As we near the finish line for the Game of Thrones series — and hopefully George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire book series — the question of who will ultimately sit on the Iron Throne is becoming a much more pressing question.
The two most obvious candidates are Daenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow, the latter of which we now know is a Targaryen. But it’s also very possible that the way we’re expecting the war for Westeros to play out is entirely wrong. The patterns seen in the series seem to suggest two possible outcomes, one more obvious than the other.
One thing Game of Thrones viewers will note over the course of the series is that women have begun to seize power from men despite the obvious issues showrunners David Benioff and D. B. Weiss have encountered in their portrayals of women. Not only has Daenerys quietly become the most powerful single person in the world of Game of Thrones, but Cersei now sits on the Iron Throne while other women also wield immense influence despite not necessarily showing it externally.
This gender power shift is no doubt purposeful and you can also look to the Valyrian phrase “Valar Morghulis” — translated as “All men must die” — as a double entendre. Originally perceived as a gender neutral saying to say that everyone ultimately dies, it now also signals the shift of power from men to women.
So one way to look at the possible outcome of the series is that, given the shift of power from men to women, it’ll be women who ultimately come out on top. Since Cersei seems like the candidate to have a short-lived hold atop the Iron Throne, it would then appear to be a safe bet that Daenerys will eventually rule. But nothing in Martin’s series has ever been clean-cut and predictable so doesn’t it seem strange that Daenerys will rule the Iron Throne?
Daenerys on the Iron Throne seems like the most obvious conclusion that any conventional story would finish with — it simply seems too easy and neat. That’s why it makes way more sense that the struggle for the Iron Throne is a smoke screen and when all is said and done no one will rule — and everyone.
The Guardian lays out a fascinating and detailed theory of why Game of Thrones is not pushing towards a new ruler for Westeros, but towards the end of feudalism and a shift towards democracy. “But there is also more clearly systemic doom hanging over the economy of Westeros,” the Guardian’s Paul Mason explains, noting that Tywin’s revelation in the fourth season that their mines have not produced gold in three years is a smoking gun.
“Debts accumulated under a corrupt patronage system, whose sources of wealth dried up, [and] destroyed the system in the end,” says Mason of feudalism. Going even deeper into the feudalism angle, he says:
If you apply historical materialism to Westeros, the plot of season five and six becomes possible to predict. What happened with feudalism, when kings found themselves in hock to bankers, is that — at first — they tried to sort it out with naked power. The real-life Edward III had his Italian bankers locked up in the Tower of London until they waived his debts.
But eventually the power of commerce began to squash the power of kings. Feudalism gave way to a capitalism based on merchants, bankers, colonial plunder, and the slave trade. Paper money emerged, as did a complex banking system for assuaging problems like your gold mine running dry.
While Mason’s feudalism theory was proved wrong when it came to making it prominent in the fifth, sixth, and seventh seasons, the idea is still absolutely in play. After all, this is a fantasy series meant to entertain and the politics of revolution wouldn’t exactly fit at this point. Would viewers really want to switch the series’ high-octane pace to the politics of the fall of feudalism? Definitely not.
Still, the fall of the Iron Throne feels like the conclusion that feels most appropriate because it is the least obvious conclusion. Having followed dozens of characters angling for the Iron Throne over the past seven seasons, doesn’t it feel right that in the end none of them get it? That feels like Martin.
It’s also important to note that it isn’t unprecedented in the series. Don’t forget Daenerys’s vision of a ruined Red Keep or the fact that much of Daenerys’s mission across the Narrow Sea has been to force progressive measures to highly oppressed people. Maybe the destruction brought by the war against the White Walkers will provide the opportunity for true revolution.
Check out Entertainment Cheat Sheet on Facebook!