This article contains spoilers.
“When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die,” Cersei Lannister told Ned Stark all the way back in Game of Thrones season 1. And while many characters have certainly died in their attempt to gain control of the Seven Kingdoms, did anyone actually win?
At the start of the series, the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros was a monarchy under the control of King Robert Baratheon. By the end of the series, Westeros is down a kingdom with a new house and king in power. With the Iron Throne out of the way, the surviving lords and ladies of the great houses of Westeros—which included the three surviving Stark siblings, Edmure Tully, Yara Greyjoy, Robin Arryn, Gendry Baratheon, Davos Seaworth, Brienne of Tarth, Yohn Royce, an unnamed Dornish prince, and two older men whose names and houses aren’t known—met to crown a new ruler.
Jon, even as the last living Targaryen, was ineligible after murdering Daenerys Targaryen. Edmure Tully, who spent at least half the series imprisoned by the Freys, throws his name into the ring before Sansa quickly shuts him down. Samwell Tarly’s idea of an election is openly scoffed. So Tyrion suggested that Bran rule the Seven Kingdoms instead.
“From now on, rulers will not be born,” Tyrion Lannister proposed. “They will be chosen on this spot by the lords and ladies of Westeros to serve the realm.”
As for how that policy might work in the long run? Who knows? But at least at the start of the new king’s reign, it looks as though it’s going quite similarly to the old one: with squabbles about money and what to do with it.
Who rules Westeros at the end of Game of Thrones?
Bran the Broken, First of His Name
In “The Last of the Starks,” Bran explicitly told Tyrion that he doesn’t want to be Lord of Winterfell because he doesn’t want anything these days. So naturally, the man who doesn’t want anything is just given the role that people have spent all of Game of Thrones fighting for.
Is Bran qualified over someone like Sansa Stark? Doubtful! He does have the collective memory of Westeros at his disposal, which does help. But Tyrion’s argument largely rests on the fact that Bran is “the keeper of all our memories” and that having the past at his disposal makes Bran the perfect person to lead Westeros into its future.
“I know you don’t want it,” Tyrion says. “I know you don’t care about power. But I ask you now if we choose you, will you wear the crown? Will you lead the Seven Kingdoms to the best of your abilities from this day until your last day?”
It might not be clear just how much of the future Bran can see, only that he can see the future; he foresaw Cersei burning down King’s Landing with fire and his vision of a dragon flying over King’s Landing finally came to pass in “The Bells.” But he did know that Tyrion would offer him the Seven Kingdoms.
“Why do you think I came all this way?” Bran replied.
Tyrion dubs Bran Stark as Bran the Broken, First of His Name, which is not a great name. So naturally, it sticks.
Hand of the King Tyrion Lannister
Tyrion may have always sought power, even though he never outwardly wanted the throne for himself. He’s been hand of the king, master of coin, hand of the queen, and at the end of the series, he’s serving as another king’s hand—even though Tyrion, as hand, has had a horrendous track record since leaving King’s Landing at the end of season 4. By the time Bran offers him the job once again, he no longer wants it.
Tyrion argued that he’s wholly unqualified for the position and that he’s not the wise man he thought he was. Bran doesn’t care and sees this as Tyrion’s punishment for what he’s done.
“He’s made many terrible mistakes,” Bran says. “He’s going to spend the rest of his life fixing them.”
Queen Sansa Stark
Even with Bran in power, Sansa was the only person who couldn’t voice her support for Bran taking control of the Seven Kingdoms. She wanted Northern independence and she got it without much of a fight—something that not even Robb or Jon could do.
“I love you, little brother,” Sansa tells him. “I always will. You’ll be a good king. But tens of thousands of Northmen fell in the Great War defending all of Westeros. And those who have survived have seen too much and fought too hard to ever kneel again. The North will remain an independent kingdom, as it was for thousands of years.”
In response, Bran simply nods, so he doesn’t seem to be too distraught about it. As a result, the Seven Kingdoms become the Six Kingdoms of Westeros. (Even though in actuality, the Seven Kingdoms were always really nine separate kingdoms.)
And Sansa finally gets her moment in the spotlight. Her family might not be at her side in their ancestral home when it happens, but Sansa finally crowned queen in the North. It’s a moment of triumph.
Several key positions in Bran’s administration are left unfilled by the time that Tyrion hosts the first small council meeting. Tyrion, as hand of the king, we already know. But this scene reveals the roles that have been filled. Bran inquires about a new master of whisperers, a role he could probably take on himself.
Once he leaves, the small council is left to squabble as it always has, over the smaller points of ruling the Six Kingdoms.
Samwell Tarly, who hadn’t even become a regular maester before the end of series, is promoted to be the highest maester in the realm. (What probably gives him an advantage is that he understands Bran better than anyone.) At the meeting, Sam presents A Song of Ice and Fire, Archmaester Ebrose’s work, and argues that rebuilding brothels with the coin of Westeros would not be in the archmaester’s best interest.
Lord commander of the Kingsguard
Ser Brienne of Tarth has risen to the highest honor a knight can hold. She doesn’t contribute much here, but she does finish Jaime’s entry in the White Book and, at some point, likely knighted Ser Podrick Payne (another member of the Kingsguard).
Master of coin
Does Bronn, the new Lord of Highgarden who now considers his debt to the Lannisters to be repaid, deserve to be on the small council? Probably not! But it gives us a familiar face on the council and someone to argue in favor of brothels.
Master of ships
Ser Davos Seaworth, on the other hand, does know a thing or two about ships and argues that the realm’s money should be spent on repairing ships. No word if he ever remembered that he left a wife at home several seasons ago.
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