In this series…
- Before season 8 starts, read our guide to where every character left off.
- The most beautiful shots of Game of Thrones, curated by One Perfect Shot.
- Every episode of Game of Thrones, ranked by our own resident Maester.
- Read our in-depth breakdown of the Game of Thrones season 8 trailer.
- We rank the best duels in Game of Thrones.
- Explore our guide to the best Game of Thrones scenes by season.
- We rank the 50 most important props from Game of Thrones.
- Gather your tunics and explore Game of Thrones in 50 Costumes.
- We also ranked the villains on Game of Thrones.
- Brush up on who’s left on Arya’s kill list.
- We try to answer the unanswered questions of Game of Thrones season 8.
Jon Snow, Daenerys Targaryen, Cersei Lannister, the Night King—there are certain characters for which the path to victory in the Game of Thrones is very clear. As it stands, the end of season 7 points to one of these four ending up on Westeros’ most coveted seat once all the dust is settled. While other articles might focus on arguing the case for which one will be on top when all is said and done, this here thought experiment is a whole different beast. The point here is not to guess what will happen, but to explore the avenues by which ten unlikely candidates theoretically could, but almost certainly won’t, come out on top.
Gendry Waters (Baratheon)
In order for this scenario to play out, the first thing that would have to happen is for Gendry to be legitimized as a Baratheon—something which is actually rather plausible, considering there are no trueborn Baratheons left to keep the House going, and that such an action would be a fitting reward for running all the way back to Eastwatch and saving Jon’s ass. Presuming no other secret Targaryens burst out of the woodworks, if Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen were to legitimize him and then die without issue, Gendry would have the strongest claim to the Iron Throne regardless of whether one favors the Targaryen or the Baratheon line of succession. His father was King Robert Baratheon, making his great-grandmother Rhaelle Targaryen, the daughter of Aegon V. Of the Great Houses of Westeros, House Baratheon has both the most recent connection to the Targaryen dynasty through Rhaelle, and also the strongest link to the Targaryens in terms of origin, as the founder of House Baratheon, Orys, was Aegon the Conquerer’s bastard half-brother. If Game of Thrones is going to pull a curveball regarding who ends up on the Iron Throne, this bastard blacksmith from Flea Bottom is the most likely candidate. So, in sum, it could play out like this: Gendry gets legitimized. Jon and Daenerys die fighting the Night King. Bran opts out on his inheritance (“I’m the Three-Eyed Raven now”), Sansa decides she would rather remain Lady of Winterfell, and Arya has never had the slightest interest in the Iron Throne. Gendry decides to take up his father’s mantle, and the survivors of the war against the Night King rally behind him. Cersei’s reign meets a particularly poetic end, unseated by the bastard son of the husband she conspired to murder.
Cersei marries Euron. Jon and Daenerys manage to stop the Night King, but are killed in the process. Cersei dies from one cause or another—childbirth, at the hands of one of the many enemies she has accumulated over the years, whatever it may be. Theon’s “rescue Yara” plan fails spectacularly because he is vastly outnumbered, he and Yara are summarily executed. Euron now holds the Iron Throne with no challengers. Perhaps the worst of all possible universes.
While narratively this outcome would be decidedly out of left field, multiple bookies actually have Bran as the odds-on favorite to win the Iron Throne. While I have encountered several articles citing this rather surprising statistic, I have yet to encounter any testimonies from members of the “Bran-wagon,” if you will, regarding their rationales, so I can only guess as to how they picture the final season of Game of Thrones playing out. The most plausible possibility would likely go a little something like this: apart from Dorne, the standard inheritance pattern is through the male line, meaning Bran Stark would be Jon Snow’s heir by default. Should Jon Snow take over the Iron Throne on his lonesome and then die, that would make Bran the next in line. That said, Three Eyed Raven Bran doesn’t even seem to remember how to be a person, not to mention a king, so this scenario actually sounds pretty terrible.
The most frequently cited rationale for Sansa’s unlikely victory comes not from anything that has happened on the show, but the idea that Game of Thrones is heavily inspired by the War of the Roses and Sansa is the show’s most obvious candidate for the role of Elizabeth I. There are plenty of people on the interwebs making the case for why Sansa is the best candidate for Queen of Westeros, but once again, far fewer address how she would actually get there. There’s certainly no way she’ll get the crown with Daenerys still in the picture, so something would have to happen with the Dragon Queen first. Admittedly, since disposing of Ramsay, Sansa has shown little interest in leaving Winterfell again, but should Jon pursue the Iron Throne and then die, she is easily better qualified for politicking than Bran. As such, Queen Sansa could perhaps come to pass in either of the following ways: Jon has the foresight to name Sansa his heir before his death, which is feasible considering he left her in charge of Winterfell before leaving for Dragonstone, or Jon doesn’t get around to making a will before kicking the bucket, and Sansa convinces everyone to rally behind her before heading to King’s Landing.
Admittedly, while Varys might actually be one of the better rulers Westeros could get in terms of dedication to the wellbeing of the smallfolk and political prowess—at least, until the issue of succession comes along— the only way it really seems like the Houseless, foreign-born Master of Whispers could ever actually make it to the big pointy chair is if the “Merling Varys” theory proves correct and he succeeds in his mission of flooding all of Westeros to make it habitable for his people, in which case one would imagine he would be rewarded with the top seat in this new land.