His hair is grizzled. His face, weary and weathered down. And his demeanor, humbled. But it’s not just his physical appearance that has changed. After years of wrestling with his conscience, the once Lannister villain is now on the good side, having fought in Winterfell alongside the Starks to defeat the Army of the Dead.
Arriving this far was not a smooth and linear journey for Jaime. If anything, his road to redemption had many obstacles as he wavered between honor and loyalty and duty and family. But that's what made his story arc all the more gripping to watch.
Over the last eight years, the Kingslayer went through one of the biggest transformations on the show, becoming a character we not only sympathize with but actively root for.
A Golden Lion
Jaime started off as an antagonist to the Stark family and was responsible for many heinous crimes, not the least of which an attempted murder on a child who was then left paralyzed.
Pushing little Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) off a tower set the tone to his own villainy, as did his decades-old love affair with his twin sister, Cersei (Lena Heady). A legendary knight and warrior, Jaime wore his arrogance and irreverence on his sleeve.
And yet still, there were glimpses of humanity seen through his unconditional love for Tyrion (Peter Dinklage), and in his backstory, which complicated everything that we thought we knew about him.
Years ago, he killed the “Mad King” Aerys II Targaryen by putting a sword through his back, an action he has since been smeared for, branding him as an oath-breaker and a man without honor. But the truth is much murkier than that—in reality, Jaime saved thousands of civilians from being burned to death, a memory that has loomed over him throughout the show.
On the Road with Brienne
Jaime’s turning point truly began when he was paired with Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) in Season 2.
What started as a contentious relationship ended with the two sharing a deep love, respect, and admiration for each other. And after losing his good hand as punishment for saving Brienne from an assault, Jaime was not only humbled, but it put him directly on a self-correcting path.
One of the most memorable and poignant moments on the show was born out of this coupling— the Harrenhal bath scene in Season 3, where Jaime revealed to Brienne in his most vulnerable state his true intentions for killing the Mad King. The level of intimacy shared between the two characters accounts for a lot, endearing Jaime in our eyes.
Coster-Waldau’s chemistry with Christie works on many levels, and together, they're one of the most refreshing and dynamic scene partners on screen. So much is conveyed through mere glances.
Fighting for the Living
Jaime’s misguided love and devotion for Cersei has been his on true weakness from the beginning. Just when you think he’s going to wise up and leave her behind, he’d then double down on his allegiance to her.
In the books, Jaime severs ties with Cersei a lot sooner he does on the show, where he meanders in other parts of Westeros only to return to her side. It’s not until the end of Season 7 that Jaime finally cuts the cord on his toxic relationship with her after she lies about helping Tyrion and the rest defeat the Army of the Dead.
And that leads us to where Jaime is now.
In last week’s episode. “A Knight of The Seven Kingdoms,” we see the fruits of Jaime’s labor. When his crimes are laid at his feet to be judged in Winterfell, Brienne vouches for him. “He is a man of honor,” she says. After all, she bore witness to his evolution. He also shows remorse to Bran, vows to fight for the living with the Starks, and knights Brienne, fulfilling a lifelong dream of hers.
The episode is immensely rewarding if only to appreciate how far Jaime has come since we first met him. And Coster-Waldau has consistently shined in this performance, often wordlessly.
A man of many contradictions, Jaime is a reminder that heroism comes in many different forms and manifests in ways that make us question which figures deserve to be celebrated and which deserve our contempt. We’ve seen Jaime in different lights—as a mournful father, a loving friend, and ultimately a hero.
With only three episodes left in the entire series, Jaime’s fate is still left in the air. He survived the Battle of Winterfell, but there is still a chance that he'll die, maybe at the hands of his sister. If tragedy is indeed written for this underrated Lannister, we’ll be content knowing in the end, he chose to fight on the good side.
We tip our hats to Coster-Waldau for imbuing such a complex character with the humanity it deserves, and to the writers who made this character evolution such a satisfying one to watch.
Game of Thrones, Sundays, 9/8c, HBO