Game of Thrones is setting up a perfect final mission for one of the show’s most beloved supporting characters: the sellsword Bronn. Played with scuzzy charm by Jerome Flynn, Bronn has quietly played an important role in the Lannisters’ rise to power over the course of the series. He’s rarely shown ambitions beyond the desire to be rich and surrounded by beautiful women, which has ironically made him one of the show’s purest and most likeable characters. After his actions at the Battle of the Blackwater, his trial by combat in Tyrion’s name, or his many excursions with Jaime, the Lannisters – even Cersei – rightly consider Bronn a valuable ally.
But the queen isn’t going to make this final season easy for Bronn. In the season 8 premiere “Winterfell,” Cersei interrupts Bronn’s triumphant foursome to task him with a dark duty: hunting down and murdering both Jaime and Tyrion. It’s no real surprise that Cersei wants Tyrion dead, as that’s been true for essentially her entire life, but her order to have Bronn kill Jaime feels like a point of no return for Cersei. She’s still deeply in love with Jaime and is indeed carrying his unborn child, but she takes his decision to leave for the north and fight the undead army with the Lannisters’ ostensible enemies as an unforgivable betrayal. She trusts Bronn is the sort of immoral thug who won’t have a problem murdering his friends if the pay is high enough. Is she right?
Related: Game Of Thrones Confirms The Fate Of Ed Sheeran’s Character
To say this is a complicated order for Bronn would be a massive understatement. Despite the fact he ended up an unlikely knight, Bronn considers himself a true mercenary, unburdened by things like friends and family. But along the way he formed real, unmistakable friendships with both Tyrion and Jaime. His admission to Tyrion that he missed his company during last season’s massive meet up between all of the show’s major players was perhaps Bronn’s most honest, affecting moment. He may have grown even closer to Jaime as the two men killed some time in Dorne, overthrew the last of House Tyrell at Riverrun, and just barely survived an attack by Daenerys and her dragons on the road to King’s Landing.
So, how will Bronn react to orders from the queen to kill possibly his two closest friends? The obvious answer is that he lives up to his reputation and follows the commands of the highest bidder, but that’s starting to seem unlikely. Beyond his personal affection for Tyrion and Jaime, Bronn is likely the Game of Thrones character who has shown the most efficient talent for self preservation – with the possible exception of Sansa. Even if Bronn decides to obey Cersei’s orders, that would likely mean a trip to Winterfell, where the largest army in Westeros is amassing to take on the Night King. It seems highly unlikely that Bronn would be able to penetrate Winterfell’s defenses undetected and simply slit Tyrion and Jaime’s throats in their sleep.
Also, for all his bluster and carnal passions, Bronn is no idiot. He is, in fact, one of the savviest characters on the show, and a trip to the north would likely be enough for him to realize that what’s coming could easily wipe out all the prostitutes and alcohol in Westeros. Even now he seems to understand that Cersei’s grip on power is tenuous at best, and the likelihood of even being able to collect his ultimate payment from her may factor into his ultimate decision.
Bronn has never wanted to be a hero; he largely stumbled into a pivotal role for a powerful house by accident. But either through his relationship with Tyrion or through a well hidden sense of right and wrong, Bronn has generally ended up doing the relatively noble thing. This is, in many ways, the ultimate test of his moral compass.
Page 2: Why Bronn’s Mission is Perfect For His Character Arc
Cersei is not exactly known for her sense of humor, but she does enjoy something akin to poetic justice. The crossbow she hands Bronn when ordering him to kill Tyrion and Jaime has quite a history. It originally belonged to Joffrey, her late son and king, who murdered Ros with the weapon in season 3. In the darkest moment of his life, Tyrion used the same crossbow to murder his and Cersei’s father, Tywin, before fleeing King’s Landing. Cersei blames Tyrion for both Tyrion and Tywin’s deaths – even though only Tywin’s was really his fault – and each of those losses affected her in profound ways, leading to her eventual transformation into the cold, calculating queen she is now.
Passing that crossbow on to Bronn for him to use in the murder of her brothers creates a sort of pitch black cosmic rhyme. The deaths of Joffrey and Tywin ultimately led to Cersei’s grotesque ascension to power, and the elimination of Tyrion and Jaime would make her the last Lannister of any real importance standing. For that all to be carried out with the same weapon would be sort of remarkable, and a fitting final blow from Cersei.
Related: Game of Thrones: Why Jon Snow Is Able To Rise a Dragon So Easily
Virtually everyone left standing on Game of Thrones has changed in fundamental ways over its eight seasons. A recurring theme in the show has centered around the lengths people will go to survive unthinkable hardship, and how much of their own moral compass and basic motivations they’re willing to compromise. Some characters have found great strength and purpose through that sense of self-compromise, while others have simply doubled down on their most toxic impulses.
Bronn, for his part, has never really had to grapple with that sort of existential crisis. His personal goals have largely aligned with those of his allies, to the point that it’s been rare to see him forced to make any sort of difficult decisions since the early days of the series. But that all changes now; Tyrion and Jaime are the closest thing Bronn has to family at this point, and his affection for both of them is easy to see. This is really the first time in years where Bronn has had to decide what sort of person he is. Is he still a mercenary at heart, with no allegiance except to himself? Or have his relationships with the Lannister brothers subtly changed him, to the point he can justify turning away Cersei’s promise of riches?
It’s possible Bronn could still follow Cersei’s orders. Penetrating Winterfell is no small feat, but Bronn has shown himself to more or less have the abilities of a ninja. If he’s betting that Cersei’s right, and that the Lannisters can wipe out their enemies after they defeat the Night King, then it’s not unthinkable that he could go through with the execution of his friends. But if he has truly grown as a character, it’s not hard to imagine him admitting to Tyrion and Jaime what Cersei ordered him to do, joining Daenerys’ army, and fighting alongside his only true comrades. Besides, if Game of Thrones is gearing up for an all out battle between the denizens of Westeros and the Night King’s undead army, does anyone want to see that fight without Bronn cracking ice zombie skulls?
Next: Game Of Thrones: The Most Powerful Families, Ranked
Game of Thrones airs Sundays at 9pm on HBO.