Warning: The following contains spoilers for Game of Thrones season 7 episode 4: 'Spoils of War'
If the latest episode of Game of Thrones demonstrated nothing else, Jaime Lannister is an undeniable hero. He may have lost his sword-hand, but he’s more brave and resolute than ever. In "The Spoils of War," his fortitude nearly got him burnt to a crisp.
The Kingslayer had three opportunities to flee the ambush on the Blackwater Rush. When the Dothraki horde came rushing down the hillside, Bronn urged him to flee the scene, but Jaime stayed with his men. When Drogon incinerated the soldiers and their supplies, Jaime put his archers to work. When the dragon landed on the battlefield, Jaime reached for a measly spear and charged headlong towards Drogon and his rider. While the safety of King’s Landing beckoned, he rejected Cersei’s call and accepted his impending doom. Though Tyrion looked on and narrated the scene (“Flee you idiot. You f*cking idiot”), Jaime’s bloodlust and vengeance won the day.
As Drogon shielded Daenerys and took aim at his foe, Bronn mercifully tackled Jaime off his white horse and in the depths of the river. Out of the fire and into the water, he sank with a full suit of armor, a heavy gold hand, and an unconscious mind. 'The Spoils of War' left us with one of the cruelest cliffhangers of all the seven seasons.
This is Game of Thrones, and Jaime could very well be dead. Even when allotting for George R. R. Martin's sadism, however, it seems unlikely that the Kingslayer would be given such a thankless fate. Jaime is a household favorite with the broadest character arc of anyone on the show. While he may certainly meet his doom in the coming episodes, it’s quite unlikely that David Benioff and D.B. Weiss elected to knock him off Game of Thrones by a disrespectful drowning.
Secondly, Jaime has far too much left to do on the show (namely, to kill his sister). While some suspect he may be Azor Ahai (or The Prince That Was Promised), others point to Jaime as the solution to the Valonqar Prophecy introduced in season 5. Jaime may be in the depths of the Blackwater Rush, but he won’t be there for long. Consider it a baptism and rebirth that will serve as the catalyst for the Jaime we’ve always wanted: the one free from Cersei’s control. Fans love to jest about how Jaime’s “plot armor” outweighs his real armor, but in this case, his survival will be well earned.
Two questions remain: who will save Jaime, and how will he be changed from his brush with death?
Hostage or Fugitive?
While Bronn saved Jaime from Drogon’s flames, both men seemed helpless in the water. Jaime was clearly incapacitated, and while Bronn may have swum off, he wouldn’t have far to go before getting pulled out by the Dothraki or roasted by the dragon. The fingers of the Blackwater Rush do extend across the land and into the easterly bay, so while Bronn (and Jaime) could swim to safety, it seems far more likely that they become prisoners of Daenerys' army.
It’s a good thing Tyrion was on hand for the battle, otherwise, the Mother of Dragons would likely take her scalps and press on to King’s Landing. Given Tyrion’s blood relation to Jaime and his lifelong debt to Bronn, you can bet the dwarf will ardently vouch for the lives of both men.
After Dany’s flawless strike against the Lannister army, and the seventh season’s focus on her impending war with Cersei, it makes the most sense that Jaime becomes her hostage. He’s too great of a bargaining chip to pass up, and with Jaime off the battlefield, Cersei will lose her foremost army commander. Unless Randyll Tarly escaped by the skin of his teeth, he will also leave the increasingly-Mad Queen in the lurch. Without Jaime and Randyll and their now deceased rear-army, the King’s Landing militia has lost a major percentage of its ranks, putting more pressure on Euron Greyjoy’s naval command to over-perform.
While the loss of men is most devastating, it’s also important to note that Daenerys' epic routing of the Lannisters also claimed tons of food in the process. Towards the beginning of the episode, Randyll Tarly mentions, “The granaries are being emptied and loaded into wagons, my lord.” His son, Dickon, affirms, “We have teams of men collecting it from all the farms in the Reach.” As we clearly saw, all of that harvested food was scorched by Drogon, potentially leaving King’s Landing without much-needed supplies. Could a war of attrition be underway?
A Change Of Heart?
Jaime’s reunion with Tyrion has been a long time coming. Though the brothers left off on bad terms several seasons ago, Jaime recently learned that his hatred for Tyrion is misplaced. When Lady Oleanna took responsibility for the death of Joffrey, Jaime’s modus operandi was heavily altered. No longer driven to kill Tyrion, Jaime quietly questioned his blind fealty to Cersei, whose hatred and mistrust for Tyrion has never been clearer.
While it’s difficult to imagine Jaime bending the knee to Daenerys, Jaime is liable to listen to his younger brother’s wisdom. Deep down, Jaime knows his sister is unstable, dangerous, and untrustworthy. Even when she was crowned on the Iron Throne at the end of season six, Jaime looked positively nauseous. He knows he must divorce himself from her, but his decades of reliance and love for her make that a seemingly impossible task.
As a prisoner of Daenerys and the Dothrakis, however, the Kingslayer may not have much of a choice. Mere miles away from King’s Landing, Jaime will likely aid and abet in the destruction of the Lannister army. More importantly, he will be one step closer to fulfilling his long-theorized fate of killing Cersei and completing the Valonqar Prophecy.
While Jaime currently floats in a watery grave, his biggest days seem well ahead of him.
Game of Thrones returns next Sunday, 8/13 @ 9PM ET on HBO.