George R.R. Martin has a lot of ground to cover in The Winds of Winter. The novel — the sixth in his series "A Song of Ice and Fire" — has been a long time coming. After years of delays over a release date, it seems as though Martin has picked up the pace with his writing and is drawing closer to completion. The author has been giving an ample amount of updates that suggest his days are being spent primarily in Westeros, writing about popular characters like Cersei and Tyrion Lannister, and Arya Stark. Tentatively, The Winds of Winter is due to be finished by next year, though it’s hard to say for sure when it will be available to fans.
However, fans are also hoping that whenever Winds of Winter does arrive, Martin will resolve some of the loose plot threads left over from Game of Thrones. The show’s final season wasn’t exactly its best, and while many theorized correctly that Bran Stark (now fully merged with the Three-Eyed Raven) would become the ruler of Westeros, his powerful abilities were seriously underutilized. Thankfully, Martin is already on track to fix the show's mistake.
We know Bran can see into the past and influence (but not wholly change) people and events. This was demonstrated during Season 6 with Hodor, whose real name was Wylis. Bran, in an attempt to escape a swarm of White Walkers with Meera, entered Hodor’s mind while his own was still experiencing a memory. In the present, Bran commanded Hodor to “hold the door” and the phrase’s repetition affected Wylis in the past, retroactively altering Hodor forever and giving the character his name in the process.
The scene was simultaneously the beginning and the end of Hodor, but it was also a showcase of Bran’s unbridled power. The young Stark never again showed off his ability to influence the past on the show, but The Winds of Winter could finally take him to the next level and affirm a long-held theory that suggests Bran’s ties to Westerosi politics are far more crucial than we thought.
What’s past is prologue — The introduction of Bran’s ability to see and influence the past was far too pivotal to have been a one-and-done deal. When Bran first realizes that he can see into the past (a version of time traveling), he tries his hardest to reach out to everyone, including his father Ned Stark. The Three-Eyed Raven says that Bran can only witness previous events and not change them. but Bran’s persistent shouting reveals that people can hear something — a rustling wind, a whisper, a hint that they may not be alone despite the fact that Bran is invisible to them.
Fan speculation suggests Hodor isn’t the only person Bran unintentionally influenced and that his visits to the past manifested as whispers to King Aerys II Targaryen, leading him to become the Mad King. The theory argues that Bran is basically the reason behind Robert’s Rebellion, the Targaryens’ fall, and the civil unrest in Westeros.
Bran being behind Westeros’ turmoil is a hard pill to swallow, but if he could change the course of Hodor’s life in a minute, then it’s possible that his presence in the past may have driven Aerys to paranoia and cruelty. To be fair, the Aerys in the books was imprisoned and suffered through a lot of tragedies that are believed to have impacted his mental state. On the other hand, Hodor seemed like a smart, healthy young man before crossing paths with Bran and so the theory is plausible.
The Winds of Winter can further expand on this idea, offering up more information regarding Bran’s training with the Three-Eyed Raven (aka, the three-eyed crow) and his Greensight abilities. Game of Thrones likely left a lot of Bran’s storyline out because showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss wanted to wrap things up quickly. That shouldn’t be the case in Martin’s book.
Bran has the potential to be the most influential person in all of Westeros. If he started the war, then it’s possible that he could end it when he finds out what he did to Aerys. Perhaps Bran will also use his Greensight to figure out how to defeat the White Walkers.
After all, there’s no point in being able to see the past if he isn’t going to use it to shape the future. It’s either that or Bran could use his ability to influence the past to obtain unimaginable power and rule over the kingdom with an iron fist. Whether or not Bran will employ his powers responsibly remains to be seen. Whatever happens, it’ll be a far more logical and satisfying end to Bran’s story.