Cersei Lannister

Written by @EllieDangerous
Although as vulnerable as any other expendable soul in 'Game of Thrones', Cersei’s every inflection makes us hate her. But it’s a very particular kind of hate. We don't want her to die screaming in a vat of Lannister gold, we just want her to stop, and the only way to do that is to make her happy. So this is how to bring happiness to Lena Headey’s reprehensible Queen.

Spoiler Alert
It can’t be done. Sorry about that. Go away.

No no, come back! I have to tell you something.

Cersei Lannister seethes beneath a veneer of ladylike grace and maturity, but she’s cold, cruel, scornful, and flippantly responsible for more than a few deaths. She is this way because she’s miserable and resentful, but unfortunately there’s no solution to this. She can't be happy, and that’s because all three paths to her happiness are completely closed off.

The first stretches back to the moment of her birth. “I should have been born a man”, she once told us. “I’d rather face a thousand swords than be shut up inside with this flock of frightened hens”. Cersei is bold and commanding, neither of these traits having ever been deemed acceptable in a noble lady of Westeros. If she'd been born a man, she could be happy.

It’s a regret she’s voiced before; even back in the comparably peaceful days of King Robert’s reign. “I should wear the armour”, she told her husband. “And you the gown”. It earned her a slap. Every rattle of her royal cage has earned her a slap of some kind.

This is because Cersei – like half the audience – resents the cold fact that Westeros has no interest in a woman’s opinions, and discovers again and again that this will not change in her lifetime.

But there is a second way to make her happy, and it’s more controversial than beard envy: give her heart back to Jaime Lannister. If ever there was an antidote to her venomous loneliness, it’s him.

Their relationship is a fairly grotesque path to happiness, what with all the incest. The twins were born and raised together, at some point a bit of sex happened over their morning cornflakes, then they were lovers with three illegitimate children mistaken for King Robert's.

When Jaime was captured by Robb Stark in the wake of battle, a forceful separation of the Lannister twins began. Time and space ruptured Cersei’s feelings for Jaime, and by the time he returned to her he was a grim and grimy shadow of his former self. His former self, incidentally, is arguably simply the male version of her. Perhaps that’s exactly why she was in love with him.

Together they are one loathsome narcissist, torn apart when their self-worth is threatened and they each begin to lose what they most identify themselves by – power. This happens when Jaime loses his physical power (his hand is hacked off) and Cersei begins to lose her aristocratic power (the game of thrones turns against her).

If Cersei found a way to love Jaime again perhaps she’d find happiness in his one good arm, but she can’t respect him without self-respect, and she’ll never have self-respect without power.

Power is the third and final way to make Cersei happy. She wants the power to wreak vengeance on Tyrion, who she claims to hate for killing their parents but hates more for outsmarting her at every turn. She wants the power to bring back her daughter Myrcella, who it seems has moved on from her mother and into a childlike courtship in the Water Gardens of Dorne. She wants power over her son King Tommen, who has also moved on from his mother, naively replacing Cersei’s manipulative affection with that of his new wife Margaery.

It’s Margaery she wants power over most of all, because Margaery has achieved happiness through exactly that. They both want the same power, but neither can share it. Cersei wanted it first, and almost had it for a time, but now it belongs to her rival. A witch predicted this to Cersei long ago, so she's been dreading it ever since.

Do you feel sorry for her yet? I do. When she’s around Margaery we’re compelled to sympathise with Cersei, perhaps because the balance of power is these days weighted so heavily towards the former. Her pain and Margaery’s veiled scorn is so obvious that we feel for the Queen Mother and all her malice.

So for a moment we don’t want to douse Cersei in happiness just to extinguish her fire and stop her victims burning. We want her to be happy because perhaps she deserves it. Just for one mad moment.

At time of writing we’ve just hit the midway point of the fifth season of ‘Game of Thrones’, and Cersei’s role is a big one. Thanks to the unquenchable depths of the character’s thirst for power, and Lena Headey giving her the perfect balance of nuanced strategy and self-entitled fury, Cersei is one of the show’s leading players.

Thankfully, ‘Game of Thrones’ can longer be relied upon to follow the plots of the books on which they’re based, so we don’t know what’s coming for this complicated villain. We just know it's not happiness.
This is what ruling is: lying on a bed of weeds, ripping them out by the root, one by one, before they strangle you in your sleep.
We have another wolf.
Ellie Ball is the founder of Good Characters, and someone who enjoys coffee cake a great deal. She is a graduate of the Scriptwriting MA at Goldsmiths, University of London. For fun and respite, check out her TV analysis articles on Bang2Write or tweet coffee cake at her @EllieDangerous.
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Published on 14 May 2015

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