By Zach Goins
April 12, 2019
This Sunday marks the beginning of the end for one of television’s most prolific series. When HBO kicks off the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones, viewers around the world will be glued to their screens to try and learn the final answer to a question they’ve been pondering for nearly a decade (and for book readers, almost 23 years): When the dust settles and the Great War is over, who will be the one to sit on the coveted Iron Throne?
With so many major characters still at play, there are plenty of people with a serious shot at taking command of Westeros. So, before the dragons start breathing fire and the White Walkers rise from the dead, it’s time to make a case as to why all of the remaining players could end up winning the game of thrones.
But beware, if you’re not up to date with all seven previous seasons of Thrones, turn back now. The night is dark and full of spoilers.
It’s impossible to talk about the Iron Throne without talking about Jon Snow. We last saw Jon getting down with Auntie Daenerys as the two sailed back towards Winterfell. Jon is the most logical pick to win. Afterall, a majority of the show has revolved around him and his transformation from outcast to leader. Despite never wanting the glory that comes with ruling, time and time again Jon is thrust into positions of power. With the impending reveal of his true parentage– part Stark, part Targaryen– Jon now has the greatest claim to the throne of anyone in the show. But could a Jon Snow pick be too obvious? If it were any other series, the King in the North would be a guaranteed lock, but fans have learned over the past seven seasons that no one is really safe.
Likewise, we left off with Dany literally in the same boat as Jon. After heading down to King’s Landing to convince Cersei and her army to put aside their quarrels and team up to fight the undead White Walkers, Dany is now headed back north to prepare for battle. Similar to Jon, Daenerys, aka Dany aka Khaleesi aka the Mother of Dragons, has been at the heart of the story from the beginning. Way back in the first season, she told the world her plan to raise her dragons, build an army and take the Iron Throne and, for the most part, she’s followed through. As long as Dany survives the battle against the undead, she certainly has the means to go all the way, but beware– she’s starting to show some of the same tendencies her father, The Mad King, once did. So, even if she does make it to the Iron Throne, is that what’s best for everyone else?
The Night King
Other than Jon and Dany, this unfortunately feels like the next logical assumption for a show as notoriously savage as Game of Thrones. The Night King is heading into the final season with a ton of momentum. My guy took down a dragon, revived it as a zombie ice dragon, then used said zombie ice dragon to destroy The Wall that has separated the living from the dead for thousands of years. With a massive army of undead soldiers at his disposal, the Night King is on a collision course with all of Westeros’s finest heroes, and could be primed to destroy them all. While his background and motivations are still extremely unclear, his goal is obvious: kill everyone. When your game plan is that simple, there isn’t much that can get in your way, so the Night King’s path to the throne is fairly clear. If the showrunners decide to take the final season down the darkest timeline, this is the ending you can count on.
Correction: this is the only possible ending that would be worse than the Night King winning it all. At the end of last season, Cersei was camped out in King’s Landing while everyone else was headed north to fight against impending doom. It was clear that despite her tentative agreement to assist everyone in the battle against the undead, Cersei was actually planning to turn against them in order to help herself. Surprise, surprise. So, as undesirable as this ending would be, it has to be treated as a real possibility. While everyone else is off risking their lives for the preservation of humanity, Cersei is safely waiting it out in hopes she can rule over what’s left. If the living defeat the Night King up north, they may be too weak to turn around and fight Cersei for the Iron Throne. Certainly HBO won’t let things go this wrong… will they?
Out of all the remaining Starks, Sansa is the dark horse to take the throne. When season seven concluded, the Lady of Winterfell had just successfully orchestrated the execution of Petyr Baelish, one of the show’s most conniving villains. Sansa has been through hell, but unlike Cersei she hasn’t turned completely cold. Instead, she’s learned from her experiences and come into her own as someone who shouldn’t be crossed. As the eldest true-born Stark, she has the full support of the North, which could prove useful once Jon’s true parentage is revealed. Couple that bombshell with the potential outrage that Jon chose to bend the knee to a foreign queen, and Sansa could find herself with a solid case to sit on the Iron Throne, should she choose to pursue it.
Game of Thrones season eight premiere airs Sunday, April 14, at 9 p.m. on HBO.