In the fourth episode of Game of Thrones’ eighth season, one of the most startling moments in an episode full of them came when Jaime Lannister left Brienne to travel to King’s Landing, shortly after the two finally consummated their slow-burning romance.
“The Last of the Starks” saw Jaime initially plan to stay with Brienne in Winterfell — a pretty huge decision for him, considering his not-so-harmonious past relationship with some of Winterfell’s residents. But then Jaime and Tyrion received a visit from their old frenemy Bronn, who showed up to threaten them with a crossbow because Cersei has put a price on both their heads. Bronn negotiated with the pair, agreeing to accept two swank castles in exchange for their lives. And then next thing we knew, Jaime was cruelly leaving Brienne in the dead of night, offering up his own spin on that old breakup classic, “It’s not you, it’s me.”
In their goodbye scene, Jaime explains to Brienne that for most of his life, his primary motivation has been to return to Cersei’s side — and that’s why he’s chosen to leave Brienne now. Even more heartbreakingly, per the episode’s director, David Nutter, Jaime coldly informs Brienne, “I don’t love you anymore,” as the camera focuses on her face, though we don’t hear him say this. Her tearful reaction upon hearing it is what we see onscreen as Jaime rides away.
Setting aside what sounds like a pretty sadistic approach from Nutter in terms of how the scene was filmed, Jaime and Brienne’s exchange contains a lot of implications for Jaime Lannister himself. He tells Brienne raggedly that he has to return to Cersei because “she’s hateful — and so am I.” But what does that mean? Is he going back to join her because he misses her, or because they’re two of a kind? Is he going to try to reason with her before she does anything to hurt his new comrades from the North, who are already traveling south to kill her? Is he going to try to defend Cersei by fighting against them?
When I first viewed this scene, Jaime’s motivation seemed obvious to me: He’s going back to King’s Landing not to reunite with Cersei, but to kill her. However, after talking to other Game of Thrones viewers in the days since the episode aired, I’ve realized there is by no means a general public consensus on what Jaime’s plans are.
With that said, there are plenty of clues we can pick up from Game of Thrones itself about what’s to come. I stan a conflicted, redeemed, self-loathing hero, not an incestuous fuckboi, so for anyone in doubt, here are all the reasons I’m confident that Jaime will try to kill Cersei.
1) Jaime initially left Cersei because he’s seen how sociopathic she’s become
When Jaime left Cersei to ride north in the season seven finale, he did so for a number of legitimate reasons. Not only did Cersei fail to tell him in advance that she was planning to lie about sending support to the north, she also failed to tell him that Euron Greyjoy was in on the plot — and that Euron was still looking to marry her. She also accused Jaime of conspiring against her with Tyrion, and told him he’d be committing treason if he joined the fight against the White Walkers. All of this underlines just how much the couple’s once-solid relationship has deteriorated.
Crucially, right before Jaime left, he pleaded with Cersei to recognize that she’s lost all her allies except for him — but she rejected that idea too. “I’m the only one you have left,” he told her.
“There’s one more yet to come,” she replied, referencing either Euron’s return from Essos or their unborn child, who may or may not exist. Both options would be bad news for Jaime, and it’s clear that Cersei thinks — or is least is acting as if — she no longer needs or wants Jaime in her life.
It’s important to remember just how frustrating that conversation was for Jaime. As it unfolded, we saw him realize just how despotic Cersei had become, and how willing she was to betray or throw over anyone and everyone who might challenge her quest for power. None of his appeals to her humanity caused her to even flinch — not even his reminder that their unborn child could be vulnerable to the then-impending threat of the army of the dead.
While he was trying to get her to care about saving all of civilization, she was thinking about how to take out one of Dany’s dragons. Jaime had hoped that now that Cersei had the throne, they might finally build a happy life together. Instead, she showed him just how thoroughly her entire focus had shifted staying in power.
And delusional, single-minded power grabs? Well, that’s just not something Jaime — the man who killed a king because the king was planning to destroy the whole city — is here for.
2) Hello, he just learned that she hired Bronn to kill him
The scene before Jaime leaves Winterfell involves him finding out that Cersei has sent Bronn to kill both him and Tyrion. Not only does she send Bronn, but she sends him — hilariously — with the same giant crossbow that Tyrion used to kill their father, Tywin, at the end of season four. The message Cersei is sending is that she views both brothers as having betrayed her and the Lannister name.
Cersei couldn’t bring herself to kill Jaime when he left her in King’s Landing in season seven. So somewhere in his mind, up until now, he’s probably been telling himself that she still has at least a smattering of love in her heart for him. But sending Bronn, a man who’s saved both Tyrion and Jaime’s lives repeatedly, with the giant traitor weapon is the kind of gleeful cruelty that Jaime knows Cersei tends to reserve for her worst enemies.
So when he decides directly after his encounter with Bronn to abandon Brienne and the happiness they’ve just found together to ride back into Cersei’s lair, he’s probably not doing it with the expectation that Cersei will welcome him with open arms.
3) Cersei may have nothing left to care about except power — and Jaime may have figured that out
Cersei’s supposed pregnancy has been a source of confusion for many viewers. For starters, at the beginning of season five, we saw young Cersei receiving a prophecy from a witch, who told her she would have only three children, each of whom has already died. Though there’s some indication that the pregnancy, which she learned about at the end of season seven, was a real thing — and that Jaime was the father — season eight has seen her tell Euron the baby is his, while also drinking wine, from which she’d abstained when she appeared to believe she was pregnant.
Whether or not Cersei’s pregnancy is real, all of this spells bad news for Jaime. When he left Cersei to go fight the army of the dead at the end of season seven, Jaime clearly believed Cersei would never kill the father of her unborn son. So when Bronn showed up in “The Last of the Starks” with marching orders (and the promise of cash) from Cersei to off both Tyrion and Jaime, it was probably a clear signal to Jaime that the status of Cersei’s pregnancy has changed. (However, it’s interesting, given the fact that the two brothers were together in this scene, that Tyrion clearly still believed Cersei was pregnant when he pleaded for Missandei’s life.)
From Jaime’s point of view, Cersei hiring Bronn to kill him could mean that she lied about being pregnant to begin with, or that she’s since had a miscarriage. Either way, Jaime understands better than anyone that with no future child in the picture, there really is nothing Cersei cares about at this point except holding on to the throne and striking down all her enemies, which makes her a threat to, well, everyone.
4) There’s a prophecy in the books — one the show has referenced — that says Cersei will die at the hands of her younger brother
The aforementioned prophecy was given to Cersei by a witch named Maggy the Frog. Maggy the Frog also appears in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire novels, on which the series is based — and in the books, the prophecy is more extensive than what we saw heard of it in season five’s opening episode, “The Wars to Come.”
In Martin’s novel A Feast for Crows, Maggy delivers a prophecy about Cersei becoming queen; she also foretells that Cersei will have three children. That part is repeated practically word for word on the TV show:
But on the show, the scene ends before Maggy’s last sentence in the book, which is, “And when your tears have drowned you, the valonqar shall wrap his hands about your pale white throat and choke the life from you.”
“Valonqar” is a High Valyrian word meaning “little brother.” Cersei has clearly always interpreted this prophecy to mean that Tyrion will kill her, and it definitely explains her longstanding hatred and mistrust of him. But Jaime is also her younger brother. Though they’re twins, Cersei is the elder — and that means Jaime could also be a candidate for the job. Additionally, Cersei probably isn’t thinking about Jaime as her potential killer, which makes her more likely to fall victim to him, as she would no one else.
So there you have it: a pretty strong case that Jaime riding off not to bask in Cersei’s arms, but to attempt to do what no one else can: remove her from the throne once and for all.
But if you’re anticipating a joyous reunion between Jaime and Brienne after he’s killed Cersei, not so fast.
The fact that Nutter had Jaime tell Brienne he no longer loves her when directing “The Last of the Starks” is a clear indication that Jaime believes he won’t be seeing her again, which means he’s probably anticipating a hell of a fight to get to his sister. (Remember, she’s protected by the Zombie Mountain.) That means that by the time he makes his way to Cersei and is able to deliver the fatal wound, he could well be wounded himself.
You may remember that he once told Bronn (in season five’s fourth episode, “Sons of the Harpy”) that he wished to die “in the arms of the woman I love.” It seems he may, ironically, be getting that wish granted far sooner, and under different circumstances, than he’d hoped.