HBO finally announced the premiere date for the final season of Game of Thrones with a cryptic teaser that provides little insight into what to expect while reminding viewers that, yes, winter is here. The brief promo depicts Jon Snow and Sansa and Arya Stark entering the family crypt beneath Winterfell. We see the statues, and hear the voices, of the dead - Lyanna, Catelyn and Ned -- as the Stark heirs traverse the darkness before encountering their own stone likenesses, and are surrounded by the encroaching chill of the war to come. It's an effective tease, building excitement without divulging plot details, but it leaves the audience with one nagging question: Where the hell is Bran?
Three out of the four remaining Stark children are present, but the one who might have the biggest hand in how events will play out is conspicuously absent. The simplest answer is that Bran is unable to walk, so perhaps it isn't feasible for him to descend the stairs to the crypt without the help of Hodor. However, we have some other thoughts.
The hallucinatory quality of the promo lends itself well to being one of Bran’s visions. Since becoming the Three-Eyed Crow, he has been privy to some pertinent information the past (including some with regards to lineage that could have stopped a gross moment), present and future that could effect the fate of Westeros. Perhaps what we see in the teaser is an unclear message. Game of Thrones has never shied away from killing main characters (especially those with the last name Stark), but it's bit much to expect Jon, Sansa and Arya will all die in the final episodes. Maybe it's there to lend an air of uncertainty.
With Bran’s diminishing sense of humanity, his absence could be chalked up to him being too busy, or unconcerned, to brood in Winterfell's crypt. Whether this is a vision for his family to heed, it doesn't mean Bran is in the same boat. Being the Three-Eyed Crow has changed him; he's something more than human. In fact, because Bran is a warg, his human form probably means very little in the grand scheme of things. What's to stop him from hopping into a dragon and crushing the Night King? Well ...
Probably the most outlandish and impassioned theories regarding Bran's absence from the new promo is that he is actually the Night King. Now, we don't necessarily buy this idea, but it's a fun notion. To be fair, there is some support for this, especially with regard to Bran's connection to the King Beyond the Wall. But perhaps Bran is the key to stop the war from ever arriving. Maybe his connection to the North can generate some icy diplomacy to stop the total annihilation of Westeros. Sure it's a stretch, but at this point, anything is possible.
Returning April 14 for its eighth and final season, HBO's Game of Thrones stars Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Jaime Lannister, Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister, Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen, Sophie Turner as Sansa Stark, Maisie Williams as Arya Stark and Kit Harington as Jon Snow.