Y’know what I’ve been thinking?
It’s always kind of bothered me whenever I read people talking about Jaime/Brienne in a highly romanticised way. Phrases like “they belong to each other” grate on me somehow and until recently I could never pinpoint why.
It’s all about identity.
Because Brienne is famous for being independent, being headstrong; when Humphrey Wagstaff threatened to take away her identity she beat him into the ground. She never tried to become other than she was for the sake of loving Renly, she offered him what it was she could give him while remaining true to herself. Heck, that’s exactly why she loves Jaime; because not only is he one of the few people to treat her like a person, he also treats her like a knight. He accepts her for everything she is and he appreciates it more than anyone else ever has. Brienne gives her heart to people utterly and absolutely, but she only gives it when she believes that person acknowledges who she is and what she stands for.
Jaime on the other hand has always seen himself as one half of a whole, “we are one soul in two bodies”, expecting to live and die with Cersei. However, his story arc is all about discovering his own, individual identity. (It’s an identity arc and a redemption arc okay everyone shut up). For him it’s all about moving away from “The Kingslayer” and from being Cersei’s shining knight, into being his own person. My favourite instance of this is the siege at Riverrun, where he uses the cloak of “The Kingslayer” by threatening Edmure, but in so doing remains true to his vow to Catelyn, thus remaining the Jaime he wants to be. Meeting Brienne is important in his journey to becoming someone he sees as better, but he doesn’t move from being “Cersei’s Jaime” to being “Brienne’s Jaime”. I think this has a lot to do with why, in my opinion, Jaime hasn’t recognised what he feels for Brienne, because it’s so unlike the way he feels/felt about Cersei.
What I love about this relationship is that, for both parties, their individuality is paramount. They don’t “belong” to each other, they don’t “need” each other; they choose each other. They recognise in each other the qualities they value, and each decides that the other is worth risking themselves for.
It’s not as Romantic as one might want a ship to be, but personally I prefer it that way. (If you don’t then that’s fine, romanticise the fuck out of it if you like! That’s cool. You’re cool.)
But try as they might they will never be the knight and the fair maiden from the songs, their story is not based around romance. Their story is based on honesty, and on respect, and on the choices they make, and their love is the same.