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‘Game of Thrones' Season 8: Bran Stark Night King Theory Debunked

Will Bran Stark become the Night King in Game of Thrones Season 8? While a plausible extrapolation from a handful of scenes, the lack of proofexcept for hoaxed evidence like a phony necklace connectionsuggests this fan theory might be better debunked than explained.

In the Game of Thrones Season 6 episode “The Door,” Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright) survives terrible new insights into his greenseer abilities and Westeros’ past. Together with his mentor, the Three-eyed Raven (Max von Sydow), Bran observes the Children of the Forest creating the White Walkers, thousands of years before the events of Game of Thrones (the near-extinct natives of Westeros created the White Walkers to fight back against the invading First Men). His understanding of Westerosi history overturned, Bran seeks out a vision of the Night King, this time without guidance from his mentor. Believing himself invisible as he surveys the army of the dead amassing in the North, the Night King surprises Bran, grabbing the inexperienced greenseer’s arm.

Since that moment, we have speculated on the connection between Bran and the Night King, with many arriving at a theory: Bran Stark is, or becomes, the Night King. But is this destined to be just another fan theory, or is there a chance Bran becoming the Night King will be the biggest twist when Game of Thrones Season 8 returns on April 14?

With the mark of the Night King’s hand still burned on his wrist, Bran and Meera Reed (Ellie Kendrick) narrowly escape from beneath the heart tree where the previous Three-eyed Raven lived, surviving only thanks to Hodor (Kristian Nairn), whose entire life has lead to this moment. We learn the truth behind the name Hodor, which doubles as the only word he ever says: as a child Hodor was instructed to “hold the door” by a time-traveling Bran, the words setting off a seizure, then shortening into a fate so irrevocable it would become his language.

The manipulation of Hodor’s past accidentally reveals the vast, untapped possibilities inherent in Bran’s newfound abilities as the new Three-eyed Raven. It has set off a wide range of speculation, including theories that Bran’s voice, whispered into the past, drove Aerys II Targaryen to insanity, causing him to become the Mad King. But when it comes to the Night King, the theory goes that Bran will try and use his powers, intentionally this time, to alter the creation of the White Walkers. Instead, by warging into the first-created of the White Walkers, Bran will find himself trapped in the Night King’s body, becoming the vengeful being that sweeps down upon Westeros, thousands of years after the Long Night.

Bran Stark / Night King Theory Evidence

game-of-thrones-season-8-ending-theories-bran-night-king Is this one of "Game of Thrones"s most consequential moments so far? HBO

There are a few reasons the Bran Stark / Night King theory is a plausible one.

For those inclined to betting, the odds are in its favor. Betting markets overwhelmingly favor Bran Stark to sit on the Iron Throne by the end of Season 8, seemingly driven by the widespread belief that the Bran / Night King twist is a likely part of the last six Game of Thrones episodes.

Some also find evidence for the Bran Stark / Night King theory in the latest batch of Game of Thrones promos, like the “Crypts of Winterfell” teaser trailer. In the teaser, Sansa, Arya and Jon Snow walk through the crypts of Winterfell, until encountering statues of themselves. But where is Bran? An icy mist fills the room… Winter is Coming.

While HBO likely didn’t tip their hand in a promo trailer, one without any footage from Season 8 episodes, the teaser does emphasize by omission just how much Bran’s story has followed a path apart from the skullduggery and politics of Westeros.

Most of all, it’s reasonable to believe that a big twist of the Hodor variety is coming to Season 8, because the showrunners have said as much. In a 2016 interview with Entertainment Weekly, Game of Thrones creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss said A Song of Ice and Fire author George R.R. Martin had shared “three holy sh*t moments.” We’ve already seen the first two: Hodor’s origin story and Stannis Baratheon sacrificing his daughter Shireen to the Lord of Light, but the third is “from the very end,” Benioff says.

Bran Stark / Night King Theory Debunked

While we know to expect a holy sh*t moment, overall, there’s little actual evidence that the Bran Stark / Night King theory is likely. There’s the overlap between their abilities, with the Night King’s control over his army like a shadow version of Bran’s growing warg powers. Also cited are some of the first words the Three-eyed Raven said to Bran, “You will never walk again, but you will fly,” which might be a sly reference to the Night King’s new pet ice dragon.

hbo-game-of-thrones-night-king-ice-dragon A standard obsidian arrowhead isn't going to work against the Night King's ice dragon. HBO

Beyond those few possible connections, there’s little to indicate Game of Thrones has built toward this reveal for years. The lack of direct evidence supporting the Bran Stark / Night King theory in episodes has lead to hoaxed proof for the theory, like widely circulated photoshopped images of the Night King and Bran wearing the same sigil necklace.

With the limitations of Bran’s powers undefined, fan theories can slot him into nearly any niche in Westerosi history. Not only is Bran theorized to bear the blame for the Mad King, but some have even argued he’s also Bran the Builder, the legendary founder of House Stark, credited with building Winterfell and the Wall. But there’s not much reason to believe Bran Stark will ever do much more beyond observing the past, present and cryptic hints from the future. Hempstead Wright positions the incident with the Night King and Hodor as a one-off “malfunction.”

“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,” he told Tech Insider.

But the biggest reason to disbelieve the Bran Stark / Night King theory is that it simply doesn’t mesh well with Martin’s books, making it an unlikely candidate for one of the three major surprises told to the Game of Thrones creators from the beginning. Unlike on Game of Thrones, the Night’s King, as he’s called in the books, isn’t the leader of the White Walkers, at least, not yet. While it’s possible the Night’s King could become a character like the Game of Thrones version in the next two books—The Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring—it’s more likely that the Night King was created to give a faceless enemy an on-screen face, embodying an army meant to represent the final triumph of death.

Martin has even addressed this distinction while responding to fan questions. “As for the Night’s King (the form I prefer), in the books he is a legendary figure, akin to Lann the Clever and Brandon the Builder, and no more likely to have survived to the present day than they have,” Martin writes.

According to the legends laid out in A Storm of Swords, A Feast for Crows and lore compendium The World of Ice & Fire, the Night’s King was an early commander of the Night’s Watch, who fell in love with a White Walker queen and began sacrificing human infants to the Others. He was eventually defeated by an alliance of kings. But even in the lore, there’s a spark that could keep the theory alive: Old Nan, a servant at Winterfell, tells Bran the Night’s King was brother to a Stark king, and possibly named Brandon. But Old Nan does tell a lot of stories.

While the Bran Stark / Night King theory has some interesting implications for the plot of Game of Thrones, and even semi-neatly fits the existing facts, there’s more reason to disbelieve. Not only would Bran Stark being the Night King thematically narrow the seriestransforming the White Walkers from a massive symbol for coming societal catastrophe into a neatly circular time-loop storybut also would fly in the face of Martin’s intentions, at least as far as we can see in the books released so far. Ultimately, there’s just not enough evidence to believe that Bran Stark is likely to become the Night King when Game of Thrones returns for its final season.

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