22. Jon Snow, Bastard
I list Jon Snow because he’s a player whether he wants to be or not. Out of everyone on this list, he’s the one who gives the fewest fucks about being on this list and I’m 100% sure that if you said you could have the Iron Throne or live in a quiet hut in the hills with some tea and several good books to read, he’d pick books and tea 10 out of 10 times. Also not on this list: people like Tormund and Brienne, who also have zero desire to be on it.
21. Edmure Tully, Coward
He’s technically the Lord of Riverrun. And he did make one bold, if confounding, command decision.
20. Yara Greyjoy, Commander of the Iron Fleet
Yara is shrewd, and her new alliance with the Targaryens shows promise. She doesn’t seem to have any craving for a larger bite of the bread than the Iron Islands, though.
20. Theon Greyjoy, First Mate of the Iron Fleet
Having grown up with the Starks, Theon has seen more of the family dynamics than Yara. But he has to wipe his tears and regain his confidence to put his knowledge to work.
19. Cersei Lannister, Former Queen
The most boldly spiteful and brazenly ambitious person on this list. Also, probably the dumbest. She can’t think more than a half a step ahead and even then, she’s usually half-wrong anyway.
18. Whoever runs House Manderly
No idea who this is, but they have the third biggest army in the North (and after last week, perhaps the biggest) and they managed to not pick sides in the battle of Winterfell. Sounds like someone who knows how to hedge their bets.
18. Ellaria Sand, Viper of Dorne
She’s lowborn, and not well versed in the political dynamics of the region, but she controls an entire province of Westeros - one that hasn’t even been conquered. She has will, the support of her people, and an army. That makes her a player.
17. Randyll Tarly, House Tarly
It remains to be seen how well this mean-spirited prick plays the game, but he’s a fixture with a long history of rule in a noble house.
16. Euron Greyjoy, King of the Iron Isles
He’s smart enough to have wrested control of the Ironborn. But how well will he navigate the politics of Westeros? Is he just a mad pirate?
15. Jaime Lannister, Heir of Casterly Rock, The ‘Lion of Lannister’
The one-handed Heir to Casterly Rock is a player because he sits at the head of an army. He’s not quite as dumb as a bag of rocks, but sometimes he acts like it - especially where his sister is involved.
14. Lyanna Mormont, Lady of Bear Island
She’s this high because she has the mark of a great leader, despite her age and the relative lack of importance of her house.
13. Ser Davos Seaworth
He’s seen it all with Stannis, has connections to the Iron Bank, and a gift for diplomacy and the will to back the right horse. He’s shrewd and seasoned and is one of the few people on this list (all the others are at the very top) who can see the whole board. If he was more personally ambitious, he’d be higher.
12. Daenerys Targaryen, Queen of Meereen
I might have put her under Edmure Tully a week ago, she was such a near-sighted, angry reactionary. So far she’s been a better conqueror than a ruler, but after listening to Tyrion and aligning with the Iron Fleet? She commands a better position. Not subtle. Not polished. Her single-focus ambition is both an asset and a curse. Also, y’know, dragons do wonders for negotiating and killing frozen zombies.
11. Lord Walder Frey
Everyone else around him falls and he’s still cackling away and chasing Harry Potter around Hogwarts without a care in the world.
10. Ser Jorah Mormont
Jorah is actually a student of the game, and has a deep knowledge of Westerosi politics. You almost wish he didn’t love Daenerys because his love has clouded his vision and made him too much of a zealot.
9. Grand Maester Pycelle
How is this 500 year old, ass-kissing turd still on the Small Council and whispering in Tommen’s ear? Who knows? But he is and being in the Halls of Power every day gets him to 9.
8. Sansa Stark, Queen of the North?
Wish Bran nowhere near (that we know of), Sansa is the de facto heir of Winterfell and the North. She’s aligned herself with Littlefinger, has been schooled by Olenna, Margaery, Tyrion, Tywin, Joffrey and Cersei. It feels like she might have picked up a few things along the way.
7. Kevan Lannister, Hand of the King
The Hand of the King and smart enough to have gelded both Cersei and Jaime. Or should he have aligned with them? Blood, after all, is thicker than Holy Water.
6. Queen Margaery Baratheon
She’s playing a Baelish-esque long game. Her personal tutor, The Queen of Thorns, is a master and Margaery has learned well. The problem is that her husband is a puppet and her adversary is the brilliant High Sparrow. Still, she navigated Renly’s and then Joffrey’s death with aplomb. That’s a lot of Baratheon beds to manage. But she’s more than just a pretty face, she’s smart and understands the political system and is a serious contender.
5. Tyrion Lannister, The Imp
He may be the best ruler on the board, and the best person to lead the world through the Long Night. That said, he’s a drunk and too self-hating and scarred both physically and emotionally by his family. He lacks a sense of true belonging and needs someone to really love him for him before he can become the best version of himself. Sees the whole board, albeit through his own personal filter of abandonment and isolation.
4. Lord Varys, The Spider
A brilliant player who hears all and knows all. The person with the best information gathering mechanism in the Known World and someone who has been at the epicenter of power for most of his adult life. He is a once-in-a-lifetime type of strategist. Sees the whole board effortlessly.
3. Olenna Tyrell, The Queen of Thorns
Hard and brilliant, she has played the game for years and stayed on top. The problem is that her last move was undone and her influence is waning as she gets older. Cut off from her heirs, her House is in trouble. Sees the whole board, but is sick of it all.
2. Lord Petyr Baelish, “Littlefinger”
Probably the most amazing player in the world. Look at this GIF. The show wants you to believe this is Sansa’s victory, and in a way it is, but this is Littlefinger’s ARMY. Look at his smug face. He’s had this scenario cooking on the back burner for years. Literally years. Every single thing, every single shift of power has the Mockingbird’s seal on it since the beginning of season one. If not directly, then indirectly. He is Lord of Harrenhal, controls the Eyrie, and is the benefactor of Sansa Stark, who controls the North. He’s aligned with the Lannisters. He either has control directly, or indirectly, of about a third of the total land in Westeros. He’s about one giant step away from realistically having a shot at the Iron Throne. Not only does he see the board, he moves the pieces like no one else. He changes the board.
1.The High Sparrow
Tommen Baratheon, the sitting KIng, isn’t even on this list because he’s such a dumb rabbit. He is controlled wholly by his spiritual advisor, The High Sparrow, who is the actual king, in practice if not in name. Where did he even come from? We never even knew he existed 24 months ago, but thanks to the delicious stupidity of Cersei Lannister, he was elevated into the Red Keep and he decided to stay there. He controls the board right now.
Did I forget anyone? Are the rankings right? Where would you put someone like Brienne of Tarth or Robin Arryn or Dolorous Edd? What about Beric Dondarrion or Melisandre or The Hound or Arya Stark or Dickface Tarly or Lancel Lannister or Loras Tyrell? Which player (or players) will be unceremoniously scratched off this list this weekend when Weiss and Benioff come seeking the pound of flesh that they didn’t take from us last week? And who will be the top player when the dust settles on this season?