A definitive ranking of the 'Game of Thrones' characters, based on who would have made the best rulers of Westeros

Helen Sloan/HBO; Skye Gould/Business InsiderJon Snow, Sansa Stark, Margaery Tyrell, and Tyrion Lannister were all viable contenders for the Iron Throne.
  • Warning: Spoilers ahead for the series finale of HBO’s “Game of Thrones.”
  • Over the course of eight seasons, a variety of characters from Westeros’ nine noble houses aspired to rule the seven kingdoms.
  • But who would have been best ruler? Who was politically savvy enough to make allies and survive their enemies, but empathetic enough to benefit the realm?
  • We ranked Westeros’ top candidates, both dead and alive.
  • Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories.

Throughout HBO’s eight seasons of “Game of Thrones,” a variety of characters aspired to rule the seven kingdoms.

Other potential candidates from the most powerful houses in Westeros – Stark, Targaryen, Baratheon, Tyrell, Tully, Martell, Arryn, Greyjoy, and Lannister – never expressed an interest in the role, but probably could’ve staked a claim somehow.


Read more:
A guide to the major houses on ‘Game of Thrones,’ including who’s still alive and who’s dead

As the show’s final season made clear, however, a desire to rule doesn’t necessarily make a person fit to rule.

So who would have been the best option? Who was politically savvy enough to make allies and survive their enemies, while still empathetic enough to benefit the realm?

On a scale of 1 to 10 (with some exceptions), we ranked 34 notable characters – the lords and ladies from powerful houses, those who would have had an actual chance to seize power – based on how optimistic we’d feel if they ended up on the Iron Throne.

Note: Unless they actually sat on the Iron Throne at some point, c
haracters who died before becoming of age are exempt from this list.


34. Joffrey Baratheon

HBOJack Gleeson as Joffrey Baratheon.

Joffrey Baratheon was actually a bastard with no real claim to the Iron Throne, but was crowned after the death of his supposed father, Robert Baratheon. His reign was defined by childish outbursts and spontaneous cruelty until he was poisoned at his own wedding.

Optimism ranking: -50. Joffrey’s reign was somehow both incredibly brief and far too long. In his short time as king, he beheaded the head of a major house and triggered a massive war that decimated the realm.


33. Viserys Targaryen

HBOHarry Lloyd as Viserys Targaryen.

Although Viserys Targaryen wasn’t actually the head of his house, he believed himself to be the only surviving male Targaryen – or, in his words, the “last hope of a dynasty.” His deepest desire was to conquer the seven kingdoms and sit on the Iron Throne.

Optimism ranking: -25. Viserys was cruel, abusive, and surprisingly dumb. Getting drunk and threatening the unborn child of a famously violent warlord doesn’t inspire a vote of confidence.


32. Lysa Arryn

HBOKate Dickie as Lysa Arryn.

Following the death of her husband – who she secretly poisoned – Lysa Arryn was the Lady Regent of the Vale.

Optimism ranking: -20. Lysa was notably unstable and had a great capacity for jealousy and cruelty. If she had somehow become queen, Westeros would have been doomed.


31. Euron Greyjoy

HBOPilou Asbæk as Euron Greyjoy.

Euron Greyjoy was exiled from the Iron Islands after starting an unsuccessful revolution. He became a fearsome pirate while travelling the world, but returned home to murder his brother, King Balon, and take the crown for himself.

Optimism ranking: -5. Euron was annoying and violent, but he definitely had some political savvy. He managed to convince the people of the Iron Islands to crown him over his niece, Yara, who they already knew to be a great leader. He then managed to gain a great deal of power by aligning himself with Queen Cersei. He wouldn’t have been a good king by any measure, but at least he was somewhat competent.


30. Littlefinger

Helen Sloan/HBOAidan Gillen as Petyr Baelish, aka Littlefinger.

Petyr Baelish, aka Littlefinger, did not hail from a noble house, but did manage to align himself with one by marrying Lysa Arryn. He managed to manipulate himself through the ranks and became the Lord Regent of the Vale, gaining control over a fearsome army.

Optimism ranking: 0. Littlefinger was portrayed as politically savvy for a while, but he eventually overstepped his bounds. He was certainly a master manipulator, but his fatal flaw was underestimating the people around him, particularly Sansa Stark. Chaos may be a ladder, but it’s also unstable ground.


29. Cersei Lannister

Helen Sloan/HBOLena Headey as Cersei Lannister.

Cersei Lannister was introduced on the show as the Queen of Westeros, but only because she was married to King Robert Baratheon. She had some control over the Kingsguard, but very little real influence.

After Cersei orchestrated her husband’s death, however, all that changed very quickly. She maintained a tight hold on her husband’s seat of power and took the crown for herself after the deaths of her three children.

Optimism ranking: 0. We have to respect Cersei for how she managed to claw her way to the top from a position of relatively zero power in a violent, patriarchal society. But, you know, it’s Cersei. She didn’t care about the people of Westeros and her reign wouldn’t have been beneficial for anyone.


28. Balon Greyjoy

HBOPatrick Malahide as Balon Greyjoy.

Balon Greyjoy was Lord of the Iron Islands, the stubborn father of Theon and Yara, and a noted Stark-hater. His forces were crushed in the Greyjoy Rebellion, a failed attempt shortly after Robert’s Rebellion to make the Iron Islands an independent kingdom.

Optimism ranking: 1. Balon held control over the Iron Islands for a good amount of time, so he was clearly able to wield power and inspire loyalty. But he was stubborn, greedy, harsh, and didn’t seem like a very clever or effective ruler.


27. Stannis Baratheon

HBOStephen Dillane as Stannis Baratheon.

Stannis the Mannis was Lord of Dragonstone, and he intended to claim his rightful seat on the Iron Throne after the death of his brother, Robert.

Optimism ranking: 1.5. Stannis was a masterful soldier and a man of his word. He commanded respect from characters like Davos, who we understand as honest and good-hearted, which earned Stannis a couple points here. But he was super stubborn and fairly hard-hearted, which meant that many Westerosi didn’t want him as their king.

Over the course of the show, Stannis slowly crumbled, corrupted by the pursuit of power. He continually indulged his cruelest impulses and, each time, he believed more deeply in his own righteousness. Stannis decisively lost the faith of his army – and our faith in him as a leader – when he sacrificed his own daughter and watched her burn alive.


26. Robin Arryn

HBOLino Facioli as Robin Arryn and Rupert Vansittart as Yohn Royce.

Thanks to the deaths of his father and step-father, Robin Arryn is now Lord of the Eyrie, the head of House Arryn, the Warden of the East, and Lord Paramount of the Vale of Arryn.

Optimism ranking: 2. In the books, Robin is described as a sickly, pasty, and painfully thin boy who suffers from epileptic seizures. On the show, Robin was clearly spoiled and hopelessly smothered by his mother, which appeared to leave him intellectually and emotionally stunted. None of this makes him seem like a natural leader.

However, Robin does demonstrate a more relaxed, measured demeanour during his last appearance on the show. It’s possible that he could’ve matured in the years since his mother’s death, and he appears to put a great deal of trust in Yohn Royce, which shows an awareness of his own shortcomings.


25. Mace Tyrell

HBORoger Ashton-Griffiths as Mace Tyrell.

Mace Tyrell was the Lord of Highgarden and the head of his powerful, wealthy house – although it was really his mother, Olenna, who pulled the strings.

Optimism ranking: 2.5. Mace was portrayed as a bit of a bumbling baffoon, so he doesn’t deserve too many points here. His own mother called him a “ponderous oaf.”

But, to be fair, he appeared to have no trouble holding power in the Reach. In all likeliness, he was a decent leader – or, at least, a satisfying and uncontroversial figurehead. If Mace had survived and somehow ended up on the Iron Throne, it would have been Olenna and Margaery Tyrell actually calling the shots anyway.


24. Daenerys Targaryen

Helen Sloan/HBOEmilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen.

After the death of her father, King Aerys II, Daenerys Targaryen was raised as a fugitive in Essos. She was abused by her brother, who eventually sold her to the Dothraki warlord Khal Drogo.

After the untimely death of her husband, Dany became known as the Mother of Dragons, the Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, the Unburnt, and the Breaker of Chains. She also became increasingly obsessed with her “destiny” to sit on the Iron Throne.

Optimism ranking: 3. Whether she landed near the top or the bottom, Dany’s placement on this list will be controversial. Some fans maintain their respect and admiration of her, while others had fully jumped ship from Team Targaryen by the time she died.

It’s true that Daenerys was portrayed as a harsh yet merciful queen throughout her rise to power on “Thrones.” Maybe,if she had managed to take over the world, she would have been able to reclaim that reputation. She was capable and intelligent. But ultimately, we have to give more weight to her onscreen actions than to our speculation of her character – and she became more ruthless, destructive, and convinced of her own cruelty than anyone else in Westeros.


Read more:


Daenerys Targaryen’s downfall on ‘Game of Thrones’ aligns brilliantly with George R.R. Martin’s beliefs about the troubling morals of war


23. Tywin Lannister

Macall B. Polay / HBOCharles Dance as Tywin Lannister.

Tywin Lannister was the Lord of Casterly Rock, Warden of the West, and Head of House Lannister. He was also Hand of the King for three different kings, including Aerys II. His army saved King’s Landing from Stannis in the Battle of Blackwater, and he was the mastermind behind the Red Wedding.

Optimism ranking: 3. Tywin was cutthroat, manipulative, and diabolical. He would not have been a kind king – but at least Westeros probably wouldn’t have devolved into chaos during his reign. Tywin was an extremely effective ruler, capable of bending others to his will and pragmatically analysing situations. Plus, we know from his treatment of Arya that he’s somewhat capable of benevolence.


22. Robert Baratheon

HBOMark Addy as Robert Baratheon.

Robert Baratheon was best known as a fearsome warrior. With Ned Stark by his side, Robert helmed a successful rebellion that overthrew the Targaryen dynasty. He aligned himself with the wealthiest house in Westeros, became king with Cersei Lannister as his queen, and launched the short reign of their combined houses – but in practice, he let other people run his kingdom while he enjoyed the company of prostitutes and drank himself to death.

Optimism ranking: 4. At the time, Robert seemed like a truly terrible king. He was too lazy for the gig, which ended up being his downfall. But in retrospect, Westeros actually experienced peace and relative prosperity during his reign, so maybe we should rethink his fitness as a ruler?


21. Gendry Baratheon

Helen Sloan/HBOJoe Dempsie as Gendry Baratheon.

Gendry was born as a bastard to a peasant mother, but his father was King Robert Baratheon. He was legitimized by Queen Daenerys after he fought bravely at the Battle of Winterfell, and now serves as the Lord of Storm’s End.

Optimism ranking: 4. As Gendry himself admitted, he doesn’t have any experience being in a position of power. He doesn’t even know how to hold a fork. But he has a kind heart and – as he proved when he volunteered to help Jon Snow with a noble, dangerous mission beyond the Wall – a strong desire to do right by people, which is more than we could say for his father. We’re fairly confident that he would surround himself with more experienced, trustworthy advisers.


20. Arya Stark

HBOMaisie Williams as Arya Stark.

Arya Stark is the third child and younger daughter of Ned and Catelyn Stark. She never had any desire to marry a lord, become a “lady,” and preside over a castle, as was expected of her from a young age.

After the death of her father, Arya fled from the Lannisters in King’s Landing. She learned survival tactics from the Hound, joined a Braavosi death cult, and absorbed the skills of the Faceless Men assassins. She eventually proved her prowess in battle and ended the Great War by killing the Night King.

Optimism ranking: 4. Arya is a war hero and a fan-favourite character. She can be empathetic and has a keen sense of justice – but she almost exclusively expresses these traits through violence. Arya has absolutely zero political skills and prefers to set out on her own, which would make her an ineffective queen who probably couldn’t be trusted to take advice.


19. Edmure Tully

HBOTobias Menzies as Edmure Tully.

Edmure Tully, Catelyn’s brother, was taken prisoner by House Frey at the Red Wedding. He remained a captive of House Lannister and used as a political pawn for the majority of the show.

After Daenerys and her army of Unsullied executed the remaining Lannister forces, Edmure resumed his role as head of House Tully and Lord of Riverrun.

Optimism ranking: 4.5. We have some evidence of Edmure’s ability to rule. He was raised by Hoster Tully, who was widely admired by the people of Riverrun. We know that he fought alongside Robb Stark. He even agreed to marry a stranger to help House Stark win the war, so he can be self-sacrificing and has a mind for strategy. But as we saw on the finale, Edmure’s desire to be king is literally seen as laughable by his noble peers – and if Sansa doesn’t want him as king, neither do we.


18. Jaime Lannister

HBONikolaj Coster-Waldau as Jaime Lannister.

Jaime Lannister was introduced on the series premiere as a cruel, vainglorious warrior. He had an incestuous relationship with his twin sister, Cersei, and tried to kill 10-year-old Bran Stark when the boy found out.

But after Jaime was captured by Robb Stark’s army and lost his right hand, we saw a dramatic shift in his character. We discovered that he earned his reputation as a “king slayer” because he refused to let the Mad King burn King’s Landing to the ground. Later, he swore to fight the Army of the Dead alongside the Starks and Brienne of Tarth.

Optimism ranking: 5. Jaime’s effectiveness as a leader relies on the absence of Cersei. In this hypothetical world, with Jaime on the Iron Throne, he could never live up to his potential if Cersei were still in the picture.

But as we saw on the show, when he was distanced from his toxic relationship, Jaime displayed incredible depth and stores of empathy. He wasn’t the smartest Lannister, but he grew up around incredibly influential and politically savvy people, so it’s reasonable to believe that he absorbed some of those abilities. And we already know that he was willing to lay down his life for the greater good, multiple times.


17. Theon Greyjoy

HBOAlfie Allen as Theon Greyjoy.

Theon was the last living son of Balon Greyjoy, King of the Iron Islands. After his father rebelled against the crown and lost, Theon was taken as a hostage by House Stark – but came to be treated like an adopted son and brother. He later betrayed the Starks in an attempt to please his birth father, but failed and was captured by Ramsay Bolton, who tortured him mercilessly. Theon eventually managed to escape with Sansa, honorably serve his sister, and sacrifice himself for House Stark.

Optimism ranking: 5. Theon was aggressively traumatized by his experiences with Ramsay and had no desire to be a ruler. But as he worked to overcome his trauma, Theon reclaimed many of his leadership abilities, displayed a huge capacity for empathy, and proved that he was worthy of respect.


16. Loras Tyrell

HBOFinn Jones as Loras Tyrell.

Loras was the son of Mace Tyrell and the heir to Highgarden. He was a popular tourney knight in Westeros and one of the most skilled swordsmen in the kingdom. Unfortunately, Loras was imprisoned for his homosexuality and completely broken by the Faith of the Seven’s torture.

Optimism ranking: 5.5. Loras didn’t seem to have any notable political skills, but he was highly respected and admired by his people. He put a high value on duty and family, just like Ned Stark and Jon Snow. And in a hypothetical world where Loras ends up on the Iron Throne, he would most likely have his sister Margaery by his side to guide him.


15. Doran Martell

Helen Sloan/HBOAlexander Siddig as Doran Martell.

As the ruler of Dorne, Doran preferred to stay out of the War of the Five Kings. In general, he kept Dorne at a distance from the politics of Westeros because he wanted to keep peace. He was also sick with gout and confined to a wheelchair.

Optimism ranking: 6. In the books, Doran is portrayed as far more politically savvy. He plots to overthrow the Lannisters and tried to align his family with House Targaryen through marriage. On the show, however, Doran was portrayed as an ineffectual ruler who was disconnected from his people.

Overall, we have to give him credit for being a reasonable man and a fan of compromise. He didn’t irrationally seek vengeance or violence. But if he had somehow become Protector of the Realm, he may not have lasted too long.


14. Tommen Baratheon

Helen Sloan/HBODean-Charles Chapman as Tommen Baratheon.

Tommen was Cersei and Jaime’s youngest child, who became king as a young teen after Joffrey’s unexpected death.

Optimism ranking: 6.5. In Margery’s words, poor Tommen was “the sweetest king who ever lived.” And just when the young ruler was starting to stand up to Cersei and make decisions for himself, she took everything he loved away from him.

We’ll never know how successful King Tommen might have been if it hadn’t been for his cold-hearted mother. But Tommen was definitely one of the good ones, and he had true potential to inspire peace in the realm. With the help of his shrewd wife, Margaery, he could have ushered in an era of prosperity and reigned with kindness towards his people.


13. Trystane Martell

Macall B. Polay/HBOToby Sebastian as Trystane Martell.

Trystane Martell was the eldest child of Doran and the Prince of Dorne. We don’t know much about him, but we know that he claimed to “learned the value of mercy” from his father and that he was in love with his fiancée, Myrcella Baratheon.

Optimism ranking: 6.5. Trystane is something like a more mature, more capable Tommen. He seemed like an idealistic yet reasonable man, who very well may have become a wise king. If he and Myrcella hadn’t both been tragically and suddenly murdered, their loving union had great potential to unite some of the most powerful houses in Westeros.


12. Catelyn Stark

HBOMichelle Fairley as Catelyn Stark (née Tully).

Catelyn Stark, Lady of Winterfell, was born into House Tully and became fiercely loyal to the North. She loved Ned and her children more than she loved herself, and would have done anything for them.

Optimism ranking: 7. In the cutthroat world of Westeros, Catelyn’s primary weakness was her love for her family. She did suffer a severe lapse in judgment when she let her army’s most valuable hostage go free, hoping that Jaime Lannister would safely return her daughters. But she also had a clear mind for strategy, as she displayed when she fiercely warned Robb against breaking his oath to Walder Frey. Catelyn was strong in the face of tragedy and might have become a powerful player in the game of thrones, if only her son had heeded her advice.


11. Oberyn Martell

HBOPedro Pascal as Oberyn Martell.

Oberyn Martell was the youngest brother in Dorne’s royal family. The so-called “Red Viper” came to King’s Landing to avenge his sister and her children, who were raped and killed by the Mountain, on the orders of Tywin Lannister. He volunteered to fight for Tyrion Lannister in his trial by combat, but was killed by the Mountain.

Optimism ranking: 7. Like Robb Stark, Oberyn was a likable prince with an honorable goal. He was passionate, righteous, confident, dangerous, and upfront about his intentions. We were led to believe that he was the hero that Westeros needed.

But according to Ellaria Sand, who loved Oberyn more than anyone, he “would have been a terrible ruler.” He was a born adventurer and would never have been able to stay put on a throne. He was probably too cocky and honest to wield any subtle political influence. He was loyal to his family and his country, but didn’t seem to care about the other Westerosi people. And, of course, if Oberyn hadn’t taunted the freaking Mountain, he probably would have survived. A ruler can’t afford to be so arrogant.


10. Robb Stark

HBORichard Madden as Robb Stark.

Robb was the eldest Stark child and became Lord of Winterfell after his father’s death. He made a name for himself when he set out to avenge his father and championed the Northerners’ quest for independence. He quickly became known as a fearsome warrior, a symbol of hope, and his people’s chosen King of the North. Robb never wanted to sit on the Iron Throne – he only wanted freedom and justice.

Optimism ranking: 7.5. Robb was brave, virtuous, and fiercely loyal. If his rebellion had been successful, there’s little doubt that he would have made an inspiring king. But, much like his father, his downfall came when he followed his heart instead of his head. He underestimated his enemies and put too much trust in tradition and honour. In the game of thrones, you can’t win with clean hands.


9. Ned Stark

HBOSean Bean as Ned Stark.

Ned Stark was the Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North. He helped Robert Baratheon overthrow the Mad King and was later named Robert’s Hand of the King. After Robert died and Ned discovered the illegitimacy of Cersei’s children, he supported Stannis Baratheon’s claim to the Iron Throne – and was executed for treason.

Optimism ranking: 7.5. Ned’s ever-honorable reputation preceded him, and struck around long after his death. The Stark family patriarch was idolized by his children and respected by nearly every lord in the seven kingdoms. But he was way too good for the world of Westeros, and his stubborn desire to tell the truth and preserve his own honour got him (and a lot of other people) killed.


8. Renly Baratheon

HBOGethin Anthony as Renly Baratheon.

Renly was the youngest brother of King Robert and “King” Stannis Baratheon. He was also one of the few characters Ned Stark trusted. Renly tried to warn Ned against Cersei and help him usurp Joffrey’s power. But when Ned refused his help, Renly fled King’s Landing and raised his own army, intending to take the throne for himself.

Optimism ranking: 8. Of course, Renly’s claim to the Iron Throne was bogus by Westerosi standards. And he was a little too cocky for someone who wasn’t actually next in line. But he was right that Joffrey shouldn’t have been king; he was right that Stannis would have been a terrible king; and he was right that, at the time, he was probably the realm’s best option.

Renly was clearly able to inspire and lead people. He had the biggest army and the second-wealthiest family in Westeros, House Tyrell, on his side in a matter of weeks. As a member of King Robert’s Small Council, he had political and strategic experience. And according to Brienne, Renly was remarkably kind and empathetic. He saw straight through Westeros’ sexist nonsense and appointed Brienne as a member of his Kingsguard, despite her gender. She fought to avenge him for years, and we’d trust anyone who inspired such fierce loyalty from Brienne.


7. Yara Greyjoy

HBOGemma Whelan as Yara Greyjoy.

Yara Greyjoy was the only daughter of Balon Greyjoy, Lord of Pyke and ruler of the Iron Islands. She was also his only child who wasn’t killed or captured in the Greyjoy Rebellion.

After her father’s death, Yara was nearly named as his successor, but the ceremony was hijacked by her uncle, Euron, who later captured her. Yara was then freed by her brother, Theon, and reclaimed her crown.

Optimism ranking: 8.5. Despite the sexist attitudes of many men in the Iron Islands, Yara built her reputation as a fearsome captain of the Iron Fleet and earned their respect. Her crew would have followed her anywhere, and for good reason. She had a keen mind for strategy, backing down when the battles were useless and rising up when her people needed her most. She was also fiercely loyal and open to compromise, as we saw when Daenerys asked her to stop her crew from pillaging innocent villages.


6. Tyrion Lannister

HBOPeter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister.

Tyrion is the youngest child of Tywin Lannister. As a dwarf, he was never accepted by his father. Rather than training to become a knight, like his older brother did, he spent most of his adolescence reading and learning.

During the War of the Five Kings, in his father’s absence, Tyrion was appointed to act as Joffrey’s Hand of the King. He helped protect King’s Landing against Stannis Baratheon’s army, but was demoted to Master of Coin. He later became Daenerys Targaryen’s Hand of the Queen, but renounced the title after she destroyed King’s Landing. On the series finale, Bran Stark appointed Tyrion as his Hand.

Optimism ranking: 9. Throughout the majority of “Thrones,” Tyrion was widely seen as the cleverest person in Westeros. He was able to talk his way out of impossibly dangerous situations and wield influence over a variety of different people. He made his fair share of mistakes as Dany’s Hand, but this was probably thanks to his split loyalties, since he desperately wanted to spare the lives of his brother and sister.

For viewers, it would have made a lot of sense to see Tyrion on the Iron Throne. But, as Tyrion himself pointed out, the people of Westeros would have been less pleased. His reputation as the treacherous “imp” may not be accurate or fair, but it could have seriously derailed his reign.


5. Jon Snow

HBOKit Harington as Jon Snow, born Aegon Targaryen.

Jon Snow was raised as Ned Stark’s bastard in Winterfell. In reality, Jon was born Aegon Targaryen, the son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark. This makes him a combination of two of Westeros’ most ancient houses, and would have legitimized his claim to the Iron Throne, if he had chosen to stake one.

Optimism ranking: 9. Jon is a fan-favourite character for a reason. He is warm-hearted, honest, selfless, and determined. He rose from a relatively powerless position and was named Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch at a very young age. His greatest strength is his ability to unite people, from wildlings to dragon queens, and rally them to join a common cause.

But Jon can also be very naive. He was literally murdered by his own brothers, people sworn to follow and obey him. Sure, he was unfairly maligned after making a noble decision – but Jon still would have died a few more times if he hadn’t been repeatedly rescued by other people who were willing to get their hands a little dirtier.

Jon moved up a couple points in our ranking when he did something his father and brother tried to do, but failed. When he murdered Daenerys, Jon sacrificed his own personal honour and desires for the greater good. The decision traumatized him and led to his banishment, so he could’ve never actually become king on the show. But we’d feel pretty good about a hypothetical world with Jon on the Iron Throne, after everything he’s learned and been through.


4. Bran Stark

HBOIsaac Hempstead Wright as Bran Stark.

Brandon Stark is the fourth child and second-youngest son of Ned and Catelyn Stark. He was charged with ruling Winterfell when his older family members all left, but later fled when the castle was attacked.

As a greenseer, Bran always had special abilities. His destiny was to journey north of the Wall and become the new Three-Eyed Raven, the keeper of Westeros’ history. His powers helped bring about the defeat of the Night King. On the series finale, Bran was selected as Westeros’ newest king by a council of his noble peers.

Optimism ranking: 9.5. The final season of “Thrones” made it clear that power is corrosive, and the quest for power will invariably cause conflict and violence. Bran never wanted to be king, which makes him something of an ideal choice for king.


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Indeed, Bran is an all-knowing, impossibly level-headed lord who doesn’t really want anything at all. He literally cannot become corrupted by power. He won’t put love over duty. And he’s the perfect person to prevent Westeros from repeating its mistakes. Bran has access to the nation’s entire history, the memories of individual people, and the inner workings of each peaceful reign.


3. Olenna Tyrell

HBODiana Rigg as Olenna Tyrell.

Olenna Tyrell was the widely respected matriarch of House Tyrell, nicknamed the Queen of Thorns for her biting wit and sarcasm. She spent most of the show in Highgarden and occasionally appeared in King’s Landing to dispense sage wisdom. But after Cersei killed her son and two grandchildren, she aligned herself with Daenerys Targaryen, in pursuit of revenge.

Optimism ranking: 10. Olenna was ruthless in the pursuit of power for her house, but as opposed to someone like Tywin Lannister, she wasn’t solely interested in legacy. She cared deeply for her family and had a keen sense of justice.

Olenna’s greatest strength was awareness. Her ability to see the world clearly allowed her to outsmart adversaries in the long-term. “Once the cow’s been milked, there’s no squirting the cream back up her udder, so here we are to see things through,” she once said, displaying her willingness to adapt and endure difficult circumstances. There’s a reason why she survived for so long in such a cutthroat world.

Most notably, Olenna consistently took advantage of being underestimated. Rather than outwardly displaying power and control, like the Lannisters or Targaryens, she quietly manipulated circumstances to better suit herself and her family – and rarely anyone suspected her of it.


2. Sansa Stark

HBOSophie Turner as Sansa Stark.

Sansa is the second child and eldest daughter of Ned and Catelyn Stark. As a young girl, she wanted to marry Prince Joffrey and become his queen. But she quickly shed her idealistic, childish ways and learned how to adapt and survive as the Lannisters’ captive.

Optimism ranking: 12. The entire final season of “Thrones” should have just been titled, “Sansa is right.” Despite her early displays of naiveté, Sansa became one of the most shrewd, admirable, and influential people in Westeros. She evolved and thrived in spite of sadistic men and the gruesome trauma they inflicted upon her.

Sansa spent the entire show learning from the most politically savvy people in Westeros: Cersei, Margaery Tyrell, and Littlefinger, most notably. When she was crowned the Queen of the North on the series finale, she wore her hair completely down, indicating that she’s finally comfortable in her surroundings and confident in her own identity.

Had she harbored any interest in leaving Winterfell and ruling the seven kingdoms, the realm would have been left in remarkably capable hands.


1. Margaery Tyrell

HBONatalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell.

Margaery was the daughter of Mace Tyrell, the Lord of Highgarden and Warden of the East. She was deeply influenced by her powerful grandmother, Olenna Tyrell, and manoeuvred her way into the hearts of both Joffrey and Tommen Baratheon. When she and Tommen actually managed to consummate their marriage, she became the queen.

Optimism ranking: 20. Margaery was the only high-born person we saw in Westeros who consistently tried to use her power to help the common people. (Wanting to spare as many innocent lives as possible, as in Tyrion’s case, is not the same as actively trying to make innocent lives better.) In her short time as queen, Margaery was beloved by the people of King’s Landing and admired by fellow politicians. Wherever she went,she managed to gain the trust of the people surrounding her.

Most of all, Margaery was flexible. She was able to adapt and maintain the higher ground in a variety of seemingly impossible situations – largely by manipulating weaker men. She gained favour with Joffrey, a noted sociopath, after she had already aligned herself with the traitorous Renly. She charmed Tommen against the wishes of his mother, and after she had already married his brother.

In the world of “Thrones,” Margaery was something of an ideal ruler: She had Tyrion’s adaptability and influence, Olenna’s unapologetic political savvy, Jon’s sense of loyalty and mercy, Sansa’s inner strength, and Cersei’s cunning opportunism. And up until the very moment of her death, Margaery was the smartest person in the room.

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