There are spoilers in the story below on Game of Thrones season 7, episode 3, “The Queen’s Justice”…
There’s a Stark at the gate! But we bet it wasn’t the Stark you expected. Bran unexpectedly returned home to Winterfell in Sunday night’s Game of Thrones episode, “The Queen’s Justice,” and reunited with his sister Sansa. Except Sansa quickly realized her brother has changed more than she could have possibly imagined. Now he’s the mystic Three-Eyed Raven, with all of space and time accessible to his mind and rather uninterested in human pursuits like taking command of Winterfell or bonding with his family.
“I think it’s a major shock for Sansa,” Bran actor Isaac Hempstead-Wright tells EW. “She’s lost her brother once before when he fell out of that tower, and now Bran’s back but she loses him all over again. All the Starks have changed so much. Arya is like this ninja assassin. Sansa has been held captive by these tyrannical men and had to become politically cunning herself. But Bran is now this tree-raven-magic thing.”
Sunday’s episode was also the first time fans really began to understand how much Bran’s magical conversion has altered his personality. “It’s like imagining you have all of space and time in your head,” Hempstead-Wright says. “Bran is existing in thousands of planes of existence at any one time. So it’s quite difficult for Bran to have any kind of semblance of personality anymore because he’s really like a giant computer.”
Figuring out how to handle Bran’s massive power-up was one of the tricker aspects of crafting season 7. Introducing a character who might know everything risks draining suspense from a story that depends on characters having certain limitations.
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Explains showrunner Dan Weiss: “One of the things we loved about Game of Thrones from the very first book is it’s not a world where magic is the primary driver of the story, it’s a world where human psychology and behavior and desire are drivers of the story. We try very hard to make sure it stays that way because that’s a lot more relatable to the vast majority of the audience than magic powers — as much fun as those are. So with Bran, ideally you want to use him in a way that adds to the story and enriches the story and not in a way that’s a magic bullet to conveniently deal with things that you haven’t come up with a better way to deal with. So it was a balancing act to account for who Bran is now without letting that overtake the story.”
The solution, as it turned out, was already written into the drama’s previous season: Bran was turned into the Three-Eyed Raven very prematurely when his cave came under attack. “There was supposed to be more time to learn what he needed to know and they ran out of time,” showrunner David Benioff says. “Now Bran the Broken is broken in more ways than one. He’s got serious challenges dealing with all the stuff happening in his mind and that prevents him becoming this omniscient character.”
Or as Hempstead-Wright puts it: “Bran really at this stage is not the Three-Eyed Raven. He’s got the title but hasn’t had thousands of years of sitting in a cave looking through time. Somebody put in front of him a massive encyclopedia of all of time and he’s only opened page one. He can look stuff up but doesn’t have this all-knowing all-seeing capability just yet.”
Bran Stark isn’t a name that comes up very often when fans talk about who should end up on the Iron Throne. But now that we have a better sense of Bran’s newfound abilities, we wondered: Does this make Bran a better candidate to rule the Seven Kingdoms? Or worse?
“I think Bran would make a great Hand of the King,” Hempstead-Wright says. “You can’t do much better as a Hand than somebody who’s all knowing. The people who tend to stay alive in those positions are people who are ruthless and politically conniving and I don’t think Bran has the ability to do that. But the Iron Throne might suit him — he does have to sit down!”
More “The Queen’s Justice” coverage:
— Showrunners on losing that fan favorite: Only character to ‘win her own death scene’
— Emilia Clarke and Kit Harington discuss their first on-screen meeting
— Game of Thrones actress on that brutal ‘worst nightmare’ Cersei scene
— Our deep-dive recap (in-progress)
Game of Thrones airs Sundays on HBO.