Game of Thrones is redefining Cersei Lannister

Spoiler alert!

This opinion piece is intended for folks who’ve already seen the episode, and will include a description of its events!

There was a lot that happened during last night’s season six finale of Game of Thrones. There was a lot of death, a major truth was revealed and, finally, winter arrived.

It was one of the strongest finales the show’s had and wrapped up a death-driven roller coaster of a season. Going into the sixth season knowing that there would be a handful of surprises and revelations that no one knew about beforehand, because the show had finally outpaced the books, still couldn’t have prepared us for all of the truth bombs and deaths that occurred within these 10 episodes.

Certain figures, like Jon Snow, Sansa and Arya Stark, and even Daenerys Targaryen, accumulated the power they needed to finally make their way toward defending their camp, destroying their enemies and building the armies they needed to head to King’s Landing and fight for the Iron Throne. Other figures, like Cersei and Jamie Lannister, struggled with the loss of power and deviously plotted new, disturbing ways to regain that power back.

This isn’t the Cersei that we knew from the first season

As much as the sixth season was about the Starks and Daenerys Targaryen’s moment of uprising, it was also about the frailty of the Lannister family and their descent into a self-destructive maelstrom.

Let’s back it up for a second, all the way to the first season. Cersei Lannister, while not as powerful as she is now, had the world in front of her, bowing down before her and her husband, Robert Baratheon. But she had more than just a tie to the Iron Throne through Robert. She had three children primed to take over the country that were pure Lannister children; a secret affair with her brother Jaime; and a father as diabolical as her to help turn over the leadership from the Baratheons to the Lannisters.

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While Cersei may not have been front and center in terms of controlling King’s Landing, she acted as the puppeteer, using anyone in her vicinity to help make her family become the most important and powerful in Westeros, on top of already being the wealthiest. As much as Cersei wanted power, she also had a lot of pride and adoration for her family of blonde-haired co-conspirators. The Lannisters were a clan and stuck together like a pride of lions, looking out for one another and fighting for the survival of the pack.

Slowly, the family started to disintegrate, but it wasn’t necessarily Cersei’s fault. Tyrion, the brother she despised for “killing” their mother during childbirth, killed their father. Joffrey, her oldest, vilest son, was poisoned and killed after months of torturing those around him. Her daughter, Myrcella, was also poisoned by an enemy, and killed. Cersei was left devastated, and the mourning process was made even more unbearable when she was humiliated in front of all of King’s Landing for her own incestuous deeds.

Finally, last night, Cersei’s last remaining son, King Tommen, committed the most Shakespearean of acts, deciding to kill himself — the irony of jumping out of a window was not lost on the audience — after his wife, Margaery Tyrell, was murdered by his own mother. It was an important moment for numerous reasons, one of the most important being that this was the beginning of the prophecy from the fifth season coming true.

When Cersei was younger, a witch told her she would be queen “for a time,” but then a “younger, more beautiful woman” would come along and usurp her. Cersei killing Margaery was her way of making sure that’s where the prophecy ended, and becoming queen once again. (Of course, we know that Daenerys and her dragons are now on their way to Westeros, gunning for the Iron Throne.)

If Cersei’s actions in the past had an indirect hand in the death of her family members, Robert Baratheon excluded, last night’s finale marked the first time she played a nearly direct role in the death of her youngest son, Tommen, fulfilling the other part of the prophecy that all three of her children would perish.

And while Cersei should have been mourning the loss of her last son, the last child that tied her and Jaime together, she was instead gleeful at the realization that she now commanded total power in King’s Landing. All that she had fought for since the beginning of the series seemed to be coming true, but instead of it being a joyous moment, the entire scene reeked of sadness.

This isn’t the Cersei that we knew from the first season. This isn’t a Lannister that is willing to fight for her children or even her lover anymore.

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This is a lion that has broken off from the rest of the pride and only cares about herself. Cersei wants total power and she finally has it, but she’s sacrificed everyone around her that she once held dear in order to get it. During the finale last night, Cersei said, “I do things because they feel good. I drink because it feels good. I killed my husband because it felt good to be rid of him. I fuck my brother because it feels good to feel him inside me.”

It’s the admittance that Cersei no longer cares what’s good for the Lannister name or good for those closest to her, but her new goal was to make sure she felt good doing what she wanted to do. She was willing to sacrifice the only things that ever mattered to her because the only thing that she cared about at this point in her life was herself.

And that’s incredibly sad. She’s a shell of the person she once was, choosing to rid herself of any humanity she once had in order to sit atop the Iron Throne. The question is whether or not this was the Cersei Lannister that was always meant to be. We’ve always known she was conniving and power-hungry, but there was an element of good still buried deep within her, stopping at nothing to protect her children and Jaime from the cruel harms of the world.

That Cersei Lannister is dead, though. She died the moment she murdered Margaery and set off the cataclysmic events that would lead to the death of her youngest son. This is the new Cersei Lannister, and although she may be the new force to be reckoned with, she’s also become one of the saddest characters in the show.

It’s lonely and dangerous at the top for a solitary lion, and as we head into the final two seasons, it’s something Cersei is going to learn firsthand.

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