Four Letter Nerd

Bran’s Flashbacks and What They Mean

For most of Game of Throne’s first four seasons, producers David Benoiff and D.B. Weiss stayed away from flashbacks. Both men are on record stating they considered peeks back in time to mostly be lazy storytelling. And a poorly made original pilot that included flashbacks probably didn’t help their opinions of the storytelling device, either.

But two very important events were approaching in Season Five and Six that required them to rethink their stance: Cersei’s essential flashback from “A Feast for Crows” and the warging abilities of Bran developing so that he could see the past. The flashback to young Cersei last year was, in my opinion, one of the best sequences the show has produced to date. And it explained why Cersei is always so tough on the women that enter her life in the name of becoming queen (because of the “one more beautiful” who will come along and replace her).

So how would the show follow up season five’s opening with more flashbacks, this time from Bran’s perspective mostly seeing his father’s younger days and seeing the development of the Whitewalkers.  But with all the history available for Martin’s “Song of Ice and Fire,” why have the producers chosen these moments from the past for Bran to see?

Let’s take a look back at the scenes we’ve seen so far, why they are important, and what scenes could be left for Bran to see in the second half of season six.

Episode 2; Home

Location: Winterfell

Quick Summary: Ned Stark as a boy with his siblings in Winterfell.

Flashbacks Young Starks

Young Ned, Lyanna, and Benjin talking as Bran and the Three Eyed Raven look on

The first of Bran’s visions sent the Stark boy back to a much happier time in Winterfell. Before all the tragedy we’ve seen the Starks endure over six seasons, there was a young Ned teaching a young Benjin (remember him from season one???) how to fight. In the middle of their play, their fiery young sister, Lyanna, rides up on a horse. She’s been mentioned several times over the course of the show’s run, but this is the first time we’ve seen her portrayed.

Why was this important: 

Establishing Lyanna as a fiery, independent, young lady who played by her own rules was an important foundation that needed to be set before delving more into the life of Ned’s sister. I don’t think Lyanna was portrayed as well as young Cersei was back in Season Five’s premiere, but the scene was still effective. Also, the reintroduction of Benjin could prove important to Season Six.

The Big Reveal:

Hodor saying something that wasn’t Hodor!!!! Though this was a fun reveal for viewers when it happened, we now know that this was simply setting up a more significant (and more tragic) reveal later on.

Flashbacks Young Hodor

Young, speaking Hodor appearing in Bran’s vision with the young Starks.

Episode 3; Oathbreaker

Location: The Tower of Joy (in the mountains of Dorne)

Quick Summary: Ned Stark and Howland Reed “defeat” Ser Arthur Dayne, who was guarding the tower holding Lyanna Stark.

Flashbacks Tower of Joy

Ned Stark and his men preparing to fight at the Tower of Joy

Ned Stark and five other men arrive at this tower in the mountains of Dorne where two knights of the kingsguard stand in there way. Ned wanted to find his sister, Lyanna, but Ser Arthur Dayne and the other man had orders to guard that tower. A fight ensues, and everything the many characters of Game of Thrones (including Jamie Lannister, Ned Stark, and Barristen Selmy) have said about “The Sword of the Morning” proves true. He takes out all five of the men with Ned and disarms Lord Stark. But before he can finish off Ned, Howland Reed (who was taken out but not killed earlier) shoves a knife into his back. Ned hears screams coming from the tower and races up the steps of the tower, but something temporarily stops him (Was it the wind? Or was it Bran’s voice that he heard?) before racing back up the stairs.

Why Was This Important

Because it was the Tower of Freaking Joy!!!! That’s why!!!! A scene book readers have read and theorized about for over 20 years (the first book came out in 1994) was finally taking place before our eyes.

But as far as specific reveals, there were plenty. The first was seeing Arthur Dayne as the bad ass he truly was. There was also the relationship between Howland Reed and Ned Stark, which would be one of the main reasons Howland’s children (Jojen and Meera) would come to Bran’s aid on his journey to find the Three-Eyed raven.

Episode 3 Arthur Dayne

Ser Arthur Dayne before defending the Tower of Joy

And lastly, it was seeing Bran’s ability to interact with a flashback. As we know now, young Ned was not hearing the wind when he turned to face Bran. He heard Bran’s voice, an important element for two of three flashbacks we saw in “The Door.”

The Big Reveal

Bran finds out that the story of his father defeating “The Sword of the Morning” in single combat was a lie. We also learn Lyanna was screaming in the tower when Ned finds her.

Episode 5; The Door

Location: Somewhere in Westeros, probably North of the Wall before it became frozen (or was separated from Westeros by a Wall).

Quick Summary: The Children of the Forest turn a man into a Whitewalker.

Brans Visions Children

Bran and the Three-Eyed Raven walk up to a scene very familiar to GoT viewers. The shape surrounding the Weirwood Tree is the same shape the Whitewalkers have made with various mutilated body parts throughout the whole entire region north of the wall. But there are no Whitewalkers or snow present here. Instead, it’s a group of the Children of the Forest and they are desperate. One of them takes a piece of Obsidian and shoves it into the chest of a man tied to a rock. His skin starts freezing about the time Bran wakes up.

Bran's Visions First Whitewalker

One of the Children preparing to stab Obsidian into a captive, turning him into a Whitewalker.

Why Was This Important/The Big Reveal

No reason to separate the two categories with this one, since they are the same: The Children of the Forest are responsible for creating the White Walkers to protect themselves from men. But other, more subtle reveals with this scene include:

  1. The lands north of the wall have not always been covered in ice.
  2. The White Walkers motivation to destroy men was programmed into them by the Children.
  3. Somewhere, the Children lost control of the White Walkers.

Episode 5; The Door

Location: North of the Wall

Quick Summary: Bran is touched by the Night’s King.

Episode 5 Bran and the Whitewalker

Bran’s ill-fated solo journey into dream world puts him right in the middle of group of Wights. They don’t see him until he approaches the four generals of this undead army. But once the Night’s King sees him, everyone in formation becomes aware of Bran. Before he can wake up, Bran is touched by the Night’s King, giving him the ability to get to bran in the Three-Eyed Raven’s cave.

Episode 5 Bran sees the Whitewalkers

Bran amongst the Wight Army as he discovers the Whitewalkers on their horses.

Why Was it Important

The Night’s King knowledge of where Bran is forced the weary travelers to leave the cave of the Three Eyed Raven before Bran’s training was finished. It was also the event that triggered the tragic events at the end of the same episode.

The Big Reveal

The confirmation that Bran could interact with those he sees in visions was essential information for this episode’s final vision. There’s also the knowledge that Bran’s journey means replacing the Three-Eyed Raven at some point. And finally (and maybe most important), there’s that connection the Night’s King now has with Bran.

Episode 5; The Door

Location: Winterfell

Quick Summary: Bran wargs into Wyllis, turning him into Hodor while his father is being sent off to the Vale.

Bran is given one final vision before exiting the cave and it’s the one the Three Eyed Raven new one day would be the last he would be guiding Bran through. We are back at Winterfell, where young Ned Stark is saying his goodbyes to his family before heading off to the Vale, where he will serve as Jon Arryn’s ward with Robert Baratheon. But all the pleasant (though what would prove to be bittersweet) fairwells were overshadowed by the events involving Hodor. Needing to escape Wights in the present, Bran wargs into Hodor and holds the door so Bran and Meera can escape. But because Bran is in both present and past, his actions affect the young Hodor, who falls to the ground shaking, while he says “Hold the Door” over and over again. Eventually, “Hold the Door” becomes “Hodor.”

Bran's Visions Hodor

Hodor in that fateful moment when he saved Bran and Meera’s life.

Why Was it Important

Discovering that how Wyllis became Hodor was also how he met his end was the obvious reason for this tragic scene.

The Big Reveal

Also, discovering just what kind of impact Bran has (or is it what impact he has had?) when he’s seeing visions of the past will likely be significant somewhere in later episodes.

Lost in all the focus on Hodor is this is likely the last time Ned and his father spoke. The next time Ned returns to Winterfell will be after Robert’s Rebellion, long after his dad, Rickard, and oldest brother (who is not portrayed for some reason), Brandon, have been killed by the Mad King Aerys Targaryen.

Visions to Come???

I am assuming (thought I admit it’s a pretty big assumption considering the dire consequences of episode 5) that Bran will have more visions of the past to see. Why was Lyanna Stark screaming in that tower? Can Bran’s visions of Whitewalkers be of assistance to those south of the Wall (if he ever gets there)? Will the Night’s King’s connection with Bran prove costly if he moves south of the Wall with those warnings? And is there any other part of the History of Westeros? Or are his visions limited to just his family’s past and activities concerning the Whitewalkers?

With everything that happened at the end of “The Door,” Bran has a lot to atone for.  We’ll see if he’s successful in that endeavor in the second half of season six. What are your theories about Bran’s future visions? Share those in the comments below.



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Jeff Merrick

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