Despite a season filled with inexplicable (arguably unjustified) twists, Game of Thrones Episode 4 Season 8 has begun a seemingly inevitable march toward crowning the most rote successor to the Iron Throne possible: Jon Snow. Or, if we’re being nihilistic, continuing the reign of Cersei Lannister.
But if there were any justice in this world (and to be fair, there might not be), the best and most thematically appropriate wild card that should reign over the Seven Kingdoms is Sansa Stark and Tyrion Lannister. And their potential ascension is far more than just wishful thinking.
Surely we’ve all noticed the substantial moments shared between Sansa and Tyrion throughout Season 8.
First there was the reunion which — while tinged with some serious dunking courtesy of Queen of Shade Sansa Stark — packed an immense emotional and political punch. Then in the crypts there was Sansa’s regretful admission to Tyrion that, “it’d never work between us.” But the only reason she gave was the Dragon Queen, and we’re not too sure she’ll survive the next episode. From a different perspective, this was Sansa basically telling Tyrion about how it could work between them.
Also who could forgot that tender kiss on the hand later in the battle, as they both decide to go out fighting against the wights. And finally, despite it being a controversial move, Sansa confiding in Tyrion about Jon’s parentage felt like an unexpectedly natural example of what a true political power couple looks like.
But our bid for the Sansa x Tyrion 2020 ticket for the throne goes beyond a ship we see developing. There’s textual evidence, logical standing, foreshadowing, great storytelling, and even prophecy that supports their reign.
“Their union would finally heal the festering wound that first lead to the War of the Five Kings several seasons ago.”
For one, their union would finally heal the festering wound that first lead to the War of the Five Kings several seasons ago. Long before Game of Thrones pivoted to a conflict between two “overly emotional” Mad Queens — who appear hell bent on killing each other so the more “electable” male heir Jon Snow can take the throne — it was a story about two feuding families at its core.
Ending the show with a Stark/Lannister union traces back to the many times royal marriage has brought peace to the realm. Not to mention that this union also has precedent in the medieval history that the Lannister and Stark conflict is based on, since a marriage also ended the real-life War of Roses between Lancasters and Yorks.
As many characters have reminded us throughout the series, Sansa is also the key to the North’s loyalty. And after everything that’s happened, the North doesn’t appear to be ready to bend the knee to anyone but a true-born Stark (sorry Aegon/Jon).
Beyond that is the obvious factor of their unmatched cleverness (though Sansa has arguably surpassed Tyrion’s), and unique abilities to play the game without losing sight of the overarching morality that grounds their characters. That’s far less than we can say for either Jon or Daenerys.
The constant praise thrown at Jon as a leader is flat out unfounded. Every single time he’s been in a position of power over people or armies, he’s either failed (the Night’s Watch mutiny) or been bailed out by more competent people — namely woman (Sansa, Arya, Melisandre, Daenerys, Stannis). Also despite Varys logic, unwilling rulers have historically not done well in the Game of Thrones universe (see King Aegon III, a.k.a. Aegon the Unlucky).
And while Tyrion took some substantial hits to his CV over the past few seasons, it’s clear he’s better at the politics as usual from the first few seasons rather than the conquering military strategies required to put Dany on the throne.
Like Tyrion, Sansa has learned the best lessons from the worst people in the game who tortured her. Sansa became an unequivocal tactical and leadership genius by learning how to wield power against enemies to scheme for an ultimate good. The showrunners now label her a master manipulator for strategically divulging the secret about Jon to Tyrion in Episode 4.
But beyond politics, she’s also outsmarted nearly ever other person on Game of Thrones when it comes to battle strategy.
If Sansa hadn’t acted on her instincts and let Jon have his way during the Battle of the Bastards, Winterfell would still belong to the Boltons. More recently, if Daenerys and her counselors had listened to Sansa, they wouldn’t have prematurely sent their armies out before they were battle ready, and they’d still have Rhaegal.
Unlike either Jon or Daenerys, Tyrion and Sansa have for better and worse been raised by the cruel political system that defines Westeros. In many ways, King’s Landing is their abusive home, making them grow into people who not only understand how to manage it but also how desperately it needs to be reformed.
Tyrion and Sansa deserve the Iron Throne because each knows how vulnerable people suffer most at the hands of a cruel, autocratic monarch.
More than anything, Tyrion and Sansa deserve the Iron Throne because each knows how vulnerable people suffer most at the hands of a cruel, autocratic monarchy.
As Tyrion said back in Season 1, he’s always had a soft spot for “cripples, bastards, and broken things.” And Sansa became an equally fierce advocate for those who get crushed and forgotten beneath the wheel of power like her Northerners — as evidenced by her transformational relationships with both Theon and her “bastard brother” Jon.
Out of anyone on the show, both Tyrion and Sansa have made the fiercest arguments for tearing down the wheel.
Daenerys might’ve started by genuinely wanting to make a better world, but the show has gone out of its way to re-characterize her as more lustful for power than good natured. And the tension between her and Sansa only highlights how only one of them truly understands what breaking the wheel would require (hint: it isn’t Dany).
Meanwhile Jon continues to be a staunch moral advocate for the downtrodden. But like Ned Stark, he lacks any of the cunning necessary to have even a slight chance of protecting those who need protecting most from the zero sum game of thrones.
But we all know it doesn’t matter if they deserve the Iron Throne. What evidence is there to support that they might actually do so?
To be fair, we do think it’s a long shot based on how Season 8’s endgame has been shaking out so far. But there is tons of evidence to support it for those who’ve been paying close attention.
Since his first ever appearance in the books, Tyrion has been subtly associated with kingly symbolism. When Jon meets him for the first time in book one outside the feast at Winterfell, he describes how “the light from within threw his shadow clear across the yard, and for just a moment, Tyrion Lannister stood as tall as a king.” George R. R. Martin is known for sneaking in subtle foreshadowing to major twists in this exact way, using word play to plant the seed (see: Hodor).
This reference to Tyrion’s kingly shadow is recalled in a key scene between him and Varys in Season 2 when they discuss the nature of power. “Power resides where men believe it resides. No more and no less,” Varys tells Tyrion. “And ofttimes a very small man can cast a very large shadow.”
Meanwhile Sansa’s queenly handling of the North during its most vulnerable time in history (aside from the last Long Night) is proof enough of her readiness to rule. Also, over the past several seasons, Sansa’s become a perfect foil to Cersei — both a mirrored image yet exact opposite of the current queen.
Sansa’s become the perfect foil to Cersei — both a mirrored image yet exact opposite of the current queen.
From Sansa’s hairstyle, to her political savvy, or dedication to family, and even her recent role as the lady of the castle boosting morale for the women and children during a siege in the Battle of Winterfell, she’s been acting with increasing queenliness. That’s not to mention the foreshadowing that she was supposed to be a different Lannister’s queen in the first season, before even getting married off to Tyrion instead.
Wouldn’t it be a perfect twist of poetic justice if the “younger, more beautiful” queen prophesied to cast Cersei aside wasn’t Margaery or even Daenerys at all. All along it was Sansa, the “little dove” Cersei underestimated as a pawn in her game, never realizing she’d teach her to become a great rival.
Sansa has been quietly preparing for queenhood for almost as long as Daenerys. And unlike Dany, Sansa’s done little to cast doubt on her ability to rule with competence and fairness. Perhaps Dany’s more spotty record is another source of Sansa’s continued distrust of the Dragon Queen, who claims the throne is hers out of divine birthright and might rather than proof she’d be good at it.
Of course, there’s the problem of succession.
But all this talk of Jon as the rightful heir to the throne fails to to account for which house the throne technically belongs to. Right now, the throne belongs to the Lannisters, not the Targaryens. So if Cersei and Jaime died, Tyrion would be the only rightful heir to the current royal house’s seat of power.
It’s hard to say who the majority of the realm would support if it came down to deciding between the hated Lannisters or the mad Targaryens. But we know who has the savvy to convince them. And we know whose wedding the lords and ladies of Westeros already watched happen: Tyrion and Sansa.
Lastly, there’s Bran. Throughout Season 8 — namely during Sansa and Tyrion’s first reunion — Bran has been sending intense, meaningful stares at Tyrion. And he’s acted oddly toward Sansa in the past. As the one character who knows the future, we have to wonder whether Bran’s fixation on them is another piece of setup, like Arya’s Valyrian dagger turned out to be.
Regardless of whether Sansa and Tyrion actually take the Iron Throne in the end, though, it’s safe to say we know who wins the popular vote. All rise for King Tyrion and Queen Sansa, first of their name.
WATCH: ‘Game of Thrones’ Season 8 Episode 4 recap — The First Moves in The Battle for the Seven Kingdoms