|Poor, poor Robb Stark.|
SPOILER ALERT: I'M TALKING ABOUT THIS LAST WEEK'S EPISODE.
In the aftermath of the red wedding, do we really know what the game of thrones is? In season one, Cersei tells Ned Stark "When you play the game of thrones you win, or you die. There is no middle ground." I'm sure the ghost of Ned would disagree, but that's why he's a ghost. Cersei's been spouting the rules of the game since the beginning and no one has been listening to her.
If we can take anything away from these three seasons, it's that there are traits that are useful in the game of thrones, and there are traits that will downright get you killed. Robb was a great character. Noble, handsome, young, strong, and a brilliant military strategist. However, the game he was involved in was about none of those things. It was about how to acquire, retain, and use power. Robb failed at all three. Why? Because he lacked: timing, judgment, diplomacy, and discipline. What he had in spades were the traits of honor and conservative inflexibility.
Robb Stark lost the game of thrones because he didn't play by the rules. He needed to look the other way when the Lannister cousins got murdered. Sure they were kids, but in the game of thrones, you don't go and piss off an ally like the one he had in the Karstarks. But he put his foot down and declared the act monstrous. The inflexibility and honor did him credit, but that's an empty purse. He might as well have cut off his own head when he cut off Lord Karstark's.
Robb also lacked discipline. He shouldn't have married Talisa and instead taken one of the Frey girls as his bride. But he fell in love and that makes things all right in everything except the game of thrones. Robb made so many mistakes, and that's why his death is so powerful. It's the pinnacle moment in the tale where we see how the game of thrones is truly played and you're either in it to win it, or you're dead.
I think the best players at the table are the women. Margaery, Cersei, and Daenerys all seem to have the flexibility to embrace things that they despise for a chance to either finish them off later, or to find something positive about those things to further their own ambition. It's interesting that Cersei could have predicted Robb's death. She said, "Love is poison. A sweet poison, yes, but it will kill you all the same."