Chris, how is the chessboard lining up for you this season, with just two episodes left?
Christopher Orr: Like Spencer, I was struck by Sandor Clegane’s reply to Beric Dondarrion: “Lots of horrible shit in this world gets done for something ‘larger than ourselves.’ ” That could serve as a worthy tagline for Game of Thrones overall. Whether it was Dany crucifying slavers by the dozens or Stannis sacrificing his daughter to the pyre, we’ve seen plenty of characters—admirable as well as not-so-admirable—who’ve done horrible things in service of a higher purpose.
But the storyline that most seemed to be playing off the Hound’s line was Jaime’s, which largely inverted it. The show has gotten so sprawling and scattered that it can be hard to recall, but Jaime Lannister has arguably had the most fascinating moral arc of anyone on the show. When we met him in the very first episode of the show, he was having sex with his sister and, when caught, threw a small boy (Bran) out a window to his presumed death. (Yes, I know what he said. Wait for it.)
Over multiple seasons, he was captured, broken, and un-handed (which, for a warrior like Jaime, was a very literal un-manning); and in large part through his relationship with Brienne, he became one of the most sympathetic, relatable characters on the entire show.
Tonight, Benioff and Weiss (who co-wrote this episode) seemed eager to play with all of this history. Jaime’s early scene with Brienne, trying to find a way past the essential fact that they are still on opposite sides of a war, was wonderfully scripted—especially when, after Brienne explicitly cited the possibility of direct battle, Jaime responded, “Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.”
But Jaime’s next scene with Edmure Tully, equally well-written, elegantly complicated the moral picture. After Jaime offered to treat him better as a prisoner than the reprehensible Freys, Edmure replied, “You imagine yourself a decent person. Is that it?” It was an apt observation of a man who truly has always wanted to do the right thing—even, to his extraordinary credit, when the right thing meant disobeying all laws and vows to kill a mad king planning to torch an entire city of civilians. But Jaime’s weakness has always been his love for his twin sister, Cersei, which in addition to its inevitably extreme ick factor ties him forever to a sociopath. (Albeit one who, as he notes to Edmure, loves her children.)
And so Jaime came, in his way, full circle, threatening not only Edmure but the infant child Edmure had conceived in his one night of marriage before he was cast into the Frey’s dungeons. And he did it, not for something larger than himself, but for the simplest and most intimate of reasons. Lest we miss it, Jaime reprised the line (yep, here it comes) that he spoke after tossing Bran from the tower in episode one: “The things we do for love.”