Apropos of nothing, but I was re-reading the later stages of Unintended Consequences recently, and as I have more time to think about it, I’m more open to certain end-game scenarios in A Song of Ice and Fire.
At the time I wrote the essay, I was assuming Jaime as the valonqar. I didn’t argue it in as many words in the essay, but that was my assumption at the time. What I was picturing was that he’d be the one to kill Cersei in order to stop her from blowing shit up, but that he’d also survive the series and get on with his life with Brienne. In this scenario, his killing Cersei would be sufficient to keep King’s Landing in one piece, and the new monarch (I was presuming Daenerys) would release him from his Kingsguard vows. I was picturing a trial, in which Dany was looking for an excuse to have him executed but ultimately admits: oh, right, my daddy was a menace and this guy’s a national hero. Off you go, Ser Jaime!
And I’m not retracting anything I wrote in the essay, as I didn’t go into detail about what I pictured for the process of getting to the endgame. But I did sort of have a loosely-structured process in my head at the time.
Since then, I have changed my mind about the valonqar prophecy. I’m thinking now it’ll be Loras Tyrell who does the deed, but I’m open to other ideas. (Especially if TV!Loras doesn’t make it through Season 6. He’s on my Death List, but I’m hoping to be proven wrong.) And now that I’ve gotten past that hurdle of Jaime coming back to King’s Landing to kill his sister, I’m a lot more open to scenarios in which King’s Landing doesn’t survive the series. I’m still deeply skeptical of Chekhov’s Wildfire, but I’m much more open to, let’s say, dragon fire being more of a problem than Dany expects it to be. For instance, on the show Dany has a vision of walking through the throne room in the Red Keep, in which snow is falling to the floor because part of the roof has been taken off. That’s probably leading to something, but it falls somewhat short of King’s Landing getting burned to ash because Tyrion left a metric ton of wildfire still sitting around below the city. I’m open to the idea of the capital getting partially destroyed by dragon warfare, and the remainder being unusable as the political center of Westeros.
I’m open to this level of destruction happening in King’s Landing if Jaime isn’t there to get caught in it.
Mostly, though, because I am a Jaime/Brienne enthusiast who believes they will have a sweet ending, I have to be open to an endgame with a decentralized power structure. As part of my argument of them being together at the end, I’m assuming Jaime will be released from his Kingsguard vows. His job with the KG is an interesting obstacle, but not an insurmountable one. There is precedent for releasing a KG knight from his duties, but then, in Jaime’s case, the question is how he gets released from his vows without also getting executed or forced into the Night’s Watch. In which case, I can make the argument that Daenerys could be convinced to give him a fair trial, for PR purposes if nothing else, and ultimately give him his freedom.
Realistically, though? It’s easier to believe he’ll be released from his Kingsguard vows if the Kingsguard no longer exists because there’s no monarch to protect. In this scenario, Dany may be dead or she may occupy a place of lesser power, like Lady of Dragonstone or something, and Westeros becomes a confederation of autonomous provinces. Sort of like how it was before Aegon the Conqueror and his sisters showed up, except it would be a friendlier, more balanced confederation with just enough inter-dependence to keep everyone from trying to invade everyone else, so it wouldn’t be so vulnerable to another conqueror coming along. Dany’s dragons would probably be dead, in this arrangement.
(I’d recommend partitioning the Riverlands between its neighbors, and annexing the Iron Islands into the Westerlands, maybe keeping Theon and Asha Greyjoy in place as advisors and figureheads, but realistically the isles would be governed from Lannisport. The Riverlands would be divvied up between the Reach, Westerlands, North and Vale, and while I’m on the subject, just remove the Brackens and Blackwoods from power altogether. They’ve caused enough trouble already. Also, this is why you should not let me occupy a position of political responsibility. I just fuck everything up.)
Then there’s the question of what role Jaime would play in the new power structure. I’m fuzzy on this, as Jaime doesn’t seem to be attached to any geographical location; he’s happiest wherever his family is, and as his family falls apart, he becomes less invested in any particular place. Then again, Brienne doesn’t seem all that attached to Evenfall, either; she goes wherever her vows take her. I’ve seen some evidence of the novels foreshadowing a king-like role for Jaime, and I can see him as the new King of the West, especially with Tyrion as his Hand, but they’ll always have Evenfall.
The long and short of it is that I’m much more willing to consider the Seven Kingdoms losing their central leadership, precipitated by King’s Landing going kablooey, if Jaime is not there to get caught in the dragon fire. Last we saw of him in Feast and Dance, I don’t think Jaime even wanted to kill his sister. He simply wanted nothing to do with her anymore. I think it’s entirely plausible that Jaime does not return to the capital for the rest of the series. Especially if he sticks with Brienne. They can easily stay occupied in other parts of the realm.