Game of Thrones Season 8 has had no shortage of twists, good and bad. (Okay, mostly bad.) But the biggest one, in my book?
Bran Stark, he of Three-Eyed Raven nonsense, emerging as the most relatable character in all of Westeros.
Up through Season 7, I was, like so many others, a Bran hater. I sighed theatrically whenever his scenes came up, I yelled at the TV as yet another kind-hearted Northerner sacrificed themselves for him, I took pleasure in dunking on him relentlessly.
Bran Stark became the one character I could depend on anymore.
Then the fuckery of Season 8 came along, and none of the characters or storylines made sense anymore. Is that really where the Night King storyline was going all along? How did Brienne become the weepy girlfriend type? When did Tyrion get so stupid? How did Jon Snow get even stupider?
But through that fog of smoke, ash, narrative confusion, and improperly tuned TVs emerged a new constant.
Bran Stark became the one character I could depend on anymore to react reasonably to any of this, the one person I could still understand, the only one I had anything in common with. Because Bran Stark is so totally f*cking unbelievably over it, and these days, so am I.
The switch happened, for me, very early in the Season 8 premiere. Jon gives Bran an enthusiastic embrace, only to be met with a dead-eyed gaze that chills him to the bone. Maybe it’s just because I enjoy any opportunity to needle at Jon’s unearned confidence, but I found it hilarious.
Bran may not be much of a talker these days, but when he does speak up, it’s usually to remind other characters that we’re working with a six-episode season here, people. “We don’t have time for all this!” he reminds Dany and Sansa when they’re making their tense introductions. “Now’s the time!” he prods when Sam hems and haws about revealing Jon’s true heritage.
Otherwise, he spends his time engaging in the same stuff we fans do: eavesdropping on conversations about Westerosi politics, gazing meaningfully at characters destined for big twists, and telegraphing, with every barely restrained eyeroll, that he cannot believe the bullsh*t he is seeing unfold before his eyes.
His deadpan tone suggests he can’t muster up the energy to get involved. His indifference to social cues smacks of someone who’s past even pretending to care. His droopy eyelids say he’d rather be sleeping, and also that he might be on something. Right there with you, bro.
Bran is the most relatable character because he’s just not really into Game of Thrones anymore
— John (@jodamico1) May 7, 2019
Bran’s single most relatable hour is the Battle of Winterfell. While everyone around him is down in the muck, screaming for their friends and fighting for their lives, coated in blood and snow and dragon poop, Bran takes a good long look at the confusingly shot, poorly lit mess around him, and decides to simply check the f*ck out.
“I’m going to go now,” he informs Theon, and the words are barely out of his mouth before he’s gone all milky-eyed. Our dude spends the rest of the episode flying around as a raven, knowing there’s not much he can do about any of it anyway. (Seriously, this is actor Isaac Hempstead-Wright’s explanation for Bran’s actions, or lack thereof, during the battle.)
He does come back for a few minutes to forgive Theon, which is very sweet of him. He also stares down the Night King, because not even Bran wants to miss Arya’s moment of glory.
Season 8 Bran is a far cry from the adorable moppet we met in Season 1, but that’s because, as he will remind anyone who’ll listen, he isn’t Bran at all anymore. He’s the Three-Eyed Raven, and the Three-Eyed Raven’s perspective is wide and deep enough that he knew to give up on this particular HBO series a long time ago.
For the past couple of seasons, Bran, as the Three-Eyed Raven, has projected an extreme aloofness that bordered on smugness: Look at all these people getting all worked up about stuff that doesn’t actually matter. At the time, it came across as pretentious. Now, it reads as prescient. He was wise to tune out when he did, right as the series was beginning what seems to be an irreversible decline.
The me of a few seasons ago could never have predicted I’d be sitting here in 2019, writing an ode to Bran, boring Bran, as an audience-identification character. But the Three-Eyed Raven probably saw it all along in his visions. Like the old Three-Eyed Raven with the real Bran, this Bran has just been waiting for the rest of us to catch up to his level of DGAFness. In Season 8, I think I finally have.