The series finale of Game of Thrones may have destroyed the Iron Throne itself, but that didn’t mean that the position of Westerosi monarch was left vacant—instead, it went to the unlikeliest of candidates in Bran Stark. The coronation of King Bran the Broken definitely qualifies as a plot twist of the most shocking variety, that doesn’t mean that some fans didn’t see it coming—and there are plenty of instances of foreshadowing throughout the series that back up their assertions.
It may never be known how much of Game of Thrones’ final season is made up of real plot points from George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire and how much is the imagination of showrunners DB Weiss and David Benioff. Whatever the truth may be, the naming of Bran Stark as king still fits within the series’ established themes—and there have been enough hints and clues laid along the way to definitively state that this particular aspect of the conclusion wasn’t just a last-minute addition.
It’s unknown as of yet whether Bran was always intended to end up as the King of Westeros—or even if the plot point will be a part of George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire book series whenever they see print. That being said, there is a brief scene from the first episode of Game of Thrones that seems to suggest that Bran sitting the throne was part of the plan from the very beginning.
During Ned Stark’s execution of a Night’s Watch deserter, he drones through all the traditional ceremonial dialogue—including mention of the deed being carried out in the name of “Robert of the House Baratheon, first of his name, King of the Andals and the First Men, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms and Protector of the Realm.”
As he mentions Robert’s titles, the scene shifts to a shot of Jon Snow—which fans had long taken as a reference to Jon’s own monarchal future—but also of Bran Stark, who is standing right in front of Jon. With one bit of foreshadowing, the show could have been hinting at two future kings.
The first chapter in the A Song of Ice and Fire series—aside from a prologue that introduces the Others—is told from Bran Stark’s point-of-view. It’s also the first part of the overall story that would one day become Game of Thrones that George RR Martin ever conceived of.
When I began, I didn’t know what the hell I had. I thought it might be a short story; it was just this chapter, where they find these direwolf pups. Then I started exploring these families and the world started coming alive. It was all there in my head, I couldn’t not write it. So it wasn’t an entirely rational decision, but writers aren’t entirely rational creatures.
Given that Bran was central to Martin’s original conception of the series, it makes sense that he would also be central to its conclusion—even if Martin didn’t have the ending entirely planned out at that point.
One of the only moments in Bran Stark’s long character history that could truly be considered “badass” comes in Season 7 of Game of Thrones—when Bran spits Petyr Baelish’s credo of “Chaos is a ladder” right back in the master manipulator’s face. It’s a powerful scene that demonstrates to both Littlefinger and the audience just how extensive Bran’s past-viewing abilities have grown—but it may also be a hint at Bran’s own eventual rise to power.
Climbing the ladder of chaos is, after all, exactly how Bran ends up being the Lord of the Six Kingdoms. Though it is hinted that he can see the future, Bran allows for all the horrible events of the series’ final season to occur—including the deaths of Daenerys Targaryen and the Lannister twins—which all but paves his way to the throne. Perhaps Bran learned a thing or two about the “game of thrones” while watching Littlefinger scheme in the past.
After a personal journey that included a sojourn north of The Wall and an apprenticeship with a psychic tree, it’s easy to forget that Bran Stark’s plot began much the way it ended—with Bran being summoned to take up residency in King’s Landing.
Before his paralysis at the hands of Jaime Lannister, Bran is meant to accompany his father and sisters to King’s Landing as Ned becomes Hand of the King. Instead, Bran’s fall and subsequent coma mean he has to stay behind at Winterfell to recuperate—and wait another eight seasons before finally making his arrival in the continent’s capital.