Why Bran's Three-Eyed Raven Powers Could Be the Key to 'Game of Thrones'

bran game of thrones season 7 episode 3
HBO
This post contains major spoilers for Game of Thrones Season 7, Episode 3, "The Queen's Justice," and every episode before it. Visit our "Beyond the Wall" hub for more Thrones recaps, theories, and spoilers.

Nothing on Game of Thrones can satisfy quite like a long-awaited character reunion. Sansa and Jon’s embrace last season is still the best example of this: a brief, cathartic respite from the hell that surrounded them.

But sometimes, when the characters are too fundamentally altered by what they've experienced, these reunions can be bittersweet. That was the case in Season 7's second episode, when Arya ran into her long-lost direwolf, Nymeria. And it happened again in last night's episode 3, "The Queen's Justice," when Bran returned to Winterfell. Sansa, who hadn't seen her brother since departing for King's Landing in the second episode of the series, couldn't even stir Bran with a hug -- a joy-depriving consequence of all he's seen since becoming the Three-Eyed Raven.

As he later tells Sansa by the weirwood tree: "I can see everything, everything that's ever happened, to everyone. Everything that's happening right now." That means a constant stream of humanity's viciousness and suffering -- which certainly accounts for his resolve. Their reunion ends when Bran summons the memory of sister's rape and torture on her wedding night to Ramsay Bolton, a topic that is understandably too upsetting for Sansa to discuss but doesn't seem to faze him at all.

If Bran is no longer a Stark in an emotional sense, what exactly does it mean to be the Three-Eyed Raven? The show hasn't really gotten into the nitty gritty of Bran's new role, but it has set the table for his fate. Remember Jojen Reed? His entire purpose on the series was to get Bran north of the Wall so he could take on the role. That's all come to pass -- but why and how? Here's a look into the history of the Three-Eyed Raven, and what this could mean for Bran's future.

bran and three-eyed raven
HBO

The original Three-Eyed Raven

Bran started having visions of the raven shortly after losing the use of his legs. In his dreams, he was summoned by the mythical bird, and after escaping a Theon-ruled Winterfell, he met Jojen and Meera, who pledged to unite him with the raven. After a long journey, and Jojen’s death, Bran finally meets a very old man who lives in -- and partially is -- a tree. The man tells Bran he'll never walk again, but that he will fly.

In the books, it is suggested that this man is Brynden Rivers, the legitimized bastard son of King Aegon IV Targaryen. In his former life, Brynden fought in the Blackfyre Rebellions, served as hand of the king to Aerys I and Maekar I Targaryen, and, eventually, became Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. Rivers was an albino with a large red birthmark on his face that earned him the nickname "Bloodraven." Rumor had it that he was a sorcerer, and that he ruled the kingdom with "spies and spells."

After the taking the black and becoming Lord Commander, he went missing on a ranging mission and was never heard from again. The show has never outright confirmed that Brynden is the Three-Eyed Raven, but the books heavily imply it, and most fans consider it canon. How, exactly, he became Three-Eyed Raven is a mystery, but he's said to have the gift of greensight, which means he has prophetic dreams -- just like Bran. It is unclear if he was the very first Three-Eyed Raven, but it seems likely. He lived among the Children of the Forest, who are also greenseers, and who may have used their own magic to anoint him the role.

On the show, Brynden teaches Bran how to us his second sight to plug into and witness history, but stresses that he must not change it -- a rule Bran accidentally breaks when he wargs into past-Hodor and scrambles his brain. Brynden is eventually killed by the Night King, which makes Bran -- the "last greenseer" -- the Three-Eyed Raven he was destined to become.

HBO

The purpose of the Three-Eyed Raven isn't entirely clear

Sure, Bran can see all of history -- but why? It seems likely that the Children of the Forest created the Three-Eyed Raven for some greater purpose. As Bran tell Sansa, "I need to learn to see better. When the Long Night comes again, I need to be ready."

The "Long Night" is a reference to the army of the dead's predicted assault on the Seven Kingdoms. A similar event happened before and lasted a generation. Will Bran try to prevent it? He says when it comes again, not if, which seems to imply it's coming no matter what. So how will Bran's role fit into all of it?

bran season 7 game of thrones episode 3
HBO

Bran will probably reveal Jon Snow's parentage

Both the show and books foretell of the Prince That Was Promised, a mythical figure in history who ended the last Long Night and is said to be reborn to end the next. We predicted last week that the Prince That Was Promised is either Jon, Daenerys, or both. If that's the case, it would help the two of them -- who finally met this week -- to know that they're related, and of the bloodline that was predicted to save the world.

So far, Bran is the only person who knows that Jon is the son of Lyanna Stark, and therefore not Ned's son. When Sansa says she wishes Jon was at Winterfell for Bran's arrival, he replies, "Yes, I need to speak to him." It's unclear if Bran knows that Jon is a Targaryen, but it seems likely that if he doesn't, he'll learn it somehow. Will Bran be the person to tell Jon who he is, and prepare him for his role in the war to come? It's certainly looking that way.

Of course, there's probably more to it than that. Brynden tells Bran that he'll fly one day, which could simply be a reference to some bird warging, but it's also possible that Bran will have something to do with Dany's dragon -- like riding one perhaps? It's hard to say for sure, but Bran's role as Three-Eyed Raven is definitely a big deal, and something we'll need to keep a close watch on as the season progresses.

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Lindsey Romain is a writer and editor living in Chicago. She covers politics for Teen Vogue and has also appeared in Vulture, Birth.Movies.Death, and more. Follow her on Twitter @lindseyromain.