Seasons 6 and 7 of HBO’s fantasy hit Game of Thrones saw Bran Stark fulfill his destiny and become the Three-Eyed Raven.
Essentially, this means he’s now a supernatural being with the power to see everything that’s ever happened or will happen in Westeros, Essos and beyond. Despite the fact that the show has outpaced the books and started to veer wildly from Martin’s trajectory, Bran’s journey’s remained pretty parallel to the one he takes in the books. But the journey of his mentor, the Three-Eyed Raven, might not be…
By the end of A Dance With Dragons, Bran’s reached the cave housing the Three-Eyed Raven that’s been guiding him since A Game of Thrones. Same goes for Show Bran at the end of Season 4 – he, along with Hodor, Jojen and Meera reach the cave housing the Three-Eyed Raven and Bran begins training to take the man’s place. Technically, this is where the similarities end because Dance ends with Bran arriving at the cave, eating weirwood paste and starting on his path to becoming a full-fledged greenseer. But, when Bran returned from his season-long break in Season 6, he was well into his training with the Three-Eyed Raven, learning to harness his new power to visit the past (just the past, so far, not the present or the future) and learn from it.
It’s pretty safe to say that Bran will do much the same in Winds of Winter, making it tempting to believe that Show Bran’s storyline will continue to parallel Book Bran’s even as the show moves further and further away from Martin’s as yet unknown plans. But there’s one key plot point that’s been conspicuously absent from the show that leads us to hesitate when it comes to drawing that conclusion – Bloodraven.
In the books, the man-tree combo Bran meets in the cave at the end of Dance is undeniably Brynden Rivers a.k.a. Bloodraven a.k.a. a person you should really check out. This puts to rest any time loop fan theories that state Bran’s actually meeting an older version of himself in the cave having at some point gone back in time to take some kind of action imperative to the events of A Song of Ice and Fire. Brynden Rivers was 100% one of Aegon the Unworthy’s Great Bastards. He was born in 175 AC and would go on to become an incredibly prominent and influential figure in Westerosi history. If you’re already thinking, “Uh, Bran could totally go back in time and take his place…” you are very wrong for many reasons, not the least of which is that Bloodraven was a one-eyed albino with a big-ass birthmark on his face. He and Bran are not the same people in the books. However…
While the version we saw at the end of Season 4’s finale, “The Children,” makes reference to watching Bran, Meera and Jojen all their lives with “a thousand eyes and one,” a phrase commonly associated with Bloodraven in the books, there’s virtually no other reference to the man anywhere else in the show. The show did next to nothing to establish that its version of the Three-Eyed raven was Brynden Rivers. So, on Game of Thrones, the time loop theory still totally holds up.
If you’re unfamiliar, a popular fan theory regarding Bran and the Three-Eyed Raven is that Bran is the Three-Eyed Raven, but at different points in his life. We saw in Season 6 that not only can Bran and the TER observe past events, there’s a chance they can affect them, as well. When Ned’s about to head into the Tower of Joy to discover his sister, Bran calls out to him and Ned turns as though he’s heard him. Also, when Bran visits Winterfell in “Hold the Door,” he’s seen by Hodor, who then suffers his now famous mental breakdown as he’s linked with the older Hodor who’s fending off wights in Bran’s present. All this is a long-winded way of saying that it’s probably within the realm of possibility that Bran could actually time travel. If that’s true, what’s to say that his fate won’t be to travel back to a certain point in time and make sure certain events take place? The war between the living and the dead is about as high stakes as it gets, so if ever there were a time for extreme measures like these, this would be it.
Perhaps it’s Bran’s fate to go back in time and become the Three-Eyed Raven his younger self needs to be to make sure the war goes a certain way. After all, considering Bran has little to no connection to anyone he knows or is related to in the present, it’ll certainly be the less awkward option.
The show seems to have left this option open by refusing to establish in any way that the Three-Eyed Raven we saw in “The Children” or in Season 6 as played by Max Von Sydow was Bloodraven as he so obviously is in the books. It could be that the showrunners simply didn’t have the time to lay down the Brynden Rivers narrative or simply didn’t deem it necessary to explain the backstory of Bran’s mysterious mentor. While we know that Martin’s given them the broad strokes of how his series will end, we have no way of knowing what those broad strokes are or whether or not Bran’s nature is included in them.
Images: HBO, Bantam Books