No One Should Sit On The Iron Throne

No One Should Sit On The Iron Throne
Photo: HBO

There are only two more episodes left in Game Of Thrones. The marketing material for this season has been focused on who will take the throne and lead all of Westeros. I don’t think anyone should.

The story of Game of Thrones is the story of monarchy gone wrong. The backstory, slowly revealed through the show, is that Robert Baratheon landed on the throne after killing a tyrannical king in a widespread rebellion against his abuses of the people.

That tyrant’s family, the Targaryens, had ruled Westeros for generations, sometimes justly, sometimes cruelly. The promise of Robert Baratheon was that he would represent a new, more stable nobility. Of course, that was not the case (he’s portrayed as a slothful, detached king), and the rest of the show has revolved around resolving who should lead Westeros, and how.

If history tells us anything, it’s that monarchs don’t tend to fare well in the long run. In fact, the United States, where I live, was founded after waging a war against a king that the colonists felt was a tyrant.

The problems with monarchy are all over history — and in fact, the War of the Roses, a series of English civil wars for the control of the throne, was in part the inspiration for George R.R. Martin’s unfinished book series A Song of Ice and Fire, on which Game of Thrones is based.

That war ended with monarchy intact, but Westeros is a fantasy world. Why should it have to follow that same logic?

When you meet characters in Game of Thrones, it’s clear that things aren’t going awesome for them. The Seven Kingdoms are at war, which has a pretty big impact on everyone’s wellbeing, and the whole army of zombies thing doesn’t help either. But the show makes it clear that these people are people, worthy of dignity and respect.

Gendry, who was recently made a lord and had been implied to have some noble lineage, wasn’t less of a man before he made nobility. He was still strong and just, and cared for other people. Why should his bloodline determine his fate? Indeed, that is a question the show asks over and over.

Photo: HBO

The rest of Westeros has truly gone to crap while their leaders are fighting over a chair. Even Jon Snow, who has proved to be a popular ruler, has gained ire from his constituents (and was briefly murdered) for not actually serving their needs.

Were his decisions correct in the long run? Well, they saved the north from an ignoble destruction at the hands of the Night King, but it cost them their hard fought sovereignty, and he’s pledged fealty to a ruler who is beginning to look just as unstable as the Targaryens she descended from.

It’s hard to want anyone to sit on the throne when the throne is the source of everyone’s problems. The desire to rule has corrupted so many people who otherwise might have been much more pleasant, to say the least.

When I see how ruthless Cersei is, even as I hate her actions, I see a woman who is trying to have a position of power in a world where women are generally treated pretty badly. She would do anything to defend her position, because every alternative for women in this society is worse.

Although Sansa and Arya are alive and mostly not traumatised, the fight for the Iron Throne sent them into trials that no children should have to endure. And that’s just how it affected to relatively well off families. We hear fewer stories about the common people, but we do see them charge into battle, sometimes hopeless ones, because of the selfish desires of their rulers.

All because some people wanted to sit on chair. How could I root for any of them to win?

In my ideal Westeros, there’d be a revolution of the proletariat. The workers and the peasants are the ones who suffer for the decisions of their rulers, and the ones who produce the goods that give them their wealth. Why don’t they have a say in how their countries are ruled?

Socialist thought asks why the people who do the work don’t rule their own people, and it’s a question I ask of Game of Thrones as well.

Through fiction, we have a better understanding of what kinds of work the nobles actually do, and given the fantasy elements at play, some of them are good people who are also good at killing ice zombies, which is a benefit to the people as whole.

But for the life of me, I can’t figure out why certain families have more and certain families have less, and also suffer for the decisions that the rulers have made. They’re the ones who die, they’re the ones who labour, and they barely have a voice. Even if I did not strongly identify as a socialist, I would find this unfair at its core.

In my ideal ending for Game of Thrones, the Iron Throne is melted down and the tyrants of Westeros are deposed. The North can have their independence, but moreover, the underclass of Westeros would learn to rule themselves.

It’s harder to say what exactly that government would look like, but at the very least I feel as though the Westerosi people have earned a representative democracy. There is no one deserving to sit on the throne, to wield that kind of power. As the show tries to show us over and over, power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.


  • Kings landing gets levelled in the upcoming battle. Everyone dies. Last shot is of a dire wolf hopping onto the bent and melted throne and howling at the moon that is visible through the ruined wall in the background.

      • Freeze frame on the three wolves and the moon. Pan out to reveal the tableau is printed on a t-shirt being worn by George R. R. Martin grinning his smug grin. Cut to black.

  • Dani probably won’t sit the throne – her vision in the House of the Undying suggests that. Cersei won’t sit the throne either – the prophecy she received from Maggy the Frog says as much (and the rest of it came true). That leaves Jon – who doesn’t even want to rule. More than likely King’s Landing is laid waste by Cersei’s desperation and Dani’s rage.

    In my ideal Westeros, there’d be a revolution of the proletariat. [Insert socialist nonsense here]Wow, couldn’t have an article about a fictional series without injecting modern socialist political theory into it, now could we?

    • It’s an opinion piece. The usual thing would be to say why you disagree with the opinion, not complain that it exists at all. Or just ignore it, if it’s only a small part of the whole that you otherwise enjoyed.

      • It’s clumsy political commentary on a fictional TV series set in a fictional, medieval-style setting. It’s basically shoehorned into GoT as a way for more absurd political discourse, because yay socialism am I rite guys kill the capitalists!

        But I’ll indulge you and note that the assertion that the US was attempting to escape a tyrant king is absurd – because the truth of it is that a bunch of wealthy elites didn’t want to pay taxes to the crown, not because they wanted to improve things for the smallfolk. Nor has the proletariat actually benefited from any of the attempted socialist or communist states in history. It’s vapid, Tumblr-style political soapboxing that’s not worth in-depth criticism.

        • I knew it felt terribly out of place, as if the whole article felt like a flimsy excuse to write about “yay socialism” but I couldn’t express it in words
          so good job

          • @soldant

            the only place socialism belongs is in fictional works where reality doesn’t intrude and inevitably screw over the people it is supposedly going to benefit.

            If you didn’t expect this from Gita then at least now you know another writer for Kotaku has silly ideas and will try to push her propaganda using any thing she can, if there isn’t socialism it a good time to tell us all how socialism would solve everything, and if socialism is present she will talk about how great it is. Through the medium of “games journalism” the activists will prothletise welcome to the dumpster fire.

        • It’s not so much that I want you to indulge me, but that your comments have become increasingly negative recently and I don’t really understand why. You know they don’t read the comments, and you know nothing you say will change the way the US articles are written. So why bring that kind of negativity onto everyone else too, including anyone who does like reading these perspectives? Why take the swipe at all when you can just say “some people like this but I’m not one of them” and move on to the next article? Aside from the empty validation of a few upvotes, I don’t see what there is to gain.

          The ramping level of recent negativity bothers me, in all honesty. And yeah, I know you can turn it around and say why don’t I follow my own advice and ignore your comments too, and you’d be right, I should. But if there’s a chance an appeal for less negativity might work, it seems worth mentioning. I’m not having a go at you, despite what it sounds like, but more subtle suggestions you might be being overly negative (including the one you replied to just here) seemed to have fallen wide of the mark.

          • I still have the privilege of posting on Kotaku, until they take it away; I’m just adding my opinion on an article. I know the US authors don’t read the comments. But I also find it ridiculous that US authors are trying to shoehorn in pushy politics into articles where there’s only barely tangential relevance. I clicked on the article because I’m a fan of GoT and thought it might be an interesting perspective – but instead I’m getting beaten over the head with another “We should be socialist because in my worldview it’s the solution to all problems” post. I wouldn’t care as much if it had some substance – but that’s literally all it is. And yeah, I’m not expecting Kotaku writers to come up with a detailed political diatribe on socialism or whatever – but I’m also not expecting to click on a GoT article only to read several paragraphs of heavy political bias of little to no relevance.

            I enjoy the Australian writers and their articles, because they’re nowhere near as politically polarised as the US authors even when they’re making a political point – that’s why I still read Kotaku. You’re right I could choose not to comment, but as you already pointed out, you can choose not to read or reply to my comments if they bother you. Maybe I just want to have my say until the mods get fed up with me and ban me. Maybe I enjoy the discussion it generates. Maybe I’m dismayed at how things have to turned into sociopolitical points for no reason other than apparent virtue-signalling or self-identification and validation. I don’t know… but I don’t know if I have to justify it either.

          • I’m not challenging your right to post or expecting you to justify yourself. I’m not even intending to mention it again, now that I’ve raised it with you. I’m just trying to gently suggest that persistent negativity might have effects you don’t intend, both on yourself and on others. As frustrated as some authors here seem to make you, the same could be said for the effect you have on some who read your comments too. That’s why I was more focused on what gain there is to be had, not whether you have the right.

            I don’t want you to get banned, not that I think Alex would unless you crossed the ‘attack the author’ line more than this. I do like hearing your thoughts more often than not. I guess what I’m trying to say, by analogy, is if you’re in a semi-crowded pub and a song you’re sick of comes on the jukebox, you wouldn’t dump on the song in a way the whole pub could hear, particularly the people who do seem to be enjoying it, and I think you know how everyone else there would think of you if you did. You’d probably just tune it out or go outside for some air for a bit or something along those lines, because why let one song you dislike bring down an evening you’re otherwise enjoying, let alone bring everyone else who’s having fun down in the process.

            Like I said, I won’t mention it again beyond this. Just something to think about, I guess.

    • I believe that “modern” theory you refer to is actually over 100 years old, and older than most of what the cornerstones of modern fantasy (ie. Tolkien, REH) are. But let’s not let politics get in the way of our fantasy deeply rooted in politics.

      • 100 years is relatively modern when comparing it to a fantasy system based on a system that existed hundreds of years earlier. Nobody was talking about the plight of the proletariat and the workers owning the means of production in 1455 during the War of the Roses.

        • Why does that matter, though? Why should fiction, regardless of its setting, only be examined through a contemporaneous lens? It’s an arbitrary limitation, particularly since, terminology aside, peasant revolts happened all the time, including several successful ones.

    • I bet you must hate Monty Python then.. “Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony”

    • Superficial political opinion in an opinion piece about a fictional world that gained popularity by its colourful depiction of feudal politics seems appropriate.

  • I would prefer it end with someone winning and being the only candidate, sitting down on the throne, the camera pans in to their face, then pans out to show their head on a spike and smoke and fires rising over Kings Landing. Fade to black.

    War.. War never changes..

  • Here’s the problem. not a single character has ever brought up anything amounting to a democracy. never is there a major character advocating for representatives of the people. which is the only thing that could work because socialism has never worked and Monarchies have proven more stable historically anyway.

    So yeah, someone will sit on that throne (or another destruction possible) because the narrative has never implied any other option. 2 episodes left means literally no time to develop that and make it work.

    • Ah the dirty truth of history…
      No single system has been shown to work, the only difference is the shelf life and the only one true constant is that human nature will always bring about its fall in one way or another.

  • Maybe the writer should put game of thrones down and pick up Marx instead.

    I still think Gendry could Steven Bradbury it and end up on the throne after everyone else kills each other

  • Everyone dies. The last scene is of a representative of the Iron Bank stepping over the bodies and taking a seat on the aptly named iron throne. He surveys the carnage with satisfaction and looks into the camera with a smirk.

    That went well, he says.

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