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Game of Thrones countdown to season 7 finale: How Cersei rose from vanity to villainy

With just a week to go to the season finale of Game of Thrones, we are looking back at the journeys of the seven main characters on the show and we begin with the mad queen, Cersei Lannister.

tv Updated: Aug 21, 2017 12:41 IST
Rohan Naahar
Rohan Naahar
Hindustan Times
Game of Thrones,Season 7,Finale
Cersei has come a long way from being vain and jealous to utterly consumed by her greed for power.(HBO)

They say a hero is only as good as the villain. Since Daenerys Targaryen has become one of the most beloved pop culture figures of all time, the credit perhaps shouldn’t be directed at author George RR Martin, or show runners David Benioff and DB Weiss. Perhaps Cersei Lannister is due a pat on the back, or maybe even a medal, or, at the very least, a hug.

She needs one.

But what makes Cersei such a powerful character? Her arc on Game of Thrones certainly isn’t as defined as some of the other characters’. She has, for the most part, been various shades of evil. There are very few times she has had us on her side – and even then, it was out of pity. She is merciless when it comes to victory, ruthless when it comes to leadership, and the only real relationship she has is a romantic one – but with her own brother. All in all, she’s rather despicable. She’s also humourless, jealous and vain. But here’s the thing: She isn’t as one-dimensional as she appears.

Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in season 1.

Sometimes, as in the early seasons, she operated out of insecurity. She would whisper in the ears of powerful men, disrobe in the rooms of others, always to manipulate events in her favour.

This insecurity, this feeling of not being good enough was born out of how her father, Tywin Lannister, treated his children.

Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in season 2.

He loved his sons, Jaime and Tyrion. But he was wary of his daughter, whom he felt was too clever for her own good. This dynamic is as old as the hills. But it tells us the most important thing we could learn about Cersei: She’s a politician. And quite a good one at that.

But most Lannisters are.

Tyrion’s politics are like his personality – diplomatic yet cunning. Jaime is barely a politician, but despite his flaws, he is a man of peace. But the Lannister who bears most similarity to Cersei is, ironically, her father. But perhaps that is the reason he was always so distant.

Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in season 3.

In another world, she could have been a good person – like Daenerys (they are, if you think about it, two sides of the same coin, both rejected, and both self made). But because of how she chose to react to a few pivotal moments in her life, she became who she is. That’s usually how these things work.

Unlike Daenerys, Cersei has always taken the indirect route to the top. While Dany was always made to fight for what she wanted, Cersei was born into privilege. She made her journey on the backs of others. Initially, it was her husband, Robert Baratheon, and then, in the next couple of seasons, her son, Joffrey. When that didn’t work out, she turned to her other son, Tommen, destroying everyone she touched in her quest to win the Iron Throne.

Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in season 4.

And she did. It was her royal butt that sat on the coveted throne at the end of season 6. But it wasn’t the same Cersei as we’d seen before. This Cersei wasn’t driven by power. She was driven by revenge.

In season 5, she was put through what has to be the most arduous moment in her life. When her incestuous relationship with Jaime was discovered, she was punished in the harshest manner possible.

Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in season 5.

Paraded in the streets of her own town, naked, and pelted with garbage, she was reminded of what she used to be: Someone who could be pushed around, because she was powerless; someone who could be shamed, because it wasn’t her position to fight back.

So she vowed to take revenge.

Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in season 6.

And their lies the reason behind her ‘success’. Revenge is an emotion most of us can identify with, but it is also an emotion most of us can’t express. Cersei can. And so we live through her. She’s a survivor. When everyone around her was dropping dead – including her children – she was making sure she lives. Because Cersei isn’t governed by emotion, she operates with an iron fist. Oddly enough, she could be seen as a feminist character – a woman ruler in a world run by men.

The author tweets as @rohannaahar

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First Published: Aug 21, 2017 12:01 IST