Curtain Call: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau

Helen Sloan - HBO (3) Jaime godswood
Helen Sloan - HBO (3) Jaime godswood /

“There are no men like me. Only me.” —Jaime Lannister

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau first appeared on Game of Thrones as Jaime Lannister in the series premiere, looking every bit the shining golden lion described by George R.R. Martin in his A Song of Ice and Fire novels. With a head full of blonde hair, a swaggering gait, and that special blend of arrogance and competence that only the very best fighters can pull off, there was no doubt that Coster-Waldau was the perfect choice to play Jaime.

But Jaime isn’t a static character — he changes as the show goes on, and Coster-Waldau was always up for the challenge. In the books, a pivotal moment in Jaime’s arc is when he shares a bath at Harrenhal with Brienne of Tarth. Coster-Waldau knocks this scene out of the park, making a character that was almost completely reviled by fans of the show instantly relatable. You could see the shift in the fandom, as people began to root for the Kingslayer even though he kicked off the series by shoving a child out a window.

Coster-Waldau continued to grow along with Jaime in the following seasons. The character had to watch his children by his sister-lover Cersei die off one by one. Even during less-than-perfect portions of the show, like Jaime’s sojourn to Dorne, Coster-Waldau sold the part. His final scene with his daughter Myrcella is particularly painful, as Jaime holds his daughter, who had moments before acknowledged that she knew and accepted Jaime as her father, as she bled out and died. The pain and agony on Nikolaj Coster-Waldau’s face sold the scene completely.

Photo Credit: HBO
Photo Credit: HBO /

In season 6, Jaime took another step toward redemption by bringing the King’s Peace to the Riverlands. In a scene with Tobias Menzies (Edmure Tully), Coster-Waldau mixed compassion with steel, sympathizing with Edmure’s plight but also threatening to kill his new baby if he didn’t convince the Blackfish to surrender Riverrun. It was a masterclass in acting

In season 7, Jaime decided to abandon his sister and fight for the living after seeing what a wight was capable of. The honor he showed in wanting to fulfill House Lannister’s promise to join Daenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow was something his character would not have done in earlier seasons. Jaime’s arc to redemption was almost complete.


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San Diego Padres Game Of Thrones Ice Dragon Bobblehead /

San Diego Padres Game Of Thrones Ice Dragon Bobblehead

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Unfortunately, it was not to last. In season 8, Coster-Waldau shone in every scene he was in, from spotting Bran in the Winterfell courtyard to his trial in front of Daenerys Targaryen to knighting Brienne of Tarth in a moment no Game of Thrones fan will soon forget. He fought side by side with Brienne against the dead in the Battle of Winterfell, proving that he was a man of his word.

But in the end, Jaime’s scars went too deep, and his lifelong dependence on Cersei too powerful to ignore. Jaime returned to King’s Landing in time to die in her arms. They left this world the same way they came into it, tightly holding each other in a loving embrace.

Nikolaj-Coster Waldau brought abundant nuance to one of the richest characters on Game of Thrones. It was a joy to watch him on screen, and we look forward to seeing what he’ll do next. Most immediately he’s headlining a new thriller from iconic director Brian De Palma: Domino, which is out later this year.

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