The Cripple Without Personality – Jaime’s Character Arc in Season 7 of Game of Thrones

Season 7 of Game of Thrones can be summarised in one sentence: great cinematography, terrible plot. A lot of things can be criticised, like the the unlocked fast travel points, Euron’s super navy, sending freaking SPEARMEN to take over a castle,… But the very worst character arc and plot points for me were that of Jaime. The reason is very simple: everything that this character is gets ignored the entire season up until the very last point, because the plot demands it.

Cocky JaimeJaime’s story is a story of redemption. He starts off the story in season 1 with having “shit for honour”, being universally hated for killing the king he had sworn to defend and being essentially a smug douchebag. Every scene we see with him, including the lovely chat with Robert, his second king, has him donning a “smug, satisfied face” and using his words to annoy or piss off the other person. And why not? He’s the best swordsman alive and he knows he can kill everyone who tries to fight him. Right up until the end of episode 3 of season 3, when Locke decides to cut his hand off to teach him a lesson in humility.

It’s interesting to note that while Brienne plays a very important role in his character arc it’s only in this episode, “Walk of Punishment”, that he starts to show any care for her. Beyond this he’s been constantly trying to piss her off and looking for an opening to escape from her. This makes sense, as she looked at him just like everyone had before that point; as the kingslayer, the oathbreaker. But when Locke’s men are showing signs of wanting to rape her he uncharacteristically warns her and tells her to comply, because they’d kill her otherwise. He tries to persuade Locke to ransom her for sapphires instead of taking her virginity. Granted, he fails, but that’s the first point he shows he isn’t the person he’s pretending to be.

After he loses his sword hand to Locke he goes through a depression, which only Brienne gets him out of by reminding her that life isn’t fair and that he needs to stay alive to take vengeance. I see this scene as the genesis of their mutual friendship and respect, which culminates in the bath scene in Harrenhal. That’s when Jaime explains why he killed the king: an act that we had been told was dishonourable was essentially done to save lives. He had begged the king to surrender peacefully, yet was ordered to do a crime that is fucked up even in this crapsack world: kill his father while Aerys planned on burning King’s Landing. Suddenly this act of a smug person washes away and it’s shown that he’s a very bitter person for being hated for something he considers to be a good act. All of this he only shows to Brienne and the scene ends with him saying that his name is Jaime, not the kingslayer. Something Brienne finally accepts when she refers to him as “ser Jaime” when she says her supposed goodbye in Harrenhal.

This bond that gets created between them is big enough that Jaime risks his life for her. He saves the maiden fair from the bear that was trying to maul her to death. He defies Locke and risks fighting between them in order to take Brienne with her. This is a significant event, because he could only have done that by going though the character journey he had gone through. Season 1 Jaime would not have done that.

Conflicted JaimeIt’s important to state that Jaime’s story follows that of the book up until his arrival in King’s Landing. There are some problems created here because Jaime arrives before Joffrey’s death, whereas in the books he arrives after. This is important, because Sansa is still there and his oath should compel him to want to send her to Catelyn Stark, who is now dead. Yet Jaime argues against it and tries to pretend she is safe, but Brienne quickly pops that delusional bubble. So in essence this doesn’t go against Jaime’s character journey. Even though he doesn’t want to fulfill the oath, which in the books becomes very important to him, Brienne can defeat his arguments very quickly and very easily and it’s shown that he’s lying to himself. That he wants her to be safe, even though he doesn’t believe it. This is important, as it’s a hick-up in his change, but that’s normal. People will make mistakes every now and then and it’s clear Jaime understands this is a mistake. Which is why he eventually arms Brienne with a Valyrian steel sword and (normal steel) heavy armour. Equipment the honourable female warrior wears to this day.

Because of the changed turn of events Jaime is there when Joffrey dies and the rest of season 4 is spent on interacting with his brother Tyrion. To establish that they still very much love each other. Naturally this all culminates in Jaime releasing Tyrion from his cell before our favourite dwarf gets executed. In the books there aren’t any interactions between the two throughout this period in the story, but it’s necessary for the show. They needed to set up the big reveal that Jaime was the one setting Tyrion free, because otherwise it wouldn’t have made much sense storywise. It could’ve come across as a plothole, a tool that D&D needed to write themselves out of a corner and cheapen the deal of Tyrion surviving, even though he does escape in the books in mostly the same way.

I also like the change in personality these sequences of events show. At the start of season 4 Jaime doesn’t want to act against his family. He creates excuses to not fulfill his oath towards Catelyn and Sansa, but he shows he’s burdened by it. At the end of season 4 we see him acting against his father and sister’s wishes. You can argue that he does it FOR family, as he saves his beloved brother, but you have to keep in mind he also is very much in love with his sister. And he made a deal with his father, which the last episode of season 7 demonstrated is a big deal for him. So yes, he does have the extra motivation of saving a family member, but he also clearly goes against the rest of his family.

Now why did I mention all of this? Simple, Jaime’s story up until this point is very structured. He starts as a douchebag and slowly changes into a somewhat moral and honourable person. Even story that was changed for the show makes sense and shows his character development. But worry not, dear reader, because season 5 is the turning point where it all starts going to shit.

Jaime really doesn’t have much characteralisation in season 5. He gets sent off to Dorne to save Myrcella, which is plot invented for the show. The only real character change we see is that Jaime is starting to admit to several people that Myrcella is his daughter. Bronn and Myrcella herself both state they know this and Jaime seems to be okay with it. This is an important factor, as Jaime and Cersei having sex is a big taboo during the show and it shows that Jaime is casting off the lie in order to be more honest… To very specific people he trusts. There isn’t anything wrong with this, beyond the fact that it doesn’t feel like very much change for an entire season.

In season 6 the Jaime story comes back to his story in the books: the second siege of Riverrun. We do get some plot going before that, but his character is fairly static. He dislikes the High Sparrow, he loves Cersei and we need to get some way for him to go out of the Kingsguard and into the Riverlands. But what is important about his time spent there, however simplistic as it is compared to his ordeals in the books, is that Jaime effectively succeeds in taking the kingdom back from Blackfish. Where fighter Jaime in season 1 couldn’t win the war with his fighting abilities and armies season 6 Jaime manages to end the siege without any real bloodshed. And that’s a pretty important deal for Jaime in the books. He’s very much focused on rebuilding his reputation as “Goldenhand the Just.” By thinking ahead, making deals and being more honourable he effectively takes back the castle (it’s not a bloody sheep!). He thinks, he treats and in the books he ignores the advice of his soldiers to be cruel. And while it is done rather simplistically in the show we do see elements of this in season 6. Though I will say that his treating of Edmure was… a bit against what should be his character at this point.

But it’s also a prelude to what will happen to his charactersation. Gods have mercy on us…

Dark JaimeAfter taking back Riverrun he returns to King’s Landing to find out that his beloved sister has blown up the Sept with wildfire. This is a very important moment for Jaime. Cersei has done what he killed the mad king for attempting to do. She has killed hundreds of (noble) people to get what she wanted and has now crowned herself queen. And at the end of season 6 we see a very dark look from Jaime towards his sister. A look that I interpreted as the start of the journey for him to kill her and fulfill the Maegi the frog prophecy of the volonquar.

But I was wrong. Oh so very wrong…

Season 7 starts and Jaime is still with Cersei. They have rekindled their sexual relationship and are even making it public…

Do I need to point out what’s wrong with this?

Jaime, the character following a story of redemption, is back where he started. He experienced a second plot point where someone was threatening to destroy countless lives for their own selfish reasons and this time he chose to continue to work for that person. He is once again killing people to protect his love, which is exactly the first ever thing he did in the show: throw Bran off the tower to make sure nobody knows about him and Cersei. He’s gone back to ignoring the little voices in his head screaming at him to GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE. He even goes so far as to defend Cersei’s actions against Olenna Tyrell. The same actions that disgusted him to no end when Aerys wanted to do them. Olenna blames it on love, but that plot point doesn’t really make sense either.

Cersei is a cunt. She’s a vapid, manipulative, juvenile and shallow human being who cares only about herself. Both the show and the books make this very clear. This is why Jaime falls out of love with her in the books. He starts to see her for the monster that she is while he is on his path towards being more honourable. The show for some reason has discarded all of this to continue to make him love her. Even though he is often called one of the sane guys in the show by fans. What was the point of his interactions with Brienne? What was the point of him losing his hands? What was the point of him trying to bring peace to the Riverlands without violence the previous season if he is right back to being a fucking war commander leading his sister’s armies and gleefully sacrificing his men at Casterly Rock to the Unsullied? Where is the honour in all this? Where is his redemption? HE IS RIGHT BACK WHERE HE STARTED!

Now, I’ll admit that he does shown signs of fighting against his own thoughts about it and trying to convince himself that Cersei is doing the right thing, even though it’s very clear to all, including himself, that she’s a monster intent on dominating everything. She’s become the mad queen and he’s struggling with this concept in both his conversations with Olenna and Bronn. It’s obvious why this is the case, because he (finally) breaks free from his sister because of her treacherous behaviour in the final episode of season 7.

But the problem with this writing is that it isn’t the character dictating the plot, but the plot dictating the character. We have an entire season of Jaime being by Cersei’s side, when even at the end of season 6 he’s very clearly disgusted by what she’s done. We don’t hear a mention of this, even though her blowing up the sept should be the central point of his character arc at this point. Especially if you take into account that Tommen committed suicide over this. His son. Him starting to accept his children is a part of his character journey in season 5! Had Martin written this (and he may very well in the next book) Jaime would’ve plunged a sword in his sister the moment they were alone. That’s what honour, his sense of justice and his feelings should’ve dictated. That’s what a proper character arc should’ve done.

Instead we see him staying by her side. Why? Because the audience needs to have a reason to keep rooting for house Lannister. Jaime is a very popular character and rightly so. He’s shown himself clever in the previous seasons and he remains a seasoned battle commander. He needed to be there to create suspense against Dany, by succesfully taking the Reach army from her while Euron took Dorne… for some reason. To tighten the noose around Dany’s neck.

Sad JaimeIt’s because of this that the conclusion between Cersei and Jaime in the final episode of the season feels awkward and unrealistic. I don’t buy that all of a sudden he has a problem with Cersei scheming against Dany when he didn’t seemingly have a problem with her blowing up the sept (again, I cannot stress enough how much of a parrallel event this is with the mad king!) and after he schemes with Randal Tarly. His mantra has become “stopping the dead army”, but if you focus on the dialogue he is very keen on not wanting to break his promise to Jon Snow and Dany. Along with the fact that he (finally) finds out she has no qualms killing or manipulating him to keep him nearby. That she might actually not love him after all and that the lovely blowjob we saw earlier in the show was because she was aroused by dealing with Ellaria Sand. Which is another reference to the mad king, as in the books and the lore videos it’s hinted that Aerys had sex with his wife every time he burned someone to death.

But I have to give credit where it’s due. Jaime seems to be back on his path to redemption. Granted, it took him two seasons of wandering around to get back to it and the way he got there was absolutely atrocious, but he does seem to be returning to a more honourable character. Although I can’t help but wonder if that’s because Jaime  needs to join up “team Good” against the dead.  To finally push the majority of the fans to camp Dany? To put another Valyrian steel sword in Dany’s camp? I guess we’ll have to wait until the final season, but I will remain sceptical of what happens.

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Copyright: The images used in this article are screenshots taken from the episodes of the show. We are allowed to use them under section 107 of the US Copyright Act of 1976. Game of Thrones is created by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, belongs to HBO and was inspired by the book series “A Song of Ice and Fire” by George R.R. Martin.

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