"There is only one war that matters. The Great War. And it is here." Jon Snow has warned that the current conflict between Cersei Lannister and Daenerys Targaryen over the Iron Throne ultimately doesn't matter because Winter is Here. The Night King and the Army of the Dead are ever-closer to the Wall and plan to extinguish all life on Westeros. After the events of last week's episode "Beyond the Wall," Daenerys saw with her own eyes that the Night King is real - and it cost her one of her beloved dragons, Viserion, which has been reborn as a weapon of the Night King.
The season 7 finale of Game of Thrones, 'The Dragon and the Wolf,' promises an armistice between the Lannisters and the Targaryen/Stark alliance. With the captured Wight Jon brought back from his tragic raiding party beyond the Wall, Jon and Daenerys hope to convince Cersei that the White Walkers are real, cease hostilities, and combine their forces into one army to fight for all life in the Seven Kingdoms. Everyone fighting the Night King together is the only chance anyone has of surviving the Great War to come.
The question is, if Cersei goes for it, who will lead the combined Army of the Seven Kingdoms into battle against the Night King? The logical knee jerk reaction from fans would be Jon Snow - but not so fast. In Cersei's eyes, Jon Snow is a bastard styling himself as the King of the North, who is in open rebellion to the crown. Cersei wouldn't necessarily believe in Jon's qualifications or chances at leading their army to victory.
In this war, losing is not an option - you win or you die. There will be no possibility of a truce or suing for peace with the Night King. Whomever serves as the head of the Army of the Seven Kingdoms has to achieve victory or all is lost. The dragon may have three heads, as the prophecy goes, but an army can only have one leader. With this in mind, let's look at all of the viable options currently in Westeros and determine who indeed should command the Seven Kingdoms' Army.
Qualifications: The Kingslayer is the Queen's twin brother, Lord Commander of the Queensguard, the head of the Lannister Army, Cersei's lover, and the person she trusts most in the world. Jaime, to his chagrin, will likely be Cersei's choice to lead the Army. As a military commander, Jaime was defeated by Robb Stark and captured during the War of the Five Kings. Since then, however, he's had some impressive victories: he took Riverrun from the Blackfish in season 6, and, along with the late Randyll Tarly, he led the conquest of Highgarden in season 7. Jaime is as fine a choice as any to lead the Seven Kingdoms' Army.
Drawbacks: He won't want the job. Jaime was humbled by his near-death experience against Daenerys' dragon and the Dothraki in the Loot Train Battle. He would not relish the opportunity to fight an army of ice zombies, much less an ice dragon. What's more, Jaime, who was once the greatest swordsman in Westeros, is now only passable fighting with his left hand after he lost his right hand. However, as he proved when he nearly got roasted by Drogon's dragonfire as he tried to kill Daenerys in the Loot Train Battle, Jaime will do whatever foolhardy feat it takes to win the war.
Qualifications: Tyrion drinks and he knows things. While he would explicitly state he's not a warrior, Tyrion has an impressive record as a military leader. As Hand to King Joffrey, Tyrion masterminded the successful defense of King's Landing in the Battle of the Blackwater. It was Tyrion who concocted the scheme to use wildfire against Stannis Baratheon's invasion fleet; a gambit Cersei herself adopted in season 6 when she used wildfire to murder her enemies and destroy the Sept of Baelor. If he's on his game, Tyrion is as fine a military mind as there is on Westeros.
Drawbacks: As Daenerys bitterly reminds him, however, Tyrion was not on his game in the early stages of her war with Cersei, which cost Daenerys her key alliances with the now eradicated House Martell of Dorne and House Tyrell of Highgarden, and the loss of Yara Greyjoy's Iron Fleet. Though he has been forced to fight in battle with axe in hand, Tyrion is no fighter, and his place is away from the carnage as Daenerys' Hand. Though he has been to the Wall and has experience in the North, leading the Seven Kingdoms' Army into battle against the Night King is a poor fit for the talents of the youngest Lannister.
Qualifications: Daenerys Stormborn is the Rightful Heir to the Iron Throne, Rightful Queen of the Andals and the First Men, Protector of the Seven Kingdoms, the Mother of Dragons, the Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, the Unburnt, the Breaker of Chains. Did we miss anything? Though she is not thought of as a military leader, Daenerys has a surprisingly impressive battle record. When she took ownership of the Unsullied before freeing them, she roasted the Masters of Asshai with dragonfire. She oversaw the conquest of Meereen, and she personally rode Drogon into the Loot Train Battle and led the Dothraki to a total victory. Daenerys' remaining dragons Drogon and Rhaegal are still Westeros' most powerful weapons against the Army of the Dead. Daenerys will no doubt be on the front lines, riding Drogon into battle. With her unparalleled ability to inspire both loyalty and fear, should Daenerys lead the entire Army as well?
Drawbacks: If Daenerys dies in battle, then the new world she dreams of building dies with her. She is too valuable to risk, yet she must be in the fight so that the dragons' vital power can be brought to bear. Now that Viserion has been turned into an undead (ice?) dragon, the Night King will no doubt want the remaining two dragons under his thrall as well. This puts the biggest target on Daenerys' back, but the reward is worth the risks.
Qualifications: As the leader of the Unsullied, Grey Worm is an experienced and extremely disciplined military leader who is 100% dedicated to fighting for his queen Daenerys. Grey Worm led the conquest of Meereen and just recently took Casterly Rock from the Lannisters. Grey Worm probably has the best overall military track record and is the finest field commander currently in Westeros, and he has the added motivation of wanting to come back safely and be with his love Missandei.
Drawbacks: Grey Worm does have some asterisks in his ledger. He nearly died fighting the Sons of the Harpys in Meereen, and his victory in Casterly Rock was only because most of the Lannister army abandoned the castle to go take Highgarden from the Tyrells. As a foreign-born eunuch, no way would Cersei allow Grey Worm to lead the Seven Kingdoms' Army. Another issue is the Unsullied and the Dothraki are accustomed to the warmer climate of Essos; they have no experience fighting in winter, much less against ice zombies. Indeed, the possibility exists that the Unsullied and Dothraki are as likely to die of pneumonia and frostbite as they are at the hands of Wights.
Qualifications: Euron Greyjoy is the greatest pirate of the fourteen seas. The current King of the Iron Islands has sailed and plundered all over the known world, and thus likely has experiences fighting inhuman creatures none of the other Westerosi have. Ice zombies might not phase him as a result. Euron is also a ruthless, immoral killer who will do whatever it takes to win, as he proved when he ambushed and sank his niece Yara's Iron Fleet and captured her. His Iron Fleet is equipped with the ability to hurl fireballs, which would be a vital weapon against the undead. Euron is also Queen Cersei's betrothed, and thus, he would love to win this war for Cersei and then rub it in Jaime's face.
Drawbacks: Euron is primarily a naval commander; the Army of the Dead would have to be brought close to the eastern shore so Euron can bear the firepower of the Iron Fleet down on them. Euron's ability to lead an army on land is unknown. Euron is also completely untrustworthy and disliked by everyone else on Westeros; it's doubtful he would inspire the necessary loyalty of the Army and he is likely to flee with his fleet if the battle turns badly for the forces of Westeros.
Qualifications: Ser Bronn of the Blackwater is an experienced warrior and survivor. He successfully fought in the Battle of the Blackwater - which earned him his knighthood - and he just recently helped conquer Highgarden. In the Loot Train Battle, Bronn was able to pierce Drogon's hide with a bolt from the Scorpion. Bronn also has the unique distinction of being perhaps the only man trusted and called friend by both Jaime and Tyrion Lannister; thus, Bronn is an unlikely bridge between the Lannisters and the Targaryen/Stark camps.
Drawbacks: Well, for one thing, Bronn wouldn't want the job. Most of Bronn's experience is as a sellsword; he has no real experience leading an army into war and he has never faced the White Walkers - nor would he particularly want to. Bronn is a great guy to have at your side in battle, and he is more loyal and courageous than he lets on, but he's no general and not the man to serve as the Night King's opposite number in war.
BRIENNE OF TARTH
Qualifications: Brienne of Tarth was a member of Renly Baratheon's Kingsguard during the War of the Five Kings. She is currently the sworn protector of both Sansa Stark, Lady of Winterfell, and Arya Stark, though Sansa has sent Brienne to King's Landing to participate in the armistice in her stead. Brienne is an expert warrior who has defeated the Hound Sandor Clegane in battle, and she is an extremely loyal individual, maybe to a fault. Brienne also bears the distinction of being someone implicitly trusted by Jaime Lannister. Should Brianne lead the Seven Kingdoms' Army?
Drawbacks: Probably not. Though she has ignited the lust and admiration of Tormund Giantsbane, Brienne has no known experience as a military commander. She's also proven to be a poor negotiator, though that's not relevant to fighting the Night King. Brienne is an excellent warrior, but she isn't the person who can guarantee victory over the White Walkers by any means.
Qualifications: Just kidding. Though, as Lord of the Vale, he should be called upon to fight and lead the Knights of the Vale. No, but seriously, Lyanna Mormont is more qualified and capable of leading an army than Robin Arryn, not that she should be one to lead the war against the White Walkers.
Drawbacks: Too many to count.
Qualifications: Jon Snow is the King in the North, a former Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, and has more experience battling White Walkers than anyone. Jon has come face to face with the Night King twice, at Hardhome and at the Battle of the Frozen Lake, and lived to tell the tale. Jon is an expert warrior, a capable military commander, he commands the Army of the North, and he wields Longclaw, a Valyrian steel sword which is one of the few weapons known to destroy White Walkers. As a Targaryen, a fact which he is currently unaware of, Jon is capable of riding Daenerys' dragon Rhaegar, or perhaps even Drogon himself in Daenerys' stead, into battle.
Drawbacks: Jon has a 0-2 record when facing the Night King. His experiences fighting White Walkers have not resulted in any meaningful victories. Granted, he never had a proper army behind him. However, Jon's military record is questionable. As Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, he successfully defended Castle Black against the Wildlings in season 5, but as Sansa is quick to remind everyone, Jon lost the Battle of the Bastards against Ramsay Bolton and was saved by the Knights of the Vale, who arrived to fight for Sansa. Jon's foolhardy excursion to capture a Wight in 'Beyond the Wall,' while ultimately successful, was ill-conceived and required him to be rescued in deus ex machina fashion twice. For all of his experience against White Walkers, Jon Snow doesn't guarantee victory by any means.
It seems like there is no ideal leader for the Army of the Seven Kingdoms. No one person is fully qualified to assure a necessary victory against the Night King. The two people who come the closest are Daenerys, for her dragons and proven success piloting them, and Jon, for his courage and experience against the White Walkers. However, neither would inspire the confidence of Cersei, and thus ensure her all-important participation in the war, that her brother Jaime would. Which is why, with reservations, we choose Jaime Lannister as the general of the Army of the Seven Kingdoms. Jaime would at least listen to Daenerys, Jon, and Tyrion, and together, come up with a strategy that would save everyone on Westeros.
Who do you think should lead the Seven Kingdoms' Army and can guarantee victory against the Night King? Let us know in the comments below!
Game of Thrones season 7 concludes Sunday night @ 9pm on HBO, HBO GO and HBO NOW.