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After eight seasons, Game of Thrones will end this Sunday after a final run of episodes full of chaos, betrayal, fire, and blood. There are many, many unanswered questions the series finale will have to answer, but since we've already dealt with the Night King, one question stands above the rest: Who will sit on the Iron Throne when the credits roll?
Thanks to the carnage of recent episodes we've got fewer contenders for the throne than we did just a little while ago, but there's still a surprisingly robust field of candidates, from those who claim it as their birthright and destiny to those who outright deny their own claim to those who'd just make a good ruler, birthrights be damned.
In that spirit, we're breaking down why each of the nine (since Bran won't even call himself a man anymore and Yara Greyjoy seems happy ruling the Iron Islands and only the Iron Islands) remaining major players deserve a shot at ruling Westeros, even if they might never take the chance.
Who's your pick to take the throne? Let us know in the comments!
Queen Daenerys Targaryen
Well, if we're looking at things simply based on where people are when the series finale begins, Daenerys Targaryen has the best chance of winding up on the throne because she's the one who just reached out and took it in a wave of fire and blood. The power's in her hands, but the people — apart from the Dothraki and Unsullied who've stood by her throughout this war — are not. It means people will oppose her, and she might lose everything she just won, but somewhere in the Seven Kingdoms right now people are asking... is it worth it? What if Daenerys could indeed be redeemed and calmed now that she's taken what she felt was her destiny all along? What if she simply settled into life as a relatively placid ruler and spent the rest of her days truly living out her mission to break the wheel?
OK, so that's almost certainly not going to happen, but Daenerys will not go quietly if she goes at all, so we can dare to dream.
Aegon 'Jon Snow' Targaryen
Jon Snow, who was born Aegon Targaryen, has spent the last several episodes hearing from many people that he is indeed the heir to the Iron Throne because he's the last male heir in the Targaryen dynasty. He's also spent the last several episodes telling everyone that he doesn't want the throne.
Now that Daenerys has gone full Mad Queen, though, he might no longer have a choice, and that old Stark honor might flare up just enough to get him to rule out of a sense of duty, if nothing else.
Jon’s reluctance aside, he is likely the candidate the smallfolk of Westeros would most readily accept as their king at this point, and with the right advisors in his corner (namely his cousins Sansa and Arya Stark) he might just make a solid king. Of course, he has to survive one more battle first, and it's with his aunt/lover, so perhaps we know nothing.
Lady Sansa Stark
Set aside lineage and tradition even a little bit, and for a great many fans it becomes clear that one person among the remaining Thrones cast is best-equipped to lead Westeros: Sansa Stark, the Lady of Winterfell and the one person in a leadership role who's somehow managed to not completely botch everything so far in Season 8.
Sansa is not the flashiest choice, but as a person with real experience in leadership, diplomacy, and recovery from personal trauma, she just might be the best choice. At this point in the show she seems to be the only person who's truly paying attention (except for maybe Bran, who’s got a little help) and who sees every betrayal and twist coming ahead of time (well... except for the crypts), and while her pragmatic sensibility is an asset, it doesn't make her an ice queen.
Sansa's not a great leader because she denies her emotions. She's a great leader because she’s learned to wield them wisely, and to do so with compassion and patience and an eye toward the greater good. She’s the best attributes of her father and mother combined, and if given the chance the Queen in the North might just be our savior.
Lord Tyrion Lannister
He might not know it yet, but Tyrion is the last surviving major member of House Lannister since the Red Keep came down on his sister and brother. He's also now in an extremely vulnerable place in the wake of his chosen Queen's turn to darkness.
Daenerys was already convinced of Tyrion's treachery, and now she's burned a whole city to the ground. It's doubtful she'll be in any mood to spare his life, and that leaves Tyrion with a choice to make. He could accept his fate, or he could work to overthrow her and use his sister's claim to the Iron Throne to strengthen his own. He's the only person left who has experience running the whole kingdom, and he's been on multiple sides in the battle for the throne. He could be the one to calm the entire realm down when the fires go out.
After watching King's Landing burn around her, Arya Stark rode out of the city in the penultimate episode of the show on a bloody, white horse. If that's not a clear metaphor for her becoming the embodiment of death for Daenerys Targaryen in the finale, I don't know what is, so it's hard to imagine Arya coming back to anything resembling monarchy after that.
Still, if she did decide to make a move for the throne, or if she were left with no choice, she wouldn't exactly be coming from a place of naivete. Now that Varys is gone, she understands the darkest parts of Westeros and Essos better than anyone else on the show, and she could guard the Seven Kingdoms from them with wisdom and an eye for strong defense if she so chose.
Lord Gendry Baratheon
There's a reason Gendry's managed to survive this long on the show, and that reason might just be that he's the last remaining link to the last time Westeros had peace from its monarch. Daenerys legitimized him as the Lord of Storm’s End and declared him a full-fledged Baratheon, which means he could sue for peace by staking his claim as his father Robert’s last remaining heir. Lords who are tired of war and eager to restore what was might rally to him, and while he has no experience ruling he is a very practical young man who'd likely choose good advisors.
He might even manage to convince Arya to be his queen by the end.
Ser Brienne of Tarth
Brienne fulfilled her lifelong dream of becoming a knight just a few episodes ago, and at this point, it seems her ultimate fulfillment might be serving in the Queensguard for Sansa Stark.
Imagine a world in which the other major players are all dead or out of commission, though, and a hero who's fought through the War of Five Kings, the Great War, and the Last War is the only real leader remaining. Brienne would be a worthy, if unlikely, Queen.
Sam's last major act in the show was telling Jon of his Targaryen heritage, and now that the Great War is over he seems perfectly content to just relax and raise a family with Gilly, maybe with some Maester-like duties on the side. He'd likely push for whatever Jon wanted, but if Sam was in a position to rule he'd find a way to make it work. He's not great warrior, but after years of war King Samwell the Wise might be just the thing for Westeros.
Ser Davos Seaworth
Ser Davos does not want to be king. At this point, the Onion Knight probably wants nothing more than to find a ship and sail far away from Westeros, but Davos has always been around for the key moments of this struggle, and he’s always found a way to survive through a mixture of practicality, toughness, and pure dumb luck.
He might not want the crown, but if it were passed to him he'd shrug and say "Oh, what the hell? I'll have a go," and that might be the most fitting ending for a show about the horrors lurking within people who crave power.