Game of Thrones spoilers from season 8 episode 1 ahead…
Ah, Cersei Lannister. It was clear that she’d do anything to get her own way from the moment she delivered the defining line: “When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.” We’ve defended the devilish doings of Cersei before, for being a woman who – despite losing all four of her children, and being treated as a pawn by men who were supposed to love her – has finally rose to power with a seat on the Iron Throne.
It’s understandable, then, that actor Lena Headey wasn’t too convinced about a poignant scene in the opening episode of the last series of Game of Thrones.
The uncomfortable scene in question shows Cersei and the arrogant King of the Iron Islands Euron Greyjoy sleep together, despite Cersei’s months of refusing his advances. Although Cersei clearly has no romantic interest in Euron, he pressures her into “thanking” him sexually for his loyalty after returning to King’s Landing with the Golden Company.
“I kept saying, ‘She wouldn’t, she wouldn’t, that she would keep fighting,’” Headey said in an interview with Entertainment Weekly after the episode premiered on HBO. “But [showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss] obviously know what they’re doing and were adamant Cersei would do what she had to do.”
Despite her disappointment that he hasn’t brought back any elephants, we later see Cersei drinking a glass of wine after sleeping with Euron, looking uncharacteristically upset. Euron then presses his Queen with questions about her former sex life, asking how he compares with her brother Jaime Lannister (who she has always been in love with), unafraid of her reaction. This leaves Cersei looking vulnerable, which is her worst nightmare. To rub salt in the wound, Euron tells her that he’s going to put a prince in her belly, unaware that she is already pregnant with Jaime’s baby.
Pilou Asbæk, who plays Euron Greyjoy, also added that the scene was discussed at length before filming. “We had a lot of discussions,” he said. “Would it be out of character for her to be with Greyjoy for power? We discussed it so much that we almost ended up going, ‘Maybe it’s too much.’ Then we decided to try it out and see if it works. Sometimes you have to show different sides of a character. You have to surprise yourself as an actor but you also have to surprise yourself as a character.”
But, knowing Cersei, this scene will all have been in service to her master plan. It’s widely believed that Cersei won’t survive the end of the series, but we really hope she gets revenge on Euron before her time is up.