Warning: SPOILERS ahead for Game of Thrones season 7, episode 6
Game of Thrones' current ruling monarch Cersei Lannister may be pregnant, but she’s never been more alone. Now that Daenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow have forged their alliance, the Queen of King’s Landing is running out of time to secure the Iron Throne. While the other kingdoms have dragons, masses of men, and a burgeoning dragonglass armory, she merely has the Iron Bank and Euron’s naval fleet.
Cersei’s world is closing in. We’ve seen the Lannister rear army get decimated by Dany and Drogon, a victory so devastating that it drove Cersei to accept her impending mortality. Though he fears his sister, Jaime himself told her that they have no chance at surviving the full strength of Danenerys’ army. Failing that, Tyrion stepped in to tell his elder brother, “Daenerys will win this war. You’re a military man. You must know there’s no way around that.”
Despite Jaime’s sincerest attempts to awaken her to the truth and make peace with Daenerys, Cersei’s arrogance leaves little room for compromise. She not only rejects any efforts at diplomacy, but she denies the danger of the most pressing matter of all: the encroaching White Walkers. As she tells Jaime, “Dead men, dragons, and dragon Queens…whatever stands in our way, we will defeat it.”
Like Neville Chamberlain shrugging his shoulders about the Third Reich’s rise to power, Cersei is playing ostrich about the most important issue of her time. Though Qyburn can give her Scorpion bolts, medicine to heal The Mountain, and catacombs filled wildfire, he can’t help her put an end to the dead men’s march coming from beyond The Wall.
In next week’s season finale, the Lannister leader will have one final opportunity to change course. When Dany and Jon bring their captive wight to King’s Landing and parade it around, Cersei will no longer be able to deny the presence of the White Walkers. This new reality will compel her to reconsider her stance on the coming of the Long Night. She is bearing a child (a potential heir to her throne), she has Jaime back by her side, and her desire to preserve her kingdom is now at a fever pitch. Though she may feign disgust at the wight and even make overtures at unification, however, Cersei likely won’t see the undead creature as a reason to work with Daenerys. Instead, she’ll more likely look at the White Walkers as a savior to secure her long-term leadership over the Seven Kingdoms.
The White Walkers are arguably the best thing that ever happened to Cersei. While her competitors rush north to fight the enemy head on, she can enjoy the comfort and warmer climes of her seaside castle. Though snow will surely soon begin to fall on King’s Landing, make no mistake: House Lannister rests considerably farther to the south than Winterfell (Game of Thrones' dodgy geography notwithstanding). While the marauding Night King and his army will likely tear apart the north and force Dany and Jon to retreat, it will take them a good while to reach the Red Keep.
So long as the show respects the distance between kingdoms, Cersei will use her geographic positioning to her advantage. As she prepares her own army for the coming attack, she has the luxury of several choices: she can wait for Dany and Jon to fight it out with the White Walkers - reducing their numbers, and making the Night King’s overall threat considerably lighter by the time he reaches King’s Landing. If she and Euron are still hitting it off, she can simply flee Westeros and head east with her Ironborn admirer while all of the northern bloodletting continues. Or Jon and Dany can stick it to the Night King, possibly keep them from dominating Westeros, then return south with their ranks severed in half. Then Cersei can hit the switch, finish them off, and wipe the slate clean.
Though she lacks the strong alliance that Jon and Dany are creating, as well as the tools they brandish, Cersei is arguably in the best position of anyone in Westeros. While the King of the North and his advisors will likely harangue Cersei for her military support, she’s in charge of her destiny. Her lack of eagerness is a major strength. All she has to do is nod, pledge a certain number of troops and material, then rescind the deal just as the other leaders head into battle. Cersei has proven herself to be so twisted and self-interested that any show of altruism or support should not be trusted.
Since she heard of her existence, Cersei has feared and despised Daenerys - the lone survivor (or so she thinks) of the Targaryen dynasty. She’s a key element of the Valonqar Prophecy as told by Maggy the Frog, who promised that though Cersei would become Queen, a younger and more beautiful ruler would one day “cast her down and take all that [she holds] dear.” Now that Dany has made it to Westeros with her (now two) dragons in tow, Cersei’s hatred for her cannot be concealed. She will never bend the knee to her, and rather than send her men to fight on Dany’s behalf, she would just as soon let the Night King tear her to pieces.
In the realm of Cersei’s twisted logic, if she can’t have what she wants, she’ll go out of her way to ensure no one else gets it. For now, the White Walkers are Cersei Lannister’s ace in the hole. Winter is finally here, and the Mad Queen couldn’t be more pleased.