The thing about giving your show a title like Game of Thrones is that it implies someone is going to win that game. That’s been the main theme of almost everything we’ve seen so far, through many episodes and many contenders, some of whom live on to fight in the final season and many more of whom were killed in just about every way you can think of. (Poison, decapitation, stabbing, magic fire, more poison, more stabbing, head crushed like grape, etc.) The obvious question this raises is who.
Well, I don’t know. It would be weird if I did. I do have ideas, though. Not necessarily “good” ideas, but ideas nonetheless. Below, please find contenders for the Iron Throne, ranked not necessarily by who has the best claim or shot at winning, but more by who I think would be the best ruler or who I really just want to see in charge. Apologies to the honorable mentions, including Lyanna Mormont, Gendry, Podrick, Bran, Brienne, and any number of other characters I could have easily included but didn’t. Life’s not fair. People on this show should know that better than anyone.
10. Tormund and/or Bronn
This is worth it just for the wild set of circumstances it would take for it to happen. I don’t even know how it would work. All of the major characters would need to die or be disgraced in such a powerful way that they find themselves incapable of ruling effectively. I kind of want to see it now, just out of curiosity. Well, curiosity and an undying affection for these two maniacs.
Please do note the “and” in the “and/or” up there, too. Tormund, the flame-haired wild man who wears furs and probably eats raw meat for fun, and Bronn, the mercenary swordsman whose allegiances change based on who is offering the best payday, somehow ruling Westeros together, again, through a set of circumstances so profoundly confusing that I can’t even really wrap my head around it. There’s zero chance Game of Thrones does this. Less than zero, probably. But that’s the fun part of these kinds of preseason rankings. Anything is possible until the show explicitly rules it out.
Like, for example, two beloved side characters somehow defeating the Night King and sharing the Iron Throne to rule all of Westeros. They’ll lead as two kings.
Arya is awesome. Everyone loves Arya. She’s a huge badass and she’s finally reunited with Sansa after years of running around in the woods and learning to become an assassin with the magical power to wear someone else’s face like she’s in the Mission: Impossible movies or something. No one is disputing any of that. Especially not me, a man who is definitely not at least a little afraid that Arya will somehow find out he disrespected her and step out of the television to slit his throat.
She would not be a very good queen, though. She loves killing and revenge too much. There’s a place for that, somewhere, on the show, at least. Maybe Sansa becomes queen and Arya serves as her Hand, just dispatching potential threats one at a time and absolutely loving it to a degree that is unsettling. That’s a possibility. But queen? I don’t think so. She’d be the type of queen people talk about hundreds of years in the future, not in a good way, like the Mad King but smaller and maybe more bloodthirsty.
8. Jon Snow
I’m sorry. I am. I know Jon Snow has as good a claim to the throne as anyone, and maybe even the best claim now that his Targaryen lineage has been revealed. He’s a great swordsman and a nice guy and it would be a real kick in the pants if the show went to all the trouble of bringing him back to life and making him Secret Royalty All Along and then they just killed him off in the final episodes anyway. If any show would do that, it’s Game of Thrones, but it feels like a stretch to assume at this point.
Here’s the problem, though: Jon is such a doofus. The show is absolutely littered with dumb decisions he’s made, often with his heart in the right place, but still. Remember the Battle of the Bastards? Remember how strategically outmatched he was until Sansa showed up with the cavalry to save the day? Remember his ill-fated mission to kidnap a wight that ended with him marooned in a frozen lake while the Night King took down a dragon with the greatest javelin throw in history? Is that the guy you want leading a post-war Westeros out from whatever ravaged hell remains after the battle with the Walkers? He’d probably, like, forget where he put the key to the castle, multiple times, and need to call a locksmith to let him in.
“I locked myself out of my house.”
“Again, Your Grace?”
Everyone would be doomed.
7. Any Clegane, pick one, see what I care
Let my two giant blackhearted boys fight to the death — or whatever exactly you call it when you defeat an undead beast who was brought back to life once before through wizardry — and give the crown to whichever one wins. Will it be terrible for everyone involved? Sure. Are there better candidates to rule Westeros? Yes, at least six, based on the numbering system I’m using in this very list. But would it be a little hilarious if we spent eight seasons watching the political maneuvering and strategy of about five warring factions and then the winner just ended up being the biggest and murderiest dude in the land?
I mean, yeah.
Cersei is a devious alcoholic who lives for vengeance and manipulation. She’s already on the Iron Throne through the deaths of her husband and three children and, just in this brief glimpse of her reign, we can see it’s probably not an ideal situation for anyone but her. She’s cruel and spiteful and scarred by the events in her life — see above, re: deceased children — in a way that has made her even more cruel and spiteful. A situation where she ends up as queen is bittersweet at best because it means the Night King was defeated but Jon and Daenerys are dead or otherwise incapacitated. Her subjects would be miserable except for the one annoying optimist who would always be like “Well, at least we’re not ice zombies, you know?” and then get rotten fruit thrown at him. Ugh, that guy, right?
It would be fun, though, for me, safely in my home. Just Cersei drinking wine from a golden chalice and contemplating how to ruin her enemies all day long. She would fit in great on Billions.
5. Helen Mirren
Just hear me out. I’ll do it in bullet points so it’s easier to digest:
- Game of Thrones is a show about royalty that features many actors with British accents
- Helen Mirren is always in stuff about royalty with British accents
- It is crazy that Helen Mirren has not already been on the show
- Helen Mirren rules
- Helen Mirren just joined the Fast & Furious franchise, which means she has a history of coming into wildly popular epics late in their runs
- She came into the Fast & Furious universe in the eighth movie and this is the eighth season of Game of Thrones, so the math checks out
- Imagine if Helen Mirren pops up in the fourth episode this season and immediately takes charge
- I would like it
- It would be cool
- She would be a good queen
The thing about Tyrion is that he’d probably be the best ruler on this list, especially in the post-war mess that would be left behind by a situation that leaves him in power. He’s smart, he’s experienced, he sees all or most of the angles. He’s like the opposite of Jon Snow. I would have faith in him to rebuild Westeros. He’d build alliances and infrastructure and do all the things a good and benevolent king should. And in the extremely unlikely event that Westeros adopts democracy after all of this, he’d certainly win a debate against any of the other candidates. I should have him even higher on this list. I don’t, though.
Sansa has been through a lot, man. A lot. Too much, I feel comfortable saying. Between Joffrey and Ramsay, she’s been subject to the evil whims of the show’s most despicable characters. She almost just deserves to be queen now, after all of that.
It’s not like she’s some damsel in distress, either. Sansa is tough as hell now, possibly as a result of all those bad things that happened to her. And she’s smart, too. She saved the day at the Battle of the Bastards by aligning herself with Littlefinger and then she and Arya killed off Littlefinger when they sniffed out his scheme. That is shockingly competent for a character on a show whose characters are repeatedly incompetent in disastrous ways. Again, Sansa would be a good queen and Arya could be her Hand. I would like that.
2. The Night King
Ah, screw it. Do it. Do it, Game of Thrones. Let the Night King and his army of undead popsicles and his laser-breathing ice dragon win. Why not? It’s not like any of the other candidates have risen above the heap in any spectacular way. Everyone on this show sucks a little bit or is flawed in a way that kneecaps their ability to rule. And even if they defeat the Night King, the survivors will probably still keep fighting petty battles over who gets to sit on the throne.
You can see that playing out, right? Everyone bands together to beat back the Night King and they celebrate for a week, maybe two, and then the peace is broken when Cersei tries to poison Daenerys and Arya shows up with the face of, like, Podrick to slit her throat. Just a mess. These people have proven themselves largely incapable of ruling. It’s time for a change.
And hey, who knows? Maybe being an ice zombie is great. We don’t know. We’ve never really gotten their perspective on all of this. Let’s at least hear the Night King out. That’s all I’m saying.
When in doubt, go with the fireproof lady who has two dragons and a history of helping the people rise up against the fat cats in City Hall. I have always said this. This exact sentence. Even before Game of Thrones started. Just my personal philosophy.