“The things we do for love.”
Bran Stark echoed back a variation of Jaime Lannister’s own words to him in 8×02. Jaime’s arc in both Game of Thrones and A Song of Ice and Fire has always been about the things he’s willing to do for the people he loves. When he was with Cersei, he was willing to do horrible things to protect her and their children. But after his road trip with Brienne of Tarth, Jaime starts to change. In what is perhaps the most dramatic and one of the most beautiful redemption arcs I’ve ever read or watched, Game of Thrones and A Song of Ice and Fire send Jaime Lannister on his journey from villain to hero.
Or so it seemed until I watched “The Last of the Starks,” the fourth episode in the final season of Game of Thrones.
I have spent this week waffling between rage, heartbreak, and utter bewilderment. The Jaime Lannister I know and love and have spent MANY YEARS studying as a character would never leave Brienne for Cersei. Never. How could they make and break my ship like that in one episode? Especially not when we have spent 6 seasons and half of the current one watching Jaime remember the good and honorable man he was and was always meant to be. We have spent half of season 8 watching Jaime finally be able to express without inhibition the deep feelings of love, care, and respect he has for Brienne. This is NOT for nothing.
Their love scene was so in character. Both nervous, awkward, but once Jaime moves in to kiss Brienne, it’s all over. The desperation, the longing, and desire that’s always been there is finally able to come to fruition.
It was beautiful. Something that beautiful cannot be for nothing.
On first viewing, I thought Jaime and Brienne had only shared a couple nights together, but as the show isn’t great at explicitly showing the passage of time (or completely defying it with their HBO Jet Packs), I missed that they had been together long enough for the bruises on Brienne’s face and shoulder to heal, so perhaps a month/month and a half. Jaime had all intention of staying by Brienne’s side. He didn’t go with the other armies down south, thinking they would handle Cersei.
This changes when Sansa gets word that Dany’s fleet has been destroyed, Rhaegal is dead, and Missandei has been captured. Jaime knows that if the tides are turned, Cersei will not stop until he is dead. Everyone at Winterfell seems to know that he and Brienne are together. It won’t be long before this information gets to Cersei. Cersei already marked Brienne as a rival in 4×02 (“but you love him”), and then called her a “cow” in front of Jaime, which is when he sends her off with her armor and Oathkeeper. She can’t handle the idea that Jaime is paying any special attention to another woman or that any other woman is paying special attention to Jaime. Cersei also saw the look they shared in the Dragon Pit in 7×07, not to mention Brienne boldly walking up to Jaime and turning him around after the meeting. Jaime knows that unless Cersei is stopped, she will come not just for him, but for Brienne. He can’t allow that to happen. He can’t allow the one true love he has ever experienced to be snatched away from him. She’s already sent Bronn after him. What’s to stop her from having Bronn off Brienne or sending another mercenary to do so?
This is why I believe Jaime chose to leave, not to save Cersei, but to protect Brienne.
Jaime left in the middle of the night, after he and Brienne had made love. I am making this conjecture based on the fact that Brienne is sleeping nude. I doubt many people would opt to sleep nude in the North during the winter for any other reason. Jaime believes that he is not going to return, so he wants to at least have one last moment of happiness with Brienne.
That departure scene absolutely rips me in half. One quality that both Brienne and Jaime share is that they are people of action. Their love scene wasn’t filled with a dramatic love confession. It was two people acknowledging what lay between them with their actions. This departure scene is similar in that respect. Don’t just listen to what is being said, look at their body language, their eyes, their facial expressions.
Jaime didn’t intend to have that final conversation with Brienne. He was going to leave without a word, hoping that he could get on the road undetected, but Brienne with her wife energy knew he was gone. Even in that conversation, we learn more about how each is thinking of the scenario differently.
Jaime asks, “Have you ever run away from a fight?” and Brienne automatically assumes that he’s leaving to protect Cersei. This is not due to his lack of integrity, but because on some level she believes she isn’t good enough for him. That her love isn’t good enough for him. This is brought to the surface with her final plea, “Stay. Stay with me. Please.”
Brienne goes on and on about how she believes Jaime to be honorable and good. Jaime nods, but I think he also sees it as a way to make sure she doesn’t follow him, thus his, “You think I’m an honorable man?” speech. Jaime truly believes he is on a one-way trip to stop Cersei, that he’s likely to be blown to bits by dragon or wildfire or eviscerated by FrankenMountain. He knows Brienne would go with him, but he cannot allow the woman he loves to follow him into death. Here we see Jaime tear down not Brienne, but himself–“She’s hateful. And so am I.” His words hurt, but watch his face. Watch his eyes. Watch that little rub he gives her hand with his thumb before his speech. This is a man that is heartbroken. He’s on the verge of tears. He finally is with someone who loves him completely and without condition and he has to leave her to make reparation for his past sins.
Among all of this though, I think what truly tips Jaime’s hand (rim shot), is his reference to Riverrun. Yes, he’d have killed every man, woman, and child in Riverrun for Cersei, or at least he would have at one time in the past, but he ended the siege without bloodshed for Brienne. Combining this statement with his “Have you ever run away from a fight?” comment should be enough for Brienne realize what he is doing and for her to go save her man from this suicide mission.
One of Brienne’s most memorable lines in the series is, “Nothing is more hateful than failing to protect the one you love,” which is in reference to her mourning her failure to protect Renly. It does not serve Brienne’s character arc in any manner to only have her fail at protecting the man she loves again.
On some level, both Jaime and Brienne believe they are not good enough for the other. It is truly heartbreaking, but then again, do we ever see ourselves in the same way as those that truly love us see us? Their love is one of the most relatable and pure things on the show, and perhaps the best love story I’ve ever seen portrayed in film or television.
One other thing to to keep in mind with this situation is the inverted Beauty and the Beast arc that has driven Jaime and Brienne’s character development. It is not easy to nail down who is the beauty and who is the beast in this scenario, but it brings to mind the part of the story where the beauty leaves, but later returns to the beast because she loves him. I think we’re going to play with this motif a bit in this particular part of the story. Jaime believes himself to be the beast here. He has done horrible, beastly things. He knows that he’ll never be able to be free of them with Cersei still living. Not because he is still attached to her (that attachment was severed along with his right hand), but because she has the power to harm the one he truly loves, Brienne. In order to protect her, even if it costs him his life, he must leave his beauty to stop Cersei.
The beauty (Brienne) has now been left alone and she mourns the loss of her one true love. But she also knows she cannot allow her true love to come to harm. She would find nothing more hateful than if she failed to protect him. Instead of waiting for him to return, she will go to him. Why? Because they are one. Cersei is Jaime’s biological twin, but Brienne is his soul twin.
There are many ways a writer can use a redemption arc in a story. Often times it means that the person who redeems themselves must die. However, we’ve already seen that kind of redemption arc played out in Game of Thrones in the story of Theon Greyjoy. The other main character that is on a redemption arc in this story is Jaime Lannister. George isn’t one for telling the same kind of story twice. The evidence of Jaime’s transformation is present in his actions, but his transformation is because of the overwhelming, unconditional, and true love that he receives from Brienne. Here the beast is reborn.
So, what are “the things we do for love”?
In this story, love rides into the face of certain doom to keep their soulmate from harm.
In this story, love will not allow their soulmate to sacrifice themselves needlessly, but will come to their aid.
In this story, love will ultimately win the day.
Game of Thrones airs Sundays at 9/8c on HBO.