(*reminder: I’ve seen season 1-3 and started the books)
The Lannisters. I learned to hate them from the very beginning. They were these upper class, snobbish, arrogant lot, especially Cersei and Jaime. How they treated the Starks, how they behaved – as if the whole world would belong to them. Which it statistically does, because Robert Baratheon (and his heir afterwards) owed Tywin Lannister more than he could have possibly ever given back.
But that’s not the point. The Lannister lot seemed to be that sort of human being, that always sees themselves above others. Why? Because they are born that way.
And that makes the viewer dislike them. Strongly.
But the further the story carries on, the more you get to know the characters and you suddenly realize, that you start to root for some of them. Even the previously evil ones.
Because you start to understand the emotional impact some of the past events had on them. Let’s hae a look at Cersei Lannister first. What did she experience in her life?
Her mother died, when she was young, very young. She surely taught her some things about life, but surely not as much as she should have or as she had wanted to. So basically Cersei grew up among men – her father being the only parent she had, her brother being the only emotional support. And even when she was younger battles and wars were fought throughout Westeros, her father being involved in almost all of them. She married Robert Baratheon to become the next Queen of the Seven Kingdoms – planned by her father.
What did she learn? That women can be powerful weapons in a battle, that cannot be fought on a battlefield. A battle that has to be carried out more secretly. But also, that a woman has no say in politics, that her marriage is nothing more than a contract between her father and her husband. That love doesn’t count in a world, where politics rule. That a woman lives in a golden cage.
But she also discovered, that a woman can have power over men. By manipulating their feelings and their passion. I won’t say she abused Jaime that way, because he is probably the only person she ever loved – apart from her children. But it is worth a thought whether or not she just held their affair alive to keep him close and loyal.
So basically Cersei hasn’t learned any better than using her newly-gained power over men to become more powerful herself, to gather information she needs and to have loyal supporters of the Lannisters and / or herself.
Tyrion – maybe the only truly likeable character among the Lannisters. He gained much respect and love from the audience throughout the first seasons. I personally liked him first, when he slapped Joffrey, while they were residing in Winterfell. But as things went on and the Stark girls were held at King’s Landing, I have to admit that I truly felt for Catelyn and understood her Tyrion-napping.
In the further events Tyrion gained a lot of his respect back – mostly because he signals, that he is not the common Lannister.
And he could never be, because obviously his father has always given him the fault for his mother’s death. His father has always hated him for not being normal, for not making him proud of him. For being different. And I guess, that’s what makes him understand and care for others – like Shae or Sansa. Because he knows, how it feels to be ostracised. And that’s even the reason, why he chooses Bronn as his most loyal friend and a kind of bodyguard – because he can be sure of his loyalty.
Tyrion knows a lot about politics and he knows how to play the game, just that no one ever considers his opinion. Except the time, when he was the King’s Hand instead of his father. And he managed quite well. Still: nothing he does is good enough for a Lannister. For a Lannister.
His brother Jaime is a quite complex character. I think he turned to Cersei for love and understanding, when he was younger. Maybe even because she was the only female lead figure for him – and his twin sister. I believe he truly loves her from the depths of his heart. If she does, I don’t know yet.
Jaime joined the Kingsguard pretty early in his life, which means he decided to live his life without any title or family of his own. His father has never shown him the love and appreciation he thirsted for. Being a soldier, being a guard made his father at least a bit proud.
But: there’s this event, that has changed his life forever. He killed the Mad King. He – who was suppossed to guard the King – killed him. And that is a flaw, that surrounds him, wherever he goes. A characteristic trait of his, a name people have given him: „The Kingslayer“.
The first time we as viewers get an insight on the impact that has on the man Jaime is the bathing scene with Brienne. He opens emotionally, showing his feelings and his regrets. We learn, that he had no choice but to slay this man, if he wanted to avoid his whole family being killed. And we learn, why he hates Ned Stark. Because Ned was the one to find Jaime with the King’s blood on his hands. Ned, who was righteous, who was loyal and good. Judging the bad Lannister son.
So basically Jaime isn’t the worst of all. He acts out of love and dedication. Although the only love he knows is Cersei’s.
To sum it up: The Lannister kids surely have suffered severe damages to their mental health. And the source of that evil is just one person: Tywin Lannister. Why? Because he uses his children as figures on a checkboard. He just sees ‘the greater good’ without acting on emotions, because they are unreasonable.
He is the one reason all three of his children have serious problems and issues. He is the reason they turned out the way they did. I don’t think he wanted it like that. I don’t think he considers it that way, but I think he is the main influence on his children and the main factor he is so often disappointed by them.