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We Need to Talk About Jaime Lannister

And the last scene of “The Spoils of War”

Illustration of Jaime Lannister looking up at a dragon HBO/Ringer illustration
A flashing GIF that says SPOILER ALERT

Jaime begins the Battle of the Oh My God, Dragons Are Real and Terrifying (name pending) by telling Bronn, “We can hold them off.” This promise, spoken seconds before Drogon swoops in, is already wishful thinking. The Dothraki, who have just appeared on the horizon, are already an elite fighting force, and the Lannister army is overtired from battle and lugging gold across the Reach. As Robert Baratheon said in Season 1, “Only a fool would meet the Dothraki in an open field.” As Jaime is processing his bleak odds, a thunderous roar echoes across the battlefield. Drogon has entered the game. Checkmate.

After 64 episodes—and some 150 years, in Westerosi time—of waiting, the sight of a dragon unleashing its full power on an unsuspecting army is as cathartic for Thrones fans as it is terrifying for Lannisters. The destruction is instant: Drogon turns accomplished foot soldiers into an impromptu barbecue. The sound design in “The Spoils of War” gives Drogon’s fire an extra weight, as his flames explode off the ground, literally turning Jaime’s soldiers to ash before his eyes. Season 2’s Battle of Blackwater showed us the scope of this show’s conflicts, and Season 5’s Massacre at Hardhome introduced the Night King’s full, terrible power. With the final set piece in “The Spoils of War,” we finally witness the destructive power of Dany’s dragons.

For Jaime and everyone else on the receiving end of this fireworks show, the events are a massacre unlike any Westeros has seen since the Dance of the Dragons. Maybe that is why Jaime loses all his Kingslayer control and stupidly charges a dragon at the end of the episode. He’s overwhelmed and out of options. This is the logical end of Jaime Lannister, and it’s possible that the great commander instinctively knows as much.

The question is: Does the show? The last shot of Jaime plunging to the depths was inconclusive, though it’s unlikely the show would have Bronn dramatically pushed Jaime out of Drogon’s way just to watch the Kingslayer drown. By all common sense, he should be dead. Jaime was wearing a nearly full suit of armor when Bronn tackled him into the Blackwater Rush, including the two swords he almost always carries and his golden hand—another useless hunk of metal that will just drag Jaime toward the depths. Do you think you could make a swim up to the surface with just one hand while wearing those gaudy shoulder pads? And what happens if he does surface? Drogon can just burn him alive right then and there.

But the Kingslayer will almost certainly not die at the bottom of a puddle, or in a dragon barbecue just after emerging from said puddle—especially when there’s so much left for him to do. Moral shades of gray are a Thrones hallmark, and few characters embody that ambiguity better than Jaime. In the first episode, he nearly murders a child (though he did it for love!). By Season 3, he’s jumping, one-handed, into a bear pit to save Brienne. Though he may be aligned with Cersei now, Jaime is easily the most levelheaded player in King’s Landing (an admittedly low bar). Now that he’s seen the full power of Dany’s dragons, his perspective would bring palpable tension to King’s Landing—that is, if he ever makes it back there (though for storytelling purposes, he probably will). As Cersei tells Qyburn in the scenes for next week, “Whatever stands in our way, we will defeat it.” Jaime knows at this point that those words are a pipe dream—something Cersei will doubtlessly not like hearing. That makes him vulnerable in the long run, but too valuable to lose at this juncture.

If he makes it through another imprisonment and back to Cersei, will he still go along with her plan to conquer the Seven Kingdoms? Much of the grain and other resources the Lannisters were transporting went up in smoke, and the Reach is back under Dany's control. The few Lannister soldiers that did survive Drogon’s annihilation will be understandably terrified, and

Jaime has now seen that Qyburn's giant crossbow isn't the dragon-slaying superweapon he made it out to be last week. If Dany brings Rhaegal and Viserion into the fight, the Lannisters will be hopelessly outmatched.

Just look at him:

Jaime Lannister HBO

That is not the face of a man ready to run this battle back.

Jaime has already expressed some skepticism of Cersei’s ambitions, counseling the queen on the importance of allies in the premiere. Now he’s looked Drogon directly in the eyes and—probably—lived. Many fans have speculated that Jaime will end up killing his sister, fulfilling a prophecy from the book that states that a “little brother” will be her demise. This battle may set the stage for that to happen. If Cersei, secure in the relative safety of the Red Keep, continues to wage war against the Mother of Dragons, no one could blame Jaime if he decides to switch sides.

Disclosure: HBO is an initial investor in The Ringer.