Before I begin, let me just issue a disclaimer: I have not read all five of George R.R. Martin’s novels (just the first 2) and I have only watched the first three seasons of the television show, so the observations/opinions I am about to make are based on the information I have up until those points. I may be accurate, I may be wildly inaccurate, or George R. R. Martin may never have considered what I’m about to say.
Fair enough? Good.
Brienne of Tarth is a wonderful character. I especially enjoyed her portrayal in Book 2, rather than the HBO series. That’s not to say that I don’t like the TV version of her: far from it. I think Gwendoline Christie does a great job at portraying her angst and loyalty and frustration and confusion and love: sometimes all in a single look.
She’s really spectacular.
But in the book we get to see so much more into a character’s psyche that TV show or movie can’t give us.
Jamie Lannister, on the other hand, is cold, calculating, and burdened with the most heinous of titles imaginable: “Kingslayer.” He is almost universally respected as a warrior and equally despised as a villain.
What crossed my mind as the wife and I finished watching season 3 a couple weekends ago is that during the time they travelled together (Brienne escorting Jamie back to King’s Landing for a prisoner exchange), something very odd happened. As Jamie started to do to Brienne what he always does to undermine his enemies, which is pick apart their motivations and loyalties, it almost felt like a switch flipped and he began talking about himself. His explanation of the events on the day he became the Kingslayer, despite his oath and position as Kingsguard, lends itself to idea that he almost regrets killing King Aerys Targaryen, for though he saved the kingdom, he lost himself.
This is especially moving when he learns that Brienne is to be abused, physically and sexually, and then killed or ransomed to her father, as he continues on his journey to King’s Landing.
Where “Kingslayer” would be content to return to his family and position and help quash the civil war that has engulfed the Seven Kingdoms, forgetting immediately the fate of his captor, Jamie Lannister cannot. At great risk to himself, despite his somewhat protected status, he returns and simply takes Brienne before leaving once more for the capital.
While I have no doubt that Jamie Lannister is a conflicted soul, at best, I cannot help but think that, at this point in time, he finds in Brienne of Tarth a version of himself that he had thought long dead, and finds equally that not only does he recognize that version of himself, but that he wants to be that version of himself again.
Despite the fact that he knows no one will accept that, he acts as Jamie Lannister, Kingsguard, and frees Brienne, despite her avowed status as his enemy. He is not Tyrion, playing an angle; he loses nothing if Brienne dies, but he returns nonetheless.
Brienne, in contrast, learns that all is not as it may seem when it concerns Jamie Lannister. Despite his arrogance, she sees the confusion that sometimes comes with his position in the Seven Kingdoms. He is not just a dyed-in-the-wool, incestuous, killing machine. He is, or was once, a good man, and honorable man, and the loss of that man seems to pain him dearly.
In Brienne and Jamie, I see kindred spirits. I see two individuals who want desperately to be seen as more than they are labeled by those who surround them, but whose efforts to do that are thwarted by circumstance and personal history.
Don’t worry, we’re going to be binging Season 4 as early as this Sunday, so hopefully I’ll have some new insights about how smart/stupid I am.
See you around the shadow.