Thursday, April 18, 2024

A Floor Map for Season Seven

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You know, for a few minutes there, Cersei and Jaime were talking sense and talking about exactly the sort of thing you’d want characters to discuss at the beginning of a season of television.

In summary, Cersei is satisfied that at last, she is free to act on her own behalf as a ruler of Westeros. Unfortunately in the process, she’s created or discovered enemies in three out of four cardinal directions, while her established allies have been mysteriously killed en masse, and supply has become a serious issue with the arrival of winter conditions. On a personal level, she’s having difficulty dealing with her grief over Tommen’s suicide, and this is affecting her relationship with Jaime. Jaime is also ill at ease with the new Cersei, does not share her motivations, and believes their position to be hopeless. They both conclude that they must secure at least one more ally with resources to share if they’re to have a hope of winning this war. Cersei’s already on the job.

Here are Cersei’s motivations. Here are the external threats. Here is how the Lannisters might deal with them. Here are the interpersonal problems.

There we go! That’s it! That’s the outline of a good scene to get us started for a season’s worth of plot. In particular there’s a lot to like about Cersei’s rewriting history by saying that Tommen betrayed her by committing suicide, and refusing to discuss the matter further. That’s good character writing, helped along by Lena Headey’s acting.

The Problems

There are, however, a veritable host of nitpicks in this scene. I personally think that any one of these could slide. In total, unfortunately, they are greater than the sum of their parts, and speak to a wider lack of care in worldbuilding and managing chronology and information within the story. It’s not so much falling down on the details, as deciding that the details don’t matter.

  • How does Cersei know that Tyrion is now Daenerys’s Hand?
  • How doesn’t Cersei know that Arya Stark massacred the Freys, given that Arya explicitly left witnesses and instructions to pass on the tale of what happened there?
  • What does “a dynasty for us” even mean, when they just established that Cersei and Jaime’s children were dead?
  • How long has it been since Cersei’s final scene in 6.10? Since the Tyrell-Sand alliance? Since Jon Snow was crowned? Since Dany set sail? Since Cersei invited Euron to the capital?
  • Isn’t that paint still wet?

There’s a more serious military question unresolved here too. Given that Dragonstone is a) completely unoccupied and b) a great place from which to launch an attack on King’s Landing, how come Cersei and Jaime have taken no steps to occupy the castle with their own forces and stall, contest, or at least give better warning of Daenerys’s approach? Why do they not even discuss this?

Giving up Dragonstone should be a big decision. It controls the Gullet, and therefore, it controls naval access to Blackwater Bay. We can see that on the floor map itself. It is not the sort of location that should be disposed of with an “eh, I’m sure it will be fine,” even if the Lannisters’ supply issues are too debilitating to maintain even a skeleton garrison.

But there is one big problem that destroys the credibility of this scene entirely.

Remember when Cersei blew up the Sept of Baelor?

The events of last season render what’s going on here and now completely unbelievable. After two seasons of building up the Sparrow movement as a legitimate threat to the interests of the Lannisters and Tyrells in King’s Landing, Cersei blew up their leader and a fair few of the Sparrows. There is no possible way she could have killed all of them. Even leaderless, the force of the Sparrow movement should still be strong in the city—and now they should be beyond outraged that Cersei, instead of going to trial, murdered their leaders, murdered Queen Margaery, destroyed one of the most important holy places in all of Westeros, murdered her own son for all the crowd knows (I’m sure the people of King’s Landing will believe “suicide” after the sept exploded), and crowned herself queen.

In 6.04, Kevan Lannister told us that there were “thousands of Sparrows” and a botched confrontation with them would mean civil war. We see establishing shots in 6.06 of pro-Sparrow crowds that would lend credence to Kevan’s view. Cersei has not killed thousands of Sparrows. Where’s the civil war?

Not to mention that blowing up the Sept of Baelor wasn’t just an affront to the Sparrows, but to every believer of the Seven in all the Kingdoms. Blowing up a few dozen at the sept should have caused them to multiply exponentially. When you take into account the fact that Cersei murdered her uncle Kevan in the explosion as well, not even the Lannister army should be feeling much in the way of loyalty towards her.

The people of King’s Landing once stormed the Dragonpit and killed a dragon. There were riots during Joffrey’s rule as well, in 2.06. It is implausible that every single person in King’s Landing is paralyzed with fear of Cersei. It’s also implausible that every single Lannister subordinate is prepared to accept such an impious, kinslaying liege. And that’s before we start talking about ruling queens.

The Henchman

Then there’s Jaime to consider, and his own lack of reaction to this development.

CERSEI: You’ve been quiet since you came home. Are you angry with me?
CERSEI: Are you afraid of me?
JAIME: Should I be?

And that’s what we get. Jaime left King’s Landing and returned to find that Cersei used wildfire, Aerys’s wildfire, to turn part of King’s Landing into a smoking ruin.

Remember this look?

Jaime’s staunch opposition to King’s Landing being burnt down at the whim of a monarch is a sizable chunk of his character. This was amply established in the show itself, which has even written him displaying outright pride that he prevented such a thing occurring under Aerys. Why isn’t he afraid? Why isn’t he angry?

In A Feast For Crows, Cersei burns down the unoccupied Tower of the Hand to finish the celebrations for Tommen’s wedding. Jaime was present that night and witnessed the event, so we get to see what exactly he thinks of Cersei using wildfire to burn things down.

Jaime knew the look in his sister’s eyes. He had seen it before, most recently on the night of Tommen’s wedding, when she burned the Tower of the Hand. […] Even in the baleful glow, Cersei had been beautiful to look upon. She’d stood with one hand on her breast, her lips parted, her green eyes shining. She is crying, Jaime had realised, but whether it was from grief or ecstasy he could not have said.
The sight had filled him with disquiet, reminding him of Aerys Targaryen and the way a burning would arouse him.
Let him be king over charred bones and cooked meat, Jaime remembered, studying his sister’s smile. Let him be the king of ashes.
—Jaime II, AFFC

Show!Jaime’s backstory does not differ from book!Jaime’s in his hatred of wildfire and Aerys Targaryen, the last we heard of these issues from him anyway. Yet all his reaction to Cersei trying the same thing Jaime sacrificed his honour for is mild disturbance. He’s far more emotional over Tommen’s death, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but does demonstrate the writers’ (lack of) understanding of the character.

In Sum

This scene serves as a pretty good introductory paragraph for Cersei and Jaime in season seven. Unfortunately, it’s an introductory paragraph that completely forgets about the developments of season three and season six. It’s also quickly followed by Euron’s magically appearing armada (which also sailed right by the unoccupied Dragonstone) and new look, and there’s no taking that seriously.

Images courtesy of HBO

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