'Game of Thrones': Isaac Hempstead Wright Previews Bran Stark's Return

Bran and the Three-Eyed Raven
Courtesy of HBO

After missing out on season five completely, Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) makes his triumphant return this year, alongside Max von Sydow as the Three-Eyed Raven. Curious to see Bran walking around, in a place that's decidedly not the underbelly of a weir wood tree, isn't it?

With some exceptions, few characters on Game of Thrones ever achieve their goals, or live long enough to enjoy the victory. 

Robb Stark (Richard Madden) was betrayed and butchered at the height of his military campaign. Joffrey Lannister (Jack Gleeson) basked in the bloody glow of the Red Wedding for no more than three episodes before choking to death at his own purple nuptials. Weeks later, Lannister patriarch Tywin (Charles Dance) died, despite countless victories over his enemies.

The ways in which men and women have failed and lost are varied and plentiful, certainly when stacked against those who have reached their desired destination ... but Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright) breaks this show's golden rule.

Ever since losing his ability to walk after falling from the high towers of Winterfell, the eldest surviving Stark son dedicated his entire existence to pursuing his dreams — literally, in fact, as he sought to discover the mythical mystic who haunted his imagination. Unlike so many others who died in pursuit of their conquests, Bran actually reached his goal, thanks to assistance from friends, with some giving their lives for the cause. At the end of season four, Bran and his fellows broke past The Wall and arrived at the weirwood cavern housing the magical Three-Eyed Raven, an ancient magician who offered a solemn promise to the young hero.

"You will never walk again," he swore, "but you will fly."

After a full season on the bench, the promise of flight — whether literal or metaphorical — finally manifests in the sixth season of Game of Thrones. Bran returns in this Sunday night's episode, "Home," marking his first appearance since finally meeting the Three-Eyed Raven in 2014's final episode of the Emmy-winning series. According to Hempstead Wright, much has changed, even if the surroundings have not.

"He's still hanging out in that tree cave," the actor tells The Hollywood Reporter. "At the end of season four, Bran reached this cave where destiny had been calling him for the whole series, and now he's finally made it. It's a little bit like, 'Wow … what am I going to do now?'"

Season six answers that question, as Bran embarks on a quest to perfect his skills as a warg and green seer. As a reminder, "warg" refers to Bran's ability to enter the minds of other animals — like his direwolf Summer, for example, and sometimes even his bodyguard Hodor (Kristian Nairn), though using the ability on humans is traditionally frowned upon within the warging community.

(Hodor, of course, returns in season six as well, and Nairn describes the beloved giant's journey this season with two words: "Hodor," of course, and "bewildered." Nairn tells THR: "I don't think he particularly enjoys the whole magical element very much, but he's willing to be there for the sake of Bran. He loves Bran. But he's bewildered. He doesn't know what's happening. He's a bit scared.")

Greensight, meanwhile, involves witnessing and potentially interacting with visions of the past and future. It's the latter ability that ought to intrigue viewers most, with Bran's story likely to provide insight into some of the greatest mysteries in Westeros lore.

"Bran basically spent [season five] training up," Hempstead Wright. "The Three-Eyed Raven said to him, 'Look, you've had these powers, and you've had glimpses of what they are. Now I'm going to show you what you can really do.'"

Max von Sydow joins the Thrones cast as the aforementioned Three-Eyed Raven, a man whose own sharpened abilities open up the show's narrative possibilities. More than that, though, he's a man with fascinating ties to some of the most prominent families and historical events in Westeros history, as heavily implied in author George R.R. Martin's source material.

"He's a real sage," Hempstead Wright says. "There's magic in the show, but it's often kept on the fringes. It's a lot like how magic's treated in our world; everyone's skeptical about it in the Game of Thrones world. 'The dragons died years ago! And White Walkers? They don't exist!' So when you do get a bit of it, it's exciting — but when you get some serious magic like Melisandre or the Three-Eyed Raven, and him in particular with his stoic, philosophical zen sense about him, just sitting in the tree … the idea itself is just fantastic, this man wrapped in all of these roots, connected to the entire history of Westeros. He's a remarkable character, and clearly a character who is an extraordinarily interesting man of history."

Under the guidance of this new mentor, Bran himself becomes an extraordinarily interesting man in Westeros history. With one milestone already passed, Bran's future is wide open for new goals to be set and crossed. After all, there's still the promise of flight — and elsewhere in the world of ice and fire, there are dragons. Will Bran's story reach the fiery heights typically reserved for House Targaryen

"He's by no means a master yet, and he still has a bit to learn — a lot of responsibility to learn — but he can do some very cool things," Hempstead Wright teases. "He's on his way up there."

Bran Stark returns to Game of Thrones on May 1. Follow THR's Game of Thrones coverage for more interviews, news and analysis.