Redemption arcs are one of the most popular tropes in literature. The story of a villain transforming into a hero has been retold countless times. But the path towards the light isn’t as easy for some characters as it is for others. Take Jaime Lannister for instance. As my favourite character in Game of Thrones, I’ve enjoyed watching Jaime develop from an amoral asshole into a conflicted man determined to regain his honour. In this article, I’ll be examining Jaime’s journey and seeing how it differs from a traditional redemption arc.
If Jaime’s storyline had followed a conventional redemption arc in the final season of Game of Thrones, he would have returned to King’s Landing, killed Cersei and proven that he could move beyond their toxic relationship. Cersei fitted the role of a classic villain and by ending her life, Jaime’s journey would have come full circle. But that’s not what happened.
Instead, Jaime spent his final moments telling Cersei they were the only two people that mattered. He took her into his arms, and they died beneath a mountain of rubble. From a fan perspective, I found it to be a disappointing ending. But in the context of an untraditional redemptive arc, I found it fascinating.
Redemption is in the eye of the beholder
From the moment he was introduced to viewers, Jaime was presented as a man of many contradictions. He tried to kill a child to protect his family. He saved countless innocents from being burned alive by The Mad King. He killed his own cousin to get back to Cersei. He stopped Brienne of Tarth from being raped and saved her from a bear. Jaime’s conflicting traits were part of his appeal, and it’s up to the people that he interacted with to decide whether he redeemed himself.
Brienne certainly believed that Jaime earned redemption. In the final episode, Brienne sat in the front of The White Book, a tome that detailed all the achievements of the knights who served in the Kingsguard. She turned to Jaime’s page and added the following:
- Took Riverrun from the Tully rebels, without loss of life.
- Lured the Unsullied into ruling Casterly Rock, sacrificing his childhood home in service for a greater strategy.
- Outwitted the Targaryen forces to seize Highgarden. Fought at the Battle of the Goldroad bravely, narrowly escaping death by dragonfire.
- Pledged himself to the forces of men and rode north to join them at Winterfell, alone.
- Faced the Army of the Dead, and defended the castle against impossible odds until the defeat of the Night King.
- Escaped imprisonment and rode south in an attempt to save the capital from destruction.
- Died protecting his Queen.
Brienne decided to honour Jaime’s memory with all the deeds he’d accomplished up until his death. The final sentence is important because it demonstrates to the wider world that Jaime was capable of ‘traditional’ honour in the sense of staying true to the monarch he’d vowed to defend. Brienne also believed Jaime had regained his personal honour long ago and it deserved to be immortalised in print.
Jaime might not have had a traditional redemptive arc, but there’s no denying that he fulfilled his personal quest to recover his honour. The TV show might not have executed it perfectly, but the remaining books can hopefully provide added depth to a character that will live on as one of the most compelling fantasy characters of all-time.
Interested in seeing Jaime’s journey told through music? Be sure to read his edition of The Pop Culture Playlist to find out more.