We’re just weeks away from the final episode of Game of Thrones, and with it comes the answers to questions many of us have had for years. But even with the conclusion so tantalizingly close, we can’t help but keep trying to solve the show’s secrets in advance. And while most endgame theories floating around at the moment will undoubtedly miss the mark, one element does seem certain: Bran’s going to play a huge part in how things go down.
There’s just been too much build-up surrounding his powers to think otherwise. The moment Bran accidentally broke Hodor’s brain through time, he became the most pivotal character on the show — maybe more so than the Prince That Was Promised, whoever that turns out to be. Seeing through time is one thing, but being able to reach out and affect things? Forget Chekhov’s gun, we’ve got ourselves an atom bomb right here.
Most theories on how Bran’s time travel could come into play are nothing more than elaborate guesses that read like fan fiction. The big problem we have is that once you assume Bran masters the art of time manipulation, you have almost infinite possibilities for what he could get up to in the past. This has led to much speculation: maybe he went back in time and tried to warn Mad King Aerys of the White Walker threat, inadvertently driving him insane? Or perhaps he tried to stop the Children of the Forest from creating the Others in the first place, accidentally becoming the Night King himself?
There’s even a strangely compelling theory that Bran is behind every major event in the history of Westeros, using his time travel powers to stack the deck in humanity’s favor for the upcoming battle with the Others. It’s main tenets are 1) Winterfell and the Wall, built by Brandon the Builder during the Age of Heroes, was actually built by our time-traveling friend Bran. And 2) the prophetic vision that drove Aegon the Conqueror to invade Westeros and unite the Seven Kingdoms under one king was Bran, too. 3) Even the previous Three-Eyed Raven, Brynden ‘Bloodraven’ Rivers, was guided by Bran to go north of the Wall, where he merged with a weirwood tree to wait for Bran. Or so the theory goes.
According to the Three-Eyed Raven, “The past is already written. The ink is dry.” That means Bran isn’t actually changing anything. There’s no butterfly effect in play or different outcomes due to his actions. Everything that has happened historically is already a result of what Bran is doing in the future. That’s known as a causal time loop, and it’s probably the trippiest thing Game of Thrones has thrown at us yet.
One issue with this theory is the limits we know about regarding greensight and warging. We only received brief glimpses of the past through season six and seven, with the Three-Eyed Raven ominously warning Bran “Stay too long where you don’t belong and you’ll never return.” Similar alarms were raised about warging, and there’s absolutely no evidence whatsoever to suggest it’s possible to warg into people from the past. That seems to refute the possibility of Bran somehow becoming Brandon the Builder thousands of years ago. But the two may still be the same person now in a different way.
In season six’s ‘Oathbreaker,’ the Three-Eyed Raven claimed he’d been waiting over a thousand years for Bran. But Bloodraven had only been under the weirwood for about 50 years, having come north to the Wall with Maester Aemon in 233AC. That implies he’s become a vessel for the Three-Eyed Raven, which represents some sort of ancient consciousness or force channeled through heart trees. Remember that Bran didn’t suddenly become the Three-Eyed Raven when the previous one was killed by the Night King. His transformation was only completed when he was ‘hooked up’ to another weirwood tree later.
Legend says Brandon the Builder comes from the Age of Heroes when the Children of the Forest shared their magic freely with humans. Using this power, Brandon and the Children raised the Wall after the Others were driven from the realms of man. He built Winterfell and included three acres of Godswood with a massive heart tree at the center. So, of course, Brandon the Builder would have been tapped into the same weirwood network as Bran is now. Whether he still exists in some way as part of the Three-Eyed Raven, continuing his fight against the Others after thousands of years, is impossible to say. But it sure is fun to speculate on.