After each episode in Game of Thrones Season 5, we’ll be discussing a crucial question: Who is currently the worst person in Westeros? This week, Slate assistant editor Miriam Krule is joined by Slate editorial assistant Laura Bradley.
Miriam Krule: Laura! Thanks so much for joining me to discuss “The House of Black and White.” I was so excited when this week’s episode opened with Arya and not Cersei. Having Arya run through her list of names again made me feel like I was finally back in Westeros, though I guess she is technically now in Braavos. It also made me realize that the best people on Game of Thrones are the little girls. My favorite scene from the episode was when Princess Shireen Baratheon, literally the only redeeming part of this dreadful Baratheon plot (seriously, does anyone think he’ll sit on the Iron Throne?), after her attempt to teach Gilly to read, is reprimanded by her mother. “You have no idea what people will do. All your books and you still don’t know.” I couldn’t help but think that was a meta jab at book readers who think they know what’s coming. Did you have a favorite scene? Better yet, a least favorite one?
Laura Bradley: I did have a favorite scene, Cersei’s! She’s my second-favorite character on the show (Sansa has been my favorite since the beginning.) I love that she’s both strong-willed and short-sighted—and that the show so often exposes what a terrible combination those two make. So in this scene, she’s sitting there in Joffrey’s stead, trying to boss everyone around, and no one is having it. But the best part is how little she allows it to faze her. Love her or hate her, she’s very sure of who she is and where she wants to be in the world, and Lena Headey clearly has such fun playing her—and showing just how far she’ll go to hold onto her power.
My least favorite scene was at the end, only because Dany is becoming so painful to watch. She was such a great character and a blast to hang out with for the first few seasons, but more and more I’m finding her insufferable. Maybe it’s unfair of me, since I forgive Cersei’s shortcomings so easily, but her blatantly terrible skills as a politician baffle me. How can you be that bad and not know you’re that bad?!
Krule: I was hoping you’d say that! My nomination for this weeks’ worst person in Westeros isn’t really even in Westeros yet, which is part of the reason she’s the worst. Dany’s last scene was unbearable and confusing! There are a lot of deaths on Game of Thrones but they all have some agenda or purpose. What was she thinking? What did she think she’d accomplish? Did she think all these people begging for mercy for this man would suddenly change their minds when she chopped his head off? She’s gone from being a terribly boring character to one who makes no sense. I realize (hope?) that her character develops this season, and she obviously has some greater purpose in the show, but part of me wishes they would banish her Bran style already, aka bench her till we care about her storyline again.
Bradley: I completely agree. I think there are some fascinating aspects of her character—like her need to always tell people exactly who and what she is. Early on she made a big deal of saying, that she’s “not a queen … she’s a khaleesi.” Now this season opened with her correction, “I am not a politician, I’m a queen.” I think both are very intentional, and show how important it is for her to be the one to determine her own identity and fate. The problem is that now we’re seeing her overstep her actual skills. Taking over cities is great—but only if you know what to do with them once you have them. I totally agree that chopping that poor guy’s head off made no sense—politically or morally. And now the mass of her constituency, who brought her to power, hates her. Oh, and so do her dragons, because she has them LOCKED IN A FREAKING DUNGEON. Except for Drogon, who also didn’t even want to hang out with her for more than 30 seconds. Too bad we have to.
Krule: This is the complete opposite of Jon Snow. He may know nothing and he may give up the opportunity to become Jon Stark because of a vow (one he conveniently broke to be with Ygritte, though I’m not complaining about that), but he can, inadvertently, rally a group of people to elect him leader. I loved that scene. Even though we knew it was coming, it filled me with such joy and hope, something I rarely feel watching this show (I’m usually too nervous). I think the juxtaposition of that scene and the Dany scene made the latter seem all the more terrible. Side note: Have we ever seen a true election on Game of Thrones? That felt like such a wonderful novelty on a show about people stealing power.
Bradley: You know, I actually don’t think we’ve seen an election anywhere else. And thank the gods, Jon Snow can now introduce himself with something other than “I’m a bastard!” Now he can just say, “OFFICIALLY ELECTED BAMF OF THE NIGHT’S WATCH.” It was also pretty gratifying to see Sam burn Janos Slynt. I don’t know why all those old men are so damn crusty—I guess it’s just a few too many winters.
Krule: OK, so this episode had some fun Varys-Tyrion road tripping and Podrick-Brienne bonding, but ultimately it ended the same exact way as last week’s: With Dany talking to dragons. Dany: you have no friends. You’re not even in Westeros, but you’re still the worst!
Bradley: If I could be anywhere right now, I’d be a fly on the wall of that box with Tyrion and Varys. They have one of the most amusing and fascinating relationships (up there with Varys and Littlefinger), and like any bromance, they balance each other out. As for Dany, I can’t see her having many actual friends if she keeps this up. Maybe she needs to take up meditation before executions, or maybe she just needs to declare herself incompetent, tame Drogon, and peace out. I have no idea, but I know if she lops off too many more heads, she risks losing hers—either to someone else’s blade, or to the same kind of crazy that consumed the Mad King.