SPOILERS FOR GAME OF THRONES SEASON 8 EPISODE 5!
YOU’VE BEEN WARNED!
That fifth episode of Game of Thrones’ final season was something else, wasn’t it?
Between Daenerys fully descending into Mad Queen territory and Cleganebowl finally happening to Jaime and Cersei Lannister getting crushed by rubble while embracing each other in their last moments, a lot went down in the show’s penultimate episode.
Unsurprisingly, there was a lot of chatter from the internet over how Thrones handled a number of character arcs in the episode, especially the conclusion of Jaime’s story as many thought it neglected seven seasons of character development.
But here’s the thing, why are we all surprised that Jaime got the ending that he did? If there’s one thing we’ve learned about Game of Thrones, it’s that happy endings are in shorter supply in Westeros than live dragons.
One of the biggest points of contention was how all the growth and redemption that Jaime underwent over the last seven seasons was all undone in his last episode and the ending he got was undeserved after everything he’s been through. However, I’d argue that it was the perfect ending for the character.
Okay, I will concede that the show royally butchered the last few steps in Jaime’s journey, such as how he ended things with Brienne and him declaring how he doesn’t care about innocent people while conveniently forgetting that he killed Aerys Targaryen so he could save innocent people.
But for the broader picture stuff, the conclusion of Jaime’s arc was spot on.
— Jenna Guillaume (@JennaGuillaume) May 13, 2019
Ever since Jaime lost his hand back in season three, his journey has been predominantly about atoning for all the bad things he’s done, like pushing Bran out of a window in episode one. A classic redemption story if you will.
For the most part, he’s followed that redemptive road relatively well (with a few bumps on the way) and it culminated in his abandoning of Cersei and riding up north to fight the Night King. At this point, you’d expect the logical ending for Jaime’s journey to be something along the lines of him killing Cersei to save the Kingdom (again) before living out his days with Brienne.
While this would be fan-service of the highest order, it would be unrealistic and not reflective of what drives Jaime. As he states right off the bat in episode one, he reveals that his motivation is love, for his family but most importantly for Cersei.
Even after several seasons of trials, tribulations, and seeing the true monster that Cersei is, he remains hopelessly devoted to her. She is his fatal flaw and Tyrion has no problem pointing that out.
Bronn : How do you wanna die
— ❌ (@Aruncharlie14) May 13, 2019
So from a character perspective, it helps explain why Jaime would leave Brienne to go back to Cersei. The other explanation is the limitations of a “redemptive arc”. It would be nice to see an evil person change and bat for team good but that simply isn’t realistic or honest. People want to change and try their utmost best to do so but not everyone is successful, and Jaime ultimately relapses despite his efforts.
It’s hard to defend some of the strange and inconsistent narrative paths the show took in order to get Jaime back to Cersei in season eight, but the ending he received is perfectly right for the character: in the arms of the woman he loves after trying his best to be better.
As far as happy endings go for Game of Thrones, that’s about as close as we’re going to get.