Thursday, April 18, 2024

White Book, Spite Book

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So, despite all the Game of Thrones criticism that’s been flying around, it seems like most people didn’t hate the White Book scene at the end?

The general fanbase seems to lean towards thinking that Brienne of Tarth writing Jaime Lannister’s (or “Larry” if you prefer) deeds in the White Book was a good conclusion for her character’s story, as well as Jaime’s. In my own little corner of the fandom, from what I can tell most Jaime/Brienne shippers also thought the scene had enough romantic elements to be a saving grace, considering what’d happened previously, and was a satisfying ending for their arcs and dynamic.

I wish I shared their opinion. It’s far less stressful to be a satisfied fan than a disgruntled one.

While I understand why some people would think this scene is a good ending for Brienne (because on the surface, it’s passable), and am glad that Jaime/Brienne shippers could find something positive after the hell they were put through in episodes 4 and 5, I personally can’t find anything positive in the White Book scene. As a matter of fact, as a fan of both Brienne and Jaime, I find the scene quite enraging, probably even more so than the rest of the Jaime/Brienne story in the last half of the season.

Before we begin, here’s quick recap, for you as well as me, since I’ve repressed most of this:

  • Jaime sleeps with Brienne after a cringe-worthy, American Pie-esque game of “I Never,” where she is virgin-shamed (even though that makes no sense, considering the worldbuilding)
  • They play house together for at least a month, judging by the fact that it was declared that Jaime would stay with Brienne just before Dany’s army left, and were together long enough for Dany and co. to go down south, get owned by Euron —because Dany kinda forgot about the Ironborn, somehow—and send a raven to Winterfell to convey that information … which, even with the character’s teleportation ability, should have taken a while.
  • Jaime has sex with Brienne one more time (she was naked in bed, and had sex hair in the following scene, so it seems likely) before breaking up with her to reunite with Cersei and save her from Dany, even though he knew that Cersei was going to be killed by Dany weeks ago, and didn’t seem to care
  • He leaves Brienne while she’s crying (and wearing a housecoat, for some reason)
  • Jaime goes to King’s Landing and dies with Cersei
  • Brienne writes his ‘knightly’ deeds in the White Book, and that he “died protecting his Queen.”

Yeah. So.

In this context, how is the White Book scene a satisfying conclusion for Jaime and Brienne, again?

With this scene, all I see is Benioff and Weiss (“D&D”) further putting up their pro Jaime/Cersei flag at the expense of Jaime and Brienne as a whole — not just the romantic aspects, but deeper. Their dynamic, and separate characterizations, were trashed post the first half of episode 4, and the White Book is the climax to that atrocious writing in the most insulting way.

How, exactly? Oh, let me count the ways…

1. It butchers the source material (surprise surprise)

First of all, we see that, unlike book Jaime’s White Book page, Jaime’s page does not have the addition we know book Jaime wrote in A Storm of Swords:

Beneath the last line Ser Barristan had entered, [Jaime] wrote in an awkward hand that might have done credit to a six-year-old being taught his first letters by a maester: Defeated in the Whispering Wood by the Young Wolf Robb Stark during the War of the Five Kings. Held captive at Riverrun and ransomed for a promise unfulfilled. Captured again by the Brave Companions, and maimed at the word of Vargo Hoat their captain, losing his sword hand to the blade of Zollo the Fat. Returned safely to King’s Landing by Brienne, the Maid of Tarth. A Storm Of Swords, Jaime IX

The fact that book Jaime wrote this in his White Book page is a big deal. It gives Brienne credit for helping him, but it also honors her significantly as someone worthy of being in a book where all the fabled knights of old are celebrated — warriors that Brienne admires and embodies in all the best ways. By writing Brienne’s name in the White Book, Jaime not only listed her as part of their caliber, but forever claimed Brienne of Tarth as his savior. He immortalized her, in the best way. It’s a gift he gave her purely out of admiration, love, and gratitude. And Brienne doesn’t even know that he did that for her, because he did it out of sincerity, not for show. It’s a beautiful moment and shows how much their relationship has grown. It’s also proof of how far Jaime has come as a character, since he’s humble (if not self-loathing) enough to write down his losses and admit that someone needed to save him — that person being a woman, no less, which, considering the world they live in, is quite a humiliating thing for a man to admit. But Jaime did it, because he cares for Brienne and knows she deserves it.

In the show, though? Ha. Jaime couldn’t care less about any of that. Jaime did not write Brienne of Tarth’s name. He did not write her deeds. He did not immortalize her. He did not give us (or Brienne) any physical proof that, even after his insulting, character-assassinating death, that he’s admired Brienne for years and saw that she has the soul of a knight, even if, at the time, she was not officially one. It is not written in D&D’s narrative, probably because it would overshadow the twincest, and in a pro-twincest narrative, well, that just won’t do. Jaime loves Cersei, and Cersei only, damn it, and so, if D&D have any say over it — which they do — he’s not going to give such a powerful gift to Brienne, like his book counterpart did.

2. Brienne was disrespected

And it’s such a shame. If Brienne had opened up the White Book to discover that, in messy handwriting, Jaime had written about their deeds (especially hers) as he had done in the books, I would have been slightly less bitter about what was done to his character, and his dynamic with Brienne. Slightly. At least it would have shown that, even though Jaime banged her and left her, she did have a place in his heart and was essential to his character and story. That he did admire her. That he did respect her. That she meant something to him, rather than just him meaning something to her. That all of those scenes they had together over the course of this series weren’t for nothing.

But it was for nothing. We got nothing. Brienne had to write it all herself, even the line about her rescuing him. Jaime couldn’t even be bothered to write that she safely escorted him to King’s Landing. Even after death, his character still got ruined more and more. I didn’t think that was possible, but Game of Thrones post season 4, has always had a way of upping the poorly-written ante. Since Jaime didn’t give Brienne the gift his book counterpart gave her, Brienne has to do it for him. She has to give herself the gift, before writing about Jaime’s other “heroic” deeds.

And that’s the problem. This scene is merely Brienne giving and giving to someone who, in the end, only took from her. This is a scene of Brienne of Tarth writing one final ode to the man who took her virginity and abandoned her for his ex.

And the grand finale of it all? The last middle finger to Jaime and Brienne’s characters, and anyone who was invested in their characters and/or romance?

They had Brienne write the line about Jaime dying while protecting Cersei. Him choosing to die with someone else, instead of living with her.

So abstractly, they made Brienne write this moment:

Immortalize it, forever on Jaime’s page. That moment where she was rejected, and all her fears about never being loved became true. It was also the moment where what little of Jaime’s character that existed in the show was destroyed for all time, but that’s looking at it from a meta standpoint. In universe, Brienne is recording a death that only happened because of her heartbreak.

D&D had Brienne write her own rejection. And they specifically focused the camera on that line, and her hand writing it.

That is a huge insult to Brienne’s character. For one, writing about a deed that happened through Jaime’s rejection of Brienne implies praise or validation, as if what Jaime did to Brienne was justified, or something worthy of being written in Jaime’s history — something honorable, good, or even necessary, since the whole purpose of this scene, supposedly, is for Brienne to find closure and give Jaime the good eulogy he “deserves.” To write that line in this context is a sign of Jaime’s toxic ties to Cersei being romanticized by the narrative — and D&D have Brienne, of all people, do this.

And not only that. In this context, writing that line frames Brienne as the good, unlovable ugly girl, pining for the hot guy who ditched her. It frames Brienne as accepting the unrequited love, but still holding out a candle for someone who rode away from her while she was in the snow, crying, wearing a goddamned housecoat.

Since the point of this scene isn’t to reveal that Jaime had already written about Brienne on his page, we shouldn’t have even gotten this scene. The White Book should have been destroyed during Dany’s attack. A pile of ashes, ruined forever, just like Jaime’s character arc.

3. Jaime’s honor and Jaime’s…Larrying

Jaime’s arc hasn’t been about honor or knighthood for years — it’s been about how much he loves Cersei.

Proof? In A Feast for Crows, when Jaime is in Riverrun at Cersei’s command, he thinks about how he wants to finish his mission so that he can return to his duties as a Kingsguard and reunite with his son, Tommen:

Once [Jaime] found the Blackfish, he would be free to return to King’s Landing, where he belonged. My place is with my king. With my son. A Feast For Crows, Jaime VII

Hell, he even plans to dethrone Cersei as Queen Regent and get full custody of Tommen:

My sweet sister, the deceiver. He would need to find some way to winkle Tommen from [Cersei’s] clutches before the boy became another Joffrey. And whilst at that, he should find the lad a new small council too. If Cersei can be put aside, Ser Kevan may agree to serve as Tommen’s Hand … —AFFC, Jaime VII

So book!Jaime wants to complete the Riverrun mission because he has become reacquainted with his responsibilities as a knight, a Kingsguard, and wants to get back to protecting his king, and, in his own way, step up and take on his responsibilities as Tommen’s Uncle-Dad. He chooses Tommen’s safety and well being over Cersei’s desires. It’s kind of a big deal, and shows how far he’s come as a character.

Meanwhile, Jaime in the show is just monologuing to Edmure about how he wants to get the Riverrun business finished so that he can return to Cersei:

“I love Cersei. You can laugh at that, if you want. You can sneer. Doesn’t matter. She needs me, and to get back to her, I need to take Riverrun. I’ll send for your baby boy. And I’ll launch him into Riverrun with a catapult. Because you don’t matter to me, Lord Edmure. Your son doesn’t matter to me. The people in the castle don’t matter to me. Only Cersei. And if I have to slaughter every Tully who ever lived to get back to her, that’s what I’ll do.” —Jaime, GoT s6e8

Knighthood? Honor? Show Jaime doesn’t know her. Not in this scene, anyway. Now, you could argue that he was bluffing just like his book counterpart was when speaking with Edmure, which — sure. But why change show Jaime’s motives from Tommen and knightly duty to twincest?

Because D&D have never really seemed to care about Jaime Lannister’s character, or his arc (much like Jaime never really cared about the innocents of King’s Landing, I guess). They do seem to really, really care about twincest, though, even at the expense of show Jaime’s character development. No — especially at the expense of his development; that’s how we got show Jaime in the first place. Regardless, this is a huge divergence from his book counterpart and shows that Jaime hasn’t cared about honor or knighthood for several seasons.

Another example of that? In the books, when Cersei tries to have sex with Jaime, Jaime rejects her because he doesn’t want to further soil his knighthood by having sex with his sister in the White Sword Tower:

“No,” he said, “not here.” They had never done it in White Sword Tower, much less in the Lord Commander’s chambers. “Cersei, this is not the place.”
“You took me in the sept. This is no different.” She drew out his c*ck and bent her head over it.
Jaime pushed her away with the stump of his right hand. “No. Not here, I said.” He forced himself to stand. ASOS, Jaime IX

So book Jaime, not holding religion in high esteem, was cool with having sex with Cersei in a sept — a holy place — but he wasn’t comfortable doing that in the White Sword Tower. This shows how highly he holds his knighthood, and where his priorities lie, now that he’s going through his character arc (which is about him trying to reclaim his honor and finding an identity outside of his sister — reclaiming himself, in a way). Jaime is a knight, and as such, the White Sword Tower is his holy place, his place of worship, not a sept. So he doesn’t want to break his celibacy vows there.

Contrast that to Jaime’s shenanigans in the finale of season 4. Jaime pushed the White Book, the symbol of the Kingsguard, on the goddamn floor so that he can bang his sister on the table, showing that Jaime values his love for Cersei over his knighthood, or his respect for the Kingsguard.

Depicted: an “adaptation”

So, since the show has established that Jaime didn’t really care that much about being in the Kingsguard, why have him be honored in the White Book after death? It’s been years since he’s cared about it! I mean, do D&D even remember that their version of Jaime isn’t even in the Kingsguard anymore, and hasn’t been for years?

Yeah, I’m guessing they don’t. But in season 6, Tommen dismissed Jaime from the Kingsguard, Jaime pretended to be mad about it for 5 seconds, and that was that.

So, why give this version of the character’s story “closure” with the White Book when he wasn’t even a KG when he died, and it’s meant nothing to his character for literal years? Why be so inconsistent?

Well, I’ve already said why. The scene was all an excuse to prop up twincest one last time, the zenith of D&D stanning their OTP Larrol, their Whitewashed-Lannisters-stanning magnum opus. Jaime chose to die with Cersei, and we need to be reminded of that in the finale, by having Brienne, the left-behind ex, break it down for us.

4. Brienne was disrespected, part deux

It was essential that Brienne be the one to add this to Jaime’s page. Besides Tyrion, Brienne was the one most affected by what Jaime did, and perhaps even more so, considering he broke up with her to do it. So, if she’s the one writing of Larrol’s ‘poetic’ demise, and is framed as giving her blessing, in a way, well, then that seals the deal, doesn’t it? And if that means that Brienne has to be written as pining for a man who chose to die with someone else after deflowering her, honoring him even when her final memory of him is of him being a complete and utter asshole to her, then, hey, that works in their favor. Portraying her as the accepting loser, the good sport, the conceding second choice, further drives the fact home that Jaime had other options, but chose Cersei. And Larrol is all that matters, Brienne’s character and dignity (and consistency in general) be damned.

And yeah, sure, it’s in character for Brienne to be the bigger person and try to remember the good things about Jaime, write down his legacy, and forget the fact that, just after they’d made love for the last time, he had been possessed by Larry once more and abandoned her because of terrible writing. But the context behind it, and the framing of it just leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Considering the way this Jaime has treated this Brienne, this scene should not exist. There was no proof of him caring for her even after he’d left her by showing that he’d written about her in the White Book — he didn’t even mention Brienne to Tyrion in episode 5, knowing he was either about to leave Westeros forever or die, for Rh’llor’s sake. So having Brienne give him this beautiful gift by finishing his White Book page, when he couldn’t have been bothered to give her that gift and, you know, had left her after taking her virginity to get back with his ex, is a big no, as is showing Brienne write her own rejection by writing about twincest (and worse, romanticizing it, since it’s forever recorded in a book made to immortalize legacies). This scene is an attempt to validate D&D’s horrid character assassination of even their version of Jaime Lannister.

And even beyond how it trashes Jaime/Brienne’s dynamic, this scene is just not a good ending for Brienne’s character. Why is she merely a tool to end Larry’s Jaime’s ending? She’s a character in her own right, and knighthood is a part of her story and character. Why not show her writing her own page?

And, most importantly, why is Brienne Bran’s kingsguard instead of Sansa’s?

Because the White Book isn’t in Winterfell, that’s why, and we need to have Brienne write about how twincest is wincest, yo. Can’t do that if she’s with Sansa, you know, the person she vowed to protect and is heavily tied to her arc. So, let’s sacrifice what little remained of the logic in the show by putting Brienne with someone she has no connection to (with an explanation that was off-screen, because everything that matters is off-screen in this godforsaken show) so that we can validate twincest! At the cost of Brienne’s character and arc! Because who needs consistent writing when you have twincest to stan?

That’s even more proof that the White Book scene only exists to prop up twincest and ruin Jaime’s character even more, while either showing no care for Brienne’s character, downright insulting her, or both. It validates and rewards a version of Jaime Lannister that does not deserve it, from an in-universe and meta standpoint, and concludes a supposed theme of honor that has been nonexistent for the character for several seasons. It frames Brienne in the most insulting light, depicting her as this forgiving and accepting second-choice, disregarding her arc by putting her in a place she shouldn’t be, and serving a monarch she shouldn’t be, all to have her willingly and dutifully write her own rejection.

In disdainful conclusion

My very long-winded (and bitter) point? In A Song of Ice and Fire, the White Book is something that bonds Jaime and Brienne’s relationship through honor and knighthood, because Jaime chose for it to be, and that is important. By writing Brienne’s name in the White Book and recording what she did for him — recorded it permanently on his page, forever and ever, for all the knights that will come after he is long dead to read — Jaime chose to include Brienne of Tarth into his history, something that can never be erased. He shaped their dynamic into something tangible, an undying connection. And the White Book is that tangible connection. It symbolizes what ties them together: knighthood. Honor. A warrior’s soul.

In the show? It’s not about Jaime and Brienne at all. Not really. The book is just a tool for Brienne, as D&D’s mouthpiece, to confirm (i.e. rub in our faces) that their favorite ship, the twincest, was endgame, no matter the cost of storytelling or the character assassination it took to get there, and to remind us that Jaime’s character was utterly annihilated in episode 5. That’s it.

There’s just something so spiteful about this scene, to me. In a way, it’s like D&D used Brienne to double down on their decision to end Jaime’s story the way that they did. As if they saw into the future, knew that most people would be angry about what they did to Jaime (not just shippers, but nearly everyone), and had Brienne write about it to further gloat that character assassination was what they used to subvert our expectations (and to make their OTP endgame) — deal with it.

That’s meta, though. Story-wise, since show Jaime did not write about Brienne in the White Book, and his relationship with knighthood (and how it ties him to Brienne) was almost as forgotten as the Iron Fleet was by Dany, we shouldn’t have even gotten this scene, written as it was. We should have seen the White Book ruined in the rubble, so that Brienne can make a new one, starting with her name and deeds on the first page (and she mentions Jaime only to say that, before Jaime took over his body again, he was the one who knighted her back in episode 2, when his character was still in tact — nothing more, nothing less.) Or, better yet, have her in Winterfell with Sansa, starting a White Book for the Northern Kingsguard, because why is Brienne serving Bran?

As it is now, the scene is nothing but one final middle finger to those who were a fan of Brienne, or Jaime, or shipped Jaime/Brienne, or didn’t like twincest and wanted it to end, or was a fan of book Jaime, or even a fan of show Jaime finally being allowed to grow as a character (we miss you, episode 2), or just … you know … enjoys good writing.

I mean…I can’t stress this enough. They had Brienne give a lovely eulogy to the man that took her virginity and abandoned her. Then they made her write down her own rejection, and focused the camera on it.

In sum, this scene is poorly written, insulting, degrading, and other negative adjectives that I will refrain to say in an attempt to be professional. Now, excuse me while I reread Jaime and Brienne’s book chapters to cleanse my palate.

Images courtesy of HBO
This piece was adapted from a post on Blaire’s tumblr blog.

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