After each episode in Game of Thrones Season 7, we’ll be answering a crucial question: Who is currently the worst person in Westeros? This week, technology and culture writer Jacob Brogan is joined by Slate chief political correspondent Jamelle Bouie.
Brogan: Hi, Jamelle. Thanks for joining me to discuss “Beyond the Wall.”
What an episode this was! There were loads of new developments here, but I am, as I have been for a while, tempted to suggest Jon is the worst: This time for a plan that left him nearly frozen to death and ended with one of Daenerys’ reptilian children turned into a zombie dragon. Somehow, though, in an episode full of pulse-pounding action, we were also confronted with loads of political and familial scheming. But we also had a scene where the Hound—an increasingly heroic character—fails to save some of his fellow adventurers because he is, apparently, scared of fire, a moment of hesitation that arguably leads to Thoros of Myr’s death. Is our old friend Sandor Clegane the worst?
Bouie: I think I have to disagree on both counts! My immediate sense is that it’s Arya Stark—unwilling and unable to understand her sister and apparently willing to murder her—who is the worst, although her terribleness doesn't seem, like Jon's, to jeopardize the survival of Westerosi civilization.
Brogan: True. For all Arya has been through, for all the rage that she’s acted out, she’s still motivated by literally infantile sibling rivalries. The people I watched with argued that she could have cleared everything up by just explaining that she’d seen Littlefinger plotting to hide the note. But it’s clear that Arya was motivated by her deep anger at her fancy-schmancy sister, to the extent that she likely wouldn’t have even listened to reason if someone had laid Littlefinger’s whole plot out for her.
But, let’s be honest, Sansa also played a part in that drama! She angrily sends Brienne, a woman sworn to protect both sisters, to King’s Landing in her stead, possibly dooming this noble knight in the process. If we’re going to go after Arya, can we really ignore her older sister?
Bouie: I don't think we can ignore Sansa here. She also seems to be acting out, jettisoning every lesson she's learned over the last few seasons to stew in her indecision. But that's understandable. Arya doesn't seem to have any interest in even trying to grok her sister or the larger circumstances at work. It's maddening! Especially since a simple conversation could probably clear all of this up.
With all of that said, I am willing to go with Jon being this week’s worst. The plan to kidnap a wight and bring it to King's Landing turned out more disastrous than I could imagine.
Brogan: Arya and Sansa are still playing at the politics of Summer and Fall, acting as if personal grievances and familial history are what really matter. Jon, meanwhile, knows what lurks beyond the wall, and he still makes some comically terrible decisions, starting with his ill-planned misadventure. But here’s the thing, that stupid plan actually seems to have worked, at least thus far: After Jon’s pals throw an extreme-rendition hood on a revivified corpse in the early going, they haul it with them until the end.
Maybe it’s actually Daenerys who’s the worst, for bringing all three dragons when she probably could have gotten away with one. Now, thanks to that terrible choice, we have a nigh-unkillable flying zombie in the service of the Night King.
Bouie: Do we think the zombie dragon breathes ice?
Brogan: I mean, it is a song of ice and fire …
Bouie: Hah, yeah. Fair point!
I think Daenerys made a fair decision in bringing all three dragons. For my part, the blame for that fiasco still goes to Jon, especially since we don't know if the wight will actually convince the extremely skeptical Cersei.
Brogan: I think there’s a fair chance that she’s just going to blow this off. Assuming they really can transport the damn thing south, is she really going to do anything other than continue to manipulate everyone involved?
To be honest, for the first time, I have the sense that the white walkers could end up on top when this is all over. Maybe it’s the Night King who’s the worst, for playing his own cards exactly right. Everyone else is scheming, but he’s the one dude who actually knows how the game is played.
Bouie: Honestly, I can completely sign on to that.
Brogan: At least he didn’t take out Drogon. But in an episode where I was genuinely expecting Tormund to bite it, I can’t believe he actually killed off one of the dragons. Night King …
Bouie: You are officially the Worst Person in Westeros. Or, at least, Westeros-adjacent.