Game of Thrones: Are We Ready to Let Go of Jaime Lannister?

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Game of Thrones: Are We Ready to Let Go of Jaime Lannister?

Illustration: Arati Gujar

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ext week, HBO will broadcast “The Battle of Winterfell”, the third episode of Game of Thrones’ final season, which is sure to kick off an avalanche of weepy farewells as GoT does what it does best – kill off the characters we’ve fallen in love with over the last decade. This week’s episode, “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms”, is then a final goodbye to several of the show’s central cast, as most of the story’s important figures gather in Winterfell to fight the oncoming horde of undead. And of all these hinted-at partings, the one that surprisingly promises to be the most heart-wrenching is that of who was once the most despicable man in the Seven Kingdoms – Jaime Lannister.

Much of the episode deals with Jaime’s arrival in Winterfell, among a host of people who consider him a sworn enemy. There’s his younger brother Tyrion, whom Jaime swore to kill when they next met; there’s Danaerys Targaryen, whose father he betrayed and stabbed in the back; and there’s Bran Stark, the boy he crippled for life, robbing him of his inheritance. But despite coming close to being executed, Jaime survives – not because every man is needed for the coming battle, but because his enemies forgive him for his transgressions, bringing his story full circle.

Jaime’s redemption begins when he is crippled by mercenaries, and the loss of his sword hand leads to a loss of self-identity. In reflecting on who he truly is, and with no small help from the human moral compass Brienne of Tarth, Jaime comes to terms with the fact that the person he used to be was a terrible individual. It takes some more prodding, like his sister Queen Cersei going on a homicidal spree, but losing the hand with which he committed his greatest sins is effectively when Jaime begins questioning his own actions.

Your own mistakes are always the hardest to forgive. While not all of us have treason, rape, and murder on our conscience like Jaime Lannister, who among us hasn’t done something they’re not too proud of? Whether it’s letting down a loved one, failing to kick an addiction, or just realising it’s harder to break out of your negative patterns than you thought, being disappointed in yourself is an essentially human experience.

This is Game of Thrones, and all men must die, but Jaime’s death is going to sting a little harder because of how far he’s come.

Part of the reason Thrones became such a runaway mainstream success is because it rose above standard fantasy tropes of good and evil, and tapped into the shades of grey that define what it means to be human. And when it comes to shades of grey, they don’t come in more hues than Jaime Lannister. When Jaime actually confronts his past, owns up to his mistakes, and decides to make amends, he transforms from a typical cocky villain into a richly layered character, one who became a better person after forgiving himself.

When the show began, nobody could have predicted that the person to best embody why second chances matter would be Jaime Lannister. He began the show as an unrepentant narcissist, and now, in what is likely to be one of his final appearances, he selflessly passes the torch of knighthood to Brienne, as a final act of reparations. If Jaime is to fall in the next episode’s battle, as the show is heavily hinting at, he will be the most sociopathic, twisted, and occasionally inhuman character for whose death I’ll shed a tear.

By proving even a roguish, murderous opportunist can find his honour, Jaime offers every viewer hope for redemption, and a fresh start. Right from the Grimm fairy-tales about the Big Bad Wolf in Grandma’s cloak up to the doting boyfriend-cum-killer stalker Joe in Netflix’s You, there have been plenty of stories about how those with a seemingly sweet exterior contain a lurking evil. In contrast, Jaime Lannister provides a refreshingly hopeful perspective, where a hard, callous, malevolent exterior hides the soul of a good, righteous person.

This is Game of Thrones, and all men must die, but Jaime’s death is going to sting a little harder because of how far he’s come. Long ago, before his change of heart, Jaime cockily remarked, “There are no men like me, only me.” Despite all the changes he’s undergone, that claim still holds true.

Farewell Kingslayer, there will never be a more sympathetic asshole than you.

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