Warning: this article contains major spoilers from the final episode of Game of Thrones.
After eight seasons, the battle for the Iron Throne is finally over and it’s safe to say most of us didn’t expect the outcome showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss settled on. Hell, even Isaac Hempstead-Wright, the actor who played Brandon Stark, thought he’d been given a joke script when it revealed that Bran would become ruler of Westeros.
And judging by the general internet reactions, fans thought the decision was a joke, too, with many turning his victory into memes that question why, when the character’s narrative was deemed so inconsequential it was omitted for an entire season, Tyrion Lannister suddenly decided Bran had a story worthy of a king.
It’s a head-scratcher, but as always when the happenings within Game of Thrones become too bonkers to compute, there are plenty of fan theories to help us make sense of it all. Kind of. This time, the theories suggest Bran’s triumph had been hinted at for some time.
We document the fans’ work below. Of course, whether you choose to believe their theories or not is up to you.
Ned Stark knew all along
In season one, when Ned Stark beheaded a Night’s Watchman for deserting the Wall, he recited the following oath: “In the name of Robert of the House Baratheon, First of His Name, King of the Andals and the First Men, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms, and Protector of the Realm, I, Eddard of the House Stark, Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North, sentence you to die.”
At that moment, the camera settled on Bran, not Jon Snow, and the Game of Thrones Facts Twitter account believes this could have been intentional foreshadowing.
It was written
As Vox writer Todd VanDerWerff points out, Game of Thrones creator George R.R. Martin loves a circular narrative. In A Game of Thrones, the first book in the writer’s A Song of Ice and Fire saga, the first chapter (following a short prologue) is told from Bran’s perspective, which, although more of an observation than a theory, could hint that Martin always planned for Bran to close the story as well as open it.
Bran is evil and plotted the entire thing
Or: he’s a douche, basically.
The idea of Bran being evil was planted a while ago, after he was touched by the Night King and rendered near-useless throughout seasons seven and eight. Another theory suggests he warged into Drogon and razed King’s Landing while Daenerys Targaryen sat helplessly on her dragon’s back, although Dany’s words in episode six don’t really scan with that. But it’s certainly worth asking why omniscient Bran kept a lot of key information to himself if not to take power in the end.
Of course, most of this speculation is just fans trying to make sense of an ending that ultimately disappointed many. And if you’re one of the 1.4 million people who were so disappointed with season eight they felt compelled to sign a petition demanding a do-over, perhaps the alternative ending posted on Reddit earlier today will offer some solace.