Why Jaime Lannister could surprise us all and end up on the Iron Throne
Jaime Lannister is certainly not the likeliest choice to end up ruling the Seven Kingdoms but can you think of any other character that has had a bigger arc?
The closing moments of the very first episode of 'Game of Thrones' confirmed him as a villain of the piece when he pushed Bran Stark out of a window in Winterfell without a second thought. But since then the show has slowly chipped away at him, revealing that underneath it all, he isn't actually that bad a guy (okay yes, pushing children out of windows aside).
Cersei Lannister has always been the undoing of Jaime, and in those earlier seasons, he would have risked life and limb for TV's most incestuous relationship. It would be another lady that would ultimately bring about Jaime's redemption, both in his own eyes and the viewers, and that, of course, was Brienne of Tarth.
Jaime is captured by the Starks near the end of season one, and in season two, Catelyn sends him off to King's Landing with Brienne to exchange him for her daughters (at that stage, the Starks assumed Arya was in King's Landing and not road-tripping around Westeros with Gendry and Hot Pie). This pair don't exactly hit it off and their antagonism leads them to a sword fight on a bridge which is interrupted by House Bolton. (Not Ramsay of course, he's busy torturing Theon while his dad Roose is over by Rob's side plotting the Red Wedding). This crowd are led by a fella called Locke.
It's during their time in captivity with Locke and his men that another side to Jaime emerges. We first see it when he manages to stop the men from raping Brienne by convincing them that she is actually a noblewoman and her extremely wealthy father will pay a ransom if she is unharmed. The men agree and leave Brienne alone but later turn on Jaime by chopping off his hand.
This is a massive turning point for Jaime. He loses his sword-fighting hand but also so much more than that. In the days after, he is a broken man and wishes only death on himself but it's Brienne that is there with him throughout it all to give him the tough love he needs.
When the pair end up in Harrenhal, they share one of the show's most powerful scenes as Jaime recounts exactly what happened to earn him the nickname of Kingslayer. As it turns out, it wasn't a grab for power, he was stopping the Mad King from burning the entire city to the ground using wildfire (the same stuff Cersei gets her hands on in season six).
Jaime is ultimately freed and sent back to King's Landing but he discovers on the way that Brienne is planned to be used for entertainment by House Bolton when Locke doesn't get the offer he believes is fitting from Brienne's supposedly rich father. Feeling responsible, Jaime forces the men to turn back and return to Harrenhal to find Brienne facing a bear in a gladiatorial pit. He jumps in to save her and the pair manage to narrowly escape death and flee to King's Landing.
Jaime and Brienne's friendship extended into their time in the capital but they went on to part ways as Jaime sent Brienne to find Sansa (with the help of a new squire, Podrick) in season four. They don't reunite until season seven where the mutual respect and affection between them is clear yet unspoken.
The impact of his time with Brienne, and importantly, away from his family, is seen throughout the seasons in between. In Jaime's decision to help Tyrion escape his death sentence, and in how he begins to see just how destructive and malevolent Cersei is.
The final straw with his sister came at the end of the most recent season, when Cersei revoked her promise to help Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen to fight the Night King, despite them going to all sorts of lengths to get evidence to prove it to her.
Jaime turns his back on his sister and heads North to take his place alongside the army of the living to fight for the survival of all humanity. He has finally shaken the chains of Cersei and while there is no doubt some kind of showdown is coming between this pair in season eight, it feels like there is very little Cersei could do to win back his affection. In fact, there are some theories that Jaime will be the one who kills Cersei in an act that would mirror how he stopped the Mad King from his tyranny.
Unless of course, things come completely full circle and Bran and his new fangled powers immediately take revenge on Jaime the moment he arrives at Winterfell. But.. sure look, he'll have had a good run.
Whatever happens, Jaime is now unrecognisable from the arrogant, self-serving Lannister we saw in season one, and has taken a journey of redemption that has not only been one of the most interesting to follow, but would also make him a strong contender to be a reliable and worthy set of hand(s) to leave the future of the Seven Kingdoms in.