Why does she need to die?
In terms of disagreeing with J/B as a canon romance, the position of “no romantic feelings on either side” is more difficult to comprehend, in terms of literary analysis.
(IOW: How much of the text from Jaime’s and Brienne’s chapters do you have to ignore, distort, or willfully explain away, to think there are no feels happening?)
But you know what bugs me a lot more?
It’s the position in which Brienne is in love with Jaime…and the most logical conclusion of her arc is to die to save him from Lady Stoneheart. Y'know, because she couldn’t save Renly, so dying for Jaime would make up for that. That grosses me out.
If you think Brienne’s scheduled for death because you just can’t imagine how a nice person can stay alive any longer than that in Westeros, well, I have some counter-arguments, but I see where you’re coming from, and I sympathize.
If the argument is that Brienne “should” die in the LSH conflict because her dying for the man she loves makes the best sense for where her story has already gone…that’s a whole other sort of wrong. That’s where I have a moral objection.
Any character in the ASOIAF universe who’s ever gotten to know Brienne would be perfectly unsurprised to find out she sacrificed her life to save someone dear to her. (The surprise, for most, would be that she cared that much about Jaime.) This is not a character who needs to experience a moral overhaul to be willing to die so someone else can live. She’s already at that position. Her conflict is not “Oh no I’m going to die, poor me!” It’s “Oh no, I haven’t rescued Sansa and I’ll let Jaime down and I can’t take care of Podrick if they kill me.” This is a girl who already thinks her life is only valuable to the extent that she can protect others. And why is that?
She’s a Westerosi noblewoman who’s used to being told she’s hideous. All her life, she’s been taught no one would ever love her except for her lands and titles, and she believes it. She’s still very young, and she’s completely resigned to the idea that romantic love is unavailable to her. Rather than accept a toxic marriage of convenience with some controlling old man who doesn’t understand how lucky he is to have her, she sets out to serve someone worthy of her loyalty. (Renly is a piece of shit, but starry-eyed teenage Brienne has only seen his nicer side, so there she goes.) She’s used to being roundly mocked whenever she tries to act like a lady, so she walks away from the pretty gowns and dancing and picks up a suit of armor and sword. She joined Renly’s army because she honestly believed that was the place where her life would have meaning and someone would appreciate her talents.
And here’s the thing: she beats herself up for not saving Renly, but really, she was a much better ally than he deserved. He had no business claiming the throne ahead of his brother, and he mocked Brienne behind her back. She would have died for him had it been possible to do so, but it’s a good thing she lived to tell about that shadow. She didn’t fail him. He failed her.
So now she’s carrying around the guilt of having failed to stop an act of magic that was specifically designed to be unstoppable by any human combatant, and also the guilt of having outlived Catelyn Stark, as if anyone could have saved her lady from an entire castle full of Freys and Boltons violating guest right. Was she supposed to have been in two or three places at once? Was she expected to know what nobody in the Stark-Tully force knew about Walder Frey and Roose Bolton’s arrangement with Tywin Lannister? Was she supposed to be unarmed, unarmored, and unprepared at that wedding feast, and still get her lady to safety? Was she supposed to know more about Arya Stark’s whereabouts than Catelyn or Robb knew by then? Should she have teleported down to the Red Keep before the Lannisters had a chance to force Sansa into marriage? And then teleport back up to the Twins before the Red Wedding? What exactly does this girl have to apologize for?
So now she has that burden of survivor’s guilt on one side, and Jaime’s friendship complete with priceless sword on the other side, both pushing her to bust her ass and lose her mind for her quest to look after Ned Stark’s daughter. I should note that she still hasn’t found Sansa in the book version. I think that girl would appreciate a protector who really doesn’t want anything from her except for the honor of being at her service. (For Sansa’s sake, it’s a good thing Brienne was far away from the Red Wedding, as she would have inevitably been part of the body count.) In Brienne’s mind, showing up for Sansa is as much about doing right by Jaime as helping the Starks. She’s conflated the two interests into one concern. “For her lady mother’s sake. And for yours.”
Now that she’s been captured by Zombie Catelyn and her goons, how is this a good time for her to die? She already thinks her life is worthless unless she’s protecting someone else; and no one will ever appreciate the joy of her company in life as opposed to the gift of her death; why does she need to be proven right? Why does the ugly butch girl need to die for the handsome rich man before she even gets a chance to rescue the pretty femme girl? Why does Jaime need to be the man she dies for?
Why can’t he be the man she lives for?