Warning: “Game of Thrones” spoilers ahead.
• HBO’s “Game of Thrones” wrapped up Sunday night with an intense finale.
• The show’s numerous characters all attempted to out-maneuver one another, as usual.
• Several standout leaders made important choices as the army of the dead broke through the Wall.
Winter has truly come to Westeros, with snowflakes falling as far south as King’s Landing.
And, with the Wall destroyed and the army of the dead on the march, the continent could surely use some good leadership at the moment.
A few weeks ago, we ranked the “Game of Thrones” characters based on their leadership abilities. So here’s an update, based on all that happened in season seven.
A few notes: This list counts only characters who are still alive on the show, not in the books. So keep in mind that a bunch of people have died recently.
Also, this list takes into consideration only people who could be counted as “leaders.” Some characters who aren’t currently in leadership roles are not included, like Arya Stark, Jaime Lannister, Jorah Mormont, or Sandor Clegane. The same goes for anyone who is basically out of commission at this point.
Lastly, this ranking looks into characters’ track records but heavily favors things that happened this season. This list examines leadership ability, not overall power, importance, or title.
Here are the leaders of “Game of Thrones” that survived season seven, ranked from worst to best:
Honorable mention: The Night King
It’s not really fair to count the Night King as a “leader.” He’s the supreme ruler of an army of humanoid ice creatures and dead things. It’s not as if he has to apply any leadership skills when it comes to directing his minions. The White Walkers and wights aren’t in much of a position to mutiny or even question his will.
That being said, the Night King has had a productive season. And now that’s he’s converted poor Viserion into an ice dragon, shattered the Wall, and sent his dreaded forces marching southward, his grand plans seem to be snowballing.
9. Euron Greyjoy
Euron was definitely the least valuable member of the epic meeting between Cersei’s retinue and Daenerys’ squad.
First, the obnoxious pirate interrupted Tyrion by threatening Yara’s life and demanding that Theon submit to him. Because the get together was definitely all about sorting out Greyjoy family drama, right?
Next, he strolled around and harassed Tyrion before Cersei ordered him to take a seat.
And then, once the cat was out of the bag – or, rather, the wight was out of the crate – Euron seemed to peace out, admitting to everyone that he was terrified of the snarling, decaying zombie.
Of course, it later turned out that Greyjoy’s exit was merely a ploy, and that he was still eager to woo and wed Cersei. Still, his rudeness, ineffective bluster, and general sleaziness illustrate why Euron’s leadership abilities are eye-roll-inducing when it comes to scenarios that don’t involve fiery, nautical sneak attacks.
8. Yohn Royce
- Daryl Dixon/Youtube
Yohn Royce hasn’t been in the spotlight at all this season, but he is one of House Arryn’s most powerful bannermen and a skilled military commander to boot.
In the season finale, Royce had one strong moment as a leader. During the trial of Littlefinger, Royce asserted that the forces of the Vale would not assist him, despite the fact that he was the Lord Protector of the Vale. Of course, Littlefinger was completely outgunned in that situation, but it was still a good call.
7. Brienne of Tarth
Brienne spent most of “The Dragon and the Wolf” standing around in the background and having awkward conversations with people she hasn’t seen in a while, like most of the characters who were present for the wight-reveal party in King’s Landing.
Still, when the meeting unraveled, Brienne took a stand. She immediately honed in on Jaime, urging him to change his sister’s mind. At first, it didn’t look like her prodding worked. Jaime seemed to be back by Cersei’s side and the Lannister faction prepared to double cross their enemies.
However, by the end of the finale, it was clear that her words had an effect on the Kingslayer. The fact that she chose to scorn “loyalty” – a trait that the knight has always held in such high regard – clearly made an impact on Jaime.
By taking such a bold stance and swearing, Brienne was ensuring that her speech was truly persuasive. And any good leader knows that the secret to success is effective communication.
6. Cersei Lannister
- Macall B. Polay/HBO
Cersei may have been the picture of poise in the meeting with Daenerys, but she really bungled things in terms of strategy.
For a shining moment, it seemed like the queen might have opted to side with her enemies and fight the looming threat in the North. In a later scene, however, it was revealed that she intended to stab them in the back after allowing them to take the brunt of the army of the dead.
Before the reveal of the wight, this sort of behavior might have been understandable – underhanded, but unsurprising. But Cersei appears fully aware of the danger the army of the dead poses. She’s taking a major risk with her convoluted plot to bring in the Golden Company. It’s clear that doesn’t care how her choices will affect her kingdom – her mind is just set on beating the Mother of Dragons.
What’s more, when Jaime tried to reason with her, she threatened to sic the Mountain on him. Solid leaders should be able to take constructive criticism and listen to their direct reports before making huge decisions – like whether or not to betray a rival who has an arsenal that includes the Dothraki, the Unsullied, and two dragons.
5. Daenerys Targaryen
- Macall B. Polay/HBO
The finale saw Daenerys make a textbook power entrance – flying in on Drogon, fashionably late, to boot. It was a great moment, and Dany was a powerful presence in the meeting.
Overall, the Mother of Dragons didn’t have to make too many crucial leadership positions in the finale. Most of her effort focused on compromising with Cersei and talking things over with Jon Snow.
But it is important to note that Daenerys is carrying on with dignity after losing Viserion. She’s holding up remarkably well given how devastating losing one of her dragons must have felt.
4. Sansa Stark
The dimly-lit squabbling between the Stark sisters made for an especially grating plotline this season.
However, the bloody conclusion of Sansa and Arya’s arc dealt a desperately needed jolt of satisfaction. The Starks ultimately did not allow themselves to be played by Littlefinger. Instead, Sansa opted to gather together the powers that be in Winterfell and laid out the charges against the notorious schemer. After some tense back and forth, Sansa ordered her sister to brutally execute her former mentor.
Baelish clearly taught Sansa well. She came across as a true master of the game.
Still, in a later conversation with Arya, she revealed her roots by quoting their father: “When the snows fall and the white winds blow, the lone wolf dies, but the pack survives.”
With the army of the dead descending on Westeros, we can only hope she’s right.
3. Tyrion Lannister
When it came to getting things done, Tyrion was on a roll in “The Dragon and the Wolf.” First, during the bid to call a truce, Daenerys’ Hand kicked off and drove home a convincing presentation for Cersei.
When that didn’t work, he took a huge risk and followed his sister back into the castle. The move wasn’t impulsive, though – it was carefully calculated. Tyrion knew that they needed to exhaust all their options, or Viserion would have died for nothing.
At first, it seemed like Tyrion’s gambit paid off. Even though Cersei ultimately opted for treachery, the choice to debate the queen one-on-one was still a bold moment for a leader that’s been considerably more cautious this season.
However, Tyrion’s strange behavior toward the end of the episode was worrisome. We never saw the ending of his conversation with his sister, after all. And his expression was strange as he brooded in the ship hallway outside of Dany’s room. Is it possible that the Hand has betrayed his queen? And, if so, why?
2. Jon Snow
Jon Snow got mixed marks from the rest of his team on his performance at the meeting.
On the one hand, he really seemed to take the lead during the pitch to Cersei. He even managed the props, whipping out a torch and dragonglass to kill the wight. During that portion of the proceedings, he came across as a solid leader – collected, persuasive, and passionate.
Things fell apart when he refused to back out of the war against the Lannisters.
On the one hand, Tyrion’s quip about “learning how to lie every now and then” seemed spot on, considering the fact that the King in the North’s admission stalled negotiations.
Then again, it’s not fair to dock Jon too much for having integrity. His timely speech on the importance of honest leadership struck a chord: “When enough people make false promises, words stop meaning anything. Then there are no answers just better and better lies.”
Plus, it turned out that Cersei was planning on betraying them all along. So perhaps Jon had the right instincts all along?
1. Theon Greyjoy
Theon has been on a terrible roller coaster for the past few episodes. For a while there, it seemed like he was in a solid place, as Yara’s chief adviser.
Then, Euron launched a devastating attack against their fleet, triggering Theon’s horrible memories of torture and prompting him to abandon his sister.
However, Theon’s story didn’t end there. Now that it’s been revealed that Yara is still alive, he’s determined to save her from their evil uncle.
Before embarking on that quest, Theon made amends with Jon Snow. Their interaction highlighted the fact that Theon has truly come to realize how horrible his behavior was during earlier seasons. In order to actually lead others, he had to come to accept his failings, faults, and the reality that he is both a Greyjoy and a Stark.
Next, Theon faced a more daunting task – convincing the crew of the ship that rescued him, a bunch of hardened sea warriors, to accompany him on the mission to rescue Yara. He was roundly mocked and threatened for this request, but Theon pressed them, undaunted. He knew that actions were far more persuasive than words, especially to tough folks like the Ironborn.
So he picked a fight with the ship’s captain. He fought until he was bloodied, and never gave up, despite the man’s demands that he stay down. In the end, he wore the captain out and earned the respect of the Ironborn. The incident wasn’t simply about proving his physical toughness – it was about demonstrating his true determination and grit.
While his quest to save Yara seems like a long shot, the brawl on the beach was still an impressive moment for Theon.