Beyond The Wall

Why That Cersei and Jaime Moment Was Surprisingly Emotional

This post contains spoilers up through Game of Thrones Season 8, Episode 5, "The Bells." Visit Beyond the Wall, our official Game of Thrones hub page for recaps, theories, spoilers, explainers, and the best episodes of all time.

Over the preceding seven-plus seasons, Game of Thrones split and fractured the Lannister family, the first true villains of the show, blonde lions with incestuous secrets and a lust for power. But as the narrative comes to a close, the Lannister bond remains strong as ever while Daenerys rains dragon fire on King's Landing. Even Tyrion, who's suffered years of mental and physical torture at the hands of his father and sister, proves he's a Lannister through and through. 

Alas, Tyrion's attempts at heroics are all for naught. Jaime and Cersei meet their demise as the walls of the Red Keep crumble around them. There is no happy ending for them and their unborn child, despite Tyrion's hopeful pep talk to Jaime when he's freeing the Kingslayer from the North's prison camp. After a truly harrowing journey that saw Jaime kill Euron Greyjoy after the psychopathic Ironborn who seemed to enjoy dying mortally wounded him, the Kingslayer staggers to the underbelly of the Keep, where he finds Cersei. 

The steely gaze that Cersei has maintained for almost the entire season crumbles. She breaks down, displaying a rare vulnerability. "Please don't let me die," she says as they embrace. "I don't want to die." As their fate closes in, Jaime's perspective grows myopic. "Look at me -- just look at me," he tells her. "Nothing else matters. Only us." When audiences met him in the pilot, he was a man who would do anything for love, even murder a young child. Now he maintains that same focus, but without the quippy punchline. Nothing matters except his forbidden love for his sister. At least he's found his passion in life.

What's odd is the sincerity with which writers and directors David Benioff and D.B. Weiss approach Cersei and Jaime's deaths. Their relationship was always defined by its ick factor, but that's nonexistent here. Cersei makes the fatal error to remain in her castle for as long as she possibly can, but Daenerys' actions are so extreme that you almost feel bad for her in the end. Her seat hasn't just been usurped; her entire personality has.

And while Tyrion doesn't manage to get his sister and brother to safety, he is able to unite them as they gasped their last breaths, proving one of his early statements correct. In the second episode of the entire series, "The Kingsroad," Jaime, while discussing Bran's recent "accident," tells Tyrion, "My dear brother, there are times you make me wonder whose side you are on." Tyrion responds: "My dear brother, you wound me, you know how much I love my family." 

That remains true to the end. Daenerys' forces capture Jaime, recognizing his false hand, as he tries to get back into King's Landing after having left Brienne in the North. The night before the massacre Tyrion negotiates with a guard in order to visit his brother. (His fumbling Valyrian is the only bit of humor in this grim-as-hell episode.) Tyrion's purpose is both practical and sentimental. He believes that if Jaime can convince Cersei to abandon the conflict, thousands of innocent lives can be saved -- among them Cersei and Jaime's own child. Jaime is resistant, embracing the evil persona he'd been shedding for several years. "You do care for one innocent," Tyrion tells him. "I know you do, but so does Cersei. She has a reason now." He wants them to go to Pentos and start a new life.

Jaime finally relents, but his concern turns to Tyrion and what Daenerys will do if she finds out about his betrayal. It's a risk Tyrion is willing to take. "Tens of thousands of innocent lives -- one not particularly innocent dwarf," he says. "Seems like a fair trade. If it weren't for you I never would have survived my childhood." Jaime retorts, "You would have." But Tyrion shoots back, "You were the only one who didn't treat me like a monster. You were all I had." His actions are for the good of mankind, yes, but they also prove that he wasn't lying all those years ago: He really does love his family. 

Of course, he underestimates the full fury of Daenerys' wrath, a wrath he'll likely face if and when she sits on the Iron Throne in the finale. And despite his efforts, Jaime and Cersei have no way of escaping. Jaime would've died from Euron's blows anyway. By the time he makes it to his sister, Drogon has already torched the entire city. They would have died no matter what, but it's somehow kind of sweet that they made it to each other in their final moments. It doesn't exactly fulfill the Valonqar prophecy that said Cersei would die by the hands of a younger sibling, unless you interpret it very loosely -- change the "by" to an "in" and point out that Jaime is technically younger, and you've done it.

It may not be earned, but Game of Thrones still has the potential to surprise. In the penultimate episode, it made the Lannister name a sympathetic one.

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Esther Zuckerman is a senior entertainment writer at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @ezwrites.