Game of Thrones’ Jaime Lannister and Other TV Villains Who Redeemed Themselves

The Kingslayer isn't the only TV monster to become an (almost) hero. See also: The Wire, Mad Men, Our Friends in the North...

This article contains spoilers. It comes from Den of Geek UK. 

With Westeros seemingly on the eve of destruction, no one is truly safe. But when Ser Jamie Lannister decided to smash the patriarchy with the creation of its first female knight, it felt very much like the writers had stitched a target onto his cloak.

The chances of the Kingslayer surviving the soon-to-be-unleashed slaughter seem low. Not only could he be killed by the army of the dead, but Bronn’s heading north with a crossbow with his name on it. Plus there’s always the chance he’ll end up killed by Tormund’s love for the newly-created Ser Brienne of Tarth. Accidentally nudged from a wall by a near-giant’s erection is no way to go.

But if the end is nigh for the golden-handed twin, he’ll have achieved something quite unthinkable back in that opening episode. Jaime’s long been Game of Thrones‘ most interesting character (don’t @ me), but somewhere along the way, he became one of its good guys – a transformation that would seem unbelievable if we hadn’t seen it happen with our own eyes.

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It’s rare a series can make a character do the unforgivable and then come back from it. But here are some bad guys who have done just that:

Jaime Lannister

Appears in: Game of Thrones

Played by: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau

When we first meet Jaime, he’s the spoiled son of a rich dude, living off his family’s connections like some sort of Old Etonian with slightly better hair and a back story about killing a mad king. Within an hour, he’s pushed a kid out of a window, breaking his back and setting off a chain of events that will ultimately lead to Brexit-type levels of political chaos.

Which is probably the apogee of his bad behavior, unless you count the time he shagged his sister next to the corpse of their dead child. Because, oh yeah, he’s sleeping with his sister. Which will always be horrifying.

Even when Jaime is taken prisoner by Catelyn Stark and spends an entire season lashed to a post covered in quite possibly literal crap, he puts on a display of dicksplashery that even Sterling Archer might consider a bit much. His only vaguely redeeming quality is that he loves his brother, and to be honest, the sister thing sort of taints that.

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Further Reading: Game of Thrones Season 8 Predictions

So what changed? Cherchez la femme, right? It’s the season-long road trip with his captor Brienne that kick-started Jaime 2.0. Her earnest bravery, often in the face of overwhelming odds, can do that to a person. And so it is that Westeros’ most selfish wassock finally stepped up to do something for someone he isn’t related to or working for (it’s called friendship, but it takes Jaime, and to be fair, many viewers a long time to figure this out). In doing so, he loses his hand but gains a lesson about having to live with the repercussions of his actions, and is never the same again.

Four seasons and a fight with a bear later, he has emerged, free of his sister, his family, his name, his nickname. He’s surrounded by people who should want him dead but have decided to let the past go. Which is probably the perfect time to die. Bites fist.

Pete Campbell

Appears in: Mad Men

Played by: Vincent Kartheiser

Peter Campbell arrives in Mad Men like unexpected sick in your mouth. You’re not sure why it’s happened, but you know you don’t like it. Privileged, pushy, arrogant, he’s unfaithful to his wife and knocks up Peggy. By the end of the first season, he’s attempting to blackmail Don into giving him a promotion, threatening to ruin his life rather than wait a few years and work his way up. Total jerk, yes? And yet, when we wave goodbye to Pete, who is off to a glamorous new life with his gorgeous family, we feel nothing but happy for him. Which is a pretty drastic turnaround.

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So what happened? The truth is, with Pete it’s not one thing. He doesn’t actually change that much. We just get to know him better. What might have appeared to be a privileged upbringing was rather cold and loveless. And while he can’t keep his dick in his pants and he’s an overbearing whiner, in a lot of ways he’s a lot nicer guy than many of his colleagues. In an office rife with racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, and homophobia, Pete treats everyone pretty much the same. And he’s capable of great loyalty, to Don and to Peggy, which makes him human in a way we’ve not seen before.

In truth, Pete’s biggest problem is himself, a situation which comes to a head in the best Mad Men episode there is, “Signal 30,” (no, you shut up) in which we learn that Pete is so busy comparing his life to everyone else’s that he is basically incapable of joy. When he finally starts to work on that, including an unexpectedly successful move to California, everything else falls into place. Which makes him one of the best-rounded characters in the series. Who’d have thought it? 

Further Reading: Saying Goodbye to Game of Thrones, The Avengers, and Star Wars in 2019

Roland Pryzbylewski

Appears in: The Wire 

Played by: Jim True-Frost

What an absolute tool Prez is when first we meet. So much so that his reputation precedes him. He’s lazy, ignorant, cocky, and owes his job to his father-in-law. It’s not long before he does the unforgivable: starts a pissed-up fight with some tower boys, which leads to one of them losing an eye. I mean it’s a wide field, but if you’re looking for the worst person in the early Wire, you don’t need to go much further than this guy.

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Prez’s redemption comes in two stages. Firstly, thanks to Lester Freeman, he starts to become good at a job that no one else wants to do but everyone realizes is vital. He punches his father in law in defense of his colleagues. He becomes part of the team. In fact, his rehabilitation is almost complete by the time he accidentally kills another officer. So much so that when his past comes up, it seems unfair, because he’s not the same guy.

Which would all work very well as a story arc. Except The Wire didn’t leave it there and the arrival of Mr. Prezbo, hard-working teacher in an unforgiving system moves him on even more. As he sets about the thankless task of having any impact on his students’ lives, witnessing a panoply of dysfunction along the way, we never really know how much of this is about him trying to make up for the past. But I’m not sure it matters, whether he thinks it or not, Prez is definitely one of the good guys.

Further Reading: 10 Game of Thrones Characters Who Started the War

Tosker Cox

Appears in: Our Friends in the North

Played by: Mark Strong

The striking thing about Tosker is how long he is a dick for. Years. He starts off a spoiled dick, who steals his mate’s girlfriend, gets her pregnant, and basically ruins three lives. Then he’s a selfish dick who neglects his wife and kids. And then he’s a greedy dick who aims to profit off other people’s misery. And while the other male leads may be doing things that are illegal (FFS, Geordie joins an organized crime gang and Nicky joins a terrorist cell), it’s Tosker’s time as a slum landlord that makes him the absolute monster of the group.

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Further Reading: The Questions Game of Thrones Season 8 Still Has to Answer

So how does he turn that around? He loses everything. Well, not quite everything. His second wife, Elaine, sticks around and suggests that this time they work as a team.

And they do. And by the time we say goodbye to him in 1995, he’s rebuilding bridges, repaying kindnesses, and looking like a new man. Well done that woman.