‘Game of Thrones’ Anatomy of a Scene: The Knighting of Brienne of Tarth

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One of the great moments in Game of Thrones Season 8, Episode 2: A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms, is the scene where Lady Brienne of Tarth is Knighted by Jaime Lannister. The relationship between Jaime and Brienne is a complicated one and it has gone from ridicule, and disregard to respect and dare we say, admiration? Perhaps, even Love? It might depend on who you ask.

To understand what transpired in the scene, it is necessary to examine the path they took to arrive at this place and this monumental occasion. Brienne of Tarth was first introduced in Season Two. She competed in and distinguished herself by winning a tournament amongst the men of King Renly Baratheon. This included a victory over Renly’s favorite – and Lord Commander of his Kingsguard – Ser Loras Tyrell. For winning, her only wish was to be named to his Kingsguard. Renly grants her request, despite her gender and consequent lack of knighthood. Lady Catelyn Stark soon arrives in the camp to negotiate an alliance between Renly and her son, King Robb Stark. Brienne, (already taking her role quite seriously), takes umbrage  when Lady Catelyn doesn’t refer to Renly as “Your Grace”, and later, escorts her and Renly through the camp as they talk. She tells Catelyn to call her just “Brienne”, as despite her high birth, she doesn’t consider herself a “Lady.”

It is after the death of Renly Baratheon, (struck down by blood magic from the “Red Woman” Melisandre with the assistance of his brother Stannis), that Brienne is forced to flee when she is falsely thought to be responsible for Renly’s demise. She takes up with Catelyn Stark, swearing to be her sworn sword. It is this twist of fate that brings her together for the first time with Jaime Lannister.

Jaime is a prisoner of House Stark, captured by King Robb when Jaime fell into a trap laid out by Robb in the battle of Whispering Wood. He briefly escapes his captivity only to be recaptured, killing Torrhen Karstark in the attempt. Torrhen’s father Lord Rickard Karstark demands his head in vengeance. Brienne guards Catelyn as she tries to convince Rickard to await Robb’s return from negotiating the surrender of the Crag. As the hours until daylight slowly pass, the Karstarks are getting more violent and very impatient, calling for Jaime Lannister’s death. As it would likely mean death to try to defend him, Brienne tells Catelyn that at this rate Jaime will not live long enough for Robb to return. Catelyn decides to set Jaime free and send him under the guard of Brienne back to Westeros in exchange for her daughters. Much to the chagrin of both the Karstarks and her son Robb.

Brienne travels by horse until finding a rowboat to try to evade pursuit. She suffers constant verbal abuse from Jaime as he taunts her about her appearance and about her likely dismal history with the opposite sex. Hardly the kind of behavior a proper Knight should exhibit, but at that time, Jaime Lannister never claimed to be a “proper” Knight.

Soon they came upon a tree with the hanging corpses of three tavern girls who have been killed by Stark forces for having had relations with Lannister men. When the Northern soldiers who had killed them returned, Jaime witnessed the fighting skill of Brienne of Tarth. As they approached, Jaime tried to get her to remove his chains so he could defend them (and escape) but Brienne ignored him. She tried to talk her way through the situation but one of the men recognized Jaime from the Battle of the Whispering Wood. Brienne had no choice but to fight them. She killed two of the men quickly, but deliberately gave the third a slower death. Her skill impresses Ser Jaime, who is quick to point out that the men she killed were Stark soldiers. Brienne reminds him that she is loyal not to the Starks but to Catelyn Stark herself. She then cut down and buried the tavern girls.

Jaime continues to be escorted by Brienne to King’s Landing. On their way there, they are spotted by a traveler. Jaime tells Brienne she should kill the man, since he believes that he recognized him and will most likely give away their whereabouts. Brienne refuses as she sees no honor in killing an old man, besides she believed that he probably didn’t recognize Jaime. Later, the pair come to a river, which they will either have to attempt a dangerous fording or cross the bridge, which will increase the likelihood of them probably being seen.

Brienne decides to take the safer route of the bridge but Jaime distracts her and grabs her spare sword. He cut his bonds and they engage in an extended sword fight on the bridge. Jaime is one of the most skilled swordsmen in all of Westeros, however his mobility is reduced because of the manacles on his hands. He is also malnourished after having spent the past full year chained up in Robb’s cell. These factors, when added to Brienne’s own skill with the sword soon leaves Jaime exhausted and weak. Just then, riders from House Bolton guided by the traveler who spied them earlier (Jaime was right about that) arrive led by a man named Locke. He gives the old man silver for his services. Jaime attempts to negotiate, but Locke replies that he will be executed by King Robb if he lets the Kingslayer go free, so both he and Brienne are taken prisoner.

As they ride along, Jaime warns Brienne that when they make camp for the night, they will rape her, more than once, and that his honest advice is to give no resistance, and to just think of Renly. (Even in their current predicament he couldn’t help but get one last dig in). He reasoned that they were only sent to capture HIM, therefore Brienne means nothing to them. With no monetary advantage for her, they would likely kill her without hesitation. Despite Jaime’s recommendations, Brienne says she will not make it easy for them and fight even if it means her death. Jaime agrees that if he were a woman, he would fight to the death before being raped, too. His admiration for the woman grew, although he would not admit it to her, or perhaps even himself.

Later that night, just as Jaime predicted, Locke’s men do indeed drag Brienne kicking and screaming into the bushes to gang-rape her. Jaime, in a rare example of compassion, tells Locke that Brienne is in actuality,  a noblewoman and the sole heir of Lord Selwyn Tarth, who rules the “Sapphire Isle.” Jaime claims to Locke that all the sapphires in Westeros come from those mines and her father will pay them her weight in sapphires as a ransom, provided she is unharmed and her virtue is intact. Locke reluctantly agrees and calls his men back before they are able to rape Brienne, although some of them are the worse for wear due to Brienne’s struggles. They once again tie her up to a tree.

Seeing how the promise of wealth seemed to influence Locke, Jaime attempts to barter for his release by reminding Locke of the wealth and power of his own father, Lord Tywin. Unfortunately for Jaime, his attempt does not work and angered by Jaime’s arrogance and belief that his “Daddy’s Gold” can buy anything, Locke mutilates him by cutting off his sword hand. This is a critical turning point for Jaime as his skill with the sword helped define him as much anything, except for perhaps, his killing of Aerys II Targaryen, the Mad King.

Soon they both are delivered to Harrenhal, where Jaime’s infected stump is treated by Qyburn. Jaime shocks Brienne by joining her in the communal bath much to her dismay. Jaime, who cannot seem to help himself, mocks Brienne for being unable to protect Renly. This angers Brienne who stands up defiantly, disregarding the fact that she is naked before him. Jaime apologizes to her and begins to confess what really happened when he killed the Mad King, how he became “The King Slayer.” Once Jaime told her the tale of King Aerys demanding that Jaime bring him his father Lord Tywin’s head and disclosing how he was going to burn everyone with wildfire. It was only then that he decided to kill the obviously Mad King. Brienne asked him why he never told his side of the story before now. However, the stress of relating the tale, in combination with his already weakened state, causes him to collapse into her arms. She calls aid for the “Kingslayer”, at which he whispers that his name is Jaime.

Roose Bolton decides to allow Jaime to leave for Kings Landing with the hope that he will tell his father that his mutilation was without his order. He decides however to keep Brienne prisoner for the crime of abetting treason. Jaime reluctantly leaves as does Bolton who is heading for Edmure Tulley’s Wedding at the Twins. When Locke realizes he will not be getting the “sapphires” that Jaime had told him about, he allows for Brienne to entertain his troops by putting her in a fighting pit against a bear, armed only with a wooden sword. When Jaime realizes that Brienne has been left at the tender mercies of Locke again, he orders his escorts to return with him to aid Brienne. Since they were sworn to see Jaime returned safely to King’s Landing, they did what they were told. Upon their arrival, Jaime jumps into the pit and helps to get Brienne to safety. He then tells Locke that he is returning to Kings Landing with Brienne and reminds him Lord Bolton would be irritated if he interfered with that just for his own pleasures. Locke reluctantly agreed.

After arriving back at Kings Landing, Jaime is fitted with a golden hand prosthetic to replace his severed hand. Brienne believes that after the Red Wedding, it is more important than ever that she fulfills her promise to Catelyn and to protect her daughters. Arya who no one has seen for a long time (and Jaime believes is dead), and Sansa who was forced to wed Jaime’s brother Tyrion. After Joffrey’s death at his wedding, and Sansa’s escape from King’s Landing, Jaime tasks Brienne to continue her mission to protect the Stark Girls. He gifts Brienne with a suit of armor and one of the two Valerian Steel Swords that were crafted from Ned Stark’s Great Sword “Ice.” Jaime tells her it would be poetic that Brienne protects Ned Stark’s girls with a sword made from his. He asks her if she had a name for her new  sword. She called it “Oathkeeper.” In addition, as a favor to Tyrion, Jaime sends along Podrick Payne to serve Brienne as her “squire.” Brienne wants nothing to do with the idea as she is NOT a Knight and thus needs no Squire. Jaime tells her that Podrick’s life is in danger there in King’s Landing and she would be protecting him at the same time. She reluctantly agrees and over time, she becomes fond of Podrick and trains him to ride and fight with a sword so perhaps one day HE can become a Knight since the honor is denied her.

Brienne next encounters Jaime at Riverrun. Brienne has found Sansa, saving her from a group of Bolton men after Theon Greyjoy helped her to escape. Sansa sends her along with Podrick to deliver a letter to Brynden Tully, who has regrouped his forces whilst under siege from the Freys. Upon arriving, they discover that the combined forces of House Lannister and House Frey are besieging the castle. Soon, they are surrounded by several Lannister horsemen. Brienne tells them that she has come to see Ser Jaime Lannister and to “tell him I have his sword”. Jaime and Brienne meet discreetly in a tent. While Brienne has found Sansa, their situation is complicated by a bounty that Cersei Lannister has placed on Sansa’s head. Brienne tells Jaime that she has come to secure Brynden’s help in seeking reinforcements for her campaign to retake Winterfell from the Boltons.

Jaime tells her that her task will be difficult since he is laying siege to Riverrun. Brienne asks Jaime to let her negotiate with the Blackfish. If she can convince him to help, Brynden and his men will leave the castle at night to travel to Winterfell thus avoiding bloodshed. Before she takes her leave, she points out that, if she is unsuccessful, then honor will compel her to fight alongside the Tully’s (for Sansa’s family) to fight against Jaime. Jaime expresses hope that it doesn’t come to that. She then offers Oathkeeper back to him, stating that it was given to her for a purpose, and that purpose has been fulfilled.

Jaime looks at her and tells her to keep the sword. “It’s Yours. It’ll always be yours.” He leaves it with her in order to continue to fulfill the oath it was named after. Unfortunately, Brienne fails in her attempt to convince the Blackfish, and in the end, the castle is taken with him as the only casualty. Just before he goes off to meet his death, Blackfish puts Brienne and Podrick into a rowboat in a secret escape tunnel. As Brienne and Podrick row quietly away, Jaime looks down and sees them in the boat but instead of sounding the alarm, he just waves goodbye to her, as she does the same.

Their final meeting before this season was the Seventh Season final when Jon Snow and Daenerys tried to convince Cersei to cease hostilities and agree to join together to face the common enemy of the dead. They show her a wight they captured and how they can be destroyed. Cersei would only agree if after the war with the dead that Jon agree to return to the North and take no side in the coming battle for the throne. Jon was unable to make that promise as his honor demanded that he admitted that he had given his loyalty and fidelity to Queen Daenerys. Cersei then withdrew her offer of unity and left the meeting. Brienne approached Jaime asking him to try to convince Cersei to see reason. Jaime reminded her he was honor bound to his Queen. “Fuck Honor!” Said Brienne.  Jaime was shocked by her statement as Brienne was ALL about honor. He was also taken aback by the fact she swore. “Fuck Honor?”

In the end, Cersei returned promising her troops for the coming war while not meaning any of it. Jaime however had promised he would fight for the living and he meant to honor that promise, despite Cersei’s threat of turning the Mountain on him. So now, Jaime is in Winterfell, he has went through his trial and was saved by Brienne who declared  that the Jaime she knows IS a man of honor. She would fight along side him, which was good enough for Sansa. Now we know that Jaime WILL fight along side her as he is under her command. Which brings us to the Winterfell Hall, and the gathering of a unique group of warriors, advisors, and Tormund. I know he fits under the category of “warrior” but the dude marches to a different drum, as his Giant’s milk story will attest to. They are spending perhaps their last moments in the warmth of a fire and their unlikely group of comrades. Tyrion remarks how strange it is that most of them in that room had at one time or another fought against the Starks, and now here they were, in their castle, ready to defend it… Together. Brienne counters with that at least they will die with honor.

Tyrion, for his part, expresses the belief that they will somehow all survive the coming conflict. He bases this on past battles that they had somehow survived. Ser Davos Seaworth survivor of both the Battle of Black Water and the Battle of the Bastards. “All without a shred  of combat ability, says Ser Davos.  Ser Jaime Lannister, fabled hero of the Siege of Pike. “Fabled loser of the battle at Whispering Woods,” reminds JaimeSer Brienne of Tarth, defeated the Hound. “Pardon me, Lady Brienne.”…and that’s when the fun begins. Her smile at the end warms the heart and tells you how much being a Knight really means to her.

So we  have come full circle on the eve of a battle that likely most will not survive. However, in the time they had, a moment was made to recognize the relationship that has been built over 6 seasons between now Ser Brienne of Tarth and Ser Jaime Lannister. A relationship built initially on distrust and scorn, and then mutual respect, and what comes next, will likely depend on the next 82 minutes in Game of Throne’s History. Are you ready? The Dead are here.