Cersei Lannister: the Queen Who Played with Wildfire

Posted: January 3, 2017 by patricksponaugle in Game of Thrones, Opinion, TV
Tags: , , , , , ,

This post will be talking about HBO’s Game of Thrones in general, and specifically about Queen Cersei Lannister. She had a pretty eventful season recently on the show, and if you’re not caught up on Game of Thrones, maybe you should stop reading and start watching episodes.


Yes. Do go away.

Cersei Lannister. The Girl On Fire. (Or rather, the queen who arranges the fire.)

The finale of the sixth season started off with a … okay, I was going to say “a bang” but then I’d be even more of a hack than usual. The finale started off with a beautiful and languidly paced gathering of most of Queen Cersei’s political enemies in one place for one event: her trial.

And then she blew up the Sept of Baelor with a cache of wildfire. Boom.

Cersei’s struggle for power by empowering the Faith Militant in Season Five, which led to her catastrophic fall and then her dramatic ascension to power, is deserving of some examination… but not in this post. (Sorry for the tease. Come back for next week’s post for some of that.) Instead, I’ll be examining Cersei’s use of wildfire in the context of previous events on the show.

Last month, I equated the Children of the Forest’s use of crazy magic to create the Others as a form of weapons of mass destruction, and assigned them war criminal points alongside the other known practitioners of unconventional warfare: Stannis (shadow assassins), Tyrion (wildfire), and Daenerys (dragons.)

Thanks to Cersei being the second Lannister to nuke enemies with the volatile green goo, I get to rank Cersei with the other four to see where she falls on the Oh No He/She Didn’t scale of crazy warfare.


As I explained in my Children of the Forest post and my original unconventional warfare post (written waaaaay back in-between seasons three and four) I sort all of the individuals involved and rank them from least-worst to most-worst in five categories, and add up their rankings to generate my score.

Because we’re talking about magical chemical weapons and magical creatures (dragons, shadows, hordes of zombies, I’m just going to refer to all of the unconventional warfare techniques as WMDs. Which of course should mean Weapons of Mass Destruction, but if you want to think of it as Wights, Magic, and Dragons, I’m cool with that.

Those categories I mentioned:

  • Precision – Can the WMD be controlled to limit the damage?
  • Casualties – Just how many get killed by the WMD?
  • Fair Warning – Was the target expecting to have a WMD dropped on them? Any attempts to get them to stand down rather than deploy the WMD?
  • Target Legitimacy – Was the WMD deployed against a reasonably recognized military target?
  • Willingness – Is there a willingness or eagerness to use the WMD again in the future?

I’ll be adding in Cersei to my previous rankings; her inclusion won’t cause a shuffling of rankings among the other war criminal candidates.


  1. Stannis
  2. Daenerys
  3. Tyrion
  4. Cersei
  5. Children of the Forest

Cersei’s use of wildfire is similar to Tyrion’s, in that once it’s detonated, there’s very little means to control it. But I give the nod to Tyrion as have more precision… the explosion of the wildfire-laden ship in Blackwater Bay kind of confined it to that area and areas down-current, away from the city. Cersei detonated a cache in the city, and it could have easily detonated other caches that she wasn’t aware of. (Or just burned down the city in general.)


  1. Stannis
  2. Daenerys
  3. Cersei
  4. Tyrion
  5. Children of the Forest

This isn’t an easy category to place. Obviously she killed more than one person, putting her higher on the list than Stannis. Daenerys and Tyrion had been jockeying previously over the next position, with my estimate that Tyrion killed thousands of Baratheon troops when the wildfire detonated. My gut says that Cersei killed just under that number. I reserve the right to adjust this scoring in the future if more info on casualties at the Sept come to light.

Fair Warning

  1. Tyrion
  2. Children of the Forest
  3. Stannis
  4. Daenerys
  5. Cersei

I don’t think anyone in Westeros (other than Qyburn and maybe his urchin squad) had any idea or warning that Cersei was going to nuke the Sept. Margaery certainly knew something was up at the very last second, but she had no specifics. The blast was a complete surprise, with no prior negotiation or chance for de-escalation.

Target Legitimacy

  1. Tyrion
  2. Stannis
  3. Daenerys
  4. Cersei
  5. Children of the Forest

Cersei almost topped the list, killing at least hundreds of innocent people. Civilian collateral damages are always going to earn war criminal points by me. But the Children of the Forest’s uncontrollable necromantic nightmare army still gets the top spot, for indiscriminate killing plus the resurrection of corpses. Gross!


  1. Children of the Forest
  2. Tyrion
  3. Stannis
  4. Cersei
  5. Daenerys

Cersei would certainly be game to detonate another pile of wildfire under her enemies should the chance present itself, but it’s doubtful that she’ll be able to arrange that so easily. Whereas Daenerys had pretty much made it a mission statement to take back what is hers with fire and blood. And she’s probably planning to accomplish that with a lot of dragonfire. So Cersei almost earns the most points in this category, but not quite.


Unless my math is wrong (and it could be, I was a math minor in college, not a math major…) here are the standings:

  1. Stannis (10 points)
  2. Tyrion (11 points)
  3. Daenerys (16 points)
  4. Children of the Forest (18 points.)
  5. Cersei (20 points)

Finally, Daenerys is no longer one of the worst monsters on the show. (Dany was tied with the Children, previously.)

And Cersei, with the lighting of one candle, became a more villainous villain than the Children of the Forest, at least in terms of magical mayhem. (Based on my totally subjective scientific scoring system.)

Alright! It’s a new year, and a new schedule for Game of Thrones posts, one a week. Until either the new season starts up, or I totally run out of post topics. (I have something like twenty planned. I think I’ll need possibly a half-dozen more, depending on when the new season will start up.)

On the Horizon… Dragons?

Hope everyone enjoyed my shuffling Cersei in with the other war criminals. Next week, I’ll still be talking about Cersei, but I’ll also be talking about another blonde queen who feels she deserves a seat on the Iron Throne: Daenerys Targareyn.


But she can’t have a seat. It’s already taken. She is welcome to recline across the backing if she wishes.

Hope to see you then!

(Comments are always welcome. Super welcome! But if you want to talk spoilery Game of Thrones talk with me (also welcome) I’d invite you to visit my Safe Spoilers page on my backup blog. That way my non-book-reading friends won’t be shocked with foreknowledge.)

Most images from HBO’s Game of Thrones (obviously.) 

I make no claim to the images, but some claims to the text. So there.

If you liked this article, thank you! I have all of my Game of Thrones related articles on my handy-dandy Game of Thrones page should you want to read more but don’t want to navigate around my site.

© Patrick Sponaugle 2017 Some Rights Reserved

  1. ghostof82 says:

    She’ll wish she had some Wildfire handy (I presume it all got nuked in the conflagration) when Daenerys turns up. The very thing that finally got her the throne will betray her by its absence. I just hope she has the best GOT death yet, and not as quick as Joffrey’s, either. No, I don’t like her!

    Liked by 1 person

    • 🙂 There’s not much to like about Cersei. It’s a question if all of the wildfire was destroyed. In the season, Jaime lists off the Great Sept, the guild halls, and the major thoroughfares as having wildfire caches, so it’s possible that she might use some more. Or not.


  2. chattykerry says:

    I think I may have missed some critical parts of the books or series? I can’t recall the children having wildfire but I always watch it with an alcoholic drink in my hand…
    As for your next post – be careful Patrick. I might assume my other persona and hunt down my dragons…🐲🐉


  3. chattykerry says:

    PS, It was a great post. I still can’t believe what Stannis did.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. erinb9 says:

    I love how you’ve made a fantastic argument that Daenerys has easily been one of the most destructive characters on the show, since she’s probably considered one of the most principled. One of the good guys, yet responsible for nearly the most casualties.

    And you’re not wrong. Cersei, on the other hand, has killed fewer people despite being far more heinous of character.

    Maybe because Cersei strategically takes out people in her way, whereas D fights entire wars on principle? I mean, body counts during wartime are high. Even when the cause is just.

    Nevertheless, I’m expecting C to get her comeuppance in the final season, whereas D will win the game and everyone will feel good about it. (I do not know this and haven’t read the books). Your theory puts a different spin on things.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey, thank you for this feedback!

      I am glad you liked my analysis, even though, and I am the first to admit this, my methodology of just ranking the characters on category axis and adding up the rankings could probably use some more work.

      Certainly Dany is probably one of the better-intentioned characters, but her dragons are so scary (as she would be if necessary.)

      It would be a tense situation if some one else got control of her scaly children.

      Don’t worry about your comment of not reading the books, in large ways the show has pushed past the books so book reader and show watcher speculations are on more even ground (I admit the the book readers will have an edge at times, since there’s more background that can be used to predict future stuff.)

      Thank you for reading my Cersei post, and making your Dany observations. I will be talking about them both next week.

      Stay warm (if your part of the country is currently chilly – it’s 18F this morning in Maryland.)

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Aseret Nelly says:

    Fascinating assessment. Cersei definitely deserves to be in the war criminal listing. There is no doubt that Cersei is perfectly hateful.. Just when I find myself feeling sympathy for her, such as when Joffrey is murdered, Cersei clearly loved him but then she makes me hate her again with her loathsome (wrong) accusations.

    However, I find myself disagreeing with you regarding the WMD and the scoring results (not your math, that was fine). It is my opinion that the wildfire cache used by Cersei, however large (or numerous) it/they may be, is self limiting. Once wildfire has exploded and burned out, the damage is done and there can be no more death.

    Although their reasoning was valid and their situation, centuries previously, was so very desperate, I believe that the magic used by the Children of the Forest is far more deadly than everything else you mentioned. Totally unintentional, of course, but nonetheless utterly deadly and devastating

    It (they?) is/are the ultimate WMD because it is and has been ongoing for hundreds of years! The Children of the Forest created a weapon that never stopped killing, where even the dead can be turned into weapons and they are so far, utterly unstoppable.

    No one knows exactly how many have been killed in the ancient past, thousands? Hundreds of thousands? Even once the ancient war was over and the wall constructed, the deaths continued. True, it was “only” random Wildlings and stray Crows, but even they were all sacrificed to make pretty patterns in the snow or turned into the walking dead. And more recently, during their massive migration south, even more have been massacred and those reanimated bodies have been added to the horde marching slowly, yet inexorably to cause the death of many thousands more. Bran’s terrible mistake will allow them to breach the wall.. Only more magic (or dragons) can stop this terrible onslaught and the massive death toll.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I greatly appreciate this feedback, and I don’t disagree with your analysis. In my rankings, the Children of the Forest do score higher than Cersei in my most categories, particularly in casualties and the illegitimacy of the target (I consider the raising of the dead to kill more on behalf of their killers extra-illegitimate) – but my math put Cersei on top – not only because my methodology is flawed because my ranking system doesn’t take in account for the scope of some of the categories – but because of the Children being ranked lowest on the willingness to use their WMD again, and Cersei (in my view) ranking the highest.

      You make a good point that the Others are now a self-generating long lived threat, and Cersei’s immediately available wildfire caches are limited (for all we know, she might have used them all up.) But Cersei could employ the pyromancers to make more, since the return of dragons and/or magic to Planetos has made the process easier. Of course, there’s a new limiting factor: cash. Cersei might not be able to pay to have this done.

      I probably should consider a new category to add to the mix: duration or availability of the WMD. Stannis couldn’t make any more shadow monsters because, as Melisandre told him, his mojo was low, and there’s only so many people with king’s blood to roast or get busy with. Wildfire is limited like you said. Dragons are pretty persistent, but nothing is as long-lived and dangerous as the threat of the Others and their wight army (as far as we know) so if I added a new category, the Children would probably be right on top.

      Thanks for commenting, I do these log blog posts to get this kind of feedback, and I really enjoy hearing these kind of thoughts.


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