On Sunday night’s episode of Game of Thrones, pervy pirate Euron Greyjoy received some happy news: His betrothed is with child. Sadly for Euron, that child isn’t his: As with three of the four children Cersei Lannister has borne, and all three of those who survived infancy, the tot-to-be’s father is almost certainly Cersei’s twin brother, Jaime.
As we head into the final two episodes of the series, this baby-daddy drama seems likely to have serious ramifications at King’s Landing. A foundational Cersei myth is that her love for her children trumps everything else in her life—her throneward ambition, her desire for revenge, even her hatred of her youngest brother, Tyrion. Even still, her ambition has been indirectly responsible for the deaths of all three of her children with Jaime: Joffrey (killed by poison, courtesy of House Tyrell); Myrcella (also poison, out of revenge for Oberyn Martell, whom Cersei had killed to get to Tyrion); and Tommen (suicide, after Cersei orchestrated a mass murder of rivals that included Tommen’s wife, Margaery Tyrell).
Late in “The Last of the Starks,” we saw Tyrion—still kicking after all of Cersei’s machinations, and now serving as hand to Daenerys Targaryen—attempt to reason with his sister: Wouldn’t she consider surrender, if only to save her unborn child?
The very asking of the question—which he did in front of Euron and assorted Lannister forces—would seem to put Cersei’s subterfuge in the spotlight. Barring some offscreen proclamation, as far as Euron knew, only he, Cersei, and Qyburn knew about her pregnancy—it’s not as if she would have sent a raven to share the news with her hated little brother. (She does not yet appear to be showing.) In reality, we know that Tyrion has known about the pregnancy, as well as the baby’s true parentage, since the end of Season 7. (Cersei told Jaime it was his, and that she would publicly declare as much, before she ever slept with Euron.)
If Euron noticed this and suspected what Tyrion’s knowledge of the pregnancy might mean, he didn’t react. That could still come—Reddit certainly seems to think it will. But assuming that clue sailed above our hornseadog, more obvious signs await him down the line. Assuming Cersei survives long enough to give birth, Euron might, as he takes his supposed progeny in his arms, wonder why they have blond hair.
This would presumably not be a very difficult riddle to solve. Times have changed since Robert Baratheon, Cersei’s late husband, accepted the fair-haired Joffrey, Myrcella, and Tommen as his own, and when Ned Stark’s discovery of their true parentage was partly cause for his execution. Since Season 5, when the High Septon imprisoned Cersei for (among other things) getting it on with her cousin, Lancel, and forced her to walk naked through the streets of King’s Landing to atone, it’s been common knowledge that Cersei’s children were the product of Lannister incest.
Euron wants an heir: He’s spoken fawningly about his desire to “put a baby” in Cersei’s belly; earlier this season, she relented to his requests for sex only after he floated the prospect of absconding with the sellsword Golden Company fleet he hired to assist her. (Charming!) How will he react when he learns the baby isn’t his? Not very well, probably. Given that Cersei’s military plans rest heavily on Euron’s provision of the Golden Company, his discovery of her duplicity could on its own mean the end of Lannister rule in King’s Landing.
Still—as frustrating as it was to see yet another fruitless maybe-Cersei-will-listen-to-reason-this-time sequence, Tyrion made a fair point: If we’re to believe that her total devotion to her children defines Cersei, then surely she wouldn’t risk her child’s life along with her own. But Cersei declined to negotiate: She will continue headlong into battle with Daenerys’s forces. So is she less devoted to this latest child, such that she would, in the very best-case scenario, be willing to raise them in a King’s Landing devastated by catastrophic battle? Or does she think she can avoid that catastrophic battle entirely?
The answer might be that the series’ third and final “holy shit” moment, which we apparently have yet to see, has something to do with Cersei’s wartime tactics. Certainly, she seems to be confident that she can win the battle, and war, against Daenerys. Is that because she’s loaded the Red Keep with civilians, as we know, and believes Dany won’t sacrifice them to reach the Iron Throne? Or is it because Cersei has some final trick up her sleeve, à la wildfire at the Sept of Baelor, or the Golden Company–manned giant crossbow, which halved Dany’s dragon forces, her greatest strategic advantage, in last Sunday’s episode with the death of Rhaegal?
There’s also the matter of Maggy the Frog’s prophecy. So far, the warty witch who laid out a bleak future for young Cersei hasn’t been wrong about much: As predicted, she married a king, he was adulterous, and her children have had golden crowns (of both the regal and intra-Lannister pigment variety) and died. Some other aspects—like the book-only valonqar prophecy, which holds that her younger brother will kill Cersei—have not occurred, or at least not yet. Most relevantly for our purposes, Maggy predicted—in both the show and the books—that Cersei would have only three children. Technically, she’s had four, but in Season 1, she told Catelyn Stark how her first, a “black-haired beauty” she had with Robert, died of fever shortly after his birth. If Maggy’s prophecy is correct, we can expect tragedy in Cersei’s fifth pregnancy as well.
As Cersei’s last stand looms, it’s hard to shake the feeling that history is repeating itself. As with Joffrey, Myrcella, and Tommen, Cersei’s ambition—her need for Euron’s assistance, and her gamble that pretending to be pregnant by him would tighten their alliance—might end up endangering the welfare of her child. This time, it’s likely to threaten her welfare too.
Disclosure: HBO is an initial investor in The Ringer.