Unintended Consequences, Stage 3: House Lannister Falls Apart

Oh my stars and garters, WordPress went and fucked with the Create Post interface again.

But that won’t stop me from sharing more of the Unintended Consequences fun. How do you feel about a title like “House Lannister Falls Apart”?


“You want her? Go get her.” So he did.


If you’re coming to this essay for the first time, I’ve also posted the Introduction, Stage 1 and Stage 2.

If you don’t already have a copy to read offline, it’s never too late to download the iBooks or PDF version.

The Joy of Unintended Consequences, Stage 3: House Lannister Falls Apart

Having received much-needed medical care from Qyburn, taken a long overdue bath, and shared the story of how he became the Kingslayer with Brienne, Jaime is finally recovering his dignity. With a hand-picked escort from Lord Bolton, now is the time for Jaime to return to King’s Landing, as Catelyn Stark had in mind when she released him from his cell. Having achieved that concession from Bolton, perhaps Jaime thinks he’ll soon return to something close enough to the status quo of his life before his incarceration at Riverrun. He still thinks he can fight well enough with his left hand. He thinks his departure from Harrenhal marks his separation from Brienne. He’s going back to his family, and his post with the Kingsguard.

Of course it’s not that simple. His journey home will merely introduce him to another course of changes in his life. He will soon find out that his maiming has utterly destroyed his swordsmanship, and that’s one of the least complicated changes resulting from his time away from King’s Landing.

One of the most notorious of Jaime’s lines in the series is: “The things I do for love.” It’s actually a very effective way to explain his actions. His love for his family has motivated some shocking behavior on Jaime’s part for much of his life, starting with his joining the Kingsguard and culminating in his shoving Bran Stark out of a high window. Now that he’s leaving Harrenhal, he thinks he’ll go back to being Tywin Lannister’s son, Tyrion’s loving big brother, and Cersei’s lover, and everything will more or less go back to the way it was except that he’ll do everything with his left hand. As profound a change to his identity as the loss of his sword hand is, it’ll be a minor adjustment compared to what happens when he tries to return to his family.

The War of Five Kings has torn the realm apart, and while solidifying the position of the Lannisters as a political entity, it has exposed some major fault lines in the way the Lannisters function as a family. Jaime was their emotional center, and in his absence, they haven’t re-centered themselves. One by one, he will try to reconnect with his family members once he returns to King’s Landing, and one by one, they will push him away.

This third stage is when the Lannister family falls apart, and when Jaime can no longer relate to his siblings and father, Brienne will still be there for him. The less he connects with the Lannisters, the more of himself he invests in his new friendship with his big wench.

Section 1: Bear Pit

So begins the long slog back to King’s Landing: Jaime departs Harrenhal with his escort led by Steelshanks Walton, while Brienne is still kept prisoner by the Brave Companions. Jaime tells himself that he doesn’t care what happens to her, and it’s true that, within the context of their protector/prisoner relationship as ordered by Catelyn Stark, he doesn’t owe her anything.

Though his fever lingered stubbornly, the stump was healing clean, and Qyburn said his arm was no longer in danger. Jaime was anxious to be gone, to put Harrenhal, the Bloody Mummers, and Brienne of Tarth all behind him. A real woman waited for him in the Red Keep. (3.38)

He has a dream that night, but the content of that dream isn’t our concern at this point. The important part is that he wakes up the next morning and orders Steelshanks Walton to turn everyone back to Harrenhal. He’s not going back to King’s Landing without his wench. Back to Harrenhal he goes with his escort of two-hundred sober armed men, and just as he thinks they may have come too late, they find her in the bear pit, with no weapon but a tourney sword and wearing nothing but that ridiculous pink gown, now torn halfway off.

Within the bear pit scene, we see three of Martin’s initial eight processes of foreshadowing, now reaching a new stage of development: 1. Defending her honor, 2. Name-calling, and 3. Kinship.

1. First, he defends her honor. The entire adventure of returning to Harrenhal is a matter of Jaime going to considerable risk and inconvenience to save her life, when he no longer needs her protection.

This is where we see Jaime defend Brienne from violence, and mostly he goes well out of his way to save her life, at a point where he technically no longer needs her protection.

Jaime’s head jerked round at the sound of a distant roar, faint but ferocious. It echoed off the walls of Harrenhal, and the laughter swelled up like the sea. All of a sudden, he knew what was happening. Have we come too late? (3.1)

In the larger sense, Jaime protects Brienne by using his position as the prisoner of value to force his escort to kill the bear. In the more immediate sense, he protects her by straddling her:

Brienne tried to dart around, but he kicked her legs out from under her. She fell in the sand, clutching the useless sword. Jaime straddled her, and the bear came charging. (3.6)

But no, that’s not suggestive at all.

2. Here we reach a new stage of name-calling between the two. While Steelshanks refers to her as “the wench,” Jaime reminds him: “Her name’s Brienne.” (3.3) He also reminds Brienne to call him by his real name:

“You want her? Go get her.”

So he did.

He put his good hand on the marble rail and vaulted over, rolling as he hit the sand. The bear turned at the thump, sniffing, watching this new intruder warily. Jaime scrambled to one knee. Well, what in seven hells do I do now? He filled his fist with sand.

“Kingslayer?” he heard Brienne say, astonished.

“Jaime.” He uncoiled, flinging the sand at the bear’s face. The bear mauled the air and roared like blazes. (3.5)

Then he corrects Steelshanks yet again:

“And I’ll serve you the same if you give me trouble,” Steelshanks threw back. “We’re taking the wench.”

“Her name is Brienne,” Jaime said. “Brienne, the maid of Tarth. You are still maiden, I hope?”

Her broad homely face turned red. “Yes.” (3.7)

3. Finally, we see more of Jaime acting with a sense of kinship to Brienne. While just the previous night he was thinking it was perfectly acceptable to leave her as a prisoner to the Brave Companions, now he’s offering to pay her ransom:

The beast turned clumsily, too far and too fast. Quick as a cat, Brienne changed direction. There’s the wench I remember. She leapt in to land a cut across the bear’s back. Roaring, the beast went up on his hind legs again. Brienne scrambled back away. Where’s the blood? Then suddenly he understood.

Jaime rounded on Hoat. “You gave her a tourney sword.”

The goat brayed laughter, spraying him with wine and spittle. “Of courth.”

“I’ll pay her bloody ransom. Gold, sapphires, whatever you want. Pull her out of there.” (3.4)

Finally, they’re out of the pit without further injury, and Brienne asks the question that should be on everyone’s minds:

“Ser Jaime?” Even in soiled pink satin and torn lace, Brienne looked more like a man in a gown than a proper woman. “I am grateful, but … you were well away. Why come back?”

A dozen quips came to mind, each crueler than the one before, but Jaime only shrugged. “I dreamed of you,” he said. (3.8)

Brienne understands that, with him not having asked for her protection, he would have been within his rights to keep going without her. It’s significant that he came back.

The things he does for love.

Section 2: Back to King’s Landing

Now we are finally, truly, on the road back to King’s Landing, with Steelshanks and his men protecting Jaime, Qyburn there to look after his health, and Brienne still traveling at his side. They get the news of two game-changing, tragic events during this journey, and in response to these events, we get some new developments in Jaime’s story arc, as well as continuing development of established processes with Brienne. The developments are, in order of appearance: 1. Jaime is indifferent to Joffrey’s death, which puts him at odds with Cersei. 2. He still demands reactions from Brienne. 3. He still defends Brienne’s honor. 4. We still see suggestive language used to characterize their interactions. 5. Jaime faces rejecting behavior from the Lannisters, just as he thinks he’s finally come home. 6. He still feels a sense of kinship with Brienne. 7. Jaime is interested in being present for his children in a way that Cersei doesn’t like. 8. Brienne still attracts Jaime’s gaze. 9. They still use name-calling to show how they get along. 10. We see the Kingslayer parallel.

1. When he hears about Joffrey’s death, the first thing that occurs to Jaime is not the tragedy of losing his son, but his relationship with his sister:

Jaime sat silent through it all, letting the words wash over him, a horn of ale forgotten in his one good hand. Joffrey. My blood. My firstborn. My son. He tried to bring the boy’s face to mind, but his features kept turning into Cersei’s.

She will be in mourning, her hair in disarray and her eyes red from crying, her mouth trembling as she tries to speak. She will cry again when she sees me, though she’ll fight the tears. His sister seldom wept but when she was with him. She could not stand for others to think her weak. Only to her twin did she show her wounds. She will look to me for comfort and revenge.

They rode hard the next day, at Jaime’s insistence. His son was dead, and his sister needed him. (3.9)

Why is it that he’s so much more focused on Cersei than on Joffrey? Why is it that the significance of Joffrey’s death means he gets to be the one to comfort Cersei in her grief?

He was curiously calm. Men were supposed to go mad with grief when their children died, he knew. They were supposed to tear their hair out by the roots, to curse the gods and swear red vengeance. So why was it that he felt so little? The boy lived and died believing Robert Baratheon his sire.

Jaime had seen him born, that was true, though more for Cersei than the child. But he had never held him.

“How would it look?” his sister warned him when the women finally left them. “Bad enough Joff looks like you without you mooning over him.”

Jaime yielded with hardly a fight. The boy had been a squalling pink thing who demanded too much of Cersei’s time, Cersei’s love, and Cersei’s breasts. Robert was welcome to him.

And now he’s dead. He pictured Joff lying still and cold with a face black from poison, and still felt nothing. Perhaps he was the monster they claimed. If the Father Above came down to offer him back his son or his hand, Jaime knew which he would choose. He had a second son, after all, and seed enough for many more. If Cersei wants another child I’ll give her one … and this time I’ll hold him, and the Others take those who do not like it. Robert was rotting in his grave, and Jaime was sick of lies. (3.10)

Here we also get the first sign of another complication between Jaime and his family: he has never been allowed to act as a parent to his children, and he’s unhappy about that. He wants to be present for his children, and that presents a conflict with Cersei, who needs to maintain the status quo. Let’s also keep in mind that this is the same man who tried to kill Bran Stark in order to keep his affair with his sister, and his paternity to her children, a secret. As reprehensible as that action was, the motivation was understandable: Cersei and her children could very well lose their heads if the truth came out. The news here is that Jaime is unhappy with the status quo of keeping his and Cersei’s relationship a secret. He wants to be open about their affair, and he wants to be a loving, involved father to his children.

In other words, he wants a family life that he can’t have with Cersei. At this point, he’s not ready to accept that his affair with his twin is untenable.

2. Having saved her from the bear pit, Jaime still wants to interact more frequently, more directly and more warmly with his big wench.

He turned abruptly and galloped back to find Brienne. Gods know why I bother. She is the least companionable creature I’ve ever had the misfortune to meet.

The wench rode well behind and a few feet off to the side, as if to proclaim that she was no part of them. They had found men’s garb for her along the way; a tunic here, a mantle there, a pair of breeches and a cowled cloak, even an old iron breastplate. She looked more comfortable dressed as a man, but nothing would ever make her look handsome. Nor happy. Once out of Harrenhal, her usual pighead stubbornness had soon reasserted itself. “I want my arms and armor back,” she had insisted. “Oh, by all means, let us have you back in steel,” Jaime replied. “A helm, especially. We’ll all be happier if you keep your mouth shut and your visor down.”

That much Brienne could do, but her sullen silences soon began to fray his good humor almost as much as Qyburn’s endless attempts to be ingratiating. I never thought I would find myself missing the company of Cleos Frey, gods help me. He was beginning to wish he had left her for the bear after all. (3.11)

While he found Cleos Frey nothing but annoying, and he similarly wants Qyburn to leave him alone, he really wants Brienne to do the opposite. He pretends to reject her company, but really, he wants her to be more companionable with him.

He experiences even more tension between wanting to mock her and wanting to bond with her after they get the news of the Red Wedding:

She looked so miserable that Jaime almost found himself wanting to comfort her. Since that day Brienne had been like one half-dead. Even calling her “wench” failed to provoke any response. The strength is gone from her. The woman had dropped a rock on Robin Ryger, battled a bear with a tourney sword, bitten off Vargo Hoat’s ear, and fought Jaime to exhaustion … but she was broken now, done. (3.12)

Here he admits, almost in as many words, that he would call her “wench” in order to provoke a response. All this time, he’s been pushing her buttons just to see her reaction, and now he wants to comfort her, though he’s still not ready to say it out loud.

3. Jaime still defends Brienne’s honor, this time against Loras Tyrell’s accusations. At first, Loras tries to pick a fight with Brienne, which would have inevitably led to someone getting killed, but Jaime puts a stop to that.

Ser Loras Tyrell slammed his sword back into its sheath.

“That wasn’t so difficult, was it?”

“I want her arrested.” Ser Loras pointed. “Lady Brienne, I charge you with the murder of Lord Renly Baratheon.”

“For what it’s worth,” said Jaime, “the wench does have honor. More than I have seen from you. And it may even be she’s telling it true. I’ll grant you, she’s not what you’d call clever, but even my horse could come up with a better lie, if it was a lie she meant to tell. As you insist, however … Ser Balon, escort Lady Brienne to a tower cell and hold her there under guard. And find some suitable quarters for Steelshanks and his men, until such time as my father can see them.” (3.14)

The wench does have more honor than he’s seen from Loras. He continues to uphold Brienne’s innocence to his father:

“Lord Renly was murdered by one of his own guards, some woman from Tarth.”

“That woman from Tarth is the reason I’m here. I tossed her into a cell to appease Ser Loras, but I’ll believe in Renly’s ghost before I believe she did him any harm.” (3.18)

Technically, it was Steelshanks Walton and his escort that got Jaime safely home from Harrenhal, yet for some reason he’s giving Brienne the credit. She’s the one who really saved him. We continue with Jaime comparing Loras Tyrell’s honesty to Brienne’s:

“I still have Brienne of Tarth in a tower cell.”

The boy’s mouth hardened. “A black cell would be better.”

“You are certain that’s what she deserves?”

“She deserves death. I told Renly that a woman had no place in the Rainbow Guard. She won the mêlée with a trick.”

“I seem to recall another knight who was fond of tricks. He once rode a mare in heat against a foe mounted on a bad-tempered stallion. What sort of trickery did Brienne use?”

Ser Loras flushed. “She leapt … it makes no matter. She won, I grant her that. His Grace put a rainbow cloak around her shoulders. And she killed him. Or let him die.”

“A large difference there.” The difference between my crime and the shame of Boros Blount. (3.21)

The argument continues, and they get to the question of what a Kingsguard should do to keep his king alive. For example, how was it that several Kingsguard knights failed to save Joffrey from dying of poison? Sometimes, saving the king’s life is impossible:

“The wench says the same. She grieves for Renly as you do. I promise you, I never grieve for Aerys. Brienne’s ugly, and pighead stubborn. But she lacks the wits to be a liar, and she is loyal past the point of sense. She swore an oath to bring me to King’s Landing, and here I sit. This hand I lost … well, that was my doing as much as hers. Considering all she did to protect me, I have no doubt that she would have fought for Renly, had there been a foe to fight. But a shadow?” Jaime shook his head. “Draw your sword, Ser Loras. Show me how you’d fight a shadow. I should like to see that.” (3.22)

She is “loyal past the point of sense,” he still gives her the credit for getting him safely home, and he admits that his maiming was his fault as much as hers. He has nothing but favorable things to say about her determination as a protector.

4. Martin continues to use suggestive language to characterize Jaime and Brienne’s interactions.

Brienne’s big blue eyes were full of hurt as Balon Swann and a dozen gold cloaks led her away. You ought to be blowing me kisses, wench, he wanted to tell her. Why must they misunderstand every bloody thing he did? Aerys. It all grows from Aerys. (3.15)

It’s interesting that he pictures her blowing him kisses. He’s also rather focused on her big blue eyes.

5. Jaime faces rejection from his family. He goes to Cersei and wants to drop the secrecy around their relationship, but she’s having none of that, and for good reason.

“I am sick of being careful. The Targaryens wed brother to sister, why shouldn’t we do the same? Marry me, Cersei. Stand up before the realm and say it’s me you want. We’ll have our own wedding feast, and make another son in place of Joffrey.”

She drew back. “That’s not funny.”

“Do you hear me chuckling?”

“Did you leave your wits at Riverrun?” Her voice had an edge to it. “Tommen’s throne derives from Robert, you know that.”

“He’ll have Casterly Rock, isn’t that enough? Let Father sit the throne. All I want is you.” He made to touch her cheek. Old habits die hard, and it was his right arm he lifted.

Cersei recoiled from his stump. “Don’t … don’t talk like this. You’re scaring me, Jaime. Don’t be stupid. One wrong word and you’ll cost us everything. What did they do to you?”  (3.16)

He wants to marry her, and she treats that idea like a joke. Then again, Cersei may be less than receptive with him at the moment because he’s just forced himself on her next to Joffrey’s body. Still, it’s not going well with Cersei, and it goes even worse with Tywin:

“You do.” Lord Tywin rose as well. “A duty to House Lannister. You are the heir to Casterly Rock. That is where you should be. Tommen should accompany you, as your ward and squire. The Rock is where he’ll learn to be a Lannister, and I want him away from his mother. I mean to find a new husband for Cersei. Oberyn Martell perhaps, once I convince Lord Tyrell that the match does not threaten Highgarden. And it is past time you were wed. The Tyrells are now insisting that Margaery be wed to Tommen, but if I were to offer you instead—”

“NO!” Jaime had heard all that he could stand. No, more than he could stand. He was sick of it, sick of lords and lies, sick of his father, his sister, sick of the whole bloody business. “No. No. No. No. No. How many times must I say no before you’ll hear it? Oberyn Martell? The man’s infamous, and not just for poisoning his sword. He has more bastards than Robert, and beds with boys as well. And if you think for one misbegotten moment that I would wed Joffrey’s widow …”

“Lord Tyrell swears the girl’s still maiden.”

“She can die a maiden as far as I’m concerned. I don’t want her, and I don’t want your Rock!

“You are my son—”

“I am a knight of the Kingsguard. The Lord Commander of the Kingsguard! And that’s all I mean to be!”

Firelight gleamed golden in the stiff whiskers that framed Lord Tywin’s face. A vein pulsed in his neck, but he did not speak. And did not speak. And did not speak. The strained silence went on until it was more than Jaime could endure.

“Father …” he began.

“You are not my son.” Lord Tywin turned his face away. “You say you are the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, and only that. Very well, ser. Go do your duty.” (3.19)

This is all it takes for Tywin to switch from “you are my son” to “you are not my son”: Jaime refuses to comply with Lord Tywin’s grand plans. Once it is established that Jaime is not letting his father control his life, Tywin disowns him.

Half the court no longer seemed to know him. I am a stranger in my own House. His son was dead, his father had disowned him, and his sister … she had not allowed him to be alone with her once, after that first day in the royal sept where Joffrey lay amongst the candles. Even when they bore him across the city to his tomb in the Great Sept of Baelor, Cersei kept a careful distance. (3.20)

In fairness to Cersei, Jaime should’ve thought about that before he forced his sister’s legs apart in the sept. He’s not wrong to observe that his family situation is going rapidly downhill, however. He still wants to stop hiding his affair with Cersei, and she’s still making that impossible. He begins to talk with her about his relationship to her children:

“To keep them safe! You as well. How would it have looked if my brother had played the father to the king’s children? Even Robert might have grown suspicious.”

“Well, he’s beyond suspicion now.” Robert’s death still left a bitter taste in Jaime’s mouth. It should have been me who killed him, not Cersei. “I only wished he’d died at my hands.” When I still had two of them. “If I’d let kingslaying become a habit, as he liked to say, I could have taken you as my wife for all the world to see. I’m not ashamed of loving you, only of the things I’ve done to hide it. That boy at Winterfell…”

“Did I tell you to throw him out the window? If you’d gone hunting as I begged you, nothing would have happened. But no, you had to have me, you could not wait until we returned to the city.”

“I’d waited long enough. I hated watching Robert stumble to your bed every night, always wondering if maybe this night he’d decide to claim his rights as husband.” (3.26)

I think the primary difference here is that Jaime has always thought of Cersei as his wife, whereas she thought of him as her secret lover, which suited her well enough as long as she doesn’t have competition for his loyalty. Cersei wants to keep Jaime available to her, but only on her terms, which are no longer acceptable to him. They argue about how to manage their family situation:

“Joff is dead and Myrcella’s in Dorne. Tommen’s all I have left. You mustn’t let Father take him from me. Jaime, please.”

“Lord Tywin has not asked for my approval. I can talk to him, but he will not listen …”

“He will if you agree to leave the Kingsguard.”

“I’m not leaving the Kingsguard.”

His sister fought back tears. “Jaime, you’re my shining knight. You cannot abandon me when I need you most! He is stealing my son, sending me away … and unless you stop him, Father is going to force me to wed again!”

Jaime should not have been surprised, but he was. The words were a blow to his gut harder than any that Ser Addam Marbrand had dealt him. “Who?”

“Does it matter? Some lord or other. Someone Father thinks he needs. I don’t care. I will not have another husband. You are the only man I want in my bed, ever again.”

“Then tell him that!”

She pulled her hands away. “You are talking madness again. Would you have us ripped apart, as Mother did that time she caught us playing? Tommen would lose the throne, Myrcella her marriage … I want to be your wife, we belong to each other, but it can never be, Jaime. We are brother and sister.”

“The Targaryens …”

“We are not Targaryens!”

“Quiet,” he said, scornfully. “So loud, you’ll wake my Sworn Brothers. We can’t have that, now, can we? People might learn that you had come to see me.”

“Jaime,” she sobbed, “don’t you think I want it as much as you do? It makes no matter who they wed me to, I want you at my side, I want you in my bed, I want you inside me. Nothing has changed between us. Let me prove it to you.” She pushed up his tunic and began to fumble with the laces of his breeches.

Jaime felt himself responding. “No,” he said, “not here.” They had never done it in White Sword Tower, much less in the Lord Commander’s chambers. “Cersei, this is not the place.”

“You took me in the sept. This is no different.” She drew out his cock and bent her head over it.

Jaime pushed her away with the stump of his right hand. “No. Not here, I said.” He forced himself to stand.

For an instant he could see confusion in her bright green eyes, and fear as well. Then rage replaced it. Cersei gathered herself together, got to her feet, straightened her skirts. “Was it your hand they hacked off in Harrenhal, or your manhood?” (3.27)

Cersei goes from seducing Jaime to rejecting him, as soon as he makes it clear that he won’t do what she wants. Her idea is for Jaime to go to their father and agree to quit the Kingsguard (the practical upshot being that Jaime would end up back at Casterly Rock while Cersei stayed at the Red Keep) so that Cersei won’t be separated from Tommen. His idea is for Cersei to go to their father and tell him she wants to be with Jaime rather than marry anyone else. Cersei used sex to convince Jaime to join the Kingsguard, and she thinks she can use sex to convince him to quit, but the moment he shows her he won’t be convinced, she turns against him. Soon enough, Tyrion becomes the topic of their discussion. Jaime is still defending Tyrion, which puts another layer of conflict between him and Cersei:

“Tyrion is not going to harm Tommen or Myrcella. I am still not certain he killed Joffrey.”

Her mouth twisted in anger. “How can you say that? After all his threats—”

“Threats mean nothing. He swears he did not do it.”

“Oh, he swears, is that it? And dwarfs don’t lie, is that what you think?”

“Not to me. No more than you would.”

“You great golden fool. He’s lied to you a thousand times, and so have I.” She bound up her hair again, and scooped up the hairnet from the bedpost where she’d hung it. “Think what you will. The little monster is in a black cell, and soon Ser Ilyn will have his head off. Perhaps you’d like it for a keepsake.” She glanced at the pillow. “He can watch over you as you sleep alone in that cold white bed. Until his eyes rot out, that is.”

“You had best go, Cersei. You’re making me angry.”

“Oh, an angry cripple. How terrifying.” She laughed. “A pity Lord Tywin Lannister never had a son. I could have been the heir he wanted, but I lacked the cock. And speaking of such, best tuck yours away, brother. It looks rather sad and small, hanging from your breeches like that.”

When she was gone Jaime took her advice, fumbling one-handed at his laces. He felt a bone-deep ache in his phantom fingers.

I’ve lost a hand, a father, a son, a sister, and a lover, and soon enough I will lose a brother. And yet they keep telling me House Lannister won this war.

Jaime donned his cloak and went downstairs, where he found Ser Boros Blount having a cup of wine in the common room. “When you’re done with your drink, tell Ser Loras I’m ready to see her.” (3.28)

She taunts him with their brother’s impending death, and with the promise of letting him sleep alone, she mocks him as a cripple, she confesses to having lied to him, and she implies that he was never the son their father wanted. After she’s gone, Jaime sums up his losses: his sword hand, his father, a son, his sister and lover, and soon his brother. This is what House Lannister has to show for their part in the war. It isn’t only a matter of what Jaime is losing, though: that father, the sister and lover, and soon the brother, are all losing him, and without him, they can’t be a family.

6. Once Cersei is out of the room, he’s ready to meet with Brienne. Since his return to the Red Keep, he still shows that sense of kinship with the Maid of Tarth. Tywin tells him about what happened to Vargo Hoat after Jaime’s departure from Harrenhal:

“Clegane found Hoat sitting alone in the Hall of a Hundred Hearths, half-mad with pain and fever from a wound that festered. His ear, I’m told.”

Jaime had to laugh. Too sweet! His ear! He could scarcely wait to tell Brienne, though the wench wouldn’t find it half so funny as he did. “Is he dead yet?” (3.17)

The context is that Brienne bit Hoat’s ear off when he tried to rape her, and so she was the one who dealt the wound that drove him half-mad with pain and fever. Jaime enjoys this and wants to share his amusement with her. In the ensuing weeks between his return to the Red Keep and his releasing Brienne from her tower cell, Jaime receives a gift from his father, which feels like a mockery now that he no longer has the hand to use it. Rather than throw the sword back at his father, he decides Brienne should have it.

“Why would you tell me all this, if it’s true? You are betraying your father’s secrets.”

The Hand’s secrets, he thought. I no longer have a father. “I pay my debts like every good little lion. I did promise Lady Stark her daughters … and one of them is still alive. My brother may know where she is, but if so he isn’t saying. Cersei is convinced that Sansa helped him murder Joffrey.”

The wench’s mouth got stubborn. “I will not believe that gentle girl a poisoner. Lady Catelyn said that she had a loving heart. It was your brother. There was a trial, Ser Loras said.”

“Two trials, actually. Words and swords both failed him. A bloody mess. Did you watch from your window?”

“My cell faces the sea. I heard the shouting, though.”

“Prince Oberyn of Dorne is dead, Ser Gregor Clegane lies dying, and Tyrion stands condemned before the eyes of gods and men. They’re keeping him in a black cell till they kill him.”

Brienne looked at him. “You do not believe he did it.”

Jaime gave her a hard smile. “See, wench? We know each other too well. Tyrion’s wanted to be me since he took his first step, but he’d never follow me in kingslaying. Sansa Stark killed Joffrey. My brother’s kept silent to protect her. He gets these fits of gallantry from time to time. The last one cost him a nose. This time it will mean his head.”

“No,” Brienne said. “It was not my lady’s daughter. It could not have been her.”

“There’s the stubborn stupid wench that I remember.”

She reddened. “My name is …”

“Brienne of Tarth.” Jaime sighed. “I have a gift for you.” He reached down under the Lord Commander’s chair and brought it out, wrapped in folds of crimson velvet.

Brienne approached as if the bundle was like to bite her, reached out a huge freckled hand, and flipped back a fold of cloth. Rubies glimmered in the light. She picked the treasure up gingerly, curled her fingers around the leather grip, and slowly slid the sword free of its scabbard. Blood and black the ripples shone. A finger of reflected light ran red along the edge. “Is this Valyrian steel? I have never seen such colors.” (3.30)

While Jaime gives his very special, shiny new sword to Brienne, he has not yet lost all interest in his family.

7. He is, in fact, becoming more and more interested in acting like a loving parent to Cersei’s remaining children. This will do nothing good for his affair with his twin.

Jaime turned to Tommen. Though he had Joffrey’s golden curls and green eyes, the new king shared little else with his late brother. He inclined to plumpness, his face was pink and round, and he even liked to read. He is still shy of nine, this son of mine. The boy is not the man. (3.24)

Further, he disagrees with Cersei about is good for Tommen. It is never a good idea to argue with Cersei about her children:

“That need not be so terrible. He is sending me back to Casterly Rock as well. He wants me far away, so he’ll have a free hand with Tommen. Tommen is my son, not his!”

“Tommen is the king.”

“He is a boy! A frightened little boy who saw his brother murdered at his own wedding. And now they are telling him that he must marry. The girl is twice his age and twice a widow!”

He eased himself into a chair, trying to ignore the ache of bruised muscles. “The Tyrells are insisting. I see no harm in it. Tommen’s been lonely since Myrcella went to Dorne. He likes having Margaery and her ladies about. Let them wed.”

“He is your son …”

“He is my seed. He’s never called me Father. No more than Joffrey ever did. You warned me a thousand times never to show any undue interest in them.” (3.25)

She warned him a thousand times with good reason, but no matter. The point is that he’s no longer on board with their arrangement.

8. Then we have the way Jaime keeps on telling us Brienne is ugly, except for when she isn’t. For example, he defends her fashion sense, which most men seem to think is inappropriate:

The younger man started for the door. But there he turned back. “Renly thought she was absurd. A woman dressed in man’s mail, pretending to be a knight.”

“If he’d ever seen her in pink satin and Myrish lace, he would not have complained.” (3.23)

One would think he knows better than to put her in a dress, but he does have opinions on what colors she should wear. Pink, for example, is bad, but some colors are better:

The wench looked as ugly and awkward as ever, he decided when Tyrell left them. Someone had dressed her in woman’s clothes again, but this dress fit much better than that hideous pink rag the goat had made her wear. “Blue is a good color on you, my lady,” Jaime observed. “It goes well with your eyes.” She does have astonishing eyes.

Brienne glanced down at herself, flustered. “Septa Donyse padded out the bodice, to give it that shape. She said you sent her to me.” She lingered by the door, as if she meant to flee at any second. “You look …”

“Different?” He managed a half-smile. “More meat on the ribs and fewer lice in my hair, that’s all. The stump’s the same. Close the door and come here.”

She did as he bid her. “The white cloak …”

“… is new, but I’m sure I’ll soil it soon enough.”

“That wasn’t … I was about to say that it becomes you.” (3.29)

Look at that. He tells her she looks nice in her blue dress, and she tells him he looks nice in his white cloak. And she has astonishing eyes.

9. Then there’s the name-calling. As witty as Jaime is, he can’t seem to think of any better nicknames than “wench.” This is what happens, along those lines, when Jaime gives his Valyrian steel sword to his big stubborn wench:

“Nor I. There was a time that I would have given my right hand to wield a sword like that. Now it appears I have, so the blade is wasted on me. Take it.” Before she could think to refuse, he went on. “A sword so fine must bear a name. It would please me if you would call this one Oathkeeper. One more thing. The blade comes with a price.”

Her face darkened. “I told you, I will never serve …”

“… such foul creatures as us. Yes, I recall. Hear me out, Brienne. Both of us swore oaths concerning Sansa Stark. Cersei means to see that the girl is found and killed, wherever she has gone to ground …”

Brienne’s homely face twisted in fury. “If you believe that I would harm my lady’s daughter for a sword, you—”

“Just listen,” he snapped, angered by her assumption. “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?”

The wench blinked. “I … I thought…”

“I know what you thought.” Suddenly Jaime was sick of the sight of her. She bleats like a bloody sheep. “When Ned Stark died, his greatsword was given to the King’s Justice,” he told her. “But my father felt that such a fine blade was wasted on a mere headsman. He gave Ser Ilyn a new sword, and had Ice melted down and reforged. There was enough metal for two new blades. You’re holding one. So you’ll be defending Ned Stark’s daughter with Ned Stark’s own steel, if that makes any difference to you.”

“Ser, I … I owe you an apolo …”

He cut her off. “Take the bloody sword and go, before I change my mind. There’s a bay mare in the stables, as homely as you are but somewhat better trained. Chase after Steelshanks, search for Sansa, or ride home to your isle of sapphires, it’s naught to me. I don’t want to look at you anymore.”

“Jaime …”

“Kingslayer,” he reminded her. “Best use that sword to clean the wax out of your ears, wench. We’re done.”

Stubbornly, she persisted. “Joffrey was your …”

“My king. Leave it at that.” (3.31)

She made an assumption about Jaime’s intentions, it was the wrong assumption, and it hurt his feelings. When she tries to apologize, using his proper name, he insists on being the Kingslayer again, while she’s the wench.

10. They’re not quite finished yet, though. There’s still the Kingslayer Parallel.

“You say Sansa killed him. Why protect her?”

Because Joff was no more to me than a squirt of seed in Cersei’s cunt. And because he deserved to die. “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?”

Her big hand wrapped tight around Oathkeeper. “I will. And I will find the girl and keep her safe. For her lady mother’s sake. And for yours.” She bowed stiffly, whirled, and went. (3.32)

Kingslayers should band together. We’ll see more of that later. For now, we still haven’t seen Jaime interact with Tyrion since his return to the Red Keep. Having already been disowned by his father and rejected by his sister, Jaime has nothing to lose by arranging Tyrion’s escape from his cell. He doesn’t ever expect to see his little brother again after that night, but he gets the comfort of knowing Tyrion’s still alive. Freeing his brother is a profound act of defiance against both his father and sister, but they’ve already pushed him away, so Jaime is taking Tyrion’s side over theirs. From Jaime’s position, Tyrion is the only family he has left, so helping him escape execution is one more way for Jaime to show up for his family.

It turns out to be an act with tremendous unintended consequences.

Section 3: Rescuing Tyrion

So far, everything I’ve analyzed in this essay has been text written in Jaime’s POV. This is the first time we’re switching to Tyrion’s POV. When Jaime first appears in his cell, we see the return of witty, bantering brothers:

Jaime lowered the torch, so the light bathed his brother’s face. “An impressive scar.”

Tyrion turned away from the glare. “They made me fight a battle without my big brother to protect me.”

“I heard tell you almost burned the city down.”

“A filthy lie. I only burned the river.” Abruptly, Tyrion remembered where he was, and why. “Are you here to kill me?”

“Now that’s ungrateful. Perhaps I should leave you here to rot if you’re going to be so discourteous.”

“Rotting is not the fate Cersei has in mind for me.”

“Well no, if truth be told. You’re to be beheaded on the morrow, out on the old tourney grounds.” Tyrion laughed again. “Will there be food? You’ll have to help me with my last words, my wits have been running about like a rat in a root cellar.”

“You won’t need last words. I’m rescuing you.” Jaime’s voice was strangely solemn.

“Who said I required rescue?”

“You know, I’d almost forgotten what an annoying little man you are. Now that you’ve reminded me, I do believe I’ll let Cersei cut your head off after all.”

“Oh no you won’t.” He waddled out of the cell. “Is it day or night up above? I’ve lost all sense of time.” (3.33)

This is the very first interaction the brothers have had since the family left Winterfell back in the first book. They haven’t seen each other in well over a year, probably closer to a year and a half. So far, it’s going nicely, but it’s about to get complicated.

“Another name? Oh, certainly. And when the Faceless Men come to kill me, I’ll say, ‘No, you have the wrong man, I’m a different dwarf with a hideous facial scar.'” Both Lannisters laughed at the absurdity of it all. Then Jaime went to one knee and kissed him quickly once on each cheek, his lips brushing against the puckered ribbon of scar tissue. “Thank you, Brother,” Tyrion said. “For my life.”

“It was … a debt I owed you.” Jaime’s voice was strange.

“A debt?” He cocked his head. “I do not understand.”

“Good. Some doors are best left closed.”

“Oh, dear,” said Tyrion. “Is there something grim and ugly behind it? Could it be that someone said something cruel about me once? I’ll try not to weep. Tell me.”

“Tyrion …”

Jaime is afraid. “Tell me,” Tyrion said again. (3.34)

Back in his conversation with Catelyn Stark in A Clash of Kings, just before she set him free, Jaime mentioned being “loved by one for a kindness I never did.” What was that kindness he never did?

“Tysha?” His stomach tightened. “What of her?”

“She was no whore. I never bought her for you. That was a lie that Father commanded me to tell. Tysha was … she was what she seemed to be. A crofter’s daughter, chance met on the road.”

Tyrion could hear the faint sound of his own breath whistling hollowly through the scar of his nose. Jaime could not meet his eyes. Tysha. He tried to remember what she had looked like. A girl, she was only a girl, no older than Sansa. “My wife,” he croaked. “She wed me.”

“For your gold, Father said. She was lowborn, you were a Lannister of Casterly Rock. All she wanted was the gold, which made her no different from a whore, so … so it would not be a lie, not truly, and … he said that you required a sharp lesson. That you would learn from it, and thank me later …”

Thank you?” Tyrion’s voice was choked. “He gave her to his guards. A barracks full of guards. He made me … watch.” Aye, and more than watch. I took her too … my wife …

“I never knew he would do that. You must believe me.”

“Oh, must I?” Tyrion snarled. “Why should I believe you about anything, ever? She was my wife!” (3.35)

Jaime thought he was doing the right thing by telling the truth, but it seems there’s a reason why “Lannisters lie.” He had also remarked to Catelyn that “Tyrion says that people often claim to hunger for truth, but seldom like the taste when it’s served up.” It seems that Tyrion is no exception to his own rule: he doesn’t like the taste of truth when it’s served to him.

Jaime unlocked the gate, pushed it open, and stepped through. He looked back over his shoulder. “Are you coming?”

“Not with you.” Tyrion stepped through. “Give me the keys and go. I will find Varys on my own.” He cocked his head and stared up at his brother with his mismatched eyes. “Jaime, can you fight left-handed?”

“Rather less well than you,” Jaime said bitterly.

“Good. Then we will be well matched if we should ever meet again. The cripple and the dwarf.” (3.36)

Then there’s the question. Jaime wants to hear, in Tyrion’s words, that he didn’t kill Joffrey.

The question was another knife, twisting in his guts. “Are you sure you want to know?” asked Tyrion. “Joffrey would have been a worse king than Aerys ever was. He stole his father’s dagger and gave it to a footpad to slit the throat of Brandon Stark, did you know that?”

“I … I thought he might have.”

“Well, a son takes after his father. Joff would have killed me as well, once he came into his power. For the crime of being short and ugly, of which I am so conspicuously guilty.”

“You have not answered my question.”

“You poor stupid blind crippled fool. Must I spell every little thing out for you? Very well. Cersei is a lying whore, she’s been fucking Lancel and Osmund Kettleblack and probably Moon Boy for all I know. And I am the monster they all say I am. Yes, I killed your vile son.” He made himself grin. It must have been a hideous sight to see, there in the torchlit gloom.

Jaime turned without a word and walked away. (3.37)

There’s a truth and a lie: it’s true that Cersei has been fucking their brainless cousin Lancel and some greasy Kingsguard knight named Osmund Kettleblack, as well as his brothers Osney and Osfryd, though probably not Moon Boy, but the point is that if Cersei is willing to spread her legs for Lancel and Osmund Kettleblack, she might as well do the same with Moon Boy. It’s not true that Tyrion killed Joffrey, but he’s willing to say he did, just to hurt Jaime.

I wish I could say that revelation was the last unintended consequence of Jaime deciding to free Tyrion, but as a response to the truth about Tysha, Tyrion decides to go after his father with a crossbow. Thus, having been innocent of murder before, Tyrion kills two people on the way out of the Red Keep. While Jaime’s rapport with his father was at its lowest point ever, he certainly didn’t want Tywin to die.

Section 4: Jaime’s Dream

I mentioned earlier that Jaime has a dream, the night before he rescues Brienne from the bear pit. Now is a good time to talk about that dream.

At this stage of his story, Jaime exhibits a sense of kinship with Brienne even as he tries to convince himself he doesn’t care what happens to her. Qyburn tells Jaime that Vargo Hoat had him examine Brienne for venereal disease, the implication being that Hoat was planning to rape her. Jaime goes from forced indifference to appreciation of Brienne’s fighting ability:

The news irritated him, though he supposed he should have seen it coming. The lie spared you awhile, wench. Be grateful for that much. “If her maidenhead’s as hard as the rest of her, the goat will break his cock off trying to get in,” he jested. Brienne was tough enough to survive a few rapes, Jaime judged, though if she resisted too vigorously Vargo Hoat might start lopping off her hands and feet. And if he does, why should I care? I might still have a hand if she had let me have my cousin’s sword without getting stupid. He had almost taken off her leg himself with that first stroke of his, but after that she had given him more than he wanted. Hoat may not know how freakish strong she is. He had best be careful, or she’ll snap that skinny neck of his, and wouldn’t that be sweet? (3.40)

Yes, it would be sweet if she snapped that skinny neck of his. We later find out that she merely bit his ear off, but that wound basically killed him in the end.

Jaime recalls Brienne taking care of him:

The wench would have told him he had to eat before he slept, to keep his strength up, but he was more tired than hungry. (3.41)

Then there’s the dream. So it begins:

Naked and alone he stood, surrounded by enemies, with stone walls all around him pressing close. The Rock, he knew. He could feel the immense weight of it above his head. He was home. He was home and whole.

He held his right hand up and flexed his fingers to feel the strength in them. It felt as good as sex. As good as swordplay. Four fingers and a thumb. He had dreamed that he was maimed, but it wasn’t so. Relief made him dizzy. (3.42)

Tall dark figures in cowled robes appear, they force him down a twisting passageway, which stops in echoing darkness. They’re in a watery cavern, though not one that Jaime recalls from Casterly Rock. He demands answers from the people around him, and he finds all the Lannisters there, going back to Lann the Clever. At the front are Tywin, Cersei, Joffrey, and more Lannisters behind them.

Jaime pleads with Cersei not to leave him there alone. He asks for a sword. Tywin says he gave him a sword, which Jaime finds in the water at his feet. Jaime picks it up, and the blade flickers with a pale blue flame, which illuminates the gloom around him.

There’s a splash behind him, and it’s Brienne, with her hands in chains. She says she swore an oath to keep him safe. She’s naked, she raises her hands to Jaime, and asks him to cut off her chains, which he does. She asks for a sword; a belt appears with a scabbard and sword, which she promptly buckles on.

The light was so dim that Jaime could scarcely see her, though they stood a scant few feet apart. In this light she could almost be a beauty, he thought. In this light she could almost be a knight.

Her sword also takes on flame, which gives them a bit more light.

He hears Cersei’s voice telling him the flames will burn for as long as Jaime is alive, but no longer. He begs her to stay, but she retreats. Brienne waves her sword back and forth, moving the light’s reflection around the water’s surface. Jaime thinks she has more of a woman’s shape now, though she’s also as tall and strong as ever.

She asks if they keep a bear down here. Cave lion? Dire wolves? What lives in the darkness?

Doom, he answers. She says she mislikes the place. He agrees. She offers to let him climb on her shoulders so he can reach the tunnel mouth and escape. 

Then I could follow Cersei. He could feel himself growing hard at the thought, and turned away so Brienne would not see.

“Listen.” She put a hand on his shoulder, and he trembled at the sudden touch. She’s warm. “Something comes.” Brienne lifted her sword to point off to his left. “There.”

There’s something moving in the darkness: two men on horses, side by side. Beneath the Rock, that makes no sense. There they are: the destriers make no sound. Jaime calls out to what he thinks is Ned Stark; Brienne touches his arm, says there are more. They’re all armored in snow, it seems. He knows who they are even with their visors down. Five of his deceased brothers of the Kingsguard, plus Rhaegar Targaryen. Jaime says they don’t frighten them. He’ll fight them, but someone also needs to duel with the wench, because she gets cross when she’s left out.

The ghosts dismount from their horses, draw their longswords. Jaime tells them Aerys was going to burn the city.

Darry points out that Aerys was Jaime’s king, Whent tells him he’d sworn to keep him safe. Lewis reminds him of the children. Rhaegar says he’d left his wife and children in Jaime’s hands.

Jaime says he was with the king.

Killing the king, says Arthur Dayne. Cutting his throat, says Prince Lewyn. The king he’d sworn to die for, says the White Bull.

The fires along his sword blade gutter out, and Jaime remembers Cersei’s warning. The sword goes dark, and only Brienne’s sword still burns. The ghosts rush in, and Jaime cries out no, no, no.

He wakes up, and he finds Steelshanks Walton.

Jaime ran his fingers through his hair. “Walton,” he said, “saddle the horses. I want to go back.”

“Back?” Steelshanks regarded him dubiously.

He thinks I’ve gone mad. And perhaps I have. “I left something at Harrenhal.” (3.43)

That is the dream that goads Jaime into steering his escort back to Harrenhal, that moves him to offer to pay Brienne’s ransom, that drives him to jump into the bear pit and take his big wench with him back to the Red Keep. Jaime sees his family turning away from him. When they are all gone, Brienne will still be there with him, they will both be naked, and she will be holding his sword. The last time we saw them together, Jaime was annoyed at her for making unfair assumptions about his intentions regarding her lady’s daughter. What happened as soon as she left the room?

Quill and ink he found in a drawer. Beneath the last line Ser Barristan had entered, he wrote in an awkward hand that might have done credit to a six-year-old being taught his first letters by a maester:

Defeated in the Whispering Wood by the Young Wolf Robb Stark during the War of the Five Kings. Held captive at Riverrun and ransomed for a promise unfulfilled. Captured again by the Brave Companions, and maimed at the word of Vargo Hoat their captain, losing his sword hand to the blade of Zollo the Fat. Returned safely to King’s Landing by Brienne, the Maid of Tarth. (3.44)