Season 7 has just reached a dramatic climax, and the game of thrones is poised for more intrigue in 2018. The long winter may have come for Westeros but sadly the long wait is all we can look forward to until Season 8 hits our screens next year.
As we all search around for something to tide us over, look back on the seven seasons and imagine who has what it takes to seize the Iron Throne. We know Game of Thrones is rich in parallels for our world. Machiavellian power politics and court intrigue. Climate change analogies or lessons in political or gender theory. But the range of brilliant or violent characters also show us contrasting approaches to leadership.
Let’s unpack them a little, and you can ask yourself a question: which Game of Thrones leader are you?
- Daenerys – the moral heroine. Seeking to “break the wheel” of violent personal projects and capricious rule in Westeros. She ostensibly wields power in the name of the people. A string of hopeful liberations in Essos speaks to her good intentions. But she is no modern democrat, and Season 7 highlighted the growing authoritarian flaws in her character. If power does corrupt, do dragons corrupt absolutely?
- Cersei – the tyrannous dictator. House Lannister—or House Cersei—is the first and only care. Cruel and unusual death awaits those who stand in her way. In Season 7’s last episode she put this bluntly: “I don’t care about checking my worst impulses, I don’t care about making the world a better place. Hang the world.” Everyone in the Sept of Baelor learnt this the hard way in Season 6. Who else will burn in Season 8?
- Sansa – the young monarch. Harsh but fair. Learnt her craft at the hands of the cruellest possible teachers in Cersei and Littlefinger. Now courtly manners meet deadly backroom politics. As Baelish bled out from his neck on the cold stone floor in Winterfell, we understood she has certainly shed her naïve skin. But what will Jon’s secret mean for proud House Stark?
- Jon Snow – the principled general. Exercises his moral compass and seeks to lead by example. Almost damned by his honesty as Season 7 came to a close. We can only imagine what other fatal flaws await next year. Wolf has become dragon, and so Jon’s authority and legitimacy are certainly to be sorely tested. Will the grand alliances crumble around the true heir to the throne?
- Tyrion – the medieval chief of staff. Renounced House Lannister for more noble pursuits under the Targaryen banner. After working so hard to offset Joffrey’s sadistic tendencies, Tyrion is no longer the power behind the throne. He now tries to balance Daenerys’ most dangerous excesses. But he often finds himself as one voice among many. And so Daenerys’ increasingly brash will to power and at times flippant valuations of human life make his task difficult. Yet Tyrion does believe in the cause, cautioning his sister Cersei that Daenerys “chose an adviser who checks her worst impulses; not feeds them. That’s the difference between you.” As war rages, will his advice fall on deaf ears?
- Varys – the spymaster. Lord Varys crosses the political-administrative divide. On the one hand, he is preoccupied with the health, education and feeding of the populace. On the other, his vast network of little birds speaks to a devilish mind of conspiracy. No one is sure who he truly serves. He may claim no aspirations to personal power, yet he is intricately involved in the machinations behind the throne. What else is hidden up those sleeves?
- Davos – the loyal sidekick. Not afraid to forcefully speak truth to power. Earnest, honest and thoughtful. A sure hand in a tight spot—Davos knows every trick in the book. Troubled by the swift fall of Stannis under the destructive thrall of Melisandre, he sees in Jon a ruler in whom the Seven Kingdoms can believe. Will unity prove more difficult than he hopes?
- Samwell Tarly – the medieval academic. Sam may have given up on his training to become a maester but his stash of books contains valuable secrets. Understands that information is power. After the death of his father and brother, Sam clearly has a bigger role to play. Will leadership be foisted upon this most unlikely of characters?
- The Night King – The magical joker in the pack. Kindly gifted a dragon after Jon’s stupid venture north went spectacularly wrong. Perhaps the best leader of the lot: whether by zombie telepathy or just a deep shared understanding, everyone in his stumbling horde seems to know what they’re doing. Surely that’s worth an A+ for communication. No one need worry about ambition, loyalty and backstabbing. Will this winter nightmare sweep the continent?
So who do you think will claim the Iron Throne for good? Whose leadership style will win out?
Or will all the death and destruction be for nothing as the Night King flies south on an undead dragon?