[Spoilers for Game Of Thrones season 8 episode 3.]
Bran, the Stark kid Game Of Thrones has spent years building up as the mystical lynchpin to the series’ magical goings-on, sure seems to be kinda useless now that the rubber’s hit the road. In last night’s episode—a desperate battle to stop the undead army that’s been creeping south since the first season—Bran was given more opportunity than ever before to do something with his body-swapping, time-traveling powers. And yet, he just sort of hung around, waiting to be almost-killed before his much cooler sister swooped in to save him in the nick of time.
In apparent disbelief that one of the show’s most mysterious main characters could actually turn out to be nothing more than a creepy little voyeur, Michael Walsh, a writer at Nerdist and our own Mailbag Of Thrones correspondent, crafted an explanation for why Bran did a whole lot of nothing when his talked-up magic abilities would’ve come in awfully handy.
Walsh introduces the piece by mentioning everything Bran didn’t do that could’ve been helpful—like, say, taking over a dragon’s mind or “[visiting] the past to find some crucial piece of lost information”—before attempting to make the case that the boy wonder was actually working on a very secret plan none of us noticed in the moment.
Citing Bran’s super chilled-out opinion that everything in the past and present, no matter how horrible, happens for a predetermined reason, Walsh suggests that sitting around doing nothing may have been his way to capitalize on “the Night King’s obvious arrogance and obsession with him.”
From this point of view, Bran “intentionally stayed out of the fray exactly so that the living would get overrun and the Night King would let his guard down” around the same time Arya teleported over to just barely manage a surprise assassination.
It’s a decent enough theory to hang on to if you’re determined to continue thinking this character’s backstory may pay off sometime in the final season, but it also doesn’t really explain why Bran just peaced out to enjoy the medieval fantasy equivalent of box seats while everyone got murdered.
Presumably, he could have accomplished the same thing—tricking the Night King into thinking he’d won the battle—without the bulk of his allies having to die in droves in the process. Sure, some of Winterfell’s defenders needed to bite it, but if The Bran-Plan revolved entirely on the human army’s tactical defeat, maybe he ought to have, like, done something that saved more of them during their retreat and the hours that seemed to have passed with the castle overrun.
More likely than this theory is that we’re nearing the end of a show that doesn’t really know how to wrap up a bazillion loose ends inherited from the novels without spinning entirely off the rails. There is the very real possibility that, in the HBO series at least, Bran doesn’t have much to contribute beyond looming in doorways and saying cryptic stuff about how smart he is.
Unless, of course, there are metatextual levels to this and that’s just what he wants us to think ...
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