We are more than halfway through the final season of Game of Thrones and with only two episodes left, there’s a lot of questions that need to be answered. But while season 8, episode 4, “The Last of the Starks” established the clear endgame for the beloved show, it did ignore what is arguably largest remaining questions in all of Westeros: What is the point of Bran Stark? Seriously, for eight seasons we have been watching this kid learn to harness magical powers only for none of it to have any payoff and if he doesn’t start doing something useful ASAP, he may turn out to be the most pointless character on a beloved TV show since Cousin Oliver managed to ruin The Brady Bunch.
Spoilers ahead for Game of Thrones, season 8, episode 4, “The Last of the Starks.”
“The Last of the Starks”, was a classic “setting the table” episode of Game of Thrones, as the fourth episode of season 8 allowed characters and viewers paused to briefly look back on what just happened (Arya fucking up the Night King) while also establishing the conflicts that will surely define the remaining two episodes. Dany struggled with her Mad Queen impulses while her two most trusted advisors discussed the merits of committing treason. Cersei told Euron she was pregnant with their baby approximately 48 hours after they fucked and the steampunk pirate seems dumb enough to believe it, even with Tyrion accidentally showing the obvious holes in the timeline. And Jaime finally had sex with someone he wasn’t related to before breaking her heart and heading south to play a high-stakes game of Fuck, Marry, Kill with his twin sister.
But, for a moment, let’s forget about all the heavy-handed foreshadowing and the baffling logistics of travel in Westeros to focus on Bran. More specifically, let’s focus on the sincere question of whether or not Bran is actually going to do anything. Since he was pushed out of the Winterfell Tower by Jaime in the first episode, the last remaining son of Ned Stark has been on a unique journey, mostly avoiding the politics and wars of the realm in favor of becoming the Three-Eyed Raven by watching memories whilst sitting in a tree. And once he finally became the Three-Eyed Raven, he was suddenly an emotionless, all-knowing demigod whose only real weakness was lacking social decorum.
Of course, Bran’s exact powers and purpose remained a mystery to viewers and characters alike, leading to a wide array of internet speculation about Bran’s unspecified motivation. Many have pointed to him becoming the true hero of the show, while others have said he is Westeros’ Gepetto, secretly pulling all of the strings of the less enlightened. Many insisted that he was secretly the Night King. Others have said that he only defeated the Night King because he’s actually the show’s true villain. Some people still think he’s going to be responsible for Dany becoming the Mad Queen while also making her father the Mad King.
Point is, there were a lot of theories and while it was never really clear what role Bran had to play in the Game of Thrones, it seemed obvious that whatever he was going to do was going to be pretty massive. After all, the entire reason the Night King was heading south was to kill Bran, so it stood to reason that Bran was going to have some epic trick up his sleeve to undo his would-be killer. However, Bran ended up playing virtually no part in taking down his longtime rival, as Arya was the one who delivered the final blow.
Bran’s lack of involvement or scheming in the battle left many fans confused and underwhelmed. But Game of Thrones has long been a show that specialized in undermining and subverting expectations, so while Bran was essentially a glorified bench-warmer in the Battle of Winterfell, perhaps he would reveal his true masterplan in the Battle for King’s Landing. Except, with only two episodes left, none of this has actually happened and we are quickly running out of time. As Jon and Dany prepare to face-off against Euron and Cersei, Bran continues to speak in haikus and not actually contribute in any meaningful way. And, at this point, it’s hard to even imagine what he could do because we still don’t really know what Bran’s whole deal is.
The showrunners’ disinterest or inability to properly handle the supernatural elements of the story has been a subject of fan criticism for several seasons and that criticism feels like its most powerfully manifested itself in the character of Bran, whose prominent placement in the show feels more and more baffling. Perhaps when the final battle comes, Bran will reveal some master plan he’s had in his back pocket the whole time that helps defeat Cersei and company. Or maybe he will turn out to be the true villain after all.
But even if he did warg into the Mountain to kill the Queen or betray his family in order to take power, it’s hard to imagine that it would be a moment that felt earned by the show, since we have been waiting for Bran to become a relevant player in the game for several seasons with virtually no pay-off, other than confirming Jon’s true identity (which Gilly actually deserves credit for).
With the final two episodes, Game of Thrones has a lot of ground to cover in terms of tying up loose ends and giving definitive answers to the show’s big questions. And perhaps no loose end feels less close to being tied up than why exactly Bran Stark matters. For eight seasons, we have watched him with the assumption that he had a greater purpose to play and that his unique abilities would surely come in handy at some massive moment. But we are quickly running out of moments for Bran to step up so while we have all been waiting to understand his true purpose, it may be time to start accepting that he might not actually have one.