‘Game of Thrones’ mystery: Who will end up on the Iron Throne?

“When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die.” No quote better encapsulates the brutal jockeying for power witnessed in HBO’s “Game of Thrones.” Seemingly, every citizen of Westeros has desired the Iron Throne at some point, and most have died in their efforts to claim it. Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) is the current occupant, but it may be difficult for her to maintain power. With just one season left of the series, the music is about to stop in this deadly game of musical chairs. When the dust has settled on this fantasy epic, who will end up seated on the Iron Throne?

Jon Snow – He’s battled wights, killed a white walker, and even come back from the dead. Jon Snow (Kit Harington) is the most obvious candidate for the Iron Throne. Not only does he have a compelling character arc that sees the bastard outcast transform into a heroic leader, but Melisandre (Carice van Houten) is convinced that he is Azor Ahai reborn. If Jon fulfills the major prophecy of Westeros and is indeed “The Prince that was Promised,” it stands to reason that such a man would claim the continent’s seat of power as it’s new benevolent ruler. Oh and that whole bastard issue? The series finally confirmed the longstanding rumor that Jon is the legitimate offspring of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen. That lineage makes him the rightful heir to the throne.

Daenerys Targaryen – If Jon isn’t interested in ruling Westeros, or falls in a battle against the invading undead, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) is more than willing to take over King’s Landing. It would actually be hugely anticlimactic for Dany to fail at seizing the throne. The dragon queen has spent years of her life (and nearly seven seasons of the show) amassing power in Essos with the sole purpose of retaking rule of Westeros. Sure, she lost the Tyrell army, Greyjoy fleet, and a dragon last season. But with so many women rising to power at the tail end of the series, wouldn’t it make sense for Daenerys to make the ultimate power play?

Jon and DaenerysGeorge R.R. Martin’s novels are referred to as “A Song of Ice and Fire” series. Many fans have speculated that the titular “song” refers to the union of Jon (the ice) and Dany (the fire). Perhaps the two will realize that after generations of tyrants on the Iron Throne, it may be best to have two rulers in order to prevent one person from delving into authoritarianism. It would certainly quell Dany’s fear of becoming “mad” like her father if Jon were by her side. Further evidence that the two heroes are linked is that Daenerys also fulfills the Azor Ahai prophecy given her symbolic rebirth in the pyre that hatched her dragons. Melisandre is sleeping on the fact that the prophecy does not specify gender, nor rule out that it may refer to more than one person.

The Night King – Viewers have spent so much time wondering which Westerosi house will ultimately claim the throne, that they have largely ignored the possibility of the villain to the north. During Daenerys’ visions in the House of the Undying, she walked through the throne room in the red keep only to find it destroyed. Snow poured in through charred holes in the roof. A cold front in King’s Landing surely points to the presence of The Night King. The leader of the White Walkers recently killed and reanimated Dany’s dragon Viserion, and used his new beast to destroy The Wall. With his army on the march south, it’s only a matter of time before he inevitably reaches the Iron Throne.

Cersei Lannister – Plenty of viewers pegged Cersei for a dramatic death last season, this writer included. After all, how would her petty squabbles with other houses be important when wights start rampaging through the country. But we underestimated Cersei’s cunning nature, and the show found fascinating ways to keep the Queen around and integral to the coming White Walker War. It would be an impressive feat for such a villain to hold onto the throne after years of deception and murder. But what if after the great war is finished, Westeros decides it no longer needs a singular monarch? Or if the people demand to move the seat of power away from a weakened King’s Landing, to say Dragonstone or Winterfell? It would be just like George R.R. Martin allow Cersei to wind up with the throne she always wanted, only for it to become meaningless.

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