Alright. This one is personal.
Throughout the entirety of the first book/season of Game of Thrones, no character seems more villainous than Jaime Lannister. The man who betrayed his king and earned the title of Kingslayer. The cocky bastard who seems overjoyed to attack Eddard Stark and kill his men. The man who fucked his sister in a tower and shoved a little boy out of a window.
No one in the world thought highly of Jaime after the beginning of the story. Not anyone in the audience and certainly not anyone in the world himself. We’re meant to assume he’s the bad guy because that’s what everyone in Westeros assumes of him. Kingslayer isn’t exactly a positive nickname, even if the king haven been slain was the Mad King.
In any other fantasy series, Jaime would have been one of the primary villains. The cruel and powerful warrior, a duelist beyond the skill of any of his peers. Maybe Rob or Jon would have to defeat him in a duel in the battle to win the throne. Hell, maybe Arya would do it or Bran would defeat him with his weird magic. Either way, he’d be the villain that someone would need to overcome in battle if this were written by someone else.
But again: that’s not quite the case. Jaime isn’t some morally black bastard. In fact, his whole character can best be summarized by that one line he mutters as he shoves Bran out the window: “The things I do for love.”
Jaime is one of the most courageous and selfless characters in the whole series. He constantly throws himself in harm’s way in order to protect his loved ones. We see this in book/season three when he goes back to save Brienne from the bear or in season four/book three when he breaks Tyrion out of prison. Hell, we even see it when he shoves Bran out the window; we can clearly see that he doesn’t want to do it, but he does it because he thinks he has to in order to protect Cersei.
This is made as clear as sunshine during his legendary monologue to Brienne in the bath. This is legitimately my favorite scene in the whole series. Here, a loopy and injured Jaime comes clean about his slaying the Mad King. Yes, he betrayed his oath as a member of the King’s Guard. But said king had intended to incinerate his own city with magic fire, along with everyone else inside. If Jaime hadn’t done what he did, thousands of innocent people would have been killed! He threw his honor aside in order to protect those who couldn’t protect themselves!
It’s such a simple thing but it makes Jaime feel so real and complex. He can be a good man or he can be a terrible man, depending on where a character stands with him. Of all the Lannister characters, he best embodies a lion; loving and caring of his loved ones and fierce and unmerciful against his enemies. Once you get to know him, he’s not a hard character to understand. But he’s still fiercely compelling!
So, of course, D&D had to completely fuck him up.
They failed on two fundamental levels. One: they forgot who Jaime was as a person. And two: they forgot who Jaime was becoming as a person.
We already talked about the was. Sacrificed honor in order to protect his family and innocents, all that good shit. He’s a noble man who let the whole world think he was a bad guy in order to protect it. So what do D&D have this inherently noble and selfless man say when begged to take an action that might save lives?
To be honest, I never really cared much for them. Innocent or otherwise.Jaime to Tyrion in season eight
How can one line so perfectly fail to capture a character? Like, that is literally the exact opposite of who Jaime is! You’re telling me that a man who sacrificed his own honor to protect innocent people doesn’t care about the people?!
Two: they forgot who Jaime was becoming. Because you see, something really big happened in season three to Jaime. And on the surface, it seemed really small.
He lost his sword hand.
Jaime’s skill as a swordsman was clearly displayed to be unparalleled in the first two books/seasons. When Tyrion named him as his champion during his trial before Bronn stepped in, all the knights championing against him look about ready to shit themselves. The dude was widely considered to be the single greatest warrior in all of Westeros. Like, it wasn’t even a contest.
And he’s always used his strength to achieve his goals. Whenever presented with a problem, Jaime used his brawn over his brains. This only worked for him because of how insanely high that strength was. The dude was so good that he almost beat Brienne in a duel with his hands tied and half-starved.
At least in the book. In the show, she kinda whooped his ass.
That aside, having Jaime lose his sword hand is the real start of his character arc. Suddenly, he can’t fight anymore. He tried his best to adapt, but he simply couldn’t do it. His greatest strength was turned against him, becoming his ultimate weakness. Now, he needs to adapt. He needs to become smarter, not stronger.
Not only that, but it drives a wedge between him and his loved ones. Cersei begins pushing him away and he begins to see how terrible she truly is. His relationship with Tyrion becomes strained as he tells his little brother the truth of his former wife (at least in the book) which leads to their father’s death. Speaking of which, Tywin straight-up disowns Jaime after his return because he continues to reject his father’s desires.
This is Jaime’s arc. He needs to adapt without his strength and not let his connections to his loved ones control him. A wonderfully compelling arc for who he is.
Which is why they completely fucked it up. Instead of moving beyond his maiming and learning how to live with it, Jaime simply learns how to fight again. Instead of moving past his toxic loved ones, he goes right back to Cersei and dies with her. Oh, and he does this almost immediately after fucking Brienne for no reason!
You literally could not have fucked this up more than they did. It’s so terrible that it’s honestly kind of impressive! At least it would be, if it weren’t so fucking miserable!
Please, George, please just finish the books! I need to see how Jaime’s arc actually ends! We all need to be able to wash the taste of the show out of our mouths!
One response to “Jaime Lannister: Why He Worked and How the Show Ruined Him”
At this point I don’t expect him or Patrick Rothfuss to finish their series. In fact, I doubt that GRRM writes another book in the series.
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