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House Rootbreaker

The Great Debate: Should Jon Have Lied?

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So I know the GoT writing staff is getting a lot of crap this season and some of it is definitely deserved.  But one part of the finale that seemed to come directly from the brain of GRRM himself was the decision for Jon to lie to Cersei or not.  GRRM loves those moral/political conflicts where it's hard to argue which decision is better as both have pros and cons. In my opinion, I'm happy with what Jon did for a few reasons.  He could have lied to Cersei but I think that would have only worked temporarily.  Since Jon is not a great politician in contrast to someone like Tyrion, it wouldn't take long for a paranoid Cersei to pick up on clues from his behavior that he was lying.  You should stick with what your best at, and never try to fight against your opponents A game.  

Jon had a good line where he said eventually words stop meaning anything and it also refers to what he said to Daenerys about not being "just more of the same" as far as violent, conquering rulers.  What's your point in life if you're going to be just like the people you bitch about?  Jon would also look very weak if he went back North and informed them they all had to keep up this lie, which I'm sure most northerners would be terrible at as well. There is also credence to the fact that your not lying may doom you, but wouldn't you rather go to your grave knowing you were true to yourself?  If the answer is you want to save your own tail than where does the lying stop?  It's a slippery slope for sure.

The irony here is Jon went through a similar situation with Mance Rayder and took a completely different route. I suppose in that case he really did think his lie would save the Night's Watch so it was an easier choice.  Of course in the finale, his feelings for Dany might have influenced his decision instead of thinking of the people he is sworn to protect. But all in all I think he did the right thing.  Anyone with a brain knows that Cersei was going to screw them anyways, so at least you can look yourself in the mirror when you do get screwed. But he definitely should have told Tyrion first in private, there is no excuse for Jon declaring it for the first time in front of Cersei of all people.

I think these types of dilemmas are fascinating and in my own head it's hard to discern which decision is better. If you're having that internal conflict from reading or watching that's a mark of good writing in my opinion.  I really don't see how Jon could ever rule Westeros, I don't think he's cut our for it like Dany is so hopefully the end game is Dany sitting on the Iron Throne with Jon by her side.

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There was actually a perfectly good way out for Jon without lying or betraying his honor.

"I can't serve two Queens, and I've already bent the knee to Daenerys. The only way I could make that promise is if she commands me to."

And then Dany would hopefully get the hint (if not, Tyrion had better, or he's not doing his job) and say, "Lord Snow, as your Queen, I command you to stay in the North for the duration of my war with Cersei. You can prepare defenses at the Neck if you want, but don't come below it. Now promise Cersei that you'll do that, and won't accept any later countermanding order." Dany's order may not mean anything, but Jon promising to follow it will, and that gives Cersei exactly what she was asking for. And there's nothing dishonorable or tricky about any of it.

But let's forget that for now. Besides Jon's moral point, strategically, there is an advantage to being known as a guy who never breaks his word, no matter what. People will make deals with you that they'd never make with anyone else, because they rely on trust that can't be verified. And, unless you're a sociopath (and really good at it), the only way to get and keep that reputation is to never break your word. Of course there's a cost to it as well. But if you look at things from the perspective of Dany's side rather than Jon on his own, the long-term benefit of Dany having a guy like that in an important position could be worth it.

Well, except for the fact that this was apparently a life-or-death-for-everyone situation, so the short term may overwhelm almost any long-term strategic benefit.

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Apart from all the valid points you two made I don't think that it really mattered what Jon said in this moment. In my opinion Cersei never planned for a single minute to help Jon and Dany fighting the Others.

As soon as she recovered from the discovery that such a thing as wights really exists she probably began to develop the plan she later told to Jaime. It would be exactly like Cersei to underestimate a threat and instead try to let her enemies finish each other and I assumed even before the episode that this would be her reaction.

The only difference made by Jon's words was that she didn't pretend to work with them. Probably she decided to go back to her original plan when Tyrion gave her the chance but I just don't believe that Cersei would really consider working together with an enemy to fight another one. 

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12 hours ago, House Rootbreaker said:

I think these types of dilemmas are fascinating and in my own head it's hard to discern which decision is better. If you're having that internal conflict from reading or watching that's a mark of good writing in my opinion.  I really don't see how Jon could ever rule Westeros, I don't think he's cut our for it like Dany is so hopefully the end game is Dany sitting on the Iron Throne with Jon by her side.

These types of dilemmas are fascinating because in real life, we more often than not have to face situations where we do not have to choose between right vs wrong, or good vs. evil, but rather between bad and worse. And even after deciding, we may be in doubt whether we did the right thing or not.
 

6 hours ago, falcotron said:

Well, except for the fact that this was apparently a life-or-death-for-everyone situation, so the short term may overwhelm almost any long-term strategic benefit


Had I been in Jon's shoes, I would have lied. What is at stake is too important, is the most important thing any ruler could have to face: the extinction of the human race, or at least the extinction of all the people he is responsible for, every northener man, woman and child. He is totally aware of that, he knows that this one is the only war that matters. How would be better not to  lie, if  by not lying the chances of survival for everyone diminish? Sometimes the honorable thing is to lie.
The ultra honorable sacrosanct Ned, which is the example Jon tries to follow in every step he takes, most likely  would have lied too, in my opinion. He did it for less important things than this one.

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1 hour ago, Sielk said:

The only difference made by Jon's words was that she didn't pretend to work with them. Probably she decided to go back to her original plan when Tyrion gave her the chance but I just don't believe that Cersei would really consider working together with an enemy to fight another one. 

Well, her overall plan was clearly to make it look like she'd agreed only after being reluctant and selfish so they'd believe her agreement, so she could backstab them. Jon saying yes would have given her that immediately. Jon saying no meant she had to go to plan B, but she had a plan B, and it still reached the same place as plan A.

But I don't know this is a useful angle to look at things from. Sure, we as viewers saw that Cersei is going to backstab them—and we've seen enough of Cersei in private to have guessed that pretty easily even if she hadn't told Jaime that was her plan two weeks ago. So, from our point of view, what Jon did really doesn't matter either way—but from our point of view, they shouldn't have tried to negotiate in the first place. If we forget that knowledge and put ourselves in the shoes of Dany and her team, who clearly believed there was a point to negotiating or they wouldn't have been there, Jon did hurt the effort.

For comparison, look back to season 1 with Ned. There are things that even he should have known were a mistake (like telling Cersei he was going to arrest her instead of just arresting her), but even more things that we know were a mistake that he couldn't have known. And if we're going to judge him, the first ones are more interesting, right?

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14 minutes ago, LucyMormont said:

Had I been in Jon's shoes, I would have lied. What is at stake is too important, is the most important thing any ruler could have to face: the extinction of the human race, or at least the extinction of all the people he is responsible for, every northener man, woman and child. He is totally aware of that, he knows that this one is the only war that matters. How would be better not to  lie, if  by not lying the chances of survival for everyone diminish? Sometimes the honorable thing is to lie.

Yeah, as he sees it, his three choices are: (a) lie, (b) swear in all honesty, violating his feudal oath to Dany, or (c) doom all of humanity. I can't see any sensible case for which (c) is the best option. And this isn't just a matter of showing that a code of honor is a poor substitute for a code of morality, even if that were Jon's purpose in the story (which it isn't), it's just Jon being neurotic to a fatally dysfunctional degree.

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1 hour ago, Sielk said:

Apart from all the valid points you two made I don't think that it really mattered what Jon said in this moment. In my opinion Cersei never planned for a single minute to help Jon and Dany fighting the Others.

I agree that Cersei never planned to help the fight against the NK. However, I think she wanted a ceasefire with Jon, which she thought he would uphold even if she didn't send her army north. She didn't expect that from Dany, and she said as much. Which is why she wouldn't believe Dany, if Dany asked Jon to stand down. She thinks Jon would be loyal to Dany, and stand by her no matter what Jon said at that moment.

2 hours ago, Sielk said:

As soon as she recovered from the discovery that such a thing as wights really exists she probably began to develop the plan she later told to Jaime. It would be exactly like Cersei to underestimate a threat and instead try to let her enemies finish each other and I assumed even before the episode that this would be her reaction.

The only difference made by Jon's words was that she didn't pretend to work with them. Probably she decided to go back to her original plan when Tyrion gave her the chance but I just don't believe that Cersei would really consider working together with an enemy to fight another one. 

Euron left before Jon made his speech, so I think Cersei had schemed with him before she got to the dragonpit. Her thoughts were, if I see a wight, Euron walks away and I lie about sending my troops north to buy time. If I don't, I'll do something else to buy time till the GC gets here.

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23 minutes ago, LucyMormont said:

Had I been in Jon's shoes, I would have lied. What is at stake is too important, is the most important thing any ruler could have to face: the extinction of the human race, or at least the extinction of all the people he is responsible for, every northener man, woman and child. He is totally aware of that, he knows that this one is the only war that matters. How would be better not to  lie, if  by not lying the chances of survival for everyone diminish? Sometimes the honorable thing is to lie.

The ultra honorable sacrosanct Ned, which is the example Jon tries to follow in every step he takes, most likely  would have lied too, in my opinion. He did it for less important things that this one.

The easier way would've been to lie, but then Jon's word ceases to hold meaning after that. And yes saving his people from the army of the dead should be Jon's first concern. But he thinks the ends don't justify the means. I probably wouldn't have lied in his position, but mainly because I wouldn't trust Cersei no matter what she said. No point ruining my own reputation for Cersei, who might backstab me anyways.

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19 minutes ago, falcotron said:

Yeah, as he sees it, his three choices are: (a) lie, (b) swear in all honesty, violating his feudal oath to Dany, or (c) doom all of humanity. I can't see any sensible case for which (c) is the best option. And this isn't just a matter of showing that a code of honor is a poor substitute for a code of morality, even if that were Jon's purpose in the story (which it isn't), it's just Jon being neurotic to a fatally dysfunctional degree.

I know the show doesn't emphasize this point much, but if I was in Cersei's shoes, I'd never believe it if Jon Snow had said that he was neutral. I would make no sense. Look at what happens:

1. Daenerys wins a huge victory, then puts the war on hold rather than push the initiative.

2. Daenerys' Hand promises to deliver proof that can only come from North of the wall, a territory only Jon would be expected to know about. 

3. Jon Snow arrives as a part of the Targaryen delegation, under Targaryen protection.

4. Daenerys adds her own testimony to Jon's saying that she personally saw them, a 100,000 or more. She moreover says that she didn't believe this until she saw it herself (which means that she did 1., and 2. above as favors to Jon without being convinced of the merits of his claim).

At that point it would be foolish for Cersei to expect that Jon was not already very closely allied to Daenerys. She might not expect any romance between them, but her cold calculating mind would see that he is too well integrated into the Targaryen machinery. Certainly not the relationship one would expect if Daenerys viewed Jon as a political rival. So Jon's statement was necessary if he wanted to convinve them that this wasn't a ploy, but that his word was good.

 

 

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Jon was right to be honest and not make that promise because Cersei was only ever going to exploit that promise towards the end of launching a sneak attack on him anyway. 

By letting Cersei know that opportunity won't be there, he's deterred (well, delayed is probably a better word choice) her from making the attack at all.

Keeping Cersei from jumping them while their back is turned/dealing with the White Walkers was the goal all along (actually getting her to help the anti-WW effort would've been a bonus).

Though he should've not let that be as much of a surprise for Dany and Tyrion as it was.

 

28 minutes ago, falcotron said:

But I don't know this is a useful angle to look at things from. Sure, we as viewers saw that Cersei is going to backstab them—and we've seen enough of Cersei in private to have guessed that pretty easily even if she hadn't told Jaime that was her plan two weeks ago. So, from our point of view, what Jon did really doesn't matter either way—but from our point of view, they shouldn't have tried to negotiate in the first place. If we forget that knowledge and put ourselves in the shoes of Dany and her team, who clearly believed there was a point to negotiating or they wouldn't have been there, Jon did hurt the effort.

Well, not necessarily.  The process of negotiation did weaken Cersei's position and ability to backstab them effectively by fracturing her coalition, albeit not in the way they think it did.  Euron bailing was a feint, but unbeknownst to them they actually have split away Jaime and some of the Lannister army with him.  Minus Jaime Cersei's army is both smaller and less ably led, which blunts her eventual attack on them by that much.  To paraphrase book Jaime:  "Only one in ten keep the oath?  Good. I'd rather fight nine than ten, the tenth might have been the one that killed me."

Not their main goal but they did get something out of it.

 

 

*obviously it's not strictly true that Jon has literally never broken an oath or a promise, but his public perception is of Ned Jr/a guy who doesn't do this, and in this case that's functionally equal.

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I'm having a dilemma with this as well. I sided with Jon for telling the truth and not lie especially because Cersei would've screwed him over anyway.

The dilemma I have is whether or not should Jon bend the knee. I liked his stubborn focus on the war against the army of dead. It would've been more interesting to see that internal fight in him to continue a little longer: give all trust to Dany or remain the King in the north and not deal with that for now. His inner resistance was interesting to watch and was more Jon-like.

But publicly bending the knee - infront of an enemy during important negotiations didn't help much either. So it was a bold move and purely out of love for Dany and not for any political reasons I think.

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Absolutely 100% no he should not have lied. A man has to be true to himself. Look at what a lack of honor did to Theon. Just because honor is a forgotten concept in today's world doesn't mean it is without value. My favorite trait of Ned and Jon is their sense of honor. Westeros and our world today would be a much better place with more honorable people in it.

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1 hour ago, Apoplexy said:

The easier way would've been to lie, but then Jon's word ceases to hold meaning after that. And yes saving his people from the army of the dead should be Jon's first concern. But he thinks the ends don't justify the means. I probably wouldn't have lied in his position, but mainly because I wouldn't trust Cersei no matter what she said. No point ruining my own reputation for Cersei, who might backstab me anyways.

Exactly, I remember shaking my head when poor old Ned Stark tried to play Cersei's game and not only lost his head, but went down admitting he was a traitor.  Maybe it's the defiance in me, but if I'm gonna go down I'm going down on my own ethical terms. I would trust Littlefinger before I trusted Cersei with anything, she has proven to have tunnel vision when it comes to negotiating anything, she's nothing like Tywin, although she thinks she is.

1 hour ago, Ghosteline said:

I'm having a dilemma with this as well. I sided with Jon for telling the truth and not lie especially because Cersei would've screwed him over anyway.

The dilemma I have is whether or not should Jon bend the knee. I liked his stubborn focus on the war against the army of dead. It would've been more interesting to see that internal fight in him to continue a little longer: give all trust to Dany or remain the King in the north and not deal with that for now. His inner resistance was interesting to watch and was more Jon-like.

I agree, for all that stubbornness Jon has he did bend the knee a little sooner than expected, but maybe because Dany sacrificed one of her dragons. I'm sure that was a casualty of the show speeding things up as they wanted Jon and Dany to hook up before season 8. It would have been more believable if it took longer though.

1 hour ago, Ghosteline said:

But publicly bending the knee - infront of an enemy during important negotiations didn't help much either. So it was a bold move and purely out of love for Dany and not for any political reasons I think.

I agree again lol, publicly bending the knee was inexcusable, and you can see why Tyrion didn't like it, and why he was staring a whole through Dany's door while they were wrapped up in their passion. You're not lying or being dishonorable when you discuss plans like that behind your enemy's back, so that is 100% on Jon

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1 hour ago, Hajk1984 said:

I know the show doesn't emphasize this point much, but if I was in Cersei's shoes, I'd never believe it if Jon Snow had said that he was neutral. I would make no sense. Look at what happens:

1. Daenerys wins a huge victory, then puts the war on hold rather than push the initiative.

2. Daenerys' Hand promises to deliver proof that can only come from North of the wall, a territory only Jon would be expected to know about. 

3. Jon Snow arrives as a part of the Targaryen delegation, under Targaryen protection.

4. Daenerys adds her own testimony to Jon's saying that she personally saw them, a 100,000 or more. She moreover says that she didn't believe this until she saw it herself (which means that she did 1., and 2. above as favors to Jon without being convinced of the merits of his claim).

At that point it would be foolish for Cersei to expect that Jon was not already very closely allied to Daenerys. She might not expect any romance between them, but her cold calculating mind would see that he is too well integrated into the Targaryen machinery. Certainly not the relationship one would expect if Daenerys viewed Jon as a political rival. So Jon's statement was necessary if he wanted to convinve them that this wasn't a ploy, but that his word was good.

 

 

All of this. Jon might as well have been carrying a Targayen banner into that meeting.

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19 minutes ago, Super Mario said:

My favorite trait of Ned and Jon is their sense of honor. Westeros and our world today would be a much better place with more honorable people in it.

It's my favorite trait too, I love both Ned and Jon for that. But "honor" has more to it than following fiercely and blindly some code to the letter, and disregarding the spirit of it and the greater good.  Ned knew this, that is why he LIED to everyone from the moment he had Jon under his care.  He had also already "bent the knee" to Robert when he was gifted with a boy he didn't know it existed, and his dying sister asked him to promise something that would imply treason to that king. So, his choices at that moment were

1)I'm so, so sorry, dear sister. I can not promise that, I'm already honor bond to Robert, and this child is Robert's enemy and can threaten his kingship

2) I promise. 

He chose 2). Then, his options were

(a) To say the truth to Robert (and everyone else), give up Jon and deliver him to the king's mercy. Jon most likely would have been  slaughtered like his half siblings were. There's no way Robert would have let Rhaegar's trueborn son to live.

(b) Say the truth, and tell Robert "Sorry Bob, he is my blood and you can't have him. If you insist, I'll have to rebel and we'll go to war,,, again". Have not his people suffered enough already? He had a duty to his vassals too, noble and smallfolk alike; to his wife and son, to his House.

(c) To lie.  This is the only option that could somehow, in an imperfect way,  balance all of his duties to different people. This was the least wrong thing to do, IMO. 

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Yes, he should have lied. He was being totally selfish. His principled moral purity, honesty and integrity are really beginning to grate on me.

 

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5 minutes ago, LucyMormont said:

It's my favorite trait too, I love both Ned and Jon for that. But "honor" has more to it than following fiercely and blindly some code to the letter, and disregarding the spirit of it and the greater good.  Ned knew this, that is why he LIED to everyone from the moment he had Jon under his care.  He had also already "bent the knee" to Robert when he was gifted with a boy he didn't know it existed, and his dying sister asked him to promise something that would imply treason to that king. So, his choices at that moment were

1)I'm so, so sorry, dear sister. I can not promise that, I'm already honor bond to Robert, and this child is Robert's enemy and can threaten his kingship

2) I promise. 

He chose 2). Then, his options were

(a) To say the truth to Robert (and everyone else), give up Jon and deliver him to the king's mercy. Jon most likely would have been  slaughtered like his half siblings were. There's no way Robert would have let Rhaegar's trueborn son to live.

(b) Say the truth, and tell Robert "Sorry Bob, he is my blood and you can't have him. If you insist, I'll have to rebel and we'll go to war,,, again". Have not his people suffered enough already? He had a duty to his vassals too, noble and smallfolk alike; to his wife and son, to his House.

(c) To lie.  This is the only option that could somehow, in an imperfect way,  balance all of his duties to different people. This was the least wrong thing to do, IMO. 

Great job pointing that out! It ties back perfectly to what you said earlier, making the right/honorable decision is almost never black and white. If Ned could do it, anyone could, and I think him protecting Jon was an incredibly honorable thing to do. I mean, look at the flak he caught from Catelyn all those years, he took it like a man.

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You can't count on a true, honest man to always keep his word, and then expect him to lie at your convenience.

Jon was absolutely right to be honest, especially since we in hindsight know that Cersei planned on betraying them from the start, no matter if Jon promised to be neutral or not. This way, he's free to take part in the eventual war between Cersei and Daenerys. Otherwise he would've been honour bound to stay out of it.

Him sticking to the truth, when it's to their detriment, also cemented him as a 100% trustworthy man to Daenerys.
Her reaction to him pledging himself for her in front of everyone, may initially be to scold him slightly, but (and this has been confirmed by Emilia), her actual reaction is one of amazement and pride. He could've lied, perhaps he even should've lied, but he didn't - and she can't help but feeling extremely grateful for it. I don't want to derail the thread, but we do know what they ended up doing after this... ;)

 

 

 

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4 hours ago, triton333 said:

Yes, he should have lied. He was being totally selfish. His principled moral purity, honesty and integrity are really beginning to grate on me.

 

Yes but in the end Jon got laid for being honest, win. Screw Westeros, Westeros screwed both Jon and Dany over from birth. They should be pissed off at Westeros and here they are sacrificing multiple lives for them. 

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No, I think he should have told the truth - Dany was nodding at him to agree to the deal, making it clear she was happy to forego the use of his forces in the war against Cersei in the interests of gaining the current ceasefire. Jon agreeing not to take arms against Cersei was therefore something entirely within his remit to promise to without for swearing himself. Nor would omitting information no one asked be lying. In denying Cersei he betrayed the cause of settling their difference to fight the WW and went against his liege for absolutely no reason.

 

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