Why You Can’t Help But Root For Jaime Lannister On Game Of Thrones
In Game of Thrones’ fourth episode of Season 4, “Oathkeeper,” Brienne of Tarth reads aloud from the illustrious Book of Brothers, a record of the most legendary deeds carried out by the Kingsguard over the years. Unlike decorated knights such as Barristan Selmy and Arthur Dayne, Ser Jaime Lannister only has one page to his name, which focuses on the singular act he is known all across Westeros for: “Ser Jaime Lannister. Knighted and named to the Kingsguard in his sixteenth year. At the Sack of King’s Landing, murdered his King, Aerys the Second. Pardoned by Robert Baratheon; thereafter known as the Kingslayer.”
In the second episode of Season 8, the focus is once again on Jaime, as he arrives in Winterfell and is presented to the court of Daenerys Targaryen. While Dany and Sansa Stark, who had previously disagreed on almost everything, both stated that they didn’t trust Jaime, Brienne spoke up and vouched for him in court alongside Jaime’s brother Tyrion. But as Bran Stark utters the infamous phrase, “The things we do for love,” Jaime is startled, recalling how he uttered these exact words to Cersei back in the series’ pilot. After Bran saw Jaime and his sister Cersei having sex in a derelict tower, Jaime pushed him out a high window, fully intending to kill the then-10-year-old boy.
It reminds you of who Jaime was back then. After finding out that Bran had survived the fall, he assured Cersei “the boy won’t talk. And if he does, I’ll kill him, Ned Stark, the king, the whole bloody lot of them until you and I are the only people left in this world.” He even suggests that, because Bran would have no quality of life should he come out of his coma, they might as well put him out of his misery now.
Later, at the end of Season 1, Catelyn Stark, holding Jaime captive, tells him that the world is full of injustice because of men like him. “There are no men like me. Only me,” he arrogantly responds. However, this isn’t because of his shameful Kingsguard entry, the many notorious titles he holds (“Kingslayer,” “Oathbreaker,” “Man Without Honour”), his adulterous and incestuous relationship with his sister, or his cruelty, even towards a child like Bran. It’s because, unbeknownst to him in that moment, Jaime Lannister is a man capable of genuine redemption—a man who has the capacity to change.
And, at the conclusion of Season 1, Jaime’s redemptive arc is set into motion. However, it isn’t until a full season later that his character truly begins to develop. Toward the end of Season 2, Catelyn Stark decides to make a deal with Jaime: She’ll set him free from Robb Stark’s captivity in exchange for escorting her daughters back to her safely. Jaime accepts and, in doing so, meets the character who will ultimately change the course of his own destiny: Brienne of Tarth.
Although Jaime is brutish at the start, consistently taunting Brienne and goading her for her appearance, the two unwillingly grow fond of each other during their time together. In fact, in Season 3, when they’re captured by Roose Bolton’s lackey, Locke, Jaime manages to save Brienne by reminding Locke that Brienne’s father is Lord Selywn Tarth, a man likely to pay his daughter’s weight in sapphires if they were to return her unharmed.
However, Jaime’s ploy comes at a cost, as Locke amputates the Kingslayer’s sword hand for attempted bribery. As he looks on in horror, he goes through shock, pain, and ultimately realization: He’s now a soldier without a sword hand, incapable of wielding the weapon that his entire identity was tied to. But, inspired by a sobering reality check from Brienne, a new, handless Jaime is born—and so is the formative relationship between him and Brienne.
Throughout his captivity, Jaime opens up to Brienne, showing a new side of the Kingslayer that leads to his disavowal of the title. He tells her that by killing Aerys, he saved thousands of people in King’s Landing who would have lost their lives to wildfire.
This tender scene serves as the crux of his growth as a character. He outright decries the title of Kingslayer, owning his birth name. The Kingslayer had a sword hand, but now, having lost his source of arrogance, Jaime faces the real world as who he really is—just Jaime.
After his release, Jaime takes the first sure stride on his road to redemption. Knowing that Brienne had been left behind with Locke and his men, and understanding what men like that do to their prisoners, he turns back, threatening his armed escort by saying that he’ll tell Tywin they were the ones to sever his hand if they don’t allow him to go back for Brienne. Upon his arrival, he sees that Brienne is in a bear pit, armed with only a wooden sword. He courageously jumps in, realizing that he can’t fight but, as a Lannister, he must be protected. His captor, Steelshanks, intervenes, and both he and Brienne are saved.
In that moment, Jaime begins to rewrite his narrative, a change that lingers even after his return to King’s Landing. He gifts Brienne a Valyrian steel sword and suit of armour, and he helps his brother Tyrion escape King’s Landing—and Cersei’s wrath—following his trial.
So, by the time we’ve arrived to his last battle for the Crown during Season 7, where Jaime attempts to defeat Daenerys Targaryen at Highgarden, you can’t help rooting for him —for who he has become—despite the fact that he fights for the Lannisters. As he charges the Mother of Dragons, spear in hand, Tyrion, now the Hand to Daenerys, looks on, whispering the words going through every viewer’s mind: “Fucking idiot.” However, although Jaime’s certainly an idiot, he’s also become a hero.
And his eventual betrayal of the Iron Throne completes his evolution. Perhaps it would have been “honourable” if he stayed by Cersei’s side as she refused to act against the Army of the Dead. But his decision later in Season 7 to do what is right instead of what is perceived as “honourable” subverts the whole idea of what it means to be good in the first place. By forsaking a vow to fight for his family, Jaime has come full circle. And as the Battle of Winterfell awaits, Jaime—not Kingslayer—places himself in Brienne’s humble service, even bestowing the honour of knighthood upon her, and drawing attention to the most quintessential part of his character—ironically, his sense of honour.
When he gave Brienne her sword back in Season 4, she named it “Oathkeeper.” Perhaps she didn’t know that in doing so, she became the person that inspired Jaime to rethink the oaths he swore when he first became Ser Jaime Lannister. “Protect the innocent” and “defend the weak” are just two of the pledges taken by knights when the title is conferred on them.
Thanks to Brienne, Jaime Lannister became the hero he was always meant to be. There’s still room in the Book of Brothers for a new chapter.