The image of Cersei is a bit of a red herring, but at least no one can call it a spoiler. This post, of course, will contain spoilers. I'm also going to continue speaking for a bit so the first line of this post doesn't appear on our front page. Managing Game of Thrones spoilers is a tricky thing, you know. I think this should do it. Enjoy!
So this week saw the burning of Shireen so that Stannis can rule, or at least that's the bill of goods sold to Stannis by Melisandre.
The decision, while brutal, makes sense. Stannis has no other way forward after the raids by Ramsay, and we already know he sees retreat as a failure of command. Melisandre isn’t promising something she can’t deliver; we’ve seen what she’s capable of in terms of magic and direct interaction with the most powerful people in this world.
You can argue that the leeches may or may have been directly responsible for the deaths of people like Joffrey, but that smoke monster killing Renly isn’t really arguable. That doesn't take away from the shock of seeing a young girl burned alive, with her parents watching.
The surprising thing is this decision didn't come from the show's writers, but from George R.R. Martin himself.
"When George first told us about this, it was one of those moments I remember looking at Dan and it was just like that is so horrible, and so good in a story sense because it all comes together," David Benioff, executive producer and writer, said during an "Inside the Episode" short from HBO. They didn't come up with the idea, it's something George described to them, which means it's very likely this will also happen in the books at some point.
"It’s one of the most horrible moments we’ve shot, just in terms of the emotion of it," Benioff continued. It also marks one of the few times that Stannis' wife Selyse breaks. The video talks about her absolute faith in The Lord of Light and Melisandre, and that faith cracks a bit in this episode.
"As much as she has acted the fanatic in the past, when your own daughter is screaming for you in agony, it overwhelms your religious convictions and in that moment she becomes a mother again and wants to help her daughter, but it’s far too late," Benioff explains.
It's a heartbreaking scene but, in this case, it wasn't invented for the show. This comes from the big man himself.