Cersei Lannister Must Die.
Look, I don’t like it any more than you do (ok, that’s probably not true, as I basically make up like 37.8% of the “Still Stanning for Cersei” fan club at this point), but it has to happen. From a writing/logistical standpoint, the character doesn’t project as having an integral role to play in the War for the Dawn (which ostensibly will make up the entirety of season 8), and HBO likely can’t afford to pay Lena Headey $500,000 per episode to menacingly saunter around an increasingly chilly King’s Landing without her doing something to advance the plot. Headey’s performance as the Queen/Queen Consort/Queen Mother/Queen Regent/General HBIC has been one of the series’ most powerful since the pilot, but her character has, unfortunately, nearly run its course.
But the reason that she really has to die is because an old woman who lives in a bog and probably hasn’t showered in 800 years said so. And if the fantasy genre has taught us anything, it’s that centuries-old hermits who live every day like it’s Halloween are all-knowing and could probably cure cancer if they weren’t more interested in scaring children and turning people into dinosaurs.
My real magical power is putting on eyeliner without a mirror | HBO
Here’s Maggy the Frog’s full prophecy from the books, half of which the show decided to omit:
“Queen you shall be . . . until there comes another, younger and more beautiful, to cast you down and take all that you hold dear.”
“Gold shall be [your children’s] crowns and gold their shrouds,” she said. “And when your tears have drowned you, the valonqar shall wrap his hands about your pale white throat and choke the life from you.”
Now, let’s unpack this, starting from the most obvious — Cersei’s three children are all dead, which is the part of the prophecy that the show has placed the most emphasis on. We’re also seeing Cersei’s “pale white throat” begin to take shape, as she’s been wearing a turtleneck since the end of season 6, which combined with Winter finally coming to the South bodes for a sans-tan Cersei.
From there, it gets a little bit trickier. The most obvious interpretation of the rest of the prophecy is that Margaery Tyrell was the “younger and more beautiful” usurper, and that the valonqar (High Valyrian for “little brother”) would be Tyrion Lannister, due to his and Cersei’s general distaste for each other. But this is Game of Thrones, and nothing is ever as obvious as it seems.
I’m about to get super semantic here, so I apologize in advance.
Cersei was never “Queen (full stop)” until she blew up the Sept of Baelor and drove Tommen Baratheon to suicide. Before that moment, she had previously been Queen Consort (to Robert Baratheon), Queen Regent (to Joffrey Baratheon) and Queen Mother (to Tommen). And, while this might seem like overanalyzing the minutiae of specific titles that nobody outside of the Red Keep gives two shits about, the next line seals it — Margaery didn’t cast her down and take all that she holds dear. Myrcella Baratheon was still alive when Margaery figuratively “took” Tommen from her, and she also still had her endless supply of Pinot Noir which, let’s be honest, will always be her most trusted lover and confidant.
With Margaery out of the picture (like, I think her ashes were literally blown off screen when the Sept exploded), that leaves Young and Beautiful Lana Del Rey Daenerys Targaryen, who is also coincidentally calling herself Queen these days, to be the one to exact the will of the Frog on our beloved Cersei. Operating under that assumption, we can pretty safely conclude that the Lioness won’t meet her demise until after a decisive confrontation with the Dragon Queen (plus, there would probably be riots in the streets the world over if we somehow reached the end of the show without those two meeting face to face, with Jaime and Tyrion hype-manning off to the side).
Now, who in Seven Hells is the valonqar?
Nobody expects the Handish Inquisition | HBO
I’ve been completely sold on Jaime being the one to kill Cersei for many moons now, and George R.R. Martin is unquestionably writing a character arc that has the two siblings on a collision course of fratricide. Let’s take a look at some of the evidence.
- Not only has it been mentioned that Jaime is the slightly younger twin, but it was explicitly noted that he came out of the womb holding her foot. Now, while we don’t know specifically which part of her foot Jaime was holding, this could very much be a reference to him being Cersei’s Achilles’ Heel. Achilles was only vulnerable in his heel because it was the point he was held by while his mother bathed him in the River Styx, and Cersei has appeared nigh invulnerable to anyone and anything that has stood against her up until this point of the series. Achilles was also the subject of a death prophecy, so take that as you will.
- In the season 7 premiere, Jaime and Cersei are very intentionally positioned on the Fingers and Neck of the map of Westeros, respectively, symbolizing Jaime’s fingers around Cersei’s neck.
How is this already dry? Did you use Valyrian Steel Paint? | HBO
- The Jaime Lannister of yesteryear would do anything for love and/or a Klondike Bar, including pushing a child that is apparently also a tree-god thing out of a window. From the moment we meet him, it’s made clear that the bulk of Jaime’s major life decisions are all focused on being with Cersei, from forsaking his ability to marry or inherit Casterly Rock in favor of joining the Kingsguard, to killing Lannister Boy #3 to escape imprisonment with the Starks. It isn’t until returning from his enlightening journey to Mordor with Brienne of Tarth that Jaime realizes that the glasses he’d been admiring Cersei through were more rose-colored than her morning glass of wine.
- The two have steadily drifted apart since then, with current Jaime (much more so in the books) fostering little love for his sister after learning of her infidelity (with fucking LANCEL of all people), indirect killing of their kid and general penchant for explody-murder. And, while Jaime isn’t going to just randomly kill her for revenge, this continued straining of relations does make him increasingly less likely to sheepishly go along with whatever batshit scheme she concocts, like engaging in all-out war with the North in the dead of Winter or razing an entire city to the ground.
- Speaking of mass-murder and stopping deranged plots, Cersei’s destruction of the Sept with Wildfire is an obvious parallel to Aerys Targaryen, the Mad King Jaime killed to protect King’s Landing from being…burned to the ground with Wildfire. And, based on his reaction to her coronation, he recognizes this similarity all too clearly.
You brotherfucker… | HBO
- Jaime famously lost his sword hand during his aforementioned excursion with Brienne, but he also gained something in return: his “totally platonic we’re just friends who bathe together and stare longingly at each other for awkward lengths of time so shut up Janet” companion’s sense of selfless honor. While he’s obviously still not perfect, the Kingslayer has actively been making strides to become a better person since being released by Catelyn Stark—especially when Brienne is around, which will come into play later—and there would be no more fitting resolution to his character arc than choosing to fight for a benevolent, honorable cause instead of blindly backing Cersei (who got him into this mess in the first place) — especially when offing the Mad Queen would also bring his Kingslayer persona full circle.
Now, how exactly does one go about choking the Queen to death? That’s a pretty big mountain of an obstacle to overcome. Like, literally. You have to get through the zombified corpse of THE FUCKING MOUNTAIN, because Cersei never leaves herself unguarded. Seeing as how that isn’t changing unless CLEGANEBOWL happens, if you want to choke the Queen, you have to do it in private…specifically, in the bedroom. And who would she allow to choke her in the bedroom? Jaime sister-fuckin’ Lannister.
Now, hold onto your butts, because I’ve saved the most absurd part of the theory for last. The prophecy specifically says that the valonqar will “wrap his hands around” Cersei’s throat. Jaime, obviously, only has one hand that can actually wrap around things. Or does he? If you think back to the last time a Lannister sibling choked his lover to death in the bedroom (ok this is becoming a weird pattern, even for the Lannisters), he didn’t do it with his physical hands — he did it with the Hand of the King necklace, which is made up of interlocking golden hands.
This literally looks like a pre-schooler made it out of macaroni and glue | HBO
There are two ways that these could be interpreted as Jaime’s hands. In the most literal sense, Cersei could appoint him as Hand of the Queen in place of Qyburn, meaning that the necklace becomes his property. Alternatively, as the hands are made of gold, they could symbolically represent Jaime’s own golden hand, which in its own right symbolizes the newfound sense of honor and duty that motivates him to kill Cersei in the first place. Jaime’s prosthetic has become irrevocably linked to his post-capture identity, and figuratively using it to do away with the last vestige of his old life would be a perfectly poetic climax to his journey. So, if you can’t tell, I’m partial to the latter.
Plus, if the necklace is indeed the murder weapon, it’d also explain why the showrunners chose to have Ed Sheeran sing “Hands of Gold” during his cameo, despite the song actually being written about Tyrion and Shae.
Ok, so at this point, we have Colonel Jaime, in the bedroom, with the Hand of the King necklace. We’ve deduced enough to win a game of Clue, but we’re overachievers so let’s go one step further and try to pin down a motive.
Cersei honey you need to stop listening to Usher on repeat because you are taking Burn way too literally | HBO
We’re doing this prediction quick and dirty, like two Lannisters in the tower of Winterfell:
- Melisandre convinces Daenerys and Jon Snowgaryen to work together to fight the White Walkers, and at some point this season they try to get their respective minions to team up with Cersei for the greater good.
- Because Jon, Cersei, Jaime, Sansa Stark, Dany, Tyrion, Ellaria Sand, Olenna Tyrell and Yara Greyjoy all have some form of overlapping beef with each other, the negotiations don’t go well (I also see both Yara and Ellaria either imprisoned or killed by the time this happens, as they’ll be Euron Greyjoy’s “gift” to Cersei, making everything even more of a quagmire than it already is).
- Dany threatens to have her dragons burn the Red Keep to the ground if Cersei doesn’t bend the knee and align the Lannister army with the rest of the Main Character Coalition (Fire and Blood etc., etc.,), but Cersei counters with a Mutually Assured Destruction plan, saying she’ll use the rest of the Mad King’s Wildfire caches to torch the entirety of King’s Landing if the dragons attack the Keep (and probably say something snarky and poetic about how Dany is being defeated by her own father’s weapons in the process).
- Brienne seeks out Jaime and has a motivational heart-to-heart with him about honor and duty, making heavy reference to the story Jaime told her in the bath about when he killed Aerys to save countless lives; she doesn’t ask him to kill Cersei outright, but does tell him that he’s the only one who can end the standoff without bloodshed, similar to how he handled the Siege of Riverrun.
- After Cersei eventually reaches a breaking point and completely snaps, Jaime kills her to protect King’s Landing and pledges his sword to Sansa, fulfilling his oath to Catelyn and fighting alongside Brienne to save the realm.
Yes, I realize that Jaime comes out of that situation WAY too unscathed for it to be realistic, but let a guy dream, ok?
I won’t fail at dinner this time, baby | HBO
Anyway, at the end of the day, if Jaime isn’t the one who kills Cersei, it’ll be absolutely baffling from a narrative standpoint, and honestly just feel shoehorned in for the sake of shocking the audience. And, while Game of Thrones is famous for its OMG moments, they always do it in a way that both satisfies (even if morbidly) and makes sense. At this point, the only other option that wouldn’t leave people completely disappointed would be Tyrion, but, analytically speaking, him killing Cersei does significantly less to close his character arc than it would for Jaime.
Even further, Cersei’s character has agency — she isn’t just a side character that you can fridge as a plot device. Cersei’s actions have been driving the plot as much as any other’s since the first episode; she’s one of the Great Game’s biggest and best players, and her death will inarguably be one of the series’ most narratively and emotionally impacting. Like a boxer coming for a title shot, you have to earn the right to kill Cersei Lannister, and no character but Jaime has accomplished that feat.
Plus, Tyrion is probably a secret Targaryen dragon-rider anyway, so stop being greedy.