Cersei Lannister Rose to the Top of a Crumbling Kingdom

All Hail Cersei Lannister, First of Her Name, Queen of the Andals and the First Men, and Ruler of the Seven Kingdoms. Well...not anymore.

Illustration for article titled Cersei Lannister Rose to the Top of a Crumbling Kingdom

After conspiring her way to the Iron Throne, Queen Cersei Lannister was finally defeated in the penultimate episode of Game of Thrones, left to die in the cellars of the Red Keep along with her true love, her brother Jaime Lannister. It was a strong but divisive end to an even stronger and more divisive character. We loved her, but we also loved to hate her.

Cersei was motivated by one thing: Power. But she spent most of her life being held back by the men around her. Her husband Robert Baratheon didn’t respect her. Her father Tywin underestimated her abilities and intelligence. Her brother Tyrion betrayed her—at least from her point of view. Even Cersei’s sons eventually turned against her, with Joffrey choosing to belittle her and Tommen falling prey to whoever’s voice was the loudest. This was especially hard for Cersei, as her children (especially Myrcella) were the only people she actually cared about. And when they died, so did a part of herself.


The only one who ever truly cared about her was Jaime, although she still resented him. He was born with power, while she had to earn hers. Which she did, by doing what she was best at: scheming. Cersei was behind some of the most ruthless and magnificent moments in Game of Thrones. She arranged Robert’s murder. She helped frame Tyrion for Joffrey’s death. She brought militant theocracy to King’s Landing because she didn’t like her son’s girlfriend. And when that didn’t work, she blew them all up.

Cersei was willing to do anything to get the Iron Throne—and then, when she got there, she did even more to keep it. Let’s not forget how she tricked Daenerys Targaryan, Jon Snow, and Tyrion into fighting the White Walkers by themselves, just so she could stay safe and alive for the next fight. Cersei knew how to play the game, but unfortunately not quite enough to win it for good.

She spent most of the final season doing pretty much nothing, assuming she’d put all the pieces into place to ensure her final victory. But not only did she wrongly think her enemies would mostly fall to the White Walkers, she grossly underestimated the lengths Daenerys would go to take the crown she’d worked so hard for herself.

Back in season one, Cersei Lannister told Ned Stark that in the game of thrones, you win or you die. For Cersei, winning was everything. But if you’re the queen of a crumbling kingdom, there’s nowhere to go but down.


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Video Editor and Staff Writer at io9. My doppelganger is that rebelling greeting card from Futurama.


A Lantern of Hope

I feel like the series would have been much better served if they had dealt with her first, then the White Walkers, mainly because she basically did nothing through half of Season 8 until she (and Euron) suddenly had to become a major threat again because the “plot” demanded it. Imagine Daenerys still doing what she did, but the Snow Alliance still needing her for the war with the Night King. I think that would have made for much better drama.