With only two episodes to go, it may be a moot point – but wouldn’t it be a lot of fun to see Game of Thrones pay off its long-running gag about a certain swashbuckling wildling’s wild-eyed crush on Brienne of Tarth?
Ever since the moment he first laid eyes on Brienne, Tormund Giantsbane has never bothered trying to hide his hungry fascination with her tall, imposing presence as the loyal protector of the Starks. It’s definitely a one-way crush, though: From Brienne, who’s not exactly experienced (or, until recently, much interested) in the ways of love, the only response Tormund’s ever been able to tease out is a disapproving, slightly disgusted, cold-eyed stare.
But Tormund actor Kristofer Hivju says there’s much more to his upsized crush on Brienne than simple comic relief — and it’s kind of a shame she’s spurned his affection at every turn.
**Spoiler Warning: Major spoilers for "The Last of the Starks" episode from Season 8 of Game of Thrones appear below.**
Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) finally dropped her steely guard in this week’s “The Last of the Starks” episode, taking her first-ever bedroom romp (with Jaime Lannister!), a move that almost certainly leaves Tormund out in the cold for good. But despite all the comedic ogling and stereotypical come-ons, Tormund’s love for Brienne is super-serious, Hivju tells Vulture — and his wildling sensibilities actually make him a much better fit.
“Even though this has been a running joke throughout the last three seasons, I have always taken Tormund’s love for Brienne seriously,” Hivju explained. “…Brienne has been mocked all her life because she’s tall, because she’s a warrior, because she’s different. And I didn’t want there to be any irony in that. Tormund doesn’t ironize. For him, she’s perfect because in the North, women should be the warriors, you know? That’s a value in the North to be strong and tall and skillful with the sword. So even though it’s been a joke, Tormund’s love has always been real.”
Brienne’s ability to command respect and adoration, of course, isn’t limited to just the wildlings. But what Tormund instinctively got about Brienne from the very beginning, it’s taken Jaime a long and winding time to finally realize as the bond between the two tightened, fighting side by side.
That’s too bad, said Hivju. “I must say on behalf of Tormund, of all his approaches, she has never shown him a single centimeter of affection. And Jaime and Brienne have a long story together. So on some level, I can understand her. But when you saw how the [fourth] episode [of Season 8] turned out, you could avoid a lot of crying if you just went with the guy who loves you the most!” he joked.
Despite giving her virginity to Jaime, by the end of this week’s episode, none of the moving parts in Brienne’s would-be love triangle are in play anymore. Jaime indeed leaves Brienne in tears at Winterfell to make for King’s Landing, crushing her spirit with an anti-hero speech about what a terrible and unworthy person he’s always been. As for poor, heartbroken Tormund? He saddles up the remaining Free Folk, and heads back home — in all likelihood for good — to the frozen North.
It’s probably just as well, because Game of Thrones may have swept all its love stories — even Jon and Dany’s — right off the table with the tragic and tense way it ended this week. The bid for the Iron Throne has truly entered the endgame now, so we'll be dialed in this Sunday when Game of Thrones returns to HBO for its penultimate series finale episode.