Image: HBO

Game of Thrones has made quite a few changes from its source material— including, in some cases, moving past the books entirely. A recent data analysis of Game of Thrones shows the series’ biggest surprise: how important it’s made Cersei Lannister.

Looker, a data analytics company, released some numbers about the past six seasons of Game of Thrones, focusing on character popularity and number of deaths. A lot of the stats seem to match the books: Tyrion is the most-popular character, with 54 episodes and almost 300 minutes of screentime under his belt, followed by Jon Snow and Daenarys Targaryen. This makes sense, as Tyrion is connected to just about everybody over the course of the series, and the other two are basically the key to everything.

However, it turns out the show’s fourth-biggest character is none other than Cersei, with 52 episodes and over 200 minutes of screen time throughout the past six seasons. This is a major upgrade from A Song of Ice and Fire, where Cersei is featured less prominently than almost every other major character, including her husband (Robert), her dad (Tywin), and her twin brother (Jaime). Hell, Cersei doesn’t even get her own chapters until the fourth book, A Feast of Crows, and she’s only got 12 in total so far.

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There are a couple of reasons for this. Being a show, Game of Thrones naturally doesn’t follow the book’s first-person format. That enables us to move between locations and scenes more easily, but it also means characters who weren’t mentioned in a chapter’s scene can be added to it. After all, just because Tywin or Robert didn’t say Cersei was in a room with them doesn’t mean she wasn’t. Therefore, some of her screen time includes her being in a scene, but not necessarily influencing it.

However, that’s definitely not the case now. She might’ve been at the king’s side in previous scenes, silently staring down her opponents, but she’s Queen of the Seven Kingdoms now. And that’s because Cersei gets shit done. Not only is she fun as hell to write, for sure, but she makes decisions that move the story forward in ways the show needs. This is especially true in seasons five and six. The rise and fall of the Faith Militant rests entirely on Cersei’s shoulders, and she’s responsible for the series’ most-deadly episode for characters we’d already been introduced to, according to the data.

I’m curious how much of Cersei’s rule will be in George RR Martin’s future books... if and when we ever get to them. Cersei’s rise might be incoming in ASOIAF, or it might be a show exclusive. Either way, it’s an excellent addition for one of Game of Thrones’ best characters. Tyrion might be the show’s biggest star, but Cersei wins Most Improved.

[Looker]