No, Virginia, Jaime is Not a Proud Anti-Hero

I haven’t shot off my mouth on WordPress lately. Y’all miss me?

Today I’m going to talk about this somehow widespread idea of Jaime having kept quiet about the wildfire plot supposedly for “pride” or “spite,” like he’s committed a grave moral offense by not divulging the existence of the wildfire caches or, for short, I’ll call it the “Jaime Likes Being Called Kingslayer Theory.” Here is a list of reasons why this theory of Jaime’s motivations is FLAMING HOT GARBAGE.

  1. Removing the wildfire caches would have been a logistical nightmare. The city would have been put in much more danger by trying to dispose of the caches than by leaving them alone. If the existence of the wildfire had been made public knowledge without first ensuring it was safely destroyed, it would have caused a mass panic.
  2. Even if 17-year-old Jaime wasn’t aware of (and thus not motivated by) the logistical difficulties, why should he have assumed the wildfire caches wouldn’t have been just as devastating a tool of mass destruction in someone else’s hands?
    1. First, this boy was Tywin Lannister’s son. As in, the guy who drowned Castamere and slaughtered the Tarbecks. That was Jaime’s primary role model of a powerful man.
    2. And then he spent two years dealing with King Aerys II, who enjoyed setting people on fire and actually planned to blow up the city.
    3. It stands to reason, Jaime’s default expectation was that the wildfire caches would be used for blowing shit up and killing lots of people. Would the new King Robert have decided to blow up Dragonstone and get rid of Queen Rhaella and Prince Viserys? Why should Jaime have assumed he wouldn’t?
    4. Therefore, the pool of people he could have reasonably told about the wildfire caches was very, very small.
  3. To assume Jaime would have salvaged his reputation by telling someone about the Wildfire Plot presupposes that someone would have believed him.
    1. Even if he’d persuaded someone to come with him and see some of the wildfire stored beneath the city, all that would have proved is that the wildfire was there. They still might not have believed Jaime’s account of the king planning to blow up the city.
    2. Which means the consequences of his hypothetical disclosure would be:
      1. King Robert gets his hands on tons of explosives and does something awful, as Jaime has learned powerful men are likely to do.
      2. The realm still thinks Jaime killed the king for the most venal reasons and is an untrustworthy piece of shit.
      3. And on top of that, he’s seen as having puked up this self-serving malarkey about having to save the city, rather than just admit he killed the king because his daddy asked him to.
  4. Jaime has told someone about the Wildfire Plot, and he didn’t have to. He volunteered the story to Brienne.
    1. Why does no one ever ask why Brienne hasn’t shared the Wildfire Plot with anyone else? Why does no one ever characterize her as putting King’s Landing in danger of nuclear holocaust by keeping Jaime’s story to herself?
    2. If Brienne has good reasons for not blabbing about King Aerys having planned to blow up the city, it stands to reason Jaime has equally good reasons for not telling anyone except her.
    3. The better question is why Jaime told Brienne, after he spent 17 years telling no one else. And that brings us to…
  5. Both Ned Stark and Stannis Baratheon were advising the new King Robert to send Jaime to join the Night’s Watch as punishment for committing regicide. In that environment, Jaime had a good incentive to want King Robert to know his side of the story. That he did not tell the king suggests he had much better reasons for keeping quiet than “pride” or “spite.”
  6. The question of why Jaime didn’t tell anyone about the wildfire has already been posed on-page, and we have already seen Jaime’s response to that question. “Do you think the noble Lord of Winterfell wanted to hear my feeble explanations? Such an honorable man. He had only to look at me to judge me guilty.”
    1. We could spill metric tons of ink speculating on why Jaime is so focused on Ned in particular, but we do have this much: he imagines his story would have come across as “feeble explanations” if he’d tried to tell Ned what happened.
    2. Ergo: 17-year-old Jaime would have liked to tell someone, like Ned Stark, about the Wildfire Plot, but he was already being treated like a filthy fucking liar based on his having killed the king.
  7. Rather than asking “Why didn’t Jaime tell anyone?” (as if Brienne doesn’t exist), we could instead ask: “Why didn’t any of these powerful men ever try asking Jaime why he did what he did?” Barristan Selmy, as the new Lord Commander, could have asked his youngest Sworn Brother why he’d wiped his golden ass with his oaths, and he did not. King Robert could have asked; he didn’t. Jon Arryn could have asked, and I think Jaime would have actually told him, but the new Hand of the King did not have that meeting with the boy he’d convinced the king to pardon. Stannis Baratheon could have asked, and I don’t think Jaime would have told Stannis, but the interaction might have shown Jaime there were some trustworthy people who would give him a chance.
    1. All of those men knew Jaime was the last Kingsguard knight left at the Red Keep with Aerys at the end of the rebellion.
      1. Why the fuck did none of them ever consider Jaime could be the most generous, primary source for Aerys’s last acts? Surely they could have gotten something for the history books by asking for his side of the story?
      2. If the answer is “they assumed he’d lie his golden ass off,” then why the fuck do we need any further explanation for why Jaime never went out of his way to volunteer the information?
  8. “He didn’t tell anyone because he had every reason to think no one would believe him” is a perfectly sufficient answer to the question of why he didn’t tell anyone, given his sudden faint-in-the-tub display of emotion in sharing his story with Brienne.
  9. I have seen plenty of commentators simply presuppose that Jaime’s keeping quiet about the Wildfire Plot was an act of perverse narcissism, but so far I haven’t seen anyone present an actual argument for why “he chose to keep quiet because he likes being despised for his finest act” is a better explanation than “because he had every reason to think no one would believe him.”
    1. To go from Jaime’s railing against Ned Stark’s self-righteous ghost, to insisting he’s just the kind of asshole who likes to let everyone think the worst of him, is a substantial claim which requires substantial evidence. I haven’t seen anyone attempt to offer any evidence to that effect, probably because it doesn’t exist.
  10. At the time of becoming the Kingslayer, Jaime was a 17-year-old boy who’d spent the past two years combining the roles of bodyguard and hostage to a king whose preferred hobbies included setting people on fire and abusing his sister/wife. The guy who seldom flung children from towers to improve their health did not yet exist. (Another note: there may be a very few characters in ASOIAF who can travel through time. Jaime is not one of them.) Jaime’s attitude as a sister-fucking, child-tossing 33-year-old does not explain his decisions as a traumatized, isolated, vilified teenager. The fact that he was traumatized, isolated and being treated like a filthy fucking liar for saving the city, at such a tender age, is more than sufficient to explain why he didn’t share his story at that time.
    1. If you read the Bathtime at Harrenhal scene and what you got out of it was, “Oh, now I get it! Jaime let everyone treat him like a shithead because he’s just that type of asshole!” Then you’re missing out on a lot of Jaime’s arc.
    2. There is literally no stage of Jaime’s arc, including backstory, in which his behavior supports the theory that he willfully kept the wildfire a secret because he loves to play the cynical anti-hero. Jaime has never enjoyed being called Kingslayer.
  11. Jaime is absolutely right to say he is despised for his finest act. At the time of his act of regicide, there was no other reason for people to dislike or mistrust him. He’d fucked his sister at least once by that point, but that wasn’t public knowledge. The line of succession was not front-loaded with three blond children named Baratheon. No Stark child had been tossed out of a window. He had not served in his father’s invasion of the Riverlands. Tyrion had not been told his first marriage was a sham. Jory and Wyl had not been killed in the street behind a brothel. All of those things happened well after Jaime was established in his reputation as a filthy oathbreaker. There was no reason why Jaime, fresh off killing the king, would need to lie to himself about why everyone hated him.
  12. If it is so very difficult to imagine that a grown man doing shitty things was once a good kid who got screwed up and screwed over by people who should have known better, maybe ASOIAF is not the series you should be reading.
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