(GoT – Spoilers)
Cersei Lannister is one of my favorite villains.
Well, season 1-6 Cersei Lannister, anyway.
Lena Headey did a masterful job portraying the character. Cersei could easily have devolved into something cliched – a mere femme fatale. But while the show had her occasionally use sex to get what she wanted, they didn’t turn her into a woman for whom seduction was a primary weapon to be wielded like a nuclear warhead. She simply recognized sex as a tool and used it when it was the most efficient tool to use, which wasn’t that often.
Instead, Cersei developed into a complicated, nuanced villain. Someone you could hate, and yet, understand how she arrived where she was. Her motivations weren’t just a petty pursuit of power. She genuinely loved Jamie, her twin and the father of her children. She genuinely loved her children. She’d been softer once, too. She’d been a little girl that lost her beloved mother, leaving her with a cruel father that dismissed her as anything beyond a vagina to use for political alliance.
She’d actually thought perhaps she and Robert Baratheon could build something worthwhile together, only to discover that he didn’t give a shit about her, either. So Cersei lived her life for the children she and Jamie had together, and she stopped even trying to care about anyone else. She became ruthless and willing to do anything to protect her children. She killed to preserve their safety and station in life, over and over and over. Successfully.
When her last child died, she ascended to the Iron Throne with a heart harder than the throne itself. She’s evil, ruthless, and while she’s not presented as being as smart as Tywin, her father, or Tyrion, her brother, she’s smart enough to have successfully dispatched a whole lot of her enemies and become queen. Most people only realized they underestimated her as they were dying, if they had time to realize anything.
Up all the way through episode 4 of season 8, Cersei is shown as someone that has become a force to be feared. Episode 4 sets her up as a genuine threat, possibly even having a chance at walking away the winner and keeping her throne.
And then we get to episode 5. Nothing Cersei has done matters any more. The plot has said Dany conquers King’s Landing, and Cersei is forced on board that train. She spends the entire episode just watching and looking helpless. Cersei, who had previously been prepared to kill her children and herself rather than be taken alive by her enemies. Eventually Jamie shows up, they have a tearful reunion, and proceed to the depths of the Red Keep.
And then the Red Keep falls on Cersei.
That’s it. That’s the exit given one of the best female villains in cinematic history. A bunch of bricks fall on her head. They could have had her become the winner. People would probably have been furious, but it would have been a very Game of Thrones finale. She could have been killed by Jamie, or Arya, or Arya posing as Jamie, or executed by Dany, or even committed suicide, but no, she whimpers a lot and then dies because a bunch of bricks fall on her head.
Joffrey’s death was satisfying. Ramsey Bolton’s death was satisfying. Walder Frey’s death was satisfying. Tywin Lannister’s death was satisfying.
Cersei Lannister’s death felt incredibly anticlimactic. What the hell kind of an ending was that for the show’s biggest, longest-lasting villain?
Once again, I was left to wonder how the hell Benioff and Weiss have a reputation as good writers.