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(Game of Thrones, S07E03–E04)

When Meera leaves Bran at Winterfell and is unsatisfied with his lack of gratitude for all of her help (which you would be after all they went through), she concludes that 'Bran' died in the cave, leaving only the Three-Eyed Raven.

Bran tells Meera that he remembers being 'Bran' but remembers "so much else now", without even trying to express any more thanks, consolation or sorrow for her/their losses along the way. What's more he now constantly talks in a slow and monotonous tone, appearing devoid of any emotion.

He clearly does still possess all of Bran's memories when conversing with Sansa and Arya in the Weirwood and can express reason as he gives the dagger to Arya claiming "it is wasted on a cripple".

He does, however, in S07E03, express sorrow at what has happened to Sansa and that "it happened at home".

So now that he has assumed the identity of the Three-Eyed Raven and the associated memories, is he losing the capability of expressing or feeling emotion to the point where it will disappear completely?

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    Book answer so I'll leave it in the comments. wargs leave part of their selves in the animal and so when the animal dies part of the warg dies as well. So the death of summer resulted in Bran losing his emotions as he spent a lot of time in Summer which Jojen warned him about. Book answer in so far as the books might relate to the show not that this has happened in the show – SCFi Aug 9 '17 at 15:51
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    @SCFi Big fan of your comment here (very enlightening), and perhaps supported, implicitly, by actor Isaac Hempstead-Wright in an interview in which he says: "He's now the sworn enemy of the Night King, which is slightly frightening, and he's lost Hodor, he's lost his direwolf — he's very much on his own." I actually believe your comment to be one of the main factors for Bran's loss of personality, you are onto something and it deserves its own fleshed out answer, in my opinion. – Ghoti and Chips Aug 9 '17 at 15:59
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    @GhotiandChips at work at the moment but I will see if I can find and source things proper later on but I encourage if anyone can beat me to the punch please do. also don't tell my boss – SCFi Aug 9 '17 at 16:06
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    I think this is a somewhat common sci-fi/fantasy trope. The God Emperor in Dune, Dr Manhattan, … It's not that he is incapable of emotion, it's that he has much more important things on his mind (like, literally everything that has ever happened, is happening, and will ever happen) that the death of one man, the reunion with one girl, is completely and utterly irrelevant. – Jörg W Mittag Aug 9 '17 at 21:21
  • I do not think he is incapable of emotion, but rather wiser & has transcended above it, especially about smaller concerns. He is keyed into space/ time and wishes to talk to and guide John Snow (so far) in moving forward about the BIG concerns. – Alex S Aug 10 '17 at 7:07
50

From the mouth of the actor in charge of playing the current Three-Eyed Raven, Isaac Hempstead-Wright:

"He's got this wealth of important information that really needs to get to the right people. And so by the start of season seven, Bran is in many ways a very different character," Hempstead Wright said. "He's the Three-Eyed Raven — he's not Bran Stark, which means he's really just a vehicle for the greater world's fate. That is what Bran's destiny is and what he's doing in season seven."
— Isaac Hempstead-Wright, INSIDER

and

"Bran is existing in thousands of planes of existence at any one time. So it’s quite difficult for Bran to have any kind of semblance of personality anymore because he’s really like a giant computer."
— Isaac Hempstead-Wright, Entertainment Weekly

Essentially: being in all places at once, throughout time (past, present and potential future) has been a gift and a curse for Bran, as he is no longer the Bran Stark we knew before, even though he says himself that he remembers what it was like to be Bran Stark, a boy from Winterfell, scattering your mind to bear witness to every event ever in the world, as well as being given the burden of the responsibility of seeing the world through the peril of the Night King, seems to have this extreme and literal greater-goal effect on his character. He repeatedly confirms what the actor has also clarified: he is no longer Bran Stark.

His apparent apathy and emotionlessness are a consequence of not having the same perspective that normal people have. We see Meera saying, "My brother died for you", having no effect on Bran because he has watched hundreds of thousands of deaths and births and horrific events, he has a completely shifted perspective, almost god-like, on the relatively smaller events or interactions, due to his omniscience.


Since I first wrote this answer, an official HBO interview with actor Isaac Hempstead-Wright, over at the official behind the scenes blog, Making Game of Thrones, has come out, further confirming what has been said, as well as adding some more insight:

HBO: Do you agree with Meera’s assessment that Bran died in the cave back in Season 6?

Isaac Hempstead Wright: It’s quite a bold thing for Meera to have said. Sadly, I think in many ways she was right. It’s just this whole idea that Bran has become a much smaller part of the character’s brain, when before 100 percent of his head was taken up with being Bran Stark. Now, that’s just one tiny file in a huge system. But certainly, he’s almost completely a different character. He acts utterly differently, and really any semblance of personality he used to have has gone.

HBO: Is there anything left of the old Bran?

Isaac Hempstead Wright: In Episode 4 [“The Spoils of War”] he says, “I remember what it felt like to be Brandon Stark, but I remember so much else now,” which sums up exactly the situation Bran is in. There is a flicker of Bran left in him, but really, can you imagine putting the entire history of the universe, every single moment, every single second that ever existed in one person’s brain? You’d think it would just short circuit. Bran just becomes this calm, zen character. He’s really like a human supercomputer.

HBO: How challenging was it to essentially take on that new character while still maintaining the fact that you are in some small way Bran?

Isaac Hempstead Wright: It was definitely difficult to get it right. I had a meeting with [series creators] David [Benioff] and Dan [Weiss], and they wanted him to be quite monotone and agenda-less, but at the same time have a slight flair, so it wasn’t just like listening to a robot talk. There had to be a sense of mystery and wisdom to him. He was sort of inspired by Dr. Manhattan in The Watchmen series — being in all these places at once, in all these time zones at once. I tried to base it on the old Three-Eyed Raven [played by Max von Sydow in Season 6] and have a sense of this wise, old, man sitting in a tree. At the same time, still have that slight spark somewhere in there where you know this is Bran Stark. It was a fine balance.

—"Isaac Hempstead Wright on the 'Fine Balance' of Playing Bran", Making of Game of Thrones

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    His apathy and emotionlessness might not be only because of the perspective change. Distraction has got to be a component as well. Imagine when you are making supper, checking email, dealing with the kids, watching TV and having a conversation. You aren't going to be very present for the conversation. Maybe you won't give the proper emotional response to bad news. Just "Uh-huh. Uh-huh." Bran is 'doing' all those things from everyone, all the time. – Shane Aug 9 '17 at 17:42
  • @Shane The distraction is a subset of perspective shift, though. – Ghoti and Chips Aug 9 '17 at 18:37
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    Ah. I'm thinking the 'perspective shift' is along the lines of "there are so many important things going on, I can't care about your dead brother anymore." Whereas the 'distraction' is more like 'oh, I'm sorry, did you say something?' I think the perspective shift plays the bigger role, but sometimes it looks like he just isn't there at all. – Shane Aug 9 '17 at 18:59
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    The character is very reminiscent of Dr Manhattan from the Watchmen novel. – henrycjc Aug 10 '17 at 0:32
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I think, first of all, that kind of broad, over-arching knowledge of everything is distinctly not a human experience (think of Dr Manhattan in the Watchmen). The previous three-eyed raven became detached enough from normal human feelings and emotions that he sat there and allowed tree roots to grow through him over the decades/centuries. To be the three-eyed raven is to sacrifice your humanity and enter a different plane of existence, clearly.

But, on the other hand, I'd think you'd have to lose touch with your human emotions, and empathy. You're able to see and experience everything that has ever happened to everyone. Which means Bran can see and experience his father's final moments of fear, despair, his actual death getting his head chopped off. He'd feel his own grief and despair seeing his father betrayed, he'd see and experience Arya's and Sansa's grief, despair and loss in that moment, and other awful moments ("How is Sansa doing? Oh, looks like she got married, awesome...." then he gets to experience and see her being raped and tortured by her husband).

If he doesn't develop a powerful detachment from his former feelings and empathy, the Three-Eyed Raven would experience, first-hand, all the tragedy and loss to fill thousands of lifetimes, on a constant basis. It would drive a normal human mad or to suicide, very quickly.

I suspect that part of his "training" is not only learning to control the ability to see the visions, but learning how to deal with what he sees, as well. When he gives into his natural human inclinations and tries to go back and see what he was deemed not ready to see yet, he encounters the Night King, gets touched, and the dead are unleashed upon the sanctuary he was in. Behaving like a normal human has disastrous consequences, and he was being trained not to behave that way.

None of this is canon, just my own speculation on why he has to become detached as he more fully develops into this other, non-human being.

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    @LeonX - I avoided that term only because of his limited mastery, at this point. Fits for Dr. Manhattan, for sure. – PoloHoleSet Aug 9 '17 at 15:06
  • Oh, ok. Although that is what he is reaching for. :P – LeonX Aug 9 '17 at 15:13
  • @LeonX Polo is correct. Bran's lack of omniscience is actually addressed by the creators specifically: showrunner David Benioff says. “Now Bran the Broken is broken in more ways than one. He’s got serious challenges dealing with all the stuff happening in his mind and that prevents him becoming this omniscient character.” – Ghoti and Chips Aug 9 '17 at 15:56
  • and as Hempstead-Wright puts it: “Bran really at this stage is not the Three-Eyed Raven. He’s got the title but hasn’t had thousands of years of sitting in a cave looking through time. Somebody put in front of him a massive encyclopedia of all of time and he’s only opened page one. He can look stuff up but doesn’t have this all-knowing all-seeing capability just yet.” – Ghoti and Chips Aug 9 '17 at 15:56
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    @PoloHoleSet Yeah, it was actually one of my favourite scenes (seeing Bran and Sansa reunite). I think it's a very cool portrayal of the character, much to the chagrin of people in my friend circle. – Ghoti and Chips Aug 9 '17 at 16:21
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Alright to elaborate on my comment

In short wargs leave part of their selves in the animal and so when the animal dies part of the warg dies as well. So the death of summer resulted in Bran losing his emotions as he spent a lot of time in Summer which Jojen warned him about

From Westeros

Once an animal has been joined to a man, any skinchanger can slip inside and ride him. The joining works both ways, however, for a dead skinchanger's animal carries a part of him and the new master of the beast will find the dead man's voice whispering to him (III: 835)

-

When the beast is warged the skingchanger/warg/greenseer can sense where the animal is

As such we see that Wargs/Skin Changers/Greenseer leave part of their selves in their animal. As such when that animal dies we can assume that that piece dies and as the entire Greenseeing thing is very pagan/Celtic it fits that the greenseer put their souls in objects.

It also appears to work in reverse with Rickon acting more like his wolf in the books

A large list of skin changing/warging references in the books Westeros: http://www.westeros.org/Citadel/Concordance/Section/14.1.2./ Additional: http://awoiaf.westeros.org/index.php/Skinchanger BONUS

Also From Westeros

As a powerful skinchanger dies, his ability expands to encompass all animals in his vicinity (V: 14)

Just including this because I did not know it and am wondering if it could happen in the show.

2

According to an interview of Isaac Hempstead Wright (actor who plays Bran Stark / Three Eyed-Raven) in makinggameofthrones.com:

HBO: Is there anything left of the old Bran?

Isaac Hempstead Wright: In Episode 4 [“The Spoils of War”] he says, “I remember what it felt like to be Brandon Stark, but I remember so much else now,” which sums up exactly the situation Bran is in. There is a flicker of Bran left in him, but really, can you imagine putting the entire history of the universe, every single moment, every single second that ever existed in one person’s brain? You’d think it would just short circuit. Bran just becomes this calm, zen character. He’s really like a human supercomputer.

HBO: How challenging was it to essentially take on that new character while still maintaining the fact that you are in some small way Bran?

Isaac Hempstead Wright: It was definitely difficult to get it right. I had a meeting with [series creators] David [Benioff] and Dan [Weiss], and they wanted him to be quite monotone and agenda-less, but at the same time have a slight flair, so it wasn’t just like listening to a robot talk. There had to be a sense of mystery and wisdom to him. He was sort of inspired by Dr. Manhattan in The Watchmen series — being in all these places at once, in all these time zones at once. I tried to base it on the old Three-Eyed Raven [played by Max von Sydow in Season 6] and have a sense of this wise, old, man sitting in a tree. At the same time, still have that slight spark somewhere in there where you know this is Bran Stark. It was a fine balance.

To summarize, old Bran is still in there and still has emotion, but he is now a very small part of the mind of the Three-Eyed Raven.

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