Call me a fool, but for five seasons, I had continually underestimated the importance of Bran Stark on Game of Thrones. Yet, I will never make that mistake again after Season 6 and that's why I'm starting to believe the theory that Bran caused the Mad King to go mad. Yes, Bran was not alive during the reign of King Aerys II Targaryen, but now that he is the Three-Eyed Raven, the son of Ned and Catelyn Stark knows no boundaries when it comes to space and time. The theory that Bran may have led the Mad King to go insane and obsessive with his "Burn them all!" mantra by greenseeing while fighting the White Walkers seems more legitimate than ever, thanks to the May 29 episode "Blood of My Blood." And I continue to be astounded by how Game of Thrones keeps managing to blow my mind in Season 6.
According to a theory from Reddit user NegativeKarmaSniifer, Bran could be the cause of King Aerys II Targaryen's madness based on the fact that a young Ned Stark in the past was seen hearing Bran call out to him during a greenseeing session. This theory picked up steam when it was posted after the third episode of Season 6, May 8's "Oathbreaker," with outlets like Mashable, TIME, and BuzzFeed covering how viable the theory could be. At the time, I was too distracted with the baby that a young Ned Stark heard crying in the Tower of Joy (how could I not think that's confirmation of the R+L=J theory?) to concern myself with this seemingly outlandish theory about Bran.
But as with every Game of Thrones theory that I initially dismiss as outrageous, something occurs on the series that makes me realize just how incredibly credible it could be (with a few tweaks based on new information). After the fifth episode of Season 6, "The Door," premiered on May 22, the idea that Bran could manipulate history was substantially supported with how his warging and greenseeing ruined the mind of a young Hodor. Ned Stark presumably hearing Bran call out to him in "Oathbreaker" started to seem more like an essential plot point than just an interesting tidbit. Yet, the biggest connection to Bran causing pretty much every bad (and good) thing that has happened on Game of Thrones came during the first moments of the May 29 episode, "Blood of My Blood."
As Meera struggled to pull Bran through the woods after their escape from the artist formerly known as the Three-Eyed Raven's cave, Bran was greenseeing the history of Westeros. With quick flashes of White Walkers, Wildfire, the Red Wedding, and Jaime killing King Aerys, Bran's visions mixed scenes fans had previously viewed with unseen moments that viewers had only heard about. While it was thrilling (and frightening) to finally see the Mad King in the flesh, discussions about why viewers were seeing him now after nearly six seasons of hearing about him quickly followed. As those visions occurred, the theory that Bran caused the Mad King to go mad started to make a lot of sense to me. Here are Bran's two visions from "Blood of My Blood" in GIF form for reference.
Bran's greenseeing revealed essential information to him since he's the new Three-Eyed Raven, but it also seemed to directly support the Reddit theory. What's missing in the GIF version of Bran's second vision is the audio of King Aerys screaming, "Burn them all." Jaime had previously told Brienne in Season 3 that by the time Aerys had fully succumbed to madness during Robert's Rebellion, the king had ordered his pyromancer to burn all of King's Landing with Wildfire. Of course, Jaime ended up killing Aerys before that happened and Robert took the throne, but maybe this fire-obsessed madness is directly related to Bran.
The first vision Bran had in "Blood of My Blood" showed King Aerys interspersed with images of the Night's King. Later in the episode, it was revealed that Benjen had returned to prepare Bran to face the Night's King when he inevitably comes to the world of men. Since Dragonglass or setting fire to the Night's King's wights is the only way to defeat them, it's not out of the question that someone could be saying, "Burn them all!" when the White Walkers come to destroy humans.
Bran will be there when the Night's King approaches and if he happens to be greenseeing to the time of King Aerys' reign at that exact moment, it is possible that the king could become mad by hearing the cries from Bran's time of "Burn them all." The precedent for this exact scenario to go down was set in "The Door" when Bran was greenseeing into Hodor's past and young Hodor heard Meera screaming in the present, "Hold the door." Bran's presence in Hodor's past changed Hodor's life completely, by making him only having the ability to say, "Hodor." So couldn't Bran's presence in Aerys' past end up making the Mad King mad?
Of course, King Aerys' madness and obsession with fire could have nothing to do with Bran battling the White Walkers since the common assumption before this was that it had to do with Aerys thinking he would turn into a dragon. As Aerys' daughter Daenerys has shown time and time again, the Targaryens really do love their fire and dragon's blood, so Aerys' obsession with dragons feeding into his mental illness is also completely valid. But, as Bran becomes more and more important in the world of Game of Thrones, the idea that he has the power to have caused all of this chaos and death in Westeros, which includes the death of his grandfather by fire, is getting much more believable.
Yet, considering how devastating it was to see Bran's inexperience in greenseeing lead to Hodor's tragic life, would Game of Thrones be so cruel as to have him also cause King Aerys to lose his sanity that was one of the reasons Robert's Rebellion occurred? Well, if history is any indication, I'm sorry to say that it is more than possible that the series wouldn't hesitate for one second to torture Bran — and its fans — exactly like that. But maybe it will also lead to Bran successfully defeating the White Walkers by warging into Dany's dragons — and then all of this pain will finally have happened for a reason.
Images: Helen Sloan/HBO (2); Reddit; Caitlin Gallagher/Bustle (2); Giphy (2)