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 nights and weekends home page editor Seth Maxon.
Brogan: Hi, Seth. Thanks for joining me to talk about “The Spoils of War,” which somehow managed to feature both small emotional beats and one of the most intense battle scenes this show has ever done.
Uh, so, the end of this episode was super intense, but while my pulse slows down … We got a rare double worst person in Westeros contender in the two dopey gate guards at Winterfell. “Lady Sansa is too busy to waste a breath on one of you,” one of them tells Arya. Later, Arya herself takes a moment out of her deeply felt reunion with Sansa to dunk on them, quipping, “I didn’t run. You need better guards.” It’s hard to say who was the worst with my heart still pounding. Should we just say it was those douchebags?
Maxon: My heart’s still pounding, too. I watched the show with five other people, and when the end credits appeared, we all screamed.
So, yes, those dinguses were legit dingusy, making Arya’s burn that much more satisfying. But tempting as they are to damn, Sheeran-style, I think this week was too big to throw the title to two small-timers. There are a couple of more-consequential characters at Winterfell whose awfulness deserve mention.
One is Littlefinger, who of course, is always up to no good. But this week, dude was clearly planting some seeds. When Lord Baelish gave Bran the Valerian steel dagger that was meant to murder him, for me, it immediately brought to mind the moment in a previous episode when the Archmaester handed a sword to Jorah Mormont and strongly implied he kill himself. (Bran’s smug wisdom and lack of empathy increase in terribleness each week, but come on.) At first, this gift struck me as a cold weapon that might eventually get the rightful Lord of Winterfell out of the way for Sansa. But then when the dagger passes to Arya, and the camera cut repeatedly to Littlefinger’s trademark littlesmirk in her badass-off with Brienne, the implication seemed to be that he’s planning to manipulate Sansa and Arya’s bond to murderous ends that further break Arya’s spirit and increase his own power. For manipulating the love and pain of the Starks to help himself, could it be that swine Baelish?
Brogan: Littlefinger’s game plan still seems mind-bogglingly mysterious to me. There are dragons and white walkers and all sorts of other nonsense in this world, and somehow his single focus seems to be on getting Sansa—who showed here that she knows better than to trust him—to be his queen. If he’s up to something, though (and when is he not?), I don’t think we’ve seen the worst he has to offer.
You’ve mentioned Bran, and I’d like to get back to him in a minute, but I’m going to tentatively nominate Daenerys. At one point, she rages at poor Tyrion—not having his best week—telling him that his strategy has been terrible so far. And, yes, sure, things haven’t been going great for her under his recent guidance, but her own plan is worse than anything he has to offer. “Enough with the clever plans. I have three dragons. I’m going to fly them to the Red Keep,” she tells him. Is this really wisdom from the woman who wants to be queen of the land?
Maxon: For real. One thing I’ve liked this season are the weekly reminders that Danaerys—maybe the most terrifying and beloved woman in Westeros—is kind of a dick. Beyond berating her admittedly … let’s say, unsuccessful, Hand, she also saw some strong evidence that the White Walkers are real, and that it took unity to defeat them, at the end of her cave date with Jon.
And yet! Her immediate response was not, “OK, these are some pretty cray cave carvings. Maybe I’ll reconsider.” It’s “bend the knee, bro.” So, she’s a jerk to Tyrion, she’s intransigent about the coming apocalypse, and after suggesting she needs to fly her dragons to King’s Landing and roast ’em all, she brings an overwhelmingly powerful force, including a dragon, to ambush Jaime’s little army. That massacre seemed like it could have ended much earlier, and with much less blood and bodily ash, and still be a strong Targaryen victory. So for sheer pig-headedness and sheer body count, it could be Danaerys Worstborn.
Brogan: Dany’s insistence on prolonging the conflict arguably brings us to another possible contender in Bronn. The episode definitely teased us with him, letting us believe that Anonymous Dothraki Badass was going to off him, only to have that poor fellow (RIP Dothraki dude) meet his own end on the point of a ballista bolt. But then Bronn gets a shot in on Drogon, the dragon so cool they just replaced one letter in the name of his species when they were filling out his birth certificate.
I know Drogon is a literal monster, but with that one act, Bronn was responsible for one of the episode’s most terrifying moments.
Maxon: Perhaps. But let’s not forget that Bronn initially wanted to retreat. He saw that the Lannister crew was about to get stomped and burnt, and wanted to save all their lives, before he even knew the dragon was loose. And this brings me to nominate who I’m afraid I believe could be the actual worst this week, the guy who insisted on fighting to certain death, and the guy who Bronn might have just helped get killed: Ser Jaime Lannister.
Brogan: One of this series’ key features is its subversion of heroic fantasy tropes. Jaime, for all is faults and crimes, is a guy who thinks he’s an Arthurian knight, and we’ve never seen that more clearly than in his lance-forward charge against Drogon. He thought he was the immortal hero, but instead he ended up almost being toast.
Still, I think he has farther to fall. My final vote is Bran—your cousin who came back from college and told you he’s really into 4Chan now. Think of the moment when he blows off Meera, leading her to snap, “You died in that cave.” Think of his total lack of chill when he brings up Arya’s list to Sansa. He even lets Littlefinger know that he knows what’s up (something you should never do) with “chaos is a ladder” line. He may see all, but there’s one thing he doesn’t know: What a dick he’s being.
Maxon: It’s true; Jaime believes he has honor, which is more than most people on this show. His pride might be partially responsible for all the death incurred in that climax, but you’re right that he probably has deeper to fall. (At the very least, deeper physically, into that water he’s sinking in. I said it.)
When we spoke last year, we crowned Bran the worst for clumsily destroying Hodor’s life, and he’s only worsened. He has no chill, you’re right, and no empathy. “I see quite a lot now,” he says. Read the room, man! Bran will soon probably play a crucial role in the war for the Iron Throne and the war with the White Walkers. But for now, he’s consistently hurting and alienating all the people who love him. It doesn’t get much worse than that.
Brogan: Bran Stark …
Maxon: … You are most annoying 4Channer in Westeros. And also, you are the worst.
*Correction, Aug. 7, 2017: This post originally misspelled Bronn’s name.