When HBO's Game of Thrones began in 2011, it would have been virtually impossible to anticipate the trajectory of young Brandon "Bran" Stark, even for the most passionate of fans of the series' inspiration, the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George RR Martin. While most characters in the series traverse relatively familiar paths for the realm of fantasy - the dishonored knight, the highborn bastard, the selfish queen and king - Bran's character entered into truly new territory.
Bran represents some of the series' major inclusions of magic and mysticism, through his journey to become the Three-Eyed Raven. He also embodies the complete narrative arc of an underdog rising to obtain power in the end. And as one of the series' most primary characters with a disability, he serves as a true inspiring figure without ever being relegated to his disability alone. Bran Stark possesses one of the most satisfying, emotionally riveting narratives in the entirety of Game of Thrones. Here, we take a look at how he went from the Little Lord of Winterfell to the King of the Six Kingdoms.
8 Season 1: "I'm not a cripple."
Despite being one of the youngest characters in the series, Bran has a very significant role in Game of Thrones right from the very beginning. Depicted as a fresh little boy who disregards his mother's rules, Bran climbs every high surface he can find - which leads to the fateful moment in which Jaime Lannister pushes him from a tower window, after Bran witnesses the Lannister twins engaging in incest. Bran falls into a coma after his accident, and a subsequent assassination attempt on his life leads to the escalation of early tensions between the Starks and Lannisters.
When Bran awakens, he is fully paralyzed, now entirely dependent upon being carried around by the sweet but simple-minded giant, Hodor. He begins to dream of a three-eyed raven, and over time, his dreams become more and more akin to visions. At the end of the season, one such dream involves Bran seeing his father, Ned, in the crypts of Winterfell - just before he learns that Ned has been executed in King's Landing.
7 Season 2: "They burned everything." "Not everything. Not you."
Season two is the first time that viewers are given a taste of Bran's ability as a leader. With Ned, Catelyn, Robb, Sansa, and Arya all away from Winterfell for various reasons, Bran becomes the acting Lord of Winterfell, forced to tend to the daily duties of a Lord, including hearing the concerns of Northern residents. His dreams of animals begin to grow more mystical, as he now finds himself dreaming from the perspective of the animals themselves, as though he were within them.
Winterfell is besieged by Theon Greyjoy and his men in a true act of betrayal, forcing Bran to concede the long-held Stark home to the once loyal Theon. Afraid of what could become of them, Osha and Hodor flee with Bran and Rickon, avoiding Greyjoy men for as long as they are able. They return to find an utterly sacked and burned Winterfell at season's end, arriving just in time to share a heartbreaking farewell with Maester Luwin, Bran's longtime teacher and caretaker.
6 Season 3: "What if I fell from that tower for a reason?"
When season three begins, Bran, Rickon, Osha, and Hodor have now begun to set out for the Wall, hoping to reunite Bran and Rickon with their half-brother, Jon Snow. As they travel, however, Bran's dreams begin to become more intense and have more of a physical toll on the young boy. The dreams also begin to involve another young boy - whom Bran soon meets and learns to be Jojen Reed, another young man gifted with the abilities of visions. Jojen and his sister Meera are attempting to travel beyond the Wall, and quickly convince Bran that he should do the same.
Bran's connection with the three-eyed raven only ever glimpsed in his dreams begins to grow more and more intense during the visions he and Jojen share in the third season, visions which restore Bran's ability to climb and explore. The third season also is the first time the series truly begins to explore one of Bran's most significant gifts: warging, or the ability to transport oneself into another's body and control them, regardless of whether they are human or animal. At season's end, Bran and the gang encounter Samwell Tarly and Gilly, who, because they know Jon, show kindness toward his younger brother and guide Bran and his allies beyond the Wall.
5 Season 4: "You will never walk again. But you will fly."
When the fourth season picks up, Bran and his fellow group of travelers are officially beyond the Wall. Bran has grown stronger in his warging abilities, now roaming freely and experiencing the world through the eyes of his direwolf, Summer. He begins to become aware of the existence of the Night King, as well as the real, human Three-Eyed Raven, and not just the bird that has been plaguing his dreams for years.
Bran and his friends are taken hostage by the mutineers who took over Craster's Keep, and in order to free them and ensure their safety, Bran once again wargs into Hodor, killing one of their captors so they can escape. After fleeing from Craster's Keep, they set course for the weirwood tree that Bran has seen in his visions, and meet the mystical Children of the Forest, and, at long last, the Three-Eyed Raven himself.
4 Season 6: "Hold the door."
Bran is missing in action for the entirety of season five, continuing his training under the guidance of the current Three-Eyed Raven. When he returns in the sixth season, he is now much more capable of controlling his skills, to the point where he, along with the Three-Eyed Raven, can travel through time and begin to learn the history of the entire Realm. He witnesses the childhood of his own family, including his father Ned, his uncle Benjen, and his aunt Lyanna. He travels to witness certain events from the years of Robert's Rebellion, and even, briefly, interacts with his own father.
Bran continues to grow eager to learn more about the Realm's history, and despite the Three-Eyed Raven's warnings, he takes part in another vision that enables the Night King to not only see him, but touch him and mark him. This decision ultimately proves fatal, as the Night King and his army soon find Bran, Meera, and Hodor, and through a freak warging accident, a young Hodor is permanently disabled and forced to endure his own death because of the psychic connection Bran has built. As Bran and Meera try to flee from the massacre within the Three-Eyed Raven's cave, they are found and brought to safety by none other than Bran's own technically dead uncle, Benjen Stark.
3 Season 7: "You died in that cave."
Bran begins the seventh season traveling with Meera from the Wall, to Castle Black, and eventually to the now once again Stark-held Winterfell. When he arrives back in his true home, he has an emotional reunion with his older sister, Sansa, who quickly comes to learn just how different her brother is, and what sorts of gifts he now possesses as the new Three-Eyed Raven. Sansa isn't the only one who quickly learns just how much knowledge Bran has: Petyr Baelish is shocked when Bran throws some of his own words, "Chaos is a ladder," right in his face as a subtle threat.
Meera soon leaves to return to her family, and she is genuinely hurt to see Bran so devoid of emotion, noting that it seems as though the true Bran died in the cave with everyone else. Bran reunites with Arya soon after, with the three remaining Stark siblings finally all in the same place for the first time since the series' first episode. Bran serves as one of the deciding factors in the trial and eventual execution of Littlefinger, recounting all the crimes he committed, and it's Bran's knowledge that helps Samwell Tarly confirm the truth of Jon's lineage - namely, that he is, in fact, Aegon Targaryen.
2 Season 8: "He'll come for me."
When the eighth season begins, Bran reunites with the man whom he once thought of as his own brother, Jon Snow. Bran provides multiple pressing reminders to the group in Winterfell of the importance of focusing on the impending war against the Night King and the Army of the Dead, as he is attuned to the location of the White Walkers and their fearsome leader. He undergoes a tense reunion with Ser Jaime Lannister, the man responsible for paralyzing him in the first place.
During the Battle of Winterfell, Bran is protected by Theon Greyjoy as they wait for the arrival of the Night King. Bran knows that the Night King is coming with the intention of killing him, as the Three-Eyed Raven has always represented one of the biggest threats to the Night King throughout history. After Theon sacrifices his life to save Bran, Bran is saved and the Night King finally killed once and for all by Bran's own sister, Arya.
1 Season 8: "Why do you think I came all this way?"
Bran is absent for the aftermath of the Battle of Winterfell, as well as the catastrophic Battle of King's Landing. But following the shocking assassination of the now mad Daenerys Targaryen, Bran returns, now serving on the Great Council tasked with determining the fate of the Seven Kingdoms and who should rule them. Tyrion Lannister makes a truly compelling case for Bran's qualifications to be king - he knows all of history, has endured quite the riveting journey, and has no selfish interests, as all previous leaders have had.
Bran is then appointed Bran the Broken, First of His Name, King of the Andals and the First Men, Lord of the Six Kingdoms, and Protector of the Realm. The future of Westeros is in good hands with a just and impartial ruler like Bran at the helm. Long may he reign.