The king is dead; long live the queen. As expected, poor Tommen Baratheon did not live to see the end of Sunday night’s Game of Thrones finale, choosing to shuffle off this mortal coil and into GIF immortality. Much was made of the complicated succession crisis that would hit King’s Landing if Tommen died without an heir, but in the end, the answer was simple: Having murdered all her political enemies, Tommen’s mother Cersei simply assumed the Iron Throne herself, invoking the ancient right of Who Gon Stop Me?
There is precedent for this in the history of the Seven Kingdoms. At various points in the Dance of the Dragons, both sides — including Rhaenyra Targaryen, the only other woman to sit on the Iron Throne — essentially stole the throne while their opponents weren’t looking. Even earlier, Maegor the Cruel named himself king ahead of his nephew, whom he promptly killed. In all three cases, the interlopers didn’t rule long: Rhaenyra fled King’s Landing after a popular uprising, then was eaten by her half-brother Aegon II’s dragon; Aegon himself was poisoned by his own councilors after refusing to surrender to an incoming army; Maegor was killed on, and some say by, the Iron Throne. With that in mind, it seems likely that Cersei’s time in power, however chic, may be short-lived. Who’s going to be the one to take out our newest iron lady?
Remember the woods witch who told Cersei all her children were going to die before her? The book version of her prophecy included a bit about Cersei’s death coming at the hand of a valonqar — “younger brother” in Valyrian. Naturally, fans have developed a whole bunch of theories about which younger brother in the series that could be. (It surely couldn’t be one of Cersei’s own brothers, the thinking goes; that would be too simple.) One of the most popular suspects is Sandor Clegane, younger brother to Cersei’s zombie bodyguard. The Hound doesn’t quite have a reason to kill Cersei, and he seems to be heading in the opposite direction from King’s Landing right now, but hey, a theory’s a theory.
Speaking of Cleganes, the Mountain right now appears to be a brainless monster who obediently follows the queen’s every command. He’s Cersei’s id made flesh, the personification of her most violent desires. As we’ve seen since season one, Cersei has a self-destructive streak a mile wide — wouldn’t it be fitting, then, for her death to come at the hands of her own mighty instrument?
He’s one of the few characters still alive in the capital, his loyalty is suspect, and he currently commands an army of child assassins. He’s got no reason to turn against Cersei now, but if someone provided him a better offer …
As Arya’s creepy Kubrick stare in the finale proved, she hasn’t read any think pieces on the spiritually corrosive nature of vengeance on Game of Thrones. For her, revenge is a dish best served frequently. Now with Walder Frey dealt with, Cersei is quite literally at the top of Arya’s kill list. It’s unclear whether Faceless Man technology allows its assassins to swap out bodies as well as faces, and until we get a clear answer, Cersei’s best bet for avoiding death at the hands of this pint-sized Stark may be to keep away from anyone shorter than five-foot-two.
Cersei solidified her hold on the Throne by using the Mad King’s cache of wildfire to blow up the Sept of Baelor. But did she use up all of the wildfire, or merely some of it? That’ll be the million-stag question if Daenerys’s imminent invasion lands in Kings Landing. We’ve seen the damage one little candle can do — just imagine what might happen if three fire-breathing dragons come to town. Nothing good for the woman sitting on the Iron Throne, we can bet. Oh yeah, and this theory’s even got support from the prophecy, which told Cersei she would be queen “until there comes another, younger and more beautiful, to cast you down and take all that you hold dear.” Does not sound promising, let me tell you.
Whatever dramatic irony Cersei’s potential death by wildfire may hold, it’s positively Morrissettian compared to this scenario. Cersei being Cersei, she’s convinced herself that the valonqar in the prophecy is Tyrion, but wouldn’t it even more devastating if it were really her twin brother, Jaime, who emerged from the womb just a few minutes after her? Cersei and Jaime came into this world together, and judging from the look he was giving her in the season finale, they just might leave it together, too.