In Game of Thrones, where characters are largely textured and layered to opaque the line between good and evil, Cersei Lannister is almost a novelty. She’s human garbage, plain and simple. In seven seasons, she has yet to do anything even remotely kind or say a pleasant word about anyone that isn't laced with bile or condescension. Self-obsessed and power hungry, as a little girl, Cersei murdered her best friend because she didn’t want the competition.
That said, she should win the game of thrones. Self-obsession and lust for power mean nothing when you don’t have the cunning to back it up. Despite going out of her way to be unlikable—and despite being a woman in a world where she cannot be a ruler—not only has Cersei managed to survive, but she has thrived as well. You don’t do that just based on luck. In a matter of weeks (in-universe time), she went from being shamed in the streets to sitting on the iron throne. Granted, it doesn’t look like a comfortable chair, but that’s not entirely the point. If Westeros is to survive the winter, it needs a true leader, and that leader is Cersei f’n Lannister.
15 She's experienced
Say what you will about those crazy Lannisters, but they have been in power for a while now. While Cersei herself was never allowed the direct and public authority (and acknowledgment) she craved, but she’s been surrounded by politics and leaders all her life. Over the course of the series, she essentially worked the duties of the Hand of the King, learned from the mistakes of her husband King Robert and her father Tywin, and now sits on the Iron Throne. She has seen nearly all of her enemies broken, dead, or otherwise destroyed.
The Stark kids have learned from their father as well, but not to the degree that Cersei has. One section of the map is much different than the entirety of the continent. Cersei learned at the very seat of power in Westeros.
14 Because you wouldn’t expect it
We’re not saying the series should end in a Shyamalanian twist, but just consider it for a second. All these characters—the Starks, Dany, the Baratheons, the Greyjoys, the Tyrells, the Tullys—everyone trying playing the game of thrones against the Lannisters, and despite all the bloodletting and sacrifice, nothing changes. The bad guys win no matter what.
Given George R.R. Martin’s anti-war sentiments, this would be the coup de grace, letting the audience know that not all noble sacrifices are worth it and that in the end—all that war caused was death. It’s extremely bleak, to the point of nihilism, but it makes sense. Dethroning a sitting leader is incredibly difficult—home field advantage and all that, especially when the Lannisters have literally rebuilt and reshaped King’s Landing to their needs.
13 She may be the prince(ss) that was promised
There’s a convincing theory making the rounds these days that it’s Davos who is Azor Ahai, not Jon, Dany, or Tyrion. As fans of the long-suffering, IBS-afflicted advisor, we’d be very happy with this development. But since we’re focusing on Cersei, let’s consider the possibility that maybe she’s been the prophesied princess that was promised this entire time. We know that prophecies can be vague and contradictory—the prince/princess translation being an important instance—and, if true, it would legitimize Cersei’s reign in a way that she has always desired. When the Great Sept exploded, it provided the smoke the prophecy mentioned, while her obvious changes since her son Tommen’s suicide can be a (metaphorical) rebirth.
Like in our last entry, it would cast the series in a much darker light, but also further shade the false moralism the series loves to point out: that everyone vying for the throne are corrupt, awful people.
12 She can kill the dragons
Is it any surprise that Qyburn spends time in crypts just hanging out? God, what a creep. Anyway, he found the skull of Balerion the Black Dread—the favorite dragon of Aerys II Targaryen—and, wanting to please his queen (and probably have a role in killing an entirely new species), created an anti-dragon weapon. He created a giant ballistae (aka Scorpion) that, when fired, blasted through the skull of Balerion. The look on her face showed the same kind of peace and satisfaction we all have when we know our enemies are about to be forced to understand our inescapable superiority.
The dragons have been Daenerys’ ace in the hole from the very beginning, and now, Cersei has a counter attack that can theoretically stand up to them. After all, there are plenty of spears and many scorpions that can be built. We're betting that that first showdown--you know, when Bronn damn near killed a dragon singlehandedly--will amount to little more than a field test, and that there are more where that came from.
11 She knows how to make powerful friends...
Cersei Lannister isn’t a people person. However, when you’re rich and powerful, you don’t need to be. Over the course of the last few seasons, we’ve seen the embattled Cersei create few but important partnerships. The first was with Gregor "The Mountain That Rides" Clegane. Well, he’s called The Mountain for a reason. He’s a massive fighter who enjoys crushing people’s skulls with his bare hands (his dating profile even says so). When the Mountain suffered a life threatening injury, the previously mentioned creep, Qyburn, helped resurrect him. The Mountain has since become even stronger, more violent, and completely loyal to Cersei. Qyburn, this unseemly combination of Dr. Sivana and a necromancer, then helped Cersei orchestrate the mass murder at the Sept of Baelor, which resulted in all of her enemies in King’s Landing being wiped out in one devastating blow.
The most recent addition was Euron Greyjoy, who commands the greatest navy in the Seven Kingdoms and sports a great jacket. Together, Euron, his jacket, and his navy delivered Ellaria Martell and the remaining Sand Snake, who were responsible for the death of Cersei’s daughter.
10 …and destroy her enemies
You don’t have to go much further than Cersei using wildfire on the High Sparrows and Margaery Tyrell, but it’s fun, so let’s do it anyway. She had Pycelle killed (not a moment too soon—the man looked like he reeked of urine), conquered House Tyrell at Highgarden, had her husband Robert secretly poisoned, and used the Mountain to carry out secret murders as revenge for her walk of shame. She’s had the High Sparrow priestess who beat her tortured. She’s ordered Bran Stark crippled and was central in the conspiracy to have Ned Stark beheaded.
However, all of these incidents are nothing compared to the ultimate mic-drop moment of the series: Cersei was central in the planning of the Red Wedding, which saw Robb Stark, along with his pregnant wife, and his mother all killed. For the Stark children, it was the most important day of their lives, but for Cersei, it was Tuesday.
9 Changing rulers causes destabilization
When Daenerys Targaryen decided she was in charge of Meereen, she made slavery illegal, which was good. However, three city-states—Yunkai, Volantis, and Astapor—would be fundamentally changed, socially and economically, by this. So they rebelled. Using the Sons of the Harpy as an insurgent army, the Masters killed many former slaves, attempted to assassinate Dany, and, when that failed, firebombed the living hell out of the capital.
The lesson here is that when you invade a place and remove its leadership, you create an unstable region. Now, that was just Dany trying to deal with three errant city-states. If Cersei was removed from power, all of Westeros would be affected. The continent has already been unstable since the death of the Mad King, but if the current queen were to be dethroned—with all of the unrest and tribal battles going on already—it would just create more war and death from people who would use the confusion to expand their own dominions. That’s right: Cersei surviving means more people will live! Irony is cruel and capricious, isn’t it?
8 Cersei wants peace (eventually)
You can’t talk about the Lannisters without talking about war (or incest, for that matter). Barring that, we should consider what would happen after Cersei has won. In his conversation with Oleanna Tyrell, Jaime spoke about there being peace in the Seven Kingdoms once the Lannisters' enemies are dead, because there would be no one left vying for the crown. They would rule a peaceful nation.
Cersei has mentioned this too. She wants to continue working with the Iron Bank of Braavos so that she can bring all of the all the small city-states and provinces that have broken from Lannister control back under her purview. She won’t be giving out candy, and her reasons for wanting a united Westeros are more about obtaining more power while culling her dissenters, but the result would be a peaceful continent. It’s just like what Megatron used to say: “Peace through tyranny.” Yay?
7 She's no coward
Cowardice isn’t a great look for a leader (damnit, Theon). Cersei isn’t a coward. In times when King’s Landing has been under attack, it was customary for that chatterbox, Ilyn Payne, to join Cersei and other important civilians in Maegor’s Holdfast. It was a redoubt where they would be safe from potential harm. Everyone assumed Payne was there to protect them, but Cersei reveals the truth: Payne is to kill her rather than let her be captured, in case the invaders succeed. Every time something like this happens, Cersei passively waits (and drinks) to find out if she is going to die.
However, her bravest act is the fact that she’s gone into politics in the first place. As she told Ned Stark early on, “When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die.” Cersei has been playing the game for years—at first trying to secure her sons on the throne, then to keep her own power, then to ascend to the iron throne herself.
Her staring down Daenerys and refusing to blink (even after Drogon straight up slaughtered her army) may be even more impressive.
6 She's adapted and thrived despite every adversity
As mentioned above, Cersei has been playing the game for many years. Despite best-laid plans, she’s been forced to react to unforeseen changes of fortune and circumstance. From being denied access to the king (her son!) to being held captive by the High Sparrow and his boring and repetitive speeches or being kept from council meetings because she’s a woman, Cersei has dealt with some bizarre or surprising problems, and nothing has stopped her—even when the worst happened: she’s outlived all of her children.
Sure, Tommen was a dud, everyone forgot Myrcella existed, and Joffrey made Caligula look like a Quaker, but it wasn’t her fault that her kids were like that. It was the inbreeding. Hell, her own father—one of the best manipulators of them all—tried to outmaneuver her. Nevertheless, Cersei persisted.
5 It’s better to be feared than loved
Cersei has money, power, and very little patience. It’s a troubling combination. Cersei has made sure that everyone who knows her name is smart enough to be afraid of her. Sometimes, however, people forget. It happens. Margaery Tyrell was younger and better with people. She could lay her charm on thick, but Cersei saw through it. She told Margery the bloody origins of the “Rains of Castamere” song and whispered almost sweetly, “If you call me sister again, I'll have you strangled in your sleep.”
When Littlefinger assumed he had the power to manipulate her by implying that he knew about Cersei’s then-secret incestuous relationship with her brother, she replied by having her guards seize him. Cersei ordered the guards to cut his throat before relenting, reminding him who the one with power really was.
Now, is that someone you want to piss off?
4 She told fate to go to hell
Cersei Lannister is a badass. As a child, she sought out a witch called Maggy. An ugly, old, rusticated thing, Maggy initially refused to give Cersei a psychic reading, but relented when Cersei repeatedly threatened her. Let that sink in for a second. Cersei threatened a witch, and the witch relented.
Maggy told Cersei what she saw—that a younger queen would take her throne, that’s she’d marry Robert Baratheon, that she’d outlive her children and that a “little [sibling]” would kill her. Learning about this unpleasant future, Cersei was horrified. But fate is fate. It can’t be changed. Unless this is Terminator, but Cersei isn’t Sarah Conner (anymore). When confronted by this prophecy, there was only one thing she could do about it. Cersei said, “Piss on your prophecy, old woman,” and threw a jar of potion in the old bag’s eyes.
3 Is she any worse than our other choices?
With the way the series is currently mapped out, the likely candidates for the throne are Daenerys Targaryen, Jon Snow, and a handful of wild cards like Euron Greyjoy. Euron is a blatant psychopath, Jon Snow knows nothing, and Dany can’t run three cities, let alone a continent.
If you want to go for the moral high ground, it’s been widdled to a stump as well. Dany has crucified people and threatened (repeatedly) to burn cities, Jon “Plot Device” Snow, while not morally compromised (unless you count executing a kid), is constantly fooled by adversaries because he can’t understand that bad guys do dishonorable things. As for Euron Greyjoy—look at him. Is that a hard drive you really want to examine? Cersei is smarter than Jon, and while her actions are truly reprehensible and selfish, it only puts her on the same level as Dany and Euron.
2 A legacy you can rely on
Mycroft Holmes Tycho Nestoris of the Iron Bank of Braavos complimented Cersei for being even more organized and having a greater strategic mind than her father (and fellow piece of garbage), Tywin Lannister. Tycho also said that in the history of the Iron Bank, no one had ever paid off a debt of that magnitude that quickly or in a lump sum.
Jaime was a soldier, Tyrion was a drunk, but Cersei listened to Tywin. Every lesson he had to teach, she absorbed and eventually expanded on. She even took weaknesses and turned them into strengths. The Mad King stored wildfire under the city? Well, Cersei used it to give the High Sparrow and all of her enemies in King’s Landing a tan. Littlefinger put your kingdom in debt? Hate the Tyrells? Well, burn them to the ground and steal their money to get back into the black. Tywin’s legacy was based on a cold, ruthless logic. Cersei has the same going for her, but she added unparalleled efficiency as well.
1 Willing to Embrace the Madness
Game of Thrones exists in a world of dragons, ice zombies, plant people, and a guy named Qyburn who turned the Mountain into a eugenics nightmare and has an armada of children who specialize in killing the elderly. Cersei embraces the insanity of this world and navigates it like a pro. Mad scientist Qyburn and super soldier Mountain are loyal to Cersei by choice. She’s even managed to control the psychotic, child-molesting (in the books), brother-murdering, nice-jacket-wearing Euron Greyjoy, making it clear that even if they marry, she would still be the one in power; and even then, he still went out of his way to do her bidding.
The world of Game of Thrones is insane, and while Cersei brushes up against the wall of instability herself, absolutely no one is better equipped to handle literally anything that dares crawl up from the sewers of King’s Landing. All hail the queen, baby.
Would you like to see Cersei win? Who do you think should sit on the Iron Throne? Let us know in the comments.