The Big Picture

  • A reunion between Arya and Cersei in Game of Thrones Season 8 would have strengthened the overall show, providing a more satisfying conclusion to their character arcs.
  • Arya deserved to avenge her father by getting revenge on Cersei, who played a significant role in his death and other offenses against her family.
  • A showdown between Arya and Cersei would have been explosive and cathartic, showcasing Arya’s growth as a formidable slayer and allowing her to destroy one of her greatest foes.


The last season of HBO’s Game of Thrones disappointed many when it aired back in 2019, with several fans feeling especially robbed of a final showdown between major protagonist Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) and antagonist Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey). A reunion between this pairing would’ve strengthened the overall show by providing much more satisfying conclusions to their individual character arcs and allowing Arya to get the revenge on Cersei she deserved — and viewers weren’t the only ones left underwhelmed. Lena Headey, who played Cersei, recently gave an interview in which she revealed that her ideal storyline for the character would’ve resulted in a face-off between her and Arya — and Maisie Williams, who portrayed Arya, was in agreement. Headey said that she and Williams would “fantasize about a Cersei and Arya showdown; that she would come back as Jaime,” calling it their “dream” ending and referencing Arya’s ability to wear others’ faces.

While Arya’s ending was more positively received, the conclusion to Cersei’s overall character arc was criticized by audiences, particularly her death scene which sees her die after being crushed by falling rocks. Many fans desired to see Arya be responsible for Cersei’s downfall, and content from the books did point to this as a possibility; unfortunately, though, the show had other plans. A popular fan theory throughout the show was that Arya would be the one to kill Cersei; this largely stemmed from a prophecy that Cersei was told as a child. In the series, the prophet, named Maggy the Frog (Jodhi May), appears in a flashback in which she tells Cersei that she will marry the king and be queen for a time “until there comes another, younger and more beautiful, to cast you down and take all that you hold dear.” She also reveals that the king will have three children, but Cersei herself will only have three, each of whom will die.

In the book A Feast for Crows, however, there’s an extra part to the prophecy in which Maggy the Frog explains to Cersei that when her “tears have drowned you, the valonqar shall wrap his hands about your pale white throat and choke the life from you.” In the book series, Valonqar is a High Valyrian word meaning “little brother”; Cersei believes this to mean that Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) will end her life, whereas many fans interpret it as Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). Another popular theory is that Valonqar has been mistranslated and is actually gender-neutral, potentially referring to a female character such as Arya. Others guess that Arya, who disguises herself as a boy, was simply mistaken as male by the prophet, or that she would take on a man’s face to kill Cersei. There’s no doubt that this would’ve been an interesting angle for the show to explore, and regardless of whether Arya ended up killing Cersei or not, we were entitled to a fiery encounter between the pair at the very least.

game-of-thrones-poster

Game Of Thrones

Nine noble families fight for control over the lands of Westeros, while an ancient enemy returns after being dormant for a millennia.

Release Date
April 17, 2011

Main Genre
Drama

Genres
Adventure, Drama, Fantasy, Action

Studio
HBO

A Cersei and Arya Showdown Was Necessary for Their Character Arcs

It isn’t just Cersei’s weak death that makes her ending so lackluster — it’s also the fact that she is never confronted by Arya, one of her biggest enemies throughout the entire show. Equally, Arya continuously hopes to come face-to-face with Cersei after departing King’s Landing at the end of Season 1, but it ultimately builds up to nothing. Cersei, as a result, gets off lightly considering the countless atrocities she commits over the course of 8 seasons. She experiences a relatively quick death in the arms of her brother, Jaime, who sacrifices his redemption and new romance with Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) to be with his twin again.

Despite being one of the most villainous people on the show, Cersei was also one of its best characters. No matter whether you loved her or hated her, she deserved to go out with a bang, not a whimper. A clash with Arya would’ve been a much more powerful way to wrap up her narrative, and such an event is set up perfectly throughout the seasons. Though they never see each other again after Season 1, their stories are still interconnected. Cersei cockily assumes that Arya must be dead, whereas Arya frequently mentions Cersei — most notably when she’s recounting her infamous “kill list.” The kill list is a huge part of Arya’s arc, and Cersei is one of the earliest and most enduring names on it. Everyone bar one character on Arya’s list eventually dies, though not necessarily at her hand.

As one of the show’s most bloodthirsty characters, Arya kills several people throughout the duration of Game of Thrones, including several on her list. Walder Frey (David Bradley), Littlefinger (Aiden Gillen), and even The Night King (Richard Brake, Vladimir Furdik) are among her most high-profile kills, alongside The Hound (Rory McCann), who survives after she leaves him for dead. Her training with the Faceless Men turns her into a highly skilled assassin, and her fight scenes were some of the most thrilling parts of the show — we’d be lying if we didn’t say we would’ve relished witnessing her bump off Cersei too.

Arya Deserved To Avenge Her Father

After all the suffering Arya and her family went through — much of it due to Cersei, whether directly or indirectly — we feel like she earned being the one to rid Westeros of Cersei Lannister. Cersei initially lands on Arya’s list for her role in the death of her father, Ned (Sean Bean), at the climax of Season 1. After Ned figures out that Cersei’s children — Joffrey (Jack Gleeson), Myrcella (Aimee Richardson, Nell Tiger Free), and Tommen (Callum Wharry, Dean-Charles Chapman) — are fathered by Jaime rather than her husband, King Robert Baratheon, he attempts to install Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) on the throne. Cersei soon has him arrested for treason and Ned is later beheaded by Joffrey despite Cersei’s feeble and delayed attempts to reign him in.

The execution drives Arya out of King’s Landing and sets her on a path to becoming a hardened killer. At the beginning of Season 7, she travels south, hoping to finish Cersei off for good, but returns to Winterfell instead after hearing that her half-brother Jon Snow (Kit Harington) has reclaimed their ancestral home and been crowned King of the North. Arya again goes on a quest to end Cersei’s life in Season 8, but Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) and her dragons get there first, burning the Red Keep and massacring hundreds of people, including Cersei, in the process.

We can’t help but wish that Arya had been successful in her mission. Cersei’s role in Ned’s death is enough to get her on Arya’s list, but she carries out many other offenses against the Stark family in subsequent seasons, with Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) being her biggest victim. Cersei ordered that Sansa’s direwolf Lady be killed at the beginning of Season 1 and later enables Joffrey’s constant abuse of her throughout their betrothal; additionally, Cersei refuses to ally herself with Jon and the Northerners in the battle against the dead.

What a Reunion Between Arya and Cersei Might’ve Looked Like

Maisie Williams as Arya Stark in Game of Thrones
Image via HBO

As two of the most strong-willed characters on the show, a showdown between Cersei and Arya surely would’ve been explosive and a highlight of the season. We would’ve loved to have seen Arya use her abilities to trick Cersei, perhaps taking on Jaime’s face and lulling her into a false sense of security. Cersei would’ve been shocked to see Arya reveal that she was still alive; the former queen was known for her pride and ego, and it would’ve been incredibly satisfying for viewers to witness her realization that Arya had turned from a little girl into a formidable slayer. Arya also could’ve taunted Cersei about her murders of Walder Frey and Littlefinger, plus her victory against the Night King and his army of White Walkers, and shared that Sansa was not only still alive but was now a threat in her own right.

After the pain Arya had been through, it would’ve been a truly cathartic moment to see her destroy one of her first and worst foes. Sansa also could’ve been involved in the event, perhaps giving the order or overseeing the execution like she did with Littlefinger; getting to watch both Stark girls take Cersei down once and for all would’ve been the cherry on top.

On the whole, Game of Thrones Season 8 failed to live up to viewers’ expectations; many character arc conclusions fell flat, with Cersei’s being one of the greatest offenders. Though Arya — and Sansa, for that matter — arguably had some of the better endgames, it still feels like there was a lot of untapped potential. Cersei was a crucial piece of Arya’s journey, and it’s likely she would’ve turned out completely differently had the Season 1 events not transpired and set her on a quest for vengeance — something that went on to define the rest of her narrative. A final confrontation between the two women wouldn’t have fixed all the show’s issues, but at least it would’ve allowed Arya to get some much-needed payback, and for Cersei to have an epic resolution fit for an iconic character.

Game of Thrones is available to stream on Max.

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