When Brienne Met Jaime: The Rom-Com Hiding in ‘Game of Thrones’

Game of Thrones _ Brienne and Jamie

This guest post written by Victoria Edel appears as part of our theme week on Game of Thrones.


There’s a girl. She’s an outsider, derided for her looks. Girl meets a handsome, golden boy. Girl hates boy. Boy hates girl. Girl and boy are thrown together by a situation outside their control. Girl and boy begin to slowly like each other, their bickering boarding on flirtation. Their new bond is tested, they tell each other their secrets, and they help one another. Just as they balance starts to shift, girl and boy no longer have to be together. A mean, beautiful woman mocks the girl for loving the boy. The two are separated, perhaps to never be together again.

That’s three-quarters of the plot of many romantic comedies. The girl might be nerdy, or wear glasses, or dress badly, or whatever Hollywood has decided is supposedly unattractive that year. The boy might be popular or have a fancy job or be a successful athlete.

It’s also three-quarters of the plot of Brienne and Jaime’s storyline on Game of Thrones. She’s a tall, stereotypically masculine woman who longs to be a knight, and he’s the most handsome and — probably — the most reviled man in Westeros.

Many Game of Thrones fans would claim that the show’s appeal is “realism” — anyone can die, good guys and bad guys are almost indistinguishable, nothing is guaranteed. But those viewers have confused realism with pessimism. Sadness is no more “realistic” than happiness, defeat no more honest than victory. (Of course, what “realism” even means in the context of dragons and magic in a fictionalized world could be its own think piece.) Game of Thrones gets too gloomy for me sometimes. It doesn’t feel real to me — it feels endlessly contrived.

But in that web of gloom, there’s this beautiful shining light: Brienne and Jaime. And while rom-coms are not often praised for their realism, to me, this couple is the most grounded, sensible thing about the show.

Brienne of Tarth is tasked with delivering Jaime Lannister to King’s Landing, ordered by Catelyn Stark to trade him for her daughters. After they get kidnapped by a roving band who cut off Jaime’s hand and threaten Brienne with sexual violence, they start to come together. And they share some gorgeous romantic moments, namely his confession about why he killed the Mad King and when they escaped the bear pit. Their love is apparent, if never uttered aloud.

When they finally reach King’s Landing, you can see the sadness on their faces as they realize what this means, that here they cannot be together. And Cersei drives this home when she mocks Brienne for loving Jaime. In a teen movie, she’d be a cheerleader. In a rom-com she’d work for a fashion magazine.

And so Jaime sends Brienne off to try to finish her mission, to protect the Stark girls, giving her a new suit of armor and a new sword. Like any good couple in Act Three of their story, they don’t say “I love you,” but you can see it in their eyes.

Game of Thrones_Brienne and Jamie 2

The most recent season contained not a single Jaime and Brienne interaction, which might explain my decreased interest in Westeros. But I remain hopeful that this unlikely pair will reunite before the series ends, even if they don’t get to ride off into the happily ever after I want them to have.

In many movies and television shows, supposedly “ugly” women are still stunningly beautiful, their flaws just small quirks. Think of teen movies with makeovers that amount to removing a pair of glasses and getting a blow out. But Brienne actually represents a different standard of beauty, one that would not be appreciated in her fictional world and is rarely appreciated in ours. So when this handsome, flawed, but (arguably) good, man loves this flawed but wonderful woman, it means something different.

I see myself in Brienne. We’re domineering, strong women (though she would clearly win in a fight) who aren’t traditionally beautiful, who beautiful, handsome men usually overlook. There are no fat women who get to be main characters in Game of Thrones, so Brienne is the character I’m left to identify with.

It sounds bizarre to say the romantic storyline I relate the most on television right now takes place on a show with dragons and magic and endless war and mysterious ice monsters and the woman is a super-tall warrior and the man is an incest-y blonde with one hand — and yet.

Perhaps this says more about the rest of television than it does Game of Thrones. On shows with traditional romance, everyone is stunningly gorgeous. And on shows like Crazy Ex-Girlfriend or You’re The Worst or The Mindy Project, where they’re deconstructing romance from the inside, everyone is still beautiful. Fat women are set apart from these love stories, almost completely absent from TV. And having Brienne is not the same as having a fat woman, but it’s the closest I’ve got.

In a way, Jaime and Brienne’s story is also deconstructing and analyzing the rom-com genre, since it places the tropes in an absurd environment. Jaime is this very despicable person for a long time, until his relationship with Brienne begins to change him (and even then, his actions in King’s Landing are not without reproach, though that’s a can of worms for another time). But maybe that reveals the truth of rom-coms that is often lost in silliness — people can make each other better, they do change, and they do love each other in spite of the odds.

If this really were a rom-com, they’d get married and live in a shack somewhere winter never comes. But this is Game of Thrones, so they’ll probably accidentally kill each other or something. But I just want to see them kiss. Even if they both die immediately after. I just want a weird-looking lady to be loved and kissed by a very handsome man. We get the reverse of this all the time. And if Game of Thrones did this, maybe it would, for a moment, live up to its claim of “realism,” of being daring and different.


Victoria Edel is a writer, funny person, and loud-mouthed fat lady. Follow her on Twitter @victoriaedel and retweet your two favorite jokes. She really needs the ego boost.