Warning: This post contains minor spoilers for Game of Thrones season 7.
At the beginning of Game of Thrones’ seventh season, Daenerys Targaryen had the upper hand on Cersei Lannister. She arrived in Westeros aligned with House Tyrell, Dorne, some of the Ironborn under command of Yara Greyjoy, an army of Unsullied, a Dothraki horde, three fully grown dragons, and she was ready to conquer the Seven Kingdoms.
By the end of “The Queen’s Justice,” however, Daenerys is in a much different position. Cersei and Euron Greyjoy wiped out most of the Greyjoy fleet and cut down Dorne, Jaime Lannister captured Highgarden and killed Olenna Tyrell, and the Unsullied are now surrounded by the Greyjoy fleet at Casterly Rock. Her next move is vital, but it could also be one a former king of the Seven Kingdoms called several years ago.
Season 7 is already full of callbacks and nods to Game of Thrones’ very first season—a much simpler time in many regards—and this one, pointed out in r/gameofthrones by pnr32, is no different. The season 1 episode “The Wolf and the Lion” features a scene between Cersei and her husband Robert Baratheon where Robert breaks down what would probably happen if the Targaryens convinced the Dothraki to travel to Westeros.
Robert is worried enough that he wants to send an assassin to kill a pregnant Daenerys and her unborn child before it becomes a threat, which led Ned to quit being Robert’s hand. Talking to Cersei, Robert reveals that he believes the Dothraki would be unstoppable if they arrived on the shores of the Seven Kingdoms, Cersei is doubtful because everyone knows that the Dothraki don’t sail or have the discipline of Westeros’ army. So Robert painted her a worst-case scenario.
“Let’s say Viserys Targaryen lands with 40,000 Dothraki screamers at his back. We hole up in our castles. A wise move. Only a fool would meet the Dothraki in an open field. They leave us in our castles. They go from town to town, looting and burning, killing every man who can’t hide behind a stone wall, stealing all our crops and livestock, enslaving all our women and children. How long do the people of the Seven Kingdoms stand behind their absentee king, their cowardly king hiding behind high walls? When do the people decide that Viserys Targaryen is the rightful monarch after all?
Circumstances are much different in Westeros than Robert described back in season 1. Viserys Targaryen died an episode later while Robert’s death occurred an episode after that. Cersei, who took part in this conversation, is now on the Iron Throne and using Westeros’ fear of the Dothraki and memories of the Mad King to rally them under her banner. Cersei doesn’t have someone who will threaten to quit over a bad move like Ned Stark did with Robert, and you can argue that her army doesn’t have the purpose it once did after years of the crown’s massive dysfunction. But while Daenerys may not have wanted to use the Dothraki and her dragons to conquer Westeros, she might soon have to. She desperately needs a victory.
We know from the season 7 trailer that the Dothraki will eventually ride onto the field and that next week’s preview shows a dragon will finally do something aside from flying around Dragonstone. Will the crown, boosted by her victories and revenge, be enough of a fool—as Robert once put it—to meet the Dothraki on the field? Or will Cersei show restraint enough to let Daenerys play her last card and reveal to the Seven Kingdoms that all of Cersei’s comments about the Mad King’s daughter were true?