The following contains spoilers for Game of Thrones Season 8 Episode 4, “The Last of the Starks.”
Following Game of Thrones season 8 episode 4, showrunners D.B. Weiss and David Benioff discussed the chapter’s events as they usually do in HBO’s post-episode feature. In it, the pair reveals their thoughts on Jaime Lannister and Brienne of Tarth finally consummating their long unspoken courtship with a sexual encounter within the walls of Winterfell.
“I think the Jaime/Brienne relationships has always been fascinating to us because they are such dissimilar characters but there has always been a chemistry to them,” Benioff said.
Benioff’s post-episode comments illustrate why it may have taken so long for the Kingslayer and Brienne the Beauty to act on that chemistry. While Jaime and Brienne may be quite dissimilar in their respective appearances, upbringings, and temperaments, they have always been the same in their core selves and missions.
Ser Jaime Lannister and (the recently knighted) Ser Brienne of Tarth are two of the very few true knights in Westeros. The pair, despite some of Jaime’s earlier…transgressions, are the platonic ideal for what martial chivalry and honor in the Seven Kingdoms should be. That’s something that fans have long known and one of the reasons the Jaime/Brienne “ship” has been among the fandom’s most popular. And it’s something that the show has just caught up to now…with only two episodes to go.
One of Game of Thrones‘ greatest storytelling hallmarks is the way it contrasts the fantasy world we expect and the fantasy world we actually get. Remember how excited young Sansa Stark was back in season 1 to go to King’s Landing and see the grand opulence of all the lords, ladies, and knights at court? Her impression of the world was similar to ours as children regarding fantasy universes, in which all the lords are wise and magnanimous and all the knights are brave and honorable. As we soon come to find out, however, knights very rarely live up to their title. In this world (and I suspect in every world) a knight is more likely to be a violent rapist like Ser Gregor Clegane rather than Sir Gallahad.
Early on, Ser Jaime Lannister appeared to be closer to the Ser Gregor side of the spectrum. Despite being the absolute spitting image of an honorable knight, all blond-haired and beautiful, his first major act in the series is to throw Bran Stark out of a window. And then things don’t get much better from there. He attacks Ned, breaking his leg, and drives a dagger through the eye of Jory Cassel. A little later on, he kills his own cousin to be able to escape and rush back to Cersei. As Jaime tells Brienne near the end of the episode “I would have murdered every man, woman, and child in Riverrun for Cersei.”
Jaime Lannister was a bad man, but doesn’t necessarily mean he wasn’t an honorable one…even at his child defenestrating worst. A knight has many roles: serve the king, ride a horse, rescue damsels in distress, etc. But the biggest role a knight fulfills (at least in our imagination) is the protection of the innocent. In the reality of Game of Thrones, one could argue that no one has done more to protect the innocent than Jaime Lannister, and he did so at a great personal cost.
Jaime explains why he had to kill the Mad King Aerys II, forever branding himself with the “Kingslayer” label.
As Tywin Lannister was about to breach the gates of King’s Landing and end the Targaryen dynasty forever (or so he thought at least), the Mad King ordered his pyromancers to unleash their cache of wildfire and turn the city to ash, killing all of the men, women, and children of the capital in the process. Jaime, couldn’t let that happen. So he sacrificed his honor for the lives of half a million people. Ironically, that’s one of the more honorable things a man can do.
Much of Jaime’s monstrous behavior is done in service of other people and not just his own interests. Perverse at it is, there is a truth to Jaime saying “the things I do for love” before tossing Bran out of a window. As a knight and a Lannister, Jaime is beholden to honor both the realm and his family…something that is not always easy to do simultaneously.
Once he meets Brienne of Tarth, however, Jaime comes to double down on his duties and obligations as a knight of the Seven Kingdoms. Brienne, despite not being an actual knight until recently has always been one of the realm’s most honorable warriors. Brienne is relentlessly loyal, first to King Renly I Baratheon, then Catelyn Stark once Renly dies. When Catelyn dies, Brienne is the only person on the continent to take up the cause of finding and protecting Lady Catelyn’s remaining children at all costs. And that’s exactly what Brienne does…because she said she would. The path to find and protect Sansa and Arya takes Brienne (and her trusty buddy, Podrick) all over the Seven Kingdoms before she finally sees them both home.
Jaime and Brienne bond on this journey not because of what they don’t have in common but because of what they do. Whether they realize it or not, they see a piece of themselves in the other – a piece that takes the vows of knighthood seriously even if very little of the rest of the realm does. In fact, when Brienne returns Jaime back to King’s Landing safely, he presents her with the second of two Valyrian swords reforged from Ned’s Ice. Jaime asks her to name it Oathkeeper as a reminder of their knightly obligations to fulfill their promises. That sword will later help defend Winterfell from the army of the dead.
It’s true that Jaime and Brienne don’t have a lot in common at first glance. To be fair, they don’t have much in common with anyone else either. Jaime is fond of saying “there are no other men like me” and Brienne could conceivably say the same of herself, given that there aren’t many other towering female warriors in Westeros. But Jaime and Brienne have always been the show’s one true pairing because of what they do have in common. They are both true knights of the Seven Kingdoms. Their commitment to honor and protection of the innocent is real. That’s what brought them together, kept them together, and helped defeat the Night King. Their consummation in warmly lit Winterfell chamber was all but a formality. The two belong together.
Hopefully after next week they’ll get to stay together. Jaime has run off to King’s Landing to follow the call of duty and honor once again, whether that means joining Cersei or killing her remains to be seen. Either way Jaime’s motivation for doing so will be that it’s his obligation to honor something…family or realm. Perhaps Brienne can convince him that the latter is the correct option. But you know what they say about this show “if you think this has a happy ending, you haven’t been paying attention.”