Fair warning: this article talks a lot about the seventh season of Game of Thrones. So don't even think about reading on unless you're up-to-date with the HBO show.
Cersei Lannister is the villain we all love to hate in Game of Thrones. She’s just so delightfully evil, isn’t she? When she’s not torturing her enemies, she’s making barbed comments about her family – and her plots and schemes have always been so intricately planned. This is a villain who leaves no stone unturned, no page unread, and nothing whatsoever left to chance. She is faultless, and we can't help but respect that meticulousness.
The biggest reason for our begrudging fondness, though, is the root of Cersei’s evil: all of her dark deeds and acts have been born out of love. Love for her children, love for her brother, love for her family, love for her throne. And, in the season finale, it seemed as if love had softened her to the cries around her – if only a little.
Finding herself alone with Tyrion for the first time in forever, Cersei was able to confront him over the role he played in the downfall of the Lannisters. By murdering their father, Tywin, her little brother made it easier for “the vultures” to attack. This, in turn, left Myrcella and Tommen – Cersei's beloved golden-haired children – vulnerable, and resulted in their untimely deaths.
Shocked to anger by Cersei's accusations, Tyrion fired back: “You love your family, and I have destroyed it. And I will always be a threat, so put an end to me.”
He continued: “If it weren’t for me, you’d have a mother. If it weren’t for me, you’d have a father. If it weren’t for me, you’d have beautiful children. I’ve thought about killing you more times than I can count. Do it!”
As one, Game of Thrones fans held their breath – was Cersei about to do the unthinkable and order the zombified Mountain to murder Tyrion?
“That thing you dragged here, I know what it is, I know what it means,” she told her little brother, referring to the White Walker that he, Jon Snow, and the rest of their group had brought for her to see. “And when it came at me, I didn’t think about the world, not at all. As soon as it opened its mouth, the world disappeared for me right down its black throat. All I could think about was keeping those gnashing teeth away from the ones that matter most, away from my family.”
A shaken Cersei fearfully clutched at her belly, and Tyrion suddenly understood why his sister had declined to join him for a glass of wine (aka her favourite ever drink).
“You’re pregnant,” he said, voice filled with wonder. And, at that moment, we cut away to see more of Dany and Jon’s flirtations in the Dragon Pit, which meant that we didn’t get to hear the end of Cersei and Tyrion's conversation. Did he congratulate her? Or did he (as many people have speculated) vow to protect his unborn niece/nephew from harm, in a bid to make up for the deaths of Myrcella and Tommen?
It would take something big to convince Tyrion to switch allegiances at this point: he is incredibly fond of both the Dragon Queen and the King in the North – and, more importantly, he truly believes that the pair will be good for Westeros. And yet there’s no denying that the youngest Lannister’s behaviour seemed remarkably off when he returned to his allies. He stood apart from them, his mouth a bitter twist of regret – and, later, he was seen lurking shiftily in the shadows outside Daenerys’ bedroom as she and Jon had good old-fashioned aunt’n’nephew sex.
We refuse to believe Tyrion’s behaviour is down to simple perverseness: either a bitter love triangle has begun to form (who knew Tyrion loved his queen that much?) or he has vowed to help his sister and her unborn child. Not so ridiculous an idea, considering that Tyrion loved all of her late children (barring Joffrey) with every last piece of his heart and soul.
A fact which Cersei knows all too well. And so, could she be faking her pregnancy to manipulate those around her into doing exactly what she wants?
Well, fans of the show certainly seem to think so.
From the very first moment Cersei told Jaime that she was pregnant, everything felt off. Not least of all because she dropped her baby bombshell on him in the middle of an embittered argument about Tyrion, the impossible war and loyalty.
“Whose will you say it is?” Jaime asked, knowing all too well that the people of Westeros frown upon incest. Well, twincest, anyway.
“Yours,” she promised. And, when Jaime noted that the public wouldn't be fans of that idea, Cersei reminded him of their late father’s maxim: “The lion does not concern himself with the opinions of the sheep”.
As Jaime hugged her tightly, though, Cersei told him to never betray her again – and we saw his eyes widen as he registered her not-so-subtle threat.
Cersei needed something, anything, to restore Jaime’s faith in her. And the one thing that will tie him to her is another baby – especially when they’ve lost all of their other children.
“Whatever stands in our way, we will defeat it,” she told him. “For ourselves, for our house, for this.” That was the moment she gestured toward her belly.
Everything about Cersei’s choice of language emphasised that she and Jaime are in this together and have a responsibility to keep it that way. Her words were fine-tuned to induce guilt if Jaime strays from her on any level. And her comments about the opinions of “the sheep”? Well, let's just say that a woman who has walked naked through King's Landing with the public crying “shame, shame, shame” at her for hours knows all too well that the sheep outnumber the lion a thousand to one. And their opinions do matter, a surprisingly amount.
Since that announcement, everything about Cersei's pregnancy felt too rehearsed. Too perfect.
With Tyrion, for example, Cersei openly showed vulnerability – something which she has never done before. This is a woman who has always been in control of a situation, who has never unwittingly betray herself, and who would likely never grab at her stomach when thinking about her unborn child – even accidentally. And doesn’t it seem jarring that she’d one moment be feeling tearful and vulnerable, the next calling for the betrayal of Jon and Dany’s armies? She seems more than willing to use her pregnancy as a bargaining chip – and this has led many to believe that she's 100% faking it.
Maggy the Frog’s prophecy supports this theory: as we learned in George RR Martin’s books, a young Cersei sought out fortune teller Maggy and asked her to look into her future for her. And the future that Maggy saw for her was grim indeed: she revealed that Cersei’s husband, Robert, would become a father 20 times over by bedding a number of mistresses – but that she would only ever have three.
“Gold shall be their crowns and gold their shrouds,” she said, and her words have since come true. Joffrey, Myrcella, and Tommen have all been killed. Horribly. Which means that the prophecy has been fulfilled, and Cersei will not have any more children.
Does this mean that she’s faking it, though? Or does it mean that this pregnancy – which she has apparetly been so callous about using for her own gain – is doomed?
With Jaime having finally seen through Cersei’s villainy, and ridden off to join #TeamDaenerys in the battle against the undead, Cersei is alone in King’s Landing. Her allies have all fallen away from her (barring her creepy Maester and her zombie pal) and she is vulnerable.
Plus, there is the final part of the aforementioned prophecy to consider: when Maggy ended her reading with Cersei, she informed the future Queen that she will be murdered by the valonquar (which is High Valyrian for “little brother”).
“And when your tears have drowned you, the valonqar shall wrap his hands about your pale white throat and choke the life from you."
Tyrion seems to be working with Cersei again, for now, but their relationship is notoriously fraught: perhaps he will kill off his sister if he learns that her pregnancy was another of her cunning ploys. Jaime, likewise, has turned his back on his twin and is all too aware of the evils she can do. And then there’s Arya, a skilled assassin who has the ability to don the face of anyone she chooses – and who has long dreamed of killing Cersei as payback for what she did to the Stark family.
In short, it seems safe to predict that Cersei will die long before welcoming a fourth child into the world. It just remains to be seen as to how much trouble he can cause before she finally bites the big one.
Roll on season eight, already. Two years is far too long to have to wait...