On Sunday night, some of the last holdouts lost hope in Game of Thrones Season 8, but as always, there are ways the story could still save itself.
Warning! Spoilers for Game of Thrones through Season 8, Episode 5 lie ahead!
Fans were devastated by what they saw as a complete departure from character this week, when Daenerys rained fire on King’s Landing in the penultimate episode of the Game of Thrones. While the “madness” of her father had been established, it had not been fleshed out in Dany, and this attack on civilians seemed to come out of nowhere. However, with serial storytelling it is always best to reserve judgement until the next episode, and after wallowing in outrage and disappointment for 24 hours, I was struck by an idea of how the series finale could justify the previous episode’s surprises, and the big twist that could be ahead.
To get there, we need just a tiny bit of book knowledge, a suspension of disbelief and the benefit of the doubt, so bear with me. In Season 6 we learned that Hodor’s name came from Bran, who tried to skinchange with him in a vision of the past, permanently damaging his mind. Bran is taught the arts of skinchanging, Warging and greenseeing by the previous Three-Eyed Raven.
In the books, we learn that Bran’s teacher is really Brynden Rivers, also known as Bloodraven. Bloodraven is a bastard son of House Targaryen from several generations back. He spent decades tied to the Weirwood trees, supposedly awaiting his successor.
Bloodraven was once the Hand of the King, and he tells Bran that in the past, he has tried to use his abilities to contact his family back in King’s Landing. He claims he was unsuccessful, though many fans think he had more of an effect than he realized. In fact, many believe that it was Bloodraven who drove Dany’s father Aerys Targaryen “mad” while trying to contact him, much as Bran did to Hodor. At the end of his life, Aerys could supposedly only utter one phrase: “burn them all,” much like Hodor’s “hold the door.”
There’s a lot to this theory, and there are great breakdowns of it elsewhere, but it is only a building block to explain Game of Thrones’ best chance at redemption in the series finale. Knowing what we do about how skinchanging with humans can affect them, let’s take a fresh look at Daenerys in “The Bells.” It seems possible that her sudden switch from rational savior to deranged destroyer was triggered by an external force — perhaps a powerful yet inexperienced Three-Eyed Raven she has met before.
Yes, I’m sorry, in a way this is one of those “Bran is the villain” theories. The series finale could reveal to us that Bran tried to skinchange, manipulate, or otherwise contact Daenerys during the siege of King’s Landing. He may even have been trying to skinchange with her dragon instead. Bran could have been trying to urge them towards peace, or protect Jon and Arya. He may even have been trying to spur them towards the violence they committed, if you care to believe that Bran now has villainous intentions.
Either way, the idea is that Bran’s interference caused a schism in Dany’s psyche, leading to the confusing bloodbath we witnessed. Much like her father Aerys, Daenerys will be confused and unable to explain her actions, leading the other lords of Westeros to call it “madness.” However, there is one leader in King’s Landing who could understand what happened: Jon.
Through his knowledge of Bran and his understanding of northern magic, Jon could be the one to realize what happened to Dany. Faced with a “Mad Queen” that the realm could never trust again, he may also be the one to take her out, fulfilling the Azor Ahai prophecy. Alternatively, we could see Jon helping Dany to cast Bran out, freeing her to rule on her own terms at a terrible cost.
With Dany on the throne, Jon returns north, only to find that Bran is gone. Bran has told us he no longer has a place in the world, and he “mostly lives in the past.” He doesn't belong at Winterfell, and it stands to reason that he would return to the Three-Eyed Raven’s subterranean city north of the Wall, underneath that massive Wierwood tree. He leaves Jon and his family fearful, and uncertain of his allegiance or intentions.
This is where Jon’s noble ending comes in. Left with a threat to the north that he doesn’t know how to fight — and likely couldn’t even if he wanted to, as Bran is his brother — Jon’s path would be clear: reestablish the Night’s Watch. This is a perfect reason for Jon to return to The Wall, lead the reconstruction effort, and rebuild the ancient order — the shield that guards the realms of men.
Obviously, this is pure speculation, but it would go a long way in uniting some of the seemingly disparate elements of this season, particularly Bran’s abilities and the supernatural threats of the north, which many fans feel were underplayed. It would also vindicate Daenerys in a way, and give Jon an honorable way out of pursuing his claim to the throne. Perhaps most importantly, it would take him back north and reunite him with Ghost, which is one of the only things that has been appropriately foreshadowed this season.
On the other hand, this could be as unfounded as hundreds of thousands of other fan theories cluttering the internet these days. Game of Thrones is a massive story more than two decades in the making, and it is the television event of this era. The ending cannot please everyone, and even if everything above was crammed into the finale, I personally would not be satisfied. At the end of the day, saying goodbye to this world is going to be hard, and we all have to prepare to accept what we get.
I will say that having this idea and writing it down was important for me as a die-hard fan of this series. So much of Game of Thrones is about teasing out plots and schemes and unraveling mysteries. To that end, I have been an apologist for Seasons 7 and 8 (within a fandom that has often skewered them), trusting that some surprisingly satisfying conclusion was waiting just around the corner to tie all the plot threads up neatly.0comments
It’s not a matter of wanting your fan theory to be true, it’s a matter of honoring the characters and themes that have occupied our minds for the last decade. Episode 5 finally broke me — at least for 24 hours — so coming back around with an exciting idea of what could happen next was a relief, and spoke to the richness of this world that no mischaracterization can truly ruin.