(Note: This post contains spoilers for “Game of Thrones” Season 7, Episode 4.)
The transition of Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright) from nice kid to all-seeing supernatural force seems to be complete on “Game of Thrones,” and it’s allowing Bran to weird out the people around him pretty effectively.
In Episode 4 of Season 7, “Spoils of War,” Bran’s latest victim is Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish (Aidan Gillen). Having already tried (and failed) to ingratiate himself with Jon Snow — and having apparently fallen out of even cursory favor with Sansa — Littlefinger wants to try his luck with the eldest remaining trueborn Stark.
When Littlefinger meets Bran, Littlefinger offers him a Valyrian steel dagger. It’s the same one an assassin used to try to kill Bran way back in Season 1, after Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) shoved Bran out a window. Bran’s mother Catelyn (Michelle Fairley) managed to stop the attack, but Bran’s direwolf, Summer, killed the cutthroat before he could be questioned.
Littlefinger notes the dagger’s significance and gives it to Bran, saying he thinks Bran might want to keep it. When Littlefinger off-handedly uses the word “chaos,” Bran looks up and answers, “Chaos? Chaos is a ladder.”
That’s a reference to a conversation Littlefinger and Varys (Conleth Hill) had in the Red Keep back in Season 3. In a series of veiled references, the pair more or less laid out their ambitions: Varys to make the world better, and Littlefinger to rise to rule the world by any means necessary.
During that same conversation, Littlefinger reveals to Varys that he found out about Ros (Esmé Bianco), the Northern prostitute who followed the Starks to King’s Landing and worked for Littlefinger in his brothel. She also started informing on Littlefinger for Varys, and when he discovered it, Littlefinger gave her to Joffrey, who sadistically killed her with his crossbow.
It’s at that point, after Littlefinger’s revelation, where Varys says that “I did what I did for the good of the realm.”
“The realm,” Littlefinger responds. “Do you know what that is? It’s the thousand blades of Aegon’s enemies. A story we agree to tell each other over and over until we forget it’s a lie.”
Varys: “But what do we have left once we abandon the lie? Chaos? A gaping pit where you can bury us all?”
Littlefinger: “Chaos isn’t a pit. Chaos is a ladder. Many who try to climb it fail, and never get to try again. The fall breaks them. And some are given a chance to climb but they refuse. They cling to the realm, or the gods, or love. Illusion. Only the ladder is real. The climb is all there is.”
And this week, Bran threw that back in Littlefinger’s face, seemingly as a message: Bran knows what Littlefinger is truly after, and that his motives are hardly altruistic.
Bran’s status as the Three Eyed Raven means he sees all kinds of things, past, present, and future. Like his father’s adventures during Robert’s Rebellion (and of course, the true parentage of Jon Snow), or his sister Sansa’ horrific wedding night to Ramsay Snow (Iwan Rheon). Or Littlefinger’s evil boasting to Varys.
Referencing Littlefinger’s speech and repeating that iconic phrase back to him (it was such a big deal, HBO used it in the marketing for “Game of Thrones” Season 3) puts him on notice. Bran knowns about Littlefinger’s scheming — likely he even knows who tried to have him killed.
The question is, what is Bran going to do with that information? He had an opportunity to tell both Sansa and Arya (Maisie Williams) what Littlefinger has been up to, and probably could even inform them of the role he played in the death of Ned Stark (Sean Bean). But Bran didn’t — why?
Fans have speculated that Season 7 will mark the end of Littlefinger’s scheming, since the Stark kids all seem pretty much fed up with the untrustworthy former Master of Coin. But Bran acknowledging that he knows something about Littlefinger’s conspiracies, without telling the other Starks, suggests that maybe Littlefinger and his backstabbing way of doing things will have a part to play in the Three-Eyed Raven’s plans in the future.
Fans have some interesting ideas about what’s going to happen in the rest of Season 7 and Season 8 of “Game of Thrones.” Check out our gallery of fan theories below.