As Game of Thrones approaches its epic conclusion, Sunday’s series finale promises to reveal who will sit on the Iron Throne once and for all (or at least for a while). While several major contenders have been taken off the board in recent weeks — so long, Cersei! R.I.P., Night King! — it’s still anyone’s game. Here’s our rundown of the major characters who have survived this far and why each one could, and maybe even should, rule the Seven Kingdoms.
She’s already the Night Kingslayer, and now it looks as though Arya could become the Dragon Queenslayer too. I can’t imagine a more badass résumé. Plus, then Gendry can be her lady… er, lord. —Derek Lawrence
Being all-knowing and the world’s memory seem like two pretty good traits for the Lord of the Seven Kingdoms. And Bran also doesn’t really do anything or like to do anything, so you won’t have to worry about the drama from any extracurricular activities like with past leaders. No dozens of bastard children or sleeping with your sibling here! —D.L.
Brienne of Tarth
On a show filled with conniving politicians and self-serving social climbers, Brienne has been Game of Thrones’ moral constant. The newly minted Ser is fiercely loyal to her friends and deadly to her enemies, and she adheres to old-fashioned values of chivalry and honor while also supporting progressive values. (Women can be knights too!) And she knows how to keep a promise: She kept her oath to Catelyn Stark to protect her daughters, long after Catelyn’s death. That’s the kind of reliability Westeros needs. —Devan Coggan
Bronn is a man who understands how the world really works. In season 8’s fourth episode, he insightfully reminded the Lannister brothers that every great house began with a “hard bastard who was good at killing people.” And Bronn is really good at killing people. So why stop at Highgarden? Let the guy take the Iron Throne! —Chancellor Agard
Granted, the whole Mad Queen thing is not a great look for Dany, who’s really been embracing the Targaryen house words — “Fire and blood” — lately. But she’s also the woman who fought to liberate Slaver’s Bay and put her conquest of the Seven Kingdoms on hold to stop the Night King and his army of the dead. Maybe with her enemies vanquished, the right advisors, and some anger-management classes, she could be an effective (or at least less burny) peacetime ruler. —Oliver Gettell
Possibly the last decent man in Westeros, Davos is a truly self-made hero. Once a common criminal, he ascended to knighthood after bravely smuggling a much-needed load of onions to Stannis Baratheon’s starving garrison during the siege of Storm’s End. The honor of nobility came with a price, however: Though grateful for the food, Stannis still cut Davos’ fingers off to pay for the crimes he’d committed as a smuggler. Davos knows the price of power, and between Stannis and Jon Snow, he’s already advised multiple potential kings. Why not just cut out the middle guy and put a true man of the people on the Iron Throne? —Christian Holub
From humble (and dangerous) beginnings as the bastard son of King Robert Baratheon and a tavern wench in Flea Bottom, Gendry has grown into a brave and goodhearted young man; a skilled craftsman; and a fierce warrior. Though he’s never been interested in power or titles, he has more than earned his place as the recently legitimized Gendry Baratheon, Lord of Storm’s End, and could bring a welcome new perspective to governance in Westeros. And if you’re into the mystical stuff, Melisandre once said of him, “There’s power in the blood of kings — and you have so much blood.” —O.G.
Chosen by his fellow Unsullied as their commander, Torgo Nudho is a natural leader who knows the horrors of war better than anyone. Despite being trained since birth to be a killing machine, he found love with Missandei and looked forward to the end of the Last War, when he could bring her back to her homeland and protect the peaceful people of Naath. With that dream spoiled by Missandei’s tragic death, perhaps Grey Worm can find another way to help the downtrodden all across Westeros. —O.G.
Jon Snow is the most obvious candidate for the Iron Throne… even though he spent the most crucial moment of the Battle of Winterfell screaming at a zombie dragon while his sister did the heavy lifting. From a PR standpoint, he’s brave, just, kind, and merciful. He delegates, he follows his heart, he has a good head on his shoulders, and he’s able to bring people together from across the aisle (the aisle being the Wall, and the people being the Northerners and Free Folk). In terms of credentials, he has the most legitimate claim to the Iron Throne as Aegon Targaryen, the secret son of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen — and this is, after all, A Song of Ice and Fire.
In terms of emotional impact, Jon claiming the Iron Throne would mean GoT as a whole would begin and end with Eddard Stark, in spirit at least. As Sean Bean once told EW, Ned “was the first good man” on the show. “His sons and daughters have taken those values for themselves, and it’s a much richer show because of that — because of him.” Jon always kept Ned alive for the rest of us. He carries his uncle’s heart with him even now: When his queen burned down King’s Landing, Jon ignored his pledge of loyalty and instead tried to help. Should he end up on the throne, it will mean Ned’s legacy endures. —Nick Romano
Oh, sweet, sweet Pod. Mr. Payne’s journey from clumsy squire to capable warrior shows that he’s a survivor, and he’s more than happy to adapt to any situation. (After all, he’s improbably lived through some of Westeros’ biggest battles and conflicts.) He’s learned justice from Brienne and cleverness from Tyrion, two qualities any ruler would do well to have. Plus, he has a beautiful singing voice! And the ladies love him! He’s the definition of BDE! Long live King Pod. —D.C.
Everyone loves to discount Sam, and it’s easy to see why. Jon Snow’s best friend is the exact opposite of the brooding, sword-wielding warrior. Sam was introduced as a blubbering coward so wretched that even his father wanted to kill him. But look how far he’s come! He was the one who masterminded Jon’s ascension to Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, and as he reminded Dolorous Edd, Sam was also the first man to kill a White Walker. And even though it still boggles the mind that he survived the Battle of Winterfell, maybe we shouldn’t question it. Whatever magic helped this loyal nerd take down White Walkers might also turn him into a capable ruler! —C.H.
Resource management will be essential for the future Westeros. The Seven Kingdoms became a debtor state after the boozehound tomfoolery of Good King Robert. Then years of bloody-burnt turmoil devastated the land’s infrastructure. The time has come for sober, somber governance. Enter Sansa Stark, an up-close observer of multiple miserable courts across her ruined country. An aristocrat by birth, the eldest living true-born Stark has become an able administrator in Winterfell, valued highly for her human touch (remember when she gently suggested the Northmen might need a break after fighting an undead army?). She’s a savvy and caring politician, with zero illusions about the evil powerful people can create. Give her the Iron Throne; she’ll sell it for scrap metal. —Darren Franich
Southerners have been monopolizing the Iron Throne for centuries, and look how that’s turned out. It’s time for a wildling to give it a try. After growing up north of the Wall, Tormund has his ears tuned to the plights of the people. Do you think he gives a damn about your silly King’s Landing squabbles? Nah, Tormund is worried about the real issues: where his people are going to get their next meal and how they’re going to survive the winter. He also doesn’t care for stodgy old traditions and etiquette. You just know that on the day of his coronation, he would get drunk on giant’s milk and attempt to wrestle a bear or something. He may not be the most stable ruler, but he’d certainly be the most entertaining. —D.C.
There’s a whole video that already made this case, but allow us to reiterate some of it, if you will. First of all, let’s not forget that Tyrion is pretty much the only person left in Westeros with experience running the Seven Kingdoms. And he was good at it, too! True, his personal loyalties haven’t steered him well lately, but his political and strategic gifts are unimpeachable. Also, Tyrion has spent too much time around absolute power by now to let it corrupt him absolutely. He’d probably end up more of a prime minister than a king, which can only be good for Westeros, right?
And the cherry on top: This season has suggested more than once that he and Sansa might have a bit of a thing for each other? As kinda weird as that is, the two of them together would be a power couple for the ages. They’re the only people who seem to think ahead on this show! —Tyler Aquilina
Great leaders have great ideas. And probably no one in season 8 has had a better idea than when Yara decided to head back to the Iron Islands to chill and stay out of all this madness. Also, considering the destruction of King’s Landing, the realm might need a new waterfront home! —D.L.
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