Who will win the Iron Throne? If it’s a raffle, one hopes Ben Wyatt from “Parks and Rec,” who was so thrilled to receive even a not-cheap imitation.
Seriously, it’s difficult to imagine that the Iron Throne will survive the final season of “Game of Thrones.” If you’re going to introduce a dragon in Act 1, it had better go off in Act 3 — and A Lot Has Been Made of the fact that dragon fire built the throne, ergo, dragon fire should unbuild it. (Though, honestly, dragon fire doesn’t seem an ideal artisanal power source; did craftsmen somehow set the dragon on “medium” and just run in with their hammers and tongs after?)
The throne itself is hideous and fairly ineffectual. It is a symbol of fear and, if the past 64 hours of television have proved nothing else, it has illustrated, in sinew-hewing, skull-exploding, skin-flaying detail, that rule-by-fear always backfires.
The only person who still considers this a “game” that can be “won” is Cersei, who is clearly off her rocker. (Has any woman ever loved her children less? What did she think to would happen to Myrcella when she pitted the Mountain against Oberyn? Or Tommen when she blew up his wife and all his friends?) For Cersei to “win” or even survive, D.B. Weiss and David Benioff would have to turn this into the most cynical epic ever written, and epics are not supposed to be cynical.
Daenerys seems the obvious choice — not only does she still have two dragons and a mountain of dragon glass, she has Grey Worm, Tyrion, Varys and, momentarily, one assumes, Jorah at her side. Dany also fits the prophecy Cersei heard as a snotty young teen — that she (Cersei) would marry a king (check), have three kids (check) who would die (check), that she would sit on the throne for a while (check) until a younger, more beautiful woman threw her off (ruh roh.)
But obvious is boring and “Thrones” is never boring, so I’m going to guess that Dany will somehow be sacrificed (though, God help me, it better not be happily in childbirth, or I will set fire to the Seven Kingdoms myself). After all, the man she just slept with is not only her nephew, he is also, technically, one of the undead, resurrected by Melisandre, and if Melisandre has done a single good thing in this story besides manage to look fabulous at 100 years old I do not know what it is.
So in terms of young and beautiful, potential queens are thin on the ground. It would be amazing if slave-turned-advisor Missandei managed it, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. And as for Arya, well, she has become vengeance, and that just takes us back to the Mad King, doesn’t it?
Which leaves Sansa. No one has more clearly seen, up close and personal, all the perils, and benefits, of power. Her early narcissism and naked desire to be queen is a tiny bit worrisome, but she has changed, perhaps more than any other character in the story, save Bran, who literally isn’t himself any more.
Sansa is still very much herself — the oldest daughter of a noble house who has survived, as heroes must, all manner of suffering, without surrendering her humanity. She has become a fine strategist; thanks to Cersei and Littlefinger, she understands the necessity of ruthlessness in battle and, thanks to Jon, the importance of mercy in victory. She is still human enough to love (I nurse a secret hope that she and Tyrion get together) but is no longer ruled by her emotions or personal desires.
The whole point of “Game of Thrones” is that it is not a game, that the masses sacrificed to the hubris of kings will rise and demand a reckoning. The real weakness is not honor but false pride, the desire for legacy or dynasty or ascendance or vengeance for its own sake.
The whole point of “Game of Thrones” is that there is a difference between wearing a crown and ruling a nation.
Jon, and even Daenerys, may understand that, but they are, essentially, rulers in war; only Sansa makes sense as a ruler in peace.