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In the midst of battles and deep, deep lore, Game of Thrones manages to foster some of the most compelling relationships in any medium. The bonds of friendship, family, and love are all hard forged in Westeros, and few have some out the other side of seven seasons as strong as Jaime Lannister and Brienne of Tarth. Starting out as antagonists and begrudging travel companions (my kingdom for a well-done “enemies to lovers” arc), Brienne and Jaime have built a relationship built on a foundation of mutual respect, heart eyes, and the fact that they make each other better.
Jaime and Brienne’s Totally Awesome Road Trip in Season 3 came out of nowhere, particularly where Jaime was concerned. After two seasons of being an absolute bastard, his redemption arc begins when he is sent on a quest with Brienne by Catelyn Stark to be traded for the safety of her daughters. While they may not achieve their quest in the traditional way — the Stark girls have both been ripped from King’s Landing and Lannister clutches — they did kick off Jaime and Brienne’s individual paths: him to reclaim his honor and her to gain respect and a knighthood. The final bit of Brienne’s hopes may have been a secret, unspoken one, but her seemingly impossible desire to be a knight was the undercurrent of every action.While they may have moved from openly hostile to begrudging tolerance through their travels, their relationship made a real change after they are taken by Bolton bannerman Locke and his cronies. Before they were captured, Jaime was constantly belittling Brienne, mocking her love of Renly Baratheon and her guarded nature. However, her skill in battle and sense of honor did impress Jaime. Despite all that he has done, Jaime still clings to a traditional sense of knightly honor and sees that honor in Brienne. After they are taken prisoner, Jaime realizes that he cannot let Brienne twist in the wind and focus only on his own preservation. In an attempt to save Brienne from being raped, Jaime loses his sword hand, kicking the humbling of the Lannister Lion into high gear.
What follows is one of the best-done sequences in the show’s history. As they wash the blood and mud from the tired bodies in the baths at Harrenhal, Jaime shows his first true moment of vulnerability up to that point. Broken by his imprisonment and the loss of his power, Jaime collapses and admits the truth about the Kingslayer title to Brienne: he killed the Mad King in order to save the people of King’s Landing. He was not a traitor who murdered his king, he’s an unsung hero. With the simple statement of “my name is Jaime,” Brienne realized that he was not the man that she and the rest of Westeros had long thought.After that moment, something shifts between these two. In a way, Brienne becomes the custodian of Jaime’s honor, the only one who knows the truth. On the flip side, Jaime is the only one who realizes Brienne’s potential and true value. While she may not bear the title of “Ser,” she’s more a knight than anyone else in the Seven Kingdoms. Over the course of four seasons, no matter which side of the war they find themselves on, Jaime and Brienne always find each other and remind each other to be their best selves.
Jaime’s first love is Cersei and all of the toxic baggage that comes along with that relationship. Even outside of the incest factor, this union is only ever a twisted one. Jaime loved Cersei to the point of unhealthy obsession, and while Cersei would rather not have him with anyone else, her “love” was a selfish one. She liked what Jaime could give to her — pleasure, undivided attention, a sense of control — and did not want to see him as fully human instead of a means to an end. Above all, Cersei desires power, and Jaime was someone who could help her achieve that. When she no longer needed him, he was pushed to the side. While it’s unfortunate that it took him so long to pull himself out of the cesspool of the Lannister family, that kind of codependence doesn’t just go away overnight.Seeing what Cersei was becoming was certainly a major impetus for Jaime to cut ties, but the influence of Brienne was also a huge push in the right direction. Her forceful “f*ck loyalty!” in season 7 and helping Jaime to realize that Cersei was on the side of Cersei, not necessarily the living, was the final straw that sent him galloping off to defend Winterfell.
Not to be overdramatic, but Jaime and Brienne are basically a Jane Austen novel wrapped up in a violent package. For fans of longing looks, speeches about honor, and repressed emotion, this ship hits the damn spot. That dynamic came to a head in Season 8, Episode 2, when Jaime helps Brienne achieve her life’s dearest wish: becoming a knight. With the gathering storm of the dead ready to rain down hell on Winterfell approaching, those left to defend it are forced to reflect on what they’re leaving behind. For Brienne, she is given an opportunity to take the knighthood that she has earned many times over. For Jaime, he has the opportunity to present her with that gift. For a show that has shown more than its fair share of flesh, the sight of Jaime knighting Brienne by the glow of the fire was as much a love scene as any on Game of Thrones.
There’s no way that these two will get the traditional happy ending — Game of Thrones is not that kind of show and these two have too much baggage anyway — but Thrones may have given them something better: Brienne finally getting the knighthood that she has unspokenly craved for her whole life and Jaime leaving his toxic relationship with Cersei behind. These two have accomplished so much, and they’ve done so together. True love helps you become the best version of yourself and gives you the opportunity to do the same for your beloved, and that notion is knit into the fabric of every scene that Brienne and Jaime share. Bronn’s crass observation over whether or not they were f*cking may have been disrespectful at best, but it did point out what anyone with eyes can see: these two are in love, and even if they never say the words outright, they prove it with every action and glance.We may not get our swoony declaration or earth-shattering kiss, but that does not mean that these two aren’t the most romantic pairing in Game of Thrones history. Seeing them fight back to back during the Battle of Winterfell, fighting furiously on the side of the living, is the Westerosi version of “You had me at hello.” Honestly, the fact that both of them survived this far is a minor miracle, so who knows what’s in store in the final three episodes. No matter what, these two will be facing it together.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author's, and do not necessarily reflect those of SYFY WIRE, SYFY, or NBC Universal.