Dany has been fixated on the throne since the first season, when she decided she was destined for more than a life as a quiet wife. She has crossed the seven kingdoms (very very slowly) to get to King’s Landing and claim what she believes should be hers.
She has killed; she has freed a nation of slaves and made them her army; she has outwitted people who underestimated her; she has proven time and again that she can be both a benevolent and a ruthless leader, as the situation demands. The whole show has seen Daenerys learning to become a queen. She’s even been told by her closest confidante, Missandei, that she could be the prophesied one who will bring peace to Westeros.
BUT, just because Daenerys wants it does not mean she truly deserves it. Her entire mission has been in service of her own desires, not the good of the people of Westeros. Even the people she’s freed have been given their liberty so they can join her cause. The show may have been laying a path for her to be victorious, but George R.R. Martin doesn’t give people their heart’s desire just because they desire it. Plus her claim to the throne is not as solid as she thinks…
If the game were being played fairly, the throne would be Jon’s. He is the rightful heir. We’ve known this since we learned that he’s the son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark, and that those two were legally married (remember when Gilly accidentally discovered that information?). Both Sam and Bran know this, so it’s all but certain Jon will learn his true ancestry before the end of season eight.
Jon being the victor would require a lot of things. One, he’d have to want it, and despite his leadership skills Jon has never had a craving for power. Two, he’d have to deny Dany her claim. Now that they’re doing it, this might sour their relationship more than a little (learning they’re aunt and nephew will probably ruin things first, though). Three, he’d have to survive. Jon’s already died once and come inches from death in multiple subsequent battles. We wouldn’t put any money on him still breathing at the end of the show. And, of course, we said he’d be victorious if the game were played fairly. It never is. The right person winning in Game of Thrones? Please.
She currently has the throne, so for her to keep it would be not only unlikely but deeply unpopular. She’s a mean and petty ruler, far more the series’ villain than the Night King.
There would be nothing satisfying in Cersei ending the series on the throne. It doesn’t feel like that’s where her story is leading. She’s lost almost everything that means anything to her. Her father is dead. All her children are dead. Well, all her current children. We know Cersei is pregnant, or at least has told Jamie she is (we know better than to take her at her word), so it feels like her story is going toward a new start, or more likely, dying tragically for one of myriad reasons (more than a few people have cause to kill her).
There is a theory that Cersei is destined to become The Night Queen, i.e. a woman to stand alongside The Night King (Gilly read a story about the Night Queen in one of her flicks through ‘books that might be important to the plot later’ in the Citadel). We don’t know what that would mean story-wise, as an undead Cersei would have none of the personality of Cersei, but it would look really cool, and maybe that’s enough.
The youngest Lannister’s story has been about acceptance. Rejected by his own family since he was a baby, Tyrion has earned respect from almost everyone he’s met through the show, thanks to his charm, political intelligence and willingness to compromise. Would that acceptance go as far as the whole kingdom accepting him as its ruler? Doubtful.
Tyrion’s position has been about helping others on their path to the throne, currently specifically Daenerys. It’s not his goal for himself. As a fan favourite, him being parked on the Iron Throne would probably be quite warmly received, but we think people are more hoping he’ll survive to the end than become king.
It could be. Sansa’s been on one of the biggest journeys of the series. When we first met her she was the useless, spoilt middle Stark who just wanted to be a princess. She very quickly learned that a royal life was not all she’d dreamt. Over the past seven seasons, Sansa has developed from a girl who did as she was told to a woman shaping her own destiny. Nobody has ever considered Sansa a real threat and it’s for exactly that reason that she could end up besting them all. Dismiss Sansa at your peril.
She doesn’t want the throne; she wants her enemies dead. It would require a lot of people dying – Jon, Sansa, Dany, to name just three – for Arya to take the crown. Barring the possibility of her being the only human left standing, we can pretty much count her out. (she’ll now win, won’t she, and we’ll have to delete this?)
There is no good reason why Varys should win the whole damn thing. He’s not royalty, he has no followers and he’s made no statement about wanting public power, rather than the behind-the-scenes power he possesses in abundance. The thing that puts him on this list is that he’s by some distance the show’s most cunning character. He started life on the streets and, through his collection of dangerous secrets, has risen to a place by the side of multiple rulers. He knows everyone’s truths and just when to use them. Don’t bet against him manipulating his way to the ultimate prize.
Caveat to this is that Melisandre told him he will die. She’s not one to go about making deliberately false prophecies, but she has been known to get things wrong. She told Daenerys that Jon is the “prince who was promised”, until it was pointed out to her that that actually the prince could be a princess, you misogynist, shape-shifting arse.
The Night King
We’re assuming that one of the characters we’ve been following for the past seven seasons will take the throne, that all the betrayal and negotiation and scheming will be the way to win the throne. Of course, it’s possible that the person, or being, that claims the throne will do so by killing everyone in his path and just stealing what he wants.
Ending Thrones with the Night King, a main character with no actual character, might be a bizarre choice, but there would also be something poetic about it. The entire show has seen everyone coming to the realisation that the White Walkers are real and heading for King’s Landing – winter is, after all, coming – but most people have assumed they would be defeated. What if all that in-fighting, plotting and sacrifice had been for nothing? What if the Night King is victorious and rules a kingdom of the unthinking undead? That sort of nihilistic commentary, that lust for power will ultimately bring no happiness, would be very Thrones-y.