DISCLAIMER: The following article contains spoilers for Game of Thrones and the Song of Ice and Fire book series by George R.R. Martin. Read on at your own discretion
There’s been a lot of fans vocal in their discontent with how the current season of Game of Thrones has been going. Whether it be the over-hype of the Night King to some questionable character choices, it’s safe to say you’d have a hard time finding a fan who didn’t have anything to complain about.
We could sit here and complain about the show-runners shitty writing and Deanery’s representation really merits it’s own article, but today we’re talking about the series’ most endearing anti-hero. So, let’s talk about Jaime Lannister.
I read the books before watching the show. I’d had a good bit spoiled beforehand, such as the Red Wedding and Ned Stark’s death. But thankfully one of the few surprises I got was the characterisation of Jaime Lannister. Like most readers, I hated him almost immediately. He was this incestuous, duplicitous, savage cunt- he was made to be hated.
So like many fans I was surprised by his POV chapters in the book series. I remember seeing his name at the top of the chapter and saying “ugh, I don’t want to read about this cunt” and I kept that attitude for his first four or five chapters. Because he was a cunt. But then he got maimed and had that beautiful monologue in Harrenhal’s bathrooms and suddenly he became a hell of a lot more interesting.
The world of Ice and Fire is less black and white as it is comprised of grey. While there is pure repulsive evil in the likes of Joffrey and Ramsey, Jaime offers a transition point between them and the likes of Ned Stark. A dark grey.
In the beginning of the series he cripples Bran by pushing him out a window after witnessing he and his sister in a compromised position. Later he attacks Ned Stark in the street, killing several Northmen in the process- not to mention to people he killed in order to escape Riverrun.
But he gradually redeems himself by convincing his later captives not to force themselves on Brienne of Tarth, which results in his maiming. He returns to Harrenhal to save her from a grizzly bear she was trapped with in a fighting pit. Alongside this, he reveals the motives behind killing the Mad King Aery’s the II was in order to save the entire city from being blown up by Wildfire.
This nuanced perspective of the character allows for Martin to create one of the most engaging redemption arcs in modern literature. Alienated from Cersei, he begins to re-evaluate his feelings for her and the horrible actions he’s done in his sick love. In the most recent book, he declines Cersei’s request of aid, instead opting to stay in Riverrun and later partnering up with Brienne again.
This complex and tragic character has recently been completely misrepresented in the recent season of the show. After the Battle of Winterfell, he does a complete 180 on his character arc. Instead of rescinding his feelings for Cersei, he reemerges them. Instead of actively pursuing his redemption, he returns to a state of self loathing- admitting that the sins he’s committed are too severe to correct and that he belongs with his shitty sister because of them.
His death straight up pisses me off. It’s not tragic, it’s moronic. I and many other people believed in a theory that suggested that Jaime would be the one to kill Cersei in either an attempt to save the city or to spare her from further pain. I and many others believed that at the end of episode four of the last season, Jaime left Winterfell and Brienne with the intent that he would try to save his sister- or kill her.
In the same way many fans believed that Rhaegar and Lyanna were secretly Jon’s parents, we believed this because it had been set up.
When working with fiction the reader doesn’t require much to engage with the text, all they need is belief. They can accept surreal elements such as dragons or ice spiders or seven year long seasons so long as the rules of the world have been established clearly and are reaffirmed. The audience can forgive things such as a man being able to row 500 miles without any water or a character narrowly avoiding death again and again- which is encompassed in the suspension of disbelief.
But what the audience can’t forgive is the text doing things which they cannot believe. If you tell the audience that the Night King and his army is a huge existential threat but then resolve that threat in, like, one big battle in the seasons opening- that will piss off a lot of people, because politics seems extremely trivial compared to literal Armageddon.
In the same way if you kill one dragon and severely weaken one parties army in an attempt to show that the odds have been evened, then decide for the final battle to be a massacre and that the odds weren’t even at all- then that will piss people off as well.
But not as much as reverting or undermining a person’s entire character arc. Audiences can’t believe that Danaerys, who’d spent years liberating and freeing slaves would murder 50,000 innocent civilians just because she’s mad. She’s been pretty cruel in her punishments, but those on the receiving end usually deserved it. The masters of slavers bay deserved to be crucified for the abuse of the subjugated peoples, but it doesn’t make sense for this same person to burn a city that has done nothing to her.
Likewise audiences straight up refuse to believe that Tyrion Lannister, one of the smartest people in the series, would be stupid enough to trust his sister or would think that a crypt is a safe place to hind while there’s a battle going on above between the literal dead.
In the same way, audiences cannot believe that Jaime Lannister- this version of Jaime Lannister- would forsake his growth in favour of depravity, in favour of cruelty, in favour of being the person he once was.
There’s a lot I wanted from this show, I wanted Jaime to tell Dany about how her father used to rape her mother. How he and a fellow Kings-guard would stand outside their room as she screamed. He’d say “it’s our job to protect her too” and his colleague would say “not from him.” I wanted him to talk about how he struggled to keep his sanity while watching the Mad King burn his enemies alive in the throne room, about how he was only considered for the role not because of his skill but purely so that Aery’s could deprive Tywin of an heir.
But I could have done without all this just so long as Jaime’s character remained true and consistent. It did not and I feel insulted that something I and many others gave so much time and attention towards would disappoint us like this.
A lot of fans, like my flatmate, gave up on the show long ago. Opting to wait for the books instead. And while it’s safe to say that the deterioration of the show’s quality in writing is due to it’s lack of source material, I have a few complaints about the book series itself.
Namely how the plot has become a bit too convoluted with the introduction of unnecessary new characters. Like seven sand snakes who find a way to be even duller than their TV counterparts.
Does anyone here actually give a flying fuck about Jon fucking Connington? Really? Do you think it’s endearing to read about this secret Targaryan prince that Tyrion trolled into invading Westeros? Does anyone actually care about any Martell outside of Oberyn, cause I sure as fuck don’t care about that dumbass who travelled across the world just to get burned to a crisp by a fucking dragon.
While the show does have its faults, it does some stuff better than the books. Namely the Hound’s seeming demise. Instead of going out via an infection by a guy biting his neck, he’s grievously wounded in this brutal fight between Brienne of Tarth. The recent episode had him finally face off against his older brother, creating one of the most satisfying conclusion to a revenge tale since the Princess Bride.
And to be fair to the show runners, the Dorne story-line always sucked- even in the books. But it also shows another example of not only how the writers misunderstand the source text, but wilfully misrepresent it. Like Jaime, Ellaria Sand’s character motivations were completely bastardised. Instead of being an ardent supporter of peace, the writers misrepresented her as a vengeful child murderer.
The show’s decline in quality has made me grow worried about the fate of the books. It’s safe to say that George himself has no idea how his story ends because if he did, the show-runners would have a better idea on how to finish this series. It reminds me of that seven year writing gap Mark Twain took while writing Huckleberry Finn. He finished writing one half and put off finishing the other for nearly the decade. The final product is jolted by that time apart and I fear that this book series will suffer the same fate.
It might already have. What editor would say “hey George, really love this whole secret Targaryan subplot. Especially how it ties into that bit with Dorne- where you wrote six odd chapters following this hilariously failed attempt at a coup that literally drags down the momentum of the book? Yeah, keep that.”
But if there’s anything to learn from the current state of the show, it’s what not to do. The brilliant acting, gorgeous choreography, all the blood, sweat and tears the production crew put in- all for this. It reminds me of this time I met Greg Spence, one of the producers of the show.
He was at this conference in Belfast that I and several hundred other people attended. He was dishing out advice left, right and centre. But the thing I remember most was this; “It’s important to remember that everything else doesn’t matter if you haven’t got a good story. Nobodies ever walked out of a movie theatre because the sound was off, or cause the shot isn’t right- they walk out because of the story.”
Really wish the show-runners took that advice.