‘Game of Thrones’ Season 8 Series Finale: Did Bran Stark Always Know He Would Be King?

It’s standard practice to give a spoiler warning in any story about Game of Thrones, but some will argue that the show’s finale was a spoiler of the worst kind — as in, a major disappointment. Still, we’ll proceed with our standard warning that there are spoilers ahead for anyone who has not caught up with the show’s finale.

The general reaction to Bran Stark “winning” the Iron Throne has run the gamut from outrage to indifference. Few people seem to be truly happy with it, finding it to be about as exciting as a bowl of bran cereal. And yet one could argue that some parties had predicted this outcome all along and that the story had dropped clues to his eventual victory, such as it was.

What happened in the ‘Game of Thrones’ series finale?

Isaac Hempstead Wright
Isaac Hempstead Wright | Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic for HBO

The big question throughout the eight-year run of Game of Thrones has always been “Who will win the Iron Throne?” The answer turned out to be, “Kind of no one.”

Sansa Stark was crowned Queen of the North, but the Starks all go their separate ways, including Arya, who decides to travel the world by herself. Jon Snow kills Daenerys for her treachery in killing innocents in her dragon attack on King’s Landing. Said dragon seems to ready to roast Jon alive but instead torches the Iron Throne itself.

A council elects Bran as King. When asked if he would accept this, he responded, “Why do you think I came all this way?” as if he knew it all along. He may well have.

And that, to make a long story short, was that.

The pros and cons of King Bran

Vox writer Todd VanDerWerff called the ending “unexpected” but also pointed out he had kind of jokingly predicted Bran several years ago. For one thing, Bran was the only realistic choice left.  Arya is off on her own and Sansa is content to rule the north. Jon, who had a claim to the throne but never really wanted it, is off to start a new night watch. So that leaves either Bran or Robin Arryn. Slim pickings.

VanDerWerff points out that Bran as king ties in thematically with George RR Martin’s books, as the first chapter was told from Bran’s point of view, so this ending brings things full circle.

“Martin seems to be a fan of circularity, of events doubling back on themselves, and it made sense to me that the last chapter of his books might also focus on Bran, in which case it would make some degree of sense for him to have a position of at least some power.”

But we had earlier theorized that Bran was actually evil, or at best, apathetic and detached as king. Either way, not an ideal candidate.

In its recap, Entertainment Weekly noted: “So to not only refuse to pick a popular character for the throne, but arguably pick one the show’s least popular and most-mocked characters, it’s an audacious move in an era where most entertainment is terrified of annoying its fandom.”

Reaction to the ‘Game of Thrones’ finale

Fans were indeed annoyed. Cries of “Worst episode of the entire series” rang out across the internet. That petition on Change.org to redo season 8 is now at over 1 million signatures and counting, despite the original petitioner saying he didn’t really expect anything to come of it.

There is one person who was happy with the outcome, and that was Isaac Hempstead-Wright.

“I think he’ll be a really good king actually,” he said to EW. “Perhaps there will be something missing in having real emotive leader, which is a useful quality in a king or queen as well. At the same time, you can’t really argue with Bran. He’s like, ‘No, I know everything.'”

He did miss getting a more dramatic finish, though. “I kind of did want to die and get in one good death scene with an exploding head or something,” he said.