Game of Thrones has officially come to an end and while the finale was full of twists and turns, perhaps nothing was more shocking than (SPOILER) Bran Stark being chosen to be the next King of Westeros after Dany is stabbed by her nephew-turned-lover-turned-Queenslayer. On the surface, it feels like a classic misdirect that made GoT so beloved in the first place, as almost nobody would have guessed that was pushed out of a tower back in Season 1 would turn out to be the ideal ruler. But a deeper examination of the choice leads to some serious questions about the merits of Bran as a ruler, as it’s a choice that either function as the darkest possible Westerosian timeline or the laziest narrative path imaginable.
Spoilers ahead for Game of Thrones, season 8, episode 6, “The Iron Throne.”
As the council of Lords and Ladies of Westeros gathers to select their next ruler, Tyrion surprises them all by nominating Bran to be King. And, after some very mild convincing, everyone (sans Sansa) agrees to make him their next monarch. It’s meant to be a seen as an uplifting ending but from both a narrative and literal sense, Bran feels like a questionable choice for King of Westeros.
Let’s ignore the fact that he has the charisma of Jeb Bush and the social decorum of Donald Trump (remember when he reunited with his sister and immediately reminded her of her horrifically traumatizing wedding night?). And we’re even willing to ignore the fact that he says he literally cannot rule because he’s the Three-Eyed-Raven. Instead, let’s just focus on the larger implications of Bran as a ruler. Because if Bran becomes King, it’s either a complete cop-out or secretly the darkest ending the show could have chosen.
Let’s start with the latter possibility. Tyrion’s entire appeal to Bran taking the throne is the fact that Bran is inherently and unwaveringly good. While the rest of us are motivated by sex or greed or sexy greed, Bran literally declares that he doesn’t want anymore. It’s a compelling case but to play the part of the opposition for a moment, what if Bran is lying? Are they really just taking his word on the fact that he is the noblest human in existence?
Or what if he only thinks that’s true but eventually he finds himself a prisoner of prestige and power just like everyone else? After all, we know that the previous Three-Eyed-Raven chose to hang out in a tree rather than rule the Seven Kingdoms. Is that perhaps because he knew he could only keep his powers if he resisted using them for his own gain? There’s no clear evidence that any of this is true but if he is not as pure-hearted as everyone suggests, then Bran has the potential to be an evil ruler that would make Cersei look like the lovechild of Gandhi and Mother Theresa.
Because if Bran the Broken broke bad, he would be able to essentially be the Big Brother of Westeros, maliciously knowing every move his enemies have made and are making. The Iron Throne would be replaced with an Iron Fist, as no one would be able to compete with his god-like power. Is this why, up until the finale, Bran did virtually nothing? Because he figured out a plan that would allow him to be seen as the reluctant ruler who is handed the throne, only to eventually rule his plan to make Westeros his devoted empire? Based on the show’s uplifting tone during the finale, probably not. But it is strange that nobody at least brought up this very real concern during the vote to pick a new King or Queen of Westeros.
And if Bran is as altruistic as everyone believes him to be, then it’s the wrong choice, narratively. For most of the show’s run, fans assumed Game of Thrones was an examination about power and an attempt to find who can hold power without being corrupted? Would it be duty-bound but reluctant Jon Snow? Sansa with her cunning survival instincts? It was the big question on everyone’s minds but instead, it turned out that the ideal ruler is an emotionless, effortlessly benevolent demigod who has psychic abilities.
What kind of message is that? Of course, we all know that having Superman would make a great president but there’s just one slight problem: Superman isn’t real. And Bran is every bit as unattainable as a leader, making the entire this feel like a massive cop-out. Now, Bran has unrivaled abilities that will allow him to look into any event in the past or see anything that is happening in the present, virtually making him the perfect judge, jury, and executioner. It seems like the real question we should be asking is: if this was always an option, why didn’t anyone do it before? We still have so little knowledge about the mythology of the Three-Eyed-Raven that we genuinely do not have an answer.
Game of Thrones made a name for itself with its gritty, unapologetically grounded approach to fantasy, a genre that is often mired in massive leaps in logic and overlooking annoying logistics. But with Bran on the throne, it seems that GoT ultimately embraced the lazy, unnuanced tropes that are often found in lesser stories. So long live Bran Stark, the superpowered King who is as impossibly potent as he is unflinchingly noble. Unless he turns out to be evil, in which case, he will be the most terrifying tyrant Westeros has ever known. Long may he reign.