Note that many of these examples can also apply to A Song Of Ice And Fire.
- Jaime in the backstory. It turns out he had a very good reason to kill Aerys there and then, which he doesn't share with anyone until much later. Namely, that the king had hidden caches of wildfire all across King's Landing and his Famous Last Words ("Burn them all") weren't just rambling about the Starks he was torturing, but him giving the order to blow up the whole city.
You'd expect: For Jaime to immediately alert anyone willing to listen. Even if he's harsh and self-righteous, an honorable man like Ned Stark would not have dismissed this, and it's not like Jaime didn't have any proof - the wildfire was still there.
Instead: Jaime refuses to even try telling anyone, starting with "the honorable Ned Stark", earning a reputation as a kingslayer that makes him a bitter man without honor and ensures that he never gets along with Ned Stark and Robert Baratheon, eventually sparking a conflict.
Even worse: The caches are never removed and eventually Cersei discovers one, using it to blow up the Great Sept and murder all her political rivals, which is exactly what Jaime wanted to prevent the Mad King from doing.
- In general, Tywin Lannister's goal above all else is to see his family prosper, which he intends for it to do long after he's dead. To this end, he tries to marry off his daughter Cersei and have the golden boy Jaime be his heir.
You'd Expect: Tywin would understand that the reason his house prospers now is because of his political acumen, and of his three children, the only one that shares that skill is Tyrion, The Unfavorite. Note that his enemies do understand that Tywin is the linchpin of the Lannisters, and have exploited it at times. Since making Tyrion heir is out of the question, at least make sure he's putting his mind to good use. By Tywin's own admission, Cersei isn't a competent replacement and Jaime's talents lie in fighting, not statesmanship.
Instead: Tywin tries to pull Uriah Gambits on Tyrion several times, flatly insults his desire to be heir, and only recognizes his talents insofar as they're immediately useful. As a result, when Tyrion kills Tywin and flees the continent, Cersei makes a string of bad decisions that pretty much destroys the influence of House Lannister.
- Ned and Catelyn Stark are trying to figure out who put a hit out on their son. Their investigations lead them to Tyrion Lannister, who happens to be A: the son of Tywin Lannister, who's probably the most wealthy, powerful and influential lord in Westeros, and B: the little brother of Jaime Lannister, one of the most skilled swordsmen on the continent, and the guy who made the choice to kill the last King of Westeros.
You'd Expect: Ned to go directly to Robert with the details as soon as he could and Catelyn to not do something so foolish as kidnap the son of the richest and most ruthless man in Westeros with no plan for what to do next, even if she did think he had tried to kill her child.
Instead: Catelyn takes action as soon as the Starks have all the information they think they need, and arrests Tyrion as soon as she gets the chance. Jaime, not taking kindly to this, arrives with a group of Lannister soldiers and asks him if he knows of Tyrion's fate.
So You'd Then Expect: Ned to stall Jaime by pretending he doesn't know or isn't certain if the report is true, or try to defuse the situation diplomatically. Jaime is a brilliant swordsman, and he and his soldiers pose a direct threat to Ned and his retinue. Besides, this will enrage Tywin Lannister, who Ned well knows is a formidable enemy.
But Instead: Ned blows it by saying that Tyrion was arrested on his orders, removing any possibility of de-escalation. As a result, Jaime's soldiers attack Ned and kill several members of his retinue. Jaime himself challenges Ned to a duel, during which Ned is speared in the back of his thigh by a Lannister soldier. Ned survives but is seriously injured and needs a cane to walk, hampering his ability to fight back in future. Tywin, regarding Tyrion's arrest as an affront to the Lannisters, has The Mountain lead a Rape, Pillage, and Burn campaign against the Riverlands (Catelyn's homeland) in retaliation. Jaime later joins his father's war in the Riverlands.
- Viserys Targaryen has made a deal with Dothraki leader Khal Drogo: Viserys will give Drogo a wife in the form of his sister Daenerys, and in exchange, Drogo will provide Viserys with an army of Dothraki, which he can use to conquer Westeros. Several weeks after the wedding, Drogo has yet to fulfill his part of the deal, since Viserys did not specify a date for when he wanted the army.
You'd Expect: Viserys to arrange a meeting with Drogo and ask him to provide the army as per their deal, while at least trying to be polite about it. It also wouldn't hurt to not try and provoke the barbarian warlord in question.
Instead: Viserys gets drunk, storms into Drogo's tent, makes impatient demands of the Khal, and threatens to murder Drogo and Daenerys's unborn child, assuming that he'll be safe from retaliation due to the Dothraki being forbidden from spilling blood in their present location. Drogo subsequently crowns him with a pot of melted gold, killing him.
- Ned has just sussed out the secret that got his mentor, Jon Arryn, killed and someone tried to kill his son to protect. Namely that the king's son and heir was sired by the queen's twin brother. Also King Robert has a reputation for killing anyone that poses even a mere threat, like Daenaerys.
You'd Expect: Since he knows people have killed for this secret, he'd keep a lid on it until King Robert gets back, then tell him in private and let him handle it. Alternatively, he tells King Robert to make a vow to not hurt the children, and remind him to be an honorable kind.
Instead: In an effort to "spare the children", Ned tells Queen Cersei that he knows and advises her to vamoose before Robert returns, expecting her to be shamed into leaving. Unfortunately for him, Robert returns with a fatal hunting wound, leaving Ned unwilling to tell him the truth. What follows is a series of Lawful Stupid decisions, ultimately leading to Ned's execution by beheading at the hands of one of the "children" he tried to spare.
- Joffrey Baratheon, being the sociopathic Royal Brat that he is, gets more than one. His mother's plan was for Ned Stark to be framed on false charges so that she could force him to join the Night's Watch and be sent off to the wall. That way, he'd be far from King's Landing and his credibility would be damaged enough that his secret wouldn't be believed even if he let it out.
You'd think: He'd just follow up with the plan. Ned Stark's family is powerful, and keeping him alive would prevent them from revolting given their Honor Before Reason beliefs.
Instead: Joffrey goes, "Ser Illyn! Bring me his head!" right in full view of Sansa Stark and a whole crowd of onlookers, and does nothing to change his orders even when his own mother tries to tell him off.
As a result: Robb Stark rebels and proves to be a genuine threat to Joffrey's reign.
- Later, Joffrey discovers that Cersei's secret is for real, and that he's the bastard son of Cersei and his "uncle" Jaime, making all of Robert's bastards by various prostitutes across King's Landing potential heirs to the Iron Throne.
You'd think: Given that rumors of Joffrey's true parentage are already out, he would find a quiet way to remove all of Robert's bastard children. He could force them into the Night's Watch, or have them sold into slavery in Essos, hire red priestesses like Melisandre to use them as blood banks, or have them assassinated in secret using Varys's "little birds", etc. These ways are utterly despicable but they would remove potential threats to his reign without raising any questions. King's Landing is rife with all sorts of crime and having a group of lowborn people quietly disappear would attract no notice from the populace.
Instead: Joffrey (Cersei in the books) orders a vicious purge of Robert's bastards, with the Gold Cloaks taking part in the open murder of innocent people including children in broad daylight.
As a result: The sheer brazenness and brutality of the purge, even by Westerosi standards, draws attention to the acts and the people being killed, and the crimes give everyone in Westeros good proof that the rumors about Joffrey's parentage are true.
- Cersei meanwhile is regretful that Joffrey is a monster, and she fears it's because he's a child of incest. Tyrion comforts her by reminding her that Tommen and Myrcella have beaten the odds and are kind, sane children.
You'd Expect: Cersei to realize that Tyrion for all his faults is loyal to the Lannisters. This would have been a prime opportunity for Tyrion to Kick Them While They Are Down. But he comforts her instead, despite their bad blood. He doesn't want to hurt her, despite his faults, and when he's telling off Joffrey, he's usually right. The hostage situation with Myrcella was to improve the situation with the Martells, who are seeking justice for Elia Martell and her children. Also, Tyrion won't judge her for Drowning My Sorrows since he does the same.
Instead: She takes whom she believes is his whore hostage. And instantly blames Tyrion for Joffrey's death, taking his verbal threats to her son out of context.
The Result: Things become downright chaotic in Season Four after Tyrion kills Twyin and leaves the kingdom in Cersei's hands. When Dany gains Tyrion as an advisor, she becomes more formidable than she already was.
- Robb Stark needs allies in his war for Northern independence, so he can convince the Lannisters that they have bitten off far more than they can chew, especially with Renly starting to turn into a serious threat to the south of the Crownlands.
You'd Expect: Robb really just wants retribution for his father, and to make the North independent, instead of actually taking the throne. Cersei and Joffrey might not be amenable to Robb's terms, but Renly might. If both men work together and come to an understanding, they can put immense pressure on the Lannisters and force them into a war on two fronts, a war not even money can buy enough soldiers to win.
Instead: Robb takes Theon's advice and sends him to go and try to broker an alliance with the Greyjoys, both of them completely forgetting WHY Theon was Ned's ward in the first place. Theon is a bargaining chip to keep the Greyjoys from attacking anyone, and once Theon is back in Balon's clutches, the first thing they do? Attack the defenseless North. Also, Robb sees Renly as a secondary option, and sends his mother to the Stormlands, a mission that could have resulted in Catelyn being captured, or worse.
Even Worse: Because of this horrible decision, this kicks off Theon's "character arc" that results in a massive Humiliation Conga for several seasons before things get remotely better. It also leads to the sacking and burning of Winterfell, the opportunity for House Bolton to betray the Starks when morale gets low and subsequently the Red Wedding, and for the Greyjoys to enter the geopolitical nightmare of the War of the Five Kings as a wild card, and eventually, the only reason Cersei even has any power left while she is on the Iron Throne. Without this decision, the Greyjoys might have just sat out the War of the Five Kings, sulking on their barren islands, and the Starks might have actually won. Also, Catelyn Stark lays out that Balon is not trustworthy, and points out how horrible an idea sending Theon is. And where did that get her?
- Lord Commander Mormont is a crowning moment of Honor Before Reason, he firmly believes in Sacred Hospitality, but have a look at the Monster page and read up on Craster to see just what Mormont has to put up with.
You'd Expect: He forego his honor for once - he'd made allowances for Jon Snow after all - kill or at least imprison Craster and put, say, Sam in his place as waystation beyond the Wall.
Instead: He ignores it. As well as directly recruiting for the White Walkers, Mormont's lack of action led to the Craster's Keep mutiny, losses for the Watch, as well as the rise of the "Fookin legend of Gin Alley."
- Besides Northern independence, Robb is also fighting to rescue his sisters Arya and Sansa from the clutches of the Lannisters. He's succeeded in capturing Jaime Lannister early on, giving the Starks a hostage of their own. Among Robb's retinue is his mother Catelyn, whose Mama Bear instincts are triggered when she learns that Theon Greyjoy has betrayed Robb and taken Winterfell, with Robb's brothers Bran and Rickon among his prisoners. She decides to try and exchange Jaime for her daughters.
You'd Expect: That if Catelyn was insistent on a hostage exchange, she would at least get Robb to agree to it beforehand, and make sure that precautions were taken to ensure that Jaime could be safely taken to wherever the exchange was to be made.
Instead: She goes behind her son's back and sends Jaime off to King's Landing with only Brienne of Tarth to watch over him.
Result: Catelyn's reckless actions set off a line of Disaster Dominoes for the Starks. Robb is furious with his mother, which leads to Talisa trying to comfort him, which leads to her and Robb accepting their mutual feelings for each other, which leads them marrying and Robb breaking his marriage agreement with the Freys, which leads to them withdrawing their support for Robb's cause. And while Catelyn is aware of what would happen if Robb broke his agreement with the Freys, he points out that she's hardly one to talk about reckless actions when she tries to warn him off doing so.
- Lord Rickard Karstark, one of Robb's bannermen marching to Casterly Rock, kills two captured Lannister boys at Riverrun due to the Kingslayer's escape and is subsequently arrested.
You'd Expect: Robb to keep him prisoner, and negotiate with the Karstarks, especially when a chunk of army consists of the Karstarks. Alternatively, he could send him back to Karhold with instructions to rest, explaining that he's being merciful to a loyal subordinate and a distant kinsman(the Karstarks are a branch of the Stark family), and have another Karstark take over for the time being. He already gracefully defused the situation when Greatjon Umber threatened him with his sword, there's no reason why he shouldn't show the same restraint and understanding with the Karstarks.
Instead: Robb executes him as his punishment for killing the boys. As a results, the Karstarks march back north, forcing Robb to ask for the Freys' help, clearly the last men to ask for help. This, combined with Robb's breaking of his vow to the Freys ie. marrying one of the Frey girls, ends with Robb's death, his wife's death, his mother's death, his ENTIRE army's perishing, his wolf's death, his uncle as a captive, at the uncle's wedding more infamously remembered as '''The Red Wedding'''. The North's call for independence ends with them, enabling House Lannister to win the War of Five Kings.
- At the Purple Wedding, Joffrey starts choking. It takes a few moments for everyone to realize that he's been poisoned, and he's dying. While doing so, he points at Tyrion, who comes to examine the wineglass.
You'd Expect: That someone would use their head. As Tyrion lampshades, if he had poisoned Joffrey, he wouldn't have been stupid enough to stand in front of him and examine his wineglass. Also, there is no poison on him, and he hasn't had an opportunity to drop something in the drink.
Instead: No one uses common sense to defend Tyrion, not even his brother. Cersei gets to carry on a Kangaroo Court trial which is damnably convincing due to a Surprise Witness taking Tyrion's remarks out of context. As a result, Tyrion decides to no longer help his family after he's sentenced to death, murders Tywin, and leaves Westeros on getting the opportunity. This means that thanks to Cersei, Dany has the smartest Lannister as a right hand man, and a power struggle ensues because no one can keep the realm together. By the time Jaime finds out from Olenna, after he defeats her army and gives her poison as a Mercy Kill, he realizes how things messed up so badly.
- During Oberyn Martell's duel with Gregor Clegane he repeatedly accuses him of murdering his sister Elia Martell's children before raping and murdering her.
You'd Expect: Gregor to focus on their duel.
Instead: While he does win the duel and kill Oberyn, he also shouts very loudly that he did exactly what Oberyn's accused him of. While in front of a crowd of VIPs including more than a few of the Martell family's servants and sworn lords. And the Martells are a powerful family that the Lannisters desperately need at least neutral in Westeros affairs while Gregor is just a useful killer. Really, even if Oberyn hadn't poisoned Gregor with one of his weapons and gotten in several life-threatening wounds, Gregor would still definitely be facing death one way or another. Also, thanks to Gregor, Ellaria Sand has sufficient reason to murder Myrcella in revenge later on, in front of Jaime no less when he was coming to "rescue" her from the Martells.
- Tywin Lannister is on the privy when he's confronted by a would-be assassin with both a crossbow, and ample reason to want him dead: his son Tyrion. The assassin decides not to shoot Tywin immediately.
You'd Expect: Tywin to try and avoid provoking the assassin until either help arrives, or he gets an opportunity to talk the guy out of killing him.
Instead: Tywin refers to the assassin's dead girlfriend as a whore multiple times, despite the assassin warning him not to do so. He gets shot and killed as a result.
- After the duel between the Mountain and Oberyn, Ellaria Sand is furious and demanding that the Martells execute their hostage Myrcella Lannister in revenge. Doran Martell refuses because the Martells won't stoop to the levels of the Lannisters and murder children.
You'd Expect: That to compensate Ellaria that the Martells would demand compensation for the deaths of many of their family members and the body of Gregor Clegane, and make an example of it. That way she is satisfied with seeing her lover's killer. Ellaria in the books receives Gregor's head. Also that Doran would keep Ellaria from Myrcella.
Instead: Doran opts for Forgiveness and negotiates with Jaime to let Myrcella travel with her betrothed, Trystane Martell, and tries to give Ellaria a second chance. She murders Myrcella with poisonous lipstick, then murders Doran and Trystane to take control of their kingdom. As of season seven, Ellaria's sole Lannister casualty is Myrcella, whose death only makes Cersei more dangerous.
The Result: Cersei spends years plotting revenge for Myrcella, whom she considers the only good thing in her world, a truly innocent child that never betrayed her. Qyburn helps her find the poison that was used on Myrcella, as well as the antidote. She finally gets her chance when Euron Greyjoy hands over a captive Ellaria and her sole surviving daughter Tyene. Cersei locks them up, gags them, and poisons Tyene the same way that Ellaria poisoned Myrcella. She promises that Ellaria will watch her daughter die, unable to comfort Tyene in her last moments, and unable to perish in turn because Cersei will force Ellaria to look on the corpse for the rest of her days and keep her from starving. Yeah, not a good way for the last of the Martells to go.
- Littlefinger has set his sights on Sansa now that Cat is dead, and spirits her away to the Vale. After her aunt tries to kill her, if not for Petyr's interference, Sansa decides to put her trust in Littelfinger. As she tells him, he's the only person who has tried to keep her alive and safe, apart from Tyrion who has been locked up. Joffrey has abused her, Cersei has bullied her, and Lysa has attempted to murder her. The Tyrells and Baratheons have failed to offer any help.
You'd Expect: For Littlefinger to do what he did in the books: keep Sansa at his side in the vale and out of the game for as long as he can, while educating her in its fine arts. That way he has a successor, and the perfect Replacement Goldfish for Cat.
Instead: Littlefinger sells Sansa in marriage to Ramsay Snow. Ramsay proceeds to lock her up, rape her, and destroy any hope she has of escaping. While Sansa escapes thanks to a regretful Theon "Reek" Greyjoy, she refuses to trust Littlefinger and says that he was either an idiot for not knowing about Ramsay being a monster, or her enemy for knowing and hatching the scheme anyway. While she reluctantly accepts his army in the subsequent battle against Ramsay, his chances of being with Sansa are shot with Jon as her new ally, and with her newfound capacity for cruelty.
- Roose Bolton knows full well his illegitimate son Ramsay is a sadistic sociopath. In season 4, Roose manages to secure a letter of legitimacy from King Tommen, making Ramsay a true Bolton and preparing the family for a legitimate takeover of the North. However, Ramsay continues to be Stupid Evil.
You'd Expect: Roose to find some tactful way to stop Ramsay's worst impulses without setting him off...if that's possible.
Instead: Roose repeatedly shames Ramsay for his torture and rapes, as if that will do anything but piss off his serial killer of a son. Roose also threatens to revoke Ramsay's inheritance, taunting him with his pregnant Frey wife.
The Result: As soon as Roose's new baby is born and confirmed male, Ramsay stabs his father to death and feeds his stepmother and baby brother to his dogs. Big surprise.
- At least Sansa got something out of her terrible relationship with Littlefinger: the loyalty of the Vale and its unscathed army. And Ramsay and Jon are about to begin waging war...
You'd Expect: Sansa to immediately tell Jon about the powerful military at her command.
Instead: Sansa decides to play politics by withholding this information to make Jon's campaign look unwinnable and ruin his image, so the Vale can show up in the nick of time and give her credit for the victory.
The Result: Thousands of Jon's men are slaughtered, and all for nothing—Lady Lyanna Mormont and the rest of the lords end up recognizing Jon as the avenger of the Red Wedding, even crowning him King in the North, rather than Sansa.
- Cersei has just found out that the Faith Militant has resurfaced as a vigilante group and forced the high septon to march naked down the street for visiting a brothel. The high septon has asked her to destroy them. She knows that one of their members is her cousin who can implicate her in her various crimes.
You'd Expect: Her to remember (or if she didn't already know find out) that incest in the royal family was exactly why the Faith Militant was formed and agree to the high septon's demand leaving him in her debt. She could kill two birds with one stone by silencing her cousin and use the high septon to smear the Tyrells.
Instead: She throws the high septon in prison and officially reinstates the Faith Militant.
As A Result: The leader of the Faith Militant (The High Sparrow) turns on her and has her arrested for the crimes her cousin confessed to and is publicly humiliated.
- For financial reasons, the Tyrells and Lannisters have allied in a political match, with Margaery eventually becoming Tommen's bride. Olenna nevertheless wants to keep her grandchildren and son safe, and keeps sending hints to Cersei that she will go Mama Bear if the occasion calls for it. Also, the Lannisters need the Tyrells' funds.
You'd Expect: That either Cersei would decide to be pragmatic, and also keep her son happy since Tommen is Happily Married to Margaery at the tender age of fourteen. Alternatively, Olenna realizes that Cersei isn't the sharpest tool in the shed, given Cersei was stupid enough to charge Tyrion for Joffrey's murder when Olenna did the deed, and has delusions of being powerful.
Instead: Neither party thinks this far ahead. As a result, Cersei sets the High Sparrow on Margaery and Loras, earns the Sparrow's wrath when her cousin confesses to sleeping with her, and later on kills the Sparrows and the Tyrells, except Olenna, at her "trial". Tommen also kills himself when he sees the fire and realizes his wife is dead. Olenna becomes a Death Seeker and allies with Dany to declare war once and for all on Queen Cersei, without thoughts of survival. This also means that the Lannisters have no food for their citizens when winter comes, since the House Tyrell controls all of it.
- Arya decides to abandon her training to be a Faceless Man and return to Westeros. This then results in another apprentice who has hated Arya since day one to go after her. An old woman approaches Arya while she's wandering around the streets
You'd Expect: Arya, since she's been training with this organisation and knows full well they have the ability to freaking shapeshift, she would be wary of strangers and at least keep her guard up or tell her to stay back or something.
Instead: Arya allows the strange woman to approach her and smiles, and surprise! she's actually the assassin sent to kill her. Arya then gets stabbed several times for her trouble, then jumps into dirty river water to escape, then staggers around the streets dripping blood everywhere. In a series where Anyone Can Die, It's absolutely amazing she survives this.
- After murdering all of the House of Frey, Arya decides to return to King's Landing to assassinate Cersei. Along the way she encounters a group of peacekeeping Lannister soldiers, implied to be new blood and the bottom of the barrel.
You'd Expect: The soldiers would be suspicious of a girl wandering around on her own with a sword.
Instead: They aren't. They insist Arya sit with them and feed her, while talking about their hopes for their families. Fortunately, Arya only kills people who have crossed her; she doesn't have it in her to go on a rampage against these men.
- Olenna Tyrell may be one of the smartest people in the series, but she makes an inexplicably idiotic decision. Tyrion is planning a strategy that involves using Yara to ferry the Dornish Army and the capture of the Lannister ancestral stronghold of Casterly Rock. Olenna however knows that the Lannisters are secretly broke due to the gold mines running out, and that Casterly Rock no longer has strategic value as a result, something that Tyrion is unaware of.
You'd Expect: Olenna would point this out to Daenerys, either during the meeting or in private, especially since she already advised Daenerys not to trust her "clever man" Tyrion.
For Added Stupidity: Olenna knows that the Reach is still rich in gold and that makes her castle of Highgarden a high-priority target for the Lannisters, especially since Tywin, who was reluctant to attack the Tyrells, has been replaced by Cersei, who has no restraints against doing so. If Olenna had spoken to her about it, Daenerys might have settled on a strategy that ignored Casterly Rock and ambushed the Lannisters in the Reach.
Instead: Olenna stays silent about this game-changing piece of strategic information, and heads back to High Garden, where she is betrayed by Randall Tarly, whom Cersei convinces to switch sides. The combined Tarly and Lannister forces overwhelm her few loyal bannermen and loot her gold, and Jaime kills Olenna with poison. The Unsullied land up taking a mostly abandoned Casterly Rock but the fleet ferrying them is sunk by Euron Greyjoy, leaving the Unsullied far from any action for a while. Daenerys loses significantly on all counts.
- During the Battle of Goldroad, Daenerys and Drogon have been grounded. The Dothraki have devasted the Lannister and Tarly forces with the rest of them burning to ash. However, Jaime can see Daenerys in the open trying to remove the bolt that pierced Drogon's wing.
You'd Expect: Seeing the fucking DRAGON right next to her, that he should just cut his losses and run for it while he still can. Even Tyrion lampshades this, muttering for him to flee.
Instead: Like the traditional Knight in Armor, Jaime grabs a nearby spear and rushes straight towards Daenerys, attempting to run her down. AGAIN Tyrion lampshades this: "You idiot. You fucking idiot."
As A Result: Drogon notices Jaime and attempts to burn him alive. Bronn intercepts Jaime's charge at the last second, tackling them both into the river. Even then, Jaime nearly drowns due to his armor weighing him down.
- Eventually Arya and Bran make it back to Winterfell. Littlefinger is concerned since he's been suggesting to Sansa that she could become more than Jon's appointed Regent of the North, and Arya saw him working with Twyin Lannister. Things go From Bad to Worse when Bran reveals that with his powers he knows that Littlefinger betrayed their father.
You'd Expect: That Petyr would retreat to the Vale and prepare for the wights, keeping a representative in Winterfell. Sansa's more of a lost cause with her family back, Bran has demonstrated the ability to look into Petyr's past and his crimes (just look at Petyr's reaction when Bran says "Chaos is a ladder"), and Littlefinger prides himself on not getting trapped.
Instead: Littlefinger tries to turn Sansa and Arya against each other when he thinks he has an in with Sansa, completely forgetting that Bran can see the past. This fails completely because the last time Sansa and Arya had a serious disagreement, they paid the price with Lady, Nymeria and Micah the butcher's boy; now that they are grown women who have suffered, they aren't going to lose each other again. Even worse, Sansa reveals that she and Arya faked a feud so as to lure Littlefinger into a trap, and to try him for murder and treason.
- At the trial, it's a very obvious Kangaroo Court. Lady Stark, aka Sansa, accuses Littlefinger of murdering Lysa, of murdering Jon Arryn by a proxy, of concocting the feud between the Lannisters and Starks by planting a blade, and of betraying their father to the Lannisters. All of this is true. She and her siblings only have eyewitness testimony — their testimony, and Bran's is supported by visions.
You'd Expect: That Littlefinger would point this out and mention that it's Not So Different from what Cersei did to her brother Tyrion. Also that he would deny the charges and point out that the vision-based evidence is flimsy. He has to sway the lords to his side, and could do so by appealing to common sense. If that doesn't work, he could do what Tyrion did and demand a trial by combat, naming an appropriate champion to fight on his behalf.
Instead: Littlefinger admits to murdering Lysa, but he claims it was to protect Sansa from her murderous aunt. So yes, he is guilty of murder, even if Sansa is complicit. His denials enter Digging Yourself Deeper, and no one in the court supports him. Arya then executes him by slitting his throat.
- Robett Glover and other Northern lords are upset upon discovering that Jon Snow has abdicated his title as King in the North and pledged loyalty to Daenerys Targaryen in an alliance to defend the North from the approaching White Walker threat.
You'd Expect: Winter has come, The Wall has fallen and titles are meaningless as Winterfell is the last line of defense against the approaching army of the dead. Winterfell needs all the men it can get and the southern kingdoms are either unwilling or in no condition to fight. Disputes of nobility need to be put on hold so there is a kingdom left afterward.
Instead: Glover uses this perceived betrayal as an excuse to pull his army out of Winterfell to hide out in Deepwood Motte in vain hope that they can wait out the war, effectively ensuring the death of everyone there if Winterfell were to fall. He is heavily implied to have been slaughtered and his forces added to the Army of the Dead anyway, giving him A Fate Worse Than Death.
- As part of the battle plans for having it out with the Night King, Jon, Dany and Sansa are discussing where to hide the noncombatants. The crypts are suggested.
You'd Expect: Someone to remember that crypts hold dead people. That is, new fodder for the Night King to raise as wights.
Instead: Everyone forgets this.
Predictably: When the dead rise, Sansa and Tyrion have to prepare to fight to the death, and a good portion of the noncombatants are slaughtered.
- The undead army has arrived at the outskirts of Winterfell yet remain hidden due to extremely low visibility caused by the near pitch black night and the Night King's blizzard.
You'd Expect: The army of the living to maintain a defensive position within Winterfell's walls or right in front of it where they can retreat to cover, wait for the horde to approach within striking distance of their trebuchets and then pound them while flanking them with a horde of their own: The Dothraki.
Instead: The Dothraki charge head-on into an army numbering tens of thousands of undead soldiers that they cannot see. Granted, their weapons were imbued with fire courtesy of Melisandre. But unlike Valyrian steel, fire doesn't one-shot Wights, which the characters are well aware of. They are simply extremely flammable. This results in the entire Dothraki being wiped out in minutes.
Even worse: The Dothraki are highly effective archers who have been shown to fire volleys of flaming arrows from horseback and move quickly. The Dothraki could have been used to distract and harass the wights with their arrows. Alternatively, they could have been used to man the walls of Winterfell and rain flaming arrows on the wights with impunity, either of which would have preserved their numbers while causing casualties to the wights.
- The living have built a trench filled with flammable wood and obstacles like dragonglass-tipped spikes in front of Winterfell, and have brought out trebuchets and catapults to rain burning rocks on the wights, in addition to the Unsullied.
You'd Expect: That they'd keep the burning trench and the spikes in front of their troops, keep siege weapons behind the Unsullied, and light the trench as soon as the wights started charging. That way, the Unsullied could use their spears to push back any wights that tried crossing over while the siege weapons showered them with burning rocks from safety.
Instead: The siege weapons - many of which are immobile trebuchets - are placed behind the Dothraki horde and in front of the troops. And the troops in turn are placed in front of the burning trench and dragonglass-tipped spikes, meaning that they can't beat a hasty retreat to Winterfell's walls if they're overwhelmed and risk being trapped in the open in front of the wights.
As a result: When the Dothraki horde is thrown away and the wight horde comes crashing in like a tsunami, the siege weapons are instantly overrun and taken out of the fight. Both the Unsullied and Westerosi troops are overwhelmed and have no choice but to head back to Winterfell, but they're slowed down by the obstacles behind them and many more are slaughtered.
- In "The Long Night", the Army of the Dead comes close to a perfect victory. Even ignoring the tactical blunders mentioned above, the Northern forces stand no chance against the wights' sheer numbers, while the Walkers' weather control allows them to nearly No-Sell the North's various incendiary tactics. On top of that, the Night King can just revive any enemy dead at will and turn them to his side. The Night King himself doesn't even make an appearance until it truly seems hopeless for the North, when it becomes clear that Dany's dragons can't damage him at all. It certainly seems like the Night King will kill Bran, and then the rest of humanity.
You'd Expect: The Night King going with one of two perfectly safe options: use the wights and Walkers to kill Bran quickly, or just hide himself in a safe spot and wait for all the Living combatants to die if he wants to do the deed himself. His is a Keystone Army and has basically already won, after all—there's no reason to expose himself. Even if he's almost invulnerable there's no reason to risk the enemy possibly taking out his whole forces by only killing him.
Instead: The Night King decides to walk into the godswood while plenty of Living combatants are still around to fight so he can kill Bran himself.
The Result: Arya is able to get the jump on the Night King and stab him with the Valyrian steel dagger, completely ending the threat of the undead in one strike.
- Now that the Night King is dead, Dany wants to march the combined North and Targaryen armies south to take care of Cersei. Sansa brings up a legitimate point: their armies are weary after fighting the undead and may not survive a second battle. Dany counterpoints that the longer they wait, the more time Euron and Cersei have to build a fleet and upgrade their weapons. Arya in the meantime is planning to travel to King's Landing to kill the queen personally, without telling anyone. Thanks to Bran, Sansa already knows that Arya was going to go there if she hadn't heard of Jon's return. She also knows Arya was trained to be a Faceless Man.
You'd Expect: Sansa and Arya would volunteer for Arya to go first, with a small retinue, to sneak into and out of King's Landing and survey defenses. If Arya gets official permission to kill Cersei, great! War averted. If not, at least Dany will have some idea of what her armies will be facing. Sansa could also bargain that in exchange for Arya killing Cersei, the North gets independence
Instead: Sansa doesn't volunteer this information, or at least talk with Arya about if it's worth revealing this alternative plan that would reduce casualties and increase their chances of victory.
The Result: Everyone except the Hound misses Arya when she leaves to fulfill her revenge. Dany marches south, where it turns out she and Sansa were right; the armies are too tired to fight upgraded ballistas.
- Jaime has had a rough time of it. His lifelong affair with his twin sister resulted in four children and three of them are dead now. His fourth child is still in-utero and Cersei is engaged to Euron Greyjoy. Even though the Starks and Dany have reason to want Jaime dead, Jaime left Cersei to honour his promise to help the North and Dany's forces fight the army of the dead after Cersei reneged on the deal to send the Lannister army to join their forces. Bran reveals that he remembers who pushed him out of the window, and if he tells his siblings, Jaime will be executed. Brienne has slept with Jaime and admits that she has fallen in love with him.
You'd Expect: Considering Cersei took out a contract to kill Jaime, and Brienne loves him, Jaime would stay at Winterfell, especially since the Starks and Dany pardoned him for a lot of crimes against Ned Stark, Catelyn's family the Tullys, and the Targaryens. Jaime is also a hero thanks to honoring his word to fight against the Night King.
Instead: For some reason, he decides to go back to Cersei and the toxic relationship he escaped, as she and Euron Greyjoy kill Missandei and Rhaegal and avoid a peaceful abdication.
The Result: Jaime is back to square one, ruining all the good relationships he built and rebuilt and with his relationship with Cersei in tatters to boot.
- Dany has begged Jon to keep his lineage secret from everyone so she can have the one thing she's always wanted — the Iron Throne. Jon doesn't want the throne, he's totally loyal to Dany, he promises that even if this information were to get out, he would remain subordinate to her, but thinks he owes it to his sisters to tell them and genuinely believes they'll keep this to themselves. Dany tries to make Jon see that what he wants and what other people want (ie. pressing his claim) can be entirely at odds...
You'd Expect: Knowing how Sansa has been schooled in politics by Cersei and Littlefinger about how to weaponise information, and having experienced her penchant for playing with critical information (the Knights of the Vale in the Battle of the Bastards), and how she still dislikes Dany, even after the Dragon Queen sacrificed everything to save their bacon, Jon would know better than to share any sensitive information with Sansa.
Instead: Jon makes Sansa pinky-swear not to tell anyone (thinking that would be enough), then tells her he's a Targaryen.
The Result: Sansa immediately begins using Jon's lineage against Dany, against his wishes, and starts stirring up trouble for whatever purpose she has in mind. One can almost hear Littlefinger's line from Season 1 as she blabs to Tyrion. "I told you not to trust me..."
- Sansa gets one too. Jon has revealed who he truly is, and knowing that he's the true heir to the Iron Throne is incendiary. However, he has trusted Sansa and Arya with the secret explicitly because they are family.
You'd Expect: That Sansa would have the sense not to weaponize that particular bit of information, at least not immediately. Jon may be a Targaryen, but he is still family, and it would cause a lot of trouble to him and to the rest of the Starks if that information were to leak. Also, if the leak means that Daenerys's forces are split and her advisers start scheming against her before she's gotten rid of Cersei, she could lose to Cersei and the war could go on, which is in nobody's interests.
Instead: Sansa tells Tyrion about it.
For Added Stupidity: You'd expect Tyrion to have the sense to keep his mouth shut about this, but he goes ahead and tells Varys, who has a record of betraying rulers whom he is unhappy with.
The Result: Varys starts scheming to depose Daenerys in favor of Jon. Not only does he do this before Cersei is defeated, he does this while Daenerys is still around and fails in discretion. This threatens both to undermine Daenerys's position even before Cersei is removed and ultimately seals his own fate when Daenerys finds out. Sansa is horrified where, thanks to her actions, Jon is forced to kill Dany before she burns the whole world and the new council of Westeros elects to send him to the Wall again to amend for his Kingslayer position. Her family is separated again, and it's partly her fault.
- Tyrion is caught between a rock and a hard place. When Dany marches to King's Landing, her tired army gets ambushed. Cersei succeeds in killing one of her dragons and taking Missandei hostage. Tyrion and Qyburn come out to negotiate; if Dany storms King's Landing, Missandei's life is forfeit but Tyrion offers to let Cersei and her unborn baby leave in peace if she abdicates and frees Missandei. Cersei is gambling that if Dany burns King's Landing, then it will make her appear as another tyrant conqueror and not Rightful King Returns and so her rule will be short and unloved.
You'd Expect: Cersei to use Missandei as a Human Shield by keeping her in King's Landing; if Dany burns everyone, then Missandei dies as well, making it a Pyrrhic Victory. Missandei may be okay with that, but Dany is not. That will at least buy Cersei and Euron time to either launch another ambush on the tired armies.
In Addition: With the two most valuable leaders of your rival's claim to the throne and the one remaining dragon within range of your weapons, it would require little effort to unleash your ranged artillery and kill them all, if the parley goes south. The rules of war haven't stopped her before.
You'd Also Expect: Tyrion to know that Cersei is beyond reason and instead negotiate solely with Qyburn, whose only flaw is Undying Loyalty to his queen. Trusting Cersei's self-preservation instinct last season was what allowed her to deceive them.
Instead: Tyrion sincerely begs Cersei to surrender for herself and her baby's sake so that her unborn child won't suffer. Cersei briefly considers it, only to order Missandei's execution, and lets them leave afterwards. She sacrifices her only viable hostage, the way her son Joffrey did back in season one.
The Result: Dany follows the command of Missandei's last words, "Dracarys." Tyrion watches in horror as the two queens go to war.
- Following the massacre at King's Landing and at the Red Keep, Tyrion is horrified that he enabled Dany, and that Varys and Sansa were right. Dany confronts him for freeing Jaime against her orders. She does have a point; he freed the man that murdered her father, even if Tyrion's reasons were to convince Cersei to surrender before civilians were harmed.
You'd Expect: Tyrion to tell Dany that his reasons were so that she'd only have to fight the armies and not harm innocents. Or, if he needs time to grieve his siblings, to admit that he needs some time to mourn his Dysfunctional Family. He could remind Dany that she loved his brother, and that she watched him die, even if the circumstances were far different from Cersei and Jaime's deaths, so he needs time alone. Then he can continue what Varys started to either undermine Dany or overthrow her.
Instead: He denounces her and resigns as her Hand on principle. Even if he's right that she went overboard, she's also gone murderous, exactly like her father, and has become unreasonable. He should focus on self-preservation and not be another Ned Stark.
The Result: Dany imprisons Tyrion on charges of treason and prepares to execute him. However, Tyrion spurs a reluctant Jon that he must assassinate his love Dany for the good of Westeros and as a result, Tyrion lives.
- After Jon's killing of Daenerys following her laying waste to King's Landing, Daenerys's followers Grey Worm and the Unsullied — loyal to Daenerys no matter what — imprison Jon and Tyrion.
You'd Expect: If there must be a trial or council to decide their fate and if the other leaders of Westeros must be present, for Grey Worm to try and include those on the council that he knows have Undying Loyalty to Dany (such as the Unsullied captains and Dothraki chieftains).
Instead: The council at the end of the series ends up being almost entirely comprised of Jon's family and close friends. They sentence Jon with exile to the Night's Watch while the newly elected king, Bran, names Tyrion as his hand as punishment. Grey Worm just kinda... sits back and watches it happen.