Spoiler Note: This article contains spoilers for Game of Thrones up to the most recent episode, “The Sons of the Harpy.” It does not contain any books spoilers, just the hopes and dreams of its author.
Even through only four episodes, the denizens of season 5 of Game of Thrones have already incurred a number of major losses. As we learned yet again this week, even characters who are still alive in George R.R. Martin’s books are not safe. More importantly, some of these deaths we’re seeing are also putting the plans of the major players in the story at risk. What will Dany do without her most trusted advisor and (potentially) without the leader of her Unsullied army?
With all the death and destruction, it’s easy to think that in the end, everyone is going to lose the Game of Thrones. But several characters can absolutely still win, dependent upon your definition of “winning.” Let’s explore some of the scenarios that remain.
1. Jon Snow
I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who want to believe that somehow Jon Snow will ascend to the Iron Throne. There are plenty of fan theories that make him out to be far more important than his current station in life. But let’s think about what “winning” would look like for Jon considering his current post as Lord Commander. For him to win, he and the men of The Night’s Watch would ultimately have to survive winter (because Winter is Coming) without The Wall and the seven kingdoms below it falling victim to the White Walkers. This is the big win for Jon. If he can somehow motivate Tormund Giantsbane (my favorite northern character) and the other wildlings to play along and help them defend The Realms of Men, then they could very well defeat the nightmares of winter. It’s a tough task, especially with other forces (like Stannis’ Godfather offers and Melisandre’s… uh… heartbeat) pulling him into the wars of the seven kingdoms.
2. Daenerys Targaryen
She still has dragons. We can’t forget that, even as things are going very poorly for everyone’s favorite Khaleesi. Stuck in the worst Summer at Sea Queen Training Program, Dany is having the worst time in her occupation of Meereen. Her Unsullied aren’t fit to occupy a city, her advisors are dropping like flies, and the slaves she so gloriously set free have begun hissing in her direction. Things are probably going to get worse for Dany before they get better, but there’s always a shadow lingering a few hundred feet above her. It’s the dark wings of creatures that are this world’s ultimate game changers. If she can figure out a way to control and use her dragons, Dany will not only set things to rights in Slaver’s Bay, she still has a shot at crossing the Narrow Sea and taking back the Iron Throne. It feels like a long way to go, but we can’t rule it out. Dragons are the deus ex machina of Martin’s world.
3. Stannis Baratheon
My most unpopular theory for how this story will end is the one where Stannis Baratheon wins out and ends up on the Iron Throne because (a) he’s the only battle tested general left within walking distance of the Throne and (b) he is actually the rightful heir to his brother Robert. I’m also terrified that Martin’s story will end up as a big time allegory about how fanatically religious conservatism is the ultimate winner. Not that I think George R.R. Martin is some secret Republican zealot or something, I just think he likes messing with us. Stannis is a survivor and if things keep going at their current pace, he could end up being the only one who makes it out of this alive.
4. Tommen Baratheon
For King Tommen, First of His Name, winning will be a matter of survival and escape. Not escaping King’s Landing per se, just the clutches of his mother. He seems like a thoughtful, kind young man who is really into his very beautiful new wife. If somehow Tommen can ship his mother off to the Casterly Rock Home for the Elderly, he stands a chance at surviving long enough to rule the Seven Kingdoms through a time of peace. This would also take Jon succeeding in stopping the White Walkers, Stannis never making it far enough south to take King’s Landing, and Dany never crossing the Narrow Sea, but it’s possible. It’s hard not to root for Tommen, because like any of us, he just wants to lay in bed all day with a beautiful significant other and be super rich.
5. Arya Stark
Arya Stark isn’t going to sit on the Iron Throne. She’s also not going to stop White Walkers or slay all the dragons. She could, however, turn into a little murder child and cross off all the remaining names on her list. If she were able to take out Cersei, Walder Frey, The Mountain, etc., that would very much throw the whole kingdom further into chaos (not to mention solve a lot of Tommen’s problems). Fans are rooting for Arya, especially as she transforms into Dark Arya. She may not have much of a role to play in the larger story (this monstrous “Song of Ice and Fire”), but she could accomplish her own personal goals. That would be a very memorable win.
6. The Sand Snakes
This is more of a personal hope than any actual speculation. Wouldn’t it be fun, though, if the kingdom of Dorne, led by the Sand Snakes, rose up from the south and pummeled the short-lived Lannister dynasty in response to what happened to Elia and Oberyn? I’m of the opinion, for a number of reasons, that the show’s stay in Dorne will be exciting but ultimately brief, probably only lasting through one or two seasons. But I’ve got this secret hope in my heart that Dorne will show us why they were the only one of the Seven Kingdoms that was never conquered by the Targaryens and their dragons.
Considering what their definition of winning might be, who do you think we’ll be able to count among the winners when Game of Thrones is over? (Remember, no book spoilers!)
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