The following contains spoilers for Game of Thrones Season 8.
“You’ve had a strange journey,” Tyrion Lannister tells young Bran Stark on the eve before the final battle between the forces of life and the forces of death.
“Stranger than most,” Bran concedes.
Yes, Bran Stark has had a stranger journey than most on Game of Thrones, and that’s surprising given that this story also features a man who has come back from the dead no fewer than six times. Bran Stark began as Ned and Catelyn Stark’s second youngest son – a young, precocious boy who had no greater ambition than to be a night. Then he was violently defenestrated for the crime of witnessing some brotherly-sisterly love. The path that Bran took since that moment took him North of the Wall and gave him the job of the Three-Eyed Raven.
The “job” of Three-Eyed Raven and what it entails has always been somewhat unclear. In Game of Thrones Season 8, Episode 2 “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms,” Bran finally reveals what the Three-Eyed Raven does.
As Jon, Daenerys, and Sansa gather the complete forces of Winterfell to plot their next move against The Night King, Bran takes the metaphorical mic to finally drop some knowledge about The Night King’s modus operandi and where the Three-Eyed Raven fits in.
“He’ll come for me,” Bran says of the Night King. “He’s tried many times before with many Three-Eyed Ravens.”
“Why? What does he want?” Samwell Tarly asks.
“An endless night. He wants to erase this world. And I am its memory,” Bran says.
And just like that – in two simple sentences – Bran Stark a.k.a. reveals answers to a pair of the biggest mysteries on Game of Thrones. Those of you who held out hope that The Night King was a weirdly benevolent force just trying to teach mankind some kind of lesson were gravely mistaken. The Night King is truly The Great Other of Eastern prophecy. He wants death. Not just death but an end to all things. This world was a miserable mistake, and The Night King should know that given that he was only created by the Children of the Forest to continue a fruitless cycle of revenge. Now he wants to put an end to it…an end to all of it.
In doing so, it’s not merely enough to kill every living thing – he needs to kill the record and memory of every living thing. That’s where the Three-Eyed Raven comes in. As Bran (well, really the Three-Eyed Raven) reveals, the role of the Three-Eyed Raven is to be the world’s living, breathing memory. There have been many Three-Eyed Ravens and we’ve seen Bran and his predecessor (who was played by Max von Sydow and is generally believed to have been Targaryen bastard Brynden “Bloodraven” Rivers in his pre-Raven life) use their unique skill of “Greensight” to witness past events.
Greensight generally entails using the earth itself to travel through space and time and witness events as they happen and even events in the past. We’ve known since Season 6 that Bran in his role as the Raven possesses this skill, it just seemed as though this skill would be used in service of a higher purpose. In reality, however, the skill of Greensight simply is the job. Being around to watch events is the point of the Three-Eyed Raven. There’s been a lot of history on the continent of Westeros and the magical energies within it have deemed it necessary that there be a lineage of men able to witness and catalogue that history.
Brandon Stark a.k.a. The Three-Eyed Raven is simply a living, breathing history book. That’s why Bran has gone from energetic little boy to an emotionless, seemingly omniscient being. He’s just there to watch. And that’s why The Night King has decided that he has to go. When The Night King is through with Westeros, no one can be left standing to bear witness to the fact that civilization ever existed…least of all the being whose job it is to prove exactly that.