Film & TV Muse

What we can learn from Jaime Lannister

Saskia Starritt reflects on the controversial ending to an equally controversial character

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Image Credit: HBO

warning! Game of Thrones spoilers ahead

The world has had a few days now to digest the rather divisive ending to an undeniably controversial final season of Game of Thrones. As the internet has let rip at the showrunners D. B. Weiss and David Benioff for this season’s disjointed pacing and dissatisfying writing, one of the most glaring frustrations for fans was the nature in which Jaime Lannister’s story came to an end. I too found myself screaming at the TV in disbelief throughout episode 5, ‘The Bells’; “Surely he’s going to kill Cersei? Why are we being subjected to a fight between Jaime and the insufferable Euron? He still loves her…how can he possibly still love her?!” However, while my anger at the Kingslayer’s fate may still not have subsided entirely, I have come to realise that this a tragically poetic and human ending to a character of this very nature.

The fact that I have held such an affinity to this character for such a long time has caused quite the internal crisis. I’m team Cap, Hufflepuff is my favourite Hogwarts house, and living vicariously through Walter White was anxiety-inducing to say the least. And yet, I consider the man who pushed a 10-year-old boy out the window after being caught sleeping with his twin sister to be one of my all-time favourite characters on Game of Thrones. This is because what the show did so well, particularly in its first four seasons when adapted solely from GRRM’s books, is show the complexity of its characters. Yes, Jaime was morally ambiguous and arrogant at the best of times. However, he also acted with good intentions and utilitarian selflessness in many instances, proving that he was ultimately a man with honour.

It was his relationship with the beloved Brienne of Tarth, from captive to companion to romantic interest, that allowed the audience to see Jaime’s depth and his potential goodness. Thus it was expected that the approximated 1 billion watching would rejoice when it seemed that Jaime had finally come to his senses and bid farewell to his evil twin sister/lover, Cersei, realising that it was Brienne who he wanted to fight, and not to mention sleep, alongside.

Sadly, this happy ending was ridiculously short-lived and abysmally executed as within the very same episode that Jaime had accepted and acted upon his feelings for Brienne, he proceeded to abandon her to return to his sister in Kings Landing. Many viewers, myself included, were convinced that Jaime’s emotional fleeing from Winterfell, in which he declared himself to be of the same hateful vein as Cersei, was simply a rouse to the fact he was preparing to fulfil the ‘Valonqar’ prophecy by killing his sister.

Alas, this was far from the case. Upon being captured by Daenerys’ men off-screen during ‘The Bells’, Jaime is conveniently visited by his brother Tyrion who pleads with the former to try and stop Cersei and escape with her. Rather than reject this offer, or even express uncertainty (less we forget that this is the woman who ordered for both of her brothers to be murdered), Jaime agrees and expresses his undying loyalty for the Queen. In this very same scene, Jaime claims that he has “never really cared much for” the innocent citizens of Kings Landing, a line that is one of the most contradictory and absurd choices of the showrunners this entire season: this is the man who literally risked everything, his reputation, knighthood and life, to save the city by murdering the Mad King who he had vowed to protect.

The frustrations towards Jaime’s character arc is the result of fundamentally flawed writing, particularly concerning the pacing of it. Despite the material he had to work with, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau’s performance was faultless and he once again proved that there are few better actors on Game of Thrones. However, after a few weeks pondering over the series’ events, I have realised that the seeming incompleteness of Jaime’s redemption is what makes it truthful, something that we can reflect upon, and so essentially Game of Thrones.

To watch a character that you have come to love regress from their progress, leave what had helped them become good and return to the very thing worst for them, is a betrayal. As a fan of the show for years, the rapid decline from fulfilment to disappointment I felt throughout ‘The Last of The Starks’, and then ‘The Bells’, was of an extent that I rarely experience from a television show. While it may sound dramatic and exaggeratory, it was honestly somewhat reminiscent of the feelings one gets when they learn that a family member or friend has repeat the same mistakes again, or perhaps when you yourself fall into the bad habits that you swore you’d overcome and moved on from. It evoked such a reaction not just because I care for the character, but because it was such a familiar and relatable turn of events. Jaime’s story is that of a human; we all have our vices and temptations, and while some may have the strength to resist these, many don’t. He was effectively an addict to Cersei, with a love that was foolish yet all-consuming. Completely erasing the people so pivotal to our lives and whom we have such deep love for, regardless of how harmful and toxic that love may be, is a dangerously difficult feat. Just as so many addicts do, Jaime relapsed. Sadly, this relapse was one from which he couldn’t overcome.

I expected Jaime’s story to be tied up so neatly, with an impeccably redemptive bow, but this is not only so out of character for Game of Thrones, but for any life. As a viewer I felt let down by Jaime, and couldn’t believe his complete ignorance and stupidity, wishing that he would realise that he didn’t have to succumb to his past wrongdoings. Yet, I still love and stand by the character. This frustrating ending further emphasises the complexity and contradictions within Jaime’s personality, and that is exactly why so many viewers came to forgive and enjoy him in the first place. His ending is dissatisfactory just as humans can be, but his story was also surprising just as humans can be, as he demonstrated the bravery and compassion audiences once assumed him to be devoid of.

In a sense, coming to terms with the fate of Jaime Lannister inspires me to both be less idealistic and show more empathy towards those in my own life. People that we care about or admire are very likely to disappoint and frustrate us, whether that be directly or through having to witness their self-inflicted destructiveness. However, that doesn’t mean that they, our ourselves for that matter, ought to be defined by these mistakes or weaknesses. Had Jaime survived, would he no longer be able to act selflessly, with honour, or to protect others? Absolutely not. Regression doesn’t mean progression is impossible, just perhaps a less perfect or simple venture than we hoped for.

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