Performance of the Week #3: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau
Game of Thrones
‘Kissed by Fire’
Game of Thrones has a huge cast of memorable characters that steadily grows as each season progresses. We have the genuine good guys doing what they do for good reasons, and we have the absolutely loathsome creatures embodying everything you need to despise a character. But if there’s one thing Game of Thrones is particularly good at, it’s taking a character you could easily define as a villain and making them sympathetic–making their supposed villainy less ‘black and white’ and more ‘shades of grey’, and no character fits this description more than Jaime Lannister.
Jaime has murdered kings he swore on his life that he’d protect, engaged in extensive sexual relations with his own sister, thrown a child from a window and that’s just off the top of my head. His reputation as an untrustworthy murderer trails him wherever he goes, but ‘Kissed by Fire’ showed an entirely different side to the character–one of regret, repressed pain and resentment, and Coster-Waldau’s performance made the exposition into Jaime’s character a truly stunning affair.
Ever since Jaime put a sword through the Mad King’s spine, the ‘Kingslayer’ label has followed him, used in a derogatory manner, and it began when Ned Stark discovered him sitting on the iron throne with the dead king at his feet. But nobody was ever aware of the true reason Jaime did what he did.
While the aforementioned villains in Game of Thrones commit their actions to suit their own needs, Jaime’s act was one of protection; he had to stop Aerys from burning himself and thousands of innocent civilians in their homes because he’d rather do that than be forcibly dethroned. But when ‘ the honourable’ Ned Stark first found him standing above the king’s lifeless corpse, his judgement defined Jaime–and rather than admit the truth, he allowed himself to become the ‘kingslayer’, and all the resentment and anger from that moment has shadowed him since.
That single, uninterrupted scene in the bathtub was where Brienne–a character as uninformed of the truth as the viewer–learned that the man she had been vilifying for so long wasn’t as deserving of it as she had believed. As each layer of Jaime’s hidden character was exposed, a bit of the disgust Brienne held towards him eroded, ending in a moment of genuine concern for his well-being as he collapsed in her arms, less of a villain and more of a man.
The relationship between Brienne and Jaime has been one of the strongest elements of Game of Thrones’ third season, and Coster-Waldau one of its most multifaceted performers. He plays Jaime’s many aspects superbly, from the sharp wit to the undisguised anger, and his ease at transitioning from one to the next is undefeatable. Jaime is a character of great depth, and when we’re allowed to go digging to see what lies inside, Coster-Waldau makes it an unforgettable experience. The bathtub scene is the finest evidence of that that we’ve seen in a long time, and how the show has managed to make Jaime a sympathetic character despite the overwhelming odds is a testament to the success of Coster-Waldau’s talents.
Jaime is a character misunderstood by many, and for good reason, but he’s a fine example of how one moment in time can define a person’s future. The Kingslayer he may be, but the king slaying was done for the purest of reasons.
Keri Russell – The Americans
Keri Russell has deployed excellent performances on The Americans’ equally excellent thirteen-episode run all season, but one moment shone in particular: the laundry room scene. Listening to a tape recording of her mother, Elizabeth sat in silence, staring into space for the duration, yet portraying so much emotion without needing dialogue. I felt what she felt, and she didn’t need to verbally express it to make me feel it.