There have been many post-mortems about Game of Thrones since the series finale aired, some by the cast members themselves. Today we bring you what I believe are two particularly strong interviews with Sophie Turner and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, in which they reflect on the end of not only an era of television but of their lives, and defend two controversial choices made by their characters, Sansa and Jaime, in this final season.
At The Wrap, Veep’s Tony Hale and Sophie Turner discuss the end of their respective HBO shows, with Turner telling us about her final scene (Sophie’s, not quite Sansa’s), which happened to be the series finale’s Dragonpit Great Council, filmed in Seville:
“It was a scene that we had been shooting for five days straight in the sun in Spain,” she reveals. “So I kept going between the feeling of, ‘God, I can’t wait for this scene to be over,’ and, ‘Please don’t ever let this end.’”
“When it came to the very final shot, [showrunners] Dave and Dan do this thing where they present each of us with the storyboard of their favorite scene of your character, and then say some lovely words about you in front of the cast and crew. I just broke down crying, and I was inconsolable for three or four hours. It was probably one of the saddest days of my life. And I don’t think I’m done with my crying yet.”
Sophie is also asked about a scene in “The Last of the Starks”, the fourth episode right after the battle against the dead, in which Sansa and Sandor reconnect. Some viewers interpreted Sansa’s words to mean that she believed Ramsey raping her had made her the woman she was now. Turner vehemently disagrees with this interpretation:
“I think that absolutely it was not so much the assault — what made her the person she is today, the politician and the manipulator, was the mentality, not the things that she went through. She made a conscious decision to stay quiet, to keep learning, to keep absorbing information from all of these people who are manipulating her or keeping her captive. It’s a wonderful thing to see a sexual assault survivor grow from that, and see her turn into this political leader she is today — but no, the rape is absolutely not a plot device to make the character seem stronger. The sexual assault made her resilient, but by no means has it made her this wonderful character that we see today. It absolutely broke her, and we saw that on screen. But seeing her thriving is so wonderful to see.”
At the official Making Game of Thrones blog, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau essentially makes the case that it couldn’t have ended any other way for Jaime, as much as we all wish that could have been the case and that he had stayed with Brienne:
“In a different world, Jaime would’ve stayed with Brienne. What he has with Brienne is something different — it’s a very pure, innocent love. There is a part of him that wishes he could not be who he is. It’s one of those things we do in Game of Thrones: you have this idea of what you want these characters to do — it’s supposed to end well for these two, they’ve been through so much together — but that’s not how it goes.”
“Gwendoline [Christie] was so moving in that scene. She did an amazing job of conveying that Brienne had finally found happiness she’s never had, and it’s just taken away from her in a brutal way. It’s very true to who these characters are. His staying in Winterfell is unrealistic. Cersei is the most important person in his life, whether he wants her to be or not. The idea that he was going to just let her die alone is too horrible for him.”
“His whole life has been about trying to protect Cersei, and trying to be close to her,” Coster-Waldau continues. “He loves her — it’s unconditional love, it’s so ingrained in him. [In season five] Bronn asks him, ‘How do you want to go?’ Jaime says: ‘In the arms of the woman I love.’ That is where he dies. That scene had so much weight.”
“The whole world is falling down around them; it’s a poetic thing. When we were done filming, it was so emotional — more so than my last scene, [which was the fight with Euron]. My hope for those final moments between Cersei and Jaime, is that even though people want her dead, it still leaves a sour taste in their mouth.”
Though many dislike that sour taste, it’s how I believe Jaime’s story had to end, if you’ll allow some editorializing. His story was always going to be a tragedy, and a tragedy doesn’t just mean we’re all sad in the end. It’s more than that. It’s more than the fact that he couldn’t have a happy ending, which most critics of his death probably agree with anyway. For it to be a proper tragedy means that Jaime’s ending had to be self-inflicted. The tragedy was always within himself, not with terrible things happening to him.
That is, I believe, something that those trying to offer alternate endings to Jaime are missing. If Jaime had died without outwardly rebuffing all that makes him good in the eyes of Brienne (and of many of us) in an effort to save his sister and lover, it would’ve been quite sad, I’ll grant you, but it wouldn’t have been a tragedy of character. Not to stir up the hornet’s nest, but the same applies to the many attempts I’ve seen at trying to engineer a way in which King’s Landing still blows up but without Dany’s agency, thus freeing her ethically from her war crimes. That’s just not the story they were telling.
Back in the interview, Nikolaj leaves us with a happy ending, for him if not for Jaime:
“I love working with Lena and we always had such an amazing experience together. l look back at what she has done on this show and it’s amazing.”
It is amazing, Nikolaj, and we’ll all miss you, and you and Lena, too!
Finally, still at Making Game of Thrones, we’re shown in more detail the two books we saw in the series finale, which made quite a splash (and resulted in many memes, too).
First, there is Maester Ebrose’s A Song of Ice and Fire, which was of course titled by Sam:
There’s also the White Book, in which the great deeds of the Kingsguard are recorded by the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard – in Jaimes case, by Ser Brienne of Tarth, in a bittersweet scene I have been envisioning for years and did not disappoint:
Sadly, these prop photos don’t include Brinne’s additions to Jaime’s entry into the book, so we’ll have to make do with what we saw on-screen, which, I remind you, was this beautiful memorial of Jaime’s entire (albeit curated) story in Game of Thrones:
Captured in the field at the Whispering Wood, set free by Lady Catelyn Stark in return for an oath to find and return her two daughters.
Lost his [hand; rest of page missing]
Took Riverrun from the Tully rebels, without loss of life.
Lured the Unsullied into attacking Casterly Rock, sacrificing his childhood home in service to a greater strategy.
Outwitted the Targaryen forces to seize Highgarden. Fought at the Battle of the Goldroad bravely, narrowly escaping death by dragonfire.
Pledged himself to the forces of men and rode north to join them at Winterfell, alone.
Faced the Army of the Dead and defended the castle against impossible odds until the defeat of the Night King. Escaped imprisonment and rode south in an attempt to save the capital from destruction.
Died protecting his Queen.
Let’s have a little cry together, shall we?