Whether you’re sharing then on Twitter or not, everyone has theories about how Game of Thrones ends, who will end up winning, and the fates of all our favorite characters. One of those long-held theories had to do with the fate of Bran and the theory that he and the Night King are the same person. But Season 8, Episode 3 seemed to suggest that’s definitely not the case. Or did it?
Spoilers ahead for Game of Thrones Season 8, Episode 3, “The Long Night.
Here’s the problem: If Bran and the Night King were one and the same, then Bran would have died the moment Arya killed the Night King, right?
Well, maybe not. Here’s why the theory could still be true and the Night King could even come back before Game of Thrones airs its series finale.
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What if Bran’s death isn’t predicated on the destruction of the Night King? What if it’s been building up to this point and, as the “Bran is the Night King” theories predict, Bran is not only still in charge of creating and/or becoming the Night King, but he ends up orchestrating his own death at Arya’s hands?
Does your brain hurt? Okay, well, pop a Tylenol and keep reading because we need to talk about this ASAP.
What We Know About the Night King’s Death
Let’s start with what we know. In “The Long Night”, Arya kills the Night King with the Valyrian steel dagger once intended to be used to murder Bran. Earlier, in Season 7, Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish tried to give that dagger to Bran as a peace offering, but Bran worked quicker than your aunt playing White Elephant at Christmas and re-gifted it to Arya. The presumption here is that Bran somehow knew that Arya had to kill the Night King and needed the right weapon because of the Three-Eyed Raven.
Considering the Night King has been such a shadowy force of evil for seven seasons, watching Arya use a little assassin trickery to take him out in the blink of an eye feels a little anticlimactic. It couldn’t be that easy, could it, Game of Thrones? Does this show intend to just let the story of the undead megalomaniac determined to usher in the Long Night end with Arya offing him with a single stab?
But if it was all part of some convoluted plan orchestrated by Bran, then at least it sort of makes sense.
Bran’s Plan, Explained
Here’s where things will get a little tricky, so stay focused. We know, thanks to Hodor’s backstory and how he died, as well as Bran’s presence at the birth of Jon Snow in Dorne, that Bran is not only about to inhabit the bodies of people, but there’s a chance his presence can affect people in the past. In the case of Hodor, Bran’s presence during Hodor’s teenage years provides a connection in space and time to Meera shouting at adult Hodor to hold the door as she escapes with Bran in the present day. This sets off the seizure that leaves Hodor unable to say anything except “Hodor.”
With this in mind, we could easily believe that when Bran warged during the Battle of Winterfell, he was going back in time to set up key events that would help to lead everyone to the Battle of Winterfell, which would then be considered an inevitable event if Bran was helping to make it happen by influencing the past.
It’s been theorized that Bran’s Three-Eyed Raven capabilities allowed him to go back to the time of the Mad King Aerys II, and that the voices Aerys heard were actually whispers from another place and time made audible thanks to Bran’s presence. Similarly, it stands to reason that Bran could have developed his ability to connect different moments in time together (not just connecting the present to a past moment, as with Hodor), which would explain Petyr Baelish getting the idea to procure the exact right dagger and then use it to spark a war between the Starks and Lannisters.
What Happens to Bran After the Battle of Winterfell
It’s also worth noting that, depending on GoT’s approach to time travel, it could still allow Bran to become the Night King. If Bran realizes he was the Night King all along, maybe he’ll head into the past by choice and become the show’s main antagonist, creating a sort of perfect time loop.
It’s possible that the Battle of Winterfell is both the starting and ending point of Bran’s life as the Night King. In the moment that the Night King dies, Bran begins a new journey that will ultimately lead to him either engineering the Night King’s creation or perhaps permanently warging into his body in the past.
Maybe the Night King is a necessary evil, uniting Jon and Dany so they can subsequently work together to defeat Cersei. Once Bran makes that realization, he’d have no choice but to go back in time and start the cycle all over again.
So How Does Bran Become the Night King?
Bran must know that only he has the power to go back and create the Night King. He’s also been warned that using greensight and warging are addictive, a rule he’ll probably break to ensure the Night King is created by the Children of the Forest.
The catch, as many fans have predicted, is that Bran will become stuck in the Night King. This would mean that Bran has, in theory, always been the Night King. Much like the way time travel works in Avengers: Endgame, human Bran is a version of his past, and the Night King of the past was always destined to Bran’s future and final form.
It might be a stretch, but this would also provide some actual resolution to Bran’s confusing plotline. It would also give fans a bit more closure on the sudden death of the Night King, who was, you know, supposed to be the most evil thing of all time.
Turning Bran into the Night King may be the only way to wrap up both of those loose threads at once. And with just three episodes left, it’s probably the best option — even if it still doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
Game of Thrones Season 8, Episode 4 airs Sunday at 9 p.m. Eastern on HBO.