'Game of Thrones': 7 Dark Horse Contenders for the Iron Throne

Forget Daenerys Targaryen, who are some of the least likely picks to win the crown of Westeros?
Helen Sloan/Courtesy of HBO

A wise woman once said: "When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die — there is no middle ground."

Several individuals have come to learn this lesson the hard way, losing their lives in service of the Iron Throne of Westeros — and, in many cases, in pursuit of the throne. Gone are the days of House Targaryen, save for one silver-haired Khaleesi in the east. The King in the North is dead, and another king died in the north, too, in the form of Stannis Baratheon. At the moment, the contest for Game of Thrones' top spot is wildly unpredictable, with no certain outcome for the end of the series.

Of course, some characters are more likely to rule over Westeros in the end than others — folks like Daenerys, for instance, or possibly even Jon Snow, assuming he returns from the dead, and his true lineage is as royal as theories suggest. But let's put those frontrunners aside for the moment, and consider some less likely candidates who could emerge victorious in the game of thrones.

Tommen Baratheon
The soft-hearted Tommen is the current king of Westeros, but holding onto power is no easy feat — especially in his family. In a short span of years, Tommen's father Robert died due to a deadly combination of poison and pig, and poison alone was enough to take out his swine of a brother Joffrey. Sister Myrcella, too, died thanks to the venomous kiss of a Dornish woman, leaving Tommen the last living "Baratheon" — a name that's in quotes, because he's actually the product of Lannister-on-Lannister incest. Unfortunate beginnings aside, Tommen is kinder than most in his family, and in time, Westeros could flourish under his rule. But the odds of him actually holding onto his seat are extraordinarily low.

Gendry "Baratheon"
In time, the quotes around that royal surname could disappear, if Gendry's true roots are ever acknowledged. The Flea Bottom blacksmith's veins are rich with royal blood (as Melisandre the Red Priestess and her leaches know all too well) thanks to the fact that he's the bastard son of the late King Robert. If legitimized, Gendry boasts one of the strongest claims to the Iron Throne, but it's a big if. After all, who's around to swear to Gendry's heritage? And even if someone comes out of the woodwork to support his claim, Gendry himself has to appear as well. For all we know, he's still rowing away from Dragonstone, assuming he hasn't drowned.

What does Petyr Baelish want? In his words, "Everything." It's a tall order, one that presumably involves the top job in Westeros, and it's hard to see exactly how Littlefinger's wicked appetite can ever be fully satiated. Then again, it's hard to see Littlefinger's moves in advance, but that doesn't mean his moves don't work. From plotting the death of Jon Arryn and throwing the Seven Kingdoms into turmoil as a result, to throwing his accomplice straight out the Moon Door, and all the tiny moves in between, Littlefinger remains the number one political operator in all of Thrones. If the story's ending reflects the cruel tone of the world, it could very possibly feature Littlefinger hanging his hat in the Red Keep for good.

Sansa Stark
If Littlefinger occupying the Iron Throne is something of a nightmare scenario, then his protégé Sansa securing the crown is a dream come true — albeit too much of a fairy tale ending for a story like Thrones, most likely. That's what makes Sansa ruling Westeros so far-fetched, but her arc certainly suggests a powerful position in the future, even if it's just commanding the North. But if the Starks are able to return to their former glory, and Sansa is somehow at the helm of the movement, one can imagine the Queen in the North breaking the wheel of Westeros and remolding it in a better image.

Rickon Stark
Turning from the eldest Stark sibling to the youngest, Rickon could lead a Northern revolution just like his big sister … assuming he ever emerges from hiding, that is. We haven't seen hide nor hair of the Tumblr sensation since he disappeared at the end of season three, and even then, Rickon was often at his best when he was nothing more than a meme. But if darkness falls on his other siblings, and Rickon emerges just in time to bring his noble family back to prominence, then he could make a play at the crown.

No One
It's not just a nihilistic suggestion, though that's certainly on the table as well. After all, if the Night's King and the White Walkers have their way with Westeros, there won't even be an Iron Throne to fight over. But putting that aside, consider the possibility of "no one" in the Jaqen H'ghar sense. Could the crown wind up in the hands of Jaqen, or another face-changing member of the House of Black and White — like Arya, perhaps? It's a stretch, to put it lightly, easily one of the most unusual and unlikely possible endings for the series … but still not impossible.

…we don't know quite yet. Indeed, there are a few figures from the A Song of Ice and Fire books on which Thrones is based who could make quite an impact on the race for the Iron Throne. Euron Greyjoy, alias Crow's Eye, is one such candidate, a veritable pirate with his one good eye on seeding the salty ways of the Iron Islands throughout the Seven Realms; he makes his debut in the coming season. There's one other character in particular who has not yet appeared on the show, and may never appear at all, named "Young Griff," who could upend everything Daenerys Targaryen represents. It's not likely he'll show up in season six, but then again, this is the season of the great unknown; anything's possible.

Game of Thrones returns on April 24.