Warning: Spoilers ahead for “Game of Thrones” season seven.
Fan theories are a staple of the “Game of Thrones” community, but every now and again an idea sparks without a whole lot of hard evidence to back it up. The latest in this craze of hypotheticals is a theory stating that Bran Stark is really the Night King.
While it might be an interesting notion, people should probably set aside their tinfoil hats for a moment and consider the facts. First, I’ll give an overview of the theory — then break down why it’s nonsensical.
Why people believe Bran is the Night King
The traumatic scene of Hodor’s death on season five seems to have sparked the theory. People believed that seeing Bran accidentally warg into past-Hodor/Wylis was meant to show us that he can change the past and inhabit the bodies of historical figures.
From there, some people began speculating that Bran might try to prevent the coming war against the White Walkers by using his greensight and warging powers to go back in time and stop the Night King from ever being created.
Remember when we saw the Children of the Forest plunge a dragonglass dagger into a man’s heart, turning his eyes blue?
According the Night King theorists, Bran actually warged into this man in an attempt to prevent the Children of the Forest from turning him, but his plan failed. And thus, Bran became the Night King.
People have also pointed out that Bran and the Night King wear a similar costume on the show, and their face shape is even a bit similar. This theory also claims that the reason the Night King has now had two stare-offs with Jon Snow and made no attempt to kill him is because it’s really Bran who recognizes his half-brother (well, cousin).
There is no proof Bran can affect the past
Here’s major problem number one: According to the current canon in both the books and the show, there is no evidence that Bran can actually change the past. Known “A Song of Ice and Fire” expert and one of the moderators of the /r/asoiaf subreddit, BryndenBFish, laid out the counter-argument to this on Twitter:
In the book series, Bran has a small “whisper” moment with Ned Stark — similar to the scene in “Game of Thrones” when Bran yells “father!” at young Ned and he turns around.
But there’s no evidence that Ned actually heard him, and not just a rustle of the wind. They didn’t have a conversation.
Then there’s what happened with Wylis/Hodor. This appears to have been a one-off mistake — a huge lesson learned by Bran that his powers can have devastating consequences. But that event was presented as a causal time loop— that mistake had already happened, because Hodor was only Hodor because Bran was always going to accidentally warg into Wylis and force him to witness his own death while “holding the door.” Bran didn’t change the past, he fulfilled a pre-determined loop of events.
Confusing, we know. But the logic there is sound.
INSIDER spoke with Isaac Hempstead Wright, who plays Bran, after the tragic Wylis/Hodor episode. We asked if he could explain what happened, and whether or not Bran being separated from the weirwood tree had anything to do with his accidental time-jump warging.
“I think the whole point of Bran not having physical contact with the tree during that big sequence in episode five is it’s almost like a malfunction,” Hempstead Wright explained to INSIDER. “It’s like when your iPhone’s connected to your Mac and it [automatically opens] iTunes — then you pull it out just as it’s syncing and everything goes haywire.”
Point being, that was not how his powers normally work. Hinging a theory on the assumption that Bran would be able to consciously make this choice is inherently wobbly logic.
“Game of Thrones” likely wouldn’t change a major character like Bran
One really important thing to keep in mind is that the Night King is a show-only character. His name is derived from a legendary figure in Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire,” but it’s not meant to be the same person. In the books, we haven’t seen any sort of leader or figurehead for the White Walkers.
So it’s very unlikely that showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss would introduce the Night King in the show, and then have him actually be Bran Stark. This would significantly change Bran’s storyline from the books, and we can’t see them making that drastic of a shift with a main character. Especially if it meant needing to introduce complicate time travel paradox to the story.
What would Bran’s motivations be for marching south?
Another huge issue with this theory is the reasoning (or lack thereof) for why Bran as the Night King would be waging war on humanity. If the theory goes that he warged into the man who was turned into the Night King as an attempt to stop the war, why would he change his mind and continue the war anyways?
Also, how are Bran and the Night King existing in the same time, separately? We’ve seen Bran warg into ravens which then saw the Night King — if Bran literally is the Night King, how is his mind present in two bodies at once? When Bran wargs, his spirit enters another body and leaves his own behind and useless — not active and walking. It just doesn’t compute that present-Bran would be able to interact with future-Bran stuck inside the Night King’s body after warging.
The Night King is still very mysterious
The reason why this theory has taken hold with so many people is simple — the Night King is an important but mysterious character. There are many gaps in our understanding of who he is, why the Children of the Forest chose him to “turn,” and why he has suddenly become active again and is marching south. Martin has said that he doesn’t write pure good or evil characters, so there must be an underlying motivation for the White Walkers that we just don’t know yet.
“Game of Thrones” fans are reaching for answers to questions laid out as far back as season two, when we first saw the Night King turn a baby into a White Walker. It is strange after all that we’re heading into the final season of “Game of Thrones” and we still don’t fully know why the final climatic battle is taking place.
We can only hope that the series will provide answers to these questions sooner rather than later. In the meantime, read our roundup of the fan theories most likely to be true.