We’ll go beyond the Wall, they said. We’ll CAPTURE A WIGHT, they said. We’ll bring it to King’s Landing—and no, Cersei Lannister definitely won’t kill us the second we get there, they assured. As thrilling as it was to see Jon Snow’s suicide squad head into the vast unknown of the North at the end of “Eastwatch,” it was impossible to shake the idea that their plan was unbelievably stupid. But the question is—in a show full of impulsive, selfish, shortsighted characters—was it even the worst mistake someone has made in Season 7? We put that question to the Ringer staff; here’s who they think has messed up the worst this year.
Jon Snow (for Not Bringing Ghost With Him Literally Anywhere)
Mallory Rubin: On the whole, I’m a lot sweeter on my dude Jon than my grievance-airing colleagues are: Sure, he’s made his share of head-scratching calls, and you’ll hear about many of them below. But he’s also remained admirably focused on the mission at hand. I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but Jon’s seen the Night King, Davos—he’s looked into his eyes! And that justifiable obsession has fueled nearly every meaningful choice that Jon has made since. Yes, I’d like for Jon to shoot Sansa a DM before holding public meetings; of course, I’d prefer that he gently inform Tyrion that T’s wight-fetching suggestion is moronic at best and suicidal at worst; undeniably, I’d enjoy Jon showing Dany something other than paintings and dragonglass in that cave (if you know what I’m saying, and I think you do). But on the whole, I applaud Jon’s relentless determination and unshakeable conviction.
Jon Snow’s direwolf, Ghost, should really be a part of the upcoming raid on the wights and White Walkers pic.twitter.com/ZKgkjsySv7— The Ringer (@ringer) August 18, 2017
Save, that is, for one unforgivable transgression: his befuddling abandonment of my true boo, Ghost. Show viewers, do you remember back in the Season 1 finale, when Lord Commander Mormont, recognizing the young direwolf’s unsurpassed value, said to Jon, “I want you and your wolf with us when we ride out beyond the Wall tomorrow”? Book readers, do you recall when Jon thought this to himself: “Ghost was the only protection Jon needed; the direwolf could sniff out foes, even those who hid their enmity behind smiles”? It was distressing when Jon failed to invite Ghost to those tense Winterfell meetings (everyone loves a work pup). It was sincerely concerning when Jon opted against bringing Ghost to Dragonstone, where he could have served as companion, protector, and status symbol alike. But it’s downright indefensible that the White Wolf is not bringing his white wolf beyond the Wall.
Ghost shares a powerful warg bond with the King in the North. He’s battled wights more than once, and with great aplomb. He was an indispensable weapon when the wildlings attacked the Wall. He refused to leave Jon’s side as the then–Lord Commander’s corpse grew cold. And he’s damn warm and cuddly in the chill. Ghost isn’t just a sidekick; he’s a fundamental, elemental part of who Jon is, a source of comfort and safety and hope in an often bitterly bleak world. They were meant to find each other, and they’re meant to be together still. I’m all for Jon’s Drogon nuzzling; I want Jon to ride Rhaegal more than I’ve craved all but a handful of fictional things in life. But I want Ghost by Jon’s side even more than that. And Jon should want it, too.
The Maesters (for Not Listening to Sam)
Kate Knibbs: Obviously the entire concept of Jon leading a Bad Boys of Westeros squad into the thick of the Army of the Dead to quietly snatch a wight and head back undetected is deeply ludicrous. But in Jon’s defense, throughout the course of the show, he has never canonically been smart or good at planning stuff. Jon is known for being brave and broody, not brainy, and so I can't blame that beautiful idiot for his mistakes!
You know who I can blame for dumbassery, and DO blame for dumbassery? The maesters, who are supposed to be the clever ones. Their entire job is keeping the realm safe by thinking good, and yet they ignore both Sam and Bran. I understand their skepticism about Bran’s note, but Sam stands right in front of them and corroborates. And they barely even try to listen. Why would he lie? Most people who have heard about the White Walkers expressed doubt at first, but the maesters should be different, since they have all the history books on previous winters. It would've been unrealistic had they immediately believed Sam, but why not let him make a better case? Why just hand-wave him and write to Bran for clarification? Jim Broadbent’s maester, in particular, knows Sam to be intelligent and levelheaded, so his utter lack of urgency is especially frustrating.
Samwell Tarly (for Shushing Gilly)
Alyssa Bereznak: Sam has a good reason to be taking his maester internship seriously. After all, he’s the only person with a library card who is also aware that Westeros is on the brink of annihilation. So it makes sense that the same afternoon all his elder maesters mock him for thinking that White Walkers are real, he comes home to Gilly in a bad mood.
And yet, that’s still no excuse for interrupting her as she casually stumbles upon the realm’s most important secret: Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen fell for each other, ran away, and had a (legitimate) love child who grew up to be Jon Snow.
First of all, Sam should appreciate that, within the span of a few years, the daughter-wife he rescued from a sacrificial shack north of the Wall now has incredibly impressive reading comprehension. Second, if Sam knew that Jon was a Targaryen he could … tell Jon. That way Jon could form some kind of Stark-Targaryen alliance, and together they could prevent the human race from going all wight. Instead, Sam mansplains the war to Gilly and decides they should go on a road trip to the most dangerous spot in Westeros. What a classic, preventable mistake for a man to underestimate the value of a woman's perspective.
Arya Stark (for Not Ending the War When She Could Have)
Claire McNear: You stand at a crossroads. On one side, there’s your sworn enemy, who is responsible for the death of both your parents and the maiming and terrorizing of countless others, is currently in the midst of waging a wildly destructive and shortsighted war out of nothing more than greed and blind ambition, and whom you, a trained assassin, are positioned like no one else in the realm to do away with for good. On the other side, there’s your jerk sister whom you never got along with. Which way do you go?
Sure: Home is a nice place to be, and it is reasonable to want to see your family. Plus, Arya now knows that Littlefinger is Up To Something that may or may not be good for the greater Stark clan. And yes, Arya doesn’t yet know about the White Walkers, so perhaps she doesn’t realize that Cersei's war is no longer just a battle for the Iron Throne so much as a threat to all mankind, whose time, grain supply, and collective manpower are dwindling with each bloody Lannister vs. Everybody diversion. But come on, girl. Go kill your and your family’s enemies in King’s Landing, and then celebrate post-Lannister peacetime with a big ol’ feast at Winterfell. Knock off Cersei, and humanity can focus on the task at hand. She should have saved the family reunion for later, when the greater good was not so obviously waiting to the south.
Daenerys Targaryen (for Letting Jaime Lannister Escape)
Megan Schuster: Dany, we need to talk about your post-battle strategy. First, burning the head of a great house and his heir alive after you’ve captured them in battle is not an ideal strategy, and it’s especially not-ideal when your father was a mad ruler known for threatening people with fiery deaths. Second, and more importantly, you let Jaime Lannister—noted Kingslayer (a.k.a. the man who killed your father), brother to Queen Cersei (the woman you’re trying to overthrow), and one of the best soldiers in Westeros (fake hand and all)—quietly disappear downriver after he tried to kill you. And you sent no one after him! And I don’t mean “no one” like Arya means “no one” after she takes on Brienne in a round of sparring. I mean “no one” like “literally not a single soul thought, ‘Hmm, maybe we should consider locating this man who could be extremely valuable to us.’”
Look, I get it, the Dothraki barely tolerated crossing water the first time; they’re not exactly people you can send to dredge a surprisingly deep river looking for a potential POW. But really, you couldn’t have stationed some of them downriver and waited, I don’t know, like an extra 30 minutes to see where he popped up? Were you just too eager to start burning people again?
In the grand scheme of things, maybe this turns out in your favor. Maybe the valonqar prophecy comes to fruition and Jaime takes care of your Cersei problem for you. Or maybe Jaime wins a great battle against you and you come to regret this. Either way, it was a bad strategic decision in a string of bad strategic decisions—and one that so easily could have been righted.
Jon Snow (for Not Killing Littlefinger When He Had the Chance)
Shaker Samman: At the end of Sunday’s episode, Arya broke into Littlefinger’s chambers and removed a letter hidden inside his mattress. Up till now, Baelish spent most of the season sulking through Winterfell’s corridors, pining for Sansa, and getting inadvertently dunked on by Bran. I can’t claim to know what the schemer’s plan is, but given the look he shot the camera as Arya left the room, I can only assume finding the letter is part of Littlefinger’s Last Stand.
Which makes it all the more maddening that Jon didn’t kill him when he had the chance in this season’s second episode. After Littlefinger professes his love for Sansa and Catelyn in the crypts beneath the castle, Jon takes him by the neck—just as Ned Stark did years before—and throws him against the wall. “Touch my sister, and I’ll kill you myself,” Snow warns before storming off. A little more pressure, and Baelish would have died. The North would be freed of its resident dirtbag, and its leaders could focus on the bigger issues at hand. Instead, Baelish is free to hatch plans and tear down our heroes’ inner circle from within. If Jon were smart (and a smidge more ill-tempered), he’d have finished the job.
Jaime Lannister (for Sticking With His Sister)
Alison Herman: One of the few book-reader predictions that hasn’t come true this season—Jon’s parentage being confirmed; Dany coming face to face with her future nephew-husband—is Jaime’s inevitable turn on Cersei, the love of his life and constant bug in his otherwise solid moral compass. Ironically, that turn feels more earned than some of the developments that have gone down, and yet Thrones keeps unrealistically kicking that can down the road, likely to preserve the dramatic fulfillment of the valonqar prophecy for Season 8. This choice has rendered Jaime both massively frustrating and slightly incoherent; if watching his twin kill hundreds of people with wildfire, thereby doing exactly what he once murdered his own king to prevent, didn't turn him against her, what will? I generally don’t like to be reminded of the real world when I’m watching my dragon show, but the King's Landing scenes this season have become essentially a more incesty version of the “what's it gonna take for the GOP to jump ship” game we're playing with the news every day. Add in an obviously-faked-pregnancy-as-loyalty-test and the refusal to concede military defeat or discuss the suicide of your youngest child and you've got some deafening alarm bells Jaime is pointedly ignoring for the sake of stretching out the plot. Maybe Jaime’s just as sick of his LVP status as we are, and charging a dragon head on was just a Jon Snow–style death wish.
David Benioff and D.B. Weiss (for Basic Plotting)
Danny Heifetz: The biggest mistake made this season is by every character who forgets that Jon’s actions over the last season and a half are punishable by death. Yes, Jon’s resurrection technically released him from his Night’s Watch vows, but not everyone knows that he rose from the dead. Everybody from Tyrion to Cersei has failed to ask why the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, who vowed to “hold no lands” and “wear no crowns,” has quit the force and is now the King in the Freakin’ North.
When everyone south of Winterfell has forgotten the rules of the world they reside in, that’s on the writers. Watching this season, you begin to understand why George can’t finish the books. The brilliance of A Song of Ice and Fire is that it feels like a genuine historical account, but history doesn’t have a series finale. As David Benioff and D.B. Weiss try to wrap up this story, the show is losing the essence of what made it special. Complaining about Thrones feels bratty, and I understand that landing this plane means some crucial scenes may not be as meaningful as we’d like. But beheading a Night’s Watch deserter was the first example of Westerosi justice in the whole series, and ignoring the rules of this world now makes characters feel less realistic. Can someone just, I don’t know, ask Jon about this in the next episode so that he can quickly explain it to everyone?
Jon Snow (for Freezing Out Sansa)
Ben Lindbergh: Jon Snow is the Leeroy Jenkins of speaking appearances. In contrast with public figures who seek input from advisers, do dry runs and debate prep, and polish their PowerPoint slides before crucial events where each word and decision matters, Jon just shows up and starts talking without telling anyone what he’s planning to say. Although Sansa sits by his side at Winterfell’s frequent kingly Q&As, ostensibly to present a united Stark-family front, Jon doesn’t give her any early warning about his decisions to show mercy to the Umbers and Karstarks or to answer Daenerys’s summons and leave Sansa in charge. His actions alienate an ally and relative, lead to awful optics, and undermine his authority, all of which could have been avoided had he done Sansa the courtesy of holding brief sidebar discussions before the big meetings, in which she could have aired her objections without an audience.
I’m reaching back a bit for this error—both Jon and others have made more mistakes since then—but its consequences continue to resonate. If Jon had looped in Sansa instead of insisting on doing it live, she wouldn’t be receiving or considering suggestions to usurp him, and Littlefinger’s whispers wouldn’t be working so well.
Daenerys Targaryen (for Letting Her One Good Military Adviser Go North)
Michael Baumann: So here's the situation: Daenerys crossed the sea at the head of a terrifying army, which in turn was defeated roundly. Euron Greyjoy owns the seas, and her three greatest local allies have been killed or captured, all because her military leaders—Grey Worm and Tyrion, I guess?—are either foot soldiers or total amateurs. So when the general who helped her conquer Slaver's Bay shows up at Dragonstone, miraculously cured of his greyscale and as inappropriately horny for her as ever, certainly his health and his timing would be an omen to Dany that maybe she should turn over military control of this whole enterprise to the only person in her inner circle who knows what he's doing.
Or, she could send his old ass north of the Wall to try to round up a wight. This enterprise is almost definitely doomed to fail, and even if they take a wight back to King's Landing, the best-case scenario is that one or more of her trusted deputies will face certain death if they don’t convince Cersei to drop her decades-old vendetta to go fight a supernatural foe she didn’t know existed the day before.
Daenerys might be too stupid to win, even with the dragons.
Disclosure: HBO is an initial investor in The Ringer.