During this scene of The Queen's Justice (HBO's Game of Thrones, S07E03), Tyrion Lannister is laying out and explaining his plan to take Casterly Rock, providing us with a narrated montage of a battle/siege sequence (making use of a kind of Unfolding Plan Montage trope).

The first montage scene (0:25–1:09 in the video above) we get shows the Unsullied attack the walls with ladders and getting decimated, thanks to impressive defenses, as Tyrion describes.

TYRION: The Lannister army is still the army my father built. Well trained and well provisioned. Ten thousand men, at least. They will see us coming. They will be ready.

The gates of Casterly Rock are impregnable. The fight up the walls will be hard. We will be at a disadvantage. Many men will die, just as my father said they would.
The Queen's Justice, Game of Thrones (S07E03)

While we are first led to believe that this sequence is actually happening in the show's reality, we soon after find out that it's a very poor tactical decision that will surely result in unnecessary death and failure.

Tyrion's plan to use the sewage system to infiltrate the Castle and open the gate from within shows us a montage of Grey Worm successfully capturing Casterly Rock (though with a bitter surprise in the form of Euron Greyjoy)

Does that mean that this first scene/sequence of the Unsullied attacking the walls and getting brutally wiped out didn't actually happen, and is actually a 'What-If?' sequence used to show us, the audience, what would happen, while also fooling us into believing they suffered tragic losses, for dramatic tension? Or did it actually happen, and it was part of the larger plan, and these men dying was the cost of a necessary distraction?

  • 4
    That's the way I saw it - the first scene was what would have happened if they would have attacked the wall using traditional methods while they actually did the second. It reminded me of when Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey, Jr) thought fights out it that movie before doing it. Aug 4, 2017 at 18:36
  • @HannoverFist The only issue with comparing this to the effect in RDJ's Sherlock Holmes (2009) is that it isn't a What-If, but a This-is-what-I'm-going-to-do-let-me-show-you-in-slowmo-with-narration that is then replayed in normal speed, and is a successful outcome - it feels like a slow-motion variation on the Unfolding Plan Montage which is replayed afterward in normal speed. If this sequence with Unsullied dying is a What-If, then it's not an Unfolding Plan Montage, because those happen exactly as narrated in reality. Aug 4, 2017 at 18:44

2 Answers 2


There are a two important factors to consider (spoilers):

  • they thought the full Lanister army was there (10,000+ ?)
  • the entry point was via sewer access

There would be no way to insert their army into the castle via the tunnels efficiently enough to overwhelm 10,000 well-trained soldiers. Which is why Greyworm made for the gate immediately to open it.

Further, if the gate was the only point of entry (not going over the walls), they would be much more hard-pressed to invest the fort.

The doctrine may not have existed, but there are "Four Fs" to warfare: find them; fix them in place; flank them; finish them (or F**k them up). The walls are the "fix," and the sewer/gate is the flank.

At the end of the sequence there are lots of bodies of soldiers who must have been (still) manning those same walls even after the gate was taken.

So, in my opinion, the sequence was "actually happening." I will note that in the footage, many of the "bodies" you see are actually shield bearers protecting the base of the ladder. I don't see decimation.

  • 1
    Agree, there must be an army right outside to open the gate to.
    – madmada
    Aug 4, 2017 at 22:48
  • @madmada That logic works but doesn't necessitate attacking the walls with ladders. It merely necessitates your army to be outside the gate by the time it's been opened. Aug 5, 2017 at 9:24
  • But how they'd be there undetected. Also opening the gate is an advantage only when your army is at the walls or near by, otherwise you'll be defeted regardless by the time the rest (majority) of it come join the fight.
    – madmada
    Aug 5, 2017 at 10:08
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    Hope they'll address this later by mentioning the unsullied losses (or lack of it) or something similar instead of leaving us guessing
    – madmada
    Aug 5, 2017 at 10:11
  • @madmada how to address it from the show if it was only an hypothetical scenario?
    – Cœur
    May 16, 2019 at 3:49

The TV show is a fine piece of art. The battle sequences are shown during Tyrion's speech to colorfully illustrate it. It's rather original way and it's one of many things which makes the show so outstanding.

So, almost certainly the first part, showing conquest using ladders, was imaginary as you suggest, and only the second part - conquest using sewer tunnels - actually happened. They knew about this option right from the start, so it wouldn't make any sense for them to sacrifice hundreds or thousands of soldiers for nothing. The conquest using this trick actually worked in the past, without the need to attack the walls directly - e.g. in the Trojan war, and also within the show in the conquest of Yunkai.

  • "So, almost certainly the first part" You say "so" but don't actually provide any arguments to back up your conclusion, all you say is that the show is outstanding and a fine piece of art. Your assertion that "the battle sequences are shown to colorfully illustrate it" is simply speculation Jan 2, 2021 at 22:33
  • "they knew about this from the start, so it wouldn't make any sense" - things not making any sense hasn't stopped writers from writing them, even on Game of Thrones (some would say especailly on Game of Thrones) Jan 2, 2021 at 22:34
  • "The conquest using this trick actually worked in the past" The Trojan horse used in the Trojan war is first of all outside of the universe of Game of Thrones, and second of all mythological Jan 2, 2021 at 22:36
  • @GhotiandChips what do you want? I brought you arguments for why it does make sense to assume the first part was imaginary. You are not happy. So what do you want?
    – Tomas
    Jan 2, 2021 at 22:43

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