Content warning: this post contains mentions of sexual violence and rape.
Do you remember that Bryan Adams song from the 90s? (Everything I Do) I Do It for You? That song could easily describe Jaime Lannister’s feeling for his twin sister Cersei. Though he comes off as confident and cocky at the beginning of the show, every major action of his can be traced back to his love for Cersei.
Shove a 10-year-old boy out a window? Done to hide Cersei’s secret.
Beat his own cousin to death in order to escape from the Stark’s camp? Done so he can get back to Cersei.
Refuse to leave the King’s Guard even after losing a hand? Done so he could stay close to Cersei. After a while, Jaime’s actions become less and less his choice, but rather Cersei’s commands.
Jaime is a complicated character, and I think audiences probably have complicated feelings toward them. I know I do. At the beginning of the show, he is probably the cockiest, most unlikable person in Westeros. He has a significant amount of power for a few reasons. Number one: he’s a Lannister, whose father is really the most powerful man in the country. The king is just a facade. Being the son of Tywin Lannister gives him a kind of freedom to do anything he wants. Second: he’s a very good swordsman. Lots of people think he’s the best in the country. Third: he killed a king. Who would ever want to challenge someone who has the gall to stab the ruler of The Seven Kingdoms in the back?
In the first season, Jaime has most of the power in his relationship with Cersei. She’s scared of being caught, but he tells her he will kill anyone who tries to reveal their secret. But then he goes off to war and gets captured by Robb Stark. Everything starts to change when that happens.
Jaime hides behind his sarcastic tongue while talking with Catelyn Stark. She says he’s forsaken every vow he’s ever taken and his response makes a bit of sense, even though he’s still easy to hate.
So many vows. They make you swear and swear. Defend the king. Obey the King. Obey your father. Protect the innocent. Defend the weak. But what if your father despises the king? What if the king massacres the innocent? It’s too much. No matter what you do, you’re forsaking one vow for another.
Things change further during his trip with Brienne of Tarth on the way to King’s Landing. Though he mocks her constantly, he saves her from an awful fate twice. First, he stops the Bolton men from raping her by telling them that Tarth is filled with sapphire mines. By the time the two are taken to Harrenhal to Lord Bolton, Jaime trusts Brienne enough to make a full confession of what really happened when he killed The Mad King.
The second time, he rescues her from a bear at Harrenhal. Granted, the reason she’s fighting the bear in the first place is based on the lie he told about the sapphires.
His time with Brienne and the loss of his right hand bring a shift to his character, but it shifts, even more, when Cersei doesn’t give him the warm welcome home he anticipated. The power dynamic of their relationship flips. Cersei now has all the power. After he’s unable to save Joffrey, he feels truly powerless not just with Cersei, but in every part of his life.
Grasping at Straws
Having lost his ability to fight and his power in the relationship with Cersei, he lashes out by raping her. But even this horrendous act doesn’t earn him back the power he wants. From then on, it’s Cersei who calls all the shots. Jaime betrays her by releasing Tyrion, but he falls in line with every other thing she commands. He goes to the Riverlands to defeat the Blackfish. And finally, in season 7 he goes to the Reach to take Highgarden.
His conversation with Olenna Tyrell, I think, is the most significant thing to happen to him in the entire show. For the first time, he admits that he’s lost all of his power.
Olenna: If she’s driven you this far, it’s gone beyond your control.
Jaime: Yes, it has.
At the end of season 7, we see Jaime finally have the courage to release himself from Cersei’s grasp. But it will be interesting to see if it lasts in season 8.