Who Will Win the Iron Throne? Ranking the Options from Least to Most Satisfying
The eighth and final season of Game of Thrones premieres one week from today, April 14, 2019. There are only six episodes left to determine who will end the series atop the Iron Throne. The cast of thousands has taken quite a few hits and all of the contenders who fought the initial War of Kings are dead, but there remains a long list of persons who would, could, or should be crowned ruler of all Westeros. Hundreds of thousands of words have been written and recorded to discuss who is most likely and nearly as many to discuss who is most worthy. But who would be most satisfying? I can’t answer for everyone, but here’s my list.
Absolute least satisfying would be someone introduced in this final season. Next least satisfying would be someone who returns from the dead (e.g. Littlefinger) or someone who has always been in the periphery but never in the discussion (e.g. Edmund Tully, I love him but no ) because both would simply be a “gotcha!” and the story deserves better.
21. Euron Greyjoy
Of these three Euron has the best claim, but he’s done nothing to endear himself to us and is honestly more a caricature than a character. His ascension would cheapen the story.
To be clear, most of this list is people who don’t belong on the Iron Throne. Their story was never meant to lead there. But Melisandre is the lowest ranked of that group because she burned innocents in a bid to gain power and it didn’t even work! She’s a horrible person and incompetent.
Varys is a player, but he prefers to work in the shadows. It wouldn’t make sense for him to suddenly take the Throne and he wouldn’t command the respect required to rule. I can imagine him surviving, advising whomever does end up in charge, but not as King himself.
18. The Hound
The only way The Hound ends up crowned King of Westeros is by overthrowing everyone else. I’m not saying he couldn’t win some kind of ‘King of the Mountain’ (heh) scenario but why would he bother? He’s never shown any interest in taking the throne. He deserves to retire in peace, or return to service protecting a worthy ruler.
17. Bran Stark
Bran has a different destiny.
16. Samwell Tarly
Sam, too, has a different, higher, purpose in this story. Either Bran or Sam becoming King would be a kind of victory for the little guy, but it is not the story being told.
15. Jaime Lannister
Jaime has been orbiting the Iron Throne his whole life and his whole life has been miserable. And he’s never been a leader, he’s barely able to make up his own mind. Of everyone, Jaime seems destined to die for the cause, to sacrifice himself for the greater good as the end of his redemption arc. He should end a white knight, not an ineffective king.
14. Ser Jorah Mormont
Jorah, too, is a knight, not a king. He is pledged to Daenerys and would definitely die for her. If he somehow survives her, he’d pledge himself to whomever she chose as her successor, or her child, and do everything in his power to put them on the throne.
13. Brienne of Tarth
Here are two more knights. Brienne could potentially be a fair and just ruler, but her calling is to serve. She wants to raise up and protect a good king. I want Brienne to live, and find happiness. Ruling Westeros won’t give her that.
12. Arya Stark
Arya’s story is complicated and messy and needs a good ending, but atop the Iron Throne isn’t it. She made it clear all the way back in season one that she wanted nothing to do with the pomp and circumstance of the kingdom. That hasn’t changed. Hand of the King, like her father, maybe. But not King herself.
11. Davos Seaworth
Davos or Grey Worm ascending to the highest rank in the land would be a true victory for the common people. It would be clever in a silly way for the ‘Onion King’ ephitet to prove prophetic. But it wouldn’t make much sense.
10. Grey Worm
My adorable puppy warrior deserves this, but like Jorah, he’s far more likely to die trying to secure the throne for Daenerys, or for her chosen successor in the case of her death. But of the people who really have no chance or right to rule, his crowning would be the most narratively satisfying.
9. The Night King
To be honest, I don’t think this series is really as dark as its reputation. Brutal, yes, but someone is going to win their series long struggle, that has to be the point of all this. The Night King succeeding would be a novel choice for a day, but ultimately dissatisfying.
8. Cersei Lannister
Cersei’s a better choice if a villain is going to win. She’s fought for it, lost everything else that matters to her. It would be satisfying in a ‘f*ck the haters’ kind of way but she’s reminiscent of both Mad King Aerys and Bad King Robert so it would be narratively upsetting for her to retain the crown. And Cersei’s story doesn’t require it; she is Queen, first of her name, and it will be so in Westeros history, forever.
7. Tyrion Lannister
We would need new exposition or intricate thread-tying to explain how either of these men have a clear claim to the Throne. But they’ve both been around from day one and their story has to be going somewhere.
Tyrion could be another secret Targaryen, the son of Aerys. And of everybody, he’s proven his ability to look at both the big picture and the details. It is far more likely for him to end up Hand of the King-or-Queen, but he does have a knack for getting people to work together, and on his side.
6. Theon Greyjoy
I seriously doubt Theon will end up on the Iron Throne. He’s done too much wrong to be thus rewarded. But if they wanted a dark horse candidate to spoil, Theon has always been there, just outside the spotlight, and he’s certainly on a journey to reclaim his soul and power. It would be an interesting choice.
Yara is the Greyjoy I most want to succeed but she hasn’t been seen in any promotional materials for season eight.
5. Gendry Baratheon
These two are the most boring of the satisfying endings. This story has been told. Gendry’s ascension would make the Stag in the credits and logo relevant again, but it would end the series exactly as it began, especially if he asks Arya to be his Hand and/or Queen. Gendry would almost certainly be a better king than Robert was, but it would be a victory for the status quo.
(Did Gendry not get a promo photo on the throne because we’re all overestimating his importance or to hide the fact that he sits on it?)
4. Jon Snow
As the legitimate son of Rhaegar Targaryen, Jon has the best claim to the Throne of the known contenders. He’s proven to be a compassionate leader. He’s the answer to the riddle of the song of ice and fire. His success makes narrative sense. There’s nothing particularly exciting about this ending.
3. Daenerys Targaryen
Like Jon, Daenerys’s story has been pointed toward the Throne all along. She began the series on this path and she has walked through fire to get here, amassing a kingdom full of loyal supporters and warriors as she goes. Daenerys has worked for this. It would be a satisfying ending to the story as told, and less boring than the boys. But it would not surprise anyone, or “break the wheel”.
2. Sansa Stark
Like Tyrion and Theon, Sansa’s rise would require some extra steps – a coup from the North or maybe Jon names her as his heir? – but textually Sansa has been in the mix from the beginning. She was introduced as the girl who will be Queen. But unlike Daenerys, her reign would be unexpected – she was meant to marry a King, not dethrone one. If Jon and Daenerys fall, Sansa will be well positioned to gather the support of their followers, especially if Tyrion, with whom she has a good and respectful relationship, is on her side. Sansa moving across the board from pawn to queen would be incredibly satisfying.
Born a slave, Missandei was even more of a pawn than Sansa. And this would be the least boring of the surprise endings. If Daenerys dies, before an heir can be born, Missndei is her best choice for successor. Daenerys trusts Tyrion, Jorah, Grey Worm, but they have roles they shouldn’t vacate for the throne. Missandei ruled Mereen in the Queen’s absence, and was smarter than Tyrion about it. And of all of Daenerys’s supporters, Missandei is the one who best understands her philosophy, her purpose and goals — because she’s a woman, a slave, a pawn. Missandei would be the Queen Daenerys wants to be and usher in a whole new era with no Targaryens, Baratheons, Starks or Lannisters. Missandei doesn’t even have a family name! She would break the wheel simply by existing as Queen and it would be beautiful.
0. No One
Not ‘No One’ in the creepy Arya subplot way, No One in the Parliamentary, Republic, Democracy kind of way. Melt the throne down with dragon fire and get rid of the office of the King entirely. Just put the Small Council in charge: Varys, Tyrion, Davos, Jon, Sansa, Brienne, Missandei, Jorah, Grey Worm, plenty of this list work well as councilors. Many of this list want to serve more than rule. Maybe the best answer is to let them.