Bran Stark is kind of a problematic character in the Game Of Thrones universe, and not just because we watched him age from 8 to 25 over what seems like just a few years (Swedish metal guitarist Bran remains our favorite). As the three-eyed raven, Bran literally has the ability to warg into humans in addition to perceiving future, past, or current events and even changing them as he sees fit. Dude can literally do anything, which is probably why the show has kept him shrouded in a certain amount of mystery for the last several seasons.
Still, it remains clear that he’ll end up playing a major role in the story and, judging from what a dick he’s been of late (poor Meera!), it may not be a heroic one. A theory that’s been kicking around Reddit for a while, and which is seeing some fresh evaluation, is one that states that the Night King—the one who just speared a goddamn dragon out of the sky in the last episode—is none other than Bran.
The theory was broken down on Nerdist by A.V. Club contributor Michael Walsh, who answers Game Of Thrones questions in our Mailbag Of Thrones (and also has some vital insight into the Night King’s role in Westeros). Here, he describes the theory thusly: “Bran has been continuously going back in time to try and save mankind from the White Walkers, with each attempt failing, and his efforts eventually ending with him getting stuck inside the Night King.” Sounds confusing, right? It is. And it involves a few big mental leaps along the way.
Essentially, Bran’s attempts to travel back in time to prevent the “terrible end result of the Great War” have had a series of unintended consequences, many of them with direct results on the world of Game Of Thrones. The theory connects Bran to the Mad King’s fiery tirade, the building of the Wall, and the creation of the first White Walker, which he actually witnessed in a vision a few seasons ago. And it’s there, the theory suggests, that Bran got stuck.
Which is why his next attempt would be to go back to the time before White Walkers existed, to take over the body of the first man the Children of the Forest turned into one via dragonglass to the heart. Either by trying to stop the Children or stopping their war with men—the whole reason they made White Walkers—Bran would hope to end the White Walker threat forever.
But as both Jojen and the Three-Eyed Raven warned Bran repeatedly, you can’t remain in the past or in someone else’s body for too long because you can get stuck there. “It is beautiful beneath the sea; stay too long and you drown.” That’s how Bran would get trapped in the first White Walker, who becomes the Night King with all of Bran’s incredible powers. The powers that let him raise the dead.
Bran lives for thousands of years as him, which is why he can see himself in the vision and mark him. He then goes and kills the Three-eyed Raven who hid the truth from him. Even now the Three-eyed Raven’s comment about how Bran “will fly” could be because the Night King is about to ride his new dragon, another example of prophecy not quite being what we expect.
One piece of evidence for this theory says that when the first White Walker was created by the Children he gripped the tree the exact same way Bran gripped the roots beneath the ground while watching, because Bran was experiencing it in the moment because he was that man.
Of course, this theory hits all the same roadblocks as other Bran theories (and pretty much any theory involving time travel). “Like why would the Three-eyed Raven not intervene if he knew what was happening in the past, present, and future?” Walsh asks. “Why wouldn’t he have told Bran to warg into one of the Children of the Forest instead? Why did anything happen if someone knew it was going to fail before it happened?”
Maybe it’ll make more sense in the books? Regardless, your brain needs a rest. Here’s the Night King lip-syncing to Drake.