In the “Game of Thrones” universe, it’s all about power. And with the most powerful man in the realm, Tywin Lannister, now the former most powerful man in the realm thanks to a couple of deadly crossbow arrows to the chest courtesy of his son, Tyrion, it’s time to reassess who’s really in charge.
So here is an entirely subjective — and some may even say foolhardy — ranking of the 10 most powerful people in the “Game of Thrones” universe 40 episodes into the journey.
1. Petyr Baelish
We learned this season that, basically, “Game of Thrones” exists because of Littlefinger. He set in motion the events that led to Jon Arryn’s murder, which was basically the catalyst for everything that followed, including Ned Stark’s execution and all of the related Stark vs. Lannister fallout. Baelish is also the one responsible for Joffrey’s murder and now, after disposing of his new wife, Lysa, he is ruler of the well-fortified Eyrie and has Sansa as a would-be, could-be, still-that’s-icky bride-in-waiting. If “chaos is a ladder,” as he’s fond of saying, the death of Tywin Lannister should allow Littlefinger to climb a few more steps higher on that ladder. To the very top of it.
2. Roose Bolton
This emotionless creep? It’s hard to put him much lower in a post-Tywin world. With his bastard son, Ramsay, capturing Moat Cailin for the family (and earning Ramsay a real last name in the process), Bolton is Warden of the North and has control of the entire thing. The North is cold and desolate and prone to wildling and White Walker attacks, but it’s still larger than all of the other kingdoms combined. As we know from his role in the Red Wedding, Bolton is ruthless and power hungry and has never been as well-positioned as he is now.
3. Margaery Tyrell
We haven’t seen much of the widow Margaery over the second half of the season, but let’s just assume that she and Grandma Olenna have been plotting about how to grab as much power as possible. It’s been Margaery’s ambition since we first met her, when she was with Renly, and now the power vacuum in King’s Landing makes it so she can be the one calling the shots. She’ll likely have to fight off Cersei for influence over the innocent King Tommen, but as that bedroom encounter with the young king a few episodes ago reminded us, she can offer Tommen something that Cersei just can’t compete with.
4. Cersei Lannister
But we can’t dismiss the Queen Regent so quickly. With father out of the picture, she is the Lannister with the most power right now, and that still means a significant something in King’s Landing and beyond. She is a master schemer who knows how to get what she wants, and there was only one person who could really stop her, and now he’s dead. And let’s not ignore the possibility that a mutant version of The Mountain may be in her service in the not-too-distant future.
5. Stannis Baratheon
This emotionless creep? It’s good to see Stannis and his new army finally make it off Dragonstone to where the action is. That army exists thanks to a loan from the bank of Braavos, and it’s looking like a smart investment, since the reason Davos was able to convince the Iron Bank to lend the funds was that if Tywin Lannister died, all of the money Braavos poured into Westeros would be for naught. Stannis has one victory over a wildling army to his credit and has the black magic of the Red Woman, Melisandre, working in his favor. And if you’re a stickler for such things, he is the One True King of the Seven Kingdoms. So if the world is just, he will move up this list next season. If he can form an alliance with Mance Rayder and his massive force, that seems likely.
6. Bran Stark
It’s hard to say where Bran fits in, since he exists so far away from everyone else on this list. He’s a crippled tween whose main companion is a lovable lug who can’t say anything but his own name, and he’s got no home base or land or army. But he does have a new friend in the almost-human manifestation of the magical three-eyed raven, and that new friend promises he will make Bran fly … so, yeah, let’s just stick him at No. 6.
7. King Tommen Baratheon
Yes, he sits on the Iron Throne, but we all know he’s incapable of calling the shots. And he’s probably too scared to even try. He didn’t even know how sex worked until Grandpa Tywin filled him in! But he will (most likely) have some say in whose puppet he is, so that earns him this spot.
8. Daenerys Targaryen
Who would have thought that the Mother of Dragons would be this low? But it was a rough season for Khaleesi, as her march of liberation came to a disappointing halt in Meereen, where things are so bad that some of the slaves she freed want back into servitude. She’s realizing that governing is neither easy nor fun. And she is also now without her trusted adviser, Ser Jorah Mormont, whom she exiled when finding out that he was once spying on her. Plus those dragons that were going to make her a shoo-in for taking the Iron Throne have now become something of a hindrance, turning the poor goats and children of the Meereen countryside into charred piles of bones. The season ends with Dany locking up two of her dragons, letting freed people return to slavery and being no closer to the Iron Throne, as many of those above on the list stake their claim.
9. Arya Stark
She’s still young and small, but consider — she learned survival skills (and how to stab someone in the heart) from one of the best fighters in the kingdom, The Hound. She has also learned not to trust anyone at all, which is a vital skill in Westeros (and one her sister might want to learn someday). And she’s on a boat to Braavos, where she might finally fulfill her destiny to become a shape-shifting assassin.
10. The White Walker Who Turns Babies Into White Walkers
Neat trick if you can pull it off.