WARNING: This post contains spoilers for both the Game of Thrones television series and The Song of Ice and Fire novel series. Do not read if you don’t want it spoiled!
There, that’s out of the way.
My family and I were glued to the television for the season finale of Season 6 of Game of Thrones. One by one each successive season has been interesting as we are all in different stages of reading the books. I, who have finished all of them thus far, now know what it’s like not to have a clue what’s going to happen next.
Needless to say, Cersei’s turn for The Winds of Winter is not surprising. Using wildfire to blow up your uncle, your daughter-in-law, her father, her brother, pretty much all the septons and septas in the land and a church that has withstood so much in one fell swoop is pretty much par for the course for her.
What struck me, was the attention that the episode played on how the characters were dressed for this cataclysmic event. Specifically, the tight camera focus on the crystal ring as the handmaiden slipped it onto Cersei’s hand.
Now this series does not come from that trickster hipster Wes Anderson, so we can assume that the focus on the ring was meant for the viewer to pick up on and was, therefore, symbolic. In fact, as we were watching, I wondered out loud about the ring.
After watching this episode, my son, Isaac, wanted to rewatch the Battle of the Blackwater episode- Season 2, Episode 9. The episode toggled between those on the battle lines and the women locked in the Red Keep with Queen Mother Cersei. In this episode, Cersei torments Sansa, telling her that should the walls fall, they’ll all get raped, most will be pregnant by the next day, and that Ilyn Payne is effectively there to execute them before any of that could happen. She is a monster within her Lannister colors and false breast plate.
She is also wearing a very distinctive ring while she gets drunker and drunker and more and more vicious.
At the end of this episode, Cersei takes Prince Tommen into the throne room, sits atop the Iron Throne, and tells him a story about a lion in the woods. All the while, her fingers are interlaced with Tommen’s and between their hands a vial of poison. Cersei’s hand, I must point out, bears the crystal ring.
Gradually, she brings their hands and the poison up to Tommen’s lips until they bottle neck is nearly touching them.
So, the ring’s symbolism goes far beyond getting dressed for a trial Cersei never planned to attend.
Going back to the Season 6 finale, we see the ring again.
Cersei has just blown up a good chunk of King’s Landing and its nobility. If Jaime is called Kingslayer for killing the one king, what will be Cersei’s moniker for killing Queen Margaery- who is also her daughter-in-law- her uncle Kevan, her cousin Lancel, and the church’s holiest people. But I digress. She’s killed them and rather than go to her son who’s wife has been incinerated in a blast of green wildfire, she goes to a torture chamber to torment Septa Unella.
And not only is she wearing the ring, the camera distinctly shows the ring as Cersei baits and badgers her.
She runs this hand down Septa Unella’s body as she confesses her darkest secrets, one’s she doesn’t regret in the least.
She rests this hand and its prominent ring on Septa Unella’s face.
So, what does this all mean?
Citrine considered the crystal of “manifestation, imagination, and personal will.” Well, I’m going to knock the last one out of full consideration simply because Cersei gets so drunk during the siege of King’s Landing and doesn’t show too much personal will. At the same time, however, to have the will power to potentially poison your son as well as blow up a good portion of your enemies in one go requires a great deal of resolve.
However, I believe that manifestation is the true symbolism behind the use of citrine in these two portent Game of Thrones scenes. We have ample evidence of Cersei’s character prior to this. Her hatred for her brother Tyrion is nearly palpable. She torments Sansa whenever she gets a chance. She has her husband killed and manipulates everyone she can. When Oberon tells Tyrion about the first time he saw him, he elucidates just how much Cersei hated her baby brother. She is, in essence, the manifestation of maliciousness.
She is also the manifestation of her one true belief. As she says to Ned Stark as early as the first book and season, “When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die.” To prove it Ned- who is too honorable for King’s Landing and the game of thrones- gets his head cut off. As both series progress, more and more of Cersei’s true nature comes to light. She nearly embodies this motto. During the Battle of the Blackwater when it looked like King’s Landing had fallen, she was willing to end that loss with Tommen’s death. When her own losses mounted up after the High Sparrow arrested her and Tommen forbid a trial by combat, she played the game as she saw it, “You win or you die.”