The series finale of Game of Thrones, “The Iron Throne,” was a great destination in search of a clear path. Overall, I enjoyed it, though. One big thing that stood out to me among Drogon understanding Hemmingway-level symbolism and the entire internet thinking a CG dragon behind a lady was the greatest camera shot in TV history was the treatment of Bran.
Brandon Stark (Bran) is the fourth child of Ned and Catelyn Stark, important figures of The North of Westeros who kickstart many of the events of A Song of Ice and Fire. Bran witnessed the noble Cersei and Jaime Lannister having sex from a tower window, which would simply be awkward if it weren’t for the fact that the two lovers were also siblings. To protect their secret, Jaime pushed Bran out the tower window, presumably to his death.
Instead, Bran eventually comes out of a coma paralyzed from the waist down. Bran spends the rest of the series in various transportation devices — a wagon, a strong dude (Hodor), and eventually a wheelchair. About halfway through the series, Bran becomes the Three-Eyed Raven, a sort of time-traveling consciousness inhabiting a human form.
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In the finale, after two maybe-a-little-bit-rushed wars that settled the future of mankind, a council decided it would be Bran, a man who freely admits he has no desire to be king and seems to not have emotions at all anymore, who would rule the six kingdoms of Westeros. Bran is, whatever. He’s not good, he’s not evil, he’s just Bran. He’s the living embodiment of every Westerosi to ever live and will ever live. I’m not here to ask if it’s a good idea to hand the continent to a man who only traverses a destined path rather than a chose one. I’m not even here to ask if Bran is engaged enough with another human being to serve other human beings. I’m only here to ask one question:
When did Game of Thrones establish that Bran can’t fuck?
During the council meeting, Tyrion, the smartest man in the room until he super isn’t, suggests Bran for the role. Sansa, Bran’s sister, says “he doesn’t even want to be king and he can’t bear children.” Tyrion sees this as a blessing — as a way to “break the wheel” of inherited rule that kept Westeros spinning into oblivion. The council will choose a ruler and right now, that ruler is Bran.
The show never really spends any time with Bran as a sexual being, and that’s fine. There are a million reasons that Bran might not be interested in sex. What this characterization did, however, is cause a shockwave of “have to get in there and meme” internet folks cracking wise about Bran’s situation. It also continued a dangerous and bummer of a trope in media (and real life lol) of characterizing the disabled as inherently non-sexual.
It’s an aside, a footnote, a given, that Bran’s injury prevents him from having children. In a world where a living natural consciousness possessing a boy rules the land, in a world where a mysterious fire god shows his existence via miracles ranging from shadow murder to conjuration to resurrection, in a world where dragons are born and a woman can bathe in flame to show her ancestral bloodline on her skin — in this world — the cripple can’t fuck.
I don’t see a lot of myself in Bran, the unfeeling victim of some of the earliest, ugliest violence of the series. I see myself a little, though. A disabled man in a wheelchair, surrounded by people who either pay too much attention to him or not enough. Hunted or ignored. No in-between. Sex is seen as a curiosity or a non-factor for Bran.
Don’t forget, above all, he is broken
The sex stuff isn’t everything that’s wrong with the scene and treatment of Bran in the episode, but part of it. It’s funny in a way to just have it agreed upon sight-unseen that Bran doesn’t fuck. It’s so matter-of-fact and easy that I absolutely laughed and still chuckle about it to friends and colleagues.
It is something, though, that above everything else — above his kinghood or endless power or crypticness is the moniker “Bran the Broken.” It’s a name no one I can remember made reference to earlier in the show. I’m not sure it’s even said with a wink. I don’t remember Tyrion laughing to Bran about the name or discussing the irony of a disabled man being the most important figure on the planet despite all the warlords and dragons and fire priestesses running around. Despite Bran’s steely exterior I admit a fondness for how important a disabled child-then-adult was in the series. I was bummed to see it undercut in the finale.
All of Bran’s friends from the journey were gone by the time the finale stumbled along and maybe that’s what I should have carried into the episode. None of those remaining Westerosi figures understand the journey Bran took or the language he shared with his companions and eventual friends. No one saw the respect that grew between Bran and his companions that transcended the pity and resentment that looked so familiar to my eyes. Because Bran was denigrated as he was elevated to king, he wears a recognizable sigil of the disabled. No matter your stature or place in this world — in any world — never forget your weakness. Never forget that’s how everyone sees you. To be talked about in third person while in the room, allowing others to name you.
So to these remaining Westerosi — and to much of the audience — Bran, despite all he was, is, and will be, is Broken. And he doesn’t fuck. He definitely doesn’t fuck.