Warning: “Game of Thrones” spoilers ahead.
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’s happened in this season so far.
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 aren’t on here, like Arya Stark, 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 have survived the season so far, ranked from worst to best:
9. Petyr Baelish
Successful people aren’t necessarily good leaders.
Just look at Littlefinger. He seems to be making some big moves within the dimly-lit halls of Winterfell, passing around knives, planting scrolls, and pitting the Stark girls against one another. So far, things seem to be going his way. Arya appears just about ready to add Sansa to her infamous list.
Lord Baelish doesn’t have to demonstrate much in the way of leadership abilities – he prefers to fly solo. He is a chaotic force unto himself.
But, when it comes to the Starks, the lone wolf dies and the pack survives. We can only hope Littlefinger’s solitary style will ultimately catch up with him. With winter ravaging the North and the army of the dead on the march, no one has time for his games anymore.
8. Brienne of Tarth
- Helen Sloan/HBO
Brienne brought up some excellent points when Sansa chose to send her away this week. Namely, Littlefinger can’t be trusted.
You can tell this valiant knight has the best interests of the Stark girls in mind. Plus, she’s confident in her abilities to guide and protect Sansa and Arya. Keeping a strong warrior like Brienne around could dissuade some of Baelish’s mind games – or potentially break up the seemingly looming fight between Arya and Sansa.
Hopefully Brienne will get more time to demonstrate her leadership smarts in the finale.
7. Cersei Lannister
Cersei’s had a good season, so far.
Sure, Jaime’s army got burned to a crisp, but it looks like her adversaries are currently more interested in ice zombie-related diplomacy than fighting at the moment. Cersei seems content to play along for now, which is a smart move. She’s already eliminated several of her enemies, after all.
Now that Cersei is pregnant, she has even more of a motivation to fight for the future. And you can bet she has some tricks up her sleeves for the finale.
However, as Tyrion aptly pointed out, this Queen only rules through fear. That might be an effective short-term strategy, but her ruthless style is sure to burn her kingdom out in the long term. Her ruthlessness and penchant for torture haven’t endeared her to many allies, outside of Qyburn and Jaime.
6. Samwell Tarly
Samwell didn’t make an appearance this week, but he certainly made a big impression in the previous episode.
Great leaders take informed risks. In his case, Samwell seems to have learned all he could from the Maesters. Now, he’s heading off into the world to put his newfound knowledge to good use.
But seriously, he needs to listen to Gilly more. It’d save everyone a lot of time.
5. Jon Snow
Poor Jon Snow.
The whole venture beyond the Wall – which amounted to a “zombie-kidnapping buddy road trip” – was a terrible plan. It’s possible that the show’s plot will ultimately justify this idea, but, on the face of it, the King of the North’s decision was a questionable one, at best.
Sure, Jon’s frozen squad managed to snag a snarling wight. But they also lost Viserion, Thoros, and a whole bunch of unfortunate red shirts.
As always, “Beyond the Wall” clearly demonstrates that Jon’s a great leader on the ground. He’s brave, smart, and cares about his people.
But his quest to take down the Night King can make him act irrationally at times. He’s sometimes too much of a big picture guy.
Even once rescue was at hand, Jon delayed takeoff by showing off his swordplay and slashing ice zombies, when he should have been climbing on Drogon and getting the seven hells out of there. Now, the White Walkers have a dragon and Jon himself only escaped due to the intervention of everyone’s favorite deus ex machina – Uncle Benjen.
All that being said, the King in the North seems to have learned something from this frosty fiasco. He admits to Daenerys that he wishes he could take the whole thing back. He also takes Tormund’s advice to heart and realizes that it’s time to bend the knee for the good of the North.
4. Daenerys Targaryen
- Helen Sloan/HBO
“Beyond the Wall” proved to be a tragic episode for Daenerys.
The Mother of Dragons has had a lot on her plate since invading Westeros. That’s evident in some of the less sound decisions she’s made so far. She flew to fight Jaime’s army herself, fried both Tarleys, and then flew off over the Wall with her dragons.
And that last choice brought about somewhat disastrous results. Dany rescued the stranded group of important main characters – surprise, surprise – but she lost Viserion, who was turned into an ice dragon. She may scorn the heroic men in her life, but Tyrion was right in saying that this Queen has an impulsive side to her leadership style that could bring about major problems, too.
That being said, Dany displayed some good leadership traits throughout the episode, epecially in her tender, post-crisis moment with Jon Snow.
She seemed far less interested in pressuring him to bend the knee. She didn’t blame anyone else for Viserion’s death. She resolved to help in the fight against the army of the dead.
Perhaps this last episode has helped Daenerys to reorder her priorities as a leader.
3. Sansa Stark
- Helen Sloan/HBO
Sansa had a rough episode, with Littlefinger whispering in her ear and her own sister seemingly threatening to slice her up and steal her face. Talk about sibling rivalry.
Still, Lady Stark handled herself well. She recognizes the threat Arya exposing her letter poses – as the Northern lords are indeed “bloody wind vanes” – but is also able to keep her cool in her dealings with her sister. Sure, she’s upset and frightened, but she’s got work to do.
If only she could take Brienne’s advice and give her creepy mentor Littlefinger the boot.
2. Tormund Giantsbane
Tormund provided most of the comedic relief on the grim and frosty trek beyond the Wall. Then he proceeded to give Brienne-Tormund – Brimund? Torenne? – shippers a heart attack, by nearly getting devoured by the army of the dead.
However, one of this warrior’s most important moments took place during a conversation with Jon Snow. Tormund laid out some pretty insightful advice for the King in the North, citing a crucial mistake made by a now-deceased king – Mance Rayder. “How many of his people died for his pride?” he asked.
Tormund understands that great leaders learn from past mistakes. He’s also not afraid to keep things honest, regardless of what his fellow Wildlings or the lords in the North might think about bending the knee.
1. Tyrion Lannister
Out of all the people in the series, Tyrion definitely understands what it will take to truly break the wheel and usher in a new era.
Ascending to the throne through violence and mayhem simply makes a ruler’s “power brittle, because everyone beneath them longs to see them dead,” he tells his Queen.
It’s a simple, but accurate message. And, given his family background and previous failed plan of attack, it’s one that Tyrion is brave to keep on repeating.
Tyrion is clearly trying his best to help Daenerys become a truly great leader, despite the odds stacking up against her. And that’s a task that requires some impressive leadership skills, too.
Tyrion has demonstrated patience and passion, and is striving to help Dany strike the right balance. And, like Varys, he also has the best interests of the realm in mind.
Circumstances may conspire against his cleverness, and Daenerys may frequently ignore him, but he has the right instincts.
“Sometimes nothing is the hardest thing to do,” he told Daenerys, while begging her to remain in Dragonstone. Sage advice, but it’s clear that Tyrion is doing everything in his power to establish a lasting, stable, and benign regime in Westeros.
That’s why, despite Team Dany’s recent setbacks, it’s clear that Tyrion is one of the best leaders in all of the Seven Kingdoms, at the moment.