*Spoilers for Sunday’s finale of Game of Thrones
When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. Or you get a haircut. In Sunday night’s season finale of Game of Thrones, imprisoned Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) confessed her sins to the High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce) and was forced to atone. The punishment included having her long blond hair chopped off and being forced to take a slow humiliating walk through an angry mob back to the Red Keep. Cersei’s literal Walk of Shame – stripped naked, spat on and pelted with garbage – was a long and disturbing scene in an episode already filled with shocking violence, narrative twists, and sudden deaths. Viewers knew to expect something (the scene caused controversy in Croatia during filming when Dubrovnik’s St. Nicholas Church objected to a naked actress walking on sacred ground), but this might have been one of the more extreme moments in the show’s history.
For Headey, though, it was completely necessary. “It won’t be Cersei being seductive or sexy,” she told Vulture before filming. “It’s better for her regality and her feistiness to not bare her flesh until she has to. When it’s out of her control.” As it was, Headey was pregnant during the shoot, and the show used a mixture of a body double for long shots and some CGI trickery to complete the scene. By the scene’s end, Cersei is filthy, bloody, bruised and broken, and although she is one of the show’s villains, it might have just won her sympathy from fans. “It’s funny, because I don’t play to redeem her here or play to be liked, do you know what I mean?” says Headey. “And it’s funny when some people say that they love her now. Our makeup lady, Jane Walker, is always, ‘I just love Cersei! I just feel for her! And I champion her.’ And I’m like, ‘Okay …’“