Welcome to The Hollywood Reporter’s “Everything to Know” series. Starting with Game of Thrones, THR’s Westeros guru Josh Wigler will offer an in-depth guide about, well, everything there is to know about one particular topic within the complex universe.
He might not be the most front-of-mind of the Stark siblings — spending an entire season on the sidelines will do that to you — but Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright) is easily one of the most key and complicated characters on Game of Thrones all the same, especially after the events of season six. Watch our video and read on for the full breakdown of everything you need to know about Bran.
From his very first scenes in the very first episode, Bran finds himself at the heart of the Game of Thrones action. The second youngest child of House Stark is present when his family finds a pack of direwolves, including Bran’s eventual companion Summer. It’s the last bit of conventional good fortune Bran experiences for quite a while, sadly, as he’s pushed out a window and crippled for life by the end of the show’s opening hour — all because he accidentally witnessed Lannister twins Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Cersei (Lena Headey) getting hot and heavy in a secluded Winterfell tower.
After the fall, Bran learns that he will never walk again. That said, he soon discovers that there are other ways to move about the world, with his accident apparently unlocking latent magical abilities including: warging, the ability to transfer one’s consciousness into other living beings, which Bran uses on Summer as well as bodyguard Hodor (Kristian Nairn) at different points in the series; and greensight, the ability to witness (and perhaps even interact with) events from the past, present and future through an earthy-crunchy dream state.
Given the nature of his gifts, Bran’s adventure is more of a vision quest than what his siblings are experiencing in their respective corners of the world of ice and fire. But that’s not to say it isn’t physical: Bran, along with Hodor and other companions, travels north to the realm Beyond the Wall, seeking a mythical figure known only as the Three-Eyed Raven (Max von Sydow), who lives beneath an ancient tree and promises to teach Bran everything he knows about … well, everything.
Reaching the Raven requires two full seasons of on-the-road effort, including Jojen Reed’s (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) brutal death during the final stretch of the trip. Bran’s subsequent training sessions mostly occur off-screen, so much so that he goes completely unseen in the show’s fifth season. When his story resumes in season six, it’s with more than a few bombshells, including:
• Bran discovering that the Children of the Forest created the White Walkers by melding magic with man, all in an effort to win an ancient war against humanity. Looks like both species are still suffering from that feud all these centuries later.
• Bran inadvertently enabling the White Walkers to destroy the Three-Eyed Raven, the remaining Children of the Forest, Summer and poor Hodor — all of them killed in the blink-of-an-eye.
• Bran reuniting with Benjen Stark (Joseph Mawle), absent since season one, now returned as some sort of human-wight hybrid.
• Bran traveling back to the moment his half-brother Jon Snow (Kit Harington) was born, only to learn that Jon isn’t his half-brother at all; he’s his cousin, the secret son of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen and a possible heir to the Iron Throne.
In other words, even if his story was slow for much of Game of Thrones, the Bran of it all really kicked into higher gear in season six. What’s more, he’s positioned to be one of the most essential characters as Thrones reaches its endgame. Bran happens to be decently close in distance to Winterfell, right as the rest of his living siblings are converging on their old home. As if the timing couldn’t be better, Bran is heading back to Winterfell with knowledge about Jon’s true lineage, moments after Jon became the new King in the North. Who knows what other secrets Bran has access to?
There’s also the unsettling prospect that Bran can do much more than witness major moments in history, but actually impact these moments with his abilities. The Hodor death specifically invites the possibility that Bran can essentially travel back in time, as he apparently fused Hodor’s present consciousness with a younger version of himself and effectively created the Hodor we know and quote today. What other past and future actions can we credit to Bran? For instance, there’s a theory among some fans that Bran is destined to become the person who once built the legendary Wall of Westeros, thanks to time travel shenanigans.
Could the broken Bran one day become Bran the Builder? It’s a possibility, just as it’s possible that he could become Bran the Breaker, wittingly or unwittingly responsible for bringing destruction to the Seven Kingdoms and beyond. He might not have the motive, but Bran certainly has the means to cause such chaos — and, if used properly, the ability to crush chaos as well.
Check in with THR.com/GameOfThrones for everything else you need to know about the show, and keep the conversation going with me on Twitter @roundhoward. We’ll return in two weeks with a closer look at another corner of the world of ice and fire. In the meantime, check out our previous “Everything to Know” Game of Thrones coverage:
1. ‘Game of Thrones’ Everything to Know: A Guide for New Viewers
2. ‘Game of Thrones’ Everything to Know: An Overview of Westeros
3. ‘Game of Thrones’ Everything to Know: An Overview of Jon Snow
4. ‘Game of Thrones’ Everything to Know: The Rise of Daenerys Targaryen
5. ‘Game of Thrones’ Everything to Know: The Life and Times of Tyrion Lannister