Game of Thrones ending: Who will sit on the Iron Throne after the finale?

Polarising though the final season has been, I think we’ll all miss Game of Thrones when Monday morning hits and there are no new episodes on the horizon. The show has been more ripe for coffee-break discussion than perhaps any other in television history, and its possible paths forward could be chewed over endlessly.

With that being the case, let’s go once more around the block with ‘what will happen next’ and look the at the candidates who could “win” the Game of Thrones (if such a thing is possible).

Who will sit on the Iron Throne at the end of the finale?

Daenerys Targaryen

The Mother of Dragons and Breaker of Character Logic looks unbeatable right now, with Drogon, the Unsullied and the Dothraki in tow and a new-found taste for burning large groups of people. But her less than subtle pivot to utter despotism in Episode 5 positions her as the de facto villain now that Cersei’s dead, and villains must be stopped.

With zero chance of redemption at this point, Daenerys would have to kill Jon, Arya, Sansa, Tyrion – everyone, basically – to retain the throne, which would be pretty wild. Of course, Game of Thrones does delight in shock twists, but I can’t see this being one of them. If fear prevails over love and Daenerys rules, it would be the show’s ‘fuck you; life is pain’ ending, which might actually be kind of fun, but no – just can’t see it.

Daenerys and Cersei weigh their options as an epic conflict looms at King’s Landing.

Jon Snow

Jon is the safest and most obvious choice now that Cersei is dead and Daenerys is suddenly evil. He has the best claim to the throne, everyone likes him, and though he may not want to rule, he might have to. As Tyrion wisely mused in Episode 4: “Have you considered that the best ruler might be someone who doesn’t want to rule?” The show feels poised for Jon to kill the woman he thought he loved for the good of the realm, and reluctantly rule for the same reason.

However, Episode 5 has put Jon in a strange position heading into the finale. His ‘good guy’ image is in tatters, really, as he will now forever be the man who enabled one of the worst atrocities that ever rocked King’s Landing. What’s the angle supposed to be? “Sorry I backed the wrong horse/dragon and got everyone killed, but hey, I’ve put a stop to her now so everything can go back to normal?” Unless handled right – George R. R. Martin did talk of the ending being “bittersweet” – this denouement could just be a bit deflating.

Personally, I think Dany and Jon should die, which would really throw things open in Westeros.

 

Tyrion Lannister

I can’t think what the situation would have to be for this to happen. Tyrion’s always been an advisor rather than a ruler, he’s been a pretty lousy Hand to Dany the past couple of seasons (remember when he took Cersei at her word about the White Walker attack?) and now he’s the man who stewarded the Mad Queen to power.

He’ll be lucky if he’s spared his life by this point, and the chances of another Lannister on the Iron Throne look pretty slim.

Daenerys and Cersei weigh their options as an epic conflict looms at King’s Landing.

Arya Stark

Something changed in Arya in Episode 5 as the Red Keep fell. But though she seems to have decided that being a cold-blooded assassin hell bent on revenge probably isn’t the best career choice after all, I can’t see her ruling the Seven Kingdoms either.

In terms of the last of the Starks, there’s probably a higher chance of her ending up on the throne than Bran – who we must assume is just listening to chillwave on the Winterfell battlements right now – but it would be very out of character for her to go into politics, whether it’s on the suggestion of others (Jon) or of her own volition.

She does, however, stand a good chance of being the one who kills Daenerys: the Hero of Winterfell becomes the Hero of King’s Landing too.

Sansa Stark

Back in Season 7, Sansa had the potential to become a major problem for her siblings, an icy, self-interested, suspicious and untrusting Stark who veered from the self-effacing family M.O.

Those character traits might still be true, but with events transpiring as they have, she is now arguably the best candidate for the Iron Throne. “Men do stupid things for women,” she declared in Episode 2, and boy was she right. All along, her stance has been ‘virtue is great and everything, but it leaves you open to deceit and manipulation.’ It was the downfall of Ned. It was the downfall of Robb. It’s proving the downfall of Jon.

Assuming Daenerys is defeated, perhaps Jon will recognise that Sansa possesses a healthy level of skepticism that makes her better suited to ruling? She also has a strong platonic bond with Tyrion, who could serve as her Hand and be the cooling saucer that surrounds her more fiery impulses.

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Bran Stark

Not a chance. What use is a king who, when you bring up the issue of city irrigation, delivers a non-sequitur about the pointlessness of want, coupled with an ancient factoid?

Bran could still have a major part to play in the finale’s narrative (though they’re running out of time and seem to have abandoned his Three-Eyed Raven sub-plot somewhat) but is unlikely to rule, despite being the oldest legitimate male Stark.

Gendry Baratheon

I’ve been batting for Gendry to take the throne for a while now. Not because he’s a particularly engaging character (he’s not) but because it would be in keeping with the show’s themes. Several times in its history we’ve seen puppet rulers, with aides finding they can accomplish more behind the scenes than if they actually sit on the throne of swords. I’m not suggesting that Jon would bend Gendry to his will, but he seems to trust him and it’s not unthinkable that he would support installing the Baratheon bastard on the throne.

Of course, Gendry being given Storm’s End already served to pay off his character, but who knows if that decision even still stands given it was made by the Mad Queen? It’s hard to see Arya being his by his side, but Gendry on the throne could bring the show full circle, beginning and ending with a Baratheon on the throne.

The Mountain

I’m only including Ser Gregor because I think it would be funny if they kept the whole ‘he can’t be killed’ thing going, and had him emerge from the rubble of the Red Keep, punching holes through all the walls between him and the throne room. Let’s move on.

No-one

This is starting to look like where the show is headed. The show has largely been an affirmation of the proverb that “power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely” and only misery has been brought about by those in power in King’s Landing. Humans in power, that is, perhaps the Night King might have been the most level-headed ruler at this point

Perhaps the best thing is to just melt down the Iron Throne? This theory is aided by the fact that Jon doesn’t make such a convincing ruler now that he’s essentially a terrorist enabler, and that King’s Landing is mostly ashes now anyway.

An empty/dismantled Iron Throne could be a nice way to end the show, albeit a tricky one. There isn’t enough time for diving into alternative forms of monarchy or the establishment of a government, so it would be reliant on the symbolism of the throne’s demise being enough: there is no winner in a Game of Thrones.