Cersei Lannister: A Hateful Woman's Evolution Through Game Of Thrones

Cersei Lannister Winds of Winter Game of Thrones Season 6

Much like her twin brother and lover, Cersei’s journey through the Game Of Thrones is the journey of a hateful woman. And much like her paramour, Cersei, time and time again, chooses love over duty. Her love of her children, her love for Jaime, these feelings mean more to Cersei than anyone or anything in all of Westeros. While Cersei remains one of the most cunning and powerful characters throughout the entire Game Of Thrones, she also has one major redeeming factor. Her heart. Her love for her children and in a lesser extent, her love for Jaime, are what lead to this powerful woman’s downfall. Cersei played the game admirably for years, but as she loses her children one by one, her grasp on that power, her brilliant tactics begin to fade just as her heart does. Let’s explore her journey through the Game Of Thrones.

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Cersei Lannister and Robert Baratheon
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7 You Win Or You Die - Season 1

Cersei Lannister and Robert Baratheon

From the second that Cersei Lannister appears on the screen, audiences are meant to feel immediately suspicious of her. She knows something that the audience does not, and as she stands over the body of Jon Arryn, fans are meant to believe that whatever this secret is has already cost one man his life. And should this secret ever be revealed, it would cost her not only her life but that of her brothers as well. As she makes her way to Winterfell with her husband King Robert, it is made clear that her... abundance of love for her twin brother, and by extension, herself, is what has cost this man, and possibly even a young boy their lives. Cersei, much like her brother, cares not about her duties or her role as a queen, rather her duty to family (much like audiences see later in Tywin) is her north star.

6 Once A Queen, Always A Queen - Season 2

With her husband King Robert dead and her increasingly uncontrollable son Joffrey seated at the thrown, Cersei makes her way through season two she finding that governing King’s Landing and keeping it under her control has become much, much more difficult. With her brother Tyrion holding a much more significant amount of pull in his position as the Hand of the King, for perhaps the first time in the series fans get a look how Cersei reacts to losing control. With her brother outmaneuvering and overpowering her at every turn, the looming threat over Stannis’ invasion on the horizon, and the loss of her daughter, Myrcella, to Dorne, Cersei is spiraling. As the second season comes to a close, fans are left with Cersei seated on the throne ready to sacrifice herself and Tommen rather than be held captive by Stannis. But as Tywin and his men come to the rescue at the last moment fans are left wondering just what Cersei’s revenge on Tyrion will look like.

6. Until We’ve Dealt With All Of Our Enemies - Season3

With the threat of Stannis handled and her father, Tywin, taking back his rightful position as Hand of the King, things are looking decidedly up for Cersei. That is, until the Tyrells arrive (specifically Olenna and Margaery vying for the power that comes with the title of Queen). However, threats come not only from outside the family, as Cersei discovers when her father has resigned to have her marry Loras Tyrell in order to create a lasting alliance with the Tyrells for both position and power. While Jaime’s love for Cersei is unshakeable, unquestionable, and unconditional, when he finally makes his way back to Cersei she is surprised and disgusted by his appearance. Jaime is no longer the man she’s known and loved. He has been found wanting in her eyes.

5 The Lion And The Rose - Season 4

Margaery and Cersei Game of Thrones

With Jaime having returned a slightly different and misshapen man, and their firstborn son looking like a moldy eggplant at his own wedding, Cersei is in a very difficult position throughout season four. Having finally reached a breaking point, much like Jaime, Cersei confronts Tywin and makes clear to him exactly how close his first two children are. 

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Cersei is no longer afraid of the consequences of loving Jaime. With threats to her family coming from inside of it and outside, Cersei knows the only people that are safe are those that she has made. And the man she made them with.

4 Shame - Season 5

Lena Headey as Cersei Stark in Game of Thrones

With the High Sparrow gaining popularity among the people of King’s Landing, Cersei sees an opportunity to rid herself of the Tyrells and make another grab for more power over King’s Landing. After naming the High Sparrow the new High Septon, however, she along with many others are taken and thrown into cells. Before being allowed to return to the Red Keep Cersei is stripped of clothing, her hair is clipped, and she is forced to walk naked through the streets and the citizens of King’s Landing shout and abuse her both verbally and physically. Cersei has been stripped of her dignity, her power, her family, but as the people of Westeros know all too well, A Lannister always pays her debts.

3 Light Of The Seven - Season 6

Game of Thrones Season 6 Cersei Wildfire Lena Headey

Having suffered the indignities of the High Septon and the Tyrells long enough, Cersei devises a plan that would make the Mad King himself jealous. With her daughter, Myrcella, gone and only Tommen left, Cersei is convinced that the only way to keep her family safe is to dispose of all of her enemies in one fell swoop. She destroys the Sept and with it the last of her children. While Cersei has finally won the type of power she has been clamoring for the entire series, she has sacrificed nearly every member of her family. She is not alone, but the cost of the throne is steep and before the series ends, it will cost her much more than her children.

2 Queen Of The Seven Kingdoms - Season 7

With her children gone and a Targaryen queen swiftly approaching King’s Landing, Cersei is determined to come out victorious. While she amassed power and wealth in order to ensure the iron bank of Braavos supports her claim, Cersei sees very little else but her own survival. In fact, when offered a warning about the army of the dead that march south from beyond the wall, Cersei is only able to see how that will increase her odds of keeping the throne. As Jaime points out to her, he is all she’s got left. However, even those words don't manage to sway Cersei’s thought process and she pushes away the last soul in Westeros that she had beside her. Cersei is alone in the world. And alone at the top is a terrible place to be.

1 The Bells - Season 8

As Game Of Thrones comes to a close, Cersei, for the most part, is rather sure of herself. She has played the game with some of the most intelligent, and some of the worst, people to have ever played the game. Despite this, however, when it comes to an angry Targaryen queen, one who happens to have a dragon and an affinity for burning those that have wronged her alive, Cersei is out of her element. While Cersei truly believes this is a battle she can win based on being the person willing to sacrifice innocent lives and sip wine casually, as she soon finds, there are very few things Daenerys Targaryen won’t do to see her vision realized. While Jaime struggles to get Cersei to safety, they are buried in beneath the rubble. Leaving the world exactly as they enter it. Together.

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