Will Bran the Broken be a good king?

The Game of Thrones series finale was full of shocking moments, with perhaps none more important that Brandon Stark, aka Bran the Broken, being chosen as king of the Six Kingdoms (the North remains independent under Queen Sansa). For a character that had professed no desire to rule even Winterfell just two episodes before, it was quite the twist, so how do we all feel about it? Let’s work through our feelings together.

On some level, Bran initially appears to be a great choice. As a repository of all mankind’s knowledge, Bran theoretically possess wisdom far beyond any previous monarch, granting him the ability — at least theoretically — to make decisions using literally all the facts. Emotionally, Bran is extremely level-headed, which is a kind way of saying Bran has little to no emotional attachment to anything, which means he won’t let biases sway his decision making. That could make for a fair king.

On the flip side, he could run into the Dr. Manhattan problem. In Alan Moore’s Watchmen, the superhero Dr. Manhattan possesses near omnipotence to the point where he became detached from mankind. Manhattan could, like Bran, see all of the past. He could also see the future, which Bran can at least do in a limited way — the boundaries of his powers aren’t exactly clear. In any case, because Manhattan could appreciate the long arc of time, he wasn’t swayed by immediate concerns. Bran seems to see things in largely the same way, which could have problems.

For example, King Bran could pardon for an accused criminal in the present, knowing that 15 years from now that criminal will do something that will benefit a large number of people. In pardoning him, Bran would be solving an equation only he could see. That might sound like a logical decision to make for an omniscient ruler, but it might not to powerful families or individuals who don’t have Bran’s foresight. A ruler who is perceived as detached from the present in favor of a future no one can see may not sit right with many of the lords and ladies Bran will need in his corner if the Six Kingdoms are to remain at peace.

Dr. Manhattan in Watchmen (2009)

But back on the plus side, Bran’s lack of emotional attachment could be useful. As Maester Aemon once said, “Love is the death of duty.” If Bran is still capable of loving anyone (and the cold way he dismissed Meera Reed in season 7 throws that seriously into question), he would not let it guide his decision-making. It’s hard to imagine Bran, say, absconding with the daughter of a powerful lord and setting off a war; or executing people by lighting them on fire because he enjoys it; or bombing a city because he saw his friend beheaded. Bran would judge each situation impassively, and reach a conclusion based on reason.

As for Bran’s inability to have children, and therefore an heir, it probably ends up being a positive. There are countless real-world and Westerosi examples of blood being a terrible criteria for ruling. From Joffrey to the Mad King Aerys Targaryen, monarchs inheriting the power due to who their parents are can lead to disaster. At the same time, the choosing ceremony established in “The Iron Throne” doesn’t preclude the child of a monarch from being chosen IF  Westeros’ lords believe him or her to be a capable ruler. Bran’s inability to have children sets a precedent and forces the choosing of a new monarch down the road. That could present new problems as lords and ladies horse trade to get their favorites elected, but at least an unfit person won’t take the throne purely because their dad was on it.

So overall, I’d say the jury is still out on Bran as a monarch. The infinite wisdom and even keeled emotional decision making are certainly pluses, but in the long run Bran’s emotional detachment could lead to decisions that his subjects and advisors are incapable of understanding. What does everyone else think? Sound off below!

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