The Three-Eyed Raven needs a companion to slip his mind into, and Daenerys needs a dragon rider for Rhaegal. Could Bran turn the tide of the coming war?
In 53 days, Game of Thrones will finally return. And 35 days after that, Throneswill end. In less time than it seemingly took Littlefinger to zip around to every corner of Westeros, showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss will deliver a conclusion to the story George R.R. Martin first introduced 23 years ago—and in that precious time they’ll have to answer half a hundred pressing questions: Who will live? Who will die? Who will tell Jon he’s doing it with his aunt?
Separate from those series-shaping questions are countless smaller but still crucial details that the show may or may not explore in the final season. These areThrones’ loose ends: the characters, places, events, prophecies, and more that the story has made audiences wonder about over the past seven seasons but the show has yet to wrap up. In the run-up to the final season’s April 14 premiere, we’ll be digging through these loose ends, looking at why they matter and how they could affect the endgame as we count down to Thrones’s long-awaited conclusion.
The Loose End
With Summer and Hodor out of the picture, Bran could use a new companion or creature to control—preferably one who’s capable of protecting him and doing damage to others. Meanwhile, Daenerys needs a dragon rider for Rhaegal, and Bran’s nemesis, the Night King, happens to have his own airborne beast, the reanimated terror formerly known as Viserion. Naturally, that’s led to a lot of speculation that Bran’s magical mind may wander into one of the two.
Why This Loose End Matters
Well, for one thing, it’s warging into a dragon, a concept so cool and well-suited to an action set piece that once you’ve imagined it, it would be difficult not to be disappointed if it doesn’t happen. Bran has warged into birds, direwolves, heart trees, and Hodor; in real life (if not within Westeros), Hodor is bigger than the Mountain, which means there’s almost no way to warg into something bigger than Bran’s former piggyback partner without getting Drogon, Rhaegal, or wight Viserion involved. (With Wun Wun gone, the only known giants are, like Viserion, wights currently controlled by the Night King.) Plus, it’s the last season; what are we saving that CGI budget for? (Oh, right: the prequel.)
What’s more, Bran has long been one of the most mystifying, frustrating, and fascinating characters in both the books and the show. His true nature is still unknown—perhaps even to him—as is the extent of his powers. His current near-omniscience is a neat trick, but warging into a dragon could be another Neo moment that would knit together multiple theories and threads. And if Bran could turn the Night King’s pet undead dragon against him at a pivotal time, he could well turn the tide of the war.
How Season 8 Could Address It
With a scene in which he wargs into a dragon!
Let’s step back a bit and consider the evidence for and against such an event being slated for this season.
One could-be clue comes from the former Three-Eyed Raven’s proclamation to Bran in Season 4: “You will never walk again, but you will fly.”
Three-Eyed Ravens past and present have never been known for speaking clearly, so this statement is open to interpretation. Maybe he meant that Bran would fly in a figurative sense by transcending his physical limitations. Maybe he meant Bran would fly through time, which we’ve seen him do. Maybe he meant Bran would warg into birds, another case in which the prophecy would already have been fulfilled; at Winterfell, where we left him last season, Bran was warging into ravens on the reg.
Alternatively, of course, the Three-Eyed Raven could have meant Bran would warg into a dragon. Then again, if warging into a bird or dragon counts as flying, wouldn’t warging into Hodor count as walking? Didn’t think of that, did you, Three-Eyed Raven? Maybe fusing with the roots of a subterranean tree for eons in isolation takes a toll on a person’s powers of speech. Or maybe the Raven didn’t want to share what his vision really revealed: poor, excluded Sweetrobin making cousin Bran fly by throwing him through the Moon Door.
OK, that theory is less likely than Bran warging into a wight dragon. But kudos to the Seven Kingdoms’ sickliest lord for outliving lots of other heads of houses.
Let’s table the topic of the former Three-Eyed Raven’s riddle while we ask another question: Is there any evidence that anyone ever has warged into a dragon?
In short, no. The closest we can come is a mysterious quote from Tyrion in A Dance With Dragons about the Valyrians’ reluctance to visit Westeros: “The Freehold’s grasp had reached as far as Dragonstone, but never to the mainland of Westeros itself. Odd, that. Dragonstone is no more than a rock. The wealth was farther west, but they had dragons. Surely they knew that it was there.”
One of many possible implications is that the Valyrians steered clear of the mainland (and Aegon the Conqueror didn’t conquer anything north of the Wall) because they were worried about the Westerosi warging into their dragons during a more magic-rich age. Then again, the Valyrians had horns and spells to bind their dragons to them, which might have acted as warg repellent. They also went to war with civilizations whose facility with magic rivaled their own, which casts doubt on the idea that they would have stayed away from Westeros for fear of having their rides home hijacked.
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What’s more, Valyrians are rumored to have visited mainland Westeros prior to the Doom, contradicting Tyrion’s words. The fort at the base of the Hightower of Oldtown is suspiciously similar to Valyrian architecture, constructed out of seamless, solid black rock. The World of Ice & Fire: The Untold History of Westeros notes that Archmaester Perestan has suggested that the Valyrians “had in ancient days reached as far as Oldtown but suffered some great reverse or tragedy there that caused them to shun all of Westeros thereafter.” The Archmaester evidently didn’t weigh in on whether warging was involved; that part of the tale is truly untold.
If dragon warging were a real threat, one would think that some skinchanger in Westeros would have warged away with a Targaryen mount long before Bran was born (assuming Bran isn’t the Night King, a topic for another article). Who’s to say, though, that the link between Targaryens and their bonded dragons isn’t itself some form of low-level warging? I know this is hard to believe, but we don’t have a precise understanding of the mechanism by which any warging works, let alone dragon warging. Even dragon taming, George R.R. Martin assures us, is a “perilous process.”
If we can trust TV Tyrion, though, we might have a reason warging wouldn’t work with a dragon. Consider this quote from Season 3: “Dragons are intelligent. More intelligent than men according to some maesters. They have affection for their friends and fury for their enemies.”
Warging works like Jedi mind tricks; even for someone with skinchanging skills, the power is effective only on the weak-minded. That’s why Jojen and Meera Reed were so stunned the first time Bran warged into Hodor—most wargs can enter the minds of only animals. Hodor remains the only human Bran has warged into, and Bran first softened him up with a time-travel-induced seizure. (It’s dangerous to be around Bran.) Intelligence aside, one might imagine that cohabitating in the body of a being described as “fire made flesh” could be uncomfortable for a human; in A Storm of Swords, the wildling warg Varamyr Sixskins temporarily lost his mind when Melisandre set fire to the eagle he was occupying. In that case, though, the eagle was quite uncomfortable too. Dragons presumably prefer the temperature toasty.
As Bran harnesses his powers, he might be able to wear down a dragon’s resistance. Or maybe he’ll have help. Speaking of Varamyr, the experienced warg once said, “Once a horse is broken to the saddle, any man can mount him. Once a beast’s been joined to a man, any skinchanger can slip inside and ride him.” Granted, we’re in hazy scientific territory here, but if the Night King is some sort of super-warg, and the process of remote-controlling an army of wights is at all akin to skinchanging, maybe Bran could commandeer the Night King’s air support more easily. (The show may or may not have hinted that Bran can warg into inanimate objects.) The catch is that we know the Night King—at least when last we saw him—has the ability to break Bran’s bonds with his wargees, as he did when he dispersed Bran’s raven reconnaissance crew with one nasty look.
Bran taking control of a dragon could resolve the roiling controversy caused by a book scene set at the House of the Undying, in which Daenerys’s dead brother Rhaegar appears to his sis in a vision and delivers the inscrutable line, “The dragon has three heads.” (Prophecies are an inefficient form of communication.) Dream-Rhaegar’s revelation has been taken to mean that three people will ride Dany’s dragons, although it may not have to do with dragon riders at all. If it does, Dany is one; Jon, whom Bran is about to tell about his Targaryen heritage and recent incest—which can’t be much more awkward than telling Sansa he was watching her on her wedding night—is likely another. Despite his lack of Targaryen blood, Bran could be the third if he’s the Night King, or if he hitches a ride remotely and the Night King doesn’t count. That would answer one of the series’ central, longstanding questions. Of course, one way or another, almost all of our uncertainties will be settled soon.
Long ago, Martin fielded a fan question about whether dragons were wargable. He chuckled, smiled slyly, and said, “Well, we’ll have to see about that, won’t we?”
That was way back in July 2011, when A Dance With Dragons was newly released and Martin probably believed he’d finish his series long before Benioff and Weiss. Now he’s waiting for the finale along with the rest of us. The future is tough to predict. Just ask a young boy named Bran, who spoke confidently when he said, “The dragons are all dead.”