Winter has come. The seventh season of Game of Thrones is off and running and with only seven episodes, HBO doesn’t have time to hold our hands and explain things like where characters are, the history of new locations, or how the actions of one character affect the powder keg that is Westeros’ political climate. Luckily, between all of George R.R. Martin’s novels, and The World of Ice and Fire historical tome, there’s plenty of ways to fill in the blanks and we’re here to help. Obviously spoilers and speculation will abound, so proceed at your own peril.
Brandon Stark is dead. That much became clear in the latest episode of Game of Thrones — “The Spoils of War” — in which he deleted his humanity to make room for all of history. What remains is a hollowed out Bran-shaped shell that might as well be the Westeros equivalent of a rogue A.I.
Robo-Bran doesn’t care about much of anything. Sure, people died for him, but human life is but a speck of dust in the infinite cosmos, so who cares? Time is a flat circle, etc. etc. When Petyr Baelish tries to manipulate Bran by handing him the Valyrian steel dagger that almost killed the child years ago, Bran shrugs. He then tosses off the “Chaos is a ladder” line just to mess with Littlefinger. Emo kids of the early aughts wish they were this terrifyingly apathetic. We know that Robo-Bran has seen everything that has ever happened in the history of ever and, armed with the knowledge that he can also affect the past, last night’s episode got me thinking: Did Bran hire the catspaw assassin to attempt to kill Bran in season one?
It’s been a long time, so a quick refresher: In the first season of Game of Thrones, Bran Stark was climbing an “abandoned” tower in Winterfell when he stumbled upon Jaime and Cersei getting it on. In a fit of panic, Jaime tossed Bran from the window. Unfortunately, instead of killing the child, the fall merely put Bran into a coma and paralyzed him from the waist down. Days later, while Catelyn Stark was tending to Bran, an assassin wielding Valyrian steel came into the room to finish what Jaime started. Summer the direwolf put a stop to that. Years later, we still have no idea who sent this catspaw or where he acquired the dagger. At the time of the attempted murder, it seemed likely the Lannisters were to blame but they never came forward to take credit. Littlefinger was always a suspect because he’s Littlefinger and technically the dagger belonged to him, even if he claimed to have lost it to Tyrion Lannister. In the books, it is generally assumed at this point that Joffrey sent the assassin in a misguided attempt to impress his father, Robert (though this is merely conjecture on Tyrion’s part based on overheard conversations).
Now that we’re all caught up, who would want Bran dead that isn’t on that list? The only person I can think of is Robo-Bran. He who used to be Bran is responsible for Hodor’s lifetime of mono-word communication. It’s been hinted that Bran may be responsible for the Mad King’s madness (if Aegon was seeing glimpses of the White Walker, “Burn them all!” takes on new meaning). He has no problem using Sansa’s most traumatizing experience as small talk, and is unperturbed by the number of people who have died for him. It’s not hard to make the jump from that to the Möbius strip that would be Bran created himself by convincing the assassin to attempt to murder him.
But how? Game of Thrones has shown in past seasons that people can hear Bran when he travels to the past. Ned Stark hears his future son when he visits the Tower of Joy, and one could argue that’s part of the reason Ned thinks to adopt Jon Snow as his own. The catspaw assassin was just some schlub from the surrounding countryside. The kind of person whom, if told to do something by a mysterious disembodied voice, would probably assume it was one of the Seven choosing him for an important mission. The kind of mission that would require him to break into King Robert’s caravan, steal the dagger, and make his way to Bran Stark’s room, setting in motion the chain of events that would lead directly to Robo-Bran. The fact that it would also lead to the death of his father, mother, eldest brother, youngest brother, and most of the direwolves matters not.
The only question remaining is “Why would Littlefinger lie about the dagger?” Littlefinger told Catelyn that the dagger had been won off of him by Tyrion Lannister during a tournament. It’s due to this information that Cat kidnaps Tyrion and tries him for murder. We only latter find out the truth: Littlefinger lost the dagger to King Robert during the tourney, not Tyrion. The dagger was important enough that when Littlefinger was fleeing King’s Landing with Sansa, he made sure to grab it since we see Petyr with it later. Baelish fancies himself smarter than everyone around him. Not knowing who tried to kill Bran would’ve made him extremely uncomfortable. Wishing to regain control, it’s easy to imagine him concocting a tale that would nudge the Starks towards creating chaos (it is a ladder, after all) within House Baratheon. If not for the Starks’ meddling, would Cersei have killed Robert? Would Sansa have become engaged to Joffrey? Would Ned have been beheaded, leading Arya down the path to become an assassin? Would Jon be King in the North? No. A simple lie by Littlefinger had a butterfly effect. But Littlefinger may have only had to lie because who would believe a voice from the future set the Song of Ice and Fire into motion?