Hey there! So, for the next few articles I’m going to delve into a series near and dear to my heart: George R. R. Martin’s as-yet-unfinished magnum opus, A Song of Ice and Fire. It’s one of my favourite fantasy series, one of those books I can just curl up with and read again, and again, and again. And I have. This is probably my third or fourth read-through on some of these chapters. In this series I’m going to be looking at my three favourite point-of-view characters in the series and delving into why I like them, what I think about them and maybe even some of the themes underlying their arcs. There are some dang meaty ones. Spoilers, of course.
#3: Jaime Lannister
Jaime is one of those characters who I manage to love, yet find… Difficult. Is he amazingly written? Yes. Is he a better person than he was in AGOT? Yes. Is he a good person now, or even close? No.
Jaime’s journey so far has been from a man who has no love but battle (and his twin sister) and sneers at the world to one who actively tries to engage with the world around him, making it better and a safer place to live in. He decides to cut out negative influences from his life and focus on what makes him genuinely happy, trying to become the person that he’s always meant to be.
This is all well and good, but Jaime’s failed to ask himself the really hard questions. For all his shows internally and externally of hating Cersei, at the end of the day he’s more comfortable serving a regime than taking a stand like the great knight he wants to be. His siege against Riverrun is handled well but in the end Jaime is still serving a regime he knows to be corrupt and invalid against a morally superior opponent. All the angst Jaime has about fighting his childhood hero? Yeah, maybe there’s a reason for that. Not to mention how Jaime reacts whenever anyone belittles his newfound honour, which is to get snippy. Jaime isn’t willing to accept that his past actions had real and nasty consequences. He only ploughs onwards, being upset that no-one really understands him and only rationalises his actions to himself (and Ilyn Payne, for all the good that does). He still shows no remorse for shoving Bran off a tower, or the part he played in the demise of House Stark, or anything else he’s done to destabilise the realm and turn it into the mess it’s become. He wants to believe he can be Tywin, but Jaime still can’t look at the big picture.
But even after that, you can’t help but love Jaime Lannister. With a cool wit and a slowly reawakening sense of honour, Jaime is one of the most fun characters to read about. He’s one of the few characters in A Song of Ice and Fire to be developing into a better person, as opposed to his siblings, any of the Starks, Daenerys…
Seeing Jaime trying to rediscover his knightly vows and childhood dreams is inspiring and lovely to watch, even if it’s slightly delusional. As an audience reading the dark world of ASOIAF it’s hard to read five books of death, maiming and torture, so Jaime deciding to be a not-terrible person is something at least. And while I have been harsh on the Kingslayer, he is showing genuine signs of improving. He’s realised that some of his actions were reckless and irresponsible.
“…the wood was white. It made him think of Winterfell, and Ned Stark’s heart tree. It was not him, he thought. It was never him. But the stump was dead and so was Stark…”
He’s figured out that his problems with Ned Stark’s judging him were based out of his own self-loathing. He’s separating himself from Cersei, who’s just a black hole of toxicity politically and personally. The Siege of Riverrun was an unprecedented success, with not a drop of blood spilled and Jaime able to keep his vows to the Tullys… kind of? I doubt Edmure or the Blackfish would agree with him on that.
Jaime’s saving grace in the long-term might be trying to get some honour back in the Kingsguard. While as recently as Aerys II the Kingsguard was still an honourable institution, under Jaime and Barristan it’s completely gone to hell. Mismanagement isn’t even close to what’s happening: under mad kings and queens, it’s become a place for cronies, bullies and political favours completely unsuited to actually guarding the King. Better knights have been passed up so that people like Meryn Trant could get the top spot. Thankfully, Jaime seems to realise this and goes about correcting it. The chapter that he spends trying to sort their collective mess out is massively entertaining, with some fantastic Lannister sass from Jaime and he ends A Storm of Swords more a Ser than a Kingslayer, with a world of possibilities ahead of him…
“Ser Gerold Hightower had begun his history, and Ser Barristan Selmy had continued it, but the rest Jaime Lannister would need to write for himself. He could write whatever he chose, henceforth.
Whatever he chose…”
… That is, until he’s sent away by Cersei. Considering the political climate at the moment, I very much doubt if Jaime will ever be Lord Commander of the Kingsguard in any significant capacity again. However, with his ever-growing compassion, a run-in with the corrupted Brotherhood Without Banners might be the very thing he needs to do some real good. Imagine if Jaime takes over a splinter faction of them after the business with Lady Stoneheart! Jaime Lannister becomes an outlaw knight, just like the Smiling Knight! He learns how his actions affect people outside of House Lannister! (Or, more than likely, he’ll die before the end of The Winds of Winter. Ah well.)
To cap off, I’d like to touch on Jaime and Brienne, one of the most interesting character pairings in a series full of them. Full disclosure: I ship them like there’s no tomorrow. They just work off each other so well, and I’m convinced that George is setting up some kind of romance here.
“She wanted to protect him, but her limbs felt stiff and frozen, and it took more strength than she had just to lift her hand. And when the shadow sword sliced through the green steel gorget and the blood began to flow, she saw that the dying king was not Renly after all but Jaime Lannister, and she had failed him.”
I mean come on, that’s not even subtext, that’s practically text!
But enough on my (probably doomed) favourite romantic pairing. What I love about Jaime and Brienne is that they bring out the best in each other, but in a really interesting way. Jaime rediscovers his lost honour with her help and is re-learning how to be a good knight for her and it’s lovely! Brienne’s finally found somebody who believes in her and that’s lovely too! However, the friendship between them is still fraught with misunderstandings and backsliding from Jaime. You can really see where Jaime’s at in his arc simply by analysing how much and how badly he’s reacting to Brienne. His conversation with her about the mission to find Sansa is just fantastic; he means to give her a mission to salvage his honour, he’s become more optimistic, more trusting and more perceptive of the people around him. He can see that Brienne is the right person for the job and the right person to salvage his honour.
“I want you to find Sansa first, and get her somewhere safe. How else are the two of us going to make good our stupid vows to your precious dead Lady Catelyn?”
Aaaaand yet here we see the negative parts of his character come back, showing that Jaime isn’t yet the Arthur Dayne he imagines. He’s still got some of the problems that turned him into a horrible person in the first place – that easily wounded ego, that inability to explain himself, that Lannister inability to hold your tongue. He may have regained faith in humanity but this isn’t some fantastic turnaround GRRM’s portraying, it’s a slow development towards decency that’s equal parts painful and satisfying. In the end Jaime manages to display the newfound humility he’s gotten in a truly touching moment.
“I have made kings and unmade them. Sansa Stark is my last chance for honor.” Jaime smiled thinly. “Besides, kingslayers should band together. Are you ever going to go?”
That about sums up my thoughts on Jaime! My apologies for going on tangents all over the place in this article, but I have many thoughts on this guy. He’s one of the most interesting, well-rounded and well-written characters in A Song of Ice and Fire and I hope I’m able to communicate some of why I love him! I also help that we get The Winds of Winter soon (I bet you’ve never heard that before) so we can continue to follow Jaime’s witty retorts, cynicism and great character development.
Or he’ll just die. Ah jeez.