The things he does for love ...
Yeah, another day, another post about Jaime and Brienne. (I am SO sorry, friends who are not interested in this show/ship. In a few weeks, I will return to “normal” if we can call it that.) For now, I’m putting this behind a cut so as not to annoy you and because there are some BOOK SPOILERS in here.
So I was discussing the upcoming bear pit scene and its potential impact on the unspoiled tv-watchers’ view of Jaime/Brienne, which already seems to come across a lot shippier on the show than it did at this point in the books. (I cannot be the only person who didn’t ‘ship it at all until after I realized Brienne loved Jaime, but on the show, it looks like Jaime loves Brienne already and she has kind of mixed feelings about him - concern but also impatience?) And we were discussing how, if as seems likely, Jaime’s dream will be eliminated, on the show, it is really going to look like he risks his life to save her because he’s in love, whereas the dream is more about how she represents things to him that he believed he’d lost forever, and without it, we get less of a sense of Jaime’s actually understanding right and wrong and risking his life because it is also the moral thing to do.
But … I think that the bath scene was our entree (maybe our only one on the show) into Jaime’s understanding of right and wrong and the moral dilemmas he faced. Jaime’s harrowing description of Aerys’s enjoyment of watching people burn alive and plans to destroy thousands of lives, and Jaime’s decision to break his vows for a higher good showed Brienne (and the audience) that he understands right from wrong. He chose to ignore that understanding after he became convinced that society as a whole is hypocritically more concerned with the appearance of morality and the hollow pageantry of honor than it is with truth and real morality.
On the show, I do think we are seeing Jaime fall in love with Brienne, without realizing it himself, but the bear pit is going to be the catalyst for Brienne falling in love with him too. And while I love the subtlety and long progression of Book!Jaime’s feelings for Book!Brienne (going from “pretty eyes and calm” to “astonishing eyes” is a sort of shorthand for that), alas, I think we’re not getting that on the show because, well, it’s (sadly) not the Jaime/Brienne hour of awesomeness (I would watch the hell out of THAT show, let me tell you!)
Still, I do think the show makes clear that Jaime’s growing feelings for Brienne are motivated by her obvious honor and chivalry and by his reluctant admiration for her living the role that he forsook, and putting up with all the crap she gets from men like him (though there are no men like him!) without becoming a hardened cynical asshole like he did. (Her innocence and the “in this light, she could almost be a beauty, she could almost be a knight” are visually represented on the show by the contrast between her glowing brightness in the bath when she stands up, like this beacon of honor and knighthood, contrasted to Jaime’s filth - moral and physical - and illness and pain. And she stands, as Gwendoline Christie has said, because she cannot bear that Jaime mocks the most precious thing to her: her knightliness. And Jaime takes one long look at that shining girl and
totally gets a boner he APOLOGIZES because it was unworthy to belittle her ideals and he doesn’t have to be that guy any more, the one who mocks her at every turn.)
Since we don’t get to see inside Jaime’s head on the show, and we just see his actions, I think that ESPECIALLY when he risks his life for Brienne, it will appear that he is motivated by love. In many ways, Jaime is defined by that insanely memorable line about “the things I do for love.” For good or ill, almost every action he’s taken (except for killing Aerys), from joining the Kingsguard and giving up Casterly Rock, to lying to Tyrion, to telling Tyrion the truth, to throwing Bran out of a window, to saving Brienne, at is core is motivated by his enormous capacity for love and his complete loyalty to those he loves. Love made him give up honor (just as Maester Aemon tells Jon it does) and made him forsake his vows from the moment he took them, and I think it doesn’t make his newfound dedication to his vows after his ordeal any less valid if they are motivated by his love for Brienne (though he may not recognize what his feelings for her are.)
For me, Jaime’s impetuous leap into the bear pit, without any plan except to put his (crippled and frustratingly uncoordinated) body between Brienne and the bear, is still quintessentially Jaime doing the “things I do for love” but this time, love doesn’t lead him to do terrible things; it makes him do something selfless, and even heroic, for another person.
I don’t think Jaime is necessarily a “new man” after his ordeals alongside Brienne (though there is a hugely baptismal quality to his confession in the bath!) but rather he is same man with the years of cynicism and bitterness trimmed away, just as Qyburn trimmed away the rotting flesh of his arm. The de-handing forces Jaime to look at the man he really is, and how he got to be that man, but Brienne’s presence at this moment gives him a model for who he might have been if he’d been as brave as she is in the face of his hated nickname. She is right for calling him “craven” not just for wanting to die, but because he let his reputation define him for all those years, instead of defining himself. The Kingslaying was honorable, but Jaime’s willfully living down to his reputation as the Kingslayer was not.
Even in the books, Jaime’s reawakened desire to be honorable is really attributable to Brienne’s presence (though it required the loss of his hand to make him follow through); without her, he would have given up and died when he lost his hand. He loves her for her honor and her innocence and her courage and her ability to dance the dance he loves and for her utter lack of interest in the games of power that his family thrives on, not for her beauty or her graces or simply her familiarity (though she and Cersei do share a fierceness, at least outwardly) and ultimately, I don’t think that’s so different from the books.