Cersei Lannister Didn't Deserve What She Got

Photo: Courtesy of HBO.
Warning: Spoilers ahead.

Game of Thrones
fans have been waiting a long time for Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) to get her comeuppance. But no one imagined it would look the way it did on Sunday night's season 5 finale. And it's hard to believe anyone would have wished it upon her.

After Cersei confesses her fornication "outside the bonds of marriage" to the High Sparrow, she's granted her freedom and sentenced to atone for her sins. That atonement involves getting her long, beautiful hair brutally chopped off and walking naked back to the palace through an obscene and violent crowd. As she walks, a woman behind her rings a bell, repeating the word "shame." When she completes her walk and finally arrives at the castle, she is soiled, bloodied, and broken down.

Cersei's shame walk would have been shocking under any circumstances. But it feels especially painful — and unjust — after a tough season for women on the show. Of course, "tough season" is a euphemism for "the rapiest season of a television show in recent memory." Sansa is raped by Ramsay Bolton. Gilly, previously raped by her own father, is targeted for rape at Castle Black. Even Myranda is little more than Bolton's sadistic sex toy.

For all of the deceitful things Cersei has done over the course of the series, this walk of shame felt totally gratuitous. As one Twitter remarked, it feels as though the show has "crossed a line." The disturbing scene reminds viewers just where women stand in the GoT universe. If rape isn't explicitly part of their narrative, it's always lurking in the corner as a constant and palpable threat. During her shame walk, Cersei is approached by a man who exposes himself and solicits a blow job. And let's not forget her own brother raping her on top of their son's dead body last season.

“It’s not hard when people are screaming at you and you look like shit and you’re being f–king humiliated to figure out how that would feel,” Headey told Entertainment Weekly. "Cersei has done wrong, but she doesn’t really deserve this,” she told EW. I almost think death would have been a more merciful punishment for her.

It's worth noting, though, that the ritual is rooted in history, from medieval times to World War II. (Just look at what the French did to women who collaborated with the Nazis.)

But the shame walk did one thing I previously thought was impossible: It made GoT fans root for Cersei. Just listen to all the people waiting for her to regain her strength and kill everyone in her path. Remember when we all used to wish she would get her just retribution? Now, she has become a sort of definitive emblem for all of the women on the series. Cersei's forthcoming vengeance may feel like justice for all the women who've been objectified in Westeros — a seemingly endless list.

Headey claims to have no idea what's in store for her character (show watchers are now caught up with book readers when it comes to Cersei's story line), but believes a blood bath is on the horizon. “I think she’s got some people to kill before she’s done," she told EW. For once, we're actually rooting for the Queen Mother to kick some serious ass.


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