There were many great villains throughout Game of Thrones, from Joffrey Baratheon to the Night King. But in the end, Cersei Lannister may have been the greatest villain of the series. As to be expected with the show, her evil was also accompanied by moments that showed she was much more complex than fans might have thought.
From times that fans hated her to the moments she shocked them to her many instances of ruthlessness, Cersei’s journey was endlessly compelling. As fans look back on the series, these episodes highlight why she was such a great character.
10You Win Or You Die (Season 1, Episode 7)
Once Ned Stark found out the truth about Cersei’s children, the tension began to build about what he would do with that information. As heroic as he was, Ned’s decision to tell Cersei ultimately cost him his life.
The scene between Ned and Cersei is a terrific insight into how unflappable Cersei is. It would seem to be a moment in which she is cornered, but she ends up appearing like the one who is truly in power. By the end of the episode, Robert is dead, Cersei is in control and Ned realizes how severely he underestimated her.
9Blackwater (Season 2, Episode 9)
The penultimate episode of season 2 gave the show its first major battle episode as Stannis Baratheon’s forces attack King’s Landing. While the action of the episode steals the show, it is just as compelling watching Cersei deal with her potential demise.
The episode cuts between the fighting and the noble women of King’s Landing hunkered down inside the castle walls. Cersei gradually gets more and more drunk as the battle goes on, mocking Sansa for her prayers. But the final scene in which Cersei plans to poison her son to avoid having him captured is a haunting look at her deep protective nature as a mother.
8First Of His Name (Season 4, Episode 5)
The murder of Joffrey was a shocking and crowd-pleasing moment, but the aftermath of it focused on two important aspects of Cersei’s character – her role as a mother and her hatred for Tyrion.
This episode finds her seeking revenge for her son while also hoping to get rid of Tyrion once and for all. As the trial draws closer, Cersei meets with each of those who will stand in judgment of Tyrion and attempts to influence them. It is a good example of Cersei’s underrated skills as a political player.
7The Children (Season 4, Episode 10)
Along with her relationship with Tyrion, Cersei’s connection to the rest of her family is dysfunctional, to say the least. Though she seems in control in just about every situation, her father Tywin is the one person she is intimidated by.
But when Tywin becomes the one threatening to separate her from her family by marrying her off, Cersei is finally ready to stand up to him. She tells him that all the rumors about her and Jaime are true and she will reveal them if he attempts to go through with her plan. She then goes to Jaime, no longer willing to hide their relationship.
6The Gift (Season 5, Episode 7)
Season 5 finds Cersei making huge political moves that seem to be leading to her victory over her enemies. She is able to give power to the High Sparrow which leads to Margaery Tyrell being arrested and Cersei securing her position by Tommen’s side.
However, this episode shows what happens when Cersei’s arrogance goes too far. The High Sparrow takes the power he has been given and uses it to arrest Cersei as well. Seeing her suddenly backed into a corner with everything she built ripped away is a huge moment for Cersei.
5Mother’s Mercy (Season 5, Episode 10)
While seeing Cersei arrested for her crimes was something fans had always wanted, the fifth season finale takes her punishment even further with unexpected results. Forced to confess to some of her crimes, Cersei is released after completing a walk of penance.
After seeing Cersei always be in a position of power, it was shocking to see her stripped naked and forced to walk through the city as the crowd heckles her. Even more shocking, as Cersei begins to break down during this humiliation, it is hard for the audience not to feel sorry for her despite everything she’s done.
4No One (Season 6, Episode 8)
Much of season 6 shows Cersei with her back against the ropes and as a much more submissive person. The monster she created with the High Sparrow has only grown in power and, as her trial draws near, things are looking increasingly dire for her.
However, with The Mountain by her side, Cersei is confronted by the High Sparrow’s men. Her iconic line, “I choose violence.” Proves that there is still defiance left in Cersei and hints that she will not go down so easily.
3The Winds Of Winter (Season 6, Episode 10)
Cersei had defeated plenty of enemies in the past, but she had never experienced a victory as epic as in this episode. The episode begins with a montage of the various King’s Landing characters preparing for Cersei’s trial until it is gradually revealed she has something else planned.
The image of Cersei sipping her wine with a satisfied smile as the Sept of Baelor is blown up with all of her enemies is a moment that is both terrifying and exhilarating. Cersei’s revenge against all her challengers while also losing her last child cements her transformation into a true villain as she takes the Iron Throne for herself.
2The Dragon And The Wolf (Season 7, Episode 7)
With such a massive cast, “The Dragon and the Wolf” is notable simply for bringing together so many of Games of Thrones‘ most important characters. But while it is a large ensemble, Cersei steals the show, further establishing herself as the real threat.
It is fun watching her finally face off with Daenerys as well as sharing screen time with Tyrion again. But Cersei’s decision to turn her back on the rest of Westeros in order to keep the Iron Throne is a defining moment for her as a villain as well as the moment she and Jaime break apart.
1The Bells (Season 8, Episode 5)
There are a number of reasons why fans are right to be mad about the final season of Game of Thrones. However, the overall disappointment seems to have been unfairly aimed at this episode which is actually one of the best of the season.
It is fascinating seeing Cersei come to the conclusion that, despite all of her political moves and deceptions, she is still facing this end. It is another moment in which her evilness is momentarily forgotten and the audience can sympathize with Cersei scared to die and embracing Jaime for the last time.