The Game of Thrones series finale probably won’t please everyone, especially when it comes to the choice of new ruler of Westeros. But a new theory may reveal how the show has been building towards that final Game of Thrones plot twist all along.
The decision to crown Bran Stark (aka the Three-Eyed Raven) as King of Westeros, may have proven those leaks were true, but it didn’t make a ton of sense. After all, as recently as Season 8, Episode 4, Bran told Tyrion he didn’t “want much of anything anymore.”
Two episodes later, Bran looked quite happy about the outcome in the Game of Thrones finale and, after a quasi-democratic vote crowned him king, Bran asks, “Why do you think I came all this way?” This line may prove that being King of Westeros was the Three-Eyed Raven’s endgame all along.
For someone who’s all-knowing, Bran wasn’t very helpful throughout Season 8. He seemed content with sitting idly by while everyone else planned and worried and killed and died. The only things Bran actively did was confirm that Jon is a Targaryen and give Arya the Valyrian steel dagger that eventually killed the Night King.
Those two actions also happened to eliminate the two biggest threats to his rule (the Night King and Daenerys Targaryen). Then, all Bran had to do was sit back and watch the rest of the characters do the hard work for him.
Fans have previously speculated that Bran warged into Drogon during the massacre of King’s Landing (a ridiculous notion at the time). There was even a theory that he warged into Daenerys and that’s why we never saw her face while she burned the city. While these theories were never proven true, the series finale provided plenty of evidence (as this theory suggests) that Bran may have planned to be king all along.
For one, Bran got pretty excited when Tyrion brought up finding Drogon. Why? It could be that Bran knows exactly where the the dragon is but doesn’t actually want to find him. Bran might have even warged into Drogon after Jon killed Daenerys and ordered him to burn the Iron Throne. With the symbol of power gone, a new chapter begins. It’s also a moment worth noting because Bran had barely shown his feelings since becoming the Three-Eyed Raven. Being crowned king seemed to change that.
Though it’s unclear how long Three-Eyed Ravens can live, it’s safe to say that the former Three-Eyed Raven lived for generations. There’s no doubt Bran will also live an extra long life. Not being able to have heirs doesn’t matter because he could rule for years and outlive everyone on his council. Before he does die, however, he could train and pass on his gifts to someone else, effectively ending human ascension to the throne.
Bran coming into power may have been teased all the way back in Season 4. In Season 4, Episode 2, Bran had a vision of the throne room covered in ash. In the same vision, a dragon’s shadow is seen flying over King’s Landing. It’s similar to Daenerys’ vision in the House of the Undying in Season 2 and may have been foreshadowing the Mother of Dragons’ massacre and death all along. Additionally, Bran tells Jon that being in the throne room with Daenerys was exactly where he was supposed to be. So if there’s any doubt that Bran knew what would happen the entire time, the Game of Thrones finale squashed it.
In an interview with the New York Times, actor Isaac Hempstead Wright claims he isn’t sure Bran could see that far into the future. However, the “very purpose of the Three-Eyed Raven is to be the one who is wise, and still, and careful enough to handle this information and not just go blabbering it about, because that would affect the outcome.”
Perhaps he’s known all along he would become king and didn’t say anything for fear of altering the course of history. If that’s the case, then Bran played everyone like a chess master, moving all of the pieces into position so that he could win. With Game of Thrones now concluded, we can choose to believe Bran knew he’d be king all along or admit the writers chose the lesser evil to rule Westeros. Either way, it’s definitely not an end anyone saw coming — except for the Three-Eyed Raven himself.
How Game of Thrones Failed Daenerys Targaryen
In the finale of Game of Thrones‘ premiere season, “Fire and Blood,” Daenerys Targaryen stands before the khalasar in Lhazar, a lit pyre framing her with red flame from behind. She speaks to them with a confidence larger than her slight frame; she is full of anger, she has recently miscarried, her husband Khal Drogo is dead by her own hand. Her body is sweaty from grief, but her words echo like thunder through the night.
“I AM DAENERYS STORMBORN OF HOUSE TARGARYEN OF THE BLOOD OF OLD VALYRIA. I AM THE DRAGON’S DAUGHTER. AND I SWEAR TO YOU, THOSE WHO’D HARM YOU WILL DIE SCREAMING.”
This quote has been passed around this week, in the aftermath of the show’s most recent episode—the series’ penultimate, “The Bells”—as “proof” that Daenerys has always been hungry for vengeance, quick to kill, and prone to madness. Out of context, the quote may sound alarming. But seen in full, it’s powerful and liberating. It comes after Daenerys offers freedom to any who seek it. And it comes with a qualifier: She will only kill “those who’d harm you.” Meaning slavers, rapists, pillagers.
This is the Daenerys Targaryen we have always known; an orphaned girl turned abused woman, whose kind heart always swayed her from her inherited mental illness, and from the trauma that threatened to swallow her whole. She’s imperfect, she’s too idealistic, and her focus on legacy has allowed for much failure. But she was never a monster. And she was never “mad.”
That’s why her turn in the “The Bells” has been such a hard pill to swallow. Because she had secured, through her battle prowess, the crown that she spent eight seasons seeking. She won the battle against Cersei. She proved that with the aid of her advisers and the assistance of her dragons she was capable of what the realm had, to that point, denied her. But instead of steering Drogon to the Red Keep and assassinating Cersei, she did the unthinkable: She targeted the citizens of King’s Landing, deciding to “rule with fear” instead of honor. These are the same innocent people that, two episodes before, she risked her fleet and dragons to protect in Winterfell.
In the after-the-episode segment, actress Emilia Clarke explained that it was a rash decision made in the name of “grief.” Grief over the loss of Jorah, Missandei, and her dragon Rhaegal, and grief over her lover Jon and her hand Tyrion’s lost faith in their queen.
But how on earth does that track with what we know of Daenerys? How do we reconcile the woman who two seasons ago locked her dragons in a tomb for burning a child, with the person who would ruthlessly destroy a city of innocent children after winning the only thing she ever cared about? There is a world where Daenerys going rogue makes sense, but this isn’t it. This was an irresponsible, irrevocable undoing of an arc that enthralled and empowered a generation. And it sends a dangerous message: That women who seek power will piss it away the second their emotions kick in. The show might as well as have told us Dany was on her period.
One default answer for Dany’s turn is that her father’s madness—which was referenced in the “previously on” segment of “The Bells”—is coming through in this moment of emotional vulnerability. “Every time a Targaryen is born, the Gods flip a coin,” the show tells us. But what does this mean? The show—and, ostensibly, the books—has always had a flimsy understanding of “madness.” Is Dany a psychopath? A sociopath? There’s no indication of that; her empathy for slaves and innocents, until this point, precludes her from those distinctions.
Is she depressed, does she suffer from PTSD, is she bipolar? Those are all modern ways of categorizing mental illness, but they could help us understand her mindset here. And yet, there’s no way of knowing the specific thing ailing her, because the show fails to orient us in her headspace. Is she triggered by something specifically? Is this really her way of processing grief, which she’s suffered greatly in the past without a similar reaction? A little insight would go a long way. Instead, her “madness” serves only one purpose: to punish her ambition.
“I AM NOT HERE TO BE QUEEN OF THE ASHES.”
And she will be punished. There’s no way Daenerys Stormborn, breaker of chains, survives the story now. That could be a tragic ending if the show had found an in-road to her psyche. Or if she hadn’t, for seasons now, displayed an eagerness to improve. Her descent could be chaotic if chaos was ever part of her philosophy. But even at her most tumultuous, past Dany always had a plan. She was trigger-happy in words only, never action.
Recall, for a moment, her burning of the khalasar in season six, when she liberated the widowed women from their grieving huts. Vulnerable and alone, her advisers and her dragons far from her grip, she channeled her fiery energy into a revolution. She has never needed the reassurance of others to be strong. So why is it her breaking point? Why, in this moment, as the story is about to end before we can ever contend with the carnage her emotions conjured?
Dany’s journey has always been a mix of highs and lows. She once rode atop a wave of brown bodies, their white savior; an image that was, at the time, played for victory, but left a haunting mark on her legacy. And she has ruled with fire and blood in the past, but never indiscriminately. She burned the Tarlys, but only after she gave them the option to bend the knee.
It was a harsh punishment, but in this world of broken honor, no different than Jon hanging Olly or Robb beheading Rickard Karstark. She was never more exactingly cruel than Arya, who killed for money and sport in the House of the Undying. Even Ned Stark executed boys for the sake of an agreement made on the basis of fantasy.
But those actions didn’t drive their perpetrators to annihilation. And Dany’s didn’t need to, either. The show made a decision, likely based on the blueprints of George R.R. Martin’s unfinished story, but it laid the bricks haphazardly. It’s dangerous, what’s been done to Dany. Because it hinges her carefully deployed conquest on the unpredictability of feminine desire. That’s what feels more out of nowhere than her fiery inclinations: The presentation of Dany as not only prone to her worst impulses, but careless in her actions. That’s not the Daenerys who stood before the khalasar and pledged her life to the common folk. That’s not the breaker of chains. If this is what the male-only creators think passes for earned female villainy, one has to wonder the intentions of telling this story in the first place.