A new teaser for Game of Thrones’ final series has arrived, and it had everybody asking just one question.
No, it’s not “Will Jon Snow find out the truth about his mother?”. It’s not “how can our heroes possibly defeat the Night King and the army of the dead?” either. It’s not even “why DID they hire the Cristiano Ronaldo sculptor to work on those statues of the Starks?”.
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All people REALLY want to know is… where’s Bran?
Yep, despite the new teaser’s focus on the remaining Starks, their deceased relatives and the secrets that still lurk around them, arguably one of the family’s most significant members (Isaac Hempstead-Wright's Brandon "Bran" Stark) isn’t a part of the teaser. Bran is the Three-Eyed Raven, a near-omniscient, supernaturally-powered being who looks sure to be central to the battle against the Night King – so why isn’t he a part of this teaser with his siblings (and, er, secret cousin)?
Well, there are a couple of possible reasons. It could be that HBO are throwing us a big clue about Bran’s involvement or lack thereof in the main storyline of the final series, suggesting that the meat of the action will concern Arya, Sansa and Jon while their brother remains on the sidelines.
In a way, this makes a lot of sense – since becoming the Three-Eyed Raven, a Yoda-like Bran seems to work better chipping in to the other characters’ storylines, not spearheading his own. And frankly, Bran’s newfound detachment from the world makes him a less compelling character dramatically, so it’s probably fair to expect that he isn’t really a “main” character next year.
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Alternatively, we could take this as some sort of clue about Bran’s absence from the Stark family in the next series. Could he depart Winterfell on some sort of mission to find out more about the White Walkers, or hone his abilities? Will he die in an undead attack on Winterfell? Or will he just distance himself from his family, unlikely to head down to the crypts to rehash a family history he only half cares about any more? Or maybe the wheelchair access at Winterfell’s lower levels just leaves a lot to be desired?
Or, and bear with us here, could his absence hint that a slightly ridiculous fan theory about Bran BEING the Night King is actually true? We see the other three Stark kids, and an encroaching cold that's the trademark of the Night King – is this the show's way of saying that Bran IS there, in evil form? Stranger things have happened in Westeros...
And then there’s the simplest option of all, that Jon, Arya and Sansa are more popular characters than Bran, and HBO preferred the aesthetics of having three figures standing together instead of adding a seated Bran in there as well.
Of course, Bran’s absence isn’t the only mystery floating around in the teaser. The fact that Jon’s statue looks a fair bit older than his sisters’ could suggest a long-held fan theory that Jon will survive the series, but be forced to rule unhappily following his friends and family’s deaths, while the appearance of the feather from Lyanna Stark’s statue has all sorts of possible meanings, as we’ve gone into in more depth here.
But for now, until we get a proper trailer (you know, one with actual footage from the series in it) we’re just wondering who took attendance at this Stark family reunion. They might have at least wandered near Robb and Rickon’s statues as well, to make an effort at getting the full set.
Game of Thrones returns to HBO on 14 April, and Sky Atlantic and NOW TV the morning after
This article was originally published on 14 January 2019