Game of Thrones' Episode 5 of Season 8 was an epic feast for the senses, no matter how you feel about where the chips fell at the end of it all. This story has been updated for the developments in Episode 5, "The Bells." Spoilers ahead.
Episode 5 answered a major question that many fans have been wondering all season: "Who will get to kill Cersei Lannister?" Cersei is far and away one of the most hateful characters the show has seen, but Lena Headey's performance has made her a villain plenty of people love to hate.
As she watches Dany rain literal fire down on everything she had built and all her hopes for actually being able to win the final battle for the Iron Throne, a tear slips down her cheek and she tries to make her escape through the crumbling Red Keep along with The Mountain and Qyburn.
"The Valonqar" theory which is featured in the books, but not in the show, suggests that Cersei will meet her end by the hands of a younger sibling. This tidbit is shared with her by a seer who she speaks to as a young girl, a moment you may remember from Season 5. Funnily enough, this is a bit like what happens. After leaving her bodyguard, The Mountain, to his own epic Season 8 battle moment, she runs into her younger brother Jamie, who had cut ties with Jon and Dany in order to return to Cersei. The two of them end up dying together, trapped by rubble in the underbelly of the Red Keep. He raises his hands to her face and tells her that nothing matters except for the two of them. This echoes the ongoing problematic codependency of their relationship as it has carried through the entirety of the show. As Olenna Tyrell put it when speaking to Jamie in Season 7, "She'll be the end of you."
So there you have it. None of those who counted themselves among Cersei's greatest enemies struck the final blow--not even Arya or Dany, who were there to kill her--and now the survivors have to face the next, possibly far larger, threat. Check out our full review of Episode 5 here, or read on for our look at the speculation surrounding how else Cersei might have died.
Original article follows:
There's a high chance that Cersei Lannister will die in the last two episodes of Game of Thrones. The only way she'll live is if she somehow kills basically every other character on the show, almost all of whom want her dead, from Jon Snow and Daenerys to Arya and Sansa.
Episode 5, the penultimate episode to Game of Thrones' Season 8, is shaping up to be a bloodbath, because after many episodes of restraining herself, Daenerys finally seems poised to act, thanks largely to Cersei's provocations.
Dany knows that Jon has a stronger claim to the Iron Throne than she does. She's lost nearly her entire Dothraki army, half her Unsullied army, and her longtime protector and friend, Jorah Mormont. She's lost two out of her three dragon children. And The Mountain just decapitated her advisor and best friend, Missandei. If Dany was ever going to become the Mad Queen, even more dangerous than the one who currently sits on the Iron Throne, now would be the time. And Cersei would be a deserving casualty of Dany's rage.
Mutually Assured Destruction
Cersei said in Season 1: "When you play the Game of Thrones, you win or you die." That's an oft-repeated quip, the type you see on the backs of Blu-ray cases and as the taglines on posters. But there's a much more telling quote about Cersei that came courtesy of 2017 Grandmother of the Year Olenna Tyrell. She mused to Jaime Lannister, prior to her death, about why and how Cersei had beaten her:
"I did unspeakable things to protect my family, or watched them being done on my orders. I never lost a night's sleep over them. They were necessary. And whatever I imagined necessary for the safety of House Tyrell, I did. But your sister has done things I wasn't capable of imagining. That was my prize mistake. A failure of imagination."
There is still time left for Cersei to shock and appall us--to make a play so despicable and beyond the pale that it is outside the scope of what her enemies can conceive. She already blew up the Sept of Baelor; she could blow up the rest of the wildfire that the Mad King stockpiled throughout King's Landing, killing herself, her enemies, innocent subjects, or any combination of those groups. Whoever's left standing may need to rebuild the city from the ground up, or abandon King's Landing--and the Iron Throne--entirely.
Dany had a vision in Season 2, during which she saw a crumbling Red Keep and an Iron Throne covered in snow. For the longest time, fans believed the White Walkers would come to King's Landing. But in light of their demise, theorists are reinterpreting the dream's imagery. Perhaps the white flakes falling from the sky are not snow, but ash. And perhaps we are seeing the end result of an attack on King's Landing.
Will Cersei's pregnancy restrain her depravity? It's unlikely. Time and again, Cersei has proved that she doesn't plan ahead; she commits actions to solve her immediate problems without taking into account the repercussions. It's why she empowers the High Sparrow to disgrace the Tyrells, and is later shocked when the Faith Militant attack her. It's why she destroys the Sept of Baelor, killing the High Sparrow and Margaery, while remaining oblivious to the effect it will have on Tommen.
Cersei will not hesitate to do anything, no matter how extreme, because she will assume, rightly or wrongly, that she will escape unscathed. And if she's cornered, facing death? The last time she was cornered at the end of Season 2, she was prepared to end her and Tommen's life via poison, and nearly did so.
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This is, of course, assuming that Cersei is pregnant in the first place. At the end of Episode 4, Tyrion appeals to Cersei's maternal side—that by avoiding war, she can save the life of her unborn child. Cersei is unmoved. And this might imply, assuming that Cersei has any humanity left, that her pregnancy was a lie, and thus, she doesn't have anything to lose.
Granted, the Cersei we've come to know over the past seven seasons would have taken the opportunity of that meeting outside King's Landing's gates to annihilate her enemies then and there, so maybe the ruthless queen really has changed.Either that, or the show's writing has gone to hell, and we can't expect the characters to act in predictable, logical ways anymore.
In Season 5, we got a flashback to Cersei as a young girl, receiving a prophecy from Maggy, a witch who lived on her father's lands. She says this: "You will never wed the prince. You will wed the king... You will be queen for a time, then comes another, younger, more beautiful, to cast you down and take all you hold dear... The king will have 20 children. And you will have three. Gold will be their crowns, gold their shrouds."
All of these prophecies are either starting to come true, or already have. Cersei did wed the king, Robert Baratheon, who had many illegitimate children. Cersei did have three children by her brother Jaime: Joffrey, Myrcella, and Tommen, all of whom are dead. And lastly, she is queen, although Daenerys is poised to take her spot.
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The show left out, however, the final line of the prophecy, from the book A Feast For Crows:
"And when your tears have drowned you, the valonqar shall wrap his hands about your pale white throat and choke the life from you."
Valonqar is a High Valyrian word that translates to little brother. Assuming that this "little brother" kills Cersei--and that the ending of the show roughly approximates the end of the books--here are some theories about who that murderous little bro might be.
Cersei has two "little brothers." The first, more obvious candidate is Tyrion, who is both small in stature and younger than Cersei. He would have the motive to kill her, although the means and opportunity for him are less clear.
Jaime, despite being Cersei's twin, is technically younger than her, because she was born first. He is currently heading back to King's Landing. If he remains "loyal" to her and stays by her side, he could be in the best position to kill her—especially if she orders something drastic, like lighting the remaining caches of wildfire beneath the city.
Perhaps the valonqar is The Hound, who is consistently referred to as the younger brother in relation to his older brother, The Mountain. Assuming the two men fight each other in what has come to be known by fans as Cleganebowl, The Hound may also get close enough to Cersei to kill her, because The Mountain is acting as Cersei's personal guard. Where she goes, he goes too.
And lastly, the valonqar could be Arya, who is the youngest surviving child of Ned Stark. Fans debate whether the term valonqar could be gender neutral (like Azor Ahai proved to be), but even if it's not, Arya has been mistaken more than once over the years for a boy. Arya has also sworn herself to killing Cersei and is likely heading to King's Landing at the end of Episode 4 to do just that.
Whoever kills Cersei, the audience won't know until the very last minute. All four leading candidates will be in close proximity to her. Tyrion will be nearby as Dany's advisor. Jaime is currently traveling to King's Landing. And The Hound and Arya are also traveling to King's Landing, having met up along the way.
Cersei has never been able to escape her fate before. It's unlikely she'll start now.