The bastard of Winterfell – who is probably neither a Stark nor a bastard! – certainly possesses several traditional heroic traits. Jon is a brave and capable warrior, a loyal and compassionate friend and ally, and self-sacrificing.
Valiant or not, Jon doesn’t exactly have the greatest track record when it comes to decision-making. While his former flame Ygritte may have been overstating things when she said “You know nothing, Jon Snow”, it is fair to say that our guy doesn’t exactly have a great grasp of cause and effect.
Admittedly, many of the choices Jon has made were a case of making the best of a terrible situation outside his control. Others represent instances where the King in the North was prepared to accept negative consequences in the short term and banking on this paying dividends in the long term.
On the other hand, on more than a few occasions, the thought processes of the former Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch have been borderline bonkers, even resulting in his (quickly reversed) death!
With all of this in mind, here’s a round-up of the 15 Worst Decisions Jon Snow Has Made over the past 7 seasons of Game of Thrones!
15 The Raid Beyond The Wall
Let’s kick things off with one of Jon Snow’s out-and-out bad decisions: to lead a small band of fighters north of the Wall to capture an undead wight as proof of the threat posed by the White Walkers.
Now, it’s easy to understand the temptation to form a squad of badass warriors – including fan favorites like the Hound and Jorah Mormont – to solve a problem.
However, it's crazy-dangerous to venture into White Walker territory with only six good men (plus a few expendable red shirts), so it’s hardly a surprise when things go south up North.
Even setting aside the essentially suicidal undercurrents of the endeavour, Jon’s mission is also predicated on a massive assumption – that Cersei Lannister is a rational human being.
In Jon's endearingly naive mind, if he and Daenerys Targaryen are able to present Cersei with irrefutable evidence that the White Walkers really do exist, she will immediately form an alliance with them.
There’s only one problem: Cersei is (at best) a power-obsessed sociopath. So even after all Jon’s effort to get his hands on a wight – which including sacrificing a dragon, no less! – this whole enterprise seems like a waste of time!
14 Bringing The Wildlings Into The Night's Watch Fold
If the last entry epitomises a text book dumb decision, then at least Jon’s choice to broker an alliance between the Night’s Watch and the Wildlings falls more in the “bad decision up front, great decision long-term” camp.
And that’s the thing: Jon really is totally on the money this time around. The Night’s Watch is hopelessly outnumbered by the Night King’s army, so it makes sense to unite with the Free Folk against their common enemy.
Unfortunately, many of the one-time Lord Commander’s brothers-in-arms harbor a hatred for the Wildlings rivaled only by Tyrion Lannister’s dislike of sobriety.
As such, when Jon winds up on the wrong end of several knives wielded by discontents, it's simply the inevitable outcome of his bold decision.
13 Every Time He Leaves Ghost Behind
Say you had a gigantic, deadly pet direwolf with whom you shared a deep, psychic bond. You’d never, ever leave home without it, right?
Well, that’s exactly what Jon Snow does on a shockingly regular basis, with the raid beyond the Wall only the most recent example of a time when Ghost could have been a huge help.
Obviously, the real-world rationale behind Jon’s decision to relegate Ghost to his kennel is that the visual effects work necessary to bring the direwolf to life is awkward to shoot and expensive to render.
However, there’s no getting around the fact that the impact of this on the Game of Thrones story itself is that Ghost often seems conspicuously absent – and viewers can only blame Jon!
On the plus side, by keeping Ghost on the sidelines, Jon is at least sparing us from the unspeakable anguish of yet another direwolf death.
12 Nearly Abandoning The Night’s Watch To Join Robb
If Jon Snow has a major character flaw, it’s that – like many of us – he often lets his heart drive when his head should guide.
This tendency to react to a situation based on his emotions, rather than with cool logic, almost always lands Jon in hot water – like the time he nearly deserted the Night’s Watch, for instance.
Again, it’s easy to empathize with Jon on this one: if your father were executed unjustly, you’d want to rally to your brother’s side and avenge him, too.
But by very nearly forsaking his oath to the Watch in order to support Robb, Jon was making a rash decision that could very well have ended in his own execution as well.
It’s lucky that fellow Night’s Watch brothers Sam, Pypp and Grenn talked him down off this particular ledge – otherwise Jon’s story could have come to a close six seasons early!
11 Attacking The Bolton Forces With A Far Smaller Army
We’re back squarely in “awful decision-making” territory once more. Seriously – Jon Snow's decision to press ahead with the battle against Ramsay Bolton’s forces, despite possessing a far smaller army, represents a major tactical faux pas.
Admittedly, Ramsay leveraged his hostage – Jon’s younger brother, Rickon – to full effect, and sister Sansa was needlessly coy about her own (ultimately successful) plan to boost their numbers.
Still, it’s hard to ignore just how adamant Jon was to attack, especially considering that, but for the timely arrival of the Knights of the Vale, the Battle of the Bastards would have ended in a crushing defeat.
It just goes to show that sometimes the best warriors don’t necessarily make the best generals, and the Bastard of Winterfell should probably leave the battle planning to the pros!
10 Leaving The Cave He Shared With Ygritte
When Ygritte lies dying in Jon Snow’s arms during the battle for Castle Black, she laments that they ever chose to leave the cave where they first had sex.
Whilst it’s impossible to know for sure exactly what Jon was thinking at that moment, it seems likely he was in strong agreement with his one-time lover.
After all, compared to everything that came after – heartbreak, betrayal and a whole lot of deaths – the idea of hanging around in a cozy nook making passionate love all day, every day starts to look very attractive indeed!
Sure, the happy couple would eventually have been found, killed, and converted to wights by the White Walkers had they stayed in the cave. But then, considering how likely to happen this is anyway, remaining snuggled up is arguably a much better way to pass the time until then!
9 Breaking His Cover In Front Of The Wildlings
Going undercover means doing things you don’t want to do. That's a lesson Jon Snow learned early on and then apparently managed to promptly forget.
After killing his Night’s Watch brother Qhorin Halfhand in order to convince the Wildlings he was one of them, Jon manages to gather plenty of genuinely useful intel on the Free Folk’s battle plans.
However, his time as a snitch came to an abrupt end when he refused to kill an innocent old man during a subsequent trust exercise, which nearly resulted in his own demise.
Now, Jon was always going to need to break cover at some point, and it’s easy to see why he would balk at the idea of murdering a helpless civilian (Qhorin was a least a soldier prepared to die).
Even so, Jon desperately needs to learn to make more pragmatic choices – including doing things he finds morally disagreeable – not just to save his own skin, but to serve the greater good, as well.
8 Going To Hardhome
The rationale behind Jon Snow’s decision to journey to Hardhome is rather tough to find fault with.
After all, going on a recruitment drive seems sensible enough, and he wasn’t to know that the Night King had the Wildling village in his sights. This is another situation that qualifies as a smart choice but nonetheless ended in tears.
Yes, Jon’s trip to Hardhome did score him a few more Free Folk recruits. And yes, it was here that he discovered that his Valyrian steel sword was capable of taking down White Walkers.
But it also cost him a stash of dragonglass – one of the only other things capable of killing these dreaded snow zombies – and (as with so many of Jon’s decisions) nearly got him killed!
7 Not Killing Littlefinger When He Had The Chance
Seriously: killing Littlefinger whenever the opportunity arises should be Rule #1 for anybody who isn’t Littlefinger.
Jon Snow certainly seemed close to bumping off the slimy, scheming, creepy Lord Petyr Baelish in the crypts beneath Winterfell.
Instead, he opts to merely threaten Littlefinger with death should he continue to make overtures towards Sansa – leaving Baelish free to continue scheming to bring about Jon’s downfall!
Granted, had Jon followed through with his threat and killed Littlefinger on the spot, he risked the possibility of fairly severe backlash. The Knights of the Vale could well have turned on him, or – at the very least – departed Winterfell for home, leaving the Northern forces severely depleted.
However, given the pair were alone at the time, Jon could quite effortlessly have killed Lord Baelish in a manner that suggested an accident rather than foul play – and in doing so, rid himself (and wider Westeros) of truly vile schemer.
6 Failing To Execute Ygritte
Admittedly, this does seem to contradict the tenth entry on this list. But taken in isolation, there’s no denying that Jon Snow’s decision not to execute Ygritte directly led to his own capture by the Wildlings soon after.
Of course, this time in captivity did bring with it more than a handful of positive outcomes. It set in motion Jon’s time spent undercover among the Wildlings, enabling him to learn enough to successfully lead the defense of the Wall. It also gave him a greater appreciation for the Free Folk, planting the seed for his eventual decision to bring them into the fold.
Yet it also kicked off a sequence of events that saw him enter into a doomed romance and then later get stabbed to death by his own men – so, y’know, definitely a “swings and roundabouts” scenario!
5 Trusting His Night's Watch Brothers
The Night’s Watch is a sworn brotherhood, and the bonds between many of its brothers are undeniably close. It’s also an organization largely made up of largely unsavory types who have joined to avoid the executioner’s block.
As such, Jon Snow should have been sure to always keep his guard up, at least to some degree, while stationed at the Wall – especially after he made the controversial call to bring the Wildlings into the fold.
Instead, the soon to be ex-Lord Commander – who was well aware that many of his troops were furious over the Watch/Wildling alliance – continued to trust his Night’s Watch brothers unreservedly.
This astonishing lack of guile would come back to bite him, when it meant that he walked into a trap so glaringly obvious even blind Maester Aemon could have seen it coming.
It’s just lucky for Jon that red priestess Melisandre happened to know the cure for multiple fatal stab wounds – otherwise this would easily rank as his worst (and last) decision!
4 Every Time He Makes Eyes At Daenerys
As touched on earlier, Jon Snow isn’t strictly speaking a Stark – he’s actually the product of the secret union between Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark.
Since his father, Rhaegar, was Daenerys' brother, this means that the Mother of Dragons is also unwittingly his aunt.
It’s therefore more than a little awkward every time she and Jon exchange longing stares or decide to engage in some light flirting – even given the history of incest in Westeros in general, and the Targaryen family in particular!
Neither Dany nor Jon come across as people who would be okay with the idea of intentionally shacking up with a blood relative. So when this pair finally uncover their family connection, you can expect both to be more than a tad freaked out. Forget winter: regret is coming!
3 Taking The Black In The First Place
Life’s tough for a high-born bastard in Westeros: you have no claim to your family’s ancestral home or lands, and you’ve got zero chance of snagging a good marriage.
All that said, if you’re part of a decent enough family – as Jon Snow was when he was raised by Ned Stark – you can still end up enjoying a pretty decent quality of life.
That’s what makes Jon’s decision to swear allegiance to the Night’s Watch all the more baffling – unlike so many of his Watch brothers, he really didn’t need to!
Sure, Catelyn Stark made no bones about hating his guts. And no, it can’t have been easy growing up in Winterfell surrounded by step siblings who would actually inherit the castle and everything that comes with it.
Yet even taking all of this into account, Jon’s decision to uproot his comfortable existence and move to a frigidly cold environment filled with exiled murderers, thieves and rapists seems a little rash.
2 His Solo Charge During The Battle Of The Bastards
Remember when we said that Jon Snow has a bad habit of wearing his heart on his sleeve? Well, never has this been more apparent – or more potentially fatal! – than when he broke ranks and rushed out alone to rescue Rickon at the start of the Battle of the Bastards.
Now, it would be utterly heartless person not to forgive Jon for not thinking straight this time around. Even the most Machiavellian figure would struggle to sit back while Ramsay Bolton played target practice with their kid step brother!
But viewed objectively, Jon charging off solo was a terrible decision. Let’s face it: his chances of saving Rickon were virtually non-existent, while the odds of Jon dying and leaving his army leaderless were incredibly high.
1 Leaving Sansa In Charge
Say what you will about Sansa Stark, but the gal knows how to play the game (of thrones) – after all, she learned the hard way.
This means she has good advice to offer Jon Snow when it comes to ruling in the North, and could be a useful resource to the young King (when she’s not publicly undermining him, that is).
That said, she also comes across as someone with a strong desire – conscious or not – to be the one calling the shots, a trait that Littlefinger has been working hard to bring to the surface. Given this, it seems like a somewhat unwise move on Jon’s part when he appoints Sansa to rule in his stead while he visits Dany on Dragonstone.
While the current Lady Stark has yet to make any open moves to usurp her step brother’s authority in Winterfell, with each passing episode, this outcome seems more and on the cards. When that day comes, Jon will have only himself to blame for literally handing her the keys to the castle!
What other some other unfortunate decisions Jon Snow has made in Game of Thrones? Let us know in the comments!