WARNING: Bran's head is dark and full of spoilers, so if you haven't watched Game of Thrones Season 6, Episode 6 "Blood of My Blood" yet, then you know what to do.
I say it every time I write about Game of Thrones, but that's because it bears repeating: Nothing that happens in this show — literally nothing — is random. Everything happens for a reason, except for that time Podrick showed Littlefinger's whores such a good time they refused his gold, but even that will probably come back into play in some convoluted but strangely logical way at some point.
Anyway, my point is that David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, the writer-showrunner duo who somehow balance an infinite number of threads within this vast universe created by the Mad King himself — no, not Aerys Targaryen, I'm talking about George R.R. Martin — do not fuck around. If something is teased, you know there's a damn good reason for it.
With that in mind, I thought it would be fun to dive deep into the scattershot series of visions Bran experienced while warging in Season 6's most recent episode — a series of flashbacks to both earlier seasons and to notorious events from the Targaryen reign — in an attempt to work out what the hell it all means.
Disclaimer: I am not as clever as the aforementioned holy trinity of writers, so if my speculation seems wild, that's probably because it is. And If I'm totally off at any point, feel free to school me in the comments.
Before we continue, you might want to remind yourself of the scene in question:
Good to go? Great. Let's start with the most immediately noteworthy flashback — a shot of Aerys Targaryen II (the infamous Mad King) sitting on the Iron Throne, his head adorned with a beautifully crafted Targaryen crown.
Now, you might try to claim that you didn't get shivers when Aerys shouted that line from the books — "BURN THEM ALL!" — but I'm afraid you'd be lying.
Cast your mind back to Season 3, when Jaime Lannister still had a backbone and was traveling as Brienne of Tarth's prisoner-slash-roadtrip buddy. Jaime told Brienne the story of how he killed the Mad King, plunging his sword through Aerys's heart and earning the legendary title Kingslayer in the process.
There's Jaime (looking quite physically imposing, considering he was just 16 when he committed the act) sitting on the throne with Aerys's body slumped beside him, corroborating the account of the tale he told Brienne.
Initially, this seems to be the immediate aftermath of Aerys giving his pyromancer the command to burn them all — i.e., the good people of King's Landing — with wildfire.
Below ground in the Alchemists' Guild, wildfire is ignited — but the likelihood of this having happened in the past seems minimal, considering we already know that Aerys was killed by Jaime before his command could be carried out (hence Jaime's undeserved reputation for dishonor), and that wildfire cannot be contained.
That suggests that the wildfire scene is in fact a vision of the future, which in turn raises the question of exactly how Bran can see something that hasn't yet happened while warging. Are his visions being given to him by the Raven in the future (i.e., old man Bran)?
If so, it seems as though it will be up to present-day Bran to change the events of the future to prevent a massacre at King's Landing. So, you know, no pressure.
In a separate scene we see a bloodied hand, which apparently belongs to the young Ned Stark. It's impossible to be sure, but the best guess would be that the blood is that of Lyanna Stark, and that Bran will soon witness a very graphic vision of the birth of the bastard we've come to know as Jon Snow, finally confirming the universally agreed-on theory that R+L=J.
Now for something altogether more mysterious.
In this still from Season 3 we see the Night's King — the ancient leader of the White Walkers — approach a young baby wrapped in a blanket and left entirely alone in the snow.
The Night's King turns the human child into a White Walker.
What's the significance of this among the scenes of Targaryen intrigue? Could it simply be an omen — a message that Bran should heed — perhaps signaling that while the great houses of Westeros are distracted warring with one another, the Night's King is busy assembling an army?
Should they head south, the Walkers could wipe out each and every one of the living, a threat that most of Westeros has been horribly oblivious to for years.
Now for perhaps the most major of the revelations contained in Bran's vision.
On first impression, a reminder of the Red Wedding and the tragic fates of Catelyn and Robb Stark — slaughtered under Walder Frey's roof — doesn't seem like such a big deal. But as I said in the intro, nothing is random in Game of Thrones, and everything contained in this vision seems to serve a grander purpose: To inform Bran of something, or to educate us about events from the history books.
Could Catelyn's inclusion alongside the shots of the White Walker army actually be a hint that the Lady Stoneheart arc from the books might finally be brought to life by Benioff and Weiss? I don't think it can be mere coincidence that the Brotherhood Without Banners received a mention in this episode, and we already know that Thoros of Myr will return.
With the show now retroactively adapting stories from earlier books, and Sansa looking to conquer the Boltons and take back the North with Jon Snow at her side, the timing could hardly be any more perfect for Lady Stoneheart.
The overarching theme of Season 6 so far seems to be disparate threads finally being tied together: Brienne and Jaime marching for the same destination, and a reunion likely to be less than happy; Sansa and Jon teaming up while Arya looks to escape Braavos and tick the final names off her list; Daenerys and her dragons returning to Westeros to restore Targaryen rule.
So it seems appropriate that Bran, whose fall at Winterfell was our entry point into the "great game," now holds all the cards.
Game of Thrones continues Sundays on HBO — as if you didn't already know.