Game of Thrones season 8: Who will end up on the Iron Throne – and why?

Here are all the key players as the game reaches its conclusion... 

Nick Hilton
Sunday 14 April 2019 16:40
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Game of Thrones full season 8 trailer

The moment that millions of people have spent years waiting for is almost here. No, I don’t mean Brexit, I’m talking about the final season of Game of Thrones, which begins in the wee small hours of Monday 15th April.

Six episodes running a total of 432 minutes is all that’s left in the winner-takes-all saga that has gripped audiences since it first aired back in 2011. The prize at stake for the runners and riders in this Westerosi battle royale is the Iron Throne, the seat of the Seven Kingdoms.

But Game of Thrones hasn’t been on our screens since the summer of 2017, so here, as a refresher, are all the key players as the game reaches its conclusion…

Jon Snow

The big reveal of Game of Thrones’ penultimate season (a twist that fan communities had seen coming from before the television adaptation even aired) was the truth of Jon Snow’s parentage, namely that he is not the bastard son of Ned Stark but the legitimate spawn of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryan.

Whilst most viewers were preoccupied with the ickiness of this revelation being juxtaposed against the image of him rolling around in bed with Daenerys (now revealed to be his aunt), the fact is that he now has the most legitimate claim to the Iron Throne. Certainly he has a better claim than his dad’s sister, to whom he’s just sworn fealty (not to mention done things that would make the Pitcairn Islanders blush).

Jon’s biggest issue is that he still doesn’t know how hot his stock is, and the only two characters who do are his pal Sam Tarly and his irritating younger brother Bran. Can such an undynamic duo get this crucial information to Jon before it’s too late?

Daenerys Targaryan

Daenerys in ‘Game of Thrones’

Up until the end of the last series (and provided you hadn’t been reading any fan theories) it seemed like Daenerys was fated to end up ruling the Seven Kingdoms. George R. R. Martin’s series is, after all, called A Song of Ice and Fire, and where the chilly element of that could apply equally to Jon Snow or the horde of frigid zombies, it’s long been apparent that Dany brings the titular heat.

She spent a frustrating amount of time in Essos, honing her military and governance skills (both of which seem to rely on oppressive use of dragon fire) and arrived in Westeros on a seemingly unstoppable quest for the crown.

Her claim has been weakened by the discovery that her nephew Jon is the true Targaryen heir, but it’s also quite clear that she wears the dragon-riding slacks in their relationship.

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Cersei Lannister

Cersei is the only villain to survive from episode one to the final season, so credit to her for that. She has already lost her more pragmatic siblings – Tyrion and Jaime – to the anti-apocalypse cause, and her plan for the endgame seems to involve double-crossing the alliance heading to deal with the zombie threat.

It simply cannot end well for her, because any damage wrought against the Targaryens will only pave the way for the Night King’s army, and he’s not a man(?) who looks like he’d care much about the Lannisters’ credit rating. Truly the Cnut of the series, she’s already on borrowed time.

Sansa Stark in ‘Game of Thrones’

The survival of the younger Stark children makes you feel all the more sorry for poor Rickon (why oh why didn’t he zigzag?!), who suffered the indignity of never even getting to be a real character before he was dispatched. The reality is that none of the Starks really fancy taking the crown and moving to King’s Landing. They love the North, where you get to wear long fur coats and growl ominous warnings at soft southerners.

The best case scenario for Bran is that he gets to live in a castle, not a tree (or the Night King’s body, see fan theories for further details), and, for Sansa, that bizarrely coveted wardenship of the North looks increasingly like it has her name on it. Arya is something of an agent of chaos, and it’s hard to know what, undoubtedly pivotal, role she will yet play, but – and do prove me wrong Arya – it’s hard to see her chatting finance with the Small Council.

The Night King

Could the Night King be the strong leader that Westeros so desperately needs? It would be fitting for a series that has so willingly taken beloved characters and decapitated them/stabbed them in the heart/slit their throat, to go out with the nihilistic bang of the Night King, astride undead Viserion, perched on the Red Keep. He’s the man to watch if the showrunners decide that they want to go full metaphor.

Dark horses

Gendry in ‘Game of Thrones’ (HBO)

There are some characters – Varys, Jorah, Theon and Yara Greyjoy – who will probably play a significant role in the climactic drama, but without any chance of ending up in the hot seat. A better bet might be Gendry, aka the hot ironmonger from Skins, who has the strongest Baratheon claim to the throne.

Other major characters like Brienne, Bronn, Davos and Grey Worm will be knocking about (provided they’re given the screentime in this truncated series) but are subjects, not rulers. Euron Greyjoy has to meet a sticky end at some point, because he’s fully evil and also very misjudged as a character.

My outside bet, for the connoisseurs, is Beric Dondarrion, the priest of the Lord of Light, who has seemingly survived the breach of the wall at Eastwatch and whose ability to both conjure fire and come back from the dead might be quite useful against the ice zombies.

Verdict

Unless they pull off in a wild, unexpected direction – and full credit if they do – it’s going to be Jon and Dany ruling together, and the final shot of the series will, mark my words, be a slow track backwards through the throne room, showing the newly married couple, side-by-side, in a slightly less uncomfortable pair of matching thrones. Incest apologism at its most heart-warming.

For my own part, I’d like to see a Ministry of All the Talents in King’s Landing, with Arya bossing the Kingsguard, Yara on naval duty, Davos in charge of law and order (justice, Flea Bottom style), Bronn overseeing the treasury (who better than a sellsword?), and Varys back as spymaster.

If Robert, Joffrey and Tommen – the Baratheon kings – have taught us anything, it’s that it’s possible to be in office but not in power. When the ice thaws, I hope to see Game of Thrones’ multifaceted characters given their dues – if they make it out alive, that is.

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