If George R.R. Martin has taught us anything with Game of Thrones and A Song of Ice and Fire, it's clearly that the world operates entirely in gray areas. There are no pure heroes and singular villains, and things don't happen because they're the right thing or the wrong thing, they just happen. However, if there were any true blue heroes in the world of Ice and Fire, Jon Snow is clearly the closest they'll ever get to a legitimate knight in shining armor.
Jon Snow's behavior and decisions literally changed the world. Sometimes he realized the gravity of the choices that he was making, and sometimes he didn't, but either way he was still one of the most powerful forces for good in the entire story. And like anyone, he made brilliant decisions and massive missteps throughout the series. So here are 5 times that Jon Snow was a genius, and 5 times he really wasn't.
10 Genius: Saving Countless Lives
It's hard to say if it's Jon's kindness or his brilliance that deserves the credit for his unnatural ability to keep a lot of people alive, but perhaps it's both. Jon definitely wasn't always a genius when it came to strategy or even basics like getting a good read on the people he was dealing with, but when other people's lives were at stake he seemed to up his game and always figured out a way to minimize the damage done by people or creatures that were intent on creating as much destruction as possible. Obviously he didn't always succeed, but he made some masterful moves sometimes too.
9 Idiot: Trusting The Wrong People
Jon Snow may have been the long lost son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark, but he was well and truly Ned Stark's son through and through. Jon's honesty and honor is what set him apart from the rest of the world, but often times he didn't seem to realize that, and he didn't realize quite how harsh and cruel the world could really be even when the evidence was right in front of him.
Jon has a habit of taking people at their word when he really shouldn't, and when it comes to people that he thinks of as honest he tends to expect them to be as honest and honorable as he is even if they're not.
8 Genius: Getting Daenerys To Help Him
Daenerys claims that she was convinced to help Jon simply because she loved him, but it seems like it was somewhat deeper and more complex than that. Dany isn't one to take on causes that aren't her own, so Jon convincing her to volunteer to fight against the army of the dead was impressive. But Jon did seem to get a good read on the fact that Dany has a serious hero complex and looks at herself as a near demigod, and it appears that he figured out how to appeal to Dany's own vanity in order to get her to assist him when he needed it most.
7 Idiot: Being Honest With Cersei
Rule number one of the game of thrones is that you never tell Cersei what's really up, and rule number two is you never, ever tell Cersei what's really up. It's very possible that Jon was so painfully honest with Cersei because he wanted to impress Dany and ensure that she stayed on his side, but telling Cersei the truth about his allegiance was a huge mistake that likely got thousands of people killed in the end. Jon can be politically savvy when he wants to be, but one of his major personal flaws is that he can be incredibly single-minded and shortsighted, which he perfectly demonstrated in his dealings with Cersei.
6 Genius: Winning Over The Wildlings
There will likely never be any love lost between the Northmen and the wildlings, and it's honestly not that hard to imagine that these fabled rivals would waste their time fighting each other while the white walkers wiped them off the face of the earth instead of teaming up and fighting their real enemy.
However, all of that changed when Jon Snow stepped in. Jon has a reputation as one of the most honest men in the world, and that reputation is well earned, but he managed to lie and manipulate his way into the wildling world, and he managed to bring the wildlings and the Northmen together just when they needed to unite.
5 Idiot: Pledging Allegiance To Daenerys
Desperation can lead people to do many stupid and crazy things, but it was an enormous mistake for Jon to pledge the North to Daenerys Targaryen for a few reasons. Jon was correct in his belief that he needed the help of Dany and her dragons in order to defeat the army of the dead, and it's true that saving lives should trump anything else. But Jon was thinking solely about survival instead of about the political ramifications of his choice. Jon's hold on the crown of the North was tenuous at best, and his move could have resulted in the North disposing of him as their leader when they really did need him to lead them.
4 Genius: When He Saw What Sam Could Be
Game of Thrones is a story that is mostly filled with misery and hopelessness, so the relationship between Jon Snow and Samwell Tarly was one of the brightest spots in the entire tale. It comes as no surprise that when Sam arrived at Castle Black everyone wrote him off and discounted him as useless, but Jon's instincts to protect him and befriend him certainly proved how wise he could be. Sam was nothing more than a coward when his watch began, but by the end of the series he was one of the most brilliant and powerful characters in all seven kingdoms, and Jon was really the first person to see that potential in him and bring it into reality.
3 Idiot: Nearly Losing The Battle Of The Bastards
For someone who became Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, you'd think Jon Snow would have a better understanding of extremely basic strategy. Namely, if you're going into a fight that you can't win, maybe don't go into the fight in the first place.
Jon was certainly stuck between a rock and a hard place, but it's hard to imagine that he couldn't think of any other way to defeat Ramsay Bolton besides just going straight at him in battle. Jon risked not only his life, but the lives of everyone who followed him, and if it weren't for his sister he certainly would have lost and his army would have been massacred.
2 Genius: Winning The Battle Of Castle Black
Clearly when it comes to matters of war, Jon Snow's judgment is extremely hit or miss. Jon may have nearly self-destructed when he rushed headlong into the Battle of the Bastards, but he really proved his worth as a fighter and leader when it came to the Battle of Castle Black. Jon has achieved amazing things in battle before and after this moment, but the Battle of Castle Black was entirely his. He took the lead, he came up with the strategy, he executed what he needed to, and he did it all without much help or assistance from anyone else.
1 Idiot: When He Got Himself Killed
Jon has a nasty habit of actually being in the right about whatever he is thinking or doing, but going about it in the exact wrong way. And that is precisely why he wound up being murdered by his own "brothers" for what they perceived to be a betrayal of everything they fought for and stood for. He could have made them understand if he had really tried, or he could have lied to them or manipulated them if need be, but he didn't. And honestly the signs that many of the men in the Night's Watch had turned on them were already there, but he ignored them until it was too late.