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In Game of Thrones S08E05, we see that soldiers in the Northern army attacking the unarmed Lannister soldiers after they have surrendered. Jon is the warden of the North and he commands the Northern army to not attack. He tells them,

No. Get back. Get back

But no-one seems to obey it. Why did they not follow Jon's command?

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Daenerys has decided to rain fire on the keep already, which prompts Grey Worm and the Unsullied to attack. Jon does not command the Unsullied, so it is reasonable that they would not respond to his commands to hold back.

Once the Unsullied begin attacking, the Lannister army begins attacking back to defend themselves, and chaos ensues. Jon alone is telling everyone to stop while the queen of the land and her army are attacking anyway, so Jon's men get caught up in the chaos and fighting. Even Jon himself is forced to kill Lannister soldiers in order to defend himself in the craziness.

It's not unheard of in war for this sort of chaos to cause men to do all kinds of unthinkable things, and this is what we see happening with the soldiers of the North. We see Jon try to stop one of them, but the man refuses to be stopped and Jon is forced to kill him in order to save the civilian woman. In the bloodbath and chaos, orders are no longer relevant.

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    It's also important to note that Jon has pretty much repeated "I will do as my Queen commands" the entire season. With that information, Jon's soldiers would obviously follow Dany's orders. By the time Jon realizes what his complacency has caused, it's too late to stop the ensuing riot. – Flater May 16 at 9:24
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That's how invading cities looks like

All we know from historical experience shows that this is pretty much the default expected result if a city gets invaded as opposed to a clean surrender - the soldiers "take their share" in violence, loot and sex; officer's orders get ignored, and officers who try to enforce order in such a scenario (as Jon did) are at risk of getting attacked by their own men (as Jon did) and murdered by them; there are historical examples of respected officers dying that way. That's how real war looks like, that's the nature of men at war, as shown time and time again in practice.

It takes unusual, exceptional circumstances and/or extraordinary discipline to prevent that. There are historical examples of "clean takeovers", but they're exceptions from the usual course of events. The Unsullied had a reputation of having that unusual discipline and probably could resist that temptation if their leadership hadn't shown them that they (Dany and Gray Worm) desire to raze the city, however 'armies of the North' (much less the Dothraki) definitely would not. They're not even "Jon's men" from Winterfell, they're multiple disjoint bands of bannermen from different places, there's definitely many people just like those who fought for Boltons. The presence of large numbers of disciplined Unsullied could have prevented these events if they chose to enforce that, but Gray Worm chose the opposite.

It would be sloppy unrealistic writing if the invasion of King's Landing didn't degenerate in such bloody looting without a strong reason.

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    +1 and of course exactly this has been discussed in dialogue a lot - e.g. all the talk of the previous sack of King's Landing in Robert's rebellion, and Jorah's warnings about the "monster in every man's heart that awakens when you put a sword in his hand" (and his ironic prediction that the unsullied would be different because they would follow Dany's orders...) – user568458 May 14 at 21:39
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    +1 also, just one thing to add / stress more: Jon lost almost all of the respect of the Northmen by bending his knee for Dany... It is questionable if he ever had any authority in that fight... – Torsten Link May 15 at 7:15
  • Such things occasionally happened even if the city gave up completely without any fight. Attacking army wants the city, defenders offer it up in return for free retreat. Some civilians also retreat with them. The besiegers make way for them and at first everything happens peacefully. The defenders walk out while the besiegers watch them. A few soldiers, angry that they didn't sack the city (at first in secret, when their officers are not looking their way), start snatching some valuables. Then more join in. Then one snatches a woman. Some of the retreating soldiers retaliate. Bloodbath ensues. – vsz May 15 at 14:09
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This is mentioned in the Inside the Episode here:

The utter chaos has led to a moral free-for-all. This is meant to portray Jon as a morally superior character in juxtaposition to the terrible deeds done by ordinary soldiers.

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    This doesn't answer why the soldiers ignore Jon's orders, though, only why they behave like that in the first place. – Joachim May 13 at 23:09
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    @Joachim It's a moral free-for-all. Meaning they don't have to listen to anybody. If attempted rape is on the table so is disregarding a superior officer. – bruglesco May 13 at 23:10
  • @Joachim "This is meant to portray Jon as a morally superior character" That explains all of it. He is the only one trying to stop the madness. The soldiers ignore him because they are not meant to be portrayed as morally superior characters. The moral contrast is apparent when he is the one trying to stop it, and that same moral contrast is shown even stronger when he is ignored. – Aaron May 15 at 0:35
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Probably because the North had suffered a lot because of the Lannisters, and it was time for payback. The surrender of the Lannister army was somewhat unconvincing after the tense standoff, so when all hell broke loose again, the rout was on.

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    This is for me the most likely explanation. The Lannisters were responsible for the death of quite a few of the North men, starting with Ned, then Cathlyn and Rob, and just a single episode ago they betrayed their word to the North by not helping against the Night King. That's bound to build a LOT of resentment against the Lannisters! – Matthieu M. May 14 at 9:28
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The real question is, "Why did Greyworm specifically disobey Daenerys' orders?"

In the battle meeting with Tyrion, Greyworm and Dany, Dany clearly indicates that the Unsullied would retreat upon the ringing of the bells. Here is the scene, at 16:34 of S8E5,

Tyrion to Daenerys: Please, if you hear them ringing the bells, call of the attack.
Daenerys: **looks to Greyworm and Tyrion and nods curtly, but sincerely**
Greyworm: **micro-nod of acknowledgement**

This order from Dany is clearly disobeyed by Greyworm when he throws the spear and kills the Lannister Ranking Officer when the Lannister forces have surrendered and the bells are ringing. This initiates the pillage (not the burning) of King's Landing.

This is completely contradictory to what we known about the Unsullied, being "famed for their skills and discipline in battle" and "They never loot or rape"1.

It is worth noting, perhaps Dany meant to burn the city all along, and the retreat of her own forces was necessary to burn the city effectively, without loss or casualty to her own forces.

So, Why did the soldiers of the North disobey Jon? Once the Unsullied, the most disciplined of Dany's force, and Greyworm, the highest ranking general, start attacking it sends a message to all her forces to do so. It would be very difficult for Jon, amidst the furore and din of the battle, to effectively control the Northmen.


There is of course the remote possibility that there was an off screen conversation between Greyworm and Dany to attack Lannister forces after surrender. However, there was the opportunity to show this when Dany and Greyworm had a private meeting about Missandei. Therefore, a secret plan between the two becomes even more a "logical leap". This leads me to believe that this is not what the show intended to portray, but rather Greyworm initiated a killing spree out of revenge for Missandei.

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    The point is, Grey Worm isn't just a dumb Unsullied anymore. He's been freed by the Breaker of Chains into a self-confident man and he loved Missandei. While he tends to look grumpy by default, I still got the impression he's not particularly satisfied with the mercy order. Add to this, that he didn't just disobey the mercy order out of his own impulse. He did it after he saw that Daenerys herself disobeyed her own order. Sure, for a dumb Unsullied robot that might not have sufficed, but Grey Worm is way beyond that. But granted, the last paragraph certainly adreses the question asked. – Napoleon Wilson May 14 at 12:42
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    IMO, there wasn't a clear order to stop fighting at the ringing of the bells. Tyrion suggests it at the battle meeting, and Dany wordlessly nods at Greyworm, but that's it. She weakly acquiesces to the plan, but then throws it out the window when the bells ring - I don't think Greyworm is disobeying orders, because "stop fighting when the bells ring" is not what the Queen herself is doing. – Nuclear Wang May 14 at 13:54
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    @NapoleonWilson dumb Unsullied or not, he is still disobeying orders. I guess my point is also that after a decade of psychological conditioning to obey orders absolutely, I would certainly expect him to continue to do so. Then again, this world has dragons and ice zombies so I shouldn't be too picky... – josh May 14 at 14:48
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    That nod from Dany to Greyworm could have meant something entirely different, like "Remember what I told you this morning? I confirm that now, despite what Tyrion just said". – Roel Schroeven May 15 at 14:51
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    @josh - First of all, she's nodding/responding to Tyrion. Is the nod telling GreyWorm that he is to put it on autopilot and do this when he hears bells, or is it her saying she agrees that she will call it off? In any case, she never gives any direct order for him to withdraw, and certainly does not give him the imperative that no matter what she does, this happens. I'd say her taking a dragon and burning everything would be a pretty clear indication that she decided not to call it off, and GreyWorm would not be so simple-minded as to not understand that. – PoloHoleSet May 15 at 16:04
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Insanity in the sky, in form of the dragon pouring fire on civilians and army alike, is mirrored by the insanity on the ground.

After Dany attacks the city, and Lannister's army pick up their swords (after Grey Worm throws his spire), there is a close-combat in city streets. At that point, everybody got concerned with their own survival, as well as chaos of the war kicked in.

Jon was forced to defend his life by killing enemy, but he has more leveled head than others, and was able to protect civilian from his own soldier (presumably soldier was going to rape civilian).

PS: answering following comment by @sanpaco, borrowing something from them.

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