ASoIaF vs. GoT, Twelfth: In Which Cersei Screws Herself

If you’ve seen S5:E7, you’ve seen how the Queen Mother is trying to destroy the Tyrells and has consequently rained a world of shit upon her own head. She may end up destroying the Tyrells as well as herself! Loras and Margaery are still in the black cells. Their father is abroad, and their grandmother makes a lot of big talk but she doesn’t seem to have any weapons she can wield against the Sparrows. But either way, Cersei got all buddy-buddy with the High Sparrow, thinking that was the way to defeat the prophecy. She underestimated the danger Little Cousin Lancel posed, though, and now she’s in the same sort of trouble as she made for her son’s new queen.

I’m handling this one as a compare/contrast. There’s a similar storyline going in the books, and the show is handling it differently in several big ways. And it’s yet unresolved as of the end of A Dance With Dragons, so I can’t tell you all how it ends! I can just tell you what’s happened so far. See my citations here.

On the show, Loras Tyrell is doing multiple duty for himself and his brothers, Willas and Garlan. Willas is the heir to Highgarden, Garlan is the one who wore Renly’s armor in the Battle of Blackwater. Following the Blackwater, Loras joined the Kingsguard, so he was never a candidate for marriage to Sansa or Cersei. Willas was briefly promised to Sansa, and Tywin offered Cersei as a bride following Sansa and Tyrion’s marriage, but Mace Tyrell said: NOPE. Tywin briefly talked about marrying Cersei to Oberyn Martell after Joffrey’s death, but that idea fell apart even before the Red Viper enjoyed the Mountain’s sweet caresses. Cersei hasn’t really had any viable prospects for marriage since Robert died. Loras hasn’t had an active romantic life since Renly died, and as he’s the family’s third son, they were never that concerned about making a good match for him. His joining the Kingsguard wasn’t a problem for anyone. Consequently, he’s removed from Cersei’s scheme to have the new queen tried and executed.

As I am not the first to remark, Tommen Baratheon is much younger in the books, so he’s nowhere near ready to have a sex life. He and Margaery are married, but I’m not entirely sure he understands what that means. He certainly likes Margaery, he enjoys spending afternoons with his new wife and her ladies, and he gets hilariously angry when Cersei threatens to have Margaery’s tongue torn out, but he’s just a little boy and it’ll be several years before he can consummate their marriage. In the meantime, Queen Margaery is expected to be celibate, and she seems to be doing a good job of not only keeping her legs closed but maintaining the appearance of sexual forebearance. She keeps a gaggle of young female cousins and other hangers-on around her whenever she’s not in the immediate company of the Small Council. Anyone who might want to seduce her will have his work cut out for him. At the same time, it’s easier to start a sufficiently credible rumor of Queen Margaery having a lover on the side, and Tommen isn’t even equipped to understand the accusations against his queen, much less can he disprove them.

Meanwhile, Lancel Lannister is doing multiple duty for himself and the Kettleblacks. Their role in the books is rather tricky to explain, but for the purposes of this compare/contrast, the point is: Cersei was fucking them. Osmund, Osney and Osfryd Kettleblack. When Lancel was no longer available to be her toady, she got her claws into the Kettleblack brothers and started getting them to do stuff for her.

Another difference between the books and show, which might not appear to be relevant right now, but give me a moment and I’ll make my case, is in what the twins know about each other. On the show, Cersei knows that Jaime freed Tyrion, so he has her to blame him for their father’s death just in case he doesn’t blame himself already. Jaime, meanwhile, is not aware that while he was chained to a post and covered in his own shit, his sister was cheating on him with their cousin. In the books, the balance is reversed: Cersei has no idea of where Tyrion is or that Jaime facilitated his escape, but Jaime does know that Cersei has been fucking Lancel and Osmund Kettleblack and probably Moon Boy, while we’re at it. In both show and books, Cersei’s position as Queen Regent has authority over Jaime as Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, but Jaime feels a lot more beholden to Cersei on the show. Without her blaming him for Tyrion being able to kill Tywin, he probably wouldn’t have been so quick to volunteer for that trip to Dorne. Cersei is still in a position to demand a lot of risk-taking from her twin, and he lacks the tools to complain.

With the differences between the Tyrells’ circumstances being what they are, Cersei’s scheme in the books centers on Margaery, not Loras. The plan is to set her up to be accused of adultery, preferably by setting her up to actually commit adultery, but if she can’t get a man to successfully seduce the little queen, then she’ll just line up a bunch of guys to say they diddled her. Throw enough shit at the wall and some will inevitably stick. This is where the Kettleblacks come in; Cersei persuades her boy-toy Osney Kettleblack to get close to Margaery and seduce her, then she has a plan in mind to have Ser Osney pardoned for his crimes while Margaery is executed for hers. The idea is to dispose of the “younger and more beautiful queen” in Maggy the Frog’s prophecy, the one who’ll supposedly take everything away from Cersei while her children are killed with golden crowns on their heads.

Perhaps, due to growing up as Tywin Lannister’s daughter, Cersei never developed a normal sense of cause and effect. Or perhaps she knows just as well as anyone else how actions have consequences, but her father’s power always successfully shielded her from ever experiencing the consequences of her actions. Either way, she seems to have underestimated the Faith. She never imagined that accusing her daughter-in-law of a crime she didn’t commit, but which Cersei herself has committed, many times over, and furthermore using one of her own co-conspirators to make the accusation, could come back to bite her fine Lannister ass. To his credit, Ser Osney didn’t betray Cersei except for under extreme duress. He tried to do only what Cersei wanted him to do; he went to the High Sparrow and confessed to his non-existent affair with Queen Margaery. The confession led to him being tortured, however, and the torture led to him changing his story.

“Whatever his offense.” The High Septon repeated the words slowly, weighing them. “Strange to say, Your Grace, the more diligently we applied the scourge, the more Ser Osney’s offenses seemed to change. He would now have us believe that he never touched Margaery Tyrell. Is that not so, Ser Osney?”

 Osney Kettleblack opened his eyes. When he saw the queen standing there before him he ran his tongue across his swollen lips, and said, “The Wall. You promised me the Wall.”

 “He is mad,” said Cersei. “You have driven him mad.”

 “Ser Osney,” said the High Septon, in a firm, clear voice, “did you have carnal knowledge of the queen?”

 “Aye.” The chains rattled softly as Osney twisted in his shackles. “That one there. She’s the queen I fucked, the one sent me to kill the old High Septon. He never had no guards. I just come in when he was sleeping and pushed a pillow down across his face.”

 Cersei whirled, and ran.

She didn’t get very far before she was overpowered by some sour-faced septas.

At this stage in the books, Cersei hasn’t given up the title of Queen Regent. Nobody is telling her she’s “just” the Queen Mother now; she has the same powers and responsibilities as she’s had since Robert died and Joffrey named her Protector of the Realm. As a direct and immediate consequence of her arrest, she no longer has that power. Last we saw the royal family, the Lannister-Tyrell alliance was still holding together, and Tommen Baratheon still held the Iron Throne, but the regency went to Tywin’s brother, Ser Kevan, who was none too pleased with his niece.

This is captured from a scene of Cersei talking with Tommen about Margaery's arrest. Cersei is saying: "You and your sister."

This is captured from a scene of Cersei talking with Tommen about Margaery’s arrest. Cersei is saying: “You and your sister.”

In Cersei’s mind, the purpose of all this scheming was to keep her children alive. Problem is, she has no sense of how a family actually stays together, but that isn’t exactly her fault. She is Tywin’s daughter, of course, and the Lannisters have never been a good example of a loving, functional family. The Starks are a family, while the Lannisters are a political entity. Whatever is left of the Starks at the end of the series will still be a family, because they know how to love each other, whereas the Lannisters are falling apart as a political entity because they suck at loving each other. The biggest mistake of Tywin’s life was to abuse his younger son, and Cersei emulated her father in mistreating her little brother, with similarly disastrous effects. It took decades for their pattern of battering and belittling him to come to a head, but Lord Tywin and Queen Cersei fucked their own family sideways when they tried to have Tyrion executed. His committing patricide was a predictable response to a lifetime of mistreatment, and a natural response to his father’s decision to have him killed. He now intends to kill Cersei, for the same painfully obvious reasons. Joffrey’s death wasn’t Cersei’s fault, except to the extent that she’s damn lucky only one of her inbred bastards developed the sort of personality that leads to poison getting into your wedding chalice.

Anyway, Joffrey’s death wasn’t Cersei’s doing, and Myrcella going to live with the Martells was Tyrion’s idea, but Cersei’s been tearing Tommen’s family apart since long before he was born. Robert Baratheon wasn’t much of a parent to his queen’s children, but he was the only father they knew, and Cersei conspired to have him killed. Jaime was never a close and loving presence in the children’s lives because Cersei didn’t want him to be seen showing them affection. Myrcella and Tommen had a good rapport with their Uncle Tyrion, and Cersei blamed him for Joffrey’s death because she was incapable of seeing him as anything but a monster since the day he was born. She took him out of Tommen’s life, and the effects of her and her father’s treating him like a monster led to him killing Tywin in the privy, thus taking away her children’s only grandparent. Now her little boy has a loving companion in Margaery, and she’s trying to take that away from him. She may yet succeed, but if Cersei is found guilty of the crimes of which she is clearly guilty, Tommen and Myrcella probably won’t live much longer, either. If Tommen dies young (which he probably will), it’ll most likely be a direct consequence of the queen having conceived her children with her brother, and if he has no family left to comfort him in the little time he has left, it’ll be because his mother had very strange ideas of how to keep her family together.

To the extent that the Lannisters ever managed to function as a family rather than a dynasty, I think their emotional center was Jaime. Tywin was never a model of a loving father, but he had more affection for Jaime than the others. Jaime was a loving big brother to Tyrion against the odds, and he was, of course, pathologically close to his sister. Of Tywin and his three children, Jaime was always the only one who wanted the other three safe, healthy and present, and they felt the same about him. Where is Jaime now? As soon as he came back from the Riverlands, his father disowned him because he refused to quit the Kingsguard. Jaime did something uncalled-for to Cersei, and he has no one to blame for that but himself, but his actions were much less disturbing in the book. As soon as they established that Jaime was no longer hers to push around, Cersei began the process of pushing him away. By that point, she was already putting Tyrion through a trial he couldn’t possibly win, which meant Jaime would lose his little brother.

He was acting as a loving big brother by arranging for Tyrion’s escape, and he thought he was doing the right thing by telling the truth about Tyrion’s first wife, but that just resulted in Tyrion lashing out at him. That revelation, plus the circumstances of the trial, plus that little business of Tywin having treated his younger son like garbage all his life, led to the Privy Patricide. Oh, but before he shot his father in the middle of taking a dump, Tyrion also told his loving big brother their sister was fucking other men.

Season 5 leaves us with the twins and Tommen still at the Red Keep. In both books and show, the twins aren’t getting along so well anymore. Books and show, Cersei lands herself in a world of shit while Jaime is off somewhere else dealing with some other issues. On the show, Jaime isn’t aware of his sister fucking other men…yet. He cannot go back to the Red Keep without putting himself at great risk (the rumors are well-circulated, and Lancel knows the truth), and even if he doesn’t go back, he’ll find out about Cersei’s arrest soon enough. Even if he doesn’t believe the charges right away, he won’t be able to unhear them. He won’t feel the same way about her once he finds out she’s been fucking Little Cousin Lancel, and once those tables are turned, she won’t be able to convince him to risk his life for her.

She tries that in A Feast for Crows. She knows she has to go on trial, and she thinks her best bet is a trial by combat, so she wants Jaime to be her champion. Now we’re about to ask: Wait, Cersei, you do realize your twin has no sword hand, yes? Hardly a champion for anyone, you know? Sure, she knows, but she also seems to think that if she has to go to an early grave, Jaime should join her. Of course by that point, Jaime’s had months to stew over his sister fucking Lancel and Osmund Kettleblack, and even more months to think about how wrong it is that Cersei made him keep his distance from the kids. This trial is the chance to find out whether the twins can still be a family. If Jaime still loves Cersei at all, now is the time to tell her.

It was Riverrun’s old maester, with a message clutched in his lined and wrinkled hand. Vyman’s face was as pale as the new-fallen snow.

“I know,” Jaime said, “there has been a white raven from the Citadel. Winter has come.”

“No, my lord. The bird was from King’s Landing. I took the liberty … I did not know …” He held the letter out.

Jaime read it in the window seat, bathed in the light of that cold white morning. Qyburn’s words were terse and to the point, Cersei’s fevered and fervent. Come at once, she said. Help me. Save me. I need you now as I have never needed you before. I love you. I love you. I love you. Come at once.

Vyman was hovering by the door, waiting, and Jaime sensed that Peck was watching too.

“Does my lord wish to answer?” the maester asked, after a long silence.

A snowflake landed on the letter. As it melted, the ink began to blur. Jaime rolled the parchment up again, as tight as one hand would allow, and handed it to Peck. “No,” he said. “Put this in the fire.”