Warning: This Game of Thrones article contains MAJOR spoilers for Season 8, Episode 4.
While the war against the Night King may have been the highest-stakes event of Game of Thrones season 8 episode 3, the war against Cersei is a far more character-driven conflict. Cersei has been an antagonist from the very beginning of this show, encouragin Jaime to push young Bran Stark from the tower at Winterfell, demonstrating exactly where her priorities lie: here, the “secret” of their affair over the life of a small child.
Over the course of the show, Cersei’s respect for human life has diminished even further, whereas Jaime has developed a sense of empathy and, therefore, horror over some of his past actions. This has added to the growing fissure between them. Historically, Jaime Lannister has been Cersei’s most loyal ally: her twin brother, her lover, the father of her children. But that trust has been repeatedly fractured over the last few seasons, with the starkest hint of just how far these two have fallen out coming with Cersei sending Bronn to the North to kill both Jaime and Tyrion.
Jaime had seemingly pulled himself from the gravity of Cersei heading into this season, having marched North to fight for the living in the battle against the Night King, even though she refused to send her troops to assist. In “The Last of the Starks,” he entered into a romantic and sexual relationship with Brienne (an intimacy he has, seemingly, only previously shared with Cersei) and had plans to stay in Winterfell with her, and sit out the fight against his twin sister.
However, Jaime’s plans changed when he was informed Cersei defeated Daenerys Targaryen’s troops, killed Rhaegal the dragon, and taken Missandei hostage. “I always wanted to be there when they execute your sister,” Sansa tells Jaime after Brienne more gently delivers the news. “Seems like I won’t get the chance.”
The episode leads it relatively ambiguous as to why Jaime is returning to King’s Landing. Jaime gives Brienne a speech about how he is a hateful person who has done terrible things and who, therefore, doesn’t deserve redemption, love, or healing. But this is a show that is a great deal about redemption, usually through violence (which is a pretty depressing depiction of redemption), and one that has put a lot of work (not always consistently) into showing that Jaime has changed.
In this context, it seems likely that Jaime is heading south to help in the fight against his sister, perhaps even by pretending to still be on her side and in her thrall so that he can murder her. This would not only offer the best chance at ending the conflict without innocent bloodshed, but would add a thematically resonant capstone to Jaime’s reputation as “the Kingslayer,” as he was the one who killed Daenerys’ dad, the Mad King when his rule threatened the lives of the citizens.
For Jaime, killing Cersei would, in theory (if Cersei is telling the truth about being pregnant), also mean killing his unborn child. This is pretty dark, but this has never been a show that shies away from darkness. Though I also wouldn’t be surprised if Cersei were lying about her unborn child, using the idea of an innocent whose life is linked to her own as just another human shield in the collection of human shields she has amassed.
Will Jaime return to help Cersei? I highly doubt it. Will he be the one to kill Cersei? I think it might end up being some sort of group effort, even if Jaime is the one to deliver the killing blow. We can’t forget that The Hound and Arya are riding south to kill The Mountain and Cersei, respectively. I doubt they’d have Arya kill both the Night King and Cersei (though that would be amazing), but she may play a role in the effort.
There’s also Tyrion to consider, who has already killed one member of his family (or two, if you are using Cersei’s logic). Cersei was Tyrion’s first bully, abusing him from the time he was a baby because she blamed him for her mother’s death in childbirth. There would be something poetic, perhaps, in his killing the sister who tried to kill him so many times.
Will the death of Cersei be a family affair, with both Jaime and Tyrion being instrumental in her downfall? It would fulfill the part of fortune teller Maggy’s prophecy that predicted for Cersei: “the valonqar shall wrap his hands about your pale white throat and choke the life from you.” “Valonqar” is High Valyrian for “little brother.” Both Jaime and Tyrion are Cersei’s little brothers.
Personally, I’d love to see Sansa, who suffered so much as a girl under Cersei’s “care,” be the one to deliver the execution order, which would probably mean Cersei surviving the battle to be killed after the fact in some kind of political execution. (Damn, Game of Thrones. You’ve made me dark.) Or, perhaps, Jaime plans to bring Cersei back to Winterfell for Sansa to execute herself, as is the Ned Stark way.
Or maybe Cersei will win the battle and rule over the Seven Kingdoms into her old age. This would be a depressingly nihilistic and not totally uncharacteristic ending for Game of Thrones.
Why do you think Jaime is heading to King’s Landing? And who do you think will kill Cersei? Let us know your theories in the comments below.