Warning: This post contains spoilers for Game of Thrones season 8.
The fourth episode of Game of Thrones‘ eighth season saw Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) and Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) consummate their relationship after nearly six seasons of buildup. The highly anticipated moment came after Tyrion asked Brienne if she was a virgin during a drinking game, prompting Brienne to walk away and Jaime to follow. The scene came as a shock to many fans, and apparently also to Gwendoline Christie herself, who spoke to TIME on Monday about Brienne’s first ever romantic encounter.
“I was quite surprised actually because I wasn’t expecting that to ever happen at all so it took me quite a while to digest,” she said of first reading the well-acted scene.
Christie continued to shed light on the evolution of Brienne and Jaime’s relationship from enemies to romantic partners throughout the course of Game of Thrones.
“The way I had conceived that the relationship was written was that it had no clear outset to it,” she explained. “I never felt that it was purely about romantic love. What I thoroughly enjoyed playing with Nikolaj Coster-Waldau was exploring all these different machinations of the stages that the relationship would go through — the fact that it would move from distaste to admiration to a feeling of intimacy to anger to all of these different things.”
Brienne and Jaime first came together when Catelyn Stark tasked Brienne with returning Jaime to King’s Landing in exchange for Sansa and Arya during the War of the Five Kings. Jaime was initially extremely insulting toward Brienne, but after his hand was chopped off and he told her the truth about the day he murdered the Mad King, they slowly grew to respect each other. Jaime eventually even gifted her with her Valyrian steel sword Oathkeeper, which she named in honor of him. So when he showed up at Winterfell to fight off the army of the dead under her command, it was clear they had reached a level of intimacy where they where would do almost anything for each other.
“After the Great War in episode 3, I thought it was fascinating exploring the idea of what happens after those kinds of battles when people have pushed themselves to such extreme physical, emotional and mental levels,” Christie said. “I thought it was really beautiful that prior to the war, they had all been contemplating what may have been their last night on Earth. Then they managed to cheat death and so I suppose it feels like life is up for grabs really. It felt to me like the idea of acting on euphoria. What I particularly liked and I thought was important was that Brienne chooses that moment to occur. She chooses to have sex. It’s her choice. I felt that was really important.”
Brienne has long been one of Game of Thrones‘ most beloved secondary characters and is arguably the most honorable person in the Seven Kingdoms. And from beating the Hound in one-on-one combat to rescuing Sansa and Theon from Ramsay’s men, she has also proved herself to be one of its fiercest fighters. But when Jaime decided to return to King’s Landing after hearing about Cersei’s latest assault on Daenerys’ forces, we saw Brienne at the most vulnerable we’ve ever seen her.
“I don’t think Brienne knows in that moment exactly what he’s saying,” Christie said of Jaime’s chilling parting words. “I don’t think she knows whether it’s that he can’t overlook his bond with his sister, whether it’s too frightening to overlook that, whether change is too much for him or whether he’s protecting her. But I think it’s very clear that whatever its motivations, it is rejection. And what I loved about that scene is that we’ve never seen Brienne decide to grab the chance for something new and optimistic. We’ve never seen her chance romantic love. She has no sexual experience and she decides to allow herself that opportunity. And I don’t think she’s a fool. I think that she’s very aware — due to the closeness of Jaime and Brienne’s relationship over the years — where that intimacy with his sister lies and how much it means to him, but also how dysfunctional it is. But in a way it can be perceived that that was the inevitable. I think when someone grasps for a rare moment of optimism in their lives, it’s incredibly killing to see that dashed, to see that just smashed.”
And while some fans felt that Brienne’s tearful reaction when Jaime left Winterfell was out of character for someone as strong as Brienne, Christie has a different take on the matter.
“I thought it was really brilliant and essential to see a side of Brienne that we haven’t seen before. Because what we’ve seen is her overcoming the obstacle of pain by being brilliant in battle and having a stiff upper lip and being contained and forging forward and being in service of an idea larger than herself. I thought it was a really beautiful way to serve the final season that we get to see another part of this brilliant character that isn’t just about fighting. It’s about who she really is, what her interior life is, her inner world. I felt like the character as a woman was being honored by allowing a very different side of her to come out that wasn’t purely about strength.”
As for what’s in store for Brienne in Game of Thrones‘ final two episodes, it sounds like she won’t be spending too much time wallowing. “She’ll be getting back to work,” Christie said. “She’ll be getting straight back to work.”