Thursday, February 6, 2014

[Re-read] Jaime V: Do the math, Jaime & Brienne in a bath

SER JAIME LANNISTER, the Kingslayer if you will, is not among the most fortunate characters at the moment. One moment you are the leading swordsman of the entire fricking realm, the next some slobbering lackwit cuts off your hand, blood spraying, and packs you off to Harrenhal and the foreboding presence of Lord Roose Bolton. I have to hand it to Benioff & Weiss, the scene where Jaime loses his hand was done in a fantastic and shocking way in the TV series. Even I was a little bit shocked. Something about the camera angle and Jaime pulling away his arm and the hand not following. Awesome. I remember reading this the first time and I was like WTF IS THIS NOW and then you kind of accept it, because it's George and somehow I forgot that George can take it even farther and next time you meet Jaime someone's actually gone and put his dismembered hand around his neck as a fricking adornment. Depravity. You can find it in Westeros, if you're looking for some. Fortunately, Martin sometimes gets all nice and cozy with his characters to, and in this particular chapter, he's so kind as to provide Ser Jaime Onehand with a bath. You have to take these small moments of luxury and rest and hold on to them. They do not come up very often. But can Martin write a good scene when there's no backstabbing, outright murder or depressing rape? Why, yes he can.

HERE, the TV creators have pretty much copied/pasted Martin's first paragraph: the scene does indeed take place in a low-ceiling room with great stone tubs, and Jaime does indeed tell Brienne not to scrub her skin off. Jaime muses that her hands are as big as Gregor's (which I personally find hard to imagine, perhaps the TV series has changed my image of Brienne too much, because she's a great-looking shapely woman here). She wonders what Jaime is doing here, to which Jaime responds dryly that Roose Bolton had invited him for supper, but Jaime's fleas were not. He lost a hand, but not his wit.

Jaime needs help to get undressed, and "the man" obeys grudgingly. Here, the editor should have given us a hint beforehand that there's a man standing next to Jaime (initially he only writes hat "they led Jaime in"). Oh, and there's a hatchet-faced (of all things) woman attending Brienne too; both are told to leave by Jaime, however, and I suppose that this shows us that Jaime still has a commanding air about him. Jaime decides to share Brienne's tub even though there are more tubs here. Does he, without thinking it, yearn for comfort, even if it is from his captor? The scene above continues to stay really close to the source material, which I am grateful for as a fan of the books. Lines like "If I faint, pull me out" and "You swore a solemn vow" are kept largely intact. Said it before, saying it again - Martin's dialogue is already good enough for TV, no need to tinker overly much with the material.  Said no Benioff or Weiss ever.
Moments of awkwardness - Brienne trying to hide her body from his eyes, him telling her there's nothing to be worried about - he's seen it all before, and he has no desire for her bruised body. I wonder how many clouts I would have gotten if I were as straightforward and sarcastic as Jaime Lannister. Of course, he's a noble Lannister, he's used to be able to talk as he wishes and others will just have to defer to him and accept his verbal slaps.

Jaime begins to scrub himself, the mud dropping off his skin. He tries to aggravate her, telling her that she should be happy he lost his hand. It was, after all, the hand that slew the Mad King; the hand that pushed Bran out of the window; and the hand he used to, ahem, explore Cersei's secrets if you catch my drift. "No wonder Renly died, with you guarding him," Jaime finishes and ouch! That's not a really nice thing to say at all. Jaime knows she loved him. That's just mean. But so is pushing boys out of windows, of course. She rises then, forgetting her nakedness, ready to go at him,  and Jaime catches a glimpse of her "blonde bush", and he feels himself getting horny (which he thinks of as "absurd", and thus, unexpected). I think Jaime is lying a bit here, by the way, about "having seen so much" - he's always been loyal to his sister, and his sexual experiences begin and end with her. Jaime decides to go all humble, asking Brienne to forgive him for that comment. And here we have a first hint of Brienne's relationship to Ser Duncan the Tall (the Hedge Knight):; when she believes Jaime is mocking him, he says, "Are you as thick as a castle wall?" He does want to apologize to her, telling her he's tired of fighting with her. Brienne argues that she cannot trust Jaime, and with that, we are led into a section where we get to learn more about Jaime's view on how things went down back when he killed Aerys Targaryen, the Mad King. And it's quite interesting, to finally get to hear his version, which kind of twists your perception of Jaime. It should have been obvious - history is subjective. He became the Kingslayer, yes, but why did no one call Robert an oathbreaker? "He tore the realm apart, yet I am the one with shit for honor." Yes, Jaime, the world - history - is unfair, and you've been punked.

The heat of the water and his pain make him dizzy and faint, and as he talks he goes into a dream-like state, remembering... And we get a longish account of what happened after the Battle of the Bells (a battle that we'll hear more about in subsequent volumes), which is pretty interesting because Martin keeps it short and to the point, crafting a nice 'historical' scene that I guess most fans would love to experience as an actual narrative complete with POVs. Martin could lease out his backstory for other writers, perhaps? We hear about Lord Chelsted, and Rossart the pyromancer-become-Hand, and how Jaime stood there, passive, at the dais of the Iron Throne, watching the Mad King do all these vile things to people. And eventually Jaime had enough, and killed him. That was the really short version. But the point is important - Jaime's act was more heroic than vile; his Kingslayer monniker is rather undeserved; and it reinforces Martin's point that you must consider everything from many angles, to find, somewhere, that kernel of truth. Great writing, that, and seldom seen in fantasy literature. Martin toys with a number of respected literary themes, if I can call it that, easing them into a fantastical tale seemingly without effort. 

To further rub it in - that we shouldn't see Ser Jaime as a villain but more a flawed character - the Mad King asked Jaime to kill his own father, Lord Tywin - "Bring me your father's head, if you are no traitor," which we as readers most likely find a bit much too ask of your bodyguard. When Jaime opens his eyes, the water has grown cold, and he looks at his stump, thinking that he has lost his glory, but also his shame. He wonders who he is now, which I suppose is rather profound, because it underlines the fact that he has lost some of his identity now and has to establish a new Jaime Lannister. One could argue that this bath tub scene is the turning point in his development; from here on, we'll gradually see a new Jaime emerge, the one he could have been if not circumstances like a mad king came in the way. 

Brienne wonders why no one knows the true story of what went down in the Red Keep, and he explains that as a Kingsguard, he was sworn to secrecy (again, showing us that Jaime does have notions of loyalty). Jaime also manages to make us reconsider the man Lord Eddard Stark was, which is also quite interesting, of course. "Such an honorable man. He only had to look at me to judge me guilty." Yes, maybe Ned was a bit holier-than-thou. I can certainly understand Jaime's feelings on this. I wonder how Jaime felt when they visited Winterfell in the beginning of A Game of Thrones. Man, now I wish we had Jaime's POV all along. Not really, but still. Getting angry over the memories of Eddard's judgement, he slams his stump against the rim of the tub, and Brienne barely manages to catch him before he falls as the room begins to spin around him. Rage!

Funny though, how small Jaime ends up in a kind of embrace with strong (but gentle, Jaime notices) Brienne. Brienne calls for the guards, and we move to the next scene in the chapter. 

Jaime's on the floor, with Qyburn standing over him, concerned look on the ex-maester's face. Qyburn is adamant that Jaime must be ready for dinner with Roose (suggesting to us what kind of power Roose wields), and Brienne volunteers to clean and clothe Jaime. And here we see a change in Brienne too, feeling sorry for Jaime and maybe a hint that she buys Jaime's version of things. It's so awesome! I want to write characters like this. Qyburn hands Brienne a tattered gown, the only female clothing he was able to find that she might fit into. Jaime can think of many cruel jokes when he sees her in this outfit, but decides to stay silent - deftly, Martin makes the two characters, who initially were like two opposites, draw closer to each other. He tells himself that he best not make her angry because he can't fight her one-handed, but I'm not buying it; slowly, he is coming to a point where he simply doesn't want to hurt her feelings. She is becoming a person in his eyes. Some droll humor when Qyburn brings Jaime a potion of extra-healing licorice steeped in vinegar with honey and cloves - Jaime asks for the potion that grows new hands instead. I chuckled.

All dressed up, we come to the crucial plot-moving scene of the chapter. The bath tub scene, I suggest, is "Roose Bolton's eyes were paler than stone, darker than milk, and his voice was spider soft." Now, in this brief description, we have 'pale', 'dark', and 'spider' (the last word already associated with a character who thrives in the shadows of intrigue and deception). A guy to be wary of, then, our Roose. They are invited to sit down and eat, and Jaime goes for red wine, the color of the Lannisters - so proud of being a would he react if he learned that he wasn't a Lannister after all? Or a bastard? 
more of a character building scene. The two are brought to the Great Hall of Harrenhal, a hall larger even than the one in the Red Keep, where they meet the Lord of the Dreadfort, Roose Bolton. And this is the point where I truly knew that there was more about this man than another bannerman of House Stark. The most obvious hint lies in the description through Jaime's eyes:

Jaime is clumsy when he tries to drink from the cup of wine, a scene seemingly designed to make me feel sorry for him - or to strengthen the idea that Roose Bolton realizes just how weak Jaime has become. Anyway, they banter back and forth, and Jaime learns there's a price on his head - Edmure Tully has offered ten thousand dragons for his capture - and Lord Karstark has promised his daughter to whoever brings Jaime to him. "Leave it to your goat to get it backwards," Jaime dryly comments. I chuckled. I admit I love how the fate of Alys Karstark is so casually mentioned here - if Harrion Karstark, her brother, dies, Alys will be the only living heir of House Karstark, a point that will come back much later in the series. If I recall correctly, that is.

Roose explains that he married Lady Walda Frey of the Twins - so here we have this follower of Robb Stark and he goes off to marry himself into House Frey? I am convinced I never paid attention to this detail the first time around, but seeing it now...I love how Martin builds the story toward Edmure Tully's wedding so masterfully, dropping small bits of information for us, and most of us (I hope) blindly ignoring it so that when the wedding occurs, it still comes as a shock and a power narrative change in the story. Roose tells them that he's off to see Edmure wed to Roslin Frey, and Brienne initially does not believe what she hears - Robb would never break his vow and marry someone else (and a Lannister bannerman's daughter at that), but Roose asks her to not question him in a way that suggests he is certain of this knowledge. Roose is commanded to attend the wedding, which is a lovely touch from the author - Robb inviting the serpent, so to speak. Roose further explains how his "good father of Frey" (that's a rather nice way of naming him for a Stark loyalist, no?) broke the betrothal of Arya Stark and Elmar, Roose's servant present in the chamber, which leads into Brienne asking after the girls (not for the last time). Brienne is relieved to hear Arya is alive; Roose tells her he means to see her "safely to the north". 

Some dramatic irony, certainly, when Jaime threatens Roose over this, and also echoing his killing of Aerys, and Roose simply states, "'Tis scarcely chivalrous to threaten your host over his own cheese and olives (...) In the north, we hold the laws of hospitaly sacred still." Rub it in, Mr. Martin! This Bolton must surely have an impassive face, being able to say this while at the same time knowing what is going to go down up at the Twins (at least that's how I read it - I know there's some discussion as to when Roose becomes part of the betrayal of House Stark, but to me it seems he's already in the know). 

HOWEVER, Roose calms Brienne down (because she's getting mighty agitated here) telling her that he does mean to send Ser Jaime on, just as she and Lady Stark desires. Wary of a twist - knowing Mr. Martin - we read on, wondering what Roose is actually planning...lovely. There's surely some symbolism at play here, too, with the roasted meat for Jaime and the bloody meat Roose cuts methodically for himself. I know the meat has been mentioned in the discussion re: Jaime's possible Targaryen blood. The problem, for Roose, however, is that Vargo Hoat cut off Jaime's hand - it seems that Hoat is more cunning than we knew, because by cutting off Jaime's hand he would buy himself into the gratitude of Stannis Baratheon. Unfortunately for Hoat, Stannis lost the battle of King's Landing, and the Starks need to win over the Lannisters if Hoat is to save himself from Lord Tywin's wrath. Roose Bolton tells them that Robb has won every battle, but lost the Freys, the Karstarks, Winterfell, and the north...had to italicize that one. In Roose's mind, Robb has already lost. Nice touch. He doesn't speak very highly of Robb, anyway; but the point is, Hoat knows he's screwed if the Lannisters win. So Hoat removed Jaime's hand to diminish his Roose. And so, Roose manages to convince Jaime to tell Tywin that the loss of his hand was in no way Roose's fault. So here we see Roose wishing to stay in Tywin's good graces. Interesting developments indeed. 

This makes Jaime elated. He is told he will leave with Qybyrn and a strong escort of men under the command of captain Walton Steelshanks. They will see him safe to King's Landing. Brienne interrupts, "Provided Lady Catelyn's daughters are delivered safe and whole as well," she says, oblivious to the fact that she's not really included in the conversation at all. She does learn that Sansa has been married to Tyrion though, and even Jaime is surprised though he just thinks that it will make Tyrion happy, not really considering the political implications. And it does get a little convoluted by now. It doesn't matter anyway, Roose tells Brienne, "(...) Least of all to you." So cold, so calculating. Up until this point, I believe, I was uncertain about Bolton. I thought he was a cool character, with his icy detachment and commanding presence, but these words made me realize he wasn't a very nice person at all. And so he tells Brienne that she's not going anywhere - Jaime is going to King's Landing, because it serves Roose's political agenda. Brienne will remain the prisoner and plaything of Vargo Hoat. It isn't the best of fates.

The chapter ends with Roose Bolton's rather distressing (to Brienne, I mean) cold line: "Were I you, my lady, I should worry less about Starks and rather more about sapphires." Ominous. Menacing. Devoid of empathy. Roose Bolton. 

So. A rather nice chapter. Backstory, character development, underlying currents of tension and threat, and we're left, as so often in these books, wanting to know what's going to happen now

Ah! Today's it's the 6th of February. Exactly two months until Game of Thrones Season 4 airs. I admit I am excited. And I am most excited to see how Jaime and Brienne's stories will turn out, actually. While there are a few glaring changes in the TV show compared to the books (perhaps most notably Vargo Hoat's absence), I feel they stuck quite close to the core matter when it comes to Jaime and Brienne's characters and experiences. 

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