Game of Thrones is one of the greatest and most-watched series in TV history (having just become the most awarded drama series in Emmy history), and that's partly because the characters are so well-written and densely layered. From supporting characters to the lords of the highest houses, it's difficult to categorize anyone as simply good or plain evil in Game of Thrones. With Jaime 'Kingslayer' Lannister, the grey areas have become more and more apparent over the show's six seasons.
Cersei Lannister's younger twin has made so many erratic and surprising choices, that it's impossible to continue to say he's truly a villain. Yes, he's done some terrible, terrible things (of which pushing Bran out of the Old Tower and maiming Eddard Stark back in Season 1 are great examples), but Jaime has also shown there's a road to redemption - even in Westeros. Here are six times when Jaime could have done his worst, but chose to be the better man instead.
Spoiler Warning: In case you're not caught up with Game of Thrones, this article contains some important plot details.
1. He Killed Aerys 'The Mad King' Targaryen
As a member of the Kingsguard, Jaime was sworn to protect the life of his king - but when Aerys went way off the sanity wagon, Jaime decided to break his oath. Aerys had been on a mad rampage for a while, so much so that Tywin Lannister (Jaime's father, and then Hand of the King) left his post and went back to his home in Casterly Rock. The king had commissioned wildfire to be produced in large scale, and used it to burn Rickard and Brandon Stark because of a bogus treason charge.
Robert's rebellion was launched and went from strength to strength, which drove Aerys grew even crazier. The voices in his head - the ones that constantly told him to "burn them all" - became louder and louder, and he decided he'd rather have King's Landing burnt to the ground than see Robert Baratheon overtake it. In Season 3 of Game of Thrones, it is finally revealed what actually transpired in the Great Hall before Eddard Stark found Jaime sitting on the throne. Knowing thousands of people were going to die by the Mad King's wildfire, Jaime put his own sword into the king's back - and even sliced his neck "just to be sure". His honor would forever be stained, but Jaime chose to save a whole city in spite of this.
2. He Protected Brienne's Virtue
When Catelyn Stark betrayed her son Robb, a.k.a. the King in the North, and sent Jaime on a journey to King's Landing, she choose the loyal Brienne of Tarth to be the Kingslayer's escort. As we expected, Jaime and Brienne got off on the wrong foot, and one could cut the tension with a knife whenever the two were together. Slowly though, Jaime was understood Brienne's abilities as a knight, and he began to respect her for it.
When both Jaime and Brienne got captured by Bolton men, Jaime warned Brienne that she would have a rougher time of it, because she was a woman. Later that night, when the men came for her, he told Locke, their leader, that Brienne came from Tarth - which was called Sapphire Island - and that her father would pay her weight in gemstones if they returned her home. Despite being untrue, the story prevented Brienne from being raped by the Bolton men; it also drew attention to Jaime, which led to him having his sword hand chopped off.
3. He Also Protected Brienne's Life
Taken to Harrenhal afterwards, Jaime and Brienne were met by Roose Bolton. In order to gain the Lannister's - especially Tywin's - favor, Bolton agreed to send Jaime off to King's Landing. Brienne, on the other hand, was left in Harrenhal to be judged for treason, which surprisingly didn't sit well with Jaime. On his way to King's Landing, he doubled back and got to Harrenhal just in time to watch Brienne fighting a bear in a pit.
With nothing but his one hand and his determination, Jaime jumped in the pit and stood between Brienne and the beast. After nearly falling prey to the bear himself, Jaime managed to rescue Brienne and escape. Not only that, but he left behind him a hoard of angry Bolton men when he took Brienne with him to King's Landing.
4. He Stayed True To His Word
"A Lannister always pays his debts" are the choice words for his house, and Jaime went out of his way to make sure his promise to Catelyn Stark was fulfilled. Upon his release from the Stark camp, Jaime gave his word to Lady Stark that he would see to it that her daughters were delivered back to their mother. He had been away from King's Landing for way too long to know if the girls were even still alive but, when he returned, he made sure his word was kept.
As a Lannister and sworn enemy to the Starks, he couldn't realize the deed himself, so he enlisted the help of his faithful new-found friend, Brienne. He gifted her with a brand new armor and with the sword his father had just given him. Because the blade had been forged with the melted Valyrian steel from Ice - the ancient Stark sword - Jaime saw it fit to give it to Brienne, and have her use it to protect the Stark girls. She, in turn, named it Oathkeeper, in honor of the vow she made to Catelyn - and to Jaime. Considering the bad blood Jaime had with the Starks, that was a milestone in atoning for his misdeeds.
5. He Gave Tyrion A Chance
Jaime was the sole Lannister to ever treat Tyrion as actual family. The youngest of the Lannister children, Tyrion had always had it rough in his family, with his father refusing to acknowledge him as a son, and his Queen sister constantly despising him. Jaime and Tyrion shared a different kind of relationship, in which mutual respect - and some tenderness - played a key part.
The Purple Wedding was a terrible event for the Lannisters, as it marked the assassination of King Joffrey - one of Cersei and Jaime's incest progeny. Tyrion, and his then-bride Sansa Stark, were blamed for the murder and, while Sansa managed to escape, Tyrion didn't share her luck. He was set to face trial for murdering the king, during which Jaime helped his younger sibling in two occasions. First, he brokered a deal with their father for Tyrion's life, in which Jaime agreed to abandon the Kingsguard to become Casterly Rock's lord. When that fell through because Tyrion chose trial by combat and failed, Jaime assisted the Imp in getting away from King's Landing.
6. He Became A Hardcore Diplomat
In Season 6, Jaime had to deal with the aftermath of the events that took place in King's Landing while he was away. First, upon his return from Dorne with his dead daughter in tow, he learns about Cersei's atonement walk of shame and confronted the High Sparrow, to no avail. Then, he was stripped of his Kingsguard position by none other than his own son, the young King Tommen. Sent to the Riverlands at the head of the Lannister army, Jaime had to quench the Blackfish's rebellion and return Riverrun to the Freys.
There were many different ways in which he could have chosen to go about that siege, but Jaime opted for a more diplomatic approach. After a brief meet-up with his long lost friend Brienne, Jaime accepted her plan to end the siege without bloodshed. Later, even though Brienne's plan failed, Jaime successfully expelled the Tullys from their ancestral home. Some may say that Jaime was the villain in this (because he threatened Edmure with killing his child if he didn't convince his men to back down), but Jaime did end the siege with much less blood than a battle would have - all in the name of his love for Cersei.
Jaime Lannister is one complicated man, and my guess is there's a huge emotional and moral turmoil going on in his head most of the time. He's bound by duty to his family, but sometimes that conflicts with his own moral standards, and things get tricky. In hopes of pleasing his father, he became the cruel and merciless soldier Tywin wanted him to be. But whenever the choice between killing or not was his alone, Jaime always thought it through. Cersei has made him her puppet, doing her biding and using their mutual love for her own interests, but in more than one occasion Jaime has ignored her commands.
Starting off in Season 1 as the incestuous brother of the Queen, Jaime Lannister has clearly faced some hard choices, but deep down he seems to struggle to be a better man. Meeting Brienne and forging some sort of relationship with her has clearly helped Jaime, since he tends to make better choices whenever she's around. Though it could simply be that Brienne triggered something that had always been present in Jaime; a sense of morality and honor he never really had the chance to use free from his family's interference.
As the next season comes, Jaime will have the chance of a lifetime to right his ways or continue his wrongdoings. His beloved sister has done the exact thing he tried to prevent and burned half of King's Landing - including their uncle - to the ground with wildfire. We'll just have to wait and see whether he'll stand by her and rule alongside his new Queen or he'll be the death of her.