Bran Stark spent most of the Game of Thrones Season 8 premiere awkwardly staring at various characters — birthing the best GoT meme in years— before finally revealing that he was “waiting for an old friend.” At the end of the episode, it turned out that old friend was Jaime Lannister (a funny way to describe the guy who tried to kill you years earlier), but what if he’s not? What if Bran is actually waiting for someone even more important?
*Possible spoilers for Game of Thrones Season 8 Episode 2 below.
Game of Thrones has repeatedly made it clear that Bran as the Three-Eyed Raven is a strange being disconnected from his former existence as Bran Stark. So why would he show no joy at being reunited with Jon Snow, yet minutes later show that he’s holding a grudge against the man that shoved him out a window years ago?
Right now, Game of Thrones wants us to think Jaime is what we’ll call “Bran’s Old Friend,” but what if Jaime just showed up while Bran was waiting for his real Old Friend.
Here are two alternate candidates: Theon Greyjoy, who’s definitely on his way back to Winterfell right now, or Meera Reed (and/or her father, Howland Reed), who might be joining in the upcoming battle as Stark bannermen.
Bran’s “Friend” Is Theon Greyjoy
Theon Greyjoy took up only a few minutes of screentime in the Season 8 premiere, just long enough to rescue his sister Yara and get her started on a voyage to retake the Iron Islands. Rather than return with his sister to their family’s home, Theon decides to head to Winterfell to fight alongside Jon Snow. This echoes Jon’s reassurance to Theon at the end of Season 7 that he could be both a Stark and a Greyjoy. (A bit ironic advice coming from somebody that’s both a Stark and a Targaryen.)
Theon was raised as a brother to the Stark children and was closer to Robb than perhaps even Jon, making his betrayal to the family in Season 2 that much more terrible. Long before Bran became the Three-Eyed Raven, he was the Little Lord of Winterfell. Theon took over with a small group of Iron Islanders and staged the deaths of Bran and Rickon when they escaped. It’s one of the more gutting betrayals in the series.
In the Season 8 trailer, Bran Stark says, “Everything you did brought you to where you are now, where you belong: home.” That’s not something he’d say to Jaime Lannister, but it makes perfect sense if he says this to Theon in Episode 2. Winterfell was and always will be Theon’s home.
Maybe he has a greater purpose to play in the Great War. As one of the best archers in the show, maybe he’ll take down the Night King with a dragonglass arrow?
Bran’s Waiting for Meera and/or Howland Reed
Meera Reed has the best qualifications to be classified as Bran’s Old Friend, having served as his loyal traveling companion for years before delivering him back to Winterfell early in Season 7. Other than Bran greenseeing Jon’s birth at the Tower of Joy, however, Meera’s father Howland Reed is the only living person that can provide non-magical evidence of Jon’s lineage. He was there.
Howland Reed stabbed Arthur Dayne in the back, and other than Ned Stark and the baby Jon Snow, he was the only one to walk out of that confrontation alive.
We saw this fight when Bran did in Season 6, Episode 3. There’s no way Ned could’ve walked out of the Tower with a baby and not told Howland Reed the truth.
Based on what Jojen and Meera Reed told Bran Stark in Season 3, Howland only told his children that he once saved Ned Stark’s live, but he never explained anything else about his role in Robert’s Rebellion. Like his son Jojen, whose greensight allowed him to see prophetic visions of the future, it’s implied that Howland also has magical powers of some kind.
In the books, his children tell a story of how Howland spent years on the Isle of Faces in the God’s Eye, a sanctuary on an island full of weirwood trees where the Children of the Forest and the First Men made the pact to fight together against the Night King. They never get into specifics, but Howland probably has magical powers — probably not as potent as the Three-Eyed Raven, but powerful magic nonetheless. Not only could he work with Bran, but he might be able to help them all figure out how to defeat the Night King.
Howland Reed has some sort of connection to the Children of the Forest and the magic underlying the larger Game of Thrones story, and yet we still know almost nothing about him.
Whether it’s in Episode 2 or sometime later in the season, the Reeds showing up to corroborate Jon’s claim to the Iron Throne would help legitimize him as the one true ruler of Westeros. Does it even need to come to that, however? When Jon learns the truth from Sam, he doesn’t even really doubt or deny it. They all have much more pressing concerns with the Night King inbound.
What’s unfortunate is that with only five episodes left, and at least one of them being a huge battle sequence at Winterfell, it seems unlikely that Game of Thrones would reintroduce Meera into the mix and even less likely that the show would introduce a modern-day Howland. There simply isn’t enough time, and for all we know, maybe Jon Snow doesn’t need any further evidence to become king, especially if he plans on marrying his aunt.
Does Howland Reed even count as an Old Friend? Probably. After all, they did share the memory at the Tower of Joy. If Ned was able to vaguely hear his son from across time, then we’d also be willing to wager that Howland Reed heard it too.
Game of Thrones Season 8 continues Sundays at 9 p.m. Eastern on HBO.