Without the many complex, dynamic characters that exist within the plot, Game of Thrones would not be the popular show it has become today. Throughout it all, Cersei Lannister has been one of those great characters. From secretly having her husband poisoned to helping a religious extremist rise to power as way to throw her son’s fiancé in jail, she knows how to hold her own and get exactly what she wants. She is a villian we love to hate. But, in the season finale, we saw Cersei at her most vulnerable, a side we have never seen before.
Born an older twin by a few minutes, from the beginning of the show, Cersei makes it well known that she despises the drawback to being born a woman. As a man and the older son, she would have been heir to the Lannisters. But, because of her gender, she is used as a pawn in marriage over and over. She certainly likes the taste of power and takes advantage whenever she can.
What makes her more than simply an evil character, however, is how she thinks. Every move she makes has a purpose, though her anger often gets the better of her, leading her to make rash decisions. She knows when to lie in wait and when to make her move. She is ruthless, and like all good Lannisters, always pays her debts. Everything she does, she does for her family, especially her children.
But what makes her such a complicated character is the rare moments when she shows her vulnerabilties. When it comes to her children or lover/brother Jamie, her true feelings show through. When Joffrey’s life appears to be in danger or Tyrion sends her daughter away, Cersei tries to protect them.
The season finale shows us this more than ever. In the last episode, Cersei has lost control of the High Sparrow, who arrests Margery, then turns on Cersei. The finale begins with the question— “Will Cersei break or stay strong?”
Though she does confess, it is only to the sin that Lancel Lannister has accused her of—the very thing that has driven him to his newfound religion. Even in her weakest moment, she is calculated. She understands that confessing to everything would only drag her down further. The scene in which Cersei is absolved of her sins is one of the most powerful moments of the season. The sheer humiliation of being forced to walk naked among the very people you once ruled over would humble anyone, much less the Queen. In this moment, her worst fear is realized—she is powerless to speak up for herself.
This is what makes her human. No matter how many terrible deeds she does or people she has murdered, she still has wants, needs, desires and fears. She’s not pure evil, like Joffrey or Ramsey Snow. Where Joffrey is cruel (like making Sansa look at her beheaded father), she is calculating and cold. She knows the game that’s being played and knows that, “When you play the Game of Thrones, you either win or you die.”
During what become known as “her walk of shame”, Cersei finally breaks down, collapsing in the street and then again later on, when she finally makes it inside the Red Keep. This is a reality check for us, showing that under her armor and her fierceness, she is still human. The look in her eyes as the recreated Mountain carries her away is clear- she may be down, but she is certainly not out. She will have her revenge.
For any show to gain a strong following, you need stories that keep them hooked. In Game of Thrones, so much of what makes the show stand out is the villains to match the heroes. It’s the drama and gripping twists that make us love this show. Without characters like Cersei, the show would be flat and lacking color. We love to hate the bad characters and cheer with the good ones. Those “Oh no she didn’t” and the “Oh my god, what just happened” moments can make or break a show. And that’s what keeps us watching, isn’t it?