Since the first season of Game of Thrones, we’ve known the series will have to come down to an epic battle for the Iron Throne. And ultimately, we’ll see someone take the crown and usher in a new era of leadership in Westeros.
Fans have long debated which GoT character is best suited to end up as ruler of the realm. Some feel that only characters that are related to previous kings and queens by blood should have a shot. Others feel that, at this point, anyone qualified should have a chance.
These days, it seems like Jon Snow, aka the King in the North, is the most likely contender to win out. But there are many others for whom we can make an equally compelling case. We’ve taken a look at all of the major Game of Thrones players (listed in no particular order) to figure out who may ultimately be best suited to rule Westeros — and it may not be who you expect.
There are a lot of reasons to root for Jon Snow’s ultimate victory on Game of Thrones. We learned late in Season 6 that he likely could claim the throne by blood, since he’s the son of both a Stark and a Targaryen. He would be a just ruler — he’s shown time and again that he values fairness more than power. He’s proven himself to be both brave and savvy, and he’s also not afraid to back down and stand up for what’s right.
But just because he won’t bend the knee for Daenerys Targaryen (or anyone else, for that matter) doesn’t mean he’s the right man to rule the Seven Kingdoms. The King in the North has always been a bit of a reluctant leader. And his bravery, and dedication to protecting the realm would be wasted if he had to spend most of his time going through the symbolic motions that await any king or queen.
Jon is at his best when he’s on a battlefield or among his people. And the best way to make sure he can stay where he belongs is for him to stay far away from the Iron Throne.
When Cersei laid claim to the Iron Throne in Game of Thrones’ Season 6 finale, it seemed inevitable in some ways. After all, for all the pain and misery she’s wrought for her enemies, she’s been through her own share of trauma and grief and managed to keep her head up in spite of it.
Cersei is a survivor, and she’s a brilliant political strategist. She knows how to manipulate her way into positions of power. And she’s willing to do whatever it takes to stay on top — even if it means the massive, fiery destruction of those who oppose her.
Despite all these traits, Cersei has no lawful right to remain queen, thanks to the rightful line of succession. And, most importantly, her thirst for vengeance and unending grief seem to slowly be driving her mad. Westeros already has its share of unhinged leaders. And for that reason, more than any other, Cersei’s days in King’s Landing should be numbered.
Joffrey Lannister set a pretty dangerous precedent when he took over the throne after Robert Baratheon’s death. He, like almost everyone else in the Seven Kingdoms, thought he was the king’s son. In reality, he was the product of incest between his mother and her brother, and therefore definitely not royalty by blood.
These days, Robert’s supposedly legitimate children are dead, and his wife has taken the Iron Throne. So it seems like bloodlines aren’t quite as important. But if the Lannisters are going to continue to rule, Cersei’s brother, Tyrion, could prove to be a far better leader.
Though there’s no question that even on his worst days, Tyrion’s political abilities are second to none, there’s also little indication that he’d ever want to be king. It might be fun and feel like a hard-fought victory to see the long-beleaguered Lannister get a shot at glory. But there aren’t many signals that he’d ever want, or truly earn, the right to rule Westeros.
Game of Thrones long hoped to see Gendry, the bastard blacksmith again, after he rowed off toward safety in Season 3. And we finally got our wish in the Season 7 episode, “Eastwatch.” After all, it won’t feel like a true battle for royal victory if someone in King Robert’s bloodline isn’t there to fight for a spot on the throne.
Gendry is a logical choice to take over ruling the Seven Kingdoms. After all, he’s the only remaining character we know who’s directly related to King Robert. But we simply haven’t seen enough of him to really know whether he’d be a great king. We know he’s kind and intelligent. And he’s proven that he can handle himself in combat.
Still, after spending most of his life in the slums, he’s also developed a pretty mighty inferiority complex. And whoever ends up in King’s Landing is going to need an iron-clad resolve and sense of self if they’re going to survive.
From the very beginning, Arya Stark has shown us that she has what it takes to survive. She’s been driven largely by a desire for vengeance, but she’s also shown a wisdom far beyond her years. She also has a tendency toward mercy that is far greater than those who have ruled the Seven Kingdoms in her lifetime.
It might seem like a bit of sweet justice to see Arya take down Cersei and claim the Iron Throne for the North. But it’s also likely not in the cards. Not only is she nowhere near the line of succession (which could matter, politically, in the long run), Arya also hated King’s Landing and all the trappings of royalty. And she would probably give up her right to the throne if she did ever find herself in that position.
On one hand, it seems almost inevitable that Daenerys Targaryen will ultimately take back her family’s true right to the Iron Throne. She’s a quintessential leader and has amassed an army behind her to prove it. She’s fought her way through war, through fire, and even from the dead. And she’s rarely faltered in her quest for the crown that is her birthright.
But the fact that she could be queen, by blood, doesn’t automatically mean that she should. Dany’s single-minded obsession with ruling the Seven Kingdoms still doesn’t make up for the fact that she is, at the end of the day, a Targaryen. And it may be nearly impossible for the progeny of the Mad King to ever truly unite Westeros behind her.
When you stand Sansa Stark beside the obvious contenders for the Iron Throne — proven warriors and brilliant political strategists — she may seem like an afterthought. But she is uniquely qualified to both unite and rule the Seven Kingdoms. And many Game of Thrones cast members agree.
She, like many of the other main characters on Game of Thrones, is a true survivor. When we first met Sansa, she wanted nothing more than to move to King’s Landing and become a queen. Sansa lived through the harrowing reality of what that life actually entails, though. And that means she may be the best person to understand how to fix Westeros’ biggest political problems.
A lot of fans were rooting for the Starks as soon as Game of Thrones began. So it would be especially satisfying to see them finally get their due. But that’s not the only reason Sansa would be a good fit for the Iron Throne. Sansa is just, fair, and kind-hearted. But she’s also prepared to put her foot down when she knows the right way forward. As the daughter of Ned and Catelyn Stark, she has diplomacy in her blood.
She’s survived extreme torture and abuse at the hands of Joffrey Baratheon and Ramsay Bolton without losing her sense of right and wrong. And she isn’t a part of the messy royal bloodline that’s embroiled the Baratheons and Targaryens. So she could be the best person to offer the promise of a fresh start in the realm.
Follow Katherine Webb on Twitter @prufrox.
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