Brow Beat

This Week’s Worst Person in Westeros: Cersei Lannister

Cersei’s meanness is catching up to her in a terrible and delightful way.

Photo by Helen Sloan/courtesy of HBO

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 contributor Chris Wade.

Miriam Krule: Chris! Thanks for joining me to chat about “The Gift.” We got payoff for two big things this episode—the multiseason wait for Gilly and Sam to FINALLY just do it is over (with the added bonus of the oh so perfect “oh my” from Sam) and Cersei, no stranger to worstness in Westeros, got what we all knew was coming—aka being bested by the Sparrows (even if she did get the last, threatening word in this episode). Before we jump into who takes the crown this week, can I posit that the Gilly and Sam story is turning very Bran-ish. I care so very little about them, even if this baby, Little Sam, is clearly destined for … something? Aemon calling him “Egg” because he’s reminded of his brother Aegon is pretty wonderful (is there a better nickname on Game of Thrones?), and obviously there’s a reason he’s being compared to a former king.* But I hope we find that out why sooner rather than later—I’d much prefer some Brienne and Pod.

Chris Wade: And obviously the Brienne and Pod rescue mission (as delightful as it is to imagine—I picture the Lancelot rescue scene from Holy Grail) was going to be foiled from its planning stages. I am pretty uninterested in Sam apart from his inevitable sad-bad-fighter-proves-his-value-in-book-learning comeuppance, and his rescue via Ghost was preeeettttty weak this week. But I am still glad he is pulling his weight as sword-boy for Jon, equipping him with that dragon stone. And I guess I’m sad to see Aemon go, if only for his potential for injecting actual plot-driving information into the Wall section of the plot. Though at this point we’re basically waiting for Jon to do the “first they’re enemies, then they’re friends” dance with the wildlings before folding them into Stannis’ bigger plan for conquest of the North.

Krule: I think we’ve seen a nice reversal in Stannis’ insanity—his skill at fatherhood had become inversely proportional to Cersei’s skill at motherhood: The worse Cersei is at being a parent, the better Stannis seems to be. His speech three episodes ago gave me hope that he will see the light and also separate himself from Melisandre, who is back for a hot second this week. Aemon is gone, meaning no more Targaryens in Westeros, but we do have a Lannister in Meereen! I guess that’s the third thing we’ve been waiting AGES for. The plot has kind of sort of finally caught up with Daenerys. How do you think she’ll react to Tyrion?

Wade: Maybe this is the time to say I think this season is GREAT. So many plot points are being followed through on in ways that feel satisfying but not cheap in a way that I can only ascribe to the TV creators  finally feeling liberated from the source material. I am ALL ABOUT the story of Daenerys being befuddled by attempting to establish a competent municipal structure for her newly liberated city-state, and Tyrion being the exact right person to show up and help her.  How amazing and out-of-character for the show was it that that nameless guard (the actor even took to Reddit to respond to his fans) broke Tyrion’s shackles to give him the one moment he could use to corroborate Jorah’s claim? I love those moments of petty coincidence in this world.

Krule: The timing was ALMOST as hilariously perfect as in last week’s episode when the Sand Snakes arrived exactly as Jaime and Bronn tried to rescue Myrcella in Dorne—I guess I’m not as forgiving (or enthusiastic) as you are about these “coincidences,” but I appreciate how they get some of the plot points going. But Chris, this isn’t a place where we talk about things we like—after back-to-back Ramsay worstness, it’s a relief to have some heroes (Sam saving Gilly via Ghost for example). Reek betrays Sansa to Ramsay, and Ramsay continues to be terrible, but is he bad enough (this week) to make it a turkey? I have a feeling you’re going to vote for Cersei, but, for me, worstness is tied to getting away with it and Cersei is finally not getting away with it. So who’s your vote for Worst Person in Westeros this week?

Wade: You are right, Cersei is my vote for worstest. Attempting to empower a religious fundamentalist freakshow to do your dirty work, only to be hoisted by your own petard at the hands of those same fundamentalists? Not only are you putting your very conniving political whims very much on display, but you are stupidly imagining that an army of purists who vow to punish EVERY sinner in their midst will overlook you, the one who empowered them. I can forgive someone for being cruel, I can forgive someone for being dumb. But being dumb AND cruel … that’s a special worst. Cersei’s meanness is catching up to her in a terrible and delightful way. I also want to just toss out that Bronn is the Best Person In Westeros.

Krule: Indeed! I second your nomination of Bronn as Best Person in Westeros. His little ditty made me hopeful that the Game of Thrones musical could become a reality (not just a fundraiser). But, as is more and more the case, I was also impressed with Sansa this week—who, despite what horrors Ramsay has inflicted on her, still tries to knock some sense into Reek with a (failed, for now) pep talk. The truth is, I think you’re right that it has to be Cersei—even if she falls victim to her own plan—something we all knew was coming. Poor Tommen. First his wife, now his mom.

Wade: Yeah, seriously! That little dude has NO IDEA what political Charybdis he’s entering in this situation, and Cersei’s back-room dealing—which she always justifies as “only for her children” or whatever—is only setting him up for future failure. Tommen seems chill compared to Joffrey but he is screwed in terms of his deal in King’s Landing. Also, I am glad to see Jonathan Pryce, star of maybe the best movie ever, Brazil, as a sympathetic villain in this season. Just put this song over any clip from Game of Thrones and let the irony roll.

Krule: His scene with Olenna Tyrell was pretty wonderful, but I have a feeling the High Sparrow will be making our worst list in record time. For now, it’s Cersei for the second time this season. Congratulations! You’re a terrible mother and an even worst plotter.

Correction, May 26, 2015: This post originally misspelled Aemon Targaryen’s first name.