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Spoilers ahead for Episode 4 of Game of Thrones Season 8, called "The Last of the Starks."
Only two episodes are left before Game of Thrones is done for good, and until the latest episode, the show seemed to have narrowed down the final pool of contenders for the Iron Throne to three: Daenerys Targaryen, Jon Snow/Aegon Targaryen, and Cersei Lannister. Now, thanks to a political move by Daenerys in “The Last of the Starks,” another contender for the Iron Throne has seemingly emerged in the form of Gendry Baratheon.
Now, Gendry’s name has been thrown around as a possibility for the winner of the game of thrones for as long as he’s been known as a bastard of Robert Baratheon, but the odds always seemed very, very stacked against him. After all, an unacknowledged bastard can’t inherit, even if he is the last survivor of his bloodline, and surely none of the real contenders for the throne would do something bonkers like legitimize him before the end of The Last War, right?
Well, thanks to Dany, not so right. In an effort to secure an ally at the head of one of the most ancient houses in the Seven Kingdoms (which was all but extinct anyway), Dany just went ahead and legitimized Gendry as Gendry Baratheon, Lord of Storm’s End. By restarting the Baratheon line with somebody who looks enough like Robert that Ned recognized him way back in Season 1, Dany gave herself a new rival.
Admittedly, that rival is Gendry, so the Dragon Queen is probably not quaking in her boots at the thought of him challenging her. Still, Gendry as Robert’s legitimate heir is a complication that really nobody in the Seven Kingdoms needed. Here’s why.
Gendry Has The Best Claim To The Iron Throne
In one fell swoop, Daenerys Targaryen -- who spent most of eight seasons believing that she had the most rightful claim to the Iron Throne -- put somebody publicly ahead of her in the current line of succession. Jon’s status as Aegon Targaryen is currently information only known to a select handful, but Dany just put Gendry in front of a room of some of the biggest players in the game and declared him a legitimate Baratheon.
Robert Baratheon won the Iron Throne by conquest, so while he did start out as a usurper, he was the rightful king. Even though the Lannisters did kinda sorta arrange for him to die, and even though Joffrey, Tommen, and Myrcella were actually pure Lannister, the Baratheons never lost the throne. The realm just ran out of Baratheons. Cersei’s claim to the throne comes from her status as Robert’s widow, and therefore the closest thing the Baratheon-free kingdom had to a rightful ruler.
Since the Lannisters seized power through subterfuge rather than actively conquering the Baratheons, the Iron Throne hasn’t been seized by conquest since Robert took it from Aerys. If Gendry is Robert’s lawful son, then he has the best claim to the throne.
Gendry Has Blood Of The Dragon Too
For all her speeches about her status as the last Targaryen (before the Jon reveal), Dany has never actually had any right to the Iron Throne. Her family lost it. If she took it back, she’d be doing so the same way Robert took it from her family: conquest. At this point, Dany isn’t rightful heir to anything in the Westerosi culture of succession based on blood.
Jon is ahead of her in the Targaryen line, and Gendry Baratheon is ahead of her in the royal line. Legally speaking, Gendry should be king. And all three characters are actually related, if we assume that the lineage of the noble families of Game of Thrones matches the lineage from the A Song of Ice and Fire source material!
Yes, if the lineage matches, then Gendry has some Targaryen blood of his own. Gendry’s great-grandmother on his father’s side was Rhaelle Targaryen, making him a distant cousin to both Jon and Daenerys. Fun fact: in the books, Robert Baratheon took the Iron Throne rather than Jon Arryn or Eddard Stark after the fall of the Targaryens precisely because he had Targaryen blood and therefore the best claim to the throne.
So, based on blood, Gendry is first (and only) in the Baratheon line and third in the Targaryen line, behind Jon and then Daenerys. Who knows? If Viserion hadn’t died, maybe there could have been three living dragon-riders.
Could Gendry Actually Win The Iron Throne?
Gendry has never shown any inclination toward ruling, and his reaction after being legitimized in “The Last of the Starks” indicates that he’s overwhelmed enough with the prospect of being a lord without throwing a crown and throne into the mix. But as “The Last of the Starks” proved as the Aegon Targaryen secret became Aegon Targaryen information, somebody doesn’t have to want the Iron Throne to have people support his claim for it.
In the eyes of the common people of Westeros, the last time that there was peace in the realm was probably under the reign of Robert Baratheon. Sure, insiders knew that Robert was an awful king and there was all kinds of scheming going on in the Red Keep, but there was no war ravaging the continent until after Robert died.
Rumors that Cersei’s kids weren’t Robert’s undoubtedly spread far and wide, and the Baratheon brothers probably didn’t pose a serious enough threat for long enough that they get credit for the horrors of the War of the Five Kings. Renly’s cause was dead almost as soon as it began, and Stannis wasn’t much of a player in the south after his defeat at the Battle of the Blackwater.
Basically, Gendry could have supporters if the masses come to know him as a Baratheon. He doesn’t need to want it for people to think he should have it, and the masses in Westeros can be dangerous. If news that Dany legitimized Gendry spreads, the players could find themselves stuck with a contender popular with the people. It’s not like Gendry’s going to burn any of them to death or blow them up with wildfire, right? And if he looks like Robert…
Should Gendry Win The Iron Throne?
Look, I love Gendry. The adventures of Arya, Gendry, and Hot Pie provided some levity (by Game of Thrones standards, anyway) in earlier seasons, his book counterpart is endearingly bullheaded, and he’s just a good guy who likes Arya and banging on stuff with his hammer. Gendry’s great. But should Gendry win the Iron Throne? Absolutely not, in my book.
Honestly, I’m not even sure if Gendry can even read, let alone function as a leader of more than a forge. His first act as Lord of Storm’s End was to get soused enough that proposing to Arya seemed like a great idea.
Was it a cute proposal, even if it was doomed? Sure, and points to Gendry for openly admitting that he had no idea how to be a lord (or use a fork). But I would call that proof enough that the closest Gendry should come to the Iron Throne would be to use his blacksmith skills to dismantle it.
Gendry is woefully unqualified to be a lord, to the point that I seriously hope for the sake of the people of the stormlands that he gets a lot of help if he does actually take the seat at Storm’s End. And if he’s woefully unqualified to be a lord, he definitely shouldn’t be a king. Bless his heart, but keep him away from any crowns.
Why Legitimizing Gendry Was Just A Bad Idea
No good can come of Dany’s decision to legitimize Gendry before she even takes the Iron Throne, and not just because the legitimization technically doesn’t count yet. By declaring him a lawful Baratheon, Daenerys added a new contender to the fight for the Iron Throne, and that could both make her fight even more complicated and put Gendry in a lot of danger.
Alliances were made between disparate parties for the sake of fighting the Night King, but announcing Gendry’s status as a Baratheon bastard in a room filled with Starks, Lannisters, common folk, and Varys probably wasn’t the best decision for Gendry’s sake. Honestly, if something does happen to Gendry because Dany announced he was Robert’s son in a room packed with people, I’ll at least partly blame Jon.
Who else would have spilled the beans about Gendry’s dad? Ser Davos was surprised when Dany made her speech naming Gendry as the new lord of Storm’s End, and I hardly think Arya was gabbing with Dany over drinks. Besides, who else than Jon would be trusting enough to assume that Daenerys would be cool with the son of the Usurper hanging out? She didn’t snap and have him murdered, but she totally could have. Loose lips sink ships, Jon! (Also: giant dragon-killing crossbow bolts.)
Sure, Dany’s idea to elevate somebody from bastard to lord in order to guarantee loyalty is a good one, but it’s not like Gendry will be winning the hearts of the people of the stormlands in time for them to be any support in The Last War.
At this point, part of me hopes that Gendry just hangs out off-screen for the rest of the series rather than venture to King’s Landing. Cersei certainly will have reason to want him dead, and Daenerys may not react well if she thinks the guy she elevated wants to make a play for the Iron Throne.
That said, I am curious to see where Gendry’s loyalties would actually lie if the fight comes down to Targaryen vs. Targaryen. Daenerys may have made him lord, but he bonded with Jon, owes his life to Ser Davos, and fell in love with Arya. Could this secondary character who rowed off for four seasons to become a meme actually be key to the final arc of the grand saga of Game of Thrones?
We’ll know in just a couple of weeks. The last two episodes of Game of Thrones air the next two Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.