The Game of Thrones television series has diverged from George R. R. Martin’s beloved books many times, but the creators have always relied on his text as the main source material and roadmap for their HBO adaptation. Now, the hit show will continue to barrel on into the unknown and unwritten future of Westeros with no training wheels and no author overlord to turn to for guidance. The inevitable question that arises is, as only Martin knows how the story is meant to end (and will end when he publishes the final books), what if the eager producers kill off the heir to the Iron Throne? What if they set a character down a path that leads them to destruction, when they are meant to be heading towards glory?
On top of the confusing fact that the showrunners are now essentially the new authors of Game of Thrones for millions of viewers, the matter of who will rule over the seven kingdoms has become even more complicated as many of the previously considered top contenders seem to be in very precarious situations. The line of succession appears to be breaking down, leaving the door open for challengers to the established order. And, one thing the audience has learned after five seasons of death and dashed dreams is that a man should never become too comfortable calling himself the king. Here are 14 Characters Who Could End Up On The Iron Throne.
***If you aren’t caught up to the end of Season 5, watch out! There could be SPOILERS.***
14. Jon Snow
Jon Snow’s fate may be the most debated and anticipated of any character on television. The Night’s Watch’s mutinous (attempted?) murder of their Lord Commander left many in complete shock as well as denial. After all, Jon Snow has had one of the most epic character arcs of the show—from naïve and fairly annoying boy to respected and brave leader. His mysterious lineage seemed to indicate some greater payoff in his future, as did the special attention that The Night’s King paid him at the battle at Hardhome.
Despite all of this, everyone associated with the show has insisted over and over again that Jon Snow is really, truly, absolutely dead. Were they so adamant because silence would indicate his survival? Or is the man who looked as if he could save the seven kingdoms really going to bleed to death in the snow? There are other less clear cut options as well. Many have noted that Lady Melisandre was at Castle Black at the time of Snow’s “death” and predict she could work some of her magic on him. Others claim Warging could lead to a new sort of life for Jon. Only time will tell if these theories prove accurate, but it’s safe to say that Ghost cannot lead a small counsel meeting or a monarchy.
13. Stannis Baratheon
Stannis’ end is actually left even more open than Jon Snow’s. While there is a puddle of blood gathering around Snow’s head to indicate his demise, Brienne’s raised sword is the last time Stannis is seen in Season 5. However, it seems very likely that Stannis won’t live to see Season 6, as Brienne is wielding a weapon called Oathkeeper above the man who killed her king (and secret love), who she swore to avenge.
Also, at this point in the series, Stannis is so thoroughly hated by everyone for the murder of his daughter that he makes a rather poor candidate for a hero rightfully claiming the throne. Even Lady Melisandre appears to have lost confidence in the man that she repeatedly called the one true king, abandoning him on the day of battle. The only satisfying death for Stannis if he continues to breath this season would be if Davos comes to chop him in half. Still, if Stannis survives, he continues to have the true claim on the throne in the Baratheon line.
Many have forgotten Gendry since he paddled off into an unknown abyss a few seasons ago. But, if Stannis is dead, Gendry would be the most direct Baratheon in line for the throne. True, he’s a bastard, but not one born from incest; so, he may be the preferred bastard. And, it’s already been proven that his king’s blood is quite potent as just three leeches-worth was apparently enough to kill at least Robb Stark and Joffrey Baratheon so far.
It’s unlikely that Gendry will make a sudden reappearance, as viewers would likely feel cheated, rooting for a character they haven’t seen in so long. But, it’s not a complete impossibility, as Gendry was such a well-liked man that even stone-hearted Arya was a fan. And if he can win her over, who says he can’t steal the hearts of the audience in three seasons or fewer?
11. Arya Stark
There are a few fan favorite characters that seem unlikely to ever have the chance to sit upon the Iron Throne. Tyrion Lannister may be one of the smartest men in the Thrones universe, but the chances of him somehow stepping over Daenerys to rule seem slim to none, especially now that he’s counseling her. Sansa Stark may be slowly brewing a hatred inside of her that could lead to a meteoric rise in power, but rallying the North behind her to take the throne still seems like a long shot. Arya Stark hardly has a claim to the throne as the second-born daughter of the Warden of the North, but she is an audience favorite who has had quite the hero’s journey.
And, Arya Stark has something else over both Tyrion and Sansa as well—a brand new faceless skill set. Arya’s list of names and her determination to kill each person on it is one of her defining characteristics. Two of those names, Cersei Lannister and The Mountain, currently reside in King’s Landing. So, who’s to say that Arya doesn’t take a trip there, cross off those names, and murder whomever the current king or queen is, taking their face as her own? It’s a long shot, but wouldn’t Arya impersonating a king be a great ending—like Loki as Odin in Thor 2: The Dark World but better?
10. Cersei Lannister
Don’t put it past Cersei Lannister to gain back her queenly title through sheer force of will. After her humiliating walk of shame last season and the death of her daughter, Cersei is sure to be running entirely on hatred and revenge as fuel. If any harm were to befall Tommen (which is pretty likely), it would be no surprise if Cersei took back the throne as her own, whether she has any sort of right to it or not.
If Margaery hasn’t already been executed by The High Sparrow, no one would put it past a now-childless Cersei to eliminate Margaery as competition. Cersei has enough experience and spies at court to outmaneuver almost anyone who dared to question her, not to mention a very large Mountain monster to deal with dissenters.
9. Margaery Tyrell’s Unborn Baby
The TV series version of Game of Thrones made it very clear that Margaery and Tommen have consummated their marriage, multiple times. However, this account of their relationship doesn’t match up with the sexless life Margaery and the adolescent Tommen share in the books. Even though the producers have taken some significant departures from what’s written before, the inclusion of a child produced from this union would be a big leap, even for them.
You could argue that Martin may have planned on writing the two of them to have sex eventually, and the show just sped up the process. In that case, Tommen’s child would be the heir if the current king happened to meet an unfortunate end. A pregnancy could also be a way for Margaery to gain some leniency with The High Sparrow who might want to spare an innocent child from the unpleasantness of prison.
8. Brandon Stark
His older brother once raised an army of Northerners that made even Tywin Lannister quake in his boots. With Tywin long gone, a child king sitting on the throne, and the capitol in general disarray, Bran, the oldest Stark boy remaining, would make quick work of rallying Northern citizens who would probably jump at the chance to avenge Ned, Robb, and Catelyn Stark’s deaths, not to mention overthrow the Boltons and the Lannisters.
The bigger question may be if revenge is something The Children of the Forest are interested in. After a long journey to a place he believes he was fated to find, Bran is likely to take whatever The Children have to say very seriously. If they suggest he use his Warging abilities and Northern allies to take King’s Landing, he could almost certainly pull it off. But, if they have a different, more White-Walker-centric task in mind for him, Bran may not be headed for the throne after all.
7. Margaery Tyrell
Before she was incarcerated, Margaery Tyrell made it perfectly clear to Cersei that there was a new queen on the throne. And now that she has the title, you can count on Margaery holding onto it with all of her might, imprisoned or not. She’s married three men on her quest to become royalty; and, given her cunning, determined mind, it doesn’t seem like she would give up everything she’s worked towards without a fight. Let’s not forget that when faced with harsh conditions, Cersei broke down before Margaery. Margaery has been rotting in that cell for quite a long time, and she has yet to go begging to The High Sparrow for a way out. Hopefully someone from her incredibly wealthy family can successfully threaten The High Sparrow into letting her and Loris go this season.
Doom does seem to follow any man Margaery marries though, so she could find herself a lone ruler in quick order if Tommen fulfills the prophecy about Cersei’s children. But, being a proactive type of woman, Margaery likely wouldn’t bat an eye at marrying again to maintain her position, especially as a kind of truce with an invader like Brandon Stark or Littlefinger. Don’t count out the woman who made the people of King’s Landing adore her, and even tolerate Joffrey for a time.
6. Petyr Baelish
With Cersei, Margaery, Sansa, Arya, Jon, Daenerys, and Stannis all in one state of distress or another, the man who said, “Chaos is a ladder,” may decide his time has finally come. It is during such bedlam and disorder that Littlefinger is most in his element, praying on the weakness of others to gain status for himself. He’s already risen to Lord Protector of the Vale, boasting a skilled army at his back. Now, he waits to take Winterfell and become Warden of the North. His ingenuity and calculating mind only need time to get him what he wants.
His ambition to sit on the Iron Throne has never been a secret, and he seems to have the necessary ruthlessness to get it accomplished. If he were to reunite with Sansa, he would no doubt meet a much darker girl than he last saw, who could make a very suitable partner in uniting the North and taking the throne. She could also prove to be his downfall, as his love for Catelyn, and now perhaps for Sansa, seems to be his soft spot. One small technicality is that he has no actual claim to the throne, but that’s unlikely to slow him down.
5. Tommen Baratheon
Tommen Baratheon makes an excellent figurehead. He may not have any idea what he’s doing, but he’s easy to persuade and has the big benefit of being nothing like his brother. This makes him an appealing leader to anyone seeking control without wanting to actually have to overthrow a king. Anyone from Cersei to Sansa to Littlefinger might allow him to keep his crown, as along as he does exactly what they say. After all, he’s just a boy. And, he has the potential to be a really “good” king after quite some time without one.
With two out of three already dead though, one can’t ignore the warning a young Cersei was given that all her children would die before her. Indeed, Tommen doesn’t really seem to be handling his power very well as he is not decisive or confrontational enough to take down the religious militia and prefers instead to starve himself in protest of his wife’s and mother’s imprisonment.
4. The Church/The High Sparrow
It only took The High Sparrow one season to essentially dismember the monarchy. He outmaneuvered and shamed Cersei, previously one of the most formidable characters on the show. And, he imprisoned two of the most powerful and wealthy siblings in the seven kingdoms, with no sign of caving to their family’s blackmail. His pure and righteous cause sounds like sweet music to the masses who are sick of the squabblings of the wealthy elite. And, “the many” that support him probably care less about his religious teachings than the fact that some people they hate are getting their comeuppances.
If The High Sparrow is able to disavow Tommen as being a bastard, his army of zealots could take King’s Landing as their own, to be ruled by The Church in the absence of a successor. On a similarly religious note, the Lady Melisandre has lasted much longer than one would think, and perhaps her magic tricks and ability to spread belief in the Lord of Light will take her to a leader worthy of the throne.
3. No One
While in the House of the Undying in season 2, Daenerys has a vision of the Iron Throne under snow—an empty and deserted hall with no ruler and no subjects to rule over. Snow falls from the sky into the chamber as the roof has either disintegrated over time or been burned away by something like the breath of a Dragon. Then, in season 4, Bran sees the same abandoned room, the empty throne dusted in snow and left in disrepair.
It would be a bleak final shot, but it’s possible that the Dragons, White Walkers, and men all finally meet in battle, and no one comes out the victor. All that remains is the empty throne that so many died trying to obtain.
2. The Night’s King
The war against the White Walkers isn’t going particularly well. They added thousands of free folk to their army in mere minutes, and it’s incredibly easy for them to make further recruitments. The one man who seemed to understand the immediate and intense threat the Walkers and the Army of the Dead pose is bleeding out in the snow. On top of that, the Watch has lost their only defense, a small store of dragon glass. Stannis did suggest that more dragon glass could be found on Dragonstone, but with him likely to be dead, who’s going to go collect that?
The only other weapon proven to defeat a Walker is Valyrian steel, and there are very few Valyrian swords in existence. Dragon fire seems like it would be able to destroy the White Walkers, but who knows if Daenerys’ dragons will ever fly that far North. Winter is coming, and The Night’s King is very at ease in the snow.
1. Daenerys Targaryen
Daenerys’ recent rendezvous with the Dothraki is a mere blip in terms of the struggles she’s had to overcome in the past. From a tyrannical brother, to the loss of a husband and son, to her unorthodox acquisition of the Unsullied, and a rebellion in her free city—Daenerys has always found opportunity where others have seen impossibility. As she has made her way across the continent, she has continued to inspire loyalty in her followers and fear in her enemies. The addition of Tyrion and the reinstatement of Jorah to her band of counselors makes her an even greater threat to the weak leadership at King’s Landing.
After all, does anyone currently have weapons or men strong enough to defeat her dragons and her Unsullied? And, beyond the obvious brute strength of her forces, her record of treating citizens as humans as opposed to pebbles under her shoe is sure to precede her, winning her the powerful weapon of the love of the people. It seems that she has all the resources needed to take the throne that she so fervently wants to regain for her family—once she gets back to Meereen.
Who do you think will sit on the Iron Throne? Tell us in the comments!