This is it, everyone. This is the final chapter of the essay. This part is mostly context, but I’m also including the conclusion here. Cersei thought she could ask Jaime to die for her rather than outlive her, and how did that work out?
If you haven’t read them already, see the Intro, Stage 1 (Escape from Riverrun), Stage 2 (Bloody Mummers), Stage 3 (House Lannister Falls Apart), Stage 4 (Oathkeeper), Stage 5 (“I love you too, sweet sister”) and Stage 6 (Harrenhal Revisited). If you would like to read this essay offline, get the iBooks or PDF version and you’ll never have to worry about me shutting down this blog.
The Joy of Unintended Consequences, Stage 7: Cersei’s On Her Own
Section 1: Left Behind
The last we saw of the Lannisters, Cersei was under arrest by the Faith and as guilty of all charges as she was outraged by her incarceration. She was facing a trial by combat and wanted Jaime, who is no longer in any shape for single combat, to be her champion. For his part, Jaime was so fed up with Cersei’s lying to him, fucking other men, lying to him about fucking other men, and generally not being the lover he wanted, that he didn’t even do her the courtesy of refusing to be her champion. He knows that he will be finished with business in the Riverlands at some point, and when that time comes, he’ll need to return to the Red Keep and be present for Tommen. He’s hoping to be a good parent to his sister’s son, not just a Kingsguard knight. He’s not interested in going back to Cersei. She’s in serious trouble, running low on options, and can’t turn to Jaime for help.
1. The first of Martin’s foreshadowing processes that’s at play at this stage of Jaime’s romantic storylines—one falling apart and the other building up—is the mantra of Lancel and Osmund Kettleblack and Moon Boy.
Past time this was ended, thought Jaime Lannister. With Riverrun now safely in Lannister hands, Raventree was the remnant of the Young Wolf’s short-lived kingdom. Once it yielded, his work along the Trident would be done, and he would be free to return to King’s Landing. To the king, he told himself, but another part of him whispered, to Cersei. He would have to face her, he supposed. Assuming the High Septon had not put her to death by the time he got back to the city.
“Come at once,” she had written, in the letter he’d had Peck burn at Riverrun. “Help me. Save me. I need you now as I have never needed you before. I love you. I love you. I love you. Come at once.” Her need was real enough, Jaime did not doubt. As for the rest … she’s been fucking Lancel and Osmund Kettleblack and Moon Boy for all I know … Even if he had gone back, he could not hope to save her. She was guilty of every treason laid against her, and he was short a sword hand. (7.1)
Perhaps it’s a bit unfair of him to remark that Cersei is guilty of every treason laid against her; he was involved in some of those treasons himself. The key point here is that he had assumed in the past that Cersei was no more deceitful and subversive than he was, and recently he’s learned that she is much more so, and her dishonesty and infidelities have cast a very different light on their incestuous relationship.
2. Martin continues the trend of having Jaime use increasingly derogatory language to describe Cersei.
Jaime gave a shrug. “My apologies if I mistook you for something you’re not. My little brother has known a hundred whores, I’m sure, but I’ve only ever bedded one.” (7.2)
There isn’t another woman in Jaime’s sexual history that we haven’t heard about; he’s referring to his sister as a whore.
3. Jaime continues to be interested in parenting his children, in contradiction of the status quo that Cersei maintained since Joffrey was born.
“Does that mean m’lord won’t be taking me home with him, to pray with his little wife?” Laughing, Hildy gave Jaime a brazen look. “Do you have a little wife, ser?”
No, I have a sister. “What color is my cloak?”
“White,” she said, “but your hand is solid gold. I like that in a man. And what is it you like in a woman, m’lord?”
“In a woman, I said. Not a daughter.”
He thought of Myrcella. I will need to tell her too. The Dornishmen might not like that. (7.3)
I don’t think Jaime is aware of Maggy the Frog’s prophecy; Cersei has been preoccupied all these years about how to keep her children alive, whereas Jaime is only now thinking of taking responsibility for them. It doesn’t seem to occur to him that if he confirms that he really is the father of the queen’s children, they’ll be dealing with worse than some unhappy Dornishmen. I don’t think he realizes that his children’s lives are untenable due to the circumstances of their conceptions. He probably has figured out by now, however, that if not for his decades-long affair with his twin, he could have a real family life already. He wouldn’t have joined the Kingsguard, he’d have a wife he could love openly, and they’d have children who would call him Father.
4. The Kingslayer Parallel reaches critical importance.
It was near midnight when two came riding back with a woman they had taken captive. “She rode up bold as you please, m’lord, demanding words with you.”
Jaime scrambled to his feet. “My lady. I had not thought to see you again so soon.” Gods be good, she looks ten years older than when I saw her last. And what’s happened to her face? “That bandage … you’ve been wounded …”
“A bite.” She touched the hilt of her sword, the sword that he had given her. Oathkeeper. “My lord, you gave me a quest.”
“The girl. Have you found her?”
“I have,” said Brienne, Maid of Tarth.
“Where is she?”
“A day’s ride. I can take you to her, ser … but you will need to come alone. Elsewise, the Hound will kill her.” (7.4)
I’ll get the obvious out of the way first: the story she’s telling him is clearly false. She has no idea where Sansa is, and the Hound is not involved. Some progress has been made: she’s still alive, traveling independently, armed with Oathkeeper, and healthy enough to stay on her horse. Podrick is not with her, and that is worrisome. There is a man wearing the Hound’s helmet among the Brotherhood Without Banners, who are probably still holding Podrick hostage, but until The Winds of Winter is available for reading, I can only speculate about the conditions in which Brienne is allowed to ride away from her captors. They’re not all alone in this scene; Jaime has his scouts and officers around him, and no matter what’s really happening with Podrick and Ser Hyle Hunt in the custody of Lady Stoneheart, Brienne isn’t about to tell Jaime the truth until she can speak with him alone.
The first we see of Jaime and Brienne in The Winds of Winter, we’ll see what happens when Kingslayers band together.
5. Jaime becomes increasingly indifferent to the Lannisters, which at this point is mostly Cersei. He’s not showing up when she needs him the most.
And Jaime …
No, that she could not believe, would not believe. Jaime would be here once he knew of her plight. “Come at once,” she had written to him. “Help me. Save me. I need you now as I have never needed you before. I love you. I love you. I love you. Come at once.” Qyburn had sworn that he would see that her letter reached her twin, off in the Riverlands with his army. Qyburn had never returned, however. (7.5)
She’ll find out the truth soon enough.
Her only hope was trial by battle, and for that she must needs have a champion.
If Jaime had not lost his hand …
That road led nowhere, though. Jaime’s sword hand was gone, and so was he, vanished with the woman Brienne somewhere in the Riverlands. The queen had to find another defender or today’s ordeal would be the least of her travails. (7.7)
Now she realizes Jaime isn’t going to fight for her.
6. The suggestive language used to characterize Jaime and Brienne’s interactions has now spread to Cersei’s POV.
“His Grace is well. He asks about you often.” Ser Kevan laid his hands on her shoulders, held her at arm’s length.
“Jaime, then? Is it Jaime?”
“No. Jaime is still in the Riverlands, somewhere.”
“Somewhere?” She did not like the sound of that.
“He took Raventree and accepted Lord Blackwood’s surrender,” said her uncle, “but on his way back to Riverrun he left his tail and went off with a woman.”
“A woman?” Cersei stared at him, uncomprehending. “What woman? Why? Where did they go?”
“No one knows. We’ve had no further word of him. The woman may have been the Evenstar’s daughter, Lady Brienne.”
Her. The queen remembered the Maid of Tarth, a huge, ugly, shambling thing who dressed in man’s mail. Jaime would never abandon me for such a creature. My raven never reached him, elsewise he would have come. (7.6)
This recollection tells us that Cersei has been in the same room as Brienne at least once, and at the time, she didn’t seem to think Brienne was a threat to her monopoly on Jaime’s attention. Now that her twin isn’t responding to her raven, she could, based on available information, view his actions as separate issues: 1. Jaime is refusing to be her champion for one set of reasons, probably having something to do with the stump at the end of his right arm, and 2. Jaime has ridden off with someone’s daughter dressed in man’s mail for a set of reasons having nothing to do with Cersei’s trial.
Instead, Cersei views Jaime’s silent treatment as inextricably linked with his riding off with Brienne. He hasn’t simply abandoned Cersei, he’s abandoned her for “such a creature” as the Evenstar’s daughter. Now the “huge, ugly, shambling thing” is competition for her brother’s affections. Cersei, being a fictional character, didn’t get these ideas in her head all by herself. This association is a deliberate choice on GRRMartin’s part. No, she should not like the sound of “somewhere.”
The language associated with Jaime’s leaving with Brienne implies that his betrayal of Cersei is bigger than his failure to be her champion. The word choice suggests that, no matter who fights for Cersei and no matter what the outcome of her trial, Jaime no longer needs her. He’s already getting on with his life and leaving her behind.
Section 2: Conclusion
When we first saw Jaime and Brienne, they were in love with other people. Jaime had Cersei, in an unorthodox but seemingly viable relationship that had gone on for most of their lives and put three children in line for King Robert’s throne. Brienne was very obviously in love with Renly Baratheon, a completely one-sided, untenable, non-starter of a connection doomed to tragedy. Since their escape from Riverrun, Jaime’s incestuous affair with his twin has been deteriorating to enmity, and Brienne’s longing for her dear dead Renly has gradually dissolved, leaving her and Jaime with each other.
Without a doubt, they are each other’s future. They represent to each other the best hope for a happy ending, or as close to a happy ending as anyone in Westeros ever gets. Their affection for each other is honest, passionate and durable, likely to raise eyebrows among Westerosi society but still compliant with the rules of that culture.
In the short term, they have some harrowing times ahead. Whatever happens with Lady Stoneheart and her associates is likely to leave them further traumatized and exhausted when they had already been through quite enough of that. They will get out alive, though, with their bodies and minds intact. They’ll survive that encounter, and when they do, their bond will be stronger than ever.
I’ll go a step further and say that the way their relationship is foreshadowed also suggests that they’ll grow old together. They are among the most likely characters to survive the series and live long, fulfilling lives. GRRMartin has told us he’s planning a “bittersweet” ending for the series, comparable to the conclusion of Lord of the Rings, and that sounds like quite a different turn of events from the doom-and-gloom resolution one may have anticipated. Jaime and Brienne’s life together will be among the sweeter endings to this frequently dark and bloody series; one of a handful of loving, lasting relationships. Their bond is one of the best things to come from the War of the Five Kings.
Section 3: About the Essayist
I wish I could say this were my first shipping essay, but really, it’s merely the first one I’ve written for a relationship in A Song of Ice and Fire. By now I should be old enough to know better, but here we are.
There are some links distributed throughout this essay for other pieces I’ve written about Jaime, Brienne, their relationship, and other Lannister topics. You may find many more Game of Thrones-related writing at my blog, www.alysonmiers.com, along with my pretty fractal designs and blogging about real-life issues.
Find me on Twitter: @alysonmiers
See me on Facebook: Alyson Miers, Maker of Stories
In addition to being obsessed with Game of Thrones, I am also a novelist who specializes in humanist, literary women’s fiction. I have written a literary novel, Charlinder’s Walk, and an urban fantasy novel, Suicide is for Mortals. You may find more information about my original fiction at my blog, linked above, or at my Goodreads author page. While I am not GRRMartin, my books tend to be shorter, easier to follow, and I do not take so long to finish them. If you have enjoyed this essay, you may also like my books. Also, I’d be ever so pleased if you told your friends.
Welcome, dear readers, to the end of my shipping essay.
In case the analysis itself has not made my position clear, this is what I expect from this pairing: at the end of the series, Cersei will be dead, Jaime will be reconciled with Tyrion, and he will bring Brienne into their family.
If there’s anything that I hope to be obvious from the case I’ve built for this relationship, it’s this: that a romantic relationship between the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard and the Maid of Tarth is as inevitable as the end of the Lannister-Baratheon reign in King’s Landing, and that GRRMartin has put tremendous care and consideration into developing their storyline. If you’re impressed with the way I’ve written this essay, understand this much: my analysis is no better than the source material. If it seems blindingly obvious that Jaime and Brienne are getting together before the Epilogue, that’s because GRRMartin has made it obvious, and he’s made it obvious because that’s the ending he plans for them.
I have mentioned in the recent past that Jaime and Brienne are on my list of characters most likely to survive the series. This is why: they are each other’s happy ending. They’ll be okay. They’ll be alive, they’ll be there for each other, and they’ll not only survive the transition to the new regime, but thrive, because that is what their author has decided. Yes, I did say “happy ending” in as many words, and I mean it. They will stay, and fight for each other until the fights are all done, and then their life together will remain.