How Game Of Thrones Changed My Mind About Who Should Win The Iron Throne

game of thrones season 8 jon dany hbo
(Image credit: HBO)

Spoilers ahead for the Season 8 premiere of Game of Thrones.

Game of Thrones was off the air for well over a year following Season 7, and that long hiatus gave diehard fans plenty of time to come up with theories and commit to them. I’m certainly one of those fans, to the point that I’ve put a bunch of theories on the record for what I hope are future bragging rights. Going into Season 8, I figured I was pretty set in my ways.

Then the first episode of Season 8 aired, and I had to reevaluate. I once thought that Dany would be the best candidate of the current contenders for the Iron Throne, and that is no longer the case.

Now, I’m still sticking with my theory that the series concludes with the monarchy ended and a democracy established in Westeros, but that doesn’t mean somebody won’t win the Iron Throne first and then give it up/have it taken from them. Following the Season 8 premiere, I have a new favorite candidate: Jon Snow.

Jon has always been a top contender for the Iron Throne thanks to both his development as a character and the fact that pretty much everybody figured out years ago that Jon is really the son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark. Still, until very recently, I always believed that he should be nowhere near the top of the Iron Throne.

In my defense, the man almost single-handedly blew the Battle of the Bastards after Ramsay played him exactly the way Sansa warned him. Also -- and I’m not saying that he deserved to be assassinated -- he could have handled the situation with his brothers in the Night's Watch differently. Ned would've been proud of Jon honorably refusing to lie in the Season 7 finale, but honor doesn't defeat ice zombies.

Jon is a good man and a hero, but is he fit for the Iron Throne? Well, if you ask me now, he’s definitely the least objectionable of the main three candidates. Admittedly, that’s not the most ringing endorsement, but the Season 8 premiere really proved to me for a number of reasons that Dany is not fit for the top job, and Jon is the natural next choice.

As of the end of the first episode of Season 8, Jon is the only leader with his head in the game about the Great War. Cersei and Dany are still too concerned with politics, which is particularly egregious for Dany. Cersei isn't meant to be one of the heroes, and her logic about letting the army of the dead destroy her enemies in the North isn't entirely flawed. Plus, she only saw the one wight.

Dany watched thousands upon thousands of wights swarming, and the Night King took down Viserion. She should know better than to worry about politics and getting the respect she feels she's owed at this point. Honestly, the romantic dragon escapade was ill-advised for both Jon and Dany considering the circumstances, but she is supposed to be the queen.

Jon is also the contender for the Iron Throne who doesn’t view the Iron Throne as some kind of prize that he's owed. In fact, he’s really only a contender because of the birthright technicality that puts him in front of Dany in the Targaryen line of succession. He wants what’s best for as many people as possible, and his self-interest is minimal.

Now, Jon's good intentions and his focus on the army of the dead marching south don't erase the issues that led to him tanking the Battle of the Bastards and other messy situations. If Jon winning the Iron Throne meant Jon ruling solo, then I would be 100% against Jon anywhere near the throne.

game of thrones season 8 jon snow

(Image credit: HBO)

The people who surround Jon and how they proved themselves in the Season 8 premiere played a part in switching my preference from Dany to Jon. He's surrounded by advisors who didn't join him because of his birthright or his dragons. As far as almost anybody knows, Jon is a bastard. He earned their loyalty, and they serve him well, without fear, and largely without agenda beyond survival. Without dragons.

Sam and Davos are worthy advisors, and Sansa could help Jon compensate for a lot of his weaknesses. Throw in Arya as part of a new Kingsguard (perhaps with that weapon Gendry is making) and other friends Jon has earned along the way, and maybe somebody sitting on the Iron Throne at the end of the series wouldn't be so bad. Whoever wins needs a strong group around them to challenge and advise.

Dany's advisors are a different story. Tyrion and Varys are products of the wheel Dany wants to break and are tasked with attempting to check her most extreme impulses. Grey Worm and Missandei are all but blindly loyal to her, and Ser Jorah is in love with her. Roasting the Tarlys has already backfired on Dany. Thanks to her dragons, Dany doesn't have to listen to anybody if she doesn't want to, and that's not good for anybody except for Dany.

Somehow, it was Dany in the North that really clarified for me why she's unfit to rule the Seven Kingdoms in Season 8.

I've never been her biggest fan due to her fallback move of threatening to roast people if they don't give her her way, and her argument for why she should rule the Seven Kingdoms is flawed. She's not the rightful heir to anything since the Targaryens lost the throne, which they originally took by conquest themselves. If anything, Gendry has a better blood claim to the Iron Throne. Robert Baratheon was never overthrown. Dany has gotten as far as she has because of dragons.

Oddly, what really pushed me over the edge to preferring Jon of the top three contenders was an exchange from the Season 8 premiere that didn't involve Jon at all. When Sansa, who was concerned about Winterfell running out of food in winter, asked what dragons eat, Dany said this: "Whatever they want."

The Seven Kingdoms doesn't need a ruler who takes whatever she wants because there's nobody who can stop her. The Seven Kingdoms needs a leader who can focus on the bigger picture, surround himself with people who do things like wonder what will happen if they run out of food in the winter, and doesn't want glory.

Oh, and also a leader who isn't the product of generation after generation of incest that produced madmen like Aerys, Viserys, and even Rhaegar. Jon's dad may not have been as crazed as Aerys and Viserys, but can anybody really say that his decisions that kickstarted Robert's Rebellion were made by a well-balanced mind?

We've arguably seen shades of a "Mad Queen Daenerys" before when she gets too roast-happy. Dany as queen is hardly "breaking the wheel," and at least Jon is half Stark.

If somebody is going to win the Iron Throne, I am convinced after the Season 8 premiere that it should be Jon. I'm also even more convinced than ever that none of the top contenders should sit the throne and democracy should be the new system of government, but I won't find out if that particular theory is true until the end of the series.

Tune in to HBO on Sundays at 9 p.m. ET for new episodes of the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones. The premiere scored huge numbers for HBO, and the next episode could do even better.

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. Resident of One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and Northeast Ohio. Will not time travel and can cite multiple TV shows to explain why. She does, however, want to believe that she can sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation (and author bios).