‘Game of Thrones': Did Bran Stark Cause the Mad King’s Downfall?

The endless cycle of warfare on the HBO fantasy series may have started because of one character’s reckless influence

(Spoiler alert: Please do not read on if you haven’t watched Sunday’s episode of “Game of Thrones”)

When Bran (played by Isaac Hempstead-Wright) made his return to HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” there were fan jokes about who this strange, unknown paraplegic teenager was. We had last seen the Stark lad as a bushy-haired child back in Season 4. Now, after disappearing for a whole season, he’s back to travel into the past, discover his true potential … and get the fan favorite Hodor most likely killed thanks to his stupidity.

But as sad as it is to see the gentle giant formerly known as Wylis meet a terrible demise, he had one last shocking truth to impart to viewers before he left. As it turns out, Bran is also responsible for scrambling Hodor’s brain. When Bran’s reckless greenseeing brought the White Walkers to the Raven’s hideout, he uses his Warg powers to take control of Hodor so he can bring the fight to the ice creatures.

Bran has used this power multiple times to use Hodor as a weapon, since his friend was too afraid to fight on his own. This time, though, he Wargs into Hodor while he’s greenseeing into the past.

As a result, he unknowingly builds a psychic link between present-day Hodor and Hodor as a child. The Hodor of the past hears Meera Reed yelling “Hold the door” in the present, which twists his mind to the point that he can only say a shortened version of that command for the rest of his life: Hodor.

We learn that Bran can do more than travel back into the past. He can have a direct impact on it. Now, just as Tyrion’s ability to talk to dragons in the second episode brought credence to the fan theory that believes he is a Targaryen, this revelation of Bran’s potential power has some fans believing that he is the one that unwittingly set the events of the entire series into motion.

In Episode 3, Bran took his first journey back in time to see his father, Ned, fight the last of Aerys Targaryen’s Kingsguard. At the end of the vision, he yelled out to Ned, and though it was a vision, Ned seemed to look back as if he could hear his future son’s voice. Indeed, it seems that people in the past can hear Bran, but only in small whispers.

According to one fan theory, Bran’s whispers are what drive the Mad King Aerys to madness. As anyone knowledgeable on Westeros lore knows, the campaign to depose the Targaryens began when he killed Ned Stark’s father and brother, Rickard and Brandon, with fire. Aerys was known for repeatedly saying “burn them all.”

According to the theory, the reason why Aerys keeps repeating that phrase is because Bran traveled back and tried to warn him of the approaching White Walkers. Instead, the whispers only heightened Aerys’ already uncontrollable paranoia, leading him to kill the Starks and start the cycle of warfare that still continues in Westeros.

There are some even wilder theories that suggest that Bran has had an even greater impact on the past. Bran shares his name with many legendary Brandon Starks throughout the history of his house. The most famous of these is Bran the Builder, the architect of The Wall. One fan on a subreddit for “A Song of Ice and Fire” suggests that all of the great achievements by these Brans were made possible because the current Bran influenced them through whispers.

The major piece of evidence for this theory comes from George R.R. Martin‘s first book, in which it’s noted that Bran’s caretaker, Old Nan, would sometimes speak to Bran as if he were one of his ancestors. The passage reads: “She had lived so long, Mother had told him once, that all the Brandon Starks had become one person in her head.”

We’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg when it comes to just how much influence Bran can have over the past, but given his tendency to ignore the advice of wiser people and his irresponsible use of his powers thus far, there’s a good chance that we could see Bran foolishly attempt to change the past, only to close time loops that lead to events already set in stone.

This theory is one of several proposed by fans about what kinds of twisty things Bran might have been involved with in the past. For more, check out our gallery of fan theories below.