Jaime Lannister was one of the most complex and nuanced characters in Game of Thrones, whose redemption arc deserves a better ending.
Jaime was introduced as a dashing, but arrogant villain in Season 1; the golden boy of the rich and scheming Lannisters, paramour to his own sister, and an infamous regicide. He didn’t do himself any favors when he pushed 10-year-old Bran Stark out of a window in the very first episode. It seemed impossible that Jaime would be able to find any form of redemption after such a heinous act. But he manages to become a fan favorite against all odds, though it comes at a steep cost, as the show makes him lose everything he held dear.
First, his pride takes a beating when he suffers an embarrassing defeat at the hands of Robb Stark at the Whispering Woods. He is taken prisoner and separated from his sister/lover. He then loses what defined him as a person – his sword hand – which crushes his ego and leaves a lasting impact on his personality.
More than anything else, it is during his travels with Brienne that Jaime discovers his true self. While the moniker of Kingslayer was bestowed upon him for stabbing the Mad King, we hear his side of the story in Season 3, which marks the beginning of Jaime’s redemption arc. In an iconic scene, crackling with raw emotion, Jaime lays his soul bare to Brienne, confessing the real reason he killed King Aerys, the man he’d sworn to protect. When Brienne asks why he didn’t confide the truth to Ned Stark, Jaime responds, ‘By what right does the wolf judge the lion?‘, in what remains one of the show’s finest moments.
Jaime’s star continues to rise when he heroically saves Brienne from a bear, in a later episode. Despite being filthy, weak, and weaponless, he still cuts a dashing figure as he pushes his way past Locke (‘Sorry about the sapphires’), with the show’s best rendition of The Rains of Castamere thrumming in the background. Jaime’s transformation into a hero of Westeros was complete when he finally turned his back on his sister and decided to fight against the army of the dead. Even the actor who plays Jaime, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, indicated that this marked the end of his allegiance to Cersei in an interview. ‘I don’t know why it took him so long to realize what the rest of the world always knew – that she is a crazy monster – but he finally did.’
So, it was rather baffling when the showrunners decided to throw years worth of character development out of the window. After defeating the dead army, Jaime dumps Brienne in the middle of the night, before heading back to King’s Landing to die in the arms of his one true love. While this decision could maybe be explained with his infamous ‘the things we do for love’ quote, what was inexcusable was his dying declaration that ‘nothing else matters’ and his admission that he is just as hateful as Cersei. It was downright infuriating that Jaime Lannister was made to throw away everything his character had earned over several years, just because the plot demanded him to be with Cersei in her dying moments.