Skip to navigationSkip to content
Helen Sloan/HBO
Which character would actually be the most effective ruler of Westeros?
REIGN CHECK

Who deserves to win the Game of Thrones? A debate

By Adam Epstein

On May 19, HBO will air the final episode of Game of Thrones, ending an era of television. While the last few episodes have divided viewers, everyone is still dying to know who—if anyone—will wind up on the Iron Throne when the series concludes. We’ve come too far to turn back now.

But gaming out what’s going to happen on this show has long been a futile exercise. That’s why we’re more concerned with what should happen. Who deserves to sit on the Iron Throne? Who will be the best leader for Westeros?

Below you’ll find brief pitches written by Quartz journalists, advocating for their candidates of choice.

Sansa Stark

Helen Sloan/HBO

Should the Iron Throne still exist at the end of Sunday’s episode, Sansa Stark should sit atop it. She’s come of age in the wicked game of thrones itself: observing it, learning from it—and understanding what it means to be a pawn in it. Her experiences with Cersei Lannister and Littlefinger have made her a sharp political force, and with the North’s moral code as a guide, she will rule with equal parts strategy, honesty, and compassion. You can’t say the same about any of the other potential rulers.

What’s more, her recent job experience as the Lady of Winterfell (during which she oversaw the defeat of the White Walkers) makes her more qualified than anyone else to see to the safety of Westeros. And unlike others who shall remain nameless, Sansa has demonstrated that she is capable of completing basic leadership tasks, like feeding her people and preventing them from dying. Don’t overthink this: Sansa is the one and only person suited to actually lead.
—Sangeeta Singh-Kurtz, culture reporter

Bran Stark

Helen Sloan/HBO

It’s time for Westeros to think not only outside the box, but outside the concept of linear time and our understanding of reality. Bran Stark is the only candidate who can do these things. He is wholly removed from all petty interfamilial squabbles. He cares not for settling scores or carrying out grudges. His singular purpose is to be super chill and dish out ice-cold proverbs that rival the best of Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt. Bran’s ability to “warg” his consciousness into other animals will allow him to keep eyes on all corners of the map.

Crucially, Bran can draw and learn from all of world history, ensuring he does not repeat the many mistakes of the past. He is unflappable, even-tempered, objective, and, most important, thick-skinned. His temperament renders him incapable of making rash decisions or lashing out at constituents. He is an automaton, and that makes him perfect for higher office.
Adam Epstein, culture reporter

Daenerys Targaryen

HBO

Daenerys Targaryen is the Elizabeth Warren of Westeros: No one who isn’t Cersei wants the throne as bad as she does, no one has put more work into getting it, and no one is more frustrated by the late-stage appearance of a bumbling white guy with an “unimpeachable claim” to the Seven Kingdoms. Dany has spent whole seasons of this series trying to break the dragonglass ceiling, and she desperately needs a win.

OK, sure, the First of Her Name had a bit of an…outburst last week. I’m hard-pressed to think of anyone who wouldn’t let the near-simultaneous loss of their dragon children, bestie, and boyfriend impact their productivity. We all have bad days! Find me a manager who hasn’t murdered a few innocents in the heat of a stressful city-sacking. But it doesn’t change that she’s always been meant for the throne: Dany is motivated, hungry, and dresses for the job she wants. Also she still has a dragon.
Kira Bindrim, managing editor

Samwell Tarly

Helen Sloan/HBO

The Red Keep is in rubble. The zombie army is defeated. Infrastructure in the Seven Kingdoms is a disaster; monetary policy was shaky even in the best of times. We need a leader who can transition Westeros from an era of constant war to a peaceful technocracy. We need Samwell Tarly.

For eight seasons, Sam has done the decent thing without fanfare or excessive brooding (ahem, Jon Snow). Who risks his own life to save a mother and her child? Who quietly cures greyscale while working as a Citadel janitor? Who’s willing to steal from his own family when he knows it serves the greater good? Sam, Sam, and Sam again.

Sam knows his own weaknesses and can be trusted to assemble an administration that plays to people’s strengths. The Iron Throne doesn’t need a warrior right now. It needs an indoor guy ready to open up the scrolls and find solutions.
Corinne Purtill, senior reporter

Davos Seaworth

Helen Sloan/HBO

If you care about the free movement of people and goods—and as a reader of Quartz, you just might—then Davos Seaworth is worth your vote. A former smuggler, Davos knows firsthand how difficult it can be to maneuver around the Seven Kingdoms while remaining compliant with all attendant customs and duties.

Davos will unite the realm with the greatest free-trade zone that Westeros has ever witnessed, bringing an end to the slapdash smattering of frivolous tributes that have held back growth rates for a dragon’s age. They’ll be drinking Dornish wine in Winterfell and eating flatbread from the Flatlands on the Iron Islands within the first 100 days of King Davos’ reign.
Max Lockie, platform editor

The Night King (rest in pieces)

Helen Sloan/HBO

Yes, he’s extremely dead, but hear me out for a second: The Night King was always the best option for Westeros.

You see, free will hasn’t worked out so well for the Seven Kingdoms. All that greed, lust, and hubris turned everything into quite a mess. M. Night Kingamalan offers an alternative. Consider, for a moment, if everyone was already dead, united under the mind control of the Night King’s beguiling baby blues. No more scheming, conniving, back-stabbing, or betrayal. Best of all, no more rape, incest, torture, or murder. Everyone would just be literally chill.

Maybe the Night King isn’t the ruler anyone wanted. But he’s the ruler Westeros deserved. Like Bobby Kennedy, he’ll go down as one of the greatest “what ifs” in leadership history.
Anonymous Quartz employee

Nobody!

Helen Sloan/HBO

The Iron Throne simply cannot remain intact—particularly now that the only person who really deserved it, Varys, has gone to that place in the sky where no one tells eunuch jokes. As in the legend of King Arthur and—perhaps closer to George RR Martin’s heart—the United States, that ugly chair will be melted down as noble, pouty Jon Snow invents democracy on the spot.

“Each of these peasants whose lives we have until now cared little for will henceforth be equally represented,” he’ll say, leaving Tyrion in charge of King’s Landing and hightailing it back to the North, where he’ll mourn Dany’s inevitable passing (I’m guessing a suicide pact with Drogon). Unless, of course, Dany does what any sane person would do in her shoes: Send a raven to Daario to meet her in Dorne for a poolside life sipping Mai Tais while the Starks deal with representative government.
Susan Howson, deputy push editor