Sympathy for the Devils – How ‘Game of Thrones’ Made Me Love the Lannisters

We’re on the eve of the premier of the sixth season of HBO’s mega-hit fantasy series ‘Game of Thrones’, and it looks like winter has finally come to Westeros.

This year marks the first time the majority of the show will be going off book. It flirted with original story lines in the past, but no longer having the source material to hold its hand, I’ll now confidently be able to tell my mom “I have no idea what happens to Arya!”

Many avid readers of ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ I’m sure have mixed feelings about this. Book fans (myself included) have never shied away from voicing dissension concerning certain changes to the sacred text, or using insider knowledge of character’s fates to giggle behind the backs of newcomers. But now everyone is in the same boat, and I’m glad that the show-runners decided to forget waiting and charge ahead.

I will never forget how pale a friend’s face went when I accidentally said ‘Yeah, he’s (Oberyn) awesome, a shame he won’t be on the show anymore after tonight’

Because I like some aspects of the television series better.

Specifically Tyrion and Cersei Lannister.

But wait, you ask, isn’t Tyrion a fan favorite – so popular that he is the only character in the entire story to cheat death multiple times and survive long enough to outlive any usefulness? Yes! However, in the books I personally find him insufferable.

At first he was interesting, but George R.R. Martin’s writing became so long-winded and overwrought with derivative reminders of his angst that by book five I no longer cared if he lived or died. The television medium on the other hand has allowed me to enjoy the imp’s journey much more overall. Peter Dinklage’s performance is so stellar that he’s managed to keep Tyrion the vulnerable sass-master he should be, rather than leave him the self-loathing man who waddles about King’s Landing doing little else but reminding the reader he’s a dwarf.

The character is more or less the same in both mediums, it’s just we don’t have thousands of pages to listen to him whine about Tysha, his dead father and his stubby legs. In the show, we get to see his vulnerability on his face while he gives zingers on how he’s smarter than his sister and once masturbated into turtle stew. He gets to bleed and fight back tears rather than subject us to inner monologues. It’s a perfect example of how showing, not telling, and trimming the fat in an adaptation can actually enhance the experience.

Cersei Lannister on the other hand, is actually quite different in the books, and the actress (the always underrated Lena Heady) is once again partially, if not fully, responsible for what I consider an improvement. In the books, Cersei comes across as little more than a wicked witch, vile and intolerable. We tear through her chapters impatiently waiting for her to meet her comeuppance. 

The Cersei of the show has much more understandable pain and manages to make you feel her insecurity so strongly to the point you may even pity her. The scenes where she interacts with her not so kingly husband in the first season are not in the books, and one of my favorite things about the show is that the writers decided to add these, and other, off-page scenes in order to flesh out the supporting cast. Understanding Cersei’s day-to-day life and getting to witness her unhappy marriage actually makes her villainous game much more fun, and makes her transition to central role a lot easier to endure.

As a writer, I’m ashamed to admit that a picture can truly be worth a thousand words. Unless you’re Peter Jackson, then apparently you think the opposite

I’ve talked before of how sympathy and understanding a villain’s goals and aspirations, as well as where they come from and how they got to where they are now, can greatly enhance their character arcs. Show Cersei is a great example of this. She may not get to be as vicious as she is in the novels, which some have pointed to as a belittling of her strength, (I agree her rape at the hands of her brother was a poor change), but I personally think her vulnerability, rather than simple foolish stubbornness, allows us to be drawn in further to her story. I’ve gotten to the point where I’m actually torn between rooting for her and rooting against her.

‘Game of Thrones’ hasn’t done everyone justice, but Charles Dance’s scenery chewing was so genius that his absence from the show has almost been detrimental. Even if his demise, which was my favorite scene in the novel, was botched

Now, I’ll admit, I’m a baddie lover. As a kid I collected Boba Fetts and Decepticons, had more Cobra Commanders than G.I. Joes and will never forgive the Ewoks for toppling the Empire, so maybe I’m biased, but I still think ‘Thrones’ has hammered home my belief that the Lannister brood are the most compelling characters in the entire series.

I know most people still love the Starks and the bastard Snow, but while I adore both Arya and Sansa (Yes, I like Sansa), I sympathize less with those who were complacent in their privilege and had numerous opportunities to use their head rather than lose it.

But I suppose it’s silly to throw shade on any house by this point, because at this point paying debts and taking sides doesn’t matter very much, the story is about the end of a world, not who’s going to be king or queen.

And I can’t wait to ride this wave all the way to it’s frozen hell.


Which characters do you like better in the show (if any?), or which characters do you think the show has gotten so, so wrong? Am I crazy for liking Cersei? Let me know in the comments.


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3 thoughts on “Sympathy for the Devils – How ‘Game of Thrones’ Made Me Love the Lannisters

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  1. Although I might not be rooting for the Lannisers per se, I do like looking at the world through their eyes. Particularly Cersei, who was almost married off to Rhaegar, and therefore might have been cast in the Elia role when Rhaegar ran off with Lyanna Stark.

    Things didn’t end well for Elia, and I like to think that some of that worries Cersei since her children’s parentage was a secret that would end with her and their deaths. It helps understand a lot of desperate behavior.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the comment. And yeah, it’ not that I want the Lannisters to prevail. I love seeing a villain get their comeuppance, and can only really appreciate them when there is a good guy or gal around. I’d forgotten that she was almost married to Rhaegar. I need to brush up before Sunday, looks like you’re blog may be a good place to start.

      Liked by 1 person

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