When Game of Thrones premiered on HBO on April 17th, 2011, it was watched by 2.22 million viewers. As the season progressed, so did the viewership and by the ending of the seventh season, each episode was averaging over 10 million viewers. The audience nearly doubled each and every season, something that is very rare, especially when it comes to cable television.
Although the show follows the lives of several different characters, the show centers around the Stark family. Lord Eddard "Ned" Stark, who is the head of House Stark, married a woman who was actually betrothed to his brother, Brandon Stark, before he was brutally executed by the King. That woman was Catelyn Tully, daughter of Hoster Tully and sibling to Edmure and Lysa Tully.
The happy couple raised six children: Robb Stark, Arya Stark, Sansa Stark, Bran Stark, Rickon Stark, and Jon Snow. Jon Snow was considered a bastard for most of the series until recent details emerged revealing the mystery surrounding his real parents.
As the most important family in the series, the Starks have had several chances to do things right, or do them wrong. They have made mistakes and they have been the smartest people in Westeros, at times, so let's take a deep dive into their 15 worst decisions and 10 smartest ones.
25 Mistake: Running A Straight Line (Rickon)
One of the dumbest losses in the series happened prior to the Battle of the Bastards when Ramsay Bolton's army was standing at attention prepared to fight Jon Snow and his army out in the open. Before the battle began, Ramsay released his prisoner, Jon's little brother Rickon Stark, and told him to run to Jon.
As Rickon began to run across this open field, in what seemed to be a very long distance, Ramsay started shooting arrows at him, missing several times, on purpose, just to scare Rickon. However, just as Rickon reached Jon Snow, an arrow pierced through Rickon, ending him instantly.
Because he was just 11-years old, it makes sense he was running straight to him but looking back, if he had only run sideways a bit, maybe he could have avoided any type of arrows to the back.
24 Mistake: Sending Theon Greyjoy To Pyke (Robb)
Theon Greyjoy was just a boy when his father lost the rebellion against the Iron Throne. That failure led to Lord Stark taking Theon as a ward to House Stark, where he would remain for most of his life, basically becoming a member of the family, and a brother to Robb Stark.
When Theon arrives, he tries to plead with his father about partnering with Robb Stark to fight for their mutual independence. However, Theon decides to earn his father's love by fighting for him instead. This would eventually lead to the Fall of Winterfell and the rise of House Bolton.
23 Mistake: Not Accepting Jon Snow As A Stark (Catelyn)
Lady Catelyn Stark always loved her husband Ned Stark, even when he returned home from battle with a baby that he claimed to be his son that he had with some random woman. It was the only time the honorable Ned Stark wasn't honorable so any time Catelyn looked at Jon Snow, it was a reminder of Ned's betrayal.
This led to resentment, hatred, and never giving him the love that she gave all her children. She even admitted that she once wished for him to pass when he was just a baby. She would call him a "motherless child" and was a driving force towards his departure from Winterfell to join the Night's Watch. If she could have treated him as one of her own, who knows what the Stark's core family would look like now.
22 Mistake: Arresting Tyrion Lannister (Catelyn)
By now, all fans of Game of Thrones can look back at the many different things that happened which was a direct result from information given to someone from Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish. He used information to his advantage and was very good at manipulating it to his benefit.
Littlefinger was the person who planted the idea that Tyrion Lannister was the person who tried to end Bran Stark because it was Tyrion's dagger that was used in the attempt. At this point, Catelyn wanted to find Bran's attempted assassin and decided to take his word for it.
But Tyrion said it best when he told Catelyn, "What sort of imbecile arms an assassin with his own blade?"
21 Mistake: Wasting Her Three Wishes (Arya)
As he is heading towards the execution chamber, Ned spots Arya in the crowd and then sees Yoren, whom he then tells him one thing, "Baelor." That was enough for Yoren to understand Ned wanted him to save Arya. After taking her away to safety, he eventually tells her how he sleeps at night by saying the name of the man who slew his brother before he goes to sleep. This gave Arya the idea to make a list of names that she was going to end, no matter what.
Her revenge list was already part of her nighttime ritual when she is granted to gift of three demises as repayment for saving the life of Jaqen. She uses those three wishes on people who might have saved her life today but it did nothing to help the rest of her family.
Imagine if she used them on Joffrey, Cersei, and The Mountain.
20 Smart: Retreating From King's Landing (Arya)
During the Battle of King's Landing, the show's final major battle sequence, Arya and The Hound were already inside the Red Keep, approaching Queen Cersei, Qyburn, and The Mountain. But as they are seconds away from coming face-to-face with them, The Hound stops her and pleads with her to go back home.
He tells her that she does not have to fall today but if she continued, the end was all that was left for her. It was The Hound's way of saving her unlike he did with Sansa. Her retreat gave her a chance to live to fight another day.
19 Mistake: Going to King's Landing (Catelyn)
They say that whenever a Stark leaves Winterfell, they end up never returning home. Ned's father, Rickard, and brother, Brandon, both perished at King's Landing by order of the Mad King while he, himself, was executed for going to that same place, years later.
So when Lady Catelyn heads to King's Landing, instead of staying home and ruling Winterfell in Ned's absence, nothing good can come from it. Her goal was to sneak into the city to discreetly warn Ned about her suspicions about how her brother-in-law's demise was caused by poison from the Lannisters. But all it did was cause even more chaos and led to Catelyn's eventual demise.
18 Mistake: The Frey Pie Massacre (Arya)
One of the coolest moments on the Game of Thrones happened during season finale of the sixth season, when Arya was able to finally use one of her many faces that she stole from the House of Black and White.
She disguised herself as a serving girl and was able to murder Lothar Frey, Walder Rivers, and Walder Frey, along with the rest of the men in the Frey family. But, as sweet as it was to watch, Arya broke a sacred tradition in Westeros called Guest right.
Guest right protects anyone who is invited into someone's home and served food and drink from them. If broken, the gods will make it right on those responsible. The Red Wedding is an example and it led to all the Frey's passing away eventually.
Arya broke it when she slew them and the gods will return the balance back one day.
17 Smart: Executing Lord Baelish (Sansa)
It was long overdue but when Sansa finally decided to make the decision to execute Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish, it felt so great to watch him finally fall. After all, Littlefinger is basically the mastermind behind everything that has gone wrong since the first season because of his constant tampering and manipulation of everyone around him.
Not only did it stop him from interfering with future plans, it turned Sansa into the true Lady of Winterfell in the peoples' minds, not just her own. It was her character's final turning point, which established her as a leader.
16 Mistake: Continuing To Trust Walder Frey (Catelyn)
After word got out that Robb Stark was no longer honoring the deal he made with Walder Frey to marry one of his daughters in exchange for passage across The Twins, Catelyn made sure to keep reminding Robb about it. She wanted Robb to understand that one day Walder would want the toll paid.
But when Walder Frey officially extended guest right to them, which basically protects them from being massacred under the roof of the person hosting them, all was forgotten and she let down her guard to a man who was never to be trusted.
15 Smart: Joining Forces With The Hound (Arya)
The Hound lost all of his gold from the Brotherhood without Banners after he defeated Beric Dondarrion, in exchange for his freedom, but they still kept his money. So he had to think of another plan and knew who Arya Stark was and that she was traveling with them now. He was finally able to take her on a journey with him to find Robb Stark and claim his reward.
Along the way, Arya begins to change how she feels about him. At first, she wanted to see him downed, and had him on her list, but slowly started to learn how to become the Arya we know today. Much of her training happened in Braavos but it started when she traveled with The Hound.
14 Mistake: Execution Of Rickard Karstark (Robb)
Following the beheading of Ned Stark, the once honorable reputation of the Stark Family became tainted because he admitting he tried to conspire against the crown and commit treason. Robb would end up breaking his promise to Walder Frey, leading to his doom, and even Catelyn committed treason when she let Jaime Lannister free.
How was Robb justified for executing Rickard Karstark following his execution of two innocent Lannister boys that were prisoners of the Starks? Rickard wanted revenge and to hurt them as much as they hurt him.
No one is justifying Rickard's actions, but Robb's execution started a downward spiral effect that resulted in The Red Wedding. Not only did his own men begin to turn against him, he lost the Karstark army too.
13 Smart: Outsmarting Joffrey At Blackwater (Sansa)
It was subtle and many fans have since forgotten about it but back when King Joffrey was preparing to fight at the Battle of Blackwater, he was proudly talking about how he was going to use his new sword to take out Stannis Baratheon and even named it hearteater.
When he said this to Sansa, she simply responded by saying, "Will you slay him yourself?" This led to Joffrey feeling threatened and quickly coming back with, "If Stannis is fool enough to come near me."
The next line is what makes this scene so important. Sansa then asks Joffrey a question that he will be forced to say yes to. She asks him if he will be fighting outside with the vanguard. This shut him down and as he was talking his way out of it, she landed the best answer to her question, in front of all, by saying, "Of course you'll be in the vanguard. My brother Robb always goes where the fighting is the thickest."
12 Mistake: Releasing Jaime Lannister (Catelyn)
The Stark family has a reputation for upholding honor, above all else. But after Ned Stark's demise , that turned into more of a guideline than a rule. For one, committing treason is punishable by demise , no matter the person, Stark's included. Yet Lady Catelyn still releases Jaime Lannister from his prison cell, against her son's orders. Anyone else would have been executed on the spot (See Rickard Karstark).
Her intention was that she could let him go in exchange for her daughters, Sansa and Arya, a noble decision to make but she had no idea that Arya was no longer in King's Landing. But the biggest problem she had by doing this was sending Brienne of Tarth to deliver the package, giving up her bodyguard that could have been at her side during The Red Wedding.
11 Smart: Warning Robb About Marrying Talisa (Catelyn)
The only thing Robb Stark had to do was apologize sincerely but instead, his apology felt more of a political requirement to uphold alliances between two houses. So Robb then offers him Edmure Tully as a husband to one of his daughters. But that was nothing more than a settlement that Walder Frey did not care as much about as he did combining houses with the Starks.
However, Robb fell in love and was reluctant to change his mind because he was just 19-years old and Talisa was beautiful. Catelyn stressed to Robb many times over how much of a mess it would be to marry her instead of one of the Frey's. She even went as far as to suggest he keep Talisa in his bedroom while still marrying this Frey daughter. She knew that this mistake would come back and get them one day.
10 Mistake: Touching The Tree Root (Bran)
While learning how to become the three-eyed Raven, Bran is warned never to touch the tree root unless under the training and supervision of the three-eyed Raven himself because of the dangers involved in time traveling over long periods of time. Yet, because he was curious to find out what was going on himself, Bran ignored that request and did it anyways.
By touching the tree root, Bran was able to view the past and dreams of being North of the wall, with the army of White Walkers, who are being led by the Night King. As Bran stands there, the Night King turns to him and grabs his arm, physically touching him. This allows him to track Bran anywhere he goes and gain access into the cave they were hiding.
9 Smart: Battle Of Hardhomme (Jon)
Jon Snow was simply trying to help save as many of the living as he could before the Night King arrived to take Winterfell. So he planned on going to Hardhomme to bring the wildlings back to Castle Black for the time being. When he got there, the White Walkers arrived and a battle ensued.
This fight was important for many reasons, including showing the Night King that Jon Snow has figured out a way to take them down, using dragonglass. But it also showed the wildlings that Jon Snow was willing to perish with them by staying and fighting and eventually even defeated one of the Night King's warriors.
8 Mistake: Choosing Stannis Baratheon As The King (Ned)
As King Robert lays in his bed, passing away from a boar attack on a hunting trip, Ned begins to quickly make plans to fix the seven kingdoms before the Lannister's take over and ruin everything. But he made several mistakes over the course of that one day beginning with warning Queen Cersei that he knows the truth about her children and that she should leave the capital right away.
He was then approached by the King's brother, Renley, and offered a chance to be part of a coup d'etat that would name Renley Baratheon the next King. However, Ned's honor prevented him making such a choice and he refused because he thinks Stannis is the rightful heir to the throne. He does it again when Littlefinger brings him an offer and Ned, again, refuses to follow.
7 Smart: Friendship With Queen Margaery (Sansa)
From the very first moment we meet Margaery Tyrell, we know everything that she is about. She is a yTyrell, good people who pride themselves on outsmarting their enemies politically. In other words, she used people that could help benefit the future of her house. Her relationship with Sansa Stark was vital to the Tyrell's plan to rule all of Westeros.
Even though their friendship was based on political reasons, Sansa saw Margaery's grandmother, Lady Olenna Tyrell, and the future Queen Margaery herself, as actually allies that she could confide in. That was something she was in desperate need of. She had no friends left in the city after the demise of her father but had plenty of knowledge about the Lannister's because of all the access she received before his demise .
It also saved her life because of a secret plan that only a couple of people were aware of which resulted in the demise of King Joffrey. Her escape got her to where she is now.
6 Mistake: Following Queen Daenerys, No Matter What (Jon)
Once the secret about who was the true heir to the throne started to get around, Jon Snow received multiple warnings about not revealing the truth and claiming his seat on the iron throne.
Samwell Tarly revealed the truth to Jon Snow and was willing to be executed for committing treason just to let him know the truth about who he really was and that he should be the next king.
His final warning came from Varys, who was also willing to perish to warn Jon Snow about leaving Daenerys Targaryen in charge, as his Queen. He told Jon, "They say that every time a Targaryen is born, the gods toss a coin and the world holds its breath."
5 Smart: Oathbreaker (Jon)
Given everything we know about Jon Snow, the third episode of the sixth season titled, "Oathbreaker" has a lot going on including some of Jon's smartest decisions.
After being brought back from the grave, Jon awoke to the shock of all the men in the Night's Watch, who even considered him a God because of it but, in perfect Jon Snow form, he refutes that sentiment vigorously. Jon's next move was to hang all those responsible for his murder, which he does himself after they are hung up on the execution line.
That was smart but the final decision he makes in this episode turned out to be the best. After he hung those men for committing treason, he then hands over the title of Lord Commander to Edd, not officially, and walks off. He leaves the Night's Watch, something no other man in history has done without facing execution, because he passed and that lived up to his oath of being in the Night's Watch.
4 Smart: Not Telling Jon Snow About Knights Of The Vale (Sansa)
Looking back, this decision has turned around from being a mistake to being one of Sansa's biggest decisions in the series for many reasons. It let everyone know that she is no longer a "Little Bird" and was a much smarter military strategist than anyone was expecting.
Although she was using Jon as bait, it was for good cause. She was not going to let him fall but she knew that if she shared the plans of bringing the Knights of the Vale to this fight that Jon, who did not want to fight a battle where thousands will perish, could give it up to Ramsay in order to make a deal.
Remember that Littlefinger once told her that real power lies in controlling the information, not revealing it.
3 Mistake: Marrying Talisa Instead Of Walder Frey's Daughter (Robb)
Robb Stark had a chance to become the King of Westeros, and give the Stark family a true shot at helping fix the seven kingdoms by removing the tyrants and dictators that live throughout the world. But he was 19 years old and had not had time to grow up and mature. So when he met Talisa Maegyr, and immediately fell in love with her, he just could not help himself.
The issue was not because of where she came from or who he was, it was because he had already made a promise to Walder Frey to marry one of his daughters in exchange for passage at The Twins. Once he broke that promise, Walder Frey began taking offers from the Lannister's until eventually, The Red Wedding happened and the marriage to Talisa ended the lives of Robb, Talisa, their unborn child, and Lady Catelyn.
2 Smart: Slaying The Night King (Arya)
Before you get all hostile about it, let me at least explain why I decided to make this choice. Arya was involved in a battle against the White Walkers so it might sound odd saying that it was a smart decision to slay the Night King when she was already trying to survive. But she was never planning to defeat him when the fighting began because she never thought she would ever get close enough to stab him.
But then she runs into Melisandre who reminded her of Arya's task. At that point, she goes into assassin mode and uses everything she has ever learned to sneak past the Night King's guards and make it appear that she was going to stab him when she took that infamous leap towards him. When the Night King turned around at the last second and grabbed her by the throat, she dropped the knife and defeated him, which she expected to happen when she made the leap.
1 Mistake: Trusting Petyr Baelish (Ned)
Ned Stark's honor and loyalty to doing the right thing, as well as his lack of political experience or aspirations, led to his demise in King's Landing. It was not really his naivety that caused his demise but rather it was his lack of experience dealing with all the secrets and lies that happen throughout King's Landing.
His biggest mistake was trusting a man who just days before gave him a fair warning about trusting people in King's Landing, including himself. But when Ned met with Petry, in private, and revealed his plans to announce the secret of Queen Cersei's secret and then make Stannis Baratheon the King, he thought he was going to have the King's Army fighting with him when he walked into the Throne Room and called for the arrest of Queen Cersei.
To his shock, the soldiers defeated all of his men and Petyr put a knife to Ned's throat reminding him that he did warn him about trusting him. This would lead to Ned's execution and eight seasons of great television.