I love Jorah. It has taken me a while to realise it but I think he is a fantastic character and I feel that he is somewhat underappreciated, both from the audience’s perspective and within Westeros itself.
Jorah probably has more stories to tell than any other character in the show. He’s most likely on the older end of his forties and the only character close to being as well travelled as him is Varys. He’s been married, he’s loved, he’s lost, he’s fought in wars for half the lords of Westeros with a military career the envy of most knights. He’s been rich, he’s been poor. He’s had successes beyond what most men have had but has had to do things that made him loathe being alive. But, most importantly of all, Jorah makes terrible decisions.
Not all of his decisions are terrible, not even many in actual fact, but there’s a degree of uncertainty that he carries with him which humanises him enough that he is not the humourless, hulking bear of a man that makes you glad he’s on your side but simply a man trying to do what he thinks is right. However, now I have talked for far too long and not said much.
Jorah’s story becomes interesting as soon as you learn of his past. The son of the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, he ruled Bear Island and lived like you might expect for a while. He married an unnamed Glover but, after 10 years of trying to have a child, she died when she miscarried a child for the third time. He then is smitten with a lady called Lynesse Hightower and, after winning a tourney against all the odds after defeating the Greyjoy Rebellion, her father agrees to Jorah’s request to marry Lynesse. However, Lynesse soon grows miserable on Bear Island, used to her lavish life in the city, and Jorah, for wont of all the money in the world, could not make her happy again.
He sold slaves in order to pay for this lavish lifestyle but, upon getting caught, opted to flee with his wife to the Free Cities instead of being beheaded or joining his father in the Night’s Watch. He becomes a mercenary but is still unable to keep his wife happy, nor his finances in order, and an ultimatum is made; leave the city without his wife or be enslaved in order to pay his debts. Thus he is exiled for the second time and he truly has lost everything.
He spends a number of years as a mercenary still in the Free Cities when, eventually, he pledges himself to Viserys at Daenerys and Drogo’s wedding. However, he began this engagement with no intention of loyalty, instead hoping to earn a royal pardon from Robert Baratheon for spying on Daenerys and Viserys. He comes to love Daenerys however and becomes dedicated to her cause.
That story, in itself, could be its own exciting book. I’ve of course not entirely caught up with where he is in the books or series but I assume, if you’re reading this, that you know that part fairly well. The series does portray a redemptive story however: he gives up spying for Varys, he offers counsel to Daenerys, he storms Meereen with only Ser Barristan and Grey Worm, he defends his Khalessi while Drogo lay dying and seems to be utterly tireless in his devotion to helping Daenerys. He is peculiar in parts of course, and when you remember how old he is and how young Daenerys is you realise just how inappropriate his love is but, like the greatest of heroes, he has his flaws.
Ultimately though, my assessment of Jorah comes down to the last time we saw him; riding with Daario Naharis to Vaes Dothrak in order to rescue his love. He knows he will die from the greyscale that is climbing up his arm and he feels the weight of his past decisions and his exilement, from three different lands, on his shoulders, but if he can just live long enough and fight hard enough he will give Daenerys what she wants. In his mind, that will be enough. More than he loves her, he believes Daenerys will be a good queen and that’s why, once more, he has given up almost everything in order to try and help her. He has the honourable traits of Ned Stark but, instead of being a slave to his honour, he submits to his heart.