Bran Stark and the Problem of Omniscience – The Atlantic

 In Entertainment
This post contains spoilers through Season 7, Episode 7 of Game of Thrones.

“None of you were there to see what happened! None of you knows the truth!”

So protested Lord Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish in Sunday’s Game of Thrones season finale, after his onetime ally Sansa Stark ambushed him with accusations of murder and treason in front of an audience of knights and lords.

“You held a knife to his throat,” cut in Bran Stark, the ever-less-chatty younger brother of Sansa. “You said, ‘I did warn you not to trust me.’”

Bran was referencing an incident from way back in Season 1, when Baelish betrayed Ned Stark, consigning the honorable family patriarch to execution. And Baelish had been right: No one accusing him had witnessed that moment. But when Bran spoke, a look of shock and recognition came over the conniving Baelish’s face. Somehow, this boy could see his past. Moments later, Baelish was consigned to death, his throat cut by Arya Stark, youngest daughter of Ned.

Thrones played Baelish’s comeuppance as the result of an Avengers-like team-up between the three living Stark heirs, demonstrating the extraordinary change they have all undergone over seven seasons. Sansa employed hard-earned wisdom; Arya employed long-honed force; Bran employed expensively gained sight. But step back and it becomes clear that the defining factor here was Bran. Baelish’s deceit, until now, had resulted in a long string of unchallenged wins. He finally met his match not because Sansa the self-described “slow learner” finally caught on, nor because Arya had trained to kill, but because Bran’s magic omniscience unveiled all the hidden things Littlefinger did to the Stark family.

It was two season finales ago that Bran gained the mysterious title of “The Three-Eyed Raven” after a long, strange trial north of the Wall. But it was in this season finale that the full scope and importance of his powers were most significantly displayed. Not only did he dig up the receipts to condemn Littlefinger, he provided a huge revelation for viewers by discovering that Jon Snow, thought to be a bastard of Ned Stark, is actually of royal parentage.

Both developments were a sign that Bran has become an MVP of the Game of Thrones plot engine. His powers are in fact so great that they threaten to break the story—as all-seeing, all-knowing types, whether in comic books or classic novels or religious texts, often threaten to do.

* * *

On some level, storytelling is the act of revealing information. To experience any narrative is to hear a mystery solved, and common plots are often quests for knowledge—how to save the world, the community, the self. So it’s striking that characters with the power to see things they haven’t personally experienced are legion in literary history, whether you look to mythology (Cassandra) or to pop entertainment (Professor Xavier in his Cerebro). Maybe that owes to a fundamental human desire to know the unknown. Maybe it’s also because of the oracle character’s usefulness as a narrative device, an easy way to close plot holes.

Certainly Bran’s powers help clarify the once-vexing question of what role he’s been meant to play all along. After providing the first gasp-worthy twist of Thrones when he was pushed from a tower in the series premiere, he’s rarely been a source of thrills. First, he convalesced; then, he underwent a long journey to the North for hazy supernatural reasons. Lately, after returning to his home of Winterfell and reuniting with his sisters, it seemed he might finally start affecting the larger storyline via clairvoyance. Instead, until the finale he just inspired memes about his stoner-like dialogue, his coldness toward loved ones, and his apparent refusal to use his powers to solve urgent problems.

Recent Posts
Get Breaking News Delivered to Your Inbox
Join over 2.3 million subscribers. Get daily breaking news directly to your inbox as they happen.
Your Information will never be shared with any third party.
Get Latest News in Facebook
Never miss another breaking news. Click on the "LIKE" button below now!