The season eight premiere of Game of Thrones was a barrage of shocking reunions and reveals. It also showed Bran staring creepily at people. His face may have inspired a lot of memes, but one of his meetings was actually a big deal. Allow us to explain why Bran’s final reunion of the episode, while the shortest, ended up being the most powerful one of all.

“Winterfell” can be summed up in two words: reunions and parallels. Characters came together—often to share information we need to get through the rest of the series—in ways that also brought their journeys full circle. For example, Jon Snow found out about his true parentage next to the statue of Ned Stark, indirectly fulfilling Ned’s promise that he would one day tell Jon the truth about his mother. Another one, while brief, was just as significant. That was the reunion between Jaime Lannister and Brandon Stark.

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Bran and Jaime only shared one scene together in the entire series before “Winterfell,” way back in the first episode. At the end of “Winter Is Coming,” Bran caught siblings Jaime and Cersei having sex, and Jaime responded by pushing Bran out the window. It’s a moment that changed both of their lives forever. And since then, these two very different characters—who’ve never laid eyes on each other since that fateful day—have been on different versions of a similar path. They’re noblemen who’ve had to move past their family legacies to find out who they really are.

Similar to how they met the first time around, this reunion scene happens at the end of the episode. Jaime has arrived in Winterfell, after choosing to leave Queen Cersei to fight for the North. After everything he’s been through over the course of the series, he doesn’t want to see himself as a Lannister anymore. His hair is noticeably darker, and he even covered up his golden hand in the season seven finale—not only because he needed a disguise, but also because it was Lannister gold. We’re seeing a totally different man than the one from the beginning of the show, the sexy Kingsguard who hurled a child out a window.

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That push was actually one of the most important events of the series. Along with the poisoning of Jon Arryn, the former Hand of the King, Bran getting thrown out the window jump-started the War of the Five Kings. That war caused Jaime to lose everything. His children, his father, his hand, and the woman he loves. The only thing he had left was his honor, something it’s taken him years to regain...and not just because of his reputation as a Kingslayer. He’s had to work really hard to try and redeem himself for all he’s done, but it’s hard to when your past is literally staring you in the face.

“I think he knows Bran didn’t die, but he doesn’t expect to meet him,” Nikolaj Coster-Waldau told Entertainment Weekly. “[His mission] goes from: ‘I know my brother Tyrion is there and I’m going to fight the good fight’ to ‘I’m in deep shit now.’ Because this is the Lord of Winterfell that I tried to kill, and I’m sure he wants revenge. That’s what Jaime expects.”

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But that’s not the reason Bran was waiting for him.

For most of this episode, Bran just shows up in the background—like a dragon trying to cock-block its mother’s boyfriend (oh yeah, that happened). He’s there to be an exposition dump and tell people to do things. In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Isaac Hempstead Wright said that, as an actor, he was thrilled to have Bran reunite with Jaime Lannister—but as the character, he doesn’t think Bran cared all that much.

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“In a sense, it’s just so irrelevant to Bran, really. His sole focus is that he wants the living to survive,” Hempstead Wright said. “He’s so far beyond any petty squabbling or wanting to get revenge or a comeuppance on someone. He doesn’t view the world like that anymore.”

While I agree that Bran isn’t waiting there to get revenge, which would be Jaime’s fear, I do feel he cares about seeing Jaime again. And the scene supports it. When you look at parallels, a common theme in the episode, this scene has two significant ones. Not only is this scene at the very end of the episode, mirroring the first (and only) time these two have seen each other, but “Winterfell” starts with a shot of a little boy climbing. Setting the stage.

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The scene is also shot exactly like an earlier one from this episode, where Bran ordered Samwell to talk to Jon about his parentage. At the time, he told Sam he wanted to stay and wait “for an old friend.” But unlike that moment, there’s nothing to tell Jaime here. So then why is Bran waiting for Jaime, his “old friend,” to show up? Because Bran Stark is there...for Bran Stark.

Like Jaime, Bran’s been on a journey to find out who he really is—even if Jaime’s has been about rediscovering his identity, and Bran’s has focused on stripping his identity away entirely. He was paralyzed, lost his mom, traveled Beyond the Wall, and became the Three-Eyed Raven. He’s so disconnected now, he doesn’t even see himself as a Stark anymore. But if we’ve learned anything from Sansa, Arya, and Jon—you can never stop being a Stark, no matter how hard you try. This scene is the one time, maybe the only time for the rest of the series, that we’re seeing Bran let himself be a Stark again. Even if it’s for just a second.

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Jaime is Bran’s connection to who he used to be, a little boy who lost himself and found a completely new path when he got pushed out a window. In a sense, Bran Stark did actually die that day, to be reborn as someone new. They changed each other’s lives, even if they were only together for a brief moment. And this meeting—which has been a long time coming—is a reminder of everything both of them have sacrificed to get where they are today. It shows how connected they are, as noblemen who’ve forgone their names, titles, and fates for a higher purpose, but can never fully let go of the past.

This reunion may not be the biggest we’ve seen on the series, and it won’t change the game of thrones, but it’s one that carries the weight of a very big world.

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About the author

Beth Elderkin

Video Editor and Staff Writer at io9. My doppelganger is that rebelling greeting card from Futurama.

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