Game of Thrones season 8’s premiere ends with Jaime Lannister arriving in Winterfell and coming face-to-face with Bran Stark, leading to an icy stare that would only be colder if one of them was a White Walker. The moment called back to the Game of Thrones pilot and Jaime’s original sin.
When Jaime was last in Winterfell, it was way back in Game of Thrones season 1 as the head of the Kingsguard to Robert Baratheon. While there, he and sister Cersei snuck away to engage in incestuous relations in secret. However, the nimble-footed Bran Stark was climbing the stone towers and saw them, leading to Jaime pushing the young boy out of a window and permanently disabling him from the waist down.
The pair have been on separate sides of the Westeros map throughout Game of Thrones ever since, but now, with the threat of the Night King looming large, they’re going to have to face the past. The fact that the “reunion” ends the season 8 premiere, “Winterfell”, positions it as a very important moment. But what could it actually mean to the future?
Both of these characters have changed a lot since the Game of Thrones pilot. Jaime has transformed from an initial villain into one of the series’ most sympathetic characters, coming to terms with his ungratifying Kingslayer title and striving to do good. Bran, meanwhile, has transcended his injuries to become the new Three-Eyed Raven, completely losing all emotional connection to his past and family.
This is what makes the premiere ending so interesting: what it means depends massively on the character. For Jaime, it’s something that will force him to accept his past in a more upfront way – unlike killing the Mad King, what he did to Bran was purely evil, and it’s not like he’s been squeaky clean since considering he threatened to kill Tully babes when fighting in the Riverlands in Game of Thrones season 6. However, the boy whose life he ruined will surely have no emotional resentment; Bran has been detached to everyone, from Meera Reed to sister Sansa, and in this episode wouldn’t even personally tell Jon Snow about his true parentage.
Of course, there’s one major wrinkle here going back to the books: it was in dreams about the original push out of the window that Bran had his first proper interaction with the Three-Eyed Raven. It may be that Bran will recognize Jaime as the progenitor of his journey into becoming an all-seeing tree. Although even that angle does little to build expectation of any upset.
Beyond Bran and Jaime themselves, this connection has much bigger implications. While the death of Jon Arryn orchestrated by Littlefinger is the real starting move in the game, Bran’s injury, Catelyn Stark’s subsequent investigation and the fracturing of Lannister faith was essential in the escalation of the War of the Five Kings. Considering how Sansa and Arya handled Petyr Baelish in the Game of Thrones season 7 finale, this could put Jaime’s desire to fight in the army of the living on thin ice (although trailers do confirm he will eventually be accepted). All of this is before we get to the fact that Jaime killed Daenerys’ father, King Aerys, making him one of the least popular men around.
What this moment really does is hammer home how important past actions will be to Game of Thrones even as the Night King’s army nears Winterfell. In the season 8 premiere, we already saw how Dany’s callous execution of the Tarly’s will have an impact on Sam and, by extension, Jon, who is himself upset at how his honorable father lied to him. While Jaime and Bran may not be a deciding factor in the war to come, what they represent in terms of the start of this journey influencing the end is unavoidable. In Game of Thrones, it really is all about the things you do for love.