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Has Cersei’s incompetence on Game of Thrones lessened the impact of her downfall?

Cersei's had better days.
Cersei's had better days.
HBO

Every week, a handful of Vox's writers will discuss the latest episode of Game of Thrones. Check out the recap for this episode here, and follow the whole discussion here. This week, we'll be hearing from culture editor Todd VanDerWerff, politics writer Andrew Prokop, executive editor Matthew Yglesias, foreign policy writer Zack Beauchamp, and deputy culture editor Jen Trolio. Come back throughout the week for entries.

Jen Trolio: Matt, I'm of two minds when it comes to the current relevancy of Game of Thrones' non–White Walker threats. While I'll certainly never tire of watching a giant stomp wights to smithereens (someone give Wun Wun a spinoff!), one thing I really love about the show is its character interactions, which are frequently garnished with biting wit. Even if the ongoing political machinations will inevitably be overshadowed by the big picture and overarching "winter is coming" doomsday prophecy, I'll still enjoy watching various character pairings trade barbs, taunt one another, join forces against common foes, etc.

However, one thing I am concerned with at the moment is the situation in King's Landing, especially with regard to Cersei's idiotic behavior and bad decision-making. It's not that I didn't experience any schadenfreude in seeing the Queen Mother slurp water off a dungeon floor, her head weighed down by her newly ratted hair.

But she's occasionally shown so much potential as a manipulative villain that I'm now feeling a bit disappointed at how she's allowed her paranoia and need for control to land her in such an awful predicament. She's charged with all kinds of nasty stuff — fornication, incest, treason, the murder of King Robert — and even though she's totally guilty and lots of people are thrilled to see her getting her comeuppance, I'm still hoping to see her display more strength and cunning going forward.

Alas, I know I shouldn't be surprised. Cersei has spent weeks obliviously laying the foundation for her own downfall, by endlessly tinkering with the Small Council, putting too much power in the hands of the High Sparrow, and getting so caught up in her fight with Margaery that she failed to consider the possibility that her own transgressions might come back to bite her in the ass.

It leaves me curious as to where her arc is headed. Will she be tried and perhaps even put to death? Is Game of Thrones preparing to remove yet another Lannister from its roster? And if that's a real option, what opportunities will Cersei's prospective demise create for Stannis and the new dynamic duo of Dany and Tyrion in the race for the Iron Throne?

Meanwhile, who's actually running the show at King's Landing? With Cersei and Margaery locked up and Tommen pouting in his quarters, technicalities and official hierarchies don't seem to matter very much. That leaves the Sparrows/the Church of the Seven more or less in charge, and I'm certainly intrigued by what the rule of the religious fundamentalists will entail.

I mean, sure, these clashes of kings probably won't matter once the White Walkers start killing everyone, but it's critical for us to remember that as viewers, we're still some of the only people who fully understand the danger posed by the ice monsters up north. For the many Game of Thrones characters who don't yet grasp the enormity of the threat, it makes sense that their individual quests for power, justice, revenge, and whatever else are still priority number one.

In the end, the White Walkers will either be defeated or they won't. If they win, well, then everybody's dead. But if they all wind up shattered into ice chips by dragonglass and Valyrian steel, the government that rises to prominence in the post-Walker universe will very important! And Game of Thrones is presently doing a fine job of illustrating the deficiencies of the current system, so all of the political maneuvering is still significant, in a way.

No matter who comes out on top, I don't expect Game of Thrones to sign off with a particularly happy ending. But as the field continues to narrow and more challengers to the Iron Throne are eliminated — something I suspect might be happening with Cersei and House Lannister as we speak — I hope the show will do everything it can to keep its political game focused. The fate of Westeros might depend on it.

Todd, what do you think? Confess!

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