Jack Gleeson, Emilia Clarke, Richard Madden
The Iron Throne may be made of swords, but that isn't a deterrent for the many people who want to sit upon it.
Following the death of King Robert Baratheon, Westeros has been thrown into turmoil. As the second season of Game of Thrones kicks off Sunday (9/8c, HBO), Robert's son Joffrey holds dominion in King's Landing, but not without rumblings from the surrounding Seven Kingdoms. Civil war has broken out, and while some men feel they have a better claim to the throne, others want supremacy over their own carved-out piece of turf.
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With so many would-be rulers out there, much like Hodor it's easy to become confused. TVGuide.com breaks down the participants in the so-called War of the Five Kings, as well as the outliers who may also pose a threat:
The War of the Five Kings
Joffrey Baratheon (Jack Gleeson) - Sort of the male Veruca Salt of Westeros, Joffrey is an even more intolerable whiner and bully now that he's ascended to the throne after his father's death. It remains to be seen if he'll maintain the crown, however, since rumor has it that he's not Robert's son, but instead the product of incest between his lovely mother Queen Cersei (Lena Headey) and her twin brother Jaime (Nicolaj Coster-Waldau), the Kingslayer.
Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) - Robert had chosen Ned Stark (Sean Bean) to be the Hand of the king, earning Stannis' eternal resentment since he felt he deserved the post. After his brother's death, Stannis has set his steely sights much higher: As the next eldest Baratheon, he declares that he's the next in line for the throne, not that bastard Joffrey. But will Stannis' dour ways win him supporters?
Renly Baratheon (Gethin Anthony) - As the youngest of Robert's brothers, Renly doesn't really have any legal claim to the throne, but he's much more charismatic than Stannis, and therefore has amassed an impressive army that intends to take King's Landing by force if necessary. Apparently, he doesn't harbor any love for his supposed nephew Joffrey either.
Robb Stark (Richard Madden) - He doesn't want the Iron Throne for himself but ever since Joffrey proved to be a ruthless tyrant by giving the command to have Ned Stark beheaded, Robb has wanted to install someone else there instead. That doesn't mean he lacks ambition though. The eldest Stark son has already styled himself the King of the North, intending for the upper reaches of the Seven Kingdoms to secede from Westeros.
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Balon Greyjoy (Patrick Malahide) - Remember Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen), the ward of House Stark who was raised alongside Robb and had a weakness for a certain redheaded whore? Well, his dad is still holding a grudge against the North after his failed Greyjoy Rebellion. He's an unbending believer in the traditional Ironborn ways, and therefore declares himself king of the Iron Islands and independent from the Iron Throne.
Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) - As the last living offspring of Mad King Aerys who ruled before that usurper King Robert, Daenerys' claim to the Iron Throne may be seen as more legitimate than any Baratheon's. She doesn't have any money, much less an army to help her reclaim the throne though. On the plus side, she's now the proud mom of three dragons, legendary creatures associated with the Targaryen dynasty that were thought to be extinct.
Gendry (Joe Dempsie) - Bastards don't have any claim to power, do they? Gendry isn't even aware that he's one of Robert's kids born on the wrong side of the sheets, but someone else sure does and isn't happy about it. Hmm, we wonder why. After leaving King's Landing, he's been hanging out with a disguised Arya Stark (Maisie Williams), whose own true identity would be of interest to many as well.
Mance Rayder - He was once part of the Night's Watch, but then broke his vows and became The King Beyond the Wall. Thus far, we don't think he'll have any onscreen appearances this season, but Mance's name is on the lips of many Westerosi decision-makers, and his influence over the Wildings, or free folk, should not be underestimated.
There you have it. A motley bunch of power-hungry types who have varying chances of success depending on whether they can stay survive. Who's your favorite?
Game of Thrones airs Sundays at 9/8c on HBO.