Cersei Lannister: Why She Worked and How the Show Ruined Her

I’m just going to keep doing these until I finally get around to reviewing season eight. Don’t worry; there are plenty of characters to choose from.

Cersei Lannister was one of the most complex and compelling characters in the entire series. Of all the Lannisters, she is among the most antagonistic. She is selfish, sinister, cunning, and incredibly spiteful. When we first meet her, she is cold and distant from those around her. Then she fucks her brother in a tower and orders him to shove a little boy out of a window. Just like Jaime and Varys and so many other characters, we’re lead to assume she’s a pure evil villain.

But then she goes to visit Catelyn at Bran’s bed. Here, she drops her sinister and manipulative side and shows some actual empathy. At first, you may be lead to believe that she’s doing it for some kind of scheme. But later on, after you’ve learned more about her, you realize that she was being completely genuine in this moment.

That’s because Cersei has one major redeeming quality: her love for her children. She shows the ferocity of a lion (get it?) when it comes to defending her three children. Almost every single action she takes is motivated by the one objective of protecting them. She is willing to go to any extreme, such as sacrificing the entirety of Kings Landing to get Joffrey off the battlefield.

However, she’s not an idiot. She knows and understands her children. She knows that Joffrey is a horrible monster; she may know that better than anyone. Yet even still, she continues to spoil him and protect him. Right up until he dies in her arms, at which point she shifts gears to avenging him and protecting Tommen.

We see this most in book four and season five, where Cersei starts to become a much more active character in the narrative. Her position in the government is slipping and her ability to watch over her children with it. So she begins to replace those around her with her own followers and taking gambles on new avenues of gaining power, like using the church. She isn’t trying to become more powerful in order to take the Iron Throne for herself, she simply wants to keep the little boy sitting on it alive and happy.

That’s what made Cersei so compelling. She did horrible things but her goals were always a little justified. She was every bit as loving and protective as she was diabolical and sinister.

Aaaand then D&D turned her into a fucking comic book villain.

Come seasons seven and eight, Cersei stops behind subtle or compassionate. Instead, she goes all-in on the sinister side. She straight-up bombs her own city, which directly causes her son Tommen to jump out of a window and kill himself. She plants her own ass on the Iron Throne and becomes a tyrant. Anything she had before to make her sympathetic completely vanishes.

It gets even worse in season eight, when her agency in the story is completely taken away. She spends the whole season looking out of windows and complaining about elephants. Then, as one last middle finger, the writers drop rubble on her and kill her. What a compelling end to one of the most morally complex and intriguing characters in the series.

Cersei deserved a much better ending than she got. From the very beginning, she was an incredibly memorable and human character. For her to be reduced to a fantasy equivalent of Lex Luthor is the ultimate slight against her. Not even Varys got it so bad.

Although I do think that Jaime got it worse.

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