Anyone who’s read and/or watched HBO’s ‘Game of Thrones’ has drawn one irrevocable conclusion; That universe is F*cked. Honestly, I’m not even sure F*cked is a strong enough word. There are so many things going wrong in King’s Landing that even when compared to the dirtiest, nastiest, Jamie-and-Cersie-in-Geoffrey’s-Tomb f*cking, incest consistently seems like the better option. While there’s hope on the horizon in the form of Jon Snow and Daenarys Targaryen, right now we have a mad Queen on the throne and a whole bunch of immortal ice zombies working their way South. Winter, it appears, has arrived.
But it didn’t have to be this way. The GoT universe is littered throughout with hints and references to the utopia that could have been, if only the characters weren’t all set on murdering each other and sticking it in things.
In this article, we’re going to be running down our Top 5 Butterfly effect moments in GoT. To do this, we’ll be focusing specifically on the small choices that caused death, destruction and mayhem on a scale unprecedented in all of fantasy fiction. Some examples come from the show, some from the novels and some from the extended universe reading but every item on this list is responsible for the death of literally thousands of innocent civilians.
- The Murder of Renly Baratheon
For anyone not au fait with the families of Game of Thrones, here’s a breakdown of house Baratheon:
Robert Baratheon-Robert is was the eldest brother of House Baratheon and King at the beginning of the story. He won his Kingdom through a hard-fought rebellion, only to be murdered at the hands of his wife and a particularly angry boar.
Stannis Baratheon-The second of the brothers ‘B’, Stannis was….let’s say ‘unpopular’. Although stoic and competent, he lacked the charm and charisma of his siblings and also maybe kinda burnt his only daughter alive. But (and this is important to note), he was the rightful heir to Kings Landing, as the eldest remaining brother and after correctly identifying Geoffrey and Tommen as the products of non-Baratheon incest. However, after being told he was basically Jesus by an agent of the Red God, Stannis caused problems by braking some pretty tacit rules regarding fratricide.
Renly Baratheon-Renly was the youngest brother and a smart, charming, confident man-of-the-people and challenged Stannis’s claim to the throne on the grounds that no-one liked him. Siblings, right? But despite his less-than-legitimate claim to the throne, Renly had backing from a large army, notably the inhabitants of Storms End, and Stannis was not pleased. Tapping into his new found power, Stannis arranged to murder his younger brother by via shadow-baby.
But what if Renly survived? After all, shadow-baby is a pretty hard contingency to plan for and the entire plan hinged on Renly being A-Okay with murdering his baby brother. Conceivably, it might not have come off.
Look at it this way; the morning after Renly’s death, Robb Stark was poised to swear fealty to him as King and join forces, leaving the Starks the wardens of the North. Combined, they would’ve had the might of the entire North and the larger Southern houses to bring against Geoffrey, steamrolling him into an Oedipal pancake. The Lannisters would’ve been ousted, Renly would be King and the Starks would be there to defend the wall against the ice hoard that awaits.
- Jaime on the Throne
During the first siege of King’s Landing, when the agents of Roberts Rebellion were storming the capital, the Lannisters had a choice; stay loyal and die with their King, or present his head to the invaders as a gift. Unsurprisingly, they chose the latter option and sent famed swordsman Jaime Lannister to knife an old man in the back.
But what interests me is one specific moment; when Ned Stark entered the throne room, intent on taking the seat for his friend Robert, Jaime was already seated. While not explicitly stated, it was implied that Jaime considered staying down, symbolically claiming the throne for his family instead of handing it over to House Baratheon.
If Jaime hadn’t stood, Ned would likely have attacked him and (probably) been killed. But while he was an exceptional swordsman, even Jaime couldn’t compete with an entire army and his act of treason may have made it open season on every Lannister head. This would mean that Cersie would never have married Robert and Geoffrey, thankfully, would never have been conceived.
- The Death of Ned Stark
Five seasons later and I’m still not over it.
Eddard ‘Ned’ Stark, the loyal, brave (although very, very stupid) patriarch of House Stark was betrayed by the Lannnisters at the finale of the first season and the end of the first novel. Although promised his life in exchange for taking the black and manning the Northern wall, Ned was executed by King Geoffrey to consolidate his power in the eyes of the public.
The execution led to the secession of House Stark from the Seven Kingdoms and Robbs Rebellion, where he gathered the Northmen to destroy their corrupt Southern counterparts. The rebellion then led to the death of Robb and Catelyn, as well as the exile of Sansa to the Vale and Arya to Braavos, effectively setting up the all the events in the GoT universe going into season seven.
If Ned had gone to the wall, however, everything would be different. The Lannisters would still be in power (due to the absence of Northern rebellion) and Castle Black would have received as well-respected, tactically-trained badass to whip their men into shape and serve as Lord Commander Mormont’s right hand. You think Ollo would have the balls to stab Mormont in front of a guy like Eddard Stark? Ned would’ve ripped out his treacherous throat and introduced Ollo’s windpipe to his lower intestines.
The North would be safe, the South would be unified and Jon Snow would’ve had a lifetime to work out his many, many daddy issues.
- The Mountain VS The Viper
If Bron taught us anything, it’s that winning is about killing quickly and efficiently. That’s why it was so INTENSELY FRUSTRATING to watch the battle between Oberyn Martell, the Red Viper of Dorne, and Gregor Clegane, The Mountain Who Rides, during season four. In fairness, they had a lot to fight about as the Mountain murdered Oberyn’s sister during the siege of King’s Landing.
But the reason it’s so difficult to watch is simple; Oberyn won. The Mountain was down and out, laying on the ground with veins pumping Manticore poison. The only thing Oberyn had to do was stay away and let nature take its course; The Mountain would be dead, Tyrion would be found not-guilty and maybe some semblance of sanity would’ve returned to House Lannister. All Oberyn had to do was not f*ck up.
But could he?
Of course not.
Not content with simply killing the man who murdered his sister, Oberyn was intent on getting a confession from the man’s own lips. In order to better hear Gregor’s dying words, Oberyn approached the dying man with his guard down. The Giant of Clegane then proceeded to pick up the smaller man and smash him on the ground like a rag doll, finishing off the job with a double-eye gouge reminiscent of bursting overripe fruit.
- Rhaegar and Lyanna
Rhaegar Targaryen was the Crown Prince of House Targaryen, elder brother to Daenarys and Viserys and son to King Aerys. When his crazy dad died, Rhaegar (by all accounts a capable, sensitive and intelligent man) would have taken the crown and ruled all the Seven Kingdoms. But he couldn’t keep it in his pants.
You see, he fell in love with the beautiful Lyanna Stark, sister of Bran, Ned and Benjen. In fact, he named her the ‘Queen of Beauty’ at a joust, a title usually held for the wife of the winner. It’s even implied that Lyanna returned his feelings, while understanding that they could never be together.
But the young lovers were unwilling to accept this reality and, in the tradition of lovers everywhere, chose to elope instead of being separated. The bad news is that somewhere down the line some wires got crossed, the Starks interpreted this lovers tryst as a kidnapping and threatened to kill Crown Prince Rhaegar.
King Aerys, father to Rhaegar, was less than pleased with this threat to his son’s life, and understandably so. What’s less understandable, though, is his reaction; burning Lyanna’s father alive as Bran, Lyanna’s older brother, choked trying to rescue him. Aerys then called for the heads of all remaining Starks, as well as the head of Robert Baratheon, friend to all wolves.
Rhaegar’s tryst led directly to the unfair execution of the most powerful man in the North. That execution led to Robert’s Rebellion. Robert’s Rebellion led to his marriage with the Lannisters and eventual murder, which lead to Geoffrey being crowned king and executing Ned, which in turn lead to the rebellion led by Robb Stark. Robb Stark’s death lead to the newest Northern rebellion, headed by Jon Snow, and the weakening of the Seven Kingdoms, which left it open to invasion from both Daenarys from the South and the White Walkers from the North.
After all of this, everything we’ve read, watched, then read again, happened for one reason; Rhaegar Targaryen couldn’t keep his goddamned breeches fastened.
F*ck Rhaegar Targaryen.
Are there any ‘Butterfly Effect’ moments that we missed? Leave a comment or Tweet us @completelywrite!