Conleth Hill talks season 7, the end of Game of Thrones and Cersei’s grey morality

Varys (Conleth Hill) in his new winter clothes / Photo: Helen Sloan/HBO

Varys (Conleth Hill) in his new winter clothes / Photo: Helen Sloan/HBO

There is only one true Masters of Whisperers. For seven years now, Varys has been beautifully played by Conleth Hill, who spends the off-season occupied with other projects. This year was no exception: between the filming of the seventh season and the eighth and final one, Hill has been busy in London’s West End —UK’s Broadway—, starring in a stage production of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, alongside British acting legend Imelda Staunton. In a new interview, the actor has not only opened up about this new role of his but about filming the last seasons of Game of Thrones… as well as the ability to pass by unnoticed by fans due to his luscious head of hair.

Newsweek asked about the upcoming seventh season, which is shorter than previous seasons by three whole episodes, though Hill did find issue with that interpretation:

“It was going to be seven seasons, full stop”, the actor clarified, referring to the original plan of a traditional seventh season as the show’s last, before the producers went for two shorter seventh and eighth seasons, of seven and six episodes respectively. “So, if you look at it, you’re getting three more episodes than what it was going to be.”

So, in the end, the seventh season they just filmed turned out to not the last we’ll see of these characters, but that doesn’t mean the conclusion isn’t approaching fast. Has Hill been overcome by this (as Newsweek put it) “feeling of denouement”?

“No, not yet. I’ve always been aware from day one how lucky I was, how special it was. I’m also really proud that it’s made [in Northern Ireland] and shows off the beauty of where I come from. Our tourism has gone up because of it. It will be a big loss when it goes, for lots of different reasons—and not just as selfish as my own. I haven’t contemplated it yet. We’ve got another season to go.”

Daenerys (Emilia Clarke), Tyrion (Peter Dinklage), Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel), Varys (Conleth Hill) and Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) in their new stronghold / Photo: Helen Sloan/HBO

Varys (Conleth Hill) with Daenerys (Emilia Clarke), Tyrion (Peter Dinklage), Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel), and Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) / Photo: Helen Sloan/HBO

Another season to go for them… and two for us. In little more than two months, we’ll get to see how the conflicts brewing in the last few seasons boil over into all-out wars. The White Walkers approach from the North, and Daenerys Targaryen from the Narrow Sea. Varys may be firmly with the Dragon Queen, but the actor has a more nuanced view:

“I think Cersei’s a bad article sometimes. But what’s brilliant about it is that they’re all human. You could argue Cersei did what she did and blew up the Great Sept because she was being abused by the High Sparrow and his people. It’s not as easy to be black-and-white about it. Look at how people thought about Jaime at the beginning versus now. It’s always changing—that’s what is so brilliant about the books and the series.”

As Conleth Hill himself tells it, he’s quite thankful for the experiences and opportunities Game of Thrones has brought him — but he is no Kit Harington in terms of fan recognition, even though Hill’s impressive locks may compare with those of Jon Snow. And, funnily enough, that is precisely why he can go by largely unnoticed:

“I don’t really get recognized that much. I don’t look like Varys, really—I’ve got hair.” He does, indeed. Just take a look! Varys must be jealous. “I generally get left alone, really. But any fans that do approach are usually well-mannered and kind.”

Oh, my, Conleth, we’ll blush. I’m sure I can speak for everyone and wish Hill great success in all his future endeavors, during and after Game of Thrones.

82 responses

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    1. Lord Parramandas checking in!

      Reading this post, I hope they do portray Cersei with a layer of complexity in S7, instead of straight “bad”. Conleth’s comment definitely made it sound possible. This is still GoT.

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    2. Surely we are getting close to the first real trailer now? I’m hoping it will drop in the next week or two.

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    3. Heard somewhere that he initially auditioned for the role of King Robert. He’d ‘ve been out of the show 6 years ago so I’m glad he got Varys instead. He plays it brilliantly and I wish him all the success he deserves.

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    4. I’ve always thought of Conleth Hill/Varys as the Alan Rickman/Severus Snape of GOT
      It’s like he and only he alone knows something and has been putting it into his performance since season 1 and we’ll only know what it is in the last episode

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    5. Yes Jon snowed … I feel the cold winds rising too
      The trailer has to come out this week or the next

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    6. Jon Snowed,

      I’m sure we’re close. if previous seasons are any indication, we’ll get the first trailer latest by mid-june, that is one month before the premiere.

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    7. Something about this interview made it really hit home that this journey will soon be over. That makes me sad.

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    8. Jon Snowed:
      Surely we are getting close to the first real trailer now? I’m hoping it will drop in the next week or two.

      The premiere is two months away, so I would say we can expect a trailer in about a month. If may come sooner, who knows… but a month before the premiere seems most likely, going by last season’s schedule.

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    9. Luka Nieto,

      A month? No way, this is insane, we still have 2 trailers to get, and not even the first is here ,and just take a look back when we had the first trailer of past seasons, we had the first trailer even 3 months before the first episode, im SURE we will have a trailer this month.

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    10. Aguero: this is insane

      I stand corrected. I’ll just go get sectioned in the nearest psychiatric facility.

      Look at the season six date for the first trailer with proper footage. There were some teasers before, but we already have those this year; two of them, in fact. They cut it pretty short last year, and now they’re following suit; even if a trailer is released right now, it would be later than in previous seasons. Season five was the last time we got a full trailer three months before the premiere.

      I’m not saying we won’t get a trailer this month. But the alternative is certainly not insane. Season six did it, and we’re halfway through going the same path.

      Sansa’s Knight:
      Luka WHYYYYYY
      why can’t we get 1 2 months before ???

      We can! It’s just not a given, especially considering the trend set by last year.

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    11. Luka Nieto,

      Ugh,i’m already losing hype in it because of this bullshit info drought,you would think that with the season being delayed by three months than usual they would be kinder but no still the same stingy HBO marketing where they drip feed you crumbs of bread . The post production period is just the worst,at least when they are filming we constantly get news .

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    12. Lord Parramandas: Reading this post, I hope they do portray Cersei with a layer of complexity in S7, instead of straight “bad”.

      That would really not be appropriate, as Cersei is a very simple character. She adheres to a very simple “family first” morality scheme. There really were not any shades of gray when she blew up the High Sparrow: he was her enemy and therefore an enemy of the Lannisters; the price for being an enemy of the Lannisters is death; ergo, he dies. One thing that we have to remember is that Cersei genuinely sees the Tyrells as enemies, too: Tommen might believe that he is in love with Margaery, but Margaery really is another foe; Tommen is just too naive to realize it!

      All of this was laid out in Season 1. Cersei was trained to kill her enemies, and she views everyone who is not a Lannister as either: 1) an enemy; or, 2) a future enemy. Combine this with her simple-minded “family first” morality, and you get what we see!

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    13. First Season 6 trailer came out March 9th and the premiere was April 25th. So 47 days before the premiere. That would put us right at March 31st this time.

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    14. Aguero,

      It actually is far from insane. The show does not need trailers anymore. The one and only thing that is going to bring in new fans is binge-watching the series up-to-date. That is far and away the biggest “trailer” for the series at this point.

      The existing TV audience will return, minus those people who were put off by Season 6 (which seems like a tiny fraction of the audience at most) plus those added by binge-watching the series over the prior 12 months (which probably has pretty much gotten everybody that it can by this point). The first episode will get great ratings. The ratings then will drop substantially as viewers put off watching episodes because they have other things to do on Sunday evenings. The ratings then will go way up in the last couple of episodes. We’ll see this if there are no trailers, and we’ll see this if there are many trailers.

      HBO’s marketing teams haver other projects to promote, and projects where marketing will actually affect the ratings of those projects. It is far more sensible for HBO to spend marketing $$$ on those projects, not for ones like Thrones. If I were an HBO shareholder (and, come to think of it, I might well be!), then I would not want HBO wasting promotion $$$ with so little expected in return!

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    15. …due to his luscious head of hair.

      Interesting description. I must say that I have never come across a man with luscious hair, although a woman with infinite curls might fit the bill. I will be on the lookout for people with luscious hair. What is your definition of luscious hair, Luka?

      On another note, I am still wondering what Varys did with the sorcerer in the box. 🙂

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    16. Sansa’s Knight:
      I’ve always thought of Conleth Hill/Varys as the Alan Rickman/Severus Snape of GOT
      It’s like he and only he alone knows something and has been putting it into his performance since season 1 and we’ll only know what it is in the last episode

      Nice way of putting it. Though with the fAegon subplot cut out of the TV version entirely, Varys’ big secret might turn out to be something entirely different from where it appears to be going in the books. If he is actually part Blackfyre, or a Blackfyre partisan, as many readers speculate, who among the show-only audience will even care? It would mean nothing to them, since the show scripts delve so minimally into Westeros’ history.

      But you’re right: Hill does carry himself that way, as if Varys knows way more than he’s divulging and has his own reasons for doing what he does – and not simply to confuse his foes and rivals to keep them wrong-footed, as Littlefinger does. He brings the character to life splendidly. I hope his stage career takes him to Broadway at some future point, so I can see him live in something.

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    17. HotPinkLipstick,

      Ok…I agree but I am also confused since Luka’s definition of luscious seems to differ from yours. Does it have to do with men over 45 even having a thick head of hair? 🙂

      Can you discern my manic sensibilities these days? Having no book material to compare/contrast with GoT material has really sent me over the edge. ’tis madness!

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    18. Wimsey,

      This is the most terrible interpretation of Cersei’s character I have ever read. If she is a “simple” character, where does this leave Jon? A unicellular organism?

        Quote  Reply

    19. Hodors Bastard,

      And I also want to know: (1) how Kinvara knew about his mutilation; (2) whose voice was it that she said spoke to him as his junk got roasted; and (3) why aren’t we going to see the lovely Kinvara this season ?

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    20. The theatre in my hometown (which is a somewhat compact theatre) had a poster advertising a link-up with the National Theatre’s production of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf”. I’m thinking of getting a ticket if it’s not already too late – there was an exhibition last autumn about time Tolkein spent in my home county convalescing after the First World War and I missed that exhibition (I was ill in the autumn though).

      I prefer show Varys to book Varys, teleporter and all. Mind you, I mostly listened to the audiobooks rather than lugging hefty volumes around with me and although I have a great admiration for Roy Dotrice I wasn’t enamoured of his “Varys” voice – and Oberyn I thought sounded somewhat “stage Oirish”.

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    21. Wimsey,

      Wow,,, way to completely ignore 6 years of hard work Lena and D&D have gone into constructing one of the most layered and fascinating female anti-heros on TV…

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    22. Hodors Bastard,

      I was being a tad hyperbolic. Nonetheless, his hair is very impressive when you’re used to seeing him bald. He’s much more attractive with hair. Hence the colorful adjective, for a full, sexy head of hair.

      Nothing against bald people. Or eunuchs. I merely like Hill’s hair. I envy it. I’m pretty sure I won’t have such a thick head of hair at his age. Actually, mine may be thinner right now, and I’m half his age!

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    23. Wimsey,

      I disagree completely. Cersei (especially TV Cersei) is a very layered character and we saw many sides of her. I’m not denying that she is an antagonist but she is definitely a complex antagonist. By that logic, most of the main characters are simple ones.

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    24. Lord Parramandas: I disagree completely. Cersei (especially TV Cersei) is a very layered character and we saw many sides of her

      What layers are there to her? She is a very simple person, with zero subtley or nuance, and zero appreciation of such things. We got that from the start: “power is power” she asserts: the discussions of what underlies power in which other characters engage would mean nothing to her; power comes from the fact that when you have her last name, people obey you.

      Now, I do agree that Show!Cersei is a good deal less stupid that is Book!Cersei. (So are my cats.) However, I think that this was calculated: it is easier to show a person of average intelligence going insane than a stupid person going insane because smart people who go crazy start doing stupid things, but stupid people do stupid things whether crazy or sane.

      As for Cersei’s role, she is not an antagonist. Antagonists push the evolution of main characters by (wait for it!) antagonizing them. However, Cersei has had zero such effect on Jon or Daenerys, and they are the two primary antagonists. Cersei has an adversarial relationship with Tyrion: but it’s their father, Twyin, who has an antagonistic relationship with Tyrion. Cersei’s cruelty has zero impact on how Tyrion evolves, but Tywin’s has a huge effect: Tyrion was, after all, desperately trying to win approval from Tywin, and when Tyrion stopped, he really stopped! Tywin also is an antagonist for Cersei.

      Really, the only character for whom Cersei is a true antagonist is Sansa: but Sansa is #6 on the list of main characters. And, of course, like every other major character in the series, she is (of course) her own antagonist. Anna Karenina still has an effect all of these years later!

      What Cersei actually represents is a minor protagonist. She’s a very unpleasant, self-centered, narrow-minded and left-side-of-the-Dunning-Kruger curve (a.k.a., “Trump zone”) protagonist. However, her arc in every season since the 2nd and in the Crows/Dragons book does help create the story being told in that season/book.

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    25. HelloThere: Wow,,, way to completely ignore 6 years of hard work Lena and D&D have gone into constructing one of the most layered and fascinating female anti-heros on TV…

      I ignore unicorns and sasquatches, too.

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    26. Hodors Bastard: Can you discern my manic sensibilities these days? Having no book material to compare/contrast with GoT material has really sent me over the edge. ’tis madness!

      Next we will be debating whether teenage women have thin-hips or not….. 😉

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    27. Just a thought, and no doubt it’s been discussed on WoW before, but will Jon Snow ever take the Stark name, and if so when and how — from Sansa perhaps?

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    28. Catspaw Assassin,

      Only a king can legitimize a bastard. Roose decided to make Ramsay his legitimate son, but King Tommen signed the document – “another bastard!”, as Sansa scornfully put it.

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    29. I enjoyed Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? both as the Liz Taylor-Richard Burton film, and as a play staged in the capital of my country, with good actors. I read that acting as a fighting couple finally ruined the Taylor-Burton marriage and I’m sure it’s not the first time when characters influence actors.
      I’d have liked to see Conleth and Imelda Staunton in Albee’s play, they must be amazing. If she is half vicious as she was in Harry Potter… she’ll be fine.

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    30. “I think Cersei’s a bad article sometimes.” — but, but, there is no good and bad in GoT. GRRM says so and GRRM is God (so say GRRM’s rabid simplistic fans) *snort*

      “My own heroes are the dreamers, those men and women who tried to make the world a better place than when they found it, whether in small ways or great ones. Some succeeded, some failed, most had mixed results… but it is the effort that’s heroic, as I see it. Win or lose, I admire those who fight the good fight.” — GRRM

      But, but there is no such thing as a ”good” fight because there is no ”good” or ”bad” in GoT. It is not that kind of series (so say GRRM’s rabid simplistic fans) *snort*

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    31. Ten Bears,

      I agree. Kinvara joins a number of “one episode wonders” with interesting “show-only” pseudo-amalgamated histories. I really enjoyed how she intimidated the one who “serves the realm” in The Door last season.

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    32. Wimsey,

      OK, I got a damn good laugh out of this! I distinctly remember lurking on a hardcore Tolkien forum as a teenager back in the early 2000s to see if this haven for passionate fans would be a good place to discuss my boundless enthusiasm for both the novels and the acclaimed Peter Jackson film adaptations. That was … ill-advised. What I saw there shall remain unspoken, other than there are some, uh … committed Glorfindel fans out there. My reaction mirrored that of the character in that comic almost exactly.

      Of course, such memories have been greatly outnumbered by many, many wonderful experiences with fandoms related to Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Lost, etc. over the years. But there’s no teacher quite like experience; sooner rather than later, you learn to recognize the warning signs and bail in time to preserve your sanity. One can hardly blame any general audience member interested in exploring a bit deeper to make sure they can see the bottom of the pool before they decide to go for a swim, or for staying out of the water entirely. We can be a bit intense at times.

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    33. Luka Nieto,

      I enjoy your hyperbolicism. Do continue. Did I ever mention that you and your articles are a luscious and welcome addition to this realm?

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    34. Lord Parramandas,

      She’s certainly more complex than in the book – she’s very much a paranoid witch there. In the show, there were times you actually felt sorry for her and understood where she was coming from

      I never was a fan of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf but I’d see it with him in it as well as the amazing Imelda Stauton. Maybe it will be up on National Theatre Live someday, coz that would be my only chance
      Sansa’s Knight,

      ’ve always thought of Conleth Hill/Varys as the Alan Rickman/Severus Snape of GOT
      It’s like he and only he alone knows something and has been putting it into his performance since season 1 and we’ll only know what it is in the last episode

      I like that, yes, very good parallel there

      Genghis Khan,

      We knew it would be a hard wait given the different schedule. Have patience. Before you know it , it will be here and gone in a flash and then we’ll have another long year…..

      . Luka Nieto,

      Nothing against bald people

      Here is one of my favorite takes on the subject

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    35. Jared:

      What I saw there shall remain unspoken, other than there are some, uh … committed Glorfindel fans out there.

      Really? A lot of people bent out of shape over Glorfindel’s one scene being cut? I’m something of a ‘the-books-are-always-better’ zealot, but that bit didn’t bother me. What they did to Faramir’s character, now…I can see being annoyed by that. And having Aragorn ride his horse off a cliff didn’t really add anything IMO. But cutting Glorfindel to give one of the few female characters something to do besides look beautiful?

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    36. Sean C.:

      Jon is a king.If he wanted, he could legitimize himself.

      I don’t see why not, right? I mean, if Stannis could…but then, can one legitimize oneself? There isn’t much of a Westerosi rulebook on these things. So many titles seem to be given because someone said so or fought someone else for it, not some smooth line of ascension. Mind you, I kind of think that Jon would be the last person to give himself legitimacy…

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    37. ash,

      Well like i said,it’s easier when they are filming because we constantly get scoops,now we barely get anything besides some boring teasers and some photo stills which are cool to look at for like a couple of days and then it gets boring .

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    38. Wimsey: That would really not be appropriate, as Cersei is a very simple character.She adheres to a very simple “family first” morality scheme.

      That’s simply not true. How would you describe Cersei’s relationship with Tyrion, Tywin, Joffrey? Robert, his husband? All of them are/were his family. With all of them she shared at least a complicated relationship, full of different, contradicting emotions. Remember, she also killed her firstborn she had with Robert.
      Family first is not Cersei’s code of conduct.

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    39. GoT is only up for 1 award at the BAFTAs tonight, the “Must See Moment” which is voted for by viewers.

      The nomination is for “Battle of the Bastards”. Unfortunately it’s up against some very popular free to view shows so being on a subscriber channel is a disadvantage. I only saw the “Line of Duty” one which I have say was excellent too.
      Game of Thrones: Battle of the Bastards – Bighead, Littlehead/Television 360/Startling Television/HBO/Sky Atlantic

      The Late Late Show with James Corden: Carpool Karaoke with Michelle Obama – Fulwell 73/CBS/Sky 1

      ​Line of Duty: Urgent Exit Required – World Productions/BBC Two

      Planet Earth II: Snakes vs Iguana Chase – BBC Studios/BBC Natural History Unit/BBC America/ZDF/France Television/BBC One

      Strictly Come Dancing: Ed Balls’ Gangnam Style – BBC Studios/BBC One

      Who Do You Think You Are?: Danny Dyer’s Origins – Wall to Wall Media/BBC One

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    40. IG Stark,

      You are right, GRRM doesn’t even see the White Walkers as evil to him they are grey but the show might take it another way. No characters are evil in his mind, they are at times problematic, psychopaths or sociopaths but they were not born that way, their childhood or certain scarring events in their life sculpted them that way which is why all his characters are so fascinating.

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    41. Luka Nieto,

      i think the earliest we’ll be getting the trailer is 6 weeks before the premiere at the most but we should be getting a EW cover soon and last year I think we got a insider trailer of filming I believe, not any really proper spoiler content but it was fascinating so i’m hoping we get something similar.

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    42. I seem to remember we got trailer in January for season 5.. Three months before the season premiere..
      I personally think we are bound to get a trailer this month ..

      If you think about it we may get to know the whole story by the end of October if we had similar lads like leak may be enough for those who had been waiting to know this end for more than a decade

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    43. I find it funny he says cersei is grey ..a character who is evil in the books and provided many layers by the show but at the same time multi layer characters from the books are turned one note in the show

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    44. dragonbringer,

      Cersei is not “evil” in the books: unlike most fantasy, there is no “good” or “evil” in SoI&F. Like bad people in the real world, Cersei genuinely believes that people who oppose her are morally wrong. She buys completely into a moral scheme where people are subservient to their natural superiors, and with the Targaryens gone, she believes the Lannisters to be naturally superior to all other families in Westeros.

      Cersei’s bigger problem (both on show and in books, but more so in the books) is that she simply is the classic Dunning-Kruger type: not simply intellectually incompetent, but unable to grasp that she’s intellectually incompetent. Put another way, she is ignorant of her ignorance! Stupid is not evil: and as that immortal extraneous soldier said on Babylon 5, given the explanations of “stupid” or “evil,” always bet on stupid!

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    45. Jared: What I saw there shall remain unspoken, other than there are some, uh … committed Glorfindel fans out there. My reaction mirrored that of the character in that comic almost exactly.

      But… but… without Glorfindel, we didn’t learn that only elves who had been in Aman glow in the wraith world!!!!

      Do you recall which Tolkien group it was? I used to post on TheOneRing nearly 2 decades ago.

      I have read that in the Harry Potter world, things turned into civil war on some forums. Evidently, there were cases where moderators would lock each other out! And supposedly it was for the all-important issue of…. (wait for it….) did Hermione have a thing for Harry or Ron? That was about as important as the luminescent qualities for former denizens of Valinor.

      In the Doctor Who world, there are the “continuity” types. They are equivalent to the “purists” for Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, etc. That’s particularly silly, because (of course) with time travel, the Doctor is constantly altering history. So, there would be no continuity!

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    46. dragonbringer,

      Although I find her more complex than Wimsey, I have a hard time seeing Cersei as traditional ‘evil.’ Like the Mad King, she is delusional, paranoid and an elitist. In AFfC and ADwD, she spends most of her time fretting about Marg’s influence over her children, why Jaime is changing, her pathos, and her envy and fondness for the Myrish swamp. She makes atrocious political decisions too (i.e. Faith Militant restoration). In fact, the one effort she makes to set up Marg goes horribly wrong and gets her shenanigans exposed. To me, she comes across as another failed Targ leader.

      Personally, I was touched by how Cersei’s story ended in ADwD with her “Walk of Shame.” Her delusions came forward and she saw taunting ghosts in the crowd. It broke her. It was a very awkward, ironic and sympathetic moment. Unfortunately, the books left it at that, with her meeting Robert Strong. Who the heck knows what will transpire further? Will she really follow the pathway taken by the show and further her delusion (a la the Mad King)? Will her childhood curse via MtF be her undoing?

      Great storytelling awaits (hopefully). Even though Lena Headey performance is spectacular, the show won’t spoil all of Cersei’s story.

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    47. I would be amazed if Cersei does not win the throne in the books too, how long she lasts may differ but I do feel that’s the way she is heading, D&D know all the arcs for all major characters.

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    48. Wolfish:
      Genghis Khan,


      I could be totally wrong, but I think the only real competition here is snake vs. iguana.

      And indeed snake vs iguana beat BotB, but at least Genghis Khan doesn’t have to go on a punching frenzy.

        Quote  Reply

    49. Hodors Bastard,

      I actually don’t really see TV Cersei as Mad King but more like Maegor the Cruel. She’s completely sane, cold and calculating, but also very ruthless and cruel. On the other hand, I find book Cersei quite cartoonish.

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    50. Mel,

      LOL, you misunderstood my comment completely. As for good vs evil, you do realize that psychopaths and sociopaths (which many in the medical profession consider to be synonyms, but you want to differentiate them, fine) are the definition of ”evil”, right? Namely, that ”evil” is defined in psychology and ethics as the inability (of humans) to feel empathy and compassion for others. That is the definition of evil. You may disagree with this definition, but it is what it is.

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    51. Wimsey,

      I can’t quite agree that she is not complex, but it could be that the Evil Queens before her are exceptionally cartoonish. Cersei undergoes a character arc unlike any other evil queens. But I have to say, unlike her twin Jaime, Cersei does not have a complex psyche, she is just a bad person going sadist.

        Quote  Reply

    52. Cercei is a bad person who only had sympathy for was her kids and sometimes Jaime. Not very complex. And NO WAY does she win in the books or show.

        Quote  Reply

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