The most recent episode of Game of Thrones featured the return of not one but two long-lost characters: Benjen Stark and Edmure Tully. But perhaps the most significant part of the revealing hour, titled “Blood of My Blood,” starred a character we never even thought we’d meet: Daenerys’s father, Aerys II Targaryen, otherwise known as the Mad King.
As Bran is being dragged from the Three-Eyed Raven’s cave, he experiences a flood of visions. We see brief glimpses of important events — such as the Mad King screaming, “Burn them all!” — but it’s impossible to know what’s the past and what could possibly be the future. As established in last week’s episode, Bran’s sense of time is questionable. Does he know what’s the future? Does he know what’s the past? Or are they one and the same?
But here’s what we do know: in Bran’s vision, we see Jaime Lannister plunge his sword into the Mad King’s back during the sack of King’s Landing 20 years ago. Remember, this is how Jaime got his nickname “Kingslayer.”
As he revealed to Brienne of Tarth in Season 3, Jaime killed the Mad King in order to save the people of King’s Landing, after King Aerys threatened to “burn them all” with wildfire. Wildfire is the same dangerous substance that helped Tyrion Lannister ravage Stannis Baratheon’s fleet at the Battle of the Blackwater in Season 2.
Bran’s vision seems to corroborate Jaime’s account — which he never told anyone until Brienne. For that, Jaime’s reputation was tarnished. Back in Season 1, Ned Stark criticized Jaime for stabbing the king in the back, saying, “Is that what you tell yourself at night? You’re a servant of justice? That you were avenging my father when you drove your sword in Aerys Targaryen’s back?”
Of course, what Jaime didn’t tell Brienne is how he sat on the Iron Throne after slaying the Mad King. At that moment, Robert Baratheon became king and his sister Cersei, the future queen of King’s Landing.
There’s also a clear shot of King Aerys’s pyromancers pouring wildfire into vats and placing them in tunnels underneath King’s Landing, which again proves that Jaime did in fact save the capitol from certain doom. So then why does Bran see a massive wildfire explosion? It seems to signify that wildfire will play an integral role in the future. One popular fan theory suggests that Cersei will use wildfire against the High Sparrow and his Faith Militant, thereby putting everyone in King’s Landing in potential danger.
Wildfire could also be a crucial tool against the White Walkers, should they invade King’s Landing. Or it could even be used against Daenerys Targaryen’s incoming army. Make no mistake, the juxtaposition of Mad King Aerys screaming “Burn them all” and Dany’s increasingly violent ways is undoubtedly intentional.
Finally, in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment, Bran sees a vision that could put one of A Song of Ice and Fire’s central mysteries to rest after nearly 20 years. We see a young Ned at the Tower of Joy — a moment the Three-Eyed Raven took Bran to in Episode 3 — followed by a ominous image of bloody hands. Is that a bleeding Lyanna Stark? Is that Ned’s hand? (Vanity Fair has already disproved the theory that it’s Talisa and Robb from The Red Wedding, so your tinfoil theories are still valid.)
After all, we know Lyanna died soon after Ned’s arrival at the Tower of Joy. He supposedly found her in a room that smelled of “blood and roses.” That sure looks like a whole lot of blood. Not to mention, Bran’s prophetic visions of Lyanna at Winterfell seem to be setting up something significant.
So, what was the Three-Eyed Raven really trying to tell Bran when he uploaded all of this information to his young protégé (or younger self)? Perhaps the two most pervasive themes in all of this are ice and fire. We see prolific visions of dragons and White Walkers; wildfire and Winterfell; Targaryens and Starks. Does the fate of the entire world rest in the hands of these two ancient houses? Or perhaps in the hands of the man who shares the blood of the dragon prince and the winter rose?