Second Jaime chapter! This week, we’re back with Jaime Lannister but he’s still very much in his embittered, condescending phase of character development. That means he’s still looking for a way to escape Brienne’s clutches, he’s still insulting everyone around him but we’re beginning to see that there’s more to him than lusting after Cersei and bitterly reminiscing about how he became the Kingslayer. Ok, so not a lot more than the lust and reminiscence but it’s enough to be going on with for now. Particularly, in this chapter, we have to once again adjust our view of Jaime – he’s not just a lying, murderous rat trying to weasel his way out, but instead, there is some vague hint of goodness about him. He makes his first attempt at reaching out to Brienne but she, understandably enough, is in no mood to hear it. It’s a shame but it’ll take a fairly traumatic experience for the two of them to open up to each other.
I’m going to skip over the first half of the chapter because there isn’t much happening there at the moment. Jaime and Brienne come across the Inn of the Kneeling Man but it’s been ravaged by one side or another in the war and its original inhabitants are long dead. There are a few points to note in this first half – Jaime’s ongoing disdain for the crossbow, Ser Cleos’ hilariously ironic dismissal of the broken men as vermin that will feel at the sight of armed men and the sorry state of the smallfolk in this part of the world in general. This part of the chapter, like the Arya chapters of Clash, really bring these war-torn areas to life; which is unfortunate, because it seems to be a pretty miserable sight from the looks of it. I guess we could do a quick cut to ‘What If’ land to discuss what would have happened if Jaime had met with Beric or Thoros but on second thought it’s not really all that interesting – mostly Jaime would have died and Brienne would have been kidnapped along with Arya to give back to Catelyn. It could have been interesting though because then Brienne would have found one of Catelyn’s daughters, which is one more than she currently has. Still, it’s hardly the most interesting of inflection points in this story.
“But this is the road the innkeep warned us against,” Ser Cleos objected.
So, with that rather unremarkable first half of a chapter out of the way, let’s jump back in with Cleos being whiny again. I don’t know if it’s because Cleos is a Frey but the perception I have of Cleos is that he’s generally pretty useless. He isn’t savvy enough to detect when he was being deceived like Brienne and Jaime were and seems totally oblivious to what life on the road is really like. I guess that both Brienne and Jaime have served under real knights long enough that they developed some sort of street sharpness but that itself surprises me. Brienne is fairly young and has been serving landed knights for most of her life and that too during peacetime – when would she have had the opportunity to really learn to look out for herself like this? I could say the same about Jaime – he hasn’t really done any solo travelling in ages and even when he did, it was during peacetime where the roads were much safer. It’s odd if convenient that they are both so aware of possible brigands and highwaymen. I can’t quite remember, but doesn’t taking this road lead them to the brigands anyway? I seem to remember that Cleos dies at some point but I can’t remember by whose hand. It would be great irony is the fake innkeep had actually given them good advice but Brienne and Jaime were too suspicious to take it at face value. It would be one of the very few times in this series that people actually gave good, selfless advice, so of course, it would be appropriate for that advice to be ignored.
“Why did you take the oath?” she demanded. “Why don the white cloak if you meant to betray all it stood for?”
This is what lies at the heart of the differences between Jaime and Brienne. Brienne, who has always been on the periphery of the knighted class, simply cannot forgive Jaime for so easily – in her mind, at least – letting the privilege of being the King’s very own guard go. There is obviously a lot here that she doesn’t understand but that key action is essentially what allows her to pass judgement on Jaime right from the get go. Now, her reaction is more than understandable – absolutely nothing that Jaime says or does at this point is endearing him to anyone and honestly, even if she knew his thoughts like the readers do, I’m not convinced that that would change how matters lie much. The irony that surely is lost on no one is that Jaime’s answer is the same as Brienne’s; Jaime took his white cloak for much the same reason that Brienne took her rainbow one: love. Jaime did it to be closer to the woman he loves while Brienne did it to get closer to the man she loved. They really are meant to be together! Even more fittingly, if you ask either character, you can imagine them saying the same thing: that they did it because it was a great honour.
“The king won’t ask him. And once it’s done, Father can’t object, not openly. Aerys had Ser Ilyn Payne’s tongue torn out just for boasting that it was the Hand who truly ruled the Seven Kingdoms. The captain of the Hand’s guard, and yet Father dared not try and stop it! He won’t stop this, either.”
There are a lot of questions here; from how exactly Cersei knew all this to what would have happened if Tywin objected. The answer to the Cersei question is a fairly simple one; Cersei is a lot more astute than Tyrion and the reader gives her credit for. By this point, unless I’m getting my chronology wrong, she has been in King’s Landing for a while; long enough for her to have reasonably figured out the way that politics in the place work. While it seem a little odd for Cersei, a fifteen year old, to possess that kind of perception, remember that this is A Song of Ice and Fire that we’re talking about, where teenagers lead armies and pre-teens suffer through a life time of horrors. The next question though, is a fun piece of ‘what if’. I am of the opinion that Tywin could not have prevented Jaime from becoming the Kingsguard because even if he convinced Jaime that it was not in his best interest, there was no way that Aerys would have let Jaime off so easily. He always intended for Jaime to be his hostage, not his bodyguard.
Elsewise, nothing went as planned. His father had never been more furious. He could not object openly – Cersei had judged that correctly – but he resigned the Handship on some thin pretext and returned to Casterly Rock, taking his daughter with him. Instead of being together, Cersei and Jaime just changed places, and he found himself alone at court, guarding a mad king while four lesser men took their turns dancing on knives in his father’s ill-fitting shoes.
Was Cersei ever really in love with Jaime? We see through his POV that he is pretty much obsessed with her but I’m not sure that we ever see as much from her end. There is certainly some evidence of it but it feels more that she considers Jaime to be another tool that she has in her arsenal. A lot of Cersei’s current character is reflected in this incident. We learn right away that she isn’t afraid of using her body to get what she wants – clearly something that, as we will see in Feast, hasn’t changed – and that all her carefully laid plans regularly backfire in her face. I also see some hints of Sansa in her; Sansa too went behind her father’s back in order to be closer to the boy she ‘loved’ and it didn’t work out very well in her case either. I wonder if George intended for this particular parallel – perhaps when Sansa came to Cersei way back in Game, Cersei saw shadows of herself in her.
A single slash across his throat was all it took to end it. So easy, he remembered thinking. A king should die harder than this.
I found this whole sequence to be extremely surreal. The image just forms up so easily in my mind; an empty courtroom, Jaime Lannister walking sinisterly towards Aerys with blood dripping off his sword but Aerys too caught up in his madness to notice. Aerys’ death is thoroughly undignified; perhaps more so than either of his deceased children and on that basis it’s hard not to agree with Jaime’s sentiment that a King should go out in a more glorious way. It’s not necessarily fair to Aerys’, I know, but I don’t really think Aerys’ deserves any such leniency on the readers’ part.
His blood is in both of them, he thought.
I like how this was literally the last thing on Jaime’s list of criteria. His first thought when it came to deciding what to do now that Aerys was dead wasn’t about the succession or any of that – no, instead, it was about what he could to do troll Ned and Robert. Given his age at the time, I can’t say that that comes as much of a surprise but at the same time, it would have been a lot to expect Jaime to understand that if the Lannister faction had backed a Targaryen, Robert would very likely have torn them apart.
With that, it’s time to bid farewell to Jaime and Brienne for a while. They aren’t particularly pleasant company at the moment, in any event. Next up, we’ll watch as Tyrion comes to term with his new place in the political power structure of King’s Landing.