Spoiler alert! The following contains details from “Game of Thrones” Season 8 Episode 5, "The Bells." Read our recap here.
"When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die," Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) famously told the too-good-for-his-own-good Ned Stark (Sean Bean) back in Season 1 of HBO's "Game of Thrones." "There is no middle ground."
Ultimately, Cersei did both by seizing the Iron Throne for herself in Season 6 and then escaping the executioner's blade (or fire) when she was killed by a pile of bricks. And for that, Headey has no regrets.
"There she goes. It’s been fun, and bonkers," Headey wrote in an Instagram post Monday night. "I loved her. I am grateful for the opportunity. Massively thankful for your encouraging and supportive love along the way."
She concluded, "And now her watch is ended (I know she’d never make it, Nights watch wouldn’t have her .. but still.)"
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Headey is probably right about the Night's Watch. Even if it still existed and accepted women, Cersei was never a big supporter. She saw it more of a purgatory for ousted nobles or those who believed in "grumpkins and snarks" rather than "the shield that guards the realms of men."
And even after Jon Snow (Kit Harington) brought her a wight to drive home the threat posed by the army of the dead, Cersei decided to withhold her armies, preferring to take on whatever ragged survivors emerged from Episode 3's Battle of Winterfell.
Viewers saw Cersei at her most vulnerable during the siege of Kings Landing – even though she was in a similar position during Season 2's Battle of the Blackwater. The difference? This time, she didn't have her father to come to her rescue and her brother Tyrion, who helped save the city that time, was on the opposing side – though he did try to spare her life and that of her twin brother/lover Jamie (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau).
And so, just one episode after she defiantly spurned Tyrion's request that she cede the Iron Throne to Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) and executed Dany's faithful advisor Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel), she acted delusional (about her chances of holding onto the throne) and was ultimately afraid to face death. And even though she was scared, she had to know the rubble offered a much kinder death than she would have gotten from Dany, especially in mad queen mode.
Cersei may have died, but by escaping justice, she almost won the Game of Thrones.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'Game of Thrones' star Lena Headey shares emotional Instagram post after Episode 5