Some minor spoilers ahead for the most recent episode of Game of Thrones.
Jaime Lannister – noble hero, or love-blind servant of his power-crazed sister? Both, perhaps – that’s the thing with Game of Thrones, it doesn’t do good and evil in the same black and white way as other shows and films, and the complexity and depth of its characters has always been one of the things that makes it such a huge draw.
Events in characters’ pasts are rarely just shrugged off and forgotten about, they are carried with them everywhere they go. We’ve seen rapes and betrayals, arranged marriages and murders – it’s hardly surprising, given how much every single one of these characters has been through, that they are damaged, and carry huge weight on their shoulders.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is clearly visible in a lot of characters – just look at The Hound in this week’s episode. He was unable to do anything but stand and stare as Thoros, sword aflame, was being mauled by a giant bear wight, because of the traumatic relationship he’s had with fire in his past.
The most obvious sufferer of PTSD in the show is Theon Greyjoy, who has never been the same since his prolonged torture at the hands of Ramsay Bolton. It was heartbreaking to watch him leap from his ship in Episode 2, unable to save Yara because he just couldn’t face the idea of being captured again.
However, there is another, far more subtle PTSD sufferer in the show, and that’s Jaime. It is not something we are reminded of often, but it’s definitely there, and it came out in ‘Spoils of War’, the brilliant fourth episode of this season.
As we know, Jaime is nicknamed the Kingslayer – it’s a mean-spirited nickname meant to reflect the fact that he betrayed the Mad King, Aerys II Targaryen, by stabbing him in the back, when he was sworn to protect him.
Robert Baratheon and Ned Stark – despite fighting against the Mad King – were among the characters to chastise Jaime for this way back in Season 1. Ned clearly had absolutely no time for such an ‘honourless’ man as Jaime, while Robert wasn’t his greatest fan either.
However, we as viewers know that Jaime’s ‘betrayal’ was not really that at all – thanks to that emotional scene he shared with Brienne in the bath back in Season 3, Episode 5.
Jaime opens up to Brienne about how the Mad King kept screaming “Burn them all – burn them in their homes, burn them in their beds” as he tried to take out the whole city with wildfire. Jaime did not kill King Aerys for any reason other than to save the lives of thousands of innocents.
He asks Brienne: “Tell me, if your precious Renly commanded you to kill your own father and stand by while thousands of men, women and children burned alive, would you have done it?
“Would you have kept your oath?”
Given this, it’s hardly surprising to see Jaime visibly suffer as he watched the Mad King’s daughter burning men to a crisp on the battlefield on ‘Spoils of War’. We see the horror in his eyes as he sees his worst nightmare play out all over again.
Daenerys may not be her father, but Jaime does not know that. In this instance in particular, she is exactly the same. She is a danger not just to him and Cersei, but to everyone in Westeros, and she has to be stopped.
So Jaime faces up to his largest fear, and charges straight for Daenerys – not only to win the war for the Lannisters, but to save the continent. It is a truly selfless and heroic act, driven by the traumatic events of his past.
This video by Shahan Reviews on YouTube displays it perfectly, juxtaposing Jaime’s reflections on the Mad King with the battlefield scenes in ‘Spoils of War’. It’s well worth a watch – it’ll give you chills.
“Someone with PTSD often relives the traumatic event through nightmares and flashbacks, and may experience feelings of isolation, irritability and guilt.”
This would explain why Jaime is constantly seeking absolution over the Mad King’s death – and why he attempted to explain his actions to Ned Stark, the most honourable person in Westeros. He wanted him to understand that he did it to save people, that he isn’t a cold-blooded murderer – because he himself worries constantly that he is.
However, Ned totally rejects him – as do most others. This explains why Jaime clings so tightly to those who love him, which of course includes Cersei in particular.
If Cersei does go full ‘Mad Queen’, as some fans expect, will that be what finally turns Jaime against her, or will he always – perhaps legitimately – see the Mad King’s daughter as the enemy?
That we don’t know, but it’s clear Jaime is a deeply complex character, and it’s fair to say, a true hero.