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Game of Thrones‘ great game of musical chairs draws to a close on May 19, with creators David Benioff and Dan Weiss‘ series finale set to answer the question at the heart of the drama: who will win the Iron Throne?
Of course, judging solely based on director Miguel Sapochnik’s “The Bells,” it would appear as if the question is answered. Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) is dead, the Lion Queen’s reign of terror now at last at an end. In her stead: Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), who won the Iron Throne with fire and blood, all but razing King’s Landing in the process. The violent conquest has left many fans in a state of shock, unable to fathom Daenerys’ drastic descent into madness, even as Benioff and Weiss insist the seeds for her turn were planted as far back as the first season.
For 72 episodes, Daenerys’ eyes were firmly on the Iron Throne prize. Now that she’s earned the precious seat of power, will she keep it, or will a new contender come along and win the great game? For the last time before the series ends, The Hollywood Reporter rounds up the best contenders on the board to sit upon the Iron Throne.
1. Daenerys Targaryen: Who could possibly challenge the Dragon Queen at this point? It doesn’t feel likely she’ll stay in her position of power after such a violent assault on King’s Landing; George R.R. Martin has described his vision for the ending as “bittersweet,” and it’s hard to find sweetness in Dany’s mad power continuing well into the future. Then again, before the assault on the city, Dany told Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) she intended to wreak havoc in an attempt to liberate future generations. Is it possible her violent conquest will still result in some good for the survivors, if only for their children? Again, hard to picture, but the current occupant must be considered in the running, with only 80 minutes still left on the clock.
2. Jon Snow: Kit Harington’s heroic Northerner entered King’s Landing with heaviness in his heart, and likely walked away from the battle with an even heavier sense of dread. He knows he’s the rightful heir to the Iron Throne, and yet he’s done nothing to pursue his claim. In “The Long Night,” Jon’s fruitless battle against an undead dragon served as an apt metaphor for his destiny as the King of the Seven Kingdoms; like it or not, resist it or not, it’s what his whole life has been barreling toward. Jon taking down Daenerys for the good of the realm feels very in character for the noble half-Stark, leaving him with a melancholy ending that more than suits this melancholy character.
3. The Unborn: Game of Thrones‘ relationship with time is fast and loose at best. With only one last episode left, perhaps Benioff and Weiss’ final plans involve catapulting forward into the future, at some point following Daenerys’ reign. Perhaps it’s her son or daughter who sits on the Iron Throne at the very end of the series, maybe even a child with Jon; the dragon has three heads, and all. A leap ahead in the Game of Thrones timeline could provide viewers with a glimpse into Dany’s vision for the Seven Kingdoms’ future. Did she live up to her promise and give future generations of Westeros a better life? Or did her violence only result in more violence?
4. No One: Also known as Arya Stark (Maisie Williams), whose faceless training leaves her with the ability to take on the likeness of an enemy. Right now, Arya’s future is wide open. She ends “The Bells” racing off on horseback, far away from King’s Landing. Could she return and assassinate Daenerys, disguise herself as the Dragon Queen, and sit upon the throne to offer the world a more benevolent rule? It would make at least two of THR‘s Thrones viewers rather happy.
5. Actually No One: It’s the likeliest prediction on the board. There may be someone still in charge of the Seven Kingdoms when Game of Thrones ends, but sitting on the Iron Throne? It feels increasingly unlikely. More and more, the throne has become a symbol for the worst aspects of humanity, a metallic reminder of how absolute power corrupts absolutely. The throne’s disassembly in the series finale feels like a strong bet for the way in which Benioff and Weiss will end their series. Perhaps it will leave the fate of Westeros completely up in the air. Alternately, it could result in one of the beloved Game of Thrones characters earning the opportunity to rule the Seven Kingdoms with a blank slate. Among the most satisfying picks for President of the United Kingdoms of Westeros:
• Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner), whose leadership skills require no further testing or explanation;
• Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright), whose vast knowledge of history would serve the realm well in a time of reconstruction;
• Samwell Tarly (John Bradley), among the smartest and kindest men in Westeros;
• Gendry Baratheon (Joe Dempsie), a better man than his father and someone who knows what it’s like to suffer on the streets of King’s Landing;
• Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham), another man of the people, who has served a few kings already and has always been guided by a fair and good heart;
• Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage), last of his house, who has saved King’s Landing before and desperately tried to save it again; perhaps it’s not too late.
Follow THR.com/GameOfThrones for more final season coverage.
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The Falcon and the Winter Soldier