House Lannister (or, doomed decisions)
The Lannister Twins were always doomed to a fate of dying together, and it seems fitting that they’d end it with Jaime uttering, "Nothing else matters. Only us." Throughout much of the series, the book’s prophecy by a seer named Maggie the Frog hung over the narrative the show was attempting to build for Jaime and Cersei. In the books, a "valonqar" (Valyrian for "little brother") was supposed to wrap his hand around Cersei’s throat to kill her. When the show adapted Maggie the Frog and young Cersei for a rare flashback, they left out the valonqar part and focused on Cersei having three children with gold crowns and gold shrouds. Cersei's three kids were already dead headed into tonight's episode, so the prophecy-minded audience was fairly sure that the doomed Lannister child wasn’t going to be born. That being said, just how the show was going to deal with the death of Jaime and Cersei -- Was Jaime really going to kill Cersei? Would it be the determined Arya with her own prophecy? -- was a mystery.
It feels right for the both of them to be cornered again and again, wiggling their way out by blowing up all their rivals or by being set free from a prison camp (this is the second time Jaime's needed freeing from a neck shackle), but ultimately finding their way back to each other. Although we spent the first half of this season wishing Jaime Lannister a happier ending, we kind of always had to loop back to this. The question is, was this actually development for the Lannister twins or a foregone conclusion?
Throughout the episode, it’s clear that Jaime is on an arc that he understands: He will get back to Cersei, likely to die with her. Even when Euron successfully lands a fatal blow while Jaime takes the back way into the Red Keep, it doesn’t matter to him, so long as he can achieve his final goal of being with his sister-lover. He had another option up North, a good one in Brienne, but he just couldn’t.
Cersei’s arc this season is a bit muddier. Her final moments of wishing she could live simply because she doesn’t want her baby to die tracks, but I’m not sure when the Cersei from last season that was willing to let Jaime ride away and get killed by the living dead with everyone else becomes the Cersei of the final scene, crying and repeating "I don't want to die." It might be in the tower of the Red Keep when she keeps insisting she’s fine until Qyburn tells her how dire the stakes actually are and the surrender bells are ringing. She tears up, but what are the tears about? That she'll die when Dany's army captures her? That she didn't see Jaime? That she overplayed her hand as Queen? Cersei was one of Game of Thrones' great characters and she was destined to die if she didn’t win it all.
Tyrion, the last remaining Lannister sibling, is sadly doomed. The parade of Tyrion's bad decisions continues this week, and he overestimates how much Daenerys even listens to him anymore, or trusts him. The first time he gave Dany the warning about the bells of King's Landing representing surrender and Daenerys begrudgingly agrees, it was pretty obvious that a mass-killing was on the table. Which is why he decides to free Jaime after he's spotted trying to sneak away due to the obvious giveaway of his fake hand, probably to balance the scales from when Jaime freed Tyrion after his trial in King’s Landing. But also, it's a move that condemns him to death. Jaime points out that Dany would execute Tyrion for letting the one-handed Lannister go, but Tyrion frames it as a possible way to save tens of thousands of lives. Does he really believe that, though? Tyrion has always been smarter than anyone else, but in the end, he was always mostly just another Lannister. Missandei is dead because he thought surrender was a real possibility to Cersei. He thought she would be the one that had to be talked down from cruelty. The whole time, the person he had control over was the one teetering on the brink of madness, and his love for his kin made him develop a blind spot.
What position does Tyrion have to hold next week to survive the series? He’' betrayed a queen that is out for Lannister blood and won't have the satisfaction of getting any. Maybe he can just run away and hide out in Casterly Rock, but it's most likely that Tyrion is a goner come the finale.