(Warning: Massive spoilers below for "Game of Thrones" Season 6!)
When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die, and it seems as if Cersei has always been on a straight path toward the second fate. But after the Season 6 finale, we can see how painfully she might get there -- by her own brother's hand.
On her first day on the Iron Throne, Queen Cersei already rivals King Aerys Targaryen in savagery. She's plotted the death of her husband, the former King Robert Baratheon. She's schemed to kill her brother Tyrion. She's trained Ser Gregor "The Mountain" Clegane to be her own one-man constabulary. She's blown up the Great Sept of Baelor and everyone in it. (She's also burrowed her way into our cold, dead hearts, although that's just our opinion.)
But there's the sticky matter of the prophecy Cersei's life has followed since she heard it as a girl. And the prophecy suggests an untimely end. In the show, a young Cersei skips into the woods to meet a witch who tells her she will become queen until there "comes another, younger and more beautiful," and that she and the king will have children -- but not in the usual way. "Six-and-ten for him, and three for you," the witch says. "Gold shall be their crowns and gold their shrouds."
So far, so true: The "younger and more beautiful" woman could either be Margaery Tyrell or perhaps Daenerys Targaryen. And while King Robert had fathered a number of bastard children, Cersei had only three, and not with her husband. All three -- Joffrey, Myrcella and Tommen -- died as royals.
The books, though, give the prophecy a little more detail, adding: "And when your tears have drowned you, the valonqar shall wrap his hands about your pale white throat and choke the life from you." "Valonqar" is High Valyrian for "little brother" or "little sibling."
Taken literally, that means Cersei will die by Tyrion or ... Jaime.
Surely nothing could be enough for Jaime -- her brother, her longtime lover, her three golden-haired children's father -- to put an end to Cersei's life, right? After a lifetime together, Jaime knows who his sister is. But, his record isn't exactly spotless, either. Remember how he pushed young Bran Stark off a window ledge, causing the boy's paralysis? Remember how he raped his sister next to their son Joffrey's corpse? Remember how he took an oath before the series began to protect a king whom he decided to murder instead, earning himself the title "Kingslayer"?
Let's remember, too, just why Jaime murdered King Aerys.
The Mad King, as Aerys was known, had a fondness for fire that manifested in cruel and unusual punishments -- in the books, he roasted Ned Stark's father (Sansa, Bran, Arya and Jon's grandfather) in all his armor over an open fire. When Jaime found out that Aerys had planned to use wildfire stored beneath the Red Keep to burn King's Landing, he took action to save innocent lives.
Supposedly for the good of her family, Cersei does something in the Season 6 finale pretty eerily close to what Aerys had planned to stave off an approaching army: She lights barrels of wildfire beneath the Great Sept of Baelor, where the High Sparrow, members of the Faith Militant, several Tyrells and many more innocents had gathered to watch the trials of Loras Tyrell and Cersei herself. Of course, Cersei doesn't show. And an unknown number of people die.
Having overestimated her dear son's ability to handle the deaths of so many, including his wife, Margaery, and the leaders of his newfound religious purpose, Cersei then indirectly kills another: Tommen, her youngest son. When Jaime rides back through the gates of King's Landing, he is met with a scene of destruction unseen since Season 2's Battle of the Blackwater. And Cersei -- having lost the last of the children she loved more than anything -- has stepped up to a new height of power.
Jaime begins "Game of Thrones" as a sarcastic grown child of near-infinite wealth who seemingly cares very little about public opinion of himself, which was often sneering. However terrible the Mad King really was, people in Westeros care very much for oaths, and Jaime had broken one to kill him. Yet throughout Seasons 1 through 6, Jaime the Kingslayer seems to develop a softer side. He is held captive by Brienne of Tarth, who later becomes his friend. He is humbled by the loss of his hand. He spirits his little brother out of the capital to spare him from Cersei's rage. While his sister has never shied away from upending the whole board when she's frustrated by the game, Jaime takes a more reasoned approach.
However gross, the Lannister twins love each other. But the look on Jaime's face when he sees his sister ascending the Iron Throne after all she'd done -- mouth turned town, the slightest shake of his head -- speaks volumes.
As Tommen actor Dean-Charles Chapman pointed out in a recent interview with The Huffington Post, there is nothing keeping Cersei "down to earth" anymore. Confronted with the possibility that his on-screen father murders his on-screen mother, Chapman replied: "Oooh, that’d be good TV. That’d be very good TV!"
Jaime could kill Cersei for the greater good of the realm. He's done a similar act before. And the books provide a hefty clue.
If that were to happen, Robert's Rebellion -- the chain of events prior to the start of "Game of Thrones" that led to Robert Baratheon overthrowing Targaryen rule -- would repeat itself in reverse. The Targaryens, or at least Daenerys and, fingers crossed, her apparent nephew Jon, would sail into King's Landing to liberate Westeros from another ruler bent on burning them all (or at least a good portion) to a neon-green crisp.
Seasons 7 and 8 of "Game of Thrones" might just complete Cersei's transformation into the Mad Queen. Jaime, then, might just do the thing that made him known throughout Westeros once again: kill the ruler, paving the way for a new order.