Two weeks ago, audiences were scarred for life when Hodor died on Game Of Thrones after Bran warged into his mind and commanded him to "hold the door" against an army of invading wights. As the monosyllabic stable boy died, it was revealed that his nickname was really a bastardization of Bran's command; young Wylis' mind broke when Bran warged into him while greenseeing, and from that point on he could only repeat the words that would eventually get him killed. This was a shocking development, since it proved that Bran could have a tangible impact on events in the past… so what other tragedies might the young Stark inadvertently cause? Will Bran make the Mad King go mad?
That's what one popular theory is claiming in the wake of Hodor's traumatic death. (Are you ready for your brain to hurt?) "Bran and friends are the voices in the Mad King’s head," theorizes redditor Lycosnic. "We’ve now seen Bran’s ability to influence the past (or confirm it depending on how time travel paradoxes are solved in GoT). We’ve seen the link between the past and present break Hodor’s mind, turning him into a simpleton. I don’t think madness is a far stretch from this."
It's easy to see why this theory is so appealing to some. On a show where absolutely nothing is done by accident, it can't be a coincidence that Bran saw a vision of King Aerys screaming "Burn them all!" in the history-download that the Three-Eyed Raven gave him before he died. We've already seen one instance of Bran's time-warp meddling breaking someone's mind. And it would give the entire story of Westeros a cyclical nature that's tragic in its inevitability.
If this theory is correct, then at some point in the future, Bran will be taking a trip down memory lane to visit Aerys Targaryen… and inadvertently wind up setting in motion the entire events of the series. Aerys became known as the "Mad King" when he started hearing whispering voices and developed a compulsion to set pretty much everything on fire. But was this just the hereditary Targaryen madness rearing its head? Or was this actually the result of some spacetime manipulation by some wizardly young man?
It's a little unclear exactly how this scenario would take shape. Maybe Bran will actively try to dissuade Aerys from burning everyone and everything alive in attempt to rewrite history, but he'll end up planting the idea in the king's mind instead, Inception-style. Or maybe Bran will simply be visiting the king's time period when something tangential occurs in Bran's timeline — perhaps another impending White Walker attack — that makes Bran shout "Burn them all!"… which Aerys somehow hears echoing through the decades between them and breaks his mind, Hodor-style.
There's just enough evidence backing this theory to make it believable; so while I'm not confident enough to call the theory wrong, I do have some questions about it; mostly of the logistical variety. As we saw in "The Door," the reason Hodor's mind broke was because Bran warged into his present self while simultaneously visiting him in the past. This temporal rift drove the innocent young man insane.
For obvious reasons, these conditions would be impossible to replicate with the Mad King: since Aerys is already long-dead, there's no way for Bran to warg into his mind in the present day —and therefore no way to break his mind the same way he broke Hodor's. (We've already seen that visiting the past and whispering in someone's ear isn't enough to drive them mad; young Ned Stark heard his son's voice in the Tower of Joy flashback and suffered no adverse effects that we know of.)
I wouldn't yet put this theory in the all-but-confirmed category alongside R+L=J… but there's enough reason to believe that at at least something like this will happen at some point. After all, the show wouldn't have introduced Bran's time-meddling powers if it didn't intend to follow through on them, right?
Images: Helen Sloan (3), HBO/HBO