Ser Jaime finally lived up to his title on Game of Thrones


Throughout season 8, Culturess will analyze Game of Thrones through the lens of a particular character. For this week, we look at Jaime Lannister.

A lot has happened on Game of Thrones over the course of its eight seasons, but its essence can be distilled into one line: “The things I do for love.”

The line is uttered by Jaime Lannister at the end of the series premiere, right before he pushes 10-year-old Bran Stark out of a tower window. Long before Ned Stark’s execution, it established the show’s penchant for ruthless violence. Not even children were safe. It also established the show as the most expensive soap opera ever made: Bran was pushed out the window because he saw Jaime’s incestuous relationship play out with his sister, Cersei.

Underneath the politics and spectacle, Game of Thrones is, at heart, about romance, and Jaime is its most romantic character. On the surface, he fits comfortably into the archetype of the knight in shining armor: he’s handsome and skilled with a sword, and he values duty (to his family) and love (for Cersei) above all else. In his hands, however, duty and love become perverted, used to justify things like the attempted murder of a 10-year-old.

Brienne, as much a knight in spirit as Jaime is in appearance, complicates matters, pitting moral duty against familial duty and compassionate love against passionate love. The resulting conflict, with Jaime constantly vacillating between the two women and the facets of his identity that they represent, wouldn’t look out of place on The CW.

In the end, no matter how much he tried to polish his record, he could never completely get rid of the stain of his past.

What “The Bells” means for Jaime

For a while, it seemed like Jaime had attained redemption. He left Cersei to join the fight against the White Walkers. He made Brienne a knight. He defended Winterfell from the front lines and survived – surely, as clear a sign as any that he had been forgiven by whatever god or gods reign over Westeros. He and Brienne finally acted on their long-simmering feelings for each other.

It was too good to be true. The seeds of Jaime’s reversal were planted in “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms,” when he apologizes to Bran in the Godswood. “I’m not that person anymore,” he says. Bran responds, “You still would be, if you hadn’t pushed me out of that window.” Jaime receives the pardon he was no doubt seeking, yet instead of being relieved, he’s confused. That’s it? After everything he did, he gets let off the hook just like that?

Later, Sansa’s remark about not being able to watch Cersei get executed triggers something in Jaime. Is it love, the realization that he can’t bear to let his sister die alone after all? Is it duty, the sense of obligation to House Lannister that Tywin instilled in his children? Or is it a combination of both? As Tyrion points out, he knew who Cersei was and he loved her anyway. Abandoning her to the wolves feels like a betrayal, like a murderer escaping while his accomplice goes to jail.

In a twisted way, going to Cersei is the most honorable thing Jaime has done. Isn’t that what knights are supposed to do – rescue ladies in towers? Cersei plays her part as well, all her hatred and resolve vanishing as the Red Keep crumbles around her. Jaime thinks there is a way out, but it turns out to be blocked off, trapping them underground, which is his arc on Game of Thrones in a nutshell.

And so, the lovers who spent so long trying to defy history are instead literally buried in it.

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Game of Thrones airs its series finale Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.