[WARNING – This article has SPOILERS for Game of Thrones season 6 & the A Song of Ice and Fire novels.]
The Game of Thrones season 6 finale is almost upon us and what comes with it could very well be some of the series’ most shocking moments. (And for this show, that’s really saying something.) In its final hour, season 6 will check in again with Bran and Meera north of the Wall, where Bran is likely to experience more significant visions; with Sansa and Jon at Winterfell, assessing the position they find themselves in after “winning” back the North; in Meereen, Tyrion and Daenerys will decide on their next move, presumably edging the dragon queen closer to Westeros; and after ending the siege at Riverrun, Jaime travels to The Twins to celebrate with Walder Frey, a dubious choice all things considered.
Most prominently, though, the Game of Thrones season 6 finale will feature Cersei’s trial at the hands of the High Sparrow and his panel of seven septon judges, the outcome of which is a complete unknown. Cersei’s trial is one of those events which has yet to occur in George R.R. Martin’s novels and the outcome Cersei (and audiences) was expecting – that The Mountain would stand as her champion and win a trial by combat – is no longer an option thanks to Tommen outlawing the practice.
Where does this leave Cersei? In the worst possible position she can be in – back against the wall, losing allies left and right, and with few options remaining. This is Cersei at her most desperate, and therefore, her most dangerous. Though her schemes hardly go as planned, they almost always end in dramatic fashion, with major consequences for herself and the whole kingdom. Actress Lena Headey teased Cersei’s arc this season by saying, “She really has nothing to lose and she has everything to gain from a horrible position she finds herself in,” and that, frankly, doesn’t bode well for practically everyone.
All right, so what is Cersei planning? We know she has some scheme up her sleeve thanks to her conversation with Qyburn in ‘No One’, and it has to do with a rumor she had him investigating. Their exchange is as follows:
Qyburn: “That old rumor you told me about. My little birds investigated.”
Cersei: “Is it just a rumor or something more?”
Qyburn: “More. Much more.”
And you don’t get a lot more ominous sounding than that, folks. But what’s the rumor? Well, there are a few possibilities. We know Cersei is convinced of Tyrion’s guilt in her father’s murder (something she’s actually correct about) and killing him has been high on her to-do list for years. It’s possible, then, that Cersei has had Qyburn investigating the dwarf’s whereabouts, perhaps even learning he’s allied himself with Daenerys. Both characters could be the ones mentioned in the prophecy Cersei received as a child from Maggy the Frog – Daenerys, the “younger and more beautiful” queen who’ll overthrow her, and Tyrion, the “valonqar” (High Valyrian for “little brother”) who will kill her when she’s grieving and at her lowest. [It should be noted the valonqar section of the prophecy didn’t appear on Game of Thrones, though it’s significant and frequently referenced in the novels.]
However, learning of Tyrion’s whereabouts won’t help Cersei during her trial, which is clearly her most pressing concern. In that case, Qyburn could have been investigating another character not seen for seasons – Gendry, Robert Baratheon’s bastard and only living heir. Last audiences saw Gendry, Davos freed him from Melisandre’s dungeon and set him sailing away in a little dingy. He could literally be anywhere at this point, yet in the novels Gendry pops up again at the Inn of the Crossroads, working there as a smith. And were Gendry to be presented as Robert’s true son, Tommen would be discredited, potentially removing the High Sparrow’s control over the Crown. But admitting that Tommen was born of incest and isn’t a true Baratheon wouldn’t really do Cersei any favors either, making this seem an unlikely possibility.
That leaves just about one thing Qyburn could have had his little birds snooping around and trying to find – wildfire, a volatile and terrifying substance that spreads, well, like wildfire and once ignited is nearly impossible to extinguish.
Cersei Makes a Wildfire Threat
If there’s one thing Cersei is exceptional at, it’s threatening people. She is an ace at giving threats, even if she rarely gets the chance to follow through with them. And that may be precisely what happens in the season 6 finale. Having had Qyburn discover more of the wildfire caches The Mad King Aerys hid all over King’s Landing, Cersei might be intending to make a bold threat of using it to either get out of having her trial or to combat what will almost certainly be a guilty sentence. But just threatening may not be enough, she may need to prove she has it and that it’s the real deal.
For this, there is something of a precedent from the novels. After Tommen and Margaery’s wedding in A Feast For Crows, Cersei has all the guests gather on a balcony overlooking the Tower of the Hand – the very tower where her father was killed. It is then set ablaze by the pyromancers who manage the wildfire stocks, ruining the tower and all of Tyrion’s possessions which were still inside. The moment is one which signifies Cersei’s growing madness, brought upon by her continued paranoia that Maggy’s prophecies are coming true. It’s also a tipping point in her and Jaime’s relationship, forcing a rift between them.
On Game of Thrones, burning down the Tower of the Hand wouldn’t likely have the impact it does in the novels, seeing how far the show has progressed beyond that point (this all happens before Cersei is even arrested, after all) – but there’s no reason Cersei couldn’t make the same sort of showing with another building. Not the Sept of Baelor or the Red Keep, lest she injure or kill Tommen or herself, but some structure within sight that would prove to everyone that Cersei possesses wildfire and will use it on her enemies if necessary.
Cersei Blows Up the Sept of Baelor
But we must remember that this is Cersei at her most desperate and dangerous. If she’s intends to use wildfire, you better believe she’s going to use it take out her enemies. And while Cersei has many enemies – from Tyrion to Sansa to Lady Olenna – only the High Sparrow is causing her real offense at this moment. Though it was she who foolishly gave him the position of power he now holds as leader of the Faith of the Seven, since being elevated to that position, the High Sparrow has brilliantly consolidated his power. Not only does he have a legion of intensely devoted followers, he can now count King Tommen and Queen Margaery among them, basically giving him control over “the two pillars” of society – the Faith and the Crown.
If Cersei has any hope of regaining her power she needs to remove the High Sparrow of his, and he’s proven a cunning foe, deftly outmaneuvering both her and the Tyrells. Simply killing him wouldn’t be enough as there are dozens who could rise up and take his place. No, to defeat the High Sparrow it needs to be a major blow not just to him but the Faith. And what better way to do that than destroying their base of operations: the Sept of Baelor. It’s there that Cersei and Loras’ trials will take place, hosting a large portion of the Faith Militant along with the High Sparrow. Blowing the Sept sky high with the wildfire we’re fairly certain is stored below (thanks to Tyrion for pointing that out in episode 9) would definitely have the effect Cersei wishes.
However, there’s also a serious drawback. Though we aren’t able to confirm whether or not Tommen will be present for the trial (he hasn’t appeared in any of the released photos), he may be. And if there’s a chance that blowing up the Sept of Baelor could kill her son, it’s doubtful that’s a risk Cersei would take. Then again, we are discussing a Cersei who is slowing being pushed further and further into madness, and Tommen is all but lost to her under the High Sparrow’s control. Could she consider sacrificing her own son to save herself? The prophecy which has so clearly been orchestrating her motives since day one says she will outlive her children, and that may have her going as far to fulfill its promises herself.
Cersei Burns Down All of King’s Landing
This would certainly be the most climactic and shocking of possible outcomes, but that doesn’t make it any less likely Cersei will burn down the whole city. She has threatened to in the past, after all. Plus, in season 2 when Daenerys is experiencing visions within the House of the Undying, she walks through a version of the Red Keep’s throne room that has endured some serious fire damage, from charred columns to its burned away roof. Was it a premonition of what’s to pass in the season 6 finale?
Obviously, were Cersei to order for all the wildfire caches around the city to burn, the damage done would be enormous. Recall what a single boat of wildfire did to Stannis’ fleet on the Blackwater. And with wildfire being nearly impossible to extinguish (the key is to use sand, not water), a fire this large would rage for days and days, killing thousands and ruining the city. Such an action would also seem to guarantee Tommen would die in that blaze, and his death fulfills another step in that fateful prophecy – whether Cersei’s the one responsible or not.
And actually, this wouldn’t be the first time Cersei made a prophecy come to pass after learning it. In the books, her friend that joins her in Maggy’s tent is told she’ll die very soon and it’s implied a spiteful Cersei, jealous that her friend expressed an interest in Jaime, pushes her down a well, killing her. If Cersei is so convinced the prophecy concerning her children is truly her fate, what’s to stop her from making it come to pass on her terms? She’s even attempted killed Tommen before! When the Battle of Blackwater looked to be going Stannis’ way, before her father arrived with the Tyrell army to save the city. So we know that when push comes to shove, Cersei will take her life and those of her children instead of letting someone else do the deed.
With King’s Landing still smoldering, Tommen dead, and Cersei somehow managing to survive (something that seems likely given Headey receiving a salary bonus next season), she’d be consumed by despair and grief. Which brings us to that last line of the prophecy: “And when your tears have drowned you, the valonqar shall wrap his hands about your pale white throat and choke the life from you.” Cersei has assumed for years the valonqar is Tyrion, but Jaime is also her little brother, being the younger of the twins. It was he who stopped the Mad King from burning the city, so imagine how aghast he’d be to learn his beloved sister accomplished the devastation he had averted all those years before.
Unlike in the novels, where Cersei’s growing paranoia has caused a rift between the twins, season 6 of Game of Thrones has shown them as close and united as they’ve ever been. And it would be so like Game of Thrones to bring them together only to rip them apart in such a violent manner. Choosing to do something as drastic and absolutely mad as burning down King’s Landing could very well be the final straw for Jaime, forcing him to kill his own sister and lover. It’d be tragic in that twisted way only Game of Thrones can deliver, and it would certainly fulfill the prophecy which has been informing almost every aspect of Cersei’s life and now, her death.
However, it should be noted that Jaime will still be at The Twins in the season 6 finale, so if he’s going to kill Cersei it won’t happen until next season. And still, the valonqar passage of the prophecy wasn’t included in Cersei’s flashback scene from season 5. Meaning, Game of Thrones may not be following through with all aspects of that prophecy. But again, knowing the huge role the prophecy plays in not only Cersei’s choices but her psyche, it seems a curious point to omit. We’ll all just have to tune in Sunday night for Game of Thrones’ season 6 finale to find out what Cersei plans to do – and the dire consequences it’ll have for the entire kingdom.
Game of Thrones season 6 ends with ‘The Winds of Winter’ Sunday night at 9pm on HBO.
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