Just in case Game of Thrones wasn't complicated enough already, a fan theory posted on Reddit after Sunday night's third episode of Season 6 has thrown us an epic curveball. It suggests that Bran Stark might just have screwed with the fabric of time itself during his visit to the Tower of Joy.
WARNING: Beyond this point you'll find a plateful of spoilers served with a large side order of insanity.
After four seasons of being pretty much a spare part, and following a complete absence last season, Bran and the Three-Eyed Raven are back in the fray for Season 6. For the first time, Bran's presence in the series is beginning to have an impact on the great game, taking us back into the past to reveal that Jon Snow was fathered by Rhaegar Targaryen, which in turn would allow Jon (newly emancipated from the Night's Watch) to make a claim to the Iron Throne.
Or so we thought.
But what if the purpose of Bran's journey back into the past is something else entirely? What if his mere presence at the Tower of Joy set in motion the chain of events that led to Robert's Rebellion and the murders of his own family?
This theory hinges on the moment when Bran calls out to a young Ned as he heads into the Tower of Joy. Ned, apparently having heard something, turns to survey the scene, the implication being that Bran might have meddled with the past in some way by calling out to his father.
Immediately after, back in the present, the Raven tells Bran: "The past is already written. The ink is dry." That statement seems to be contradicted, though, by what we saw, suggesting the Raven, who understands the implications of altering time, could have been attempting to dissuade Bran from making the mistake again.
As far as Bran is aware, his voice can be heard if he speaks while inside a vision, and this is where the theory starts to get crazy. It's widely known that King Aerys heard whispers, having fallen prey to the legendary Targaryen madness. His actions and rage effectively brought about the downfall of his own House.
What if, at some point in the future, Bran is shown a vision of the Mad King by the Raven? Could it be that his attempts to communicate with Aerys are only heard as vague whispers, impossible to fully comprehend, and that Aerys was in fact driven mad by future Bran's intervention in the past?
To add fuel to the fire, the Mad King was famed for his habit of burning enemies and traitors. When the Raven warns Bran that the past is written, could he have learned from experience of the perils of intervention?
The Raven's experience with White Walkers has long since taught him that bodies must be burned if the dead are to stay dead. What if an attempt to convey that wisdom to Aerys was misconstrued as a voice ordering him to burn his enemies? Could that be the flame that lit the last Targaryen king's obsession with fire?
Now for my absolute favorite part of the theory: Bran wargs into Wyllis (the giant who would become Hodor) to prevent Ned's fate, assuming this is safe because he's warged into adult Hodor already — but in doing so, he creates Hodor.
The best alternate explanation I've come across for young Ned's uneasiness upon turning around as he enters the Tower is that he realizes the horse with the Stark skirting belongs to Lyanna, and therefore that she wasn't captured by Rhaegar, but rode there with him willingly. Ned didn't actually hear Bran at all.
Obviously there are almost an infinite number of directions in which one could take this theory, and probably enough holes in it that it could be easily debunked if you take the view that time travel in Game of Thrones is a twist too far.
You can read the theory in full, and check out the discussion around it if you have a spare hour, or five, to burn on Reddit. We should get more answers within the next couple of weeks, which is plenty of time to spin this theory into something even more biblically insane. So tell me: