Bran Stark has, over the course of eight seasons, gradually evolved from being one of the Game of Thrones’ side characters to being one of its most central and significant. For a very long time, viewers might have had little interest in his long quest to travel north and become the Three-Eyed Raven.
As a matter of fact, Game of Thrones itself left him completely off-screen for the entirety of season five because he was just kinda doing his own thing: learning how to travel through time and space, projecting himself into other life forms, and becoming a creepy human database storing the complete memory of the universe, no big deal, right?
Now, with all that out of the way, Bran is set to be a major player in the impending Battle of Winterfell, featuring the Army of the Living against the Night King and his Army of the Dead. But … how exactly will that work?
We know the Night King wants to kill Bran, and season eight’s second episode, “A Knight for the Seven Kingdoms,” saw Bran planning to use himself as bait to lure the Night King into a vulnerable position. But the episode remained a little fuzzy on what’s supposed to happen next — while seeming to imply that a new encounter between Bran and the Night King (they’ve “met” once before, in season six’s “The Door”) could result in, uh, the end of the world.
There are multiple theories — most of which are supported by evidence from both the TV show and George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire novels, on which the show is based — about how Bran and the Night King might come to a final confrontation, and about what that confrontation could mean with regard to how Game of Thrones actually ends.
But to understand these theories, you need to understand how Bran and the Night King are connected to begin with. So let’s break that down — and then we’ll walk through some of the speculation for how these two characters and the link between them could impact the fate of Westeros.
Where Bran’s power comes from is essential to understanding his strategy to defeat the Night King
The basics of how Bran’s power works are rooted in his heritage as a member of House Stark. One reason the Stark family is so powerful, and their connection to Winterfell so storied, is that they are a clan that stretches back centuries. Notably, they’re descendants of the First Men, who were among the original inhabitants of Westeros.
The First Men co-existed alongside the Children of the Forest, who wove their ancient magic and their worship of nature into their culture — and taught their secrets to many of the First Men, including the Starks. This is why, centuries later, some of the current generation of Stark children possess innate abilities that are rare among humans, but were common to the Children of the Forest.
Both in the books and on the show, Bran’s powers are the strongest; so much so that he recognizes early on that he has special abilities that are uncommon even to people with the greensight. This realization is what prompts him to embark on his long and difficult quest to become the Three-Eyed Raven. Essentially, Bran is a modern-day, human greenseer — someone who can both warg and have prophetic visions.
The Night King and Bran share the same power source
In the season six episode “The Door,” Bran learned that the Children of the Forest actually created the Night King. In that episode, Leaf, one of the Children of the Forest, told Bran that they were driven to create a new creature who could help them wage their fight against men because the First Men kept cutting down the weirwood forests — which wipedout the Children along with the trees. Ironically, the First Men were destroying the “memories” of the faces in the trees, much as the Night King now wants to destroy the memory of all humanity.
The Night King’s origin story also explains why he seems so villainous: In a nutshell, he was killed and forced into this form without his consent, and he’s still pissed. He’s especially mad at the Children of the Forest — which makes Bran, with all his connections to them, his primary target.
All of this leads to the two popular theories about how Bran will take out the Night King.
1. Bran will somehow unmake the Night King by reversing the magic that created him
Seems pretty simple: Just tie the Night King to a tree, stab him, wipe out his entire army. Piece of cake, right?
Obviously, it’s going to take an extraordinary amount of luck to actually pull this off. But Bran seems pretty confident that the Night King is so hellbent on getting to him that he’ll be more careless than usual.
2. Bran IS the Night King
Pretty self explanatory.
Ultimately, the “Bran is the Night King” theory seems to inevitably end in Bran’s death — but there are many fans who feel that his death, in particular, is thematically necessary to the integrity of Game of Thrones, and might even allow the story’s entire universe to essentially reset itself and start again. Hopefully, that won’t mean we’ll all have to watch our favorite characters be obliterated — but no matter what, finally getting to see what happens could be spectacular.