Game of Thrones: Why Did Jaime Leave Brienne for Cersei in Episode 4?

This interview contains spoilers for Game of Thrones Season 8, episode 4, “The Last of the Starks.”

Jaime Lannister’s slow-burn relationship with Brienne of Tarth has been one of the most satisfying storylines in Game of Thrones throughout the show’s run, but in episode 4 of Season 8, just when it seems like the disgraced Kingslayer might finally be ready to embrace the possibility of a happy ending, he ends up sneaking out in the middle of the night to return to King’s Landing and his “hateful” sister, Cersei.

Luckily, Brienne wakes up and catches him before he leaves, allowing them a revealing (and potentially final) moment together. In the gut-wrenching scene, Brienne insists, “You’re not like your sister – you’re better than her. You’re a good man, you don’t need to die with her.”

She shares a rare moment of vulnerability with Jaime, begging him to stay with her, but as we’ve seen throughout this season, appealing to Jaime’s sense of self-worth is a fool’s errand, since he doesn’t consider himself a good man, or even a man worthy of redemption, despite the fact that multiple characters – Daenerys, Bran, Sansa, and Brienne herself – have been willing to give him second chances regardless of his past actions.

“You think I’m a good man?” Jaime asks. “I pushed a boy out of a tower window, crippled him for life, for Cersei. I strangled my cousin with my own hands, just to get back to Cersei. I would’ve murdered every man, woman, and child in Riverrun, for Cersei. She’s hateful, and so am I.”

It seems to be Jaime’s own self-loathing, not a sense of loyalty to Cersei, that is driving him back to King’s Landing. He speaks of the heinous things he’s done for her in the past as a way of emphasizing that (at least on paper) he’s no better than his sister is. He seems willing to let those deeds define him, just as he silently bore the titles of Kingslayer and Oathbreaker after killing the Mad King Aerys, even though (as he revealed to Brienne back in Season 3’s “Kissed By Fire”), the act and its aftermath took a heavy toll on him, considering he was trying to do the honorable thing and save the inhabitants of King’s Landing by betraying his king.

IGN spoke to “The Last of the Starks” director David Nutter (who also directed the first two episodes of the final season, including Jaime and Brienne’s knighting scene) to get his take on what’s going through Jaime’s mind in that pivotal moment.

Maybe he believes he can reason with her and somehow save her life and the life of their child, as Tyrion attempted to do in episode 4, but Cersei has made it crystal clear that there will be no negotiating her off the Iron Throne – and she’s prepared to sacrifice every man, woman, and child in King’s Landing just to keep Daenerys from winning. We saw how Jaime reacted to the possibility of that kind of collateral damage when the Mad King was in charge, and given everything else he’s been called over the years, would Queenslayer really hurt him any worse?

Whether he attempts to negotiate with Cersei or kill her, it seems that Jaime – like Arya and the Hound – doesn’t expect to return from this particular journey. Perhaps the most honorable thing he can do in that situation is to convince Brienne he doesn’t care about her, to prevent her from following him into the jaws of almost certain death.

The things we do for love.

For more on Game of Thrones, check out our episode 5 preview trailer breakdown for our predictions on Daenerys and Cersei’s showdown; find out why Jon decided to tell Arya and Sansa the truth even though we all knew it would backfire spectacularly; why Jon abandoned Ghost so callously (a lot of questionable decisions from the rightful heir this week); and why Missandei’s last word, “Dracarys,” is so important.

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