On the eve of the fifth season finale, a look at who's actually closest to winning the titular game

Credit: HBO

The show is called Game of Thrones, and it stands to reason that at some point there will be a winner to this game.

Someone eventually will get to sit on the Iron Throne and rule Westeros, and on the eve of the show’s fifth season finale, it seems like a good idea to look at the various contenders and see who might be in the best position to come out on top.

Here’s our take on which characters currently stands where. Think of it as a Game of Thrones leaderboard, but also keep in mind that Westeros is a cruel and unforgiving place where it only takes one bad day to knock someone from the top of the heap. (Remember Joffrey? Remember Robb? Remember Ned?)

1. Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke)

Yep, we’re voting Dany the most likely to succeed – for now.

In the beginning, she seemed ill-suited for conquest, but two husbands and a small empire later, she may be the character in the best position to fight, win and rule, especially now that she has Tyrion advising her. When we last saw Daenerys, things looked grim and it seemed the Sons of the Harpy had her cornered, but oh yeah, that’s right, she commands dragons that barbecued most of the opposition and allowed her a quick escape – to fight again another day?

2. Jon Snow (Kit Harington)

Similarly, Jon seemed like an outlier toward the beginning of the game, being of questionable parentage and relegated to the deep-freezer storage of the North with the other leftovers. And while those White Walkers seem formidable, Jon has shown remarkable leadership in brokering peace with the Wildlings. That’s the kind of diplomacy you’d expect from a good leader.

Has it occurred to anyone else that Jon and Dany would make a great pair? Fire and ice? Think about it.

3. Coldemort

We’re talking about the main White Walker. Obviously, he’s bad news, and it seems highly unlikely he’ll take over Westeros. However, you have to admit that at this point in the story, this big, bad Otter Pop has put himself in a great position to win: His army recruitment skills are unbeatable. In one scene, he shook up the Westerosi power dynamic.

4. Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey)

This mean queen has been at the top of her game for most of the series. That changed toward the end of this season, when she got tossed in jail. A lesser character would crumble, but this is Cersei Lannister we’re talking about: She will slither out and land somewhere comfortable, where she’ll likely resume pulling strings.

After all, she may be the best person in Westeros at manipulating those around her

5. Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer)

Except maybe for sweet, innocent Margaery, who may be more like Cersei than either one wants to admit. Margaery has said she just wants to be queen, not necessarily the head ruler, and she already got that by marrying Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman). Even more impressive? She seems to have turned him against his mother.

Will this marriage last? Probably not. However, she’s been married before (however briefly), and she can always marry again – provided she can get out of prison. She just might marry her way to the top.

6. Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage)

When we last left Tyrion, he was watching his new boss, Daenerys, fly away on a dragon, Neverending Story-style. Sure, he has the Sons of the Harpy to contend with, but he’s escaped worse predicaments, and we don’t doubt that he’ll land on his feet. Here’s the question: Is he actually content advising? Or can he ride Daenerys’ silky, billowing coattails to a position of power?

7. Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane)

It’s too bad that the Greek classic Agamemnon doesn’t exist in this universe. Otherwise, Stannis might know that sacrificing your daughter actually doesn’t make the powers that be smile upon you.

Stannis seemed like a contender, and yeah, he’s backed by that fire witch Melisandra (Carice Van Houten), but we’re going out on a limb and saying that his days are numbered – as a leader, as Melisandra’s ally, and as a living thing. As decent a position as he’s in now, his plans for domination will not come to pass.

8. Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner)

Poor, poor Sansa. She’s spent most of the show as a receptacle for tragedy and misery. However, she’s also transformed into a stronger character than anyone watching the first season would have imagined. Could that strength propel her to power? To victory? To vengeance?

It’s not clear yet, but we’re very excited to see how the newly steeled Sansa maneuvers through season six. She has a ways to go yet, but it never hurts to have a guy like Petyr Baelish (Aidan Gillen) watching out for you most of the time.

9. Jamie Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau)

Does anyone else miss the pairing of Jamie and Brienne (Gwendoline Christie)? Does anyone else think Jamie was better off having Brienne as his right hand (so to speak) gal? At this point in the story, we’re not sure what Jamie can or should do. He’s a little lost, a little sad, and a little in need of direction. We’re assuming his efforts to save his daughter-niece, Myrcella (Nell Tiger Free), will come to naught, based on Cersei’s childhood prediction that she will outlive all her babies.

Is Jamie’s best hope something heroic, redemptive and self-sacrificing?

10. Arya Stark (Maisie Williams)

The youngest Stark daughter is a fan favorite, but Arya has spent the past season toiling away for the Faceless Men. She’s literally given up her identity, and while she’ll surely find adventure on this divergent path, we wonder when and how she could rejoin the larger story.

Prove us wrong, Arya, and find a way to jump from a C-plot to an A-plot.

11. Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead-Wright)

Remember Bran? He’s been MIA all season, and we last saw him making friends with a magic forest girl. Sure, he may rejoin the story with new magic powers one day. But in what way can he put those powers to use?

Bran, we miss you – by which we mean we miss your de factor au pair, Hodor (Kristian Nairn). Come back, both of you.

12. Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen)

Bottom of the list, least likely to succeed. At the very least, let him provide a bare minimum of assistance to Sansa and let her scurry on her way to a better plot?

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