Television

Why Cersei is the real hero of Game of Thrones

Cersei doesn’t have a whole lot of sympathy toward her enemies.

Anyone who watches Game of Thrones understands why it would be incredibly easy to hate Cersei Lannister. She’s conniving, undermining, duplicitous, and self-serving. She appears to only care about herself. She is only interested in attaining power for the sake of acquiring power rather than using that power for any particular ‘good.’ She’s proven to be a huge thorn in the side of our favorite characters and has a pretty hideous blond bulb for a haircut. And if that’s not enough, the showrunners have done a pretty good job at intentionally making us, the viewers, dislike her, and pray for her demise at the end of the show because Jon Snow (excuse me, Aegon Targaryen) should be king, not her.

And yes, yes. Perhaps you’re right. As Jaime said in a previous episode, Cersei is hateful. But the only reason she is hateful is because so many people forget the rules to the Game of Thrones. The showrunners have been laying the groundwork for what the rules to the Game of Thrones are, and the only reason people hate Cersei Lannister is because they have been letting their emotions get in the way of their judgement.

Cersei understands how the Game of Thrones is played and is therefore the best candidate to win the show. To everyone’s dismay, I think we shall soon see Cersei victorious and here is why.

Cersei is Tywin’s true heir

Tywin Lannister is concerned with establishing a royal dynasty that would last generations. One of the greatest scenes in the entire show occurs during the first season. Tywin is skinning a deer and talking to Jaime. He explains that they have a chance to establish a dynasty that could last a thousand years. Tywin, unfortunately, is a bit disappointed with his sons. Jaime doesn’t appear to care that much about rule and Tyrion is more interested in ‘whoring’ and drinking than he does about politics.

At one point, Cersei points out to Tywin that she may be the only one who is listening to him. She claims, “Has it ever occurred to you that I may be the one worthy of your admiration and not your sons?” Of course, in the patriarchal society that is Game of Thrones, Tywin only sees Cersei as a political pawn and nothing more. In a way this gives Cersei the fire to prove her father’s worth even after he is gone.

The most shocking moment of Game of Thrones is undoubtedly the Red Wedding. In the episode following the Red Wedding, Tyrion chastises his father a bit for fighting dirty. Tywin retorts stating, “Explain to me why it is more noble to kill 10,000 men in battle than a dozen at dinner.” This line perfectly sums up Tywin’s philosophy. Namely that there are no rules in love and war, as they say. This is a lesson Cersei takes to heart. Look at the Sept of Baelor. Cersei sees an opportunity to take out all her enemies in one fell swoop and she succeeds. It’s a bit shocking but also proves my point. She’s not afraid to fight dirty if that is what is needed in order to vanquish her enemies.

In fact, I think Cersei says it best during the first season. She is talking to Ned Stark and explains, “In the the Game of Thrones, you win or you die.” Ned Stark was a noble man who lived by a set of ethics, but those ethics are what got him killed. He tried to do the right thing and paid the ultimate price for it.

Now for all we know, Cersei might actually be a great ruler. It’s hard to know though, because she has had to spend so much time fighting her enemies. If she were given a chance to just be queen, she might actually surprise us at how good she actually is at it. In a way, I view it as an allegory for feminism. Westeros finally has a woman king but we never get a chance to see her rule because she’s so busy staving off the enemy at the gate; which, to be fair, she’s actually done a pretty good job at so far.

One of the truly unfortunate things about the show is that we never really get much insight in to her motivation. She essentially sacrificed her own children in order to get to where she is, she suffered through a loveless marriage with Robert Baratheon, and she has had to endure betrayal, regret, and humiliation at the hands of her brothers and the High Sparrow. I don’t know exactly what her motivation is aside from the fact that she has to have some in order to keep going. What I find interesting about Cersei is that she has sacrificed way too much in order to give up the thrown to yet another insurgent who seems to want the thrown only because she believes she has a claim to it.

Daenerys Stormborn of the House Targaryen, First of Her Name, the Unburnt, Queen of the Andals and the First Men, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Breaker of Chains, and Mother of Dragons. (And pissed off beyond belief.)

The Daenerys problem

From a historical context, Daenerys is based off of three historical figures. The first is Henry VII, also known as Henry Tudor. The books and the show are loosely based off of the War of the Roses. A period during the British middle ages when there was a series of civil wars within which the Yorks (Starks) and Lancasters (Lannisters) fought over who had the rightful claim to the English thrown. Henry Tudor was able to use this to his advantage to swoop in and take the thrown for himself.

The other two figures Daenerys is based off of are Cleopatra and Joan of Arc. Even for non-historians this should be pretty self-evident. Cleopatra is probably one of the most famous female rulers from history and Joan of Arc was burned at the stake. Daenerys veers away from Joan of Arc obviously because Dany survived the fire, but the similarity is obviously there.

Now, the interesting thing about Henry Tudor is that his ‘sigil,’ as the show calls it, or his banner that he flew above his army was actually a dragon. If Daenerys is supposed to be inspired by Henry Tudor, then this makes me think that the dragons should be viewed as symbolic. In the context of the show, the dragons are literal, but since dragons do not actually exist in real life, then perheps we should view them as symbolic.

Daenerys believes she gets her power and authority from her dragons; and to a large extent, up until this point, that has been true. But does Daenerys actually need her dragons in order to be a great commander? I have a feeling we are going to see the end to all of her dragons very soon. To make an analogy, the dragons are to Dany as the feather is to Dumbo. Dumbo thinks he needs his feather in order to fly, but eventually realizes that he doesn’t need it at all.

So, with that in mind I think the great victory for Daenerys would be in realizing that she doesn’t need her dragons or even the Iron Throne to prove herself. I actually think that Cersei stripping her of her dragons and retaining the Iron Throne is exactly the best ending we can hope for Dany. Let’s set Daenerys back to zero, send her away from Westeros and have her start over with the new wisdom she has attained. That is a personal and story twist that I could be satisfied with. Plus, it could set up a sequel to the show that many people would be excited for.

King in the North. Prettier than both Tormund’s daughters. Still knows nothing.

Jon Snow still knows nothing

I love Jon Snow. We all love Jon Snow. He’s a trained warrior, he’s a natural leader, he’s prettier than both of Tormund’s daughters, he’s the rightful heir to the throne, he’s the underdog of the story, and honestly, who doesn’t love an underdog? The big problem with Jon Snow is that he is a terrible military strategist. He’s survived thus far mostly just out of the luck. The Battle at the Wall, Hardhome, the Battle of the Bastards, and the Battle of Winterfell, were all won mostly out of luck rather than superior military strategy.

He’s fulfilled his destiny as The Prince Who Was Promised by defeating the Night King and, frankly, I think he is primed to serve as a sacrifice. In fact, I can’t help but think that he might sacrifice himself in order to save Tyrion. (Wouldn’t that be a trip.) Fans would obviously be heartbroken by this, but if done right, it could actually be really great. Jon’s sacrifice could bring peace to the kingdom and a satisfying end to the show.

Wild Cards

I don’t have explanations or predictions for Jaime, Sansa, Tyrion, the Hound, or Arya. Frankly, I really have no idea what will happen with them. I’m merely putting forth a prediction for Cersei because I feel like someone needs to root for her since no one else appears to be. Cersei is the smartest character on the show, in my opinion, and at the very least deserves a little more respect than she is currently receiving.

I don’t actually know what’s going to happen in the forthcoming series finale. I could be, and probably am, way off here. It really would not surprise me. If one thing has been made incredibly clear to me, it’s that I have no idea what the showrunners are planning. To be fair though, that’s the reason why we all love this show so much. As far as I know, I don’t think we’ve ever seen a show this unpredictable. It’s the reason we all love it. Literally anything can happen.

Freelance writer and professional gig-worker. I mostly write about the impact of technology on business & culture. Find me on twitter @chasebanderson.

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