Let's unpack the clues.

By Kim Nelson
Apr 24, 2019 @ 5:45 pm
HBO

While the main characters of Game of Thrones are dramatically reuniting, getting it on atop a pile of hay, and generally preparing for the biggest battle of their lives, the story is sort of tricking viewers into forgetting one of the most important questions of Season 8: Is Cersei Lannister pregnant, or is she lying?

Cersei (Lena Headey) first dropped the baby bombshell on her brother/lover Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) last season during the episode “Eastwatch.” Jaime seemed emotionally overwhelmed by the thought of having another twincest baby after the deaths of their three offspring. On top of that, he was realizing Cersei has no intention of actually sending their army to the North, and rather than stick around to meet the baby his sis is supposedly carrying, he disobeys her and rides off to Winterfell alone. Cersei now considers him a traitor, nearly as treasonous as their younger brother Tyrion (Peter Dinklage).

“She’s always been good at using the truth to tell lies,” Jaime says to Tyrion as they survey their new surroundings in Winterfell in the second episode of season 8. After wrongfully believing that Queen Cersei would keep her word, Tyrion is second-guessing all of the instincts he once relied on to anticipate Cersei’s every move. He wonders aloud if the baby actually exists. “No, that part is real,” Jaime insists, and as the presumed father, he seems like the next most reliable source. But let’s take a closer look.

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At the moment, Cersei is without any family. She has cut off both of her brothers for betraying her: Tyrion killed their father, Tywin Lannister, and Jaime has left Kings Landing to join her enemies in the great war. In the season 8 opener, “Winterfell,” she reluctantly caves in to Euron Greyjoy’s romantic advances. After a metaphorical roll in the hay, Euron touches Cersei’s stomach and says “I’m going to put a prince in your belly.” As he leaves, the notoriously emotionless Cersei looks to be tearing up.

There are many ways to read this. Cersei could be lying about the pregnancy in order to keep Jaime from leaving, as well as fool Tyrion into thinking she is putting the future of Westeros ahead of her personal interests. She could be feeling mournful over the thought of carrying a baby fathered by anyone other than her beloved Jaime. But it seems more likely that Cersei realizes that she needs to lock down a believable father for the scandalously conceived baby she’s carrying, which would explain why she’d ever let Euron into her bed after stringing him along to gain his vast fleet of ships. So, let's call this one a point for Yes, Pregnant.

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One of the biggest clues that this pregnancy is either fake or will not ever become a baby happened way back in the season 5 opening scene, one of the series’ rare flashbacks. A young Cersei travels into the woods to find a witch known for telling fortunes. The witch, known as Maggy The Frog (Jodhi May), tells Cersei that she will one day marry the king, and become queen for a time, until someone younger and more beautiful comes along. “The king will have 20 children, and you will have three. Gold will be their crowns, and gold their shrouds.” All of Maggy’s other prophecies have come true: Cersei marries King Robert Baratheon (Mark Addy), and has three blonde children with her secret lover (and, we can not stress this enough, twin brother) Jaime. All three children ultimately die tragically, and are buried in royal shrouds.

Does that mean she’s done making babies? There’s also the question of her age.

As early as season 3, Olenna Tyrell (Diana Rigg) doubts whether Cersei could carry any more children, as she and Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance) play matchmaker between their two Houses. When Tywin offers up Cersei as a prized beauty suitable to wed a Tyrell heir, Olenna questions how many childbearing years Cersei has left, scoffing, “Her change will be upon her before long.” If her "change" was in fact upon her, that'd be a point for Not Pregnant. But here's a twist: In that case, Cersei would have had to use some sort of dark magic to conceive, out of desperation for an heir, which she totally could have done.

Moments before Cersei reveals her baby news to Jaime in season 7, we see Qyburn (Anton Lesser) leaning over her in tender concern, asking if he can get her anything. Once a disgraced maester, ejected from the Citadel for illegal human experimentation, Qyburn now holds one of the most powerful positions in the realm as Hand of the Queen, due to his loyalty to Cersei. What wouldn't he do for her? He even brought back the Mountain from the brink of death, creating the zombie-like bodyguard that is one of the few remaining people Cersei trusts.

Of course, if Qyburn did use some sort of illicit methods to help Cersei get pregnant, this does not bode well for her baby’s chances of survival. The brutal world of Westeros has not been historically kind to babies or new mothers, especially those born under any kind of magical circumstances.

Remember that the Lannisters, Daenerys Targaryen, and Jon Snow all lost their mothers during childbirth. Talisa Stark’s unborn child was stabbed through her womb during the Red Wedding to prevent the continuation of Robb’s bloodline. And Daenerys lost her baby in season 1, after she used blood magic to save her husband Khal Drogo’s life.

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In her own words, a baby on the way puts Cersei in a vulnerable position. “The more people you love, the weaker you are,” she once said to an impressionable young Sansa Stark ahead of her wedding to Cersei’s son Joffrey. “You’ll do things for them that you know you shouldn’t do. You’ll act the fool to make them happy, to keep them safe. Love no one but your children. On that front, a mother has no choice.”

When it comes to Cersei Lannister, we’re all in the same position as Tyrion, second-guessing ourselves and wondering what she’s trying to pull off. After reviewing the clues, the scales tip in favor of a real pregnancy, and — if the history of Westeros has taught us anything — bad news for Cersei.

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