Brow Beat

This Week’s Worst Person in Westeros: Men

Sure, Ramsay’s terrible. But is he actually the worst?

Helen Sloan/HBO

After each episode in Game of Thrones Season 6, we’ll be discussing a crucial question: Who is currently the Worst Person in Westeros?  This week, technology and culture writer Jacob Brogan is joined by Slate copy editor Abby McIntyre.

Brogan: Hi, Abby. Thanks for joining me to talk about “The Red Woman.” Coming into this season, the question that everyone’s asking has been about the fate of Jon Snow. We don’t get a clear answer on that here, but I still found this episode satisfying, not least of all because it featured a lot of sisters doing it for themselves. But, of course, it featured plenty of awful, awful men as well. Chief among them was probably Alliser Thorne, who goes full Trump in taking credit for the (attempted?) murder of Jon.* He talks about the Wildlings like Trump denouncing Mexicans, telling his audience of Night’s Watchmen that those terrible northerners are rapists, murderers, and even, if I follow his rhetoric correctly, job stealers. It’s pretty clear that Thorne wants nothing so much as a bigger, more beautiful wall, and in that sense he’s almost too convenient a villain. But there’s so much going on in this episode. What’s your take?

McIntyre: Well, Ramsay, predictably, is another strong contender in the men-are-the-worst category this episode. After fondly eulogizing his old friend Myranda, the kennel master’s daughter, for all those violence-fueled sexy good times, he points out that she is literally meat and her body should thus be fed to the hounds. Even for Ramsay that’s pretty low: At the end of the day, his one friend, partner in crime, and longtime lover was not a person to him but a fleshy object. He proceeds to send his men off a-hunting for Sansa and Reek (or can we start calling him Theon again?), who somehow magically survived that jump from the castle—seriously, that was a long way and they’re just fine?—and are now characters in The Revenant. When the dogs found them, my heart sank and I immediately imagined all the terrible things Ramsay would do. This scene was my favorite reversal, though—Brienne rides in triumphantly to keep her oath—and also, I think, our first example of women kicking ass.

Brogan: I’d argue that that a similar vibe carries into the Dorne scenes, where we see a handful of men (and boys!) finally get what’s coming to them at the hands of a group of marginalized women. Everyone gets a raw deal in George R.R. Martin’s ugly world, but men have always come out on top (if anyone does). Seeing the decadent phallocrats of Dorne taken down was surprisingly exhilarating—and surprisingly righteous. Doran Martell was far from the worst, but he was representative of a particular kind of masculine ickiness that has typically gone unpunished on this show. It was delightful to watch Ellaria Sand do something about that, even if she wasn’t explicitly doing so in the name of establishing a glorious misandrist utopia.

McIntyre: I certainly found the Sand Snakes’ coup thrilling. It was a great comeuppance for the men of Westeros writ large, and I love seeing Ellaria’s daughters take what’s theirs. But at the same time I find Doran Martell an imperfect target. He’s hardly gotten any screen time, and I don’t quite have a sense of why I should hate him. I’m interested, though, to see where this Dorne plot line goes as it transitions into this new matriarchal world order.

Brogan: That’s true. He’s nowhere near as bad as, say, Ramsay’s awful father Roose, who gives a queasy speech about his son being useless if he can’t produce an heir. I think in some ways I was rooting for the Sand Snakes for the same reason that it was great to see Brienne ride in to save the day—because it was great to see women not just doing something but actually at the heart of the action. It’s entirely possible that Ellaria will end up the worst person another week, but for now she felt heroic, if only because she and her allies managed to pull off their plot in a world that’s normally inimical to female agency.

McIntyre: Ah, Roose! I can’t wait until he meets the (wo)man he has to thank for killing Stannis.

Brogan: If this episode promised us one thing, it was that something horrible almost certainly will happen to Roose (and hopefully Ramsay too) if we just wait long enough. Although even when it does, there’s no shortage of others to take his place. Even Daenerys only manages to avoid being sexually assaulted again because she was assaulted by a different guy in the past. Generally speaking, this episode left me with the feeling that men are the worst people in Westeros—this week and forever. 

McIntyre: Exactly! Men are the WORST, even in Westeros. And we didn’t even get to Melisandre, whose reveal as an old crone was a great misandrist twist and another total reversal of the way ​Game of Thrones typically treats women’s bodies. Valar morghulis!

Brogan: “All men must die?” We can only hope!

*Correction, April 27, 2016: This post originally misspelled Alliser Thorne’s first name.