Warning! Spoilers for Game of Thrones "Eastwatch" episode below!
With the Game of Thrones season heading into the final two episodes (I wrote that with tears in my eyes), we're coming into the home stretch, the equivalence of the playoffs, if we're going to extend the sports analogies.
With time winding down, the two true power players have risen to the top and seem fairly well-established to remain as such. But the difference between No. 1 and No. 2 in the Power Rankings is the difference between life and death. Of course, we all know how permanent death is in Westeros.
1. The Army of the Dead – Even with the Night King's army white-walking slower than frozen molasses, Bran's ravens gave us a good enough glimpse to know that the Great Houses are merely spokes on the wheel and that the Army of the Dead is the chariot on top. That the Night King can see Bran's ravens for what they are is also another reminder that the former man leading this army is as powerful a figure as there is in the world, more so than a Franken-Mountain, no doubt. But will the Night King and his pasty, frozen mates melt under a steady stream of dragon fire?
2. House Targaryen – Fortunately for humanity, or the Westerosian version of such, Daenerys Stormborn is smart enough to realize that the blue-eyed-Wight threat is real and that it’s time to plan for action. She's putting her trust in a stranger, Jon Snow, and lending him her newly returned greyscale-free knight, Jorah, for the seemingly suicidal mission of kidnapping a White Walker. Should such a mission be successful, Dany also appears to be a strong enough leader to reach out to her enemy across Blackwater Bay with a caged-Wight peace offering, backed up by a Dothraki horde, legions of Unsullied, and three scorpion-proof dragons, of course. Should Cersei see such wisdom, such a play could help to focus Westeros on the real war and ultimately save a lot of lives that could otherwise rise up and become un-lives. But what if there's a different Targaryen with a more traditional, kingly claim to the throne?
3. House Stark – With his impressive dragon-whispering abilities and the legality of his descendant's marriages being questioned, Jon Snow may be getting ever closer to fighting for a different Great House. But he still hasn't forgotten he's King in the North, and he apparently misses life north of The Wall, so he's gathering up as powerful a seven-man army (and apparently their Sherpas) as we've seen to go Walker hunting. That includes four newly acquired power helpers, all of whom have proven themselves to be quite handy below The Wall: Gendry, the Hound, Beric, and Thoros. But how will they fare where the air is cold and the men are dead?
Meanwhile, back home at Winterfell, Lady Sansa is positioning herself to take over Jon's royal duties, and Arya doesn't like it one bit. Certainly, the Ladies of Winterfell will put aside their petty squabbling and see that Littlefinger is trying to play them again, right? And yet again, Bran may be the most powerful of the Starks, although it's still highly questionable whether he considers himself one at this point.
4. House Arryn – Every time I even think the word "Littlefinger," I have to say it out loud like Jerry Seinfeld would say "Newman!" He's such a weasel, but he sure can play The Game. So what's his latest little ploy all about? What's his endgame? Does he just know he can cause a rift among the Stark sisters, and that's reason enough to do it? Or does he want something? From Sansa? From Arya? From both of them? Whatever it is, the odds are good he's thought it through and the end result will find him with more power. So, as always, keep your eyes on Lord Baelish and his Knights of the Vale, because he hasn't come close to making his final move. Littlefinger!
5. House Lannister – Oh, Cersei, you fought so hard, and made so many strategically advanced yet morally deplorable moves to get where you are. But alas, after that sad display in The Reach, your hunky gold-handed general/brother is telling you that you can't win. And you seem to know he's right, at least for now. But with another blond-haired nee-Baratheon babe a brewing, Cersei's got her eyes on the long play. So, like her Lord father, perhaps she'll take Dany's peace offering and pull up a seat at the table, only to wait it out, bide her time and move the wheel the Lannister direction once more. But what's she going to tell The Mountain?
6. House Greyjoy – What the hell happened to Euron? I guess naval battles don't really matter much when both the Targaryen armies are on firm Westeros terra. Still, he can't just disappear altogether, right? His staunch Iron Fleet was a big reason why the Lannisters climbed to the top of the Power Rankings in Week 3 (only to fall so hard, so far), and he's probably only gained strength since then. So I think it's only safe to assume that Euron's still got a part to play in all this. I at least demand a satisfying death! Could it finally come at the hands of Theon? Can Theon finally stop disappointing us? Or will he always just be Reek?
Though not necessarily a Great House, it's probably still apropos to bid adieu to the old House Tarly. Goodbye, strapping Dickon, I'll miss writing that. Although with strapping Dickon and Lord Randyll's unfortunate torching, perhaps that will clear the way for the suddenly unaffiliated Sam to go shack up at Horn Hill and lead the Tarly House into newfound Greatness. Long live King Sam!