Watching Game Of Thrones this season has been… interesting. Maybe it’s the fact we had to wait years – literal years – for this six episode season, but critique has been high on each and every episode. People are analysing everything from the big battle of the dead, to character arcs, to the portrayal of women on the show.
It’s that last one that got me thinking today. Well, got me in conversation with my Editor Josie. We were discussing whether Sansa‘s character arc and the fact it relies heavily on her rape and mistreatment by Ramsay Bolton was problematic or not, when we got to talking about other female characters in the show. In particular, Josie said something interesting to me about Cersei Lannister – the current Queen of the Seven Kingdoms if you go by who literally sits on the Iron Throne.
“I just feel like she’s become such an evil queen stereotype, you know? They’re actually dressing her like Maleficent these days.”
She’s not wrong – Cersei’s outfits went from your standard medieval-esque gowns to straight-up metal shouldered war gowns in Lannister red and black. These days she permanently has a bitchy scowl on her face, looking down upon seemingly everyone and showing little emotion besides hatred.
Look, Cersei Lannister has always been a bit of a selfish asshole. Let’s not sit here pretending the character was anything but self-serving, you know? But think back to early seasons – Cersei was more nuanced than just some psychotic power-tripper who relished in others pain and suffering. Yes, she was protective about her family above almost all else, including morals such as not pushing children out windows. But she wasn’t an outright monster.
She grieved her mother, who she lost as a child. She was truly excited to marry Robert Baratheon, until he treated her like shit because he loved Lyanna Stark even in her death.
Cersei never wanted Ned Stark to die – she was angry at Joffrey for switching things up at the last second. She never enjoyed the way Joffrey played with Sansa or any of the innocent people he would fuck with during his reign – sometimes she would pull him back a bit, other times she sat there looking uncomfortable. Regardless, she didn’t enjoy watching others suffer unless they were her direct enemy.
For most of the series, Cersei’s motivation has been purely family. She would protect her children and their futures at almost any cost. Over the course of the series we’ve seen her become more focused on her own needs FAR above all else, yes. We’ve also seen her become hell-bent on revenge to the point of enjoying people’s pain who once hurt her, like Ellaria Sand.
Her decision last season to stay in Kings Landing and not venture up North to help Dany etc fight the White Walkers was very much in line with her character, I believe, and a pivotal moment. Cersei didn’t want to risk the loss of her own army. In what I believe was an act of desperation to keep the throne after being confronted with Daenerys’ dragons, she decided she’d rather other people fight that battle – ensuring their armies were depleted and were easier to defeat. In that moment, especially given Jaime tried to reason with her and she banished him for it, she became entirely obsessed with power.
It absolutely makes sense that Cersei is now clutching to the throne, and barely gives a shit about anything else. But this is one of the most interesting characters Game Of Thrones has given us, and I feel like it’s a disservice to simply see Cersei only in her scheming and plotting moments, with none of her humanity. Her humanity is what made her such a complex character, and it feels like it’s been completely forgotten this season.
It’s more to do with how much we’re seeing of Cersei Lannister, I think. So far, we’ve only seen her a handful of times and it’s really been about her manipulating Euron into thinking she’s pregnant with his child, and refusing to concede to Daenerys and killing her best friend in the process. The one moment of anything deeper than outright hate and power-grabbiness was when Tyrion mentioned her children to her. Here, we got a brief bit of emotion from Cersei before she ordered Missandei‘s head off.
Perhaps the reason she’s not getting any more airtime is because this season feels rushed. I’ve said this before, when I wrote out my musings about the battle against the dead last week. It feels like this season needed more episodes, and things needed to progress further in season 7 to really give these unbelievably excellent characters and their arcs the time to develop wholly.
The thing is, Cersei’s character needs to be shown outside of big moments because it’s when she’s alone or with those she cares about that she reveals her humanity, so with this season cramming in so much action she’s become this one-dimensional evil queen. It’s fine for characters like Jon Snow and Daenerys, whose character development relies on action or pivotal moments to the current plot.
I guess what I’m saying is I wish this season was a few episodes longer so we could get some more of that fantastic Cersei complexity, because sadly, I think we’ll just be given this Evil Queen Cersei Lannister version until the moment she dies.