In chess, everyone knows the most powerful piece is the queen. The same goes for Game of Thrones. On one side of the board is the dark, villainous Queen Cersei. She's the Lady Macbeth of the show. That is, a Lady Macbeth who kills her husband and considers the blood on her hands a fashion statement. On the opposite side is the valiant, fair Queen Daenerys, Mother of Dragons, Breaker of Chains...and approximately seventy-two thousand other titles. She defends the innocent and breaks the wheel, a battle-tested Mother Teresa. Simple as Frey pie, isn't it?
Mua-ha-ha. When you play the game of thrones, nothing is ever that simple. Sure, if you played a drinking game to every time Cersei did something awful, you'd be drunker than Tyrion after a night at the brothel. But she has her reasons for doing evil, some of which are understandable—in a funhouse mirror sort of way. Then there's Dany, who's no saint. For every good deed, she does about ten bad ones. These tend to multiply like maggots on a corpse. Is Dany power-mad...or just plain mad? And when the dust settles and the blood dries....which queen is worse?
10 Cersei - Reinstates the Faith Militant
Margaery Tyrell has been a rose thorn in Cersei's side for months on end. Being forced to endure that much passive-aggressiveness would compromise even the most rational ruler's decision-making abilities, let alone Cersei's. For her, even as a queen, vengeance is the new logic. So, in a rash attempt to eliminate Margaery, Cersei empowers the Faith Militant, a religious military group, in order for them to arrest Margaery and her associates for crimes against morality.
About that. Warping religion to acquire power is nothing new—in fiction or reality—and falls completely into Cersei's wheelhouse of doing whatever it takes to suit her own selfish means. It's too bad that Cersei's master plan fails to account for the fact that she's as big a sinner as they come. Margaery is a septa compared to her. Not so shockingly, the Faith Militant arrests Cersei as well. Even naughty queens get the time-out chair.
9 Dany - Crucifies 163 masters
You know what they say: the road to Meereen is paved with good intentions. When Dany rolls into town, she makes quick work of liberating tons of slaves from their masters. This is beyond commendable, but as universally abhorrent as slavery is, it's a deep-rooted practice in Meereen. The Breaker of Chains would have done well to think about that.
Especially after former masters crucify 163 children as retribution for Dany's actions. It's a monstrous act and should have served as a lesson to Dany to use forethought befitting of a ruler. Instead, she doubles down on her impaled hand for impaled hand philosophy, crucifying 163 masters as retribution. Those who worship at the altar of poetic justice would do well to visit the temple of long-term thinking.
8 Cersei - Blows up the Sept of Baelor
When life hands Cersei lemons, she makes her enemies bleed. For tyrannical rulers like her, who find themselves drowning in their own political mess, sometimes the only option is the nuclear option. After Cersei's walk of atonement, her foes think they have her beat. Big mistake. Under their hubris, they all congregate in the Sept of Baelor for her trial. Bigger mistake. The Faith Militant and the Tyrells alike go up in flames as Cersei watches with glee over a goblet of wine.
Her son Tommen's reaction is the exact opposite. Heartbroken at the loss of Margaery, Tommen hurls himself out a window. In her quest for revenge, Cersei loses sight of what she loves most in the world. A sad moment to be sure, though everyone in that sept had it coming. Still, while this is a strong contender for the most badass moment of the entire series, it's an undeniable act of domestic terrorism.
7 Dany - Exiles Jorah
Fewer wounds cut deeper than a dear friend's betrayal. Jorah is Dany's most trusted confidante, so when he reveals that he was a spy for Robert Baratheon, one can understand why Dany is upset. But as Queen of the Reactionary, her response is over-the-top, even by her standards. She exiles Jorah from Meereen at risk of decapitation.
Fair trials really leave a bad taste in Dany's mouth. She should have thought this one through. Yes, Jorah betrayed her, and her trust in him is injured. But does it have to be broken? After all, he stops spying and solely devotes himself to her, even when he has permission to return to Westeros. And aside from needing to play the haughty victim, this is a dumb move on Dany's part. She has enemies at every turn, so why exile the one man who has your back? Forget mad queen, it's moves like this that make Dany a bad queen.
6 Cersei - Forces Ellaria to watch her daughter's death
A Lannister always pays her debts...especially in the form of revenge. Leave it to Cersei to dream up the evilest sort imaginable. Ellaria Sand kills Cersei's daughter Myrcella with a brutal poison called the Long Farewell, named for the torturous amount of time it takes to kill its victim. So when Ellaria and her daughter Tyene are in Cersei's clutches, she gives Tyene the same poison. As much as Cersei may want to kill and torture Ellaria, keeping her alive and well to watch her daughter die is the worst sort of retaliation imaginable.
Cersei has made a lifetime of sadistic, questionable decisions but most of them have been for her own political advancement. She has absolutely nothing to gain from killing the Sand women but goes ahead and does it anyway. The things we do for revenge...
5 Dany - Executes Mossador
Like her dragons breathe fire, Dany breathes hypocrisy. When the Sons of the Harpy, a vigilante group opposed to Dany's rule, wreaks havoc on Meereen, Daario and Grey Worm capture one for her. Dany has to be counseled into giving him a fair trial as opposed to executing him outright. Mossador, a former slave is vocally opposed. He takes matters into his own hand, killing the Son before trial.
This was not smart. But Dany of all people should be able to relate to Mossador's desire for bloody justice. Yes, he needs to be punished, so is it really that crazy to give Mossador his own trial? Does Dany not see the irony of executing him instead of allowing him to stand trial? Mossador's execution leads to a riot and proves to be yet another deposit in Dany's bank of bad decisions.
4 Cersei - Lies about sending troops to the Battle of the White Walkers
Though she detests the North, Cersei really is the snow queen...in that she snows everybody, including her brother Tyrion. He shows up to King's Landing with Jon and Dany, pleading Cersei to call an armistice until the White Walkers are vanquished. Jon uses a live wight as a visual aide, and Cersei is visibly flustered. She agrees to send her troops to Winterfell to join the fight.
Silly rabbits. Truth is for Starks. Cersei's display is nothing but a mummer's farce. She has no intention of supplying a single man to the cause. Cersei is so twisted by corruption, she can't possibly see what she has to gain by doing the right thing. If the White Walkers were to win, it wouldn't matter anyway but if they were to fall, she might be able to use the temporary alliance with her enemies to find a peaceful solution. Instead, she's just guaranteeing that one way or the other, a powerful faction is coming for her head, undead or not.
3 Dany - Fries the Tarlys
Dany may wear a mask of nobility, but lest we forget she comes from a long line of egotistical barbarians. All her claims to be different, both from her ancestors and past rulers of Westeros, go up in flames here. After Dany and her dragons win a battle against the Lannister and Tarly factions, Randyll and Dickon Tarly are the only ones to refuse to bend the knee. Dany swiftly orders her dragons to burn them to a crisp.
Talk about a hotheaded move. As much as Dany may believe the Iron Throne is rightfully hers, even if she were successful in taking it, who does she want to rule? A realm of people who adore her or who loathe and fear her? She's not just burning Tarlys; Dany's also burning bridges with other nobilities whom she should want on her side.
2 Cersei - Executes Missandei
After a walk of atonement and the deaths of her three children, one might think Cersei learned that karma hangs around like a bad smell. When she gets Missandei in her clutches, Cersei has everything to gain by sparing her and everything to lose by executing her.
Cersei faces all-out battle with a faction that includes dragons. The writing is on the wall. Show's over, you had a good run. Besides, Missandei was barely in Cersei's orbit until she was captured. Alas, Lannisters are gonna Lannister. By making her choice, Cersei didn't just seal Missandei's fate; she sealed her own.
1 Dany - Burns King's Landing
Great balls of fire! Forget breaking the wheel—Dany burns the wheel. Along with Cersei, Jaime, and thousands of innocent people. Yes, the Lannisters have done unspeakably horrible things, as Missandei's disembodied head can attest. But guess what? They surrendered. Dany calls herself the Mother of Dragons, but a better name would be Mother of War Crimes.
This was a polarizing shock for viewers. To many, it completely brushes against the Daenerys Targaryen, Protector of the Seven Kingdoms, who we've been watching for a decade. But looking back at the greatest hits of her atrocities, it makes total sense. All hail the Mad Queen...for now.