It’s almost time for the Daenerys vs. Cersei showdown we’ve all been waiting for (since the dead-undead showdown we had been waiting for and which was, honestly, not the most thrilling 90-plus minute battle ever). Both queens of Westeros are spitting mad and itching for a fight, but who will come out on top? Let’s take a look at what they’re packing and see who stands the best chance as the final season of Game of Thrones winds down.
When last we saw our rivals, Cersei (Lena Headey), she had just ordered the decapitation of Missandei, Daenerys’ (Emilia Clark) loyal advisor and BFF, triggering the Targaryen heir to express the full range of her facial rage, and Grey Worm’s most extreme sudden grief. We know Cersei is calculating to a fault so this move was definitely intended to push Dany over the edge and provoke her into making a move without waiting for backup. After her armies were obliterated by zombies in the North, Dany is down to a handful of Unsullied, one dragon, the remains of the northern army, and maybe Yara Greyjoy’s fleet from the Iron Islands. And she left most of those behind at Dragonstone and chose to be accompanied to the capitol by a small honor guard of Unsullied to demand Cersei’s surrender and the release of Missandei, which…did not go well.
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Cersei, on the other hand, is not lacking in military might. The Lannister army, Euron Greyjoy’s fleet, plus home-field advantage give her a huge leg up. She’s also bolstered by The Golden Company, a mercenary army from across the Narrow Sea in Essos (who arrived without their elephants, much to Cersei’s disappointment). Plus she has giant, dragon-sized crossbows, and is sitting on a secret cache of wildfire.
Taken at face value, Dany really doesn’t have much going for her, especially if she ignores Sansa’s (Sophie Turner) sage and logical advice to starve the people of King’s Landing and let them turn on their queen Cersei when they run out of food. But by now we know Daenerys Stormborn First of Her Name is not prone to logic or rational thinking, especially when she’s just seen someone she loves plummet headless from the battlements. She is hot-headed and rarely looks ahead to the consequences of her choices. So, it’s safe to say that Dany will most likely attack first and worry about the fallout afterward (even though her trusted confidante Tyrion also urged her to give her soldiers some time to rest — with or without a cup of coffee — before taking on yet another Big Fight). Considering the lop-sided state of affairs, it’s looking grim for Dany, especially if she falls for Cersei’s trick and decides to light up King’s Landing with her one remaining dragon, Drogon.
Out-numbered and out of chill, is there any way Dany can still win or are the people of Westeros doomed to a Cersei reign?
A fan theory that has gained momentum lately holds that the Golden Company, who are lauded for never breaking a contract, will do just that. The history of the vast mercenary army is discussed at length in the books and as it turns out, they were initially founded by a Targaryen — an illegitimate son of King Aegon IV. If the 20,000-man strong army were to jump ship and join team Jonaerys, the tide would definitely turn in Dany’s favor.
And since this is Game of Thrones we’re talking about, we’d be remiss not to consider even the most unlikely scenarios. Bran might actually be useful in the coming battle, quite unlike his performance during the Battle of Winterfell. The teaser trailer for episode 5 gave fans a glimpse of Euron, looking skyward and seeming very shocked. There’s a good bit of speculation that what he sees is actually the dragon, Rhaegal, that he shot out of the sky last week. Since Bran is cast as the foil for the Night King, his opposite, the Dany to his Cersei, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that Bran might be able to call on the dead as well. If Bran brings Rhaegal back and wargs into the dragon to fight the Last Battle, it would A) mean Bran actually has a point, besides spouting cryptic nonsense, and B) fill the season 4 prophecy from the previous Three-Eyed Raven that Bran “will never walk again, but you will fly.” And that bodes pretty well for Mad Queen Dany's chances in the upcoming battle.
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What is likely, though, is that Cersei and Dany are both going to go certifiably mad on each other and King’s Landing will be reduced to ash and rubble. Whether from dragon’s fire or wildfire, both queens are a hair’s breadth from laying waste to the city and its inhabitants with reckless abandon, and it seems unlikely that at the end of the day either one of them will sit on the throne they both covet.
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