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There are only six episodes in the final season of Game of Thrones. One has aired. Five remain. As it stands, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau has his work cut out for him in order to enjoy as much screen time as some of his colleagues, considering that his role as Jaime Lannister was relegated to precisely one scene in the premiere: the final one. The good news, as he puts it: “Well, it’s a great scene.”
“Winterfell,” an episode filled with callbacks to the series premiere, “Winter Is Coming,” ends in a way that calls the series’ first installment to mind: Jaime encountering Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright) in incredible, unexpected fashion. Back then, Jaime pushed Bran out of a window in order to preserve his secret relationship with Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey). Now, he does not quite know how to handle the first familiar face he sees in the North.
“I’m sure he went through all kinds of scenarios about what would happen when he went back to Winterfell,” Coster-Waldau tells The Hollywood Reporter, “and I’m sure that’s the last thing he expected to see. Once again, it’s kind of the same conundrum as in episode one of the whole show. If this kid, this young man, tells anybody what he knows? Well, Jaime is in trouble.”
It’s already tense enough, Jaime returning to Winterfell after seven full seasons away. His family waged all-out war against House Stark, killing its patriarch, matriarch and eldest son. Jaime’s own children are dead, cold and gone before he could ever publicly acknowledge them as his sons and daughter. The only person he truly loves, Cersei, has gone far off the deep end, so dead set on her grudges that she plans to sabotage the Stark-Targaryen alliance, even in the face of overwhelming supernatural death. In the face of all that, Jaime still feels it’s his duty to ride North and fight for the living — a testament to the quiet honor at his core, a code he keeps buried using his cynicism and wit, lest anyone know the true reason why he “kingslayed” Aerys Targaryen so many years ago.
For those who don’t remember: Jaime killed the Mad King in order to stop him from decimating all the men, women and children in King’s Landing. His reward for such a morally challenging but ultimately heroic act: a lifelong reputation as the dishonorable Kingslayer. In the world of Game of Thrones, at least one person understands Jaime’s struggle: Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie). Perhaps there is another unlikely person in Jaime’s corner: Bran himself, whose abilities as the Three-Eyed Raven mean he can see events across time. Indeed, in season six, Bran saw flashes of the night Jaime killed the Mad King. Is the boy Jaime pushed out a window so many years ago about to become his least likely ally in convincing Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) to not only spare his life for killing her father, but actually accept his help as well?
“He did say early on in this episode that he was waiting for an old friend; he knows things,” Coster-Waldau allows about the possible friendship with Bran. Beyond that? Lips are sealed: “It’s such a cliffhanger that for me to give anything away would be [career] suicide.”
But he did offer this overview of the Jaime Lannister arc: “I don’t see him as a hero. I see him as a guy who is incredibly dedicated to his family and the people he loves. I do believe the line he says when he pushes Bran out the window — ‘The things I do for love’ — it’s really the core of him. He will do whatever it takes to protect the people he loves. In the first season, it was Cersei and their children. Who knows what happens in season eight, but I really think that’s at his core. I also think the reason he left Cersei is because he loves her and he loves the unborn child inside of her. That’s one thing. The other thing is, he is a man of his word. Even though he’s known as this dishonorable man, he actually does always follow through — except that once, with the Mad King. He did save a million people, but who’s counting?”
Reporting by Patrick Shanley.
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