After Sunday’s finale, the people of Westeros are hailing King Bran the Broken, the Human Google who can see the past and future. There is no Iron Throne for him to sit on and Sansa Stark’s successful campaign for northern independence means the new king will just rule six kingdoms.
Bran winning the Game of Thrones might seem like an “um, really?” result, but the power of the narrative is alive and well.
But before he transformed into that weird dude at the party who announces: “I’m going to go now,” Bran was a plucky northern boy eager to become a member of the Knights Guard. And seeds of Bran’s future could be seen as far back as Season 1.
The catalyst for so much of the drama that engulfed the realm came from Jaime Lannister pushing Bran out of a high tower, leaving the boy paralysed for life.
After Bran awoke from his coma, Arya asks their dad whether Bran could still be a knight. “No,” Ned Stark replies. “But someday he could be lord of a hold fast, or sit on the king’s council, or he might raise castles like Brandon the Builder.”
Brandon the Builder, was a legendary figure. He raised castles and gave The Gift to the Night’s Watch. His descendant, Bran, presides over the reconstruction of King’s Landing.
After Ned’s execution and, in Season 2, Theon Greyjoy’s botched Winterfell takeover, Bran and his crew of misfits hit the road. All the while, Bran was having dreams about ravens and flexing his warg abilities as he began his journey to becoming the Three-Eyed Raven.
Game of Thrones ignored Bran for a season, leaving him with the Children of the Forest in Season 4 and not picking his storyline back up until Season 6, when he learnt of the origins of the White Walkers and became the new Three-Eyed Raven.
Bran hasn’t been without his mistakes (letting the Night King brand him, his sloppy warging of Hodor).
But by Season 7, he returned to Winterfell with a weird, detached vibe, telling anybody who would listen that he wasn’t Bran, but the Three-Eyed Raven.
The totality of his abilities is not clear. He can see the past and recount conversations.
He knew to give Arya the Valyrian steel dagger she would use to kill the Night King. But he doesn’t know everything: he thought Jon Snow was Rhaegar Targaryen’s illegitimate son, but research duo Sam and Gilly discovered that Rhaegar and Lyanna Stark were married at the time. Apparently as king, Bran needs a Master of Whisperers.
But by Season 8, we learnt things about his purported importance to humanity: Bran is the keeper of all memory, which is why the Night King was after him. He also had another purpose: making sure Jon Snow knew his true parentage.
Bran pushed Sam to reveal the secret to Jon, events that might have pushed Daenerys off the deep.
By the finale, it was left to Tyrion to serve as Bran’s advocate. The two had a friendly relationship for some time, in Season 1. We don’t know what Bran told the Lannister, but presumably it was compelling stuff.
As Tyrion put it to the rulers: “There’s nothing more powerful in the world than a good story. Nothing can stop it. No enemy can defeat it. And who has a better story than Bran the Broken?” (Sansa? Jon? No?)
“The boy who fell from a high tower and lived. He knew he’d never walk again, so he learnt to fly. He crossed beyond the wall, a crippled boy, and became the Three-Eyed Raven,” Tyrion said.
“He is our memory, the keeper of all our stories: the wars, weddings, births, massacres, famines, our triumphs, our defeats, our past. Who better to lead us into the future?”
Multiple characters proclaim Bran doesn’t want to be king. (“Bran has no interest in leading,” Sansa says. “I know you don’t care about power,” Tyrion says.) But a more cynical view is that Bran wanted to be in power all along.
And who better positioned to manipulate everyone into making that happen than the guy who can see into the past, and know the future?