Why is he such a weird ass dude?
That’s the first question on everyone’s mind when it comes to Bran Stark in Season 7 of Game of Thrones.
Followed by: Why did he tell his own sister, Sansa, that she “looked beautiful” when reminiscing about the night she was married against her will (for the second time) and later sexually abused by Ramsay Bolton?
Why’d he have to be so rude to Meera Reed, repudiating her without so much as a firm handshake goodbye — after all she’d done for him? A character who devoted her life to protecting Bran from the moment they met; who watched her own brother die to ensure that safety? Without whom Bran would never have made it past the Wall, never reached Bloodraven and never have been able to trip balls on Weirwood paste… uh, I mean complete his Three-Eyed-Raven training? “You died in that cave,” Meera says before she leaves him, tears in her eyes. Bran can only nod with what seems like silent agreement.
If Bran isn’t really Bran anymore, and is instead the Three-Eyed-Raven — then why isn’t he telling anyone anything useful? Or done anything cool for that matter? Why hasn’t he warged into The Mountain’s mindless, reanimated FrankenGregor corpse-armor, stormed the White Walker’s homeland beyond the Wall and piledriven the Night King straight to hell? Or gone back in time to bet on all the winning jousters at Tourneys to amass the Stark family a fortune?
At this point, we could liken Bran to Dr. Manhattan from Watchmen — a character whose perception and comprehension of time itself and the world around him is so much more advanced than everyone else, that he no longer has need nor desire to fully interact with his former peers.
In all seriousness though, Bran’s aberrant behavior shouldn’t be that surprising. When Bran first arrives at the Weirwood to meet with the previous three-eyed-raven, he’s given his new job description.
For men, time is a river. We are trapped in its flow, hurtling from past to present, always in the same direction. The lives of trees are different. They root and grow and die in one place, and that river does not move them. The oak is the acorn, the acorn is the oak. And the weirwood … a thousand human years are a moment to a weirwood, and through such gates you and I may gaze into the past.” (ADWD, Bran)
Under his new mantle, there’s the possibility that Bran can see everything that has ever happened and will happen in the world of Game of Thrones. That’s the idea, anyway. But, as is custom in this series, great power not only comes with great responsibility — but with serious repercussions. Isaac Hempstead Wright, who plays Bran in the show, shed some light on the subject in an interview with Fansided, explaining why Bran’s seeming omniscience might be more burden than benefit:
It’s like imagining you have all of space and time in your head. Bran is existing in thousands of planes of existence at any one time. So it’s quite difficult for Bran to have any kind of semblance of personality anymore because he’s really like a giant computer.
Bran really at this stage is not the Three-Eyed Raven. He’s got the title but hasn’t had thousands of years of sitting in a cave looking through time. Somebody put in front of him a massive encyclopedia of all of time and he’s only opened page one. He can look stuff up but doesn’t have this all-knowing all-seeing capability just yet.”
Showrunner David Weiss adds:
There was supposed to be more time to learn what he needed to know and they ran out of time. Now Bran the Broken is broken in more ways than one. He’s got serious challenges dealing with all the stuff happening in his mind and that prevents him becoming this omniscient character.”
Bran the Broken, in more ways than one? Ouch. And that’s exactly the dramatic-irony-infused point of the matter: the process of becoming the three-eyed-raven has inundated Bran’s mind to the point where he’s like a glitching supercomputer. He’s not trying to be awkward or cold in his conversations with former family and friends — rather, his confused state has him spouting whatever bits of information come surging into his brain, whenever his downloaded memories get triggered. An invalid character we thought was being gifted with omniscience, instead becomes crippled in both body and mind as a result. That’s some George R.R. Martin shit for you if there ever was.
There may still be hope for Bran the “Broken”, however. Or at least evidence that vestiges of his former Stark self are still intact: in his conversation with Littlefinger in S7E4, he says “Chaos is a ladder,” the very same phrase Littlefinger used in conversation with Varys in Season 1. The reiteration of those four words not only make Littlefinger look frightened for the first time we’ve ever seen him by words alone (looking like a man whose sphincter just imploded might be a more apt description) but suggest as well that Bran-eyed-raven has peered into Petyr’s shady past; has knowledge of the Machiavellian Lord of the Vale’s dirty tricks; and presages that the current line of Starks won’t be beguiled like their father or the countless others Littlefinger has done dirty.
Then there’s the Valyrian steel dagger that Littlefinger gifts to Bran before the above conversation takes place. Another callback to Season 1, the dagger is the very same one used in an assassination attempt on Bran’s while he’s recovering from a coma. Later in the episode, when Bran reunites with sister Arya — he demonstrates his new gift of prescience once more. He saw Arya at the Inn at the Crossroads. He knows the specifics of her “Kill List,” knowledge that Bran couldn’t have possibly obtained by word of mouth alone.
“I don’t want it,” he says, giving Arya the Valyrian steel dagger given to him by Littlefinger only moments prior. “It’s wasted on a cripple.” Not entirely true, though the fact that his sister is now a Braavosian water-dancing uber-assassin implies that it’ll be put to far better use in her hands — a fact Bran must surely have foreseen, right? Is he subtly setting into a motion of chain of events where she’ll use it down the line? Or was it merely coincidence?
That’s exactly what makes Bran Stark such an interesting character in Season 7 of Game of Thrones. Despite having all the knowledge in the world at his disposal — we still have no clue to what extent he’s “playing the game,” and to what extent he’s just spewing out random information. Is he saying just enough to ensure that life transpires as it should and that he doesn’t pull another Hodor? Is he manipulating mankind down the golden path to ensure its survival against the oncoming White Walker invasion? One thing is for certain: Bran’s newfound position and knowledge will be integral in ascertaining the White Walker’s point of view in the narrative; what they want; why they’re moving south — perhaps the only means of doing so. And it’s that knowledge that might be worth more than all the Dragonglass and Princes that were Promised in the end.