearts of these guys. Melted hearts that would then harden darkly in regards to Jon.
Everyone at the Wall would have seen a lot of horrors and tragedy. And Olly couldn’t be the first recruit orphaned by Wildling raids. The Watch members would all have good reasons to be angry at Jon and his “we need to embrace the Free Folk as allies” message.
Olly can be blamed for his participation in the attack on Jon, but he’s not the the Necessary and Sufficient Reason for the plot. So there’s no need to blame him solely.
Alright, smartie, just why did the Night’s Watch decide to murder Jon, if not because of Olly?
Good question. Time for me to speculate. Feel free to point out my logical holes. That’s cool.
The book version was different, of course. Stannis had already let in a bunch of Wildlings, leaving the Night’s Watch to manage them. Jon had sent ships to Hardhome, and had gotten back scary reports. He’d been given advice to seal up the tunnels, but Jon wanted them open to send out rangers in the hopes of bringing back more Wildlings. Finally, Jon decided to get involved with kicking the Boltons out of Winterfell, and members of the Watch decided that this was the final straw.
The show is similar but different. It’s Jon’s call to bring in the Wildlings, and he gets to see first hand what’s happening in regards to the army of the dead. He brings back thousands of Wildlings from Hardhome, but really doesn’t seem to have any other outrageous plans. There’s no debate about sealing the tunnels, no explicit orders to bring back more Wildlings. Jon doesn’t seem like he’s about to violate his oaths to get involved in the political affairs of the North.
But he gets lured outside into the courtyard for his execution anyway.
So, what did Jon do to deserve the killing, and why then?
It took that long for Olly to convince the other guys to kill Jon! NO. As far as I’m concerned, that’s not what’s happening.
Something was going on while Jon was away at Hardhome. Olly came to see Sam, and was hopeful that Jon’s mission to bring back Wildlings was really some kind of trap. That Jon would find a way to assemble the Free Folk for some kind of slaughter.
No, Sam tells Olly. Jon’s doing what he feels is right, and the right thing is to save as many Wildlings as possible. Sometimes, it’s important to do the right thing, even if it’s a hard thing.
Sam pretty much committed Olly to participate in the plot to kill Jon.
I can’t prove that Ser Alliser was the primer mover behind it. Certainly he was a member of the conspiracy, and he was the first one to stab Jon, which seems like a privileged position.
Ser Alliser’s Decisions
It seemed weird that Ser Alliser even bothered to kill Jon. When his Lord Commander returned from Hardhome, trudging along with a ton of Wildling refugees, Thorne took a long time before deciding to open up the gate. So why did he do that? Why not let Jon and the Wildlings stay North of the Wall?
Well, for one, there’s no guarantee that Jon and the refugees wouldn’t just march east back to Eastwatch. That’s where Stannis’ ships had been, Jon had gone there, gotten the ships, used Eastwatch men to sail up to Hardhome, and since Jon and the Free Folk had walked to the part of the Wall where Castle Black defended, I assumed that the ships had ferried the Wildlings to a reasonable location on the coast north of Eastwatch. Jon could return the Eastwatch, declare Thorne guilty of insubordination, and things would have gotten very interesting.
Then again, should the Wildlings have decided to just march a few miles and then scale the Wall with enough men to take Castle Black, that probably would have succeeded. Tormund and Styr nearly did it with what appeared to be less than a hundred.
Thorne probably couldn’t take that risk, but I also think he was waiting for something. And when that something happened, he was willing to kill Jon Snow.
In normal circumstances, any Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch willingly allowing thousands of Wildlings to migrate from Beyond the Wall would be unheard of. With the Watch at Castle Black so depleted of numbers, they really didn’t have much of a choice.
It’s unclear how convincing Jon was of his reports of the army of the dead at Hardhome. It’s possible that Thorne and the others weren’t convinced, or maybe they really did understand the stakes involved. But either way, having Jon Snow around as their Lord Commander, would be a liability.
We don’t see Jon trying to send out more men to look for Wildlings, or otherwise endanger the Night’s Watch which could have provoked a reaction. But I think a case can be made that some members of the Night’s Watch felt themselves at risk with Jon is charge.
Because there was a new Warden of the North.
Ramsay Bolton told Sansa that her bastard half-brother was now Lord Commander at Castle Black. In some ways, Sansa gets some hope from that statement, since not all of her family was dead, and someone related to her was in a position of power, and could possibly be of help in some way.
It’s strange that Ramsay would offer Sansa hope. Unless that hope was going to be taken away. Which would be a Ramsay move.
The Night’s Watch are not supposed to get involved in the political arena of the realms they are defending, but they are in many ways dependent of the seven kingdoms, particularly the North. As Stannis indicated, Jon Snow is merely a symbolic gesture from being recognized as a Stark, and therefore a danger to Bolton power.
If the long night is coming, the men of the Night’s Watch are the first line of defense, and they are drastically in need of support. It’s possible that that support comes at the cost of Jon Snow’s life.
With Stannis more or less supporting Jon, it would be dangerous to eliminate him while the Baratheon army was still in the North. Imagine if Stannis had defeated the Boltons…
Stannis: Bring me to the Lord Commander, we have matters to discuss.
Alliser Thorne: You can treat with me, your Grace. I’m the new Lord Commander.
Stannis: Are you now? What happened to Jon Snow?
Thorne: Oh, errr, well, he opened the Wall to the Wildlings and let thousands through.
Stannis: Of that I’m aware. You might recall that I had no objection to that stated course of action.
Thorne: My men and I saw things differently. We exercised our rights to rid ourselves of a toxic leader. This is entirely an internal Night’s Watch affair, your Grace.
Stannis: Is that so? Perhaps you can convince me of the rightness of your cause around a nice roaring fire. Possibly not. But a roaring fire will be had.
Stannis was defeated though, and therefore there was no danger to Thorne of reprisal in moving against Jon, and killing Snow would possibly cement an arrangement between Thorne’s faction and those who soundly controlled the North.
It’s certainly possible that Thorne and his men just killed Jon because he let the Wildlings through. It’s possible that Thorne pitched the idea that Jon was a traitor simply as part of his own ambition. But it makes more sense that Thorne would kill Jon after Stannis was no longer a part of the puzzle, to secure an alliance in the face of a growing threat from the north. (And that threat doesn’t even have to be zombies. A winter is coming, and the Watch will need support.)
Particularly if the Wildlings that have already been let through get out of hand. They’re still the responsibility of the Watch to deal with.
So what does that all have to do with Olly? This is supposed to be a rambling defense of that punk, not a defense of Alliser Thorne!
Right, I totally am not defending Alliser Thorne, whom I feel should shoulder the blame of the attack on Jon and not so much Olly, regardless of Thorne’s overall motives.
Olly’s a kid. His family was butchered, he was taken in by the Night’s Watch (not that nurturing a group) and pretty much everyone he knew at the Wall hated Jon Snow.
Everyone he knew who liked Jon has either been killed or left.
Except for maybe Dolorous Edd. Aka Eeyore. Not that inspiring an ally.
I admit I don’t have a solid defense of Olly in regards to Jon’s death. I’m not happy he participated in the attack on Jon and I’m not happy that he lured Jon out into the open for the stabbing… which really wasn’t that big a deal.
They could have just as easily stabbed Jon in his office. But that wouldn’t have been as dramatically satisfying.
Olly: Lord Commander, it’s your uncle Benjen! One of the Wildlings knows where he is.
Jon: Dude, that’ll wait. Can’t you see I have a horse-load of paperwork to deal with?
Olly: But, there’s this really cool thing outside too…
Jon: Later, little man. I’ll be burning both ends of the candle tonight. Did you know that Lord Mormont forgot to file his Ten-Seventy-Twos for the past 9 years? They’re way overdue and if Lord Baelish finds out, he’ll slap a stop-work order on the builders hauling gravel for topside, not to mention repossess all our trebuchets.
Thorne: We got tired of waiting. Stand up Snow, so we can stab you easier.
Jon: Well this is rather undramatic.
Thorne: In our defense, we had a traitor pole outside and everything.
Jon: Oh! That would have been cooler. You don’t mind if I finish some of these forms before you kill me? Trust me, you’ll be doing yourself a favor.
Thorne: Suit yourself.
Anyway, I can be angry at Olly without wanting him destroyed. Theon’s still worse a betrayer than Olly, because he should have known that what he was doing was going to end badly. (And I’m rooting for Theon to get a redemption… so I believe I can show some lenience towards Olly, whom I think had many more mitigating factors.)
This particular discussion about Olly inadvertently ended up being more about why Thorne and his faction of the Night’s Watch rebelled against Jon, so I hope you all can forgive me for that.
I’m happy to discuss both topics, Olly stabbing Jon and Jon being stabbed in general. Let’s start things off with a poll (because I’m so generous, you can choose as many answers as you like, and even leave your own entry…)
Next up, I’ll be tackling a more subjective issue. Is Olly so obnoxious and hate-worthy because he wasn’t one of George RR Martin’s creations? NONCANON UNCLEAN!
(Comments are always welcome. Super welcome! But if you want to talk spoilery Game of Thrones talk with me (also welcome) I’d invite you to visit my Safe Spoilers page on my backup blog. That way my non-book-reading friends won’t be shocked with foreknowledge.)
Images from HBO’s Game of Thrones, obviously.
I make no claims to the artwork, but some claims to the text. So there.
*The description of the Trattoria came directly from the Wikipedia page. Bless you Wikipedia.
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