Game of Thrones concluded on Sunday by naming the single least deserving character the king of (nearly) all of Westeros. Remember, Bran is the guy who basically napped under a tree for the entire sixth season, wasn't even in the fifth season, and despite his omniscience and ability to warg into humans, aimlessly played with ravens during the Battle of Winterfell and stood by as Daenerys' torched a city of half a million inhabitants.
Isn't it suspicious, then, that Bran's "all roads lead to this moment" mysticism had one conspicuous outcome: That he was picked to be king? Yep, I'm onto him: It is my belief that the Three-Eyed Raven not only wanted to be king, but intentionally withheld information from his allies, resulting in the deaths of thousands, just to get the crown.
Bran's behavior this season has always rested on one big assumption: That he's so passive because he's just really careful with his powers. This is especially true of his "greensight," which gives him the ability to know everything that has ever happened and everything currently happening, as well as to experience sporadic prophetic visions of the future that seemingly aren't his to control. (This last power is never fully explained, though.) After Bran wargs into Hodor back in season six — a decision that effectively destroyed Hodor's mind for all the following decades — Bran becomes reticent about using his abilities. So scared is Bran of repeating this mistake that he aimlessly flies ravens into clouds rather than take an active role in the battle to save all of humanity from the undead. His magic powers are just too powerful to be used.
As the Three-Eyed Raven, Bran does serve as a quiet shepherd of destiny throughout the show. He gives Arya the dagger she will use to kill the Night King, for instance. He also reveals to Jon — and later, critically, to Arya and Sansa — the secret of Jon's parentage (more on this later). Clearly Bran is willing to use his powers from time to time.
But there is another, bigger problem with the reading of Bran as just a passive observer of the show's events: Tyrion bases the entire case for King Bran on the assumption that he will use his powers to favorably shape history going forward. "He is our memory, the keeper of all our stories," Tyrion says. "Who better to lead us into the future?" Bran notably does nothing to dissuade Tyrion from his assumption. Later, as king, Bran tells Tyrion and the rest of the small council that he'll locate Drogon. King Bran obviously can and does use his powers to shape events to his preferred outcome.
So, you might be asking, why wasn't Bran using these same powers during the horrifying events of the past series? If Bran could truly see everything happening at any given time, then he should have been able to spy on the plans of Cersei and Euron and warn Jon and Daenerys via raven about the plot to ambush Rhaegal at sea, an attack that also resulted in Missandei's capture and subsequent execution. Likewise, although Bran has a vision of a lone dragon flying over King's Landing in season four, he apparently isn't enlightened to the extremely important detail that Daenerys will go mad and kill nearly the entire population of the city. Bran, what gives?
watch jon snow gradually realize that bran is a fucking weirdo pic.twitter.com/hvV8UXSbgW
— Kathryn VanArendonk (@kvanaren) April 15, 2019
Yet even allowing Bran the absolute benefit of the doubt, you can't escape the problem posed by Euron's ambush. This surprise attack on Daenerys, which sets off the chain of events that leads to her war crimes in King's Landing, was always completely within the realm of what Bran was supposedly capable of seeing. If the events in the last several episodes happened because they were "meant to" — a bit of a cheap cop out by the screenwriters to help excuse all these plot holes — that still would mean that the massacre of the innocents of King's Landing was instrumental to Bran becoming king. This line of thinking becomes even more sinister if you believe that Bran knew what was going to happen and allowed it to proceed anyway. There is even proof this might be the case: Bran asks Tyrion "why do you think I came all this way" if not in the expectation of being crowned king, which is not quite the line you'd expect from someone who wasn't seeking power while knowing full well its terrible cost.
Perhaps the most significant piece of evidence in the case for cunning Bran, however, goes back to one of the only times he actually did pass on some useful intelligence this season: the revelation of Jon's parentage to Arya and Sansa. It was the telling of this secret that ends up stoking tensions between Daenerys and Jon because it means they were related by blood and that Jon is the rightful heir to the Iron Throne. That seems like a pretty suspect time to decide to break with your policy of keeping things to yourself! Remember, Sansa tells Bran's story to Tyrion, who tells Lord Varys, which sets in motion the conspiracy against Daenerys. With her advisors turning against her and Jon pulling away emotionally, Daenerys is backed into ruling out of fear and calls Cersei's bluff by killing the innocents of King's Landing — an option she may never have resorted to without Bran's direct orchestration.
Then there is Bran's odd final line in the finale to Jon after Jon apologies for not being around. "You were exactly where you were supposed to be," Bran reassures. Huh? That declaration, if anything, seems to practically be an admission that Bran had been using the various heroes as pawns in his game to manipulate his way to the throne.
As with much of Thrones' rocky final season, these plot holes might be indicative of nothing more than just that: sloppy writing. But if you were hoping for the finale to be a little bit more complicated than that, you might join me in becoming a Bran truther. There is certainly plenty of evidence that Bran was the one holding the strings all along. Most of all, though, I can't help but commend Game of Thrones for giving us one last great conspiracy for the road.