Speculation: What does Bran’s presence in Winterfell mean for season 7 and 8?


Thanks to the second trailer from HBO, Game of Thrones season 7 is starting to come into focus. We have a good idea of the broad strokes, but it wouldn’t be a Game of Thrones trailer if it didn’t raise a few questions.

One of those involves Bran Stark’s apparent return to Winterfell — we can see him in the castle’s godswood around the 1:03 mark. And in a wheelchair, no less! Surely Meera Reed appreciates not having to pull him around anymore.

After spending the past four seasons away from Winterfell, Brandon Stark has returned to his family home, though the manner of his return remains to be seen. Most people south of the Wall presume him dead, the most common story being that Bran was murdered by Theon Greyjoy back in season 2. Theon confessed to Sansa to murdering two farm boys instead, but Sansa still has no idea as to Bran’s whereabouts. In his absence, and after Rickon’s death, the Northern lords elected Jon Snow as the King in the North, since he was Ned Stark’s only remaining male child.

Jon, however, is not the trueborn son of Ned Stark, commonly thought to be bastard born. The laws of Westeros are clear that a trueborn son (born of the marriage of two noble parents) always claims inheritance before the bastard-born children, as well as any trueborn daughters. That means, whether he intends to or not, Bran is the actual heir to Winterfell and the Stark name. That may not matter to Bran or Jon, but it could matter to some Northern lords, and potentially to Sansa.

At the end of season 6, Sansa seemed a little miffed that Jon was elected King in the North. With Littlefinger whispering in her ear, Sansa could be pushed to act if she thinks a trueborn Stark should rule in Winterfell. As a woman, Sansa will have difficulty claiming the Stark mantle, but Bran could do it easily. Should Sansa decide she was not given enough credit for her actions in season 6, she could back Bran’s claim. It might be a long shot, pitting one Stark against another, but this is Game of Thrones, and uncomfortable situations occur.

Either way, Jon may not be the one who has to worry about Bran. That person is Littlefinger. Whether or not Littlegfinger tries to push Sansa toward a Stark showdown, Bran presents gigantic problems for the schemer, who’s done more than a few unsavory things to get where he is. Littlefinger excels at creating and keeping secrets, with nary a leak to the press or a hidden notebook to give him away. He’s a steel trap, and he uses those secrets to manipulate people and get what he wants.

However, secrets may not mean much to a person who can see through space and time. Bran can see into the past and witness events that have already occurred. Bran doesn’t need to catch you committing treason — he can connect to a weirwood tree and witness you committing treason years after the fact. That creates an entirely different set of rules, ones even as skilled a player as Littlefinger is unable to leverage. Bran can discover every single secret Littlefinger has kept hidden throughout the series, including his lie to Catelyn about the Valyrian steel dagger in season 1 (which led Catelyn to capture Tyrion) and his betrayal of Ned Stark. Should Bran discover even just one of Littlefinger’s secrets, things could go very badly very quickly for Baelish.

Aidan Gillen as Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish and Sophie Turner as Sansa Stark—Photo: Helen Sloan/HBO

But even then, Baelish’s downfall could be the least of anyone’s concerns. During season 6, we saw Bran marked by the Night King during a weirwood vision. That allowed the Night King to locate Bran, but also to penetrate the magic that previously protected the cave of the Three-Eyed Raven.

As we learned from Uncle Benjen in the season 6 finale, the Wall is more than a simple physical barrier. It contains powerful magic that prevents the undead from crossing it. That sounds suspiciously like the magic that once protected the Three-Eyed Raven’s cave. If the two are related, once Bran crosses through the Wall, he could potentially allow the Night King and his army access to Westeros, and that would be very, very bad.

From deposing Jon as King in the North to Littlefinger’s downfall to the annihilation of mankind, Bran’s return to Winterfell could serve as a catalyst for any number of events.

Next: Tinfoil Time: We analyze the second season 7 trailer for hints of Targbowl

But hey, at least Meera doesn’t have to lug him around in that damn sled anymore. Thank the Seven for that spiffy-looking wheelchair.