At Least One Big Game of Thrones Finale Twist Came From George R.R. Martin's Novels

Yep, that’s Bran all right.
Photo: HBO

Looks like you can skip George R.R. Martin’s A Dream of Spring now, as the ending may have been spoiled by HBO’s Game of Thrones.

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Game of Thrones shocked the world when it revealed Bran Stark’s fate in the series finale, mostly because it didn’t seem to make sense. You might have assumed what played out on screen is what Martin already had planned for his novels, but we hadn’t had any time of confirmation of that until now.

In an interview for HBO’s Making Game of Thrones, Bran actor Isaac Hempstead-Wright revealed that crowning him the new King of Westeros was part of the original planned ending that Martin told showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss. This hasn’t been confirmed by Benioff, Weiss, or Martin—but it seems likely, given the fact that it’s on HBO’s official Game of Thrones site.

“David and Dan told me there were two things George R.R. Martin had planned for Bran—and that was the Hodor revelation, and that he would be king. So that’s pretty special to be directly involved in something that is part of George’s vision. It was a really nice way to wrap it up,” Hempstead-Wright said.

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Back in 2013, knowing that the television series was eventually going to outpace the books, Benioff and Weiss met up with Martin to discuss his planned end for A Song of Ice and Fire so they could have some idea where they should be headed. As the showrunners previously told Entertainment Weekly, this included three “holy shit” moments. The first was Shireen Baratheon’s death, and the second was how Hodor got his name. Then, there was one “from the very end” of the series. Some theorized this was Daenerys Targaryen’s breaking bad moment, but it’s possible they were discussing the final choice for the throne.

That doesn’t mean “Bran the Broken” is set in stone for A Song of Ice and Fire. Martin has said his ending will have some “discrepancies” from the television show, and his feelings on who should end up ruling Westeros may have changed since meeting with Benioff and Weiss in 2013 (especially after witnessing fan reactions to the show’s ending).

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Regardless of what Martin does next—or your feelings on the direction Benioff and Weiss took the final season—this whole situation does help explain why Game of Thrones’ ending didn’t sit right. By the time the series had entered its eighth season, it was well past the books and had become its own thing. For years, Bran had taken a back seat so Benioff and Weiss could tell the stories they wanted to tell. They hadn’t put enough time into Bran’s life, personality, and journey to make him the person Martin apparently believes him to be. He ended up being shoehorned into a role that wasn’t ready for him. In the end, choosing Bran as the new king required a five-minute monologue from Tyrion Lannister, because the audience needed to be convinced just as much as the lords of Westeros.

All of that said, Hempstead-Wright still thinks Bran was the right choice...even if he didn’t quite believe it right away:

“I was convinced they had sent a script to everyone in which they become king or queen, so I still didn’t believe it until the read-through,” he said. “But I think he is a great character to take on that role. You never thought of him in that way, but what more could you ask for in a king than to have no personal attachments, no agenda, but have a calm understanding of the entire universe? He’s the ideal person to be in charge.”

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Now all we can do is wait for Martin to finish The Winds of Winter, before we can even dream of spring ourselves. Martin recently indicated that he hopes to have it ready to go by August 2020.


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About the author

Beth Elderkin

Video Editor and Staff Writer at io9. My doppelganger is that rebelling greeting card from Futurama.