'Game of Thrones': The Mad Truth About Targaryens and Time Travel

A closer look at Bran's episode-opening vision, and what it may mean.
Helen Sloan/HBO

[Warning: This story contains spoilers through episode six of Game of Thrones' sixth season, "Blood of My Blood."]

Ever since we learned Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright) simultaneously created Hodor (Kristian Nairn) and led him to his doom, the possibilities about the new Three-Eyed Raven's role in Westeros history have opened up tremendously.

Some viewers believe Bran's meddling with the past will end with the Hodor circuit. Others believe he will go so far back in time as to become Bran the Builder, the mythic hero who built The Wall. Then there's the theory that the Seven Kingdoms' modern political landscape all falls on Bran's shoulders — a theory that's somewhat supported by the events of "Blood of My Blood."

In Bran's episode-opening vision, he sees flashes of images already featured on Game of Thrones, with a few notable exceptions. The Mad King Aerys Targaryen in his final moments of life is the big one, as he barks commands to "burn it all," preferring to raze King's Landing and everyone in it than relinquish control. The madness is contrasted against visions of neon green wildfire pouring out of King's Landing, Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) ending the madness by slaying the king, and subsequently sitting on the Iron Throne.

Why include this historical moment, when there are so many others for Bran to experience — like confirmation of the R+L=J theory, so strong it's all but considered fact at this point? (For what it's worth, Bran's latest vision also hinted at this reveal.) Some believe it's because Bran will attempt to go back in time to stop Robert's Rebellion from ever happening by convincing Aerys to abandon his sinister ways, only to drive him mad in the process. 

There are upsides and downsides to the theory, from a narrative standpoint. In the positive column, Bran causing Aerys' downward spiral means he's responsible for so much of the show's trauma — and the person who prevented the deaths of countless King's Landing civilians is none other than Jaime, the same man who pushed Bran out a window long ago. It's a development filled with full-circle irony, that Bran's greatest mistake would be corrected by the same person responsible for Bran's greatest physical injury. 

However, some feel Bran pushing Aerys past the brink of sanity robs the historical villain of agency, damaging the integrity of the story's tragic nature. It also flies in the face of an inherent quality known about House Targaryen: madness comes with the territory. In the books, it's said that when a new Targaryen is born, the gods flip a coin; on one side, a destiny of greatness, and on the other, inevitable insanity. The Mad King's mad ways are built into his dynasty's DNA.

Even if Bran has nothing to do with Aerys' dark nature — an aspect of the man that predates Robert's Rebellion by years and years — many have identified one major reason for the scene's inclusion in the show … and it all points to his daughter, Daenerys (Emilia Clarke). At the end of the episode, she mounts her dragon Drogon and barks out a passionate speech meant to fire up her Dothraki troops:

"Every Khal who ever lived chose three blood riders to fight beside him and guard his way. But I am not a Khal. I will not choose three blood riders. I choose you all. I will ask more of you than any Khal has ever asked of his Khalsar. Will you ride the wooden horses across the black salt sea? Will you kill my enemies in their iron suits and tear down their stone houses? Will you give me the Seven Kingdoms, the gift Khal Drogo promised me, before the Mother of Mountains? Are you with me, now and always?"

At first glance, Dany's speech is a rousing rally cry. On further reflection, the language she uses raises concerns about her intentions for the people of Westeros. She asks the Dothraki to tear down homes and kill enemies — but without knowing who's on which side, how many innocent lives will fall on the Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea's shoulders?

Rather than fueling the theory that Bran is responsible for the Mad King's madness, viewers might want to look at Aerys Targaryen's inclusion in the episode as instructive about his daughter's current arc. Although Daenerys views herself as the hero of her own story, as so many do, the possibility is very real that her noble intentions will have disastrous results for the common folk of the Seven Kingdoms. In other words, Dany's plans to break the wheel might come at the expense of breaking her own mind.

Watch the video for more on the the Mad King vision:

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