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Why Gendry is ‘Game of Thrones’ season 8’s major wild card

Helen Sloan/HBO

He’s an unlikely hero who could reshape Westeros.

With the final season of Game of Thrones quickly approaching, the fates of the characters we love (and love to hate) hang in the balance. But while some are more likely to go out fighting or survive until the end than others, there are still a few wildcards in Westeros. And nobody encompasses the possibility of the uncertainty of season 8 than Gendry, Westeros’ resident bastard.

We first met Gendry, who’s working for Tobho Mott (a Qohorik armorer and blacksmith) as an apprentice blacksmith in King’s Landing, early in Game of Thrones’ first season. He was well-trained and able to create a helmet in the shape of a bull, and Ned Stark quickly figured out why Jon Arryn sought him out: He’s Robert Baratheon’s bastard son. But since then, Gendry has risen far beyond his lot in life. He traveled on the King’s Road and bonded with Arya Stark, survived a stint at Harrenhal, joined the Brotherhood Without Banners, avoided being sacrificed to the Lord of Light after Davos Seaworth helped him escape, and returned to King’s Landing until Davos recruited him for a mission much bigger than himself. And he proved himself after holding his own against a swarm of wights and running back to Eastwatch-by-the-Sea to send word to Daenerys Targaryen for aid.

game of thrones gendry tormund Helen Sloan/HBO

Now, with season 8 on the horizon, Gendry has emerged as a major player. He’s survived far longer than a majority Game of Thrones’ characters (including that ill-advised trek beyond the Wall), he’s already struck up a friendship with Jon Snow, an echo of the friendship that Robert and Ned once had as well as a chance for the secret sons of Robert and Rhaegar Targaryen to do better. And given the absence of Gendry at the Dragonpit meeting, there’s a chance that very few people know about him—or his true heritage. Whether he’s rowing, running, or standing in place with his handcrafted ax, he has plenty to offer the living and his potential could lead him anywhere from an early grave or as a foot soldier for the Night King all the way to the Iron Throne.

What we know about Gendry

Unlike Jon Snow, who we learned in the season 7 finale is the legitimate son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark, Gendry’s status as a bastard has never been in question. His father—as Ned and Melisandre figured out—was Robert. Gendry was apparently a ringer for Robert as a young man but was never acknowledged by Robert, if he even knew that Gendry existed, and he was hunted by the Gold Cloaks because of his lineage. He called his mother a “tavern wench.”

“She died when I was little,” Gendry said of his mother to Ned. “She had yellow hair. She’d sing to me sometimes.”

He grew up in Flea Bottom, the poorest part of King’s Landing, before ending up as Mott’s apprentice after someone anonymously paid double the apprenticeship fee for Mott to take Gendry on. Mott sent Gendry away after Robert’s death, which ended up saving his skin because soon after, Gold Cloaks were ordered to kill every one of Robert’s bastard children in the city and were sent on a hunt for Gendry.

game of thrones gendry dragonstone Game of Thrones/HBO

Similarly to Davos, Gendry gives us an insight into a part of Westeros that we don’t often get to see on a show that dabbles in magic and high-class politics: the lives of the common folk of Westeros. They largely don’t care about who’s sitting on the Iron Throne or which petty lord holds the real power. They’re even less concerned about what a Targaryen might be doing across the Narrow Sea. Some might swear their allegiances to certain lords or rulers, but others, like Gendry, are cynical enough to believe that most of the upper class don’t see the common folk as people. But having people like him and Davos in close proximity to power give those in charge of it all like Jon—who, even though he grew up believing he was a bastard, grew up in privilege—a different perspective to consider.

How (if at all) will Gendry’s skills be put to use?

Although fans love to joke and make memes about Gendry’s rowing and running abilities, his greatest asset to the fight against the dead in season 8 is ultimately his skills as an armorer and blacksmith. He didn’t appear in the season 7 finale, “The Dragon and the Wolf,” but as far as we know, Gendry is on his way to Winterfell with the rest of Jon and Daenerys’ party. While we can hope Game of Thrones will give us a nearly-five-seasons-in-the-making reunion between Gendry and Arya, he may have a role to play in creating dragonglass weapons to combat White Walkers and wights.

game of thrones gendry Game of Thrones/HBO

After all, he’s more than qualified to take charge. He put in his time with Mott, who he says “twice as good” compared to every other armor in King’s Landing. He can make swords, knives, hammers, and axes, and he’ll likely be able to incorporate the supply of dragonglass Jon has extracted from Dragonstone to fight against the Night King’s army. It wouldn’t be a stretch for him to head to the smithy once he arrives at Winterfell.

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Can Gendry reshape Valyrian steel?

In the books, Tobho Mott is even more talented than Gendry’s brags suggest. He can reshape Valyrian steel without it losing any of its properties—something only a handful of armorers in the world are capable of (and is reportedly something that some Qohorik blacksmiths know how to do). In A Storm of Swords, Mott is the armorer who melts down Ice to forge the swords known as Oathkeeper and Widow’s Wail by order of Tywin Lannister. However, on Game of Thrones, Tywin says that he invited a blacksmith who was in Volantis, who he calls “the finest of them,” to reforge Ice into those two swords.

game of thrones gendry mott Game of Thrones/HBO

Valyrian steel is rare and in limited supply, and the art of crafting it—which reportedly involves magic and, according to George R.R. Martin, dragonfire—has been lost to time after the Doom of Valyria. It’s also more important than ever on Game of Thrones, given that it’s the other thing that can kill a White Walker.

Does Gendry know how to do this? It’s hard to say in the show because there’s no indication of whether Mott also had the ability to reshape Valyrian steel. But if any of the families living in the North arrive in Winterfell looking for shelter from the Night King and his army and bring any Valyrian steel that isn’t already forged into a weapon, don’t be too surprised if a handy blacksmith like Gendry suddenly knows how to reshape it.

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Will Gendry be legitimized?

In Westeros, bastards are children born outside of wedlock, and generally speaking, they receive the short end of the stick for something they have no control over; Dorne is the exception to this, with Oberyn Martell telling Cersei Lannister at her son Joffrey’s wedding that “we don’t despise them in Dorne.” The bastard children of a highborn parent can use a regional-specific surname such as Snow or Sand, which can either be based on where they grew up or where their parents are from. Because Gendry was never acknowledged by Robert, he doesn’t have a surname; he’s just Gendry.

game of thrones gendry Game of Thrones/HBO

But sometimes bastards rise and climb the ladder, which often occurs when a bastard is legitimized by a king or queen, or are decreed to be trueborn children of someone like a lord. It can happen when someone has no trueborn heirs or, in the case of Ramsay Snow (Roose Bolton’s bastard son), for service rendered to the Seven Kingdoms. Legitimization was offered to Jon Snow by Stannis Baratheon in season 5 in exchange for pledging his allegiance to Stannis, which Jon refused. And in A Storm of Swords, Robb Stark—who believed that his two younger brothers were dead—legitimized Jon Snow and named him to be his heir prior to attending the Red Wedding, but the location of Robb’s will is currently unknown.

This could hypothetically be offered to Gendry if the opportunity arose in season 8 because while Robert never acknowledged him as one of his own, pretty much anyone who knew Robert as a young man (like Tyrion Lannister) could verify that Gendry looks just like a young Robert. But we know Gendry is a pretty trustworthy fellow, Jon trusts him, and when the Night King is about to freeze Westeros over, someone’s word and actions are good enough.

game of thrones gendry jon Game of Thrones/HBO

With that, another question arises. With that threat, why is the question of whether to legitimize one bastard even an issue? It comes with pros and cons, both which are linked to Daenerys and the matter of the Iron Throne: As a new trueborn Baratheon (a house believed to have gone extinct), he could rally the men of the Stormlands to his side in the war against the dead. But Daenerys could see his legitimization as a threat: Some lords might prefer to see him on the Iron Throne versus a Targaryen because his father once held the throne. (In the books, Daenerys and Gendry are distantly related, so Gendry would likely be next in line after her and Jon.)

The best-case scenario? A compromise: Daenerys legitimizes Gendry, whether it’s to rally more men or to marry (more on the latter part of that in a bit) if he swears allegiance to her and promises not to rise up against her. Unlike most of the lords in Westeros, he’d probably stick to his word. He’s a good lad like that.

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Will Gendry survive—and could he sit on the Iron Throne?

None of this really matters in the end if Gendry doesn’t survive the carnage that season 8 promises to bring onto Westeros.

It could go either way. Gendry is a minor enough character that people care about that he could go out early in the fight to raise the stakes even further and push our heroes to fight even harder. He could just as easily make it to the end of the series if at least one of the main heroes dies before the end and have a vital role in reshaping Westeros.

As it stands, if the Targaryen connection between Jon, Daenerys, and Gendry applies in the show, Gendry is currently third in line to the Iron Throne. If Jon and Daenerys both die (and they don’t have any surviving children when they do), the throne could go to Gendry, assuming there isn’t an all-out war for control of the Seven Kingdoms. And of course, this is all assuming the Iron Throne is still standing by the end of the series and Westeros still operates under a monarchy.

game of thrones gendry arya Game of Thrones/HBO

If he survives, he could just as easily find comfort in a smithy and, with a legitimization and perhaps reside in the castle his ancestors once called home. There could even be a marriage involved, and if it’s with one of the Stark sisters (assuming either Sansa or Arya survive to the end of the series), they could all end up fulfilling a wish that their fathers wanted at the start of the series: for House Stark and Baratheon to be united by marriage.

Granted, there are a lot of ifs involved with every single one of those scenarios. But unlike many of the other characters on the show, Gendry isn’t bound by a prophecy, known for his fighting abilities, or particularly adept at playing the political game. With Gendry, who’s a skilled blacksmith but otherwise perfectly ordinary, anything can happen, and that in and of itself is plenty of excitement when the stakes are at an all-time high.

Michelle Jaworski

Michelle Jaworski

Michelle Jaworski is a staff writer and the resident Game of Thrones expert at the Daily Dot. She covers entertainment, geek culture, and pop culture and has brought her knowledge to conventions like Con of Thrones. She is based in New Jersey.