In an episode full of family reunions and fields of fire — how satisfying was it to see Daenerys finally ride Drogon into battle? — one of the most important plot developments was surprisingly subtle. In a tense scene, Littlefinger gave Bran the very Catspaw dagger that the assassin used to try and kill him way back in Season 1. Littlefinger's gift to Bran seems to be a ploy so that Bran will one day repay him in kind — but Bran swiftly gave it to Arya a few scenes later, leading many fans to hope that a girl is going to cut a silver-tongued bitch.
But beyond all this scheming, "The Spoils of War" planted another hint in our brains: What if Bran was the one who sent the assassin to kill his younger self, so long ago?
A Botched Assassination Causes No End Of Trouble
This theory comes to us via Upproxx, and it's more than a little intriguing. Before we get into the nitty gritty, let's recap. A few days after Bran was shoved out of that fateful tower by Jaime, the Catspaw assassin attempted to kill him as he lay in a coma. Bran's life was saved by Catelyn and his direwolf Summer, but the assassin's Valyrian steel dagger went on to cause much more bloodshed, as Catelyn scrabbled to find someone to blame.
Always eager to jump into the fray, Littlefinger told Catelyn that the dagger was his, but that he had lost it to Tyrion Lannister in a bet. Later, it turned out that he had actually lost the dagger to Robert Baratheon, but the damage was already done: Catelyn's quest for vengeance against the Lannisters, whom she held responsible for her son's condition, caused no end of trouble for Westeros.
Yet we still don't know who sent the assassin to kill Bran. Littlefinger clearly profited from all the confusion — his personal motto, echoed back to him by Bran in the last episode, is "chaos is a ladder," after all. But he didn't have to send the assassin in order to benefit from this chaos, he just needed to stir the pot afterwards by sending Catelyn after Tyrion.
So what if Bran was the one to sic the assassin on his younger self? This isn't out of the realm of possibility, as we've seen Bran warg through the veils of time before (*cough* Hodor). Bran can't yet make people hear him when he travels to he past in his visions, but as he grows more powerful it's likely that he'll refine this skill, and could eventually orchestrate his own attempted assassination. Maybe he even warged into the Catspaw assassin himself, which might explain the assassin's cryptic dialogue:
"You're not s'pposed to be here... no one's s'pposed to be here. It's a mercy — he's dead already."
The comment "he's dead already" could actually be referring to the future Three Eyed Raven version of Bran who, as Meera pointed out this episode, is totally dead inside. Bran's "chaos is a ladder" comment also points towards him knowing exactly what went down all those years ago, as Littlefinger has only expressed his personal motto to Varys and later Sansa in private.
Why Would Bran Want To Kill His Younger Self?
Now that we've established it's possible for Bran to go all self-fulfilling prophecy on himself, we now have to work out why he would do this. Upproxx theorizes that the current Bran just wanted to ensure he would eventually become the Three Eyed Raven, which makes a lot of sense — we've seen the future Bran guide his younger self before, by taking the form of a raven in visions.
Yet is this enough? Let's take this theory a little bit further. By siccing the assassin on his younger self, Bran may have put events in motion that would cause him to become who he is now, but he also would have contributed to the deaths of his parents and Robb, not to mention the suffering of his surviving siblings. (Though considering Bran's super creepy comment to Sansa that she looked hot during her rape, it's possible that he just does not give two shits about his family any more. But let's just put that aside for the moment.)
The point is, Bran would have to have a damn good reason to cause all this trouble, and if we look to the future we may find what he was trying to achieve: By setting the assassin on his younger self, Bran put events in motion that would eventually lead to him fulfilling his mission to protect humanity against the Night King.
We won't know this for sure until the show ends, as we can't predict what's going to happen. But Bran can. Perhaps he's already seen the future, as well as the past, and knew that going back to attempt his own assassination was the only way to put all the pieces in play for the final battle.
There's one very interesting conclusion to draw from all of this. If Bran can remember events from the future as much as those in the past, then the circular nature of time that we've seen in the show seems to imply that he will achieve his mission of saving humanity from the Night King. Of course, we still don't know how this will happen, or who will die along the way — and it's worth noting that Bran's perception of time still isn't perfect, and he could be confused by details he doesn't understand yet.
This also leads us to wonder why Bran would give the dagger to Arya. Sure, this means that she might kill Littlefinger with it (fingers crossed) but perhaps Bran knows that in the future there will be a moment when Arya finds herself set upon by White Walkers — and now she has a knife of Valyrian steel, she'll be able to defeat them. This could be another action intended to have consequences in the far-reaching future... or maybe Bran really didn't care about having a fancy knife and he knew his sister digs that kind of thing.
Either way, keep your eye on the Three Eyed Raven as the show progresses, as Bran is becoming a much more active player in that great game of thrones.
Tell us in the comments: Do you think Bran set the assassin on his younger self?