[WARNING: this list contains SPOILERS for Season 6]
In Game of Thrones, power is a matter of perspective. With so many disparate story lines and characters vying for the Iron Throne, choosing the most powerful individuals is a herculean task. The fan favorites are clear, but as with the fate of George R. R. Martin’s most beloved characters, popular opinion often means nothing. With our time in Westeros slowly running out, Season 6 has begun to narrow the playing field to the most serious contenders.
With this list, we are adhering to the primary political leaders and proponents of the Seven Kingdoms. While religious figures undoubtedly play a role, their purported command of magic and mystery render them an unfair comparison to those bound by human limitations.
Here are the 15 Most Powerful Characters in Season 6 of Game of Thrones.
15. Bran Stark
When Jaime Lannister pushed Bran from the “Tower of Incest” at Winterfell, the second youngest Stark son seemed destined for the sedentary life. How wrong we were. While the full extent of Bran’s greenseeing powers are as yet unknown, there is little doubt that he will help shape the larger events in Game of Thrones.
Unlike nearly every other character in the series, Bran is unbound by human limitation. If the larger rumors of his time-traveling abilities are true (that he is the Bran of yore who built The Wall, that he can alter the course of major events), then everyone else in this list will be forced to bow down to his will. However dramatic Hodor’s end may have been, the life and death of the monosyllabic simpleton will be but a ripple in the ocean of Bran Stark’s total influence.
14. Jon Snow
With Davos Seaworth and Sansa at his side, Jon Snow will need all the persuasive talents of his cohorts to help recruit an army capable of crushing Ramsay Bolton. What he achieved north of the Wall, however, is cause for applause. By uniting the Night’s Watch with the Wildlings, and even earning the respect of Mance Rayder, Jon Snow has demonstrated an innate ability to lead.
With Wun Wun the wanton giant and Tormund Giantsbane on board, the upcoming siege of Winterfell will only be possible because Snow understands how to level with commoners. His bastard-born humility gives him an earthy appeal that cuts through political jargon and speaks to the very heart of the matter.
13. Euron Greyjoy
The ironborn know no mercy. In A Song of Ice and Fire, Euron Greyjoy is so fierce that he removed the tongues of his sailing companions after their ceaseless screaming during a sea storm. In Game of Thrones, he committed fratricide in cold blood, hurling his older Brother, Balon, off a rickety Pyke bridge. Indeed, Euron is so filled with hubris that he intends to “marry” (quotes intentional) Daenerys Targareyn and combine forces with the mother of dragons.
As a further testament to his grit, when Euron swore fealty to the Drowned God, he confidently plunged into the sea at the hand of Aeron Greyjoy and actually died for a few seconds. When dragged ashore, Euron appeared unquestionably deceased, filled more with saltwater than life. His will overtook his humanity, of course, for what is dead may never die. Upon receiving the driftwood crown, Euron has arisen and decreed his men build a thousand ships to pursue his niece and nephew and take back the Iron Throne.
12. The Blackfish
Named “the Blackfish” for his refusal to follow family and marital recommendations (playing off the the Tully trout sigil), Brynden Tully has lived life according to his own will. This is what defines him as a fierce competitor in the world of Westeros, and because he survived the “Red Wedding” thanks to a well-timed run to the loo, he lives with a sort of “survivor’s guilt” (as actor Clive Russell calls it) that he intends to correct.
Blackfish begins his conquest for justice by retaking Walder Frey’s Riverrun, now stocked with several years of supplies and a competent army to protect it. While we await the conclusion of his spat with Jaime Lannister (whom he finds “disappointing”), the allegiance of Bryden Tully and his relationship to the Starks will bear a notable impact on the Seven Kingdoms in the days to come.
11. Margaery Tyrell
The wife of many yet the lover of none (to which we can attest), Margaery Tyrell gives Cersei Lannister a run for her money. Stunningly attractive and equally bright, she uses the full range of her naturally endowed gifts to earn and protect her place in the Seven Kingdoms. Like Cersei, she has been stuck in the puritanical nest of the High Sparrow. Unlike her mother-in-law, however, she has learned how to play the game, faking religious zealotry to help protect the sanity of her brother, Loras. By reading scripture, renouncing her physical desires, and demanding Lady Olenna repent for her sins, she plays the High Sparrow like an instrument.
All is not as it seems, however, and should Margaery continue the ruse, she may be wise to quell the rift with Cersei, unite forces, and overrun the fanatics of the Faith. The biggest potential impediment to Margaery’s safety? The Nurse Ratchet-like Septa Unella.
10. Lord Varys
If knowledge is power, then Lord Varys is undeniably powerful. Though he has had a much smaller role in Season 6, Varys’ influence remains so strong that his presence can be felt even when he is offscreen.
Second only to Littlefinger, the ingratiating spymaster knows the happenings and whereabouts of nearly everyone in Westeros. While he deserves his rightfully-earned title as “the Spider,” a few chinks in his armor were recently revealed by the prying eyes of Kinvara, High Priestess of the Red Temple of Volantis. Now a staunch advocate of Daenerys Targaryen, and the erstwhile sidekick of Tyrion Lannister, Lord Varys waits in the wings for what will surely become an increasingly powerful position in the seasons to come.
9. Lady Olenna
Old age does little to quiet Lady Olenna. The vigorous matriarch of House Tyrell has grown tired of the High Sparrow’s overreach, and she is ashamed of his public alliance with her granddaughter, Margaery. Her caustic wit has become a target of the Faith, however. When the High Sparrow slyly warned Margaery that he feared for Lady Olenna’s safety (“body and soul”), the threat was all to clear. “I only pray your grandmother follows your lead,” is undoubtedly a hint at murder couched in scripture-speak.
With the Faith Militant biting at her heels, and Margaery caught in the storm, The Queen of Thorns still rebuffs Cersei Lannister’s attempt at alliance and writes a mysterious letter to an unknown recipient. Could she be calling upon the forces of Dorne? Either way, Lady Olenna will not go gentle into that good night.
8. Sansa Stark
Those who are still alive in Season 6 have doubtless suffered greatly to get this far. Sansa Stark may have been violated by Ramsay Bolton, but she never lost her dignity. Her physical and emotional wounds are now an arrow in her quiver, a strengthening of her character that have made her a tremendous asset in the coming battle to retake Winterfell. She wants to take back her home, if only to watch Ramsay Bolton burn.
Now reunited with Jon Snow, she brings a sense of resolve and duty inherited from her mother, Lady Catelyn Stark, with an additional dose of cunning she gleaned during her time at King’s Landing. Her days in the company of Petyr Baelish have undoubtedly rubbed off, given her secret lies to Jon Snow and her covert letter writing (presumably to Littlefinger himself). Sansa is finally where she belongs, but she is no longer the vulnerable bride of yore.
7. Ramsay Bolton
In addition to being Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North (a title which would make Eddard Stark roll in his grave), Ramsay Bolton holds the youngest Stark boy in his command. Rickon, of whom little has been discussed, is now at the mercy of the lunatic son of Roose Bolton. His comeuppance is nigh in what has been faithfully dubbed “Snowbowl,” the battle of Jon vs Ramsay Snow.
To pay for his skin-shearing sins, his abuse of Theon Greyjoy, his violence against Sansa, and his murder of his own father, Ramsay will bear witness to the combined forces of the houses and armies backing the bastard son of Ned Stark. When that day comes, Ramsay will regret taunting his pursuers in the graphic letter begging, “Come and see.”
6. Tommen Baratheon
How strange a world Westeros has become when the King of the Andals and the First Men doesn’t even make the top five in a Most Powerful list. Indeed, Tommen Baratheon has become a plaything for more insidious figures in King’s Landing. Despite his mother’s best efforts at cajoling him, Tommen lacks the vitality of his older and crueler brother, Joffrey.
Though fortunate to marry the beautiful Margaery, his inability to lead has effectively united the Iron Throne with the Faith, creating a two-headed monster of insatiable power. By siding with the High Sparrow, Tommen and Margaery’s marriage has effectively become a weapon for the Faith, hence why the penurious and ragged leader ordered the Queen to bear a son. Despite whatever conjugal relations he may share with his wife, the youngest Lannister child will not be long for this world.
If the rumors hold true, and Ramsay’s letter was actually penned by Littlefinger, then the Game of Thrones chessboard is set for an epic showdown. Petyr Baelish has long been the great puppet master of Westeros, pulling strings far and wide to exact his Machiavellian will. While the Master of Whisperers, Lord Varys, is equally adept at chicanery, Littlefinger differentiates himself by his directness.
His ambition is transparent to the point of others openly mistrusting him. Yet, through all of his machinations, Littlefinger remains surprisingly well-liked, even by people like Sansa who have born the brunt of his miscalculations. While his ultimate goals are indecipherable, Season 6 has put Littlefinger on the back burner, though he will undoubtedly return to the fray when his services are needed most.
4. Cersei Lannister
A slave to her family and a fixture of King’s Landing, Cersei has been boxed in by her Lannister name for her entire life. Rejected by her father, marginally appreciated by her ex-husband, Robert Baratheon, and consumed by an obsessive love for her children, Cersei’s smarts and strength of will have been muted for time immemorial. Worst of all, she was publicly humiliated for past indiscretions and stripped of her strength.
Now, in Season 6, she has reached wit’s end. Filled with rage, she seeks to destroy the High Sparrow with any means necessary, even sacrificing her political dignity to unite with Lady Olenna. While she is rebuked in this request, and further reminded of her enduring ostracism by the Queen of Thorn, Cersei approaches the brink of violence with no desire to turn back. Should the fullest extent of Qyburn’s mad scientist powers be unleashed, expect retribution on an epic scale by the hand of Cersei Lannister.
3. High Sparrow
With each passing moment of screen time, the High Sparrow continues to cement himself as a posturing and perverse relic of puritanical religion. Though he has admitted to past indiscretions of his own, briefly winning the sympathy of audience members, he lost it when he commanded Margaery to produce a son, saying, “Congress does not require desire on a woman’s part.”
The remnant fan base for the High Sparrow flew away in that very moment. Indeed, the leader of the High Septon has exacted a pogrom against any kind of sinful behavior. Initially recruited by Cersei Lannister for her own public gain, the High Sparrow ultimately hoisted her with her own petard. While his days are undoubtedly numbered, the haggard and old sectarian effectively sits atop the Iron Throne with Tommen Baratheon as his pawn.
2. Tyrion Lannister
Sequestered in the land of Meereen, the sharp mind and social graces of Tyrion Lannister have been put to good, albeit not terribly thrilling, use in Season 6. Though sidelined from the action at King’s Landing, recent episodes have strengthened the bonds between Tyrion and Daenerys Targaryen, affording the dwarf a much-deserved opportunity to rule while buying the Mother of Dragons time to prepare for the great siege.
Since Daenerys left Meereen, Tyrion has successfully quelled further insurrections from the Sons of the Harpy and begun formal relations with Kinvara, the Red Priestess of the High Temple. As Tyrion learns, Daenerys may not just be a suitable and just leader, but actually The Prince That Was Promised. He is now in a position of power greater than any role his spiteful family had ever offered.
1. Daenerys Targaryen
The Mother of Dragons sits proudly atop the hierarchy of the Seven Kingdoms. At the center of the Westerosi maelstrom, Daenerys Targaryen readies her firestorm while an abundance of threats prepare for her arrival. Recently cooled after her incineration of Khal Moro and his bandits, Daenerys prepares her final assault on King’s Landing. All she needs is a (very generous) gift of ships.
Euron Greyjoy salivates for Daenerys in more ways than one, but Yara and Theon have a head start on their bloodthirsty uncle. Their more levelheaded approach to may make for a lasting pact between Daenerys and the Iron Army. With dragons at the peak of their powers, a vast army of the Unsullied to her name, Tyrion Lannister in her stead at Meereen, and the potential for a fleet of ships to travel the Narrow Sea, Daenerys remains the most influential figure in Game of Thrones Season 6.
Bonus: The Night King
Barring all of the conflicts south of the Wall, the Night King is the true ringleader of the coming war. As the head of the White Walkers, he summons an army of the reanimated dead to slaughter whatever crosses their path. The blue-eyed beasts are indiscriminately opposed to all human life, be he Stark, Lannister, Targaryen or Greyjoy. As Jon Snow so aptly pointed out to skeptical wildlings, the coming war will ultimately be a battle of Westerosi vs. White Walker.
Therefore, while many of the most powerful and influential characters may seem opposed to one another, they may be best suited to build an alliance before winter breathes its breath on the southern countries.
Who do you think has the best shot at the Iron Throne? Let us know in the comments below!