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On ‘Game of Thrones,’ we’re only one death away from total societal collapse

All is fair in the Game of Thrones, but the Baratheons are quickly running out of heirs.

Excluding the White Walker threat*, the main source of strife in Game of Thrones is the fight for the Iron Throne. Or to be free from the rule of the Iron Throne. Nobles and smallfolk alike have perished in droves to see their side come out on top. For now, King Tommen Baratheon rules, but all signs point to him not making it out alive. Which would throw a massive wrench into everything.

*For all we know, maybe the Night King wants the Iron Throne too.

To explain why Tommen”s demise would be a crushing blow to the stability of the Seven Kingdoms, first we need a very brief recent history lesson. Less than two decades ago, Westeros was still ruled by the Targaryens. It wasn”t until the Mad King went well and truly around the bend – killing Ned Stark”s brother and father – that it all fell apart. Prince Rhaegar Targaryen got mixed up with Lyanna Stark, and it was the spark that ignited a war. Robert Baratheon became the figurehead of a rebellion and, once the Targaryens were vanquished, became King Robert I based on his own paternal grandmother having been a Targaryen princess.

When Robert took the throne, the Baratheon family was on solid footing. Cersei appeared to give her husband two healthy sons, Stannis had a daughter and therefore was capable of having more children, and Renly was young with a future household of sons ahead of him. By the end of A Dance with Dragons, only young Tommen remained. As Robert, Stannis, and Renly”s father was an only child, no great-nephews are waiting in the wings of succession. In the books, Tommen is too young to father a child; on the show, they”ve gone out of their way to say Margaery has been shirking her wifely duties. So no Baratheon heir is gestating either.

The Baratheon hold on the Iron Throne is both young and tenuous. As with most medieval monarchies, succession passes down to sons only. If Tommen dies, both of Robert”s “sons” are gone. With no blood ties to the king, it is highly unlikely Cersei or Margaery could hold the throne. Margaery would have a better chance, simply by the grace of being better liked by the smallfolk and having her father”s army and supply lines supporting her. But there”s no possibility that would happen, if only because Tommen”s death would set off a free-for-all scramble for the throne by every House in the Seven Kingdoms. The exact kind of instability both Daenerys and the Night King need if they”re to grab a foothold.

Who would be next in line for the Iron Throne in the case of the King”s untimely demise? There are several candidates.

WARNING: SPOILERS AND SPECULATION BEYOND THIS POINT.

#1: Edric Storm/Gendry
I”m lumping these two together, as that is also what the show has done. Both Edric and Gendry are the bastard offspring of Robert Baratheon. In the books, it is Edric Storm who is at Dragonstone with Stannis and Melisandre, and it is Edric that is spirited away in the night to keep him safe from the red priestess” machinations. The child of Robert and a noblewoman named Delena Florent, he”s an excellent prospect for king as far as bloodlines go. Even Stannis said, “He knows he is a king”s son, but chooses to forget that he is bastard-born.” Edric is also young enough to tempt any that would wish to make the next king a catspaw through which to rule. While not born to a noble mother, perhaps loyalists to the Baratheon cause would accept Gendry in lieu of a return to Targaryen rule.

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