After Game of Thrones' recent Red Wedding massacre, competition for the Iron Throne just got fiercer.
Who's left to fight the good fight? And will one of our heroes actually declare victory? Only George R.R. Martin, who wrote the books on which the HBO series is based, truly knows which of his characters, if any, will indeed sit upon that bloody, uncomfortable throne when his seven-book series is completed. But until then, we can catch the season finale Sunday (9/8c, HBO) and debate the leadership potential of who's left alive (RIP, Robb Stark!).
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Here's TVGuide.com's list of the most throne-worthy candidates, with some input by the cast:
Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke)
Why she rules: The khaleesi has proven to be ruthless when necessary, has amassed a huge army and devoted followers and of course, is the Mother of Dragons. This lady has earned her B.A. in badassery! "She's really the only one who's kind of playing fair," Maisie Williams, who plays Arya Stark, tells TVGuide.com. "She's killing the bad guys and saving the good guys." Charles Dance, who plays the imposing Tywin Lannister, agrees. "That gorgeous little lady with her dragons! She's strong, she's unscrupulous and she could be as powerful as Tywin Lannister." Plus, she is technically next in line for the Targaryens, who ruled before the usurper Robert Baratheon came along, so she's just reclaiming what's hers, no?
Why she shouldn't rule: "She's crazy!" Nicolaj Coster-Waldau, aka Jaime Lannister, says. Well, he might have a point. Because of the Targaryen habit of marrying brother to sister, insanity runs in the family, as evidenced by her dad "Mad" King Aerys and her brother Viserys. Coster-Waldau adds, "She's been told what to do by her brother. She's just fulfilling somebody else's wishes." We'd also mention that she's not very in touch with the people in the Seven Kingdoms, and therefore, wouldn't know how to handle them or address their needs.
Jon Snow (Kit Harington)
Why he rules: "I think Jon Snow has the nobility and compassion to make him a very good leader," Joe Dempsie, who plays fellow bastard Gendry, said in an HBO interview. Snow certainly has experienced life in a noble house and has had the heavy responsibility of playing double agent with the wildings on behalf of the Night's Watch. He's one of the few who will have the insight from both sides of the Wall as well as sympathizing with the masses since he was born on the wrong side of the sheet. Plus: He's got his own direwolf!
Why he shouldn't rule: "You know nothing, Jon Snow" is his girlfriend Ygritte's catchphrase, and it's kind of true. Growing up with noble privileges but none of the status has put him in a kind of limbo in which he doesn't know his place in the world nor how to interact with different groups. Except for offering a few swordfighting tips at Castle Black, he hasn't really demonstrated his ability to lead. This lone wolf needs to gain more experience and build his pack!
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Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage)
Why he rules: Yes, we know he's a Lannister, but he's the best of them and just so darn witty! "He's a thinker," Michelle Fairley, aka the late Catelyn Stark, says. "He knows what it feels like to be treated badly. He has empathy towards people... At the bottom of it all, I think he'd be a very good leader." Also, with his political marriage to Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner), he could unite their two Houses and bring the North back into the fold. And we can't forget that he was the mastermind behind the wildfire strategy in the Battle of Blackwater.
Why he shouldn't rule: Sadly, Tyrion isn't well liked among the Westerosi, who aren't ready to give "The Imp" the proper respect. And while we think the Halfman's soft heart is endearing, he seeks approval too much to be an effective leader. Let's face it; he'd be miserable as king.
Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright)
Why he rules: Sorry, Dany, but Bran actually has an older claim on Westeros than the Targaryens. Not only are the Starks descended from the first humans to set foot on the continent, but Bran also has a connection with the the mystical "children of the forest," who were there before the men. He has greensight (prophetic dreams) and is a warg, a person who can enter and control the mind of an animal like his direwolf. Both long-lost qualities could be the key to defeating the White Walkers and other magically creepy threats from beyond the Wall. "He's a nice kid and he seems to have insight into people," Coster-Waldau says. "He has connections to that other world. And he has suffered tremendous pain at an early age, but he almost has that [Nelson] Mandela kind of thing: He doesn't seem to hold a grudge or be vengeful."
Why he shouldn't rule: Now that he's an orphan and heading past the Wall to get tutored by a greenseer, he's not getting any sort of guidance in dealing with the people of Westeros. Bran will need a lot more leadership experience and some strong, adult allies before anyone will be willing to look past his crippled body and youth.
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Why she rules: Like her younger brother Bran, she's from that ancient Westerosi bloodline and has suffered enough to understand the grim realities of the world (attending your dad's beheading does that to you!). This has made her more of a survivor than the elder Starks, whose tragic downfall resulted from underestimating and trusting their opponents. Arya has cunning and a healthy dose of trust issues for such a violent world.
Why she shouldn't rule: The girl has a hit list! We're not sure she'd be focused on ruling versus getting vengeance. Also, anger issues much? "I don't know if she really deserves it," Williams says. "She's just been trying to get home. I think she'd be a pretty good leader -- maybe not very responsible, but it would be funny." Don't get us wrong; we love Arya. But before we believe she can be queen, we'd want her to reunite with her direwolf, learn to be a little more zen, get leadership experience and perfect her sword fighting skills. That's not asking too much, right?
In the end, there's no guarantee that one of our favorites will prevail, much less live to see the day. This is a cruel and unforgiving world, and so far, it seems that the villains have the upper hand.
Check out a preview of Sunday's Game of Thrones finale, airing at 9/8c on HBO, and then vote on who you think should rule below: