[SPOILERS for Game of Thrones up through season 4 ahead!]
A few months ago, Game of Thrones actor Kristian Nairn (Hodor) accidentally revealed that his storyline -- which includes Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright) and Meera Reed (Ellie Kendrick) -- would not appear in season 5 of the HBO series. Following Nairn’s comments, Hempstead Wright caused some confusion when he said his future plans included “the next season of Game of Thrones,” because it wasn’t clear whether he meant season 5 or a following season.
While speculation carried on about whether the characters’ storylines would continue in season 5, the Game of Thrones showrunners, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, remained silent -- until now.
In an interview with EW, Benioff confirmed that Bran (as well as, presumably, Hodor and Meera) won’t appear in season 5. The showrunner went on to explain that the reasoning behind the decision, which lines up with our previous speculation, is because Bran’s storyline in the show reached the end of George R. R. Martin’s most recent novel in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, A Dance with Dragons, but the other characters’ storylines have not.
Read Benioff’s full quote:
“Ideally that wouldn’t have gotten out and it’s unfortunate it did. The fact is, even though we’re making changes to the books and adapting as necessary, we’re trying to keep the various storylines the same as the books and trying to keep them roughly [chronologically] parallel. And last year we caught up to the end of Bran’s storyline [in George R.R. Martin’s most recent ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ novel, ‘A Dance with Dragons’]. So if we pushed him forward this season, then he’s way ahead of where the other characters are.”
In the season 4 finale, “The Children”, Bran, Hodor, and Meera finally found the Weirwood tree and the Three-eyed Crow that they had been searching for beyond The Wall. The continuation of Bran’s storyline in Martin’s book series has the young Stark training and developing his greenseer (magical) powers. According to Benioff, the next step in Bran’s storyline isn’t interesting enough to warrant a season-long arc:
“It made sense to stop where we did. He’s now entering a training period which is going to take quite some time, much of which isn’t particularly cinematic. So rather than being stuck in a cave for a year, we figured it would be interesting to leave him out for a little bit, so when you see him again…”
Whether or not Bran’s absence from Game of Thrones is good depends on the viewer. The character’s storyline in season 4 was already criticized for being unnecessarily drawn out -- in the form of his and his companions’ capture by the deserters of the Night’s Watch -- for the sake of keeping Bran relevant and getting to the point in his story that the season needed to get to.
While it might make sense to leave Bran out of season 5 so that Game of Thrones may give more attention to other characters (and ensure the parallel storylines remain chronologically even), viewers may have trouble in season 6 with becoming reinvested in Bran’s storyline after spending so much time away from it.
However, there are other ways to include Bran in season 5 without progressing his story. The showrunners recently confirmed there will be flashbacks in the upcoming season; in A Dance with Dragons, Bran uses his greensight to revisit memories of his father as well as communicate with other characters in Westeros. How these aspects (or any combination thereof) will come together in season 5, though, won’t be known until the season premieres -- especially if Benioff has anything to say about it.
Game of Thrones returns for season 5 on HBO in spring 2015.