Sponsored – Game Of Thrones will be back on April 24, and for the first time it will officially move past the stories presented in George R.R. Martin’s novels. That’s not to say the series hasn’t already strayed significantly from the books, but we now know that everything we see on screen will represent original ideas. Martin is believed to have shared some of his broader plot plans with the folks at HBO, but comments from the author and showrunners alike certainly make it sound like the show is moving on in its own direction.
That could mean that we’ll finally begin to get something that Martin tends to deny us: powerful characters facing off with one another, and main characters gaining ground in the struggle for power in Westeros. In case you haven’t noticed, we’ve often seen adversaries either killed off, wounded, or sidetracked before they can actually confront one another, and as a result it sort of always seems like the primary characters are constantly circling one another, with no one actually making progress. HBO may well continue this pattern, but they could also be less inclined to kill off or otherwise weaken the characters audiences most enjoy watching (whereas Martin doesn’t seem to mind at all slaughtering favorites).
The possibility of this slight change in style makes me think: who among living Game Of Thrones characters is best positioned to, you know, actually win the Game of Thrones? Frankly, it’s impossible for anyone to say, but then what’s the fun of Game Of Thrones without constant speculation? Here are one writer’s thoughts on who has the inside track…
1. Tyrion Lannister
There are a few reasons that Tyrion could be considered the likeliest “winner” of the series, even if he may not take up the Iron Throne himself. To begin with, he’s simply the craftiest person in the show, and we’ve learned beyond a shadow of a doubt that brains trump brawn in this saga. Additionally, Tyrion’s extensive list of memorable quotes largely foreshadows future triumphs. For instance, he has yet to make good on his vow to hurt his sister Cersei from season two. But most of all, it bears mentioning that Tyrion has become the fan favorite. The showrunners understand that, and will likely act accordingly.
2. Daenerys Targaryen
Another fan favorite, Daenerys has seemed likely to end up claiming the throne from the beginning. She seems to triumph wherever she goes either through blind luck, her own cunning, valuable allies, or some combination of the three. Oh, and she has the dragons… that’s about the biggest asset any of these characters can claim.
3. Jon Snow
Make no mistake, Jon is coming back in this season, and poised for a mighty comeback against his betrayers and then the rest of Winterfell. He also may work in conjunction with Daenerys at some point, if you’re familiar with the popular R+L=J theory that suggests Jon is actually a long-lost Targaryen, and in fact Dany’s nephew. If there’s one character in the show who could unite all the protagonists, it’s probably Jon. He can team up with Dany, bring the surviving Starks out of the shadow, and even has a background with Tyrion that could lead to an alliance.
4. Jaime Lannister
This is more of a personal theory, and it’s more based on the books than the show… But I’ve always felt like Jaime is the Severus Snape of Game Of Thrones. At this point he’s done just enough to make you wonder if his soul isn’t all bad, and as long as his wicked sister is alive he’ll always be the lesser evil (you know, like Snape to Voldemort). There’s still time for him to become a protagonist.
5. Arya Stark
One of the most enjoyable looks out there at the competing forces in Game Of Thrones was a surprisingly detailed analysis of how they’d do in the Hunger Games. The write-up teamed up popular Thrones characters and ranked them based on cunning, combat, virtue, survival, and x-factors, and it painted a comprehensive picture of the characters as competitors. The analysis gave Arya nearly the best odds of prevailing, and if you read through it you’ll be pretty convinced.
6. Margaery Tyrell
Margaery has a long way to go before she’s triumphing over the greater forces of Winterfell. She’s pretty much at odds with both of the most powerful forces in King’s Landing where we’re picking up in season six. But she might have been the biggest natural at “the game”—that is, political manipulation—that we’ve seen, and she’s still young and ambitious.
7. Petyr Baelish
Petyr Baelish is often forgotten in discussions of the Westeros elite, because he himself is not as powerful as the people he feeds off of like a leech. But given that people in actual positions of power tend to have short lifespans in the show, a figure like Baelish seems a likely winner in the end. The only problem is, Tyrion is better at all the same tricks.
8. Theon Greyjoy
Last year, Alfie Allen (who plays Theon) hinted in an interview that aspects of the old Theon—before he betrayed the Starks and became a slave to Ramsay Bolton—still exist. We saw Theon emerge somewhat at the very end of the last season, and though he’s far from being in a position of power, he’s one to watch for a different reason. George R.R. Martin seems to like rags-to-riches sagas, and full redemption for Theon would be the ultimate version of that trope. Plus, there seems to be little reason to have kept him alive this long other than that he has a larger role to play.
Of course, the best thing about this show is its capacity to surprise. But from where we are now, these seem the likeliest candidates to end up on top.