(This post contains spoilers for season 8, episode 2 of “Game of Thrones”)
After the way the first episode of the final season of “Game of Thrones” ended, I kinda expected that Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) would get his big one-on-one moment with Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) right at the beginning of this week’s episode, but it was not to be. But finally about ten minutes into the episode we got the big scene.
But it took some doing for Jaime to survive that long. The conversation only happened because Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) spoke on Jaime’s behalf when Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) seemed intent on murdering him. Brienne’s endorsement swayed Sansa (Sophie Turner), and that in turn swayed Dany.
And so we finally got the confrontation we’d been waiting on since Jaime shoved Bran out a window at the end of the very first episode of “Game of Thrones.”
It wasn’t actually much of a confrontation, though, since Bran is different now than he was back then. As the Three-Eyed Raven, Bran is divorced from his sense of self and is all about being pragmatic now. So he’s not mad at Jaime — he wants Jaime to be able to help with the war effort against the Night King and his army of the dead.
Speaking of which, Bran said something pretty weird and interesting at the end of this conversation. After Bran noted that Jaime wouldn’t be able to help if Sansa or Dany had him executed, Jaime logically asked if Bran’s pragmatic view would change after this whole nightmare ends. “What about afterwards?” Jaime asked.
To which Bran replied, very cryptically: “How do you know there is an afterwards?”
If anybody else had said that, I’d interpret that comment as meaning, like, that it’s meaningless at this moment to worry about what comes after the war when the war is literally about the survival of all living things. But coming from Bran, who theoretically knows how the war against the Night King will end, that line plays very differently. It plays like he’s warning Jaime that they should expect to fail.
Of course, there’s any number of reasons why Bran would nudge Jaime like that that doesn’t involved the Night King winning the Game of Thrones. As a prophet-type character, his role in the story now — assuming humanity will win somehow — would be to push people into the positions they need to be in to make that victory happen. But he can’t tell them straight up what needs to be done, because telling someone their future would then change their future.
The most likely thing going on with that line, then, is that Bran is telling Jaime what he needs to hear in that moment — that he needs to put aside all his baggage because none of it will matter if they lose and everyone dies.
The next most likely scenario is that Bran is hinting only that Jaime himself will not survive the war and so the question of what the Stark family will want to do to him after the war will be moot anyway. Like there’s an unstated “for you” at the end of his question. How do you know there is an afterwards for you?
But what if that’s not what that is? What if Bran is broaching the possibility that the Night King and the army of the dead are going to win the war because he knows that they will? It’s not a possibility that I have ever really taken seriously, because why would this show end that way? And if Bran knows the Night King is going to win then why is he doing what he’s doing to help the resistance efforts?
For the sake of preserving the drama in this final stretch of “Game of Thrones” episodes, we have no idea what Bran knows about how the war is going to play out, so for now we’re just going to have to settle for picking apart all the possible interpretations of this cryptic eight-word sentence.