“Why did you do that?! Take me back there I want to go back!”
– Bran + millions of other people
This appears to be the general sentiment everyone is carrying forwards from S3Ep6 ‘Oathbreaker.’ Since last week, fans have been hyped to see the Tower of Joy fight, and even more hyped to finally get confirmation on that burning question.
To be fair there’s a little more people want to know. Who else was there? What was the promise? Does Jon have a Targaryen name? could Jon have a sister there too?
But the most interesting thing for me about the Tower of Joy scene, is how the contents of the tower are working as a misdirection from the even more significant information floating around it. Some answers we were given, and some we were pulled away from. Yes that Three Eyed Raven pulled us away, but I think he pulled us away from something far bigger than R+L=J.
SPOILER ALERT: this will include information about upcoming episodes from trailers and promotional material.
1. The Three Eyed Raven on the show is NOT Brynden Rivers
“You think I wanted to sit here for a thousand years watching the world from a distance? as the roots grew through me?” – The Three Eyed Raven
We now have a pretty good idea that the show version of the Three Eyed Raven is not actually Brynden Rivers. Now this goes beyond physical discrepancies (for which there are a dozen reasons). Many people are still under the impression that he is, and that his remark about being 1000 years old is just hyperbole, or a reference to witnessing 1000 years of history. But this would be horrendous writing.
Though GRRM may use “1000 years ago” as a way of stating “that was forever ago,” there is a big difference between internal monologues in the books talking about spans of time we all know , and dialogue from an ancient tree wizard which genuinely suggests that the Three Eyed Raven is 1000 years old.
Bear in mind that anyone who only watches the show will have no idea who Brynden Rivers is, nor any reason to believe the Three Eyed Raven isn’t over a thousand years old. To say that he has been there for a thousand years when it was really closer to fifty would be needlessly misleading information about a character whom we’ve gotten absolutely no hint in the show is a Targaryen bastard Hand of the King from the time of the Blackfyre rebellions.
As someone who writes this blog largely focused on Bloodraven’s actions, I think this is a very good move.
Bloodraven is an very compelling figure. Much like Tyrion, he was an abnormal looking Hand of the King who was disfigured fighting off rebellions till eventually being stripped of his position. Like Jon, hee was an acknowledged bastard who became Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch (also resulting of a union of Valyrian and First Men blood). Like Jaime he was in love with his sister. And like Bran he has the power of greensight.
But Brynden River’s role as a central political figure during the Blackfyre Rebellions is one the show hasn’t set up, and with the removal of Aegon, the Blakfyres, and the Golden Company, the show has no reason to put forth the time to. The Three Eyed Crow being Brynden River’s wouldn’t matter to show watchers because they have no idea who that is, nor do they know anything about the period of time which defined him. The old rivalry with Bittersteel doesn’t actually matter if there’s no trace of Bittersteel.
2. The Three Eyed Raven and The Night’s King are Arch Enemies
I must admit, I was a little prepared for this revalation that the Three Eyed Raven was not Brynden Rivers. The 3 Eyed Raven being some other character who is legitimately 1000 years old fits perfectly with what the actor who plays Bran has said in recent interviews:
“I think there’s some interesting to come in the coming season which will reveal exactly what the relationship between those two mystical characters — the Three-Eyed Raven and the Night’s King — is. That’s something that’ll be cool.” – (Isaac Hempstead Wright, IGN)
Based on the trailers, both the Night’s King and the Three Eyed Raven appear to be able to see and take hold of Bran’s spirit when he astral projects or has his visions. And given that the Night’s King will invade the cave of the Three Eyed Raven later this season, they both seem to be locked in conflict with one another.
It seems the show is going to play the show!Three Eyed Raven against the show!Night’s King, likely as arch enemies who come from the same age (1000+ years ago). For all we know the Three Eyed Raven in the show will be an ancient Stark, or a King Beyond the Wall, or even a variation of the Last Hero (or he’ll be none of those things). But since we have received no indication from Martin or the books that the Night’s King is still around in the present timeline, it seems that he too will be show only.
” As for the Night’s King (the form I prefer), in the books he is a legendary figure, akin to Lann the Clever and Brandon the Builder, and no more likely to have survived to the present day than they have.” – GRRM
Hence all things point to the show version of the Three Eyed Raven’s rivalry with Bittersteel, to be replaced with a rivalry with the Night’s King.
3. The Three Eyed Raven has been waiting for Bran Stark for 1000 years, but NOT as a replacement.
3ER: I was waiting for you.
Bran: I don’t want to be you.
3ER: (laughs) I don’t blame you. You won’t be here forever. You won’t be an old man in a tree.
This is kind of a big deal. The show is starting to portray the central struggle of Bran’s arc
“Why do I want to return? so I can be a cripple again? so I can talk to an old man, in a tree?!”
Yet in people’s excitement to see what’s in the tower, everyone seems to be missing the enormous clues being dropped about Bran. That in the conflict between the Others and the Three Eyed Raven, Bran is not only central, but he is so central that he has been awaited for 1000+ years.
There are major implications there.
If the Three Eyed Raven has been waiting for Bran for that long, then what are the chances that the Others really the instigators of this conflict? What are the chances that the time which Bran was born and made his way north of the Wall just so happens to be around the time that the others started to reemerge?
“Now he’s realized he’s been having his dreams because he’s got to save Westeros.” – Isaac Hempstead Wright
Furthermore, not only did last week’s episode cast serious doubt on fan theories that Bran would be stuck under the tree forever (not this could be a place where book and show canon diverge, but that’s a pretty major divergence), but this week reiterated that, while also casting further doubt on theories that Bran would be some old man in a different tree. Now the Raven could be lying, but it’s becoming more and more apparent that Bran’s destiny is a lot bigger than the fandom at large had previously thought.
4. Bran can time travel, and we all have to stop pretending he can’t.
Now he’s starting to make use of the visions and starting to discover he can interact with the past — he’s like Doctor Who. It’s Doctor Bran!
Yes, it seems Bran is genuinely capable of X Men Days of Future past style time travel. This isn’t something new. Not only is there good reason to believe Bran may have time traveled in ACOK, but Bran goes into the past and contacts Ned in his last ADWD chapter:
“Winterfell,” Bran whispered.
“He heard a whisper on the wind, a rustling amongst the leaves. You cannot speak to him, try as you might.” – Bran III, ADWD
In Dance, the Last Greenseer also shrugs off what Bran did as nothing significant, and so given how much of a game changer it is, fans have largely ruled out time travel as a part of the story.
But given that the show has decided to work Bran’s ability to contact the past into a totally separate scene, I think we need to consider that this might be a very important part of the story. After all, why would the showrunners have included Bran’s time travel in their abridged story if time travel wasn’t relevant to the story moving forward?
So what does this mean?
Well, given how the Tower of Joy casting call asked for an infant, we can pretty safely assume that Bran is going to eventually see what is up in the tower and witness Ned’s promise to Lyanna.
Though, Bran might do a little more than bear witness….
“He could hear her still at times. Promise me, she had cried, in a room that smelled of blood and roses. Promise me, Ned. The fever had taken her strength and her voice had been faint as a whisper, but when he gave her his word, the fear had gone out of his sister’s eyes. Ned remembered the way she had smiled then, how tightly her fingers had clutched his as she gave up her hold on life, the rose petals spilling from her palm, dead and black. After that he remembered nothing. They had found him still holding her body, silent with grief. The little crannogman, Howland Reed, had taken her hand from his. Ned could recall none of it. “I bring her flowers when I can,” he said. “Lyanna was … fond of flowers.” – (Eddard I, AGOT)
The very first time Ned talks about Lyanna and the events of the Tower of Joy, Ned’s description indicates that he has a lapse in memory at the time of Lyanna’s death. At this point it’s so early in the story that we think nothing of it, but as the story progresses there are various instances of characters blacking out at important moments. Jon Snow blacks out before he finds Othor reanimated and trying to kill Lord Comander Mormont, Catelyn blacks out staring at the moon and listening to a singer just before she frees Jaime Lannister, Daenerys blacks out before she steals the Unsullied torches Astapor, and Samwell Tarley blacks during the mutiny at Craster’s keep and wakes up to hear Jeor’s final command.
“He twisted free of the old man’s grasp, shoved the knife into Mormont’s belly, and yanked it out again, all red. And then the world went mad.
Later, much later, Sam found himself sitting cross-legged on the floor, with Mormont’s head in his lap. He did not remember how they’d gotten there, or much of anything else that had happened after the Old Bear was stabbed.” – Samwell II, ASOS
Though many are skeptical about introducing time travel into the story this late in the game, it appears that several characters have blacked out seemingly for no reason during key moments in their story.
Given that Bran is set up to witness Ned’s promise to Lyanna at the Tower of Joy, is Bran’s consciousness going to time travel into the past and accidentally warg into his father as Lyanna dies? Is that the real reason why Ned blacked out watching his sister die? Did Bran make Hodor the way he is by warging him in the past?
And what other implications will Bran’s time traveling mind have for the story?
only time will tell…