As the title suggests, politics in Game of Thrones is treated like a, well, game. And whether you’re talking about basketball or the struggle to control shipping routes in the Riverlands, there are always winners and losers. As each episode plays out, we’ll be ranking the players from best to worst So who takes the crown, and who gets fed to the wolves in Game of Thrones season 7, episode 1? Follow below to find out.
Like the Golden State Warriors coasting to a 16-1 playoff record, Daenerys seems to throw off the entire competitive balance of Westeros. She has a fleet of ships (including those belonging to Yara and Theon Greyjoy), a peerless cavalry in the form of a Dothraki horde, elite foot soldiers in the Unsullied, and, lest we forget, three grown dragons. Best of all, she took her first inch of Westerosi soil unopposed. Stannis Baratheon apparently left his former base, the island fortress of Dragonstone, completely uninhabited, and thus Daenerys’ for the taking.
At first, Jon’s position may seem tenuous. He has only just vanquished Ramsay Bolton in a civil war that pitted the great houses of the North against each other, and he’s caught between the White Walkers to the north and the Lannisters to the south. But, Jon’s position is actually quite strong, all things considered. The onset of winter means the Lannister forces can’t march north, the Wall is still standing in the Walkers’ way for the time being, and Jon has seemingly secured the loyalty of the Northern houses (even those who sided with Ramsay) and the Wildlings. He even asserts his noble stance on rulership after Sansa tries to steer him in a more cutthroat direction. Plus, he is the most likely to be Azor Ahai, legendary hero of light. Not too shabby for a bastard.
Jon isn’t the only Stark on a winning streak. After assassinating Walder Frey in The Winds of Winter, Arya kicked off this season in ruthless fashion, impersonating the very man she recently killed during a feast, and poisoning all of his family members. Capable of impersonating anyone whose face she can get her hands on, Arya seems likely to keep checking names off her murder list. Plus, she ate rabbit and wine with a group of pleasant soldiers. Unfortunately, one of them was Ed Sheeran — you win some, you lose some.
Sansa has learned a lot from power players like Cersei and Littlefinger, and she’s trying to put her realpolitik to work up north, asking Jon to distribute the lands of Stark betrayers amongst his loyal subjects. Jon refuses, but Sansa’s willingness to publicly challenge a king establishes her as one of the most assertive women in Westeros. She even delivers some venomous barbs to would-be suitor Littlefinger, with a hairstyle fit to bring the words home in dramatic fashion. Unfortunately, her power lies solely (for now) in her family ties, but if she continues to flex her political muscles she may be the second most powerful person in one of the more secure regions of Westeros.
Cersei fans may be shocked to see her so low on the list — after all, she sits on the Iron Throne — but despite the glamor of her title, Cersei has a host of problems, and one of the worst strategic positions on the map. As she herself points out, the Lannisters have enemies to the west (the Tyrells), south (Dorne), North (the Starks), and east (Daenerys). Moreover, they are severely lacking in allies (punk rock pirate Euron Greyjoy isn’t the most trustworthy friend) and infrastructure; with winter having come, the Tyrell breadbasket is going to be essential for any army that wants to survive. Cersei’s in a bad spot, and her megalomania may finally outdo her cunning.
On the one hand, Littlefinger has the forces of the Vale under his command, and the new King in the North owes him for coming to his rescue against the Boltons. At the same time, all he seems to want is Sansa, and all she will give him are fierce insults.
7. The Hound and the Brotherhood Without Banners
The Hound and the Brotherhood are marching north to fight the White Walkers, which is noble, but also seems like a suicide mission. They have few supplies, and while they do seem to have a god on their side, R’hllor has been a fickle master in the past. Still, if you plan to fight an army of undead ice wizards, an unkillable man with a flaming sword seems like the right guy to have leading your party.
8. Samwell Tarly
Sam got one of the more memorable scenes in the premiere. Unfortunately, it involved a whole lot of bedpans. Not only does he have to scrape human waste into a drain every day, the Maesters won’t even let him access the forbidden tomes of knowledge that Jon needs to fight the White Walkers. He steals the keys to the secret texts and finds some useful information about Dragonstone, but he is also almost guaranteed to get caught, and will probably be cleaning the latrines for the foreseeable future.