Cast Your Vote—Who Will Take the Throne?

*Spoilers below*

Winter has come! Or rather, spring has come and it’s bringing winter with it. Sunday, April 14, ended the two-year reign of stagnancy in which we all sat wondering: Who will take the throne in the final season of Game of Thrones?

As the launch of the new season neared, audiences across the globe took many hours to reconnect with past seasons and reflect on the major and (seemingly) minor events. We’ve lived through a red and purple wedding and Jon’s resurrection. We’ve watched Daenerys grow from marriage pawn to Mother of Dragons, and applauded when Sansa brought Little Finger’s army to the Battle of the Bastards, only to skillfully execute him later in a true show of what it means for the apprentice to become the master. We’ve watched Arya become No One, and witnessed Cersei’s ascension to the Iron Throne. And we all felt that icicle pierce our hearts when Viserion slid limply underneath the ice – a death equally as crushing as Oberyn’s in season four.

In a world where blood flows constantly, power shifts at the drop of a hat (or should I say sword?), and audiences crave the chaos of something going wrong, what are the possible outcomes? And, on a more personal note, who do we want to emerge victoriously?

Credit: HBO

To the dismay of many, I am not rooting for Jon Snow. He’s a good guy and fits the trope of the reluctant hero fighting for the right reasons. And given that he’s surrounded by players whose moral agenda is shelved behind a long list of priorities, or doesn’t exist at all, his righteous personality provides respectful contrast to the morally reprehensible behavior of his counterparts.

But the show has selected Jon as their candidate to fulfill a “chosen one” complex that is tearing attention away from other characters. Sansa was the true hero in the Battle of the Bastards. She provided reinforcements when Jon was literally suffocating under a growing pile of bodies. But naturally, Jon gets to be King of the North, even though he soon sails away and Sansa is the one left effectively running Winterfell.

The show then adds fuel to the fire when Jon begins to encroach on Dany’s flame. We’ve been poised for an iconic showdown between our two rival queens now that Cersei sits on the throne and Dany is making her play for it. But last minute, Bran has a vision, and suddenly Jon is the rightful heir to the Iron Throne. His mere existence delegitimizes all of Dany’s credibility and efforts put into her campaign, simply because by the right of birth he is “the one.” I fear as well that his Targaryen blood will earn him the right to ride one of Dany’s dragons into battle – a privilege that should be granted to Dany alone. They are her children after all and she already lost one of them for the sake of saving Jon and his compatriots.

Credit: HBO

Despite the sphere of superiority that seems to follow Jon, he is not guaranteed to win. In fact, an ending where he comes out on top may be too predictable for a show that loves to punish its morally upstanding protagonists. Is Daenerys a likely victor then? She has the dragons, the birthright, the army, Jon’s support, and the wherewithal.

When we look at her track record throughout the show, she’s been hugely successful. She often serves as the beacon of empowerment (although we must take care to note when certain scenes often lift her up, literally and figuratively, at the expense of cripplingly racist visuals) and represents our traditional oppressed female heroine rising from the ashes to achieve a state of agency, build armies, and conquer vast stretches of territory.

Do all her achievements make her deserving of the Iron Throne? Or after seven seasons of dominance, is she due for a groundbreaking fall? I would applaud her emergence as the true victor, but, similarly to Jon, a finale in which she sits unshakeable on the throne seems a tad too predictable as well. There’s been few, arguably zero, moments in the show when Dany has the realization that all is lost. So perhaps a conclusion befitting of Game of Thrones would force us to watch the untouchable Mother of Dragons dragged downward, instead of up.

Credit: HBO

Where do our lovely Stark sisters fit into all of this chaos? Arya has a tool belt full of faces. We want to know who’s going to be her main target and if she’ll stick to her personal vendettas or drop the revenge schemes in favor of more imminent conflict. Her sword fighting skills were showcased in a riveting combat scene between her and Brienne, so the hunch is that she’ll be putting these abilities to use some point soon. At this point in the game, I would characterize Arya as our greatest wild card. Her training removed her from the political arena for so long that her motivations have become shadowed.

If there is one character whose tragic timeline throughout this show has made her deserving of a happy ending, it is Sansa. She was established as the unlikeable sister in season one and then was battered and sold by one power-hungry man after the other for seasons to come. To top it all off, her torturous experience under Ramsay was constructed solely for the benefit of developing Theon’s character arc while putting her later achievements on hold and subjecting her to horrendous cruelty.

Despite all of these injustices, Sansa has still prevailed. She took back Winterfell, is running it with skill and composure, and developed a political intellect that few characters can rival. She executed Little Finger, the show’s resident chess master, and is poised to settle into the responsibilities of a true leader. Will her underdog status be the key to a potential victory? Will Jon, Dany, Cersei, and the other big personalities square off, destroy each other, and leave an empty throne waiting for her to claim? This may seem unlikely, but Sansa hasn’t lasted seven seasons by leveling armies. She’s survived through perseverance, skillful manipulation of the shakiest alliances, and an iron will that would compliment any throne beautifully.

Credit: HBO

And of course, we can’t forget the Lannisters. Jaimie has walked out on Cersei. Cersei is expecting Euron to bring her the Golden Company, and Tyrion has thrown his support behind Dany. While the Targaryen contenders, with Tyrion mixed in, hold themselves to a higher moral code, Cersei and Jaimie hold themselves to nothing but the beauty of the game itself. And no matter how many reprehensible things they’ve done for seven seasons, there’s no denying that they are masters at what they do. Cersei, Jaimie, and Tyrion are our ruthless strategists. They know who moves where and for what reasons, so just when you think they’ve finally fallen, their unparalleled technique lifts them right back up.

But the Lannisters have also gone their separate ways. Tyrion has devoted his repertoire of skills to Dany, making her candidacy all the more likable. Jaimie has turned his back on Cersei, causing audiences worldwide to wonder who he will pledge his sword to. And Cersei is determined to win at all costs. Admittedly, I will watch with grudging satisfaction if Cersei is the sole character left standing simply for the reason that she is not a great villain, but the best villain. She has burned every bridge and razed entire cities to the ground. Every hit she has taken, she has hit back even harder, with sickening consequences. We hate her, yes, but Lena Headey’s acting is so good, and the character building is so remarkable, that audiences have never had a more admirable villain to hate. So if Game of Thrones is going to permit a villain to win, instead of a hero, let it be Cersei.

Credit: HBO

Lastly, we must address the central conflict of the coming season – the invasion from beyond the Wall. Is it too simple to let the Whitewalkers eradicate all of humanity, or will they win in order to showcase the futility of “the game of thrones?" I cannot decide if a Whitewalker victory would be disappointing, saddening, or somewhat sadistically humorous. But they’ve added a dragon to their numbers, so the odds seem a little stacked.

Ultimately, we could speculate for hours, construct a team of the world’s most elite political strategists, and it would still be impossible to guess the show’s true victor. After two years of aggravated waiting, the time has come! Seven seasons of blood, tears, and rolling heads will deliver us a conclusion.

Six episodes remain. Cast your ballots now because a winner has been chosen. And no matter what the outcome, there will be chaos.

 

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