Game of Thrones
May 22, 2016
TIME LOOPS? ARE YOU KIDDING ME??
I KNEW IT. I knew it, I knew it, I knew it, I KNEW IT. I KNEW IT. I mean, I didn’t know HODOR, but I knew it.
UGH. WHY DIDN’T I WRITE IT?
At The Wall:
Sansa is busy with some embroidery when she receives a letter alerting her that Littlefinger is in Mole’s Town, requesting a private audience. She goes to him, accompanied by Brienne, because one thing Sansa is not (anymore) is a fool.
Littlefinger is excited to inform her that he has the Vale’s army encamped nearby and ready to attack Winterfell on her orders, but Sansa’s like, “Super. But first I have some questions for you: Did you know what a monster Ramsay Bolton is? Because if you didn’t, you’re a moron, but if you did, you’re my enemy. So which is it?” Littlefinger gets that panicked look in his eyes that men do when they are in a fight with a woman and they know there’s no right answer and the cogs in their brains slowly, painfully turn trying to come up with something, anything to make this stop. “Uhhhhh…” says Littlefinger.
“Hey! Here’s a fun game we can play,” Sansa goes on, “why don’t you guess what Ramsay did to me on my wedding night? GO AHEAD, TAKE SOME GUESSES.”
“Uhhhh….” says Littlefinger.
“I’M WAITING,” says Sansa.
“He beat you? Maybe, I dunno, cut you?” suggests Littlefinger.
“HEY, LOOK WHO KNOWS SOMETHING ABOUT SOMETHING ABOUT RAMSAY AFTER ALL,” replies Sansa, before letting him know that was not the worst thing Ramsay did to her and in fact she can still feel what Ramsay did to her so CHEW ON THAT FOR A WHILE, UNCLE PETYR.
And that’s why Sansa is really not interested in anything from Littlefinger anymore, thanks, so he can take his troops right back to the Vale. Littlefinger is like, “Ok, I hear you, but what if I told you your uncle Blackfish took back Riverrun and might be able to help you?” Sansa’s like, “Well, that is more interesting, but my brother and I can handle it ourselves, thanks.”
Jon, Sansa and Davos talk strategy. Sure, the Karstarks and Umbers might have joined the Boltons, but there are still the Manderlys and a mess of lesser Northern families who will certainly support them. The North remembers and all that. Sansa points out that while Jon might not technically be a Stark, he’s as much Ned Stark’s son as Ramsay is Roose’s. Also, too, while she was at Winterfell, she heard that a raven arrived with a message stating that her Uncle Blackfish has taken Riverrun back for the Tullys. He’ll support them! Sounds like a plan!, everyone agrees. Yay! A plan!
Sansa orders Brienne to go to Riverrun to enlist her Uncle — she can’t risk having a raven be intercepted by Ramsay. Brienne is reluctant to leave Sansa, but Sansa’s like, “eh, my brother will protect me.” Brienne makes a funny about Jon being “brooding…”
… but tells Sansa she’s more worried about the others they’ve aligned with, including the kid-murdering priestess and that Wildling with the sex eyes.
Everyone prepares to leave Castle Black. Before they go, Sansa shows off the HOT Direwolf dress she embroidered for herself and presents Jon a cloak like the one their father had, so I guess all those lessons from Septa Mordane weren’t so worthless after all. And then everyone saddles up and Jon calls Edd the Lord Commander and Edd’s like, “I mean, I guess somebody has to be, right?” and they head out and Tormund makes sex eyes at Brienne again.
As it turns out, Arya is an even better fighter when she has use of her eyesight. Go figure! Still, as handy as Arya is with that fight stick, The Waif is still better, and she reminds Arya that she’ll never be “one of them, Lady Stark.”
Jaqen comes in and is like, “The Waif has a point.” He takes Arya on another tour of the Hall of Faces while giving her a little history of the Faceless Men: None were highborn, in fact, the first were Valyrian mine slaves. The very first Faceless Man was taught how to “give the gift” by the Many-Faced God, and he taught others. Eventually, they had given the “gift” to all the masters and overseers and they moved themselves to Braavos where they founded the Free City and the temple to the Many-Faced God.
Jaqen then offers Arya another chance to join the Faceless Men and gives Arya a new “gift” assignment: an actress, named Lady Crane.
Arya checks out the theater group’s performance: basically a comedic telling of season one, except with Ned Stark as a dim-witted, power-hungry fool, and Joffrey as a kind, gentle hero. Needless to say, Arya is NOT IMPRESSED.
And then there is suddenly SO MUCH PENIS on our TV screens. So, thanks, everyone who complained about the unequal treatment of nudity on this show! I hope you’re happy now! The penis belongs to the actor who portrayed Joffrey, and he’s waggling it on our screens while complaining about his genital warts backstage. HOTTTTTTTT. Arya is there spying on the actors, in particular her mark, Lady Crane (who played Cersei) as she and her husband (the actor who played Tyrion) toast their children.
Arya returns to the House of Black and White and reports her findings to Jaqen, expressing some hesitancy at carrying through with the “gift” as Lady Crane seems like a decent person and because she’s deduced that the person who must have ordered the “gift” was the younger actress who played Sansa. Jaqen is like, “Girl, please. 1. Death does not come only to the wicked, but, also 2. it’s none of The Girl’s business who ordered the “gift,” it’s just her business to give it.” So get giving and quit asking so many pesky questions.
In Vaes Dothrak:
After taking over the Dothraki horde, Daenerys found herself some clothes, and is chatting with Jorah and Daario about what’s next, especially with Jorah who she has BANISHED TWICE ALREADY, DUDE. What is she supposed to do with a man who doesn’t understand that No means NO? But Jorah is like, “Eh, you don’t have to worry about me for long,” before showing her his Grayscale. He then tells her that he loves her, and will always love her, and if she doesn’t mind, he’s going to go kill himself now, bye. But Daenerys stops him and as his Queen orders him to go find a cure so he can be by her side when she conquers Westeros. And so Jorah goes off in one direction and Daenerys, Daario and the Dothraki horde head in another. Bye, Jorah!
“He’ll always be her rock,” my husband quips.
It’s been 14 whole days and that peace that Tyrion brokered with the slave masters is still holding: no more Sons of Harpy attacks, no masters have been killed by former slaves.
Except, Tyrion and Varys are well aware that it’s a tenuous peace at best, which is why they’ve asked Lord of Light Priestess Helena Christensen for a meeting. They explain they need her help in propping Daenerys up, and she assures them that she doesn’t need persuading: she believes that Daenerys is the One Who Was Promised and will instruct her priestess and priests to spread the word.
Varys, however, whose boy bits were cut off by a sorcerer, has no use for the Red Priestess and her hoodoo, and reminds her that it wasn’t that long ago that another Red Priestess was preeeeeeety sure Stannis was the Prince Who Was Promised, and how’d that turn out for everyone? Should we get Shireen on the phone and ask her? Tyrion tries to make nice by suggesting that Varys is just a healthy skeptic but the Red Priestess reminds them that “everyone is what they are and where they are for a reason. Terrible things happen for a reason…”
…before reminding Varys that he wouldn’t be here helping to bring light into the world if it weren’t for a second-rate sorcerer with a nasty habit of cutting off genitalia. Does Varys remember what he heard that night the sorcerer tossed his boy bits into the fire? The voice that called out from the flames? Who it was who spoke? As Varys almost imperceptibly shakes his head no, the Priestess assures him that they work for the same queen. If he’s a true friend to Daenerys, he has nothing to fear from Priestess Helena Christensen.
In the Iron Islands:
Over in the Iron Islands, the Kingsmoot gets under way.
Yara marches in front of the Ironborn to announce her intention to be their next queen. “It’s called a KINGSmoot, not a QUEENSmoot,” complains one sexist. Yara insists to the assembled that she’s going to build a fleet and make those jerks in Westeros take them seriously. For reals this time.
But this doesn’t go over with the misogynists in the crowd who ask why they should elect a girl when Balon’s son is back in town. TheonReek steps forward and is like, “Hey guys, it’s cool, Yara really is the best woman for the job and y’all know that, so quit playing.”
All the pirates are like, “ARRRRRRRR!” and about to crown her when Yara and TheonReek’s uncle Euron shows up and is like, “NOT SO FAST. So, I’m here to be the king, and seeing as I’m 1. a man and 2. have all my man parts, I am pretty sure I’m the most qualified person for the job. Yes, yes, I killed my brother Balon, but he had it coming, and let’s be honest, none of y’all even liked the old coot. Also, I happen to know a better way to show those Westeros jerks what’s what and it’s called ‘dragons.’ So let’s go drown me and put the crown on my head already.” And all the pirates are like, “ARRRRRRRR!”
While Euron’s brother Aeron is crowning Euron by one of Westeros’ more colorful coronation traditions: by drowning him and waiting for him to resuscitate himself (“What is dead may never die!”), Yara, TheonReek and the rest of the misandrists steel the Iron Island fleet and sail away.
And, as it turns out, with good reason because the first thing King Euron demands is that they go kill his niece and nephew. When he realizes it’s too late, King Euron’s like, “It’s cool. Instead, how about y’all get busy building me some fancy new ships.”
Beyond the Wall:
On another one of their vision quests, The Three-Eyed Crow shows Bran a scene that took place right there at their Weirwood tree in which Leaf and the other Children of the Forest stabbed a captured man through the heart with a piece of dragonstone, thereby creating the White Walkers. When Bran comes to back in the cave, he’s all, “THE HELL?” But Leaf argues that they were at war, their sacred trees were being cut down; they made the White Walkers to defend themselves from, “you… from men.”
Later, while The Three-Eyed Crow is sleeping, Bran decides to take the vision tree out for a spin on his own, and ends up outside the tree — in the present — where the Night’s King and an army of wights are standing in wait. In the course of the vision, the Night’s King not only sees Bran BUT TOUCHES HIM! ZOMG! HOW DOES THAT EVEN WORK?
Bran wakes up screaming, tells The Three-Eyed Crow that the Night’s King touched him, and shows everyone an icy scar on his arm. And The Three-Eyed Crow is like, “WELL, GREAT. Now he’s going to be able to find you. Yous got to go.”
The Three-Eyed Crow explains to an incredulous Bran that it’s time for him to become the new Three-Eyed Crow. Bran asks if he’s ready, and The Three-Eyed Crow is like, “NOPE.
BUT I GUESS YOU SHOULD HAVE THOUGHT OF THAT BEFORE YOU JUST STARTED GRABBING ROOTS ALL WILLY-NILLY.”
So, to prepare Bran, The Three-Eyed Crow takes him into another vision of the past: this time, the moment Ned was leaving Winterfell as a child to become a ward of Jon Arryn in the Vale.
Meanwhile, inside the cave, Meera and Hodor discuss what they’re going to eat once they get out of this infernal place: bacon, eggs, hodor, because you just know those Hippies of the Forest are only feeding them a bunch of tempeh and tofurkey. However, their conversation is interrupted when Meera notices that it’s grown cold inside the cave. When she investigates, the Night’s King and all the wights are at the cave door. “OH HAI!”
The White Walkers storm their way into the cave as Meera and the Children of the Forest try to fight them off, all the while screaming at Bran to WAKE UP ALREADY OR WARG INTO HODOR.
Inside the vision, The Three-Eyed Raven urges Bran to listen to Meera who he can hear calling for him, urging him to warg into Hodor. Bran follows her orders and wargs into the present Hodor inside the cave. As Hodor picks up Bran’s sled and begins dragging it to the other cave exit, Meera and the Children of the Forest continue to fight the White Walkers, Meera killing one with a piece of dragonstone. But it’s hardly enough and BRAN WON’T WAKE UP ALREADY and she and the Children of the Forest continue to fight the wights and continue to lose ground.
Oh, and Summer fights his way into a pack of wights only to set upon and killed by those dead bastards.
R.I.P. Summer. You were a good direwolf.
Running to the exit, running to the exit, running to the exit.
Meanwhile, the Night’s King kills The Three-Eyed Raven in the cave, who has his Obi Wan moment as he disappears from the vision altogether. Poof! Gone. And by sacrificing herself and using some sort of magic firebomb, Leaf holds off the wights long enough for Meera, Hodor and Bran to slip out of the cave. Boom! Gone. And their deaths are very sad, but not as sad as Summer’s. Sorry. (But not really.)
Hodor, Meera and Bran make it out the back door of the cave, but the wights are still coming. Hodor/Bran busts his way through the door, giving them enough time to slip out of the cave and close the door behind them. As she runs through the snow, dragging Bran to safety, Meera calls back to Hodor to “hold the door.” And so, as Present Hodor holds that door, sacrificing himself in the process, Meera’s voice runs through his head into Bran and into the past, where Young Hodor collapses, all while yelling “hold the door … hold the door … hold the door … hodor … hodor.”
And that’s how Hodor became Hodor and how my heart was shattered into a thousand billion pieces by this show for the upteenth time.
I’m legit still a mess, you guys.
Before we get into all the time travel Hodor business, a few other points of order we should discuss:
1. Let’s start with a question I don’t have an answer to: where the heck are Yara and TheonReek going? They have a small contingent of Ironborn and all of their best ships and nowhere to go.
TheonReek convinces Yara to use their men to help Sansa.
Pros: Both TheonReek and Yara have their beefs with Ramsay. He killed some of Yara’s best men and took TheonReek’s manhood. And TheonReek is still working out his guilt for what he did to the Starks. Sending his people to go help the Starks reclaim Winterfell would go a long way towards making up for his betrayal.
Cons: TheonReek has no idea Sansa and Jon are devising a plan to take back Winterfell, and Yara has been down this road once before with Ramsay. It didn’t end well.
TheonReek and Yara head to Essos to pick up Daenerys and her dragons.
Pros: Euron put a bullet in Chekhov’s gun when he announced his plan to take Daenerys as his bride and conquer Westeros with her dragons. It certainly would be interesting if TheonReek and Yara decided to take his plan and run with it for their own gain.
Cons: They have no idea where to find a Dragon Queen or have any idea if Euron is even telling the truth that she exists.
TheonReek and Yara sail north to the Bay of Ice towards the Wall or to some other Northern house seeking refuge:
Pros: They are mostly looking for someplace to hide from their murderous uncle. They could head up north in the general direction of the Wall, possibly looking to take shelter with the Night’s Watch for a spell. While the Night’s Watch isn’t a hotel, they are down a lot of men these days, and they might find it to be a beneficial arrangement for both groups. Or they could beg for help from a Northern family like the Manderlys who are still quite pro-Stark and might be able to help TheonReek to spite Ramsay. Either would put TheonReek and Yara in a prime position to assist in the battles that lie ahead for the North.
Cons: Heading north just isn’t all that far from the Iron Islands and it wouldn’t take much for their uncle to find them. It’s not exactly the best refuge. But where else are they going to go? It’s not like pirates have many friends.
2. OH MY GOD IS SANSA PREGNANT WITH RAMSAY’S RAPE BABY? Maybe. Evidence: She doesn’t have much of an appetite at the Wall; she has made herself new clothes; she tells Littlefinger that she can “still feel” what Ramsay did to her: “I can still feel what he did, in my body standing here right now”; and, you know, the part where she was raped by Ramsay multiple times over a period of who even knows how long exactly.
What would a Bolton/Stark child mean? Aside from being one ill-tempered individual, the story could go in a few directions: It could be this is part of Sansa’s drive to take back Winterfell and kill Ramsay (you know, aside from the fact that it’s her family’s to begin with and all of the raping and such), so as to protect her child from being raised as a Bolton. Or Sansa could use the potential of a Bolton heir as a weapon against or a means to control Ramsay. Then again, she might abort the baby because, no thanks — but I frankly don’t see that happening as it wouldn’t add much to the plot.
A Stark baby, even a Bolton-Stark baby, is also a symbol of hope, of a chance for the Stark line to continue. Not to bum you out, but we’re quickly running out of Starks to carry on the family traditions, and “There must always be a Stark in Winterfell.” Robb’s dead, Bran is busy becoming a tree, Rickon may still be alive? may be dead? who knows — but even if he is still alive as of now, I honestly think his days are numbered, and Arya is busy being No One. The Starks’ last great hope lies with Sansa, and the Old Gods know it would be keeping in the bleak world of A Song of Ice and Fire that her only real hope would lie in a rape baby. (Now it should be noted that in the books, Sansa is nowhere near Ramsay, at this point and is certainly not carrying his rape baby.)
3. Old time religion
Bran’s time travel — which we will get to — opened up a potentially intriguing theological question for the world of A Song of Ice and Fire: What if there are no Gods, what if there’s just magic, and everyone’s religion is just … wrong?
OK, so, the weirwood trees — those weird trees with the faces. They are how the Old Gods are worshipped by the Northerners (but no one else). Everyone else in Westeros (for the most part) is busy worshipping the Faith of the Seven. (And then there are all the gods over in Essos, but that’s a whole other thing.)
RIGHT, SO, as we know, The Three-Eyed Raven has grown into the roots of a weirwood and he and Bran are able to access points in time by communing with the tree itself. What’s interesting about this point is that as we learned in “Oathbreaker” when Bran called out his father’s name at the Tower of Joy, Bran is also able to interact in a limited way with the past through the trees. And so, when Ned — or any other Stark or Northerner for that part — goes to a godswood to commune with their Old Gods, they are more likely communing with The Three-Eyed Raven or Bran himself, instead. In a way, this is lovely, this notion of Bran and his father being able to speak to one another through time, past death itself.
But they’re just people — magical people, sure — but just people. Which means that the Old Gods — any gods, really — might not exist at all. There is obviously magic in this world: dragons and White Walkers and time-travelling trees are certainly magical. But what they aren’t are some sort of Supreme Being or creator of worlds. There is great power here, but it is not divine power.
Now, you could argue that it doesn’t much matter, really — call it a God or magic, either way it is a supernatural force that is exuding its influence upon events within this world. Except that Man continues to try to contain this force, whatever it is, and label it as religion to use it for his own means. The High Sparrow, who wasn’t in this particular episode, is the best example of a man who is using religion as a means of amassing power; threatening the royal class that his followers’ faith is so powerful, it could take down an empire.
And in this episode, we have two instances of characters discussing and questioning the power of religion. In Meereen, Tyrion brings in the Red Priestess to ask her to join their cause, because he understands on a fundamental level that the High Sparrow is correct: faith can topple an empire — or shore it up. However, Varys provides the voice of the skeptic, confronting the Red Priestess on her fanaticism. She shuts him down by reminding him of a supernatural moment in his own life — but again, was that a God at work, or was it simply magic?
Then there is Arya and her experiences with the Faceless Men. Jaqen insists that the first Faceless Man was taught his “gift” by the Many-Faced God, and went on to teach it to others who went on to found the free city of Braavos and the temple of the Many-Faced God. It’s important to note that both Jaqen and The Waif point out to Arya that as a high-born lady, she is not really one of them. The Faceless Men were originally slaves, the farthest thing from nobility, who killed their masters to secure their freedom. They then justify their murderous “gift” as being sanctioned by this Many-Faced God — if it’s religious, it can’t be evil, it just is. But what if there is no Many-Faced God, just magic that the Faceless Men have harnessed for their own means? Clearly in this episode, Arya is having doubts about this faith, and the killing of innocents in the name of this God — and Jaqen, as any good religious leader, urges her to not ask questions.
Everyone has a religion — but what if there are no gods?
So now let’s go back to this issue of the weirwood trees and time travel and Bran and Hodor and the Children of the Forest and the White Walkers and WHAT JUST HAPPENED?
For the non-book readers out there, a little ancient Westeros history. According to the story Maester Luwin tells Bran in the first book, thousands and thousands of years earlier, there were no men on Westeros, just our little green friends, The Children of the Forest. The First Men came over to Westeros from Essos using a landbridge down by Dorne, and they immediately started making trouble. They were bigger than the Children of the Forest, had horses and bronze swords and there were more of them and they were just generally pretty scary to a bunch of kid-sized wood nymphs. But then they started cutting down the Children of the Forest’s sacred weirwood trees which was a STEP TOO FAR. The two sides went to war, which though devastating to both sides, was particularly hard on the Children of the Forest. Eventually, the two sides met on the Isle of Faces, an island full of weirwoods in the middle of the God’s Eye lake. There, they struck a pact: the Men would have everything in Westeros but the deep woods which would remain the Children of the Forest’s. The weirwoods bore witness to the agreement, and a sacred order of green men were placed on the island to keep watch of the godswoods.
The pact held for four thousand years, during which time the First Men became weirwood worshippers themselves. But then the Andals, a race of tall blond men, came over from Essos with their Faith of the Seven, and conquered the First Men. The only group of First Men who wasn’t conquered were the Northerners, the Starks’ ancestors, who managed to hang onto their kingdom. Everything south was fair game for the Andals, however, who killed all the Children of the Forest that they found and destroyed every weirwood.
So there are holes in this story, right? Namely, why would the First Men ever make a pact with the Children if they were bigger, stronger and outnumbered them? And we got our answer in this episode: White Walkers. Now, all we knew about the White Walkers and the Others and their origins up to this point is that they just showed up out of the North one day sometime after the First Men’s pact with the Children of the Forest, bringing with them a generation of winter and darkness known as the Long Night. The First Men, led by a hero known as Azor Ahai and his sword Lightbringer, fought back, killed many by using dragonglass, and pushed the rest back to the north. After, Brandon the Builder built a huge wall to keep them from coming south again, and the Night’s Watch was created.
As for the Night’s Watch, the myth about the Night’s King that we’ve been told up to this point is that he was the 13th Lord’s Commander of the Night’s Watch who fell in love with a woman, “with skin as white as the moon and eyes like blue stars.” He chased her out into the North, had sex with her and promptly turned into a White Walker. He brought her back to the Nightfort at the Wall where he ruled for 13 years, making trouble for all of Westeros. Finally, Brandon the Breaker joined forces with the King-Beyond-The-Wall, and they defeated him. Fascinatingly, after he was defeated and people discovered the gruesome things he was up to in his castle, all records of him were destroyed and his name forbidden.
BUT! We learned in this episode that maybe none of this was true? Here, we learn the Children of the Forest captured a First Man and drove a piece of dragonstone into his heart, creating the first White Walker to use against their then enemies.
(And I don’t know if this first White Walker is supposed to be the Night’s King or not — that’s unclear — however, I would point out that the same actor plays both roles. And if he is one and the same, note the story about the creation of the Night’s King is nothing but a misogynistic Eve creation myth: womens be the root of all evil and all that.)
So, the actual story is complicated and ambiguous. The Children of the Forest are not just innocent woodland sprites who were overrun by oafish men, but instead they are responsible for unleashing this powerful, virtually unstoppable force as a means to protect their sacred trees. But why are the weirwoods so special as to force the Children of the Forest to take such drastic action?
Trees are a powerful symbol of the axis mundi, the center of the world, the cosmic axis. Their roots extend into the earth, their branches into the sky, and so they serve as a conduit between the heavens, earth and underworld, a place through which these disparate universes can communicate. In the world of A Song of Ice and Fire, because the weirwood trees are so ancient, they experience time differently than man. In A Dance with Dragons, The Three-Eyed Raven explains it to Bran thusly:
“Those were shadows of days past that you saw, Bran. You were looking through the eyes of the heart tree in your godswood. Time is different for a tree than for a man. Sun and soil and water, these are the things a weirwood understands, not days and years and centuries. 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 the oak. And the weirwood … a thousand human years are a moment to a weirwood, and through the gates you and I may gaze into the past. … Men live their lives trapped in an eternal present, between the mists of memory and the sea of shadow that is all we know of the days to come. Certain moths live their whole lives in a day, yet to them that little span of time must seems as long as year and decades do to us. An oak may live three hundred years, a redwood tree three thousand. A weirwood will live forever if left undisturbed. To them seasons pass in the flutter of a moth’s wing, and past, present and future are one.”
So, through his specialness, through his greensight, Bran is able to connect to the past via the weirwood’s roots. But there are always conditions on time travel and as I pointed out a couple posts ago, The Three-Eyed Raven warns him that the ink is dry on history: he can see the past, but he can’t change it. And so far there’s been nothing to prove that rule wrong. Bran apparently can interact with the past, but he can’t alter events that have already happened: When Bran called out to his father at the Tower of Joy and Ned heard him, for all we know Ned always heard Bran calling to him.
And the Hodor story just further cements Lost’s cardinal rule of time travel: “Whatever happened, happened.” Bran always goes to The Three-Eyed Raven to learn how to see through time; Bran always grows impatient and taps into the roots without permission drawing the Night’s King to him; The Three-Eyed Raven always takes Bran back to the moment when Ned was leaving for the Vale to “prepare” him to become The Three-Eyed Raven; Meera always pleads through time with Bran to warg into Hodor; and Bran always does, bringing about Hodor’s death which is the moment when the time loop closes on itself, stunning poor Wylis who becomes Hodor who always saves Bran and brings him to The Three-Eyed Raven.
It’s a causal loop, an ouroboros, the eternal return. The snake eats its own tail, time is a circle, everything happens for a reason.
And so here’s where it gets really crazy and we start wading into the deep end. As sad as Hodor’s death was, and it was! It was super sad! it’s real purpose was to show us that causal loops are going to be a thing on this series, and, I believe, will play a crucial role in Bran’s part in this larger story. How? I don’t know, and that’s one of the reasons why I didn’t write about it last week, because I can’t quite get my arms around it.
Buuuuuut, if I had to venture a guess, did you notice in the old stories about the First Men, that one name kept popping up? Brandon the Builder is perhaps the most famous Brandon Stark in Westeros history, and he’s just one of many Brandon Starks: Brandon Stark, son of Brandon the Builder; Brandon the Breaker; Brandon the Shipwright; Brandon the Burner; Brandon (Ice Eyes) Stark; Brandon the Bad; King Brandon IX; Brandon, Son of Bennard; Brandon, Son of Cregan; Brandon the Daughterless; Brandon, son of William; Brandon, son of Artos; Brandon Stark, Ned’s brother who was killed by the Mad King; and, finally, Bran. That’s a LOT of Brandon Starks!
And look, Brandon the Builder was one of the most famous characters in Westeros history/mythology, so it makes sense that over generations, people would continue to name their Stark children after him. In fact, over the course of 8,000 years, it’s surprising that there aren’t MORE Brandon Starks.
But, I can’t help but think there’s a stronger connection here. And I wonder if our Brandon is not physically the same person as these Brandons, but maybe he is going to have some sort of influence at least on one or two of these other Brandons in some powerful way, helping them create history.
Here, I should also point out this passage from the first book, Game of Thrones:
“I could tell you the story about Brandon the Builder,” Old Nan said. “That was always your favorite.”
Thousands and thousands of years ago, Brandon the Builder had raised Winterfell, and some said the Wall. Bran knew the story, but it had never been his favorite. Maybe one of the other Brandons had liked that story. Sometimes Nan would talk to him as if he were her Brandon, the baby she nursed all those years ago, and sometimes she confused him with his uncle Brandon, who was killed by the Mad King before Bran was even born. She had lived so long, Mother had told him once, that all the Brandon Starks had become one person in her head.
And here’s where it gets really interesting. In A Storm of Swords, Bran, Hodor and the Reeds make it to the Nightfort, the mythological castle of the Night’s King. There, Bran remembers what Old Nan told him about the White Walker:
“Some say he was a Bolton,” Old Nan would always end. “Some say a Magnar out of Skagos, some say Umber, Flint, or Norrey. Some would have you think he was a Woodfoot, from them who ruled Bear Island before the ironmen came. He never was. He was a Stark. The brother of the man who brought him down.” She always pinched Bran on the nose then, he would never forget it. “He was a Stark of Winterfell, and who can say? Mayhaps his name was Brandon. Mayhaps he slept in this very bed in this very room.”
So last week I was going to write about this after I saw a series of pictures from this episode when Brandon wanders out in his vision and is touched by the Night’s King:
This is hugely significant because Bran is not just being seen by the Night’s King, he’s physically being touched by him — in a vision. HOW DOES THAT WORK? Now, granted, this happens in a vision of the present, thereby making the causality loops less of an issue: nothing is being changed by this interaction; if anything, it sets into motion events that have always happened.
But I can’t help but fixate on why is Bran Stark so important to the Night’s King? Why do they have this connection and why is the Night’s King out to kill him?
What I do know is that anytime you tell a time-travelling character that they can’t change the past, INEVITABLY they do everything they can to change the past.
SO HERE’S MY WILD-EYED THEORY:
In an attempt to prevent the Children of the Forest from creating the White Walkers in the first place, Bran wargs into the body of some ancestor of his in the past, someone named Brandon, probably, and tries to talk the Children of the Forest out of doing what he knows they are going to do — maybe even going so far as to explain to them how they do it, but warning that if they do this thing, these terrible consequences will be the result. But then, haha! they do it anyway, because the past is the past and you can’t change the past.
Therefore, it’s not that Bran is physically the first White Walker (who may or may not be the Night’s King), but that he inadvertently helps to create the first White Walker. In fact, when Bran wakes from the vision of the White Walkers’ creation and he confronts Leaf, she argues that: “We needed to defend ourselves,” she answers. When he asks from whom, she replies, “from you. [LONG PAUSE] From men.” Bran creates the White Walkers — maybe even the Night’s King, which is how they are connected and why the Night’s King is coming for Bran.
And while we’re on wild-eyed theories, here’s another:
OK. CHECK THIS. So, in A Storm of Swords, Melisandre tells the story of Azor Ahai and how he created his famous sword, Lightbringer:
“Do you know the tale of the forging of Lightbringer? I shall tell it to you. It was a time when darkness lay heavy on the world. To oppose it, the hero must have a hero’s blade, oh, like none that had ever been. And so for thirty days and thirty nights Azor Ahai labored sleepless in the temple, forging a blade in the sacred fires. Heat and hammer and fold, hear and hammer and fold, oh yes, until the sword was done. Yet when he plunged it into water to temper the steel it burst asunder.
“Being a hero, it was not for him to shrug and go in search of excellent grapes such as these, so again he began. The second time it took him fifty days and fifty nights, and this sword seemed even finer than the first. Azor Ahai captured a lion, to temper the blade by plunging it through the beast’s red heart, but once more the steel shattered and split. Great was his woe and great was his sorrow then, for he knew what he must do,
“A hundred days and a hundred nights he labored on the third blade, and as it glowed white-hot in the sacred fires, he summoned his wife. ‘Nissa, Nissa,’ he said to her, for that was her name, ‘bare your breast, and know that I love you best of all that is in this world.’ And she did this thing, why I cannot say, and Azor Ahai thrust this smoking sword through her living heart. It is said that her cry of anguish and ecstasy left a crack across the face of the moon, but her blood and her soul and her strength and her courage all went into the steel. Such is the tale of the forging of Lightbringer, the Red Sword of Heroes.”
Something to chew on: what if the Night’s King — or the White Walkers = Lightbringer? What if they are the weapon? After all, the Children of the Forest use the White Walkers as a weapon against the First Men….
Look, I’m not saying that any of this makes a lick of sense. According to myth, Lightbringer was the weapon that ended the Others’ reign of terror, I know, I KNOW. But this is an ancient story, and anyone who knows how the game of telephone works knows that sometimes things get lost in translation. (And that’s not even dragging the whole business of prophecy and how unreliable it is into it.) MY POINT IS, the old stories are really old. Thousands of years old. Four times as old as the New Testament is old, old. Things get lost in translation, especially in a culture that has a long oral tradition. So maybe Azor Ahai, our prophesied hero, and his weapon Lightbringer aren’t exactly what we think they are…
But back to Bran — I think his time travel powers will, eventually, have something to do with the final endgame and war and (hopefully) victory over the Others. For me the question is whether the story will stick with the tried and true rules of time travel that avoid predestination paradoxes: that you can go back to the past, but you can’t change anything. If you interact with the past, you’ve always done so. Or, will they explore the possibility that Bran can alter the past and by doing so, help save the world?
(One thought I had this morning was about Jaime and Bran’s accident: there have been some people theorizing that Bran will go back in the past and be the thing that makes Jaime push him out of the window. I don’t care for this idea because it robs Jaime of his agency and his entire character development. What I do like, however, is the idea that Bran might be able to change the past, and he goes to this moment only to decide that he can’t stop Jaime from pushing him out of this window, that he has to make the painful choice to let it happen so that everything else that happens will happen.)
So which will it be? Will Bran go back in time to create the causal loops that help save the world, or will Bran somehow change events to save the world?
And now, some 7,000 words later (literally), I will finally end this after talking about Lost for one hot second. This episode was directed by one of Lost’s most trusted directors, Jack Bender, which is why this episode wasn’t just a time travel mind-blower, it also had you sobbing like a baby. Incidentally, it also aired on the eve of the 6th anniversary of the finale of Lost (which Jack Bender himself directed).
But, for me, most importantly, I was reminded that after the finale of Lost aired, Damon Lindelof was heartbroken when George R.R. Martin criticized the ending of the series by promising that Game of Thrones would not be so disappointing. In the wake of this time travel, causal loops revelation, this takes on new significance for me. Personally, I loved the Lost finale (I know, I’m an idiot, whatever), but one thing that did disappoint me about how it ended was that time loops and time travel didn’t actually have much to do with the eventual conclusion of the story. I wonder if Martin didn’t have the same problem: that the writers had this amazing time travel device in their hands and they didn’t use it — and by criticising their choices in how they ended the series, he didn’t show a little of his own hand.
Or not. Who knows.
Status of Jon Snow: STILL ALIVE! And still brooding.
Game of Thrones airs on HBO and will return in the summer of 2017.
This post originally appeared on the Hearst site chron.com.