Winter is coming, but not soon enough. So to help pass the time until season seven of Game of Thrones, we’re doing a weekly re-watch of the series, episode-by-episode, with the knowledge of what’s to come and—therefore—more information about the unrevealed rich history of events that took place long before the story began. Be warned, though: that means this series is full of spoilers for every season, even beyond the episode itself. So if you haven’t watched all of the show yet immediately get on that and then come back and join us for Game of Thrones Re-Throned.
Because the next best thing to watching new episodes is re-watching old ones.
Season 5, Episode 1: “The Wars to Come”
Game of Thrones has completely avoided the use of flashbacks, despite the complex and often confusing history of Westeros, except for one single time: the opening scene of season five. That’s what we call a big deal. (Bran’s visions aren’t true flashbacks since he is an active part of them, blurring the timeline, like with poor Hodor.) But while this re-watch isn’t worried about the past, only in where the story is going, the nature of this flashback is uniquely tailored to our needs, because it deals with the prophesy of a major character, meaning it might just as easily be a flash forward.
The scene shows us a young Cersei–roughly 15-17 years old, placing this decades before the action of the show–as she drags her reluctant friend to visit a witch who can reportedly see the future. Maggy the Frog tries to tell the nasty young lady she doesn’t want to really hear what lies ahead, but when Cersei, ever the charmer, threatens to have her eyes gouged out, Maggy relents with smug satisfaction. Cersei is allowed to ask three questions.
“I’ve been promised to the prince. When will we marry?”
Cersei was asking about Prince Rhaegar, since Tywin offered her as a wife for the Mad King’s son, but the marriage offer was ultimately rejected. Maggy’s reply was misleading (as prophecies always are in Westeros), but completely accurate.
“You’ll never wed the prince. You’ll wed the king.”
Robert killed Rhaegar at the Battle of the Trident, and then went on to be named king. Cersei then married King Robert Baratheon. Maggy’s answer made it sound like Cersei would simply marry Prince Rhaegar after he ascended to the Iron Throne (which obviously never happened), but Maggy wasn’t wrong with what she said would happen, just vague.
Cersei very much wanted to marry Rhaegar, he was beautiful and beloved, but just being queen was so important to her she used her second question to ask for clarification from Maggy. We’re going to skip that for a moment though and look at her third question, because it has already borne out to be true as well. With her final query Cersei wanted to know about any kids she might have.
“Will the king and I have children?”
“No. The king will have 20 children, and you will have three.”
“That doesn’t make sense.
“Gold will be their crowns. Gold their shrouds.”
On its own the first part doesn’t make sense, yet Maggy was completely right again, as Robert had many bastards, but no actual children with Cersei. Her three kids were all fathered by Jaime, and all three had golden heads of hair (crowns), and all three have died (shrouds).
Old blood-sucking Maggy–she literally sucks blood from Cersei’s finger to read her future–was eerily and sadly accurate about the future of this young lady. Which brings us back to the second question, whose answer has yet to be totally proven true or not.
“But I will be queen?”
Maggy’s answer goes well beyond just a yes or no.
“Oh yes, you’ll be queen. For a time. In comes another. Younger, more beautiful, to cast you down and take all you hold dear.”
Adult Cersei knows that Maggy was right about her marriage and her lack of children with Robert, so the other predictions have driven her fears about her children dying (at this time only Joffrey had died, but she’ll lose Tommen and Myrcella soon too). That’s why she has been so distrustful of the younger, more beautiful Margaery. She assumed that was the other queen that would come for her and take all that she holds dear, and possibly the person who would lead to Tommen getting his shroud.
Oops. Because just like with Rhaegar and Robert, the way a prophecy is (often wrongly) interpreted is the reason it comes true, just like with Oedipus, who in trying to escape his future accidentally created it.
All of Cersei’s children are dead, like Maggy said, but Margaery is now dead too, and Cersei still reigns as queen. To Cersei this would be the first time she defeated her future, making her feel in control for the first time since she entered the hut of that witch all those years ago.
But Margaery’s death doesn’t make Maggy wrong, it makes Cersei wrong in who she should have feared, because another younger, more beautiful queen is currently sailing towards Westeros with her three dragons, and she is primed to cast Cersei down, ending her very brief reign on the Iron Throne and taking all that she holds dear.
It seems so obvious Maggy was the real deal, and thus this is where the story is heading, but even then there is one last question to answer: with her children dead, what does Cersei still hold dear that she can even lose?
Her power and her desire for vengeance are two obvious answers, and those are things she’d clearly lose if/when Daenerys overthrows her. But despite major changes in their relationship, Cersei still holds Jaime dear. Nothing would make the final aspect of this prophecy feel as painful, in the worst way, than Cersei having to see Jaime fall at the hands of that younger queen she has always feared.
Of course, there is another way for Daenerys to take Jaime from Cersei: he acts on her behalf, even in an indirect way. If Jaime sees that his sister is the true threat, and that she will blow up King’s Landing rather than lose it to Daenerys, the way the Mad King planned to do before Jaime killed him, he might step up and be the hero the city needs.
The one true flashback the show has ever used explained a lot about Cersei as a person, about her mistrust of everyone and everything, about why she was so protective of her children, but it might just as easily be a flash forward, showing us how Cersei will finally meet her end. We don’t know the exact details, but that’s because prophecies are tricky.
Especially when they keep coming true.
What do you think of Maggy the Frog’s predictions for Cersei? What does it mean for the show going forward? Tell us in the comments below.