Image: Sky Editorial Asset Centre/HBO.
Image: Sky Editorial Asset Centre/HBO.

Heart of Gold? Jaime Lannister is not as black and white as we thought

The glory of a show as long-running and complex as Game of Thrones is in the pleasure of watching characters grow throughout the story– to think that the barefaced Jon Snow of season one is now a contender for the Iron Throne is frankly mind-blowing.

The Stark siblings alone are prime examples of extreme transformations throughout the series. Season seven saw Sansa, a once naïve and lovestruck young girl, with eyes dazed by the hopes of a handsome prince, execute the instigator of the game, Lord Baelish, himself. Now she joins the remaining Starks hardened by life and ready for war- a far cry from the brood of innocent children we first saw in Winterfell.

A Stark is a Stark is a Stark – but does every Lannister bleed gold?

However, whilst all arguably classic and well done, their narratives were all emblematic of a linear- if gradual- jump from naïve child to distrusting adult. For me, the more complex character transformation can be found in the controversial, yet the seemingly well-loved character of Jaime Lannister. A Stark is a Stark is a Stark – but does every Lannister bleed gold?

Aligned early on with the side for immorality and deception, there is no question of Jaime’s allegiance and lack of moral compass when we are first introduced to him in season one. In the first episode alone we see him getting freaky with his own sister and literally throw a child from a tower window to conceal it, so his loyalties are hardly ambiguous- but how then can he have become so loved by audiences?

After pretty consistently self-serving and arguably cruel actions throughout most of the first two seasons- even when in captivity he taunts Catelyn Stark for her husband’s beheading- it is not until season two, when aligned with Brienne of Tarth in their trek back to King’s Landing that we begin to see the layers of Jaime’s character begin to shift.

His journey alongside Brienne reveals the hidden depths of Jaime’s character

Brienne is undoubtedly a creature of loyalty- throughout her whole storyline in the show, we see her first in service to Renly Baratheon, the man she loved and fought for despite the knowledge that her affection was unrequited, and after that the Stark family, who she was still serving at the end of season seven. It is from this loyalty that Brienne derives her honour as a knight- it defines her as a person, and an undoubtedly good and moral one.

Yet, we can argue the same for Jaime. Despite his actions being cruel and corrupt, it is impossible to ignore the intense loyalty that Jaime shows to his family- particularly Cersei. His journey alongside Brienne reveals the hidden depths of Jaime’s character- from his heroic rescue of Brienne from the bear pit, and the candid bath scene where we see him stripped of the worth and protection of both his sword-hand and the Lannister name, we learn of his capacity to do good- how his actions in killing the Mad King were not just for the sake of his family’s power but rather to save thousands of lives from Wildfire. Are these not heroic actions?

He returns to Cersei, and stays with her, because — just like Brienne — he defines himself by his loyalty.

Herein lies the complexity of Jaime’s transformation. Not only did his return to King’s Landing precede an uncomfortable rape scene with Cersei, a complete contradiction of the character growth in his preceding arc, but the last season saw him abandon her altogether for the sake of the larger crusade against the dead. His loyalty to Cersei, the one thing that we could always rely on him for, has finally deteriorated– now he is adrift, and what’s a lion without his pride?


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