[Warning: The following contains spoilers for the most recent episode of Game of Thrones.]
Game of Thrones appears to have finally put an end to the long-lingering theory that Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) is the Night King. In "The Long Night," Bran proved to be correct with his earlier assertion that the Ice Zombie in Chief really just wanted him dead so that he could proceed to bring on "an endless night." Just when everyone fighting on the side of the living seemed like they might get a second to regroup in the midst of the brutal battle, the Night King did what he needed to do to stifle Bran's likeliest saviors — even raising an army of the battlefield's dead against Jon Snow (Kit Harington) — before giving Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) one shot at him just for kicks. Once he'd stabbed Theon, the Night King casually made way for Bran under that weirwood tree.
Upon reaching his mark, the Night King wore what could be interpreted as an expression of curiosity about this warging creature who'd been snooping on him for so long, but it seemed he meant to end Bran all the same. Of course, when he reached for that frigid blade, he was trounced by the stealthy assassin Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) — but through it all, there was no indication of any richer history between Bran and the Night King than what we saw.
Now that that theory has apparently been dealt with, though, a whole new batch of ideas justifying Bran's importance have begun springing up on Reddit. Let's take a look at what might make Bran worth all this fuss — you know, apart from him being a living record of the entire history of the world and all.
Bran the Three-Eyed Raven is the actual Big Bad
With three movie-ish-length episodes still ahead before our watch has ended, it is a bit hard to imagine that Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) will be the only one left to cause conflict for our heroes. The preview for next week seems to suggest some trouble ahead on the home front, but for now, we don't know whether any kind of Stark-Targaryen family civil war is imminent — although we can dare to dream about a potential epic clash between the two ice and fire dragon riders.
For now, though, this theory posits that Bran — who is now not Bran and is instead the Three-Eyed Raven — is the real mega-villain everyone's really been waiting for. The idea is a theoretical cousin of the Night King theory, of course, because it assumes that Bran has been/is/will be warging into certain memorable scenes and making a mess — in particular, that he was the one who warged back in time and inspired the Mad King to try to "burn them all." Only, in this theory, he'd have been causing all this chaos on purpose. Thus, the Night King's pursuit was really only about trying to stop the Three-Eyed Raven from destroying the world, and now it's up to Arya Stark to stop him with that catspaw dagger.
Verdict: Considering how little the Night King cared about causing so much devastation to the freefolk/mankind for all these years, this seems like a generous assessment of the his motives.
Bran will make a new Night King
Another Bran-centric theory that's on the rise right now is the idea that Bran will turn Jon Snow into the next Night King by plunging a dragonglass dagger into him the way the Children of the Forest did to him at the weirwood tree all those millennia ago. If Jon Snow, who has already risen from the dead once, could control himself in zombie form and use his new-fangled powers for good, he could protect his people from, say, Cersei's Golden Company mercenaries, the Iron Fleet, and/or himself.
This theory also contends that the reason the first Night King had such a deep-seated desire to kill Bran is that he didn't want to see the Three-Eyed Raven make anyone else like him. That process was pretty painful and semi-permanent.
Verdict: The fact that Jon is technically undead creates some unique possibilities for his relationship with Bran, but even as much as Jon seemed to enjoy his time north of the wall, it's hard to see anyone signing up to revive the ice zombie species anytime soon.
Bran is the Lord of Light
R'hllor has made itself apparent on quite a few occasions throughout Game of Thrones' history. That magic resurrected Beric Dondarrion (Richard Dormer) half a dozen times; it gave Melisandre (Carice van Houten) the power to create a smoke baby assassin with Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane); and it helped light the Dothraki army's blades and those caltrops up like tiki torches, even if some of those offerings didn't help all that much with the Great War.
Given the Lord of Light's particularly enhanced presence at the Battle of Winterfell, it seems logical that the fire-loving deity is the true counterbalance to the darkness and winter that the Night King threatened to bring to the Realm. And at least one theorist believes that because of how much Bran/Three-Eyed Raven helped to achieve that goal — setting himself up as bait near the weirwood tree and giving Arya the catspaw dagger — the Three-Eyed Raven has really just been working for R'hllor and maybe even became that entity somewhere along the way.
Verdict: That would certainly explain why Bran was so confident out there in the yard, but it's pretty easy to poke holes in this theory. It'd take a whole lot of time travel and history manipulation to make any of this happen, and so far we've only gotten two bits of proof that Bran can affect the past: the Hodor incident and that time past-Ned Stark maybe kinda heard him shout out for him. It seems like a stretch to claim that Bran would've planted the Valyrian steel dagger in a timeline where it would eventually go to someone who'd try to assassinate him, but, hey, Game of Thrones does pull off some weird stuff sometimes. Who knows.
Game of Thrones airs on Sundays at 9/8c on HBO.
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