Spoiler warning: If you’re not caught up on GoT, you probably shouldn’t read this post.
Despite the nearly Russian-novelesque cast of characters, Game of Thrones is coming to a close with none of the participants of the War of the Five Kings still in the running for the iron throne. Instead, Daenerys and Jon seem to be the best two poised to bloody their rumps upon the oversized cutlery chair, and we find ourselves wondering which one would prove to be the best ruler of Westeros.
Daniel: The King in the North! I feel that says it all. I was so hyped after seeing that scene, and one year later, I am still feeling it. Jon Snow is the closest thing we are going to get to an actual hero in this show. Almost day one, his focus has been to protect humanity while all the others squabbled for power. He is a natural leader, making difficult decisions such as saving the Wildlings from the White Walkers, which was clearly the heroic thing to do.
Jon Snow is already a king, and not just that, but one chosen by his subjects. He is not some foreign conqueror arriving to bring more death and destruction to Westeros. He never sought power, but was given it, which only makes him all the more worthy. He manages to combine having a right to this claim by being a Stark, yet he has compassion and understanding for the common people due to being a bastard.
GoT is famous for killing its main characters, and the same fate happened to Jon Snow. Yet this Valyrian steel-wielding, Wildling-loving, White Walker-killing, retired Lord Commander and king by popular vote shook that off like a champ and set to work ridding Westeros of its greatest threat. Not those icy dudes, but that utter bastard (in every sense of the word), Ramsay. For that alone, Jon Snow deserves the Iron Throne.
Matt: I must say, I anticipated your argument that Jon has never sought the throne but seeks to serve instead. As such, I prepared a rebuttal. However, your Ramsey argument has taken me aback and has almost swayed me to your side. Jon has certainly proven himself one of the most noble of leaders despite his own bastard standing (and I mean noble as in “moral” rather than of noble birth) with the best of intention as well as proving himself a fairly capable leader… of, you know, maybe a few hundred troops.
Compare that to Daenerys, who has overseen tens of thousands of subjects in diverse cultures ranging from nomadic horsemen to staid city-states that have been around for thousands of years. Say what you will of Jon’s burgeoning leadership, but it’s not even in the same league as Daenerys’ logistical accomplishments. Jon may be called the King of the North, but Daenerys has actually sat several thrones as she compiles her army of many nations. So say what you will about Jon’s intentions; I’ll take Daenerys’ actual accomplishments everyday.
However, she does not stand supreme on accomplishments alone: She has a moral code equal to Jon’s as she’s demonstrated by abolishing slavery wherever she encounters it. This is the woman who does not wish to perpetuate the status quo of oppression Jon has never even questioned, but would rather “break the wheel.”
So yeah, Jon’s good and all; don’t get me wrong. It’s just I’d rather have the “better” in the form of Daenerys.
Daniel: First, we got to mention Jon’s stint as Lord Commander. He has more experience than just being Stark king (or King Stark?). Daenerys may have ruled a diverse area, but leading the Night’s Watch first against the Wildlings and then against the White Walkers is a strong point on Jon’s resume. With all due respect to Daenarys running around the cities in Slaver’s Bay, it cannot compare to the crucible that Jon went through in the frozen wastes of the far-flung North.
Furthermore, I would argue that Jon is also proving capable of uniting a diverse array of armies. Apart from his own northerners, he has the Vale and the wildlings following his command and fighting side by side. Considering the enmity between the Wildlings and the people of Westeros has been boiling for centuries if not millennia, that is an accomplishment of its own.
Reversely, didn’t one of the cities that Daenerys conquered almost immediately rebel and declare independence after her departure? I have a strong suspicion the same will happen now that she and her army have departed Pyramid city. Daenerys is a conqueror in the sense of Genghis Khan, cutting a path through everything, but leaving very little behind as she continues on. That is what the Targaryens have always been, conquerors and destroyers, foreigners to make thralls of the people of Westeros.
Daenerys has barely spent any of her life in Westeros; what claim does she really have to it anymore? She was khaleesi, but she was not content with that. She conquered Slaver’s Bay, but she was not content with that. She is power hungry, which is a bad trait for a ruler. Jon Stark’s ancestors ruled in the North long before the Targaryens arrived, and he has spent his entire life either training to defend Westeros (to become one of the Night’s Watch), defending it (as the Night’s Watch), and now leading it to defend it.
Matt: Firstly, I didn’t know “reversely” was a word, so you have educated me this day. Secondly, I’m going to reach for the low-hanging fruit and point out that Jon was summarily dismissed from his job leading the Night’s Watch Julius Caesar-style, thus demonstrating his integration of the Wildlings is not as harmonious as you make it out to be.
Thirdly, don't think it went unnoticed that you stopped calling him Jon Snow and instead with with Jon Stark as if that adds more legitimacy to his claim.
It should also be noted that your point that the slaver cities Daenerys left behind descending back to chaos pretty much demonstrates she was the one solely responsible for the peace. But you also have a point that this sort of makes her a Saddam-esque dictator in that she keeps the peace between several factions that would be at each other’s throats were it not for her. Yet she’s also a lot more moral than Saddam as she does away with slavery and cuts down significantly on inequality, which now begs the question if you’re supporting change or the status quo.
Jon, for all his admirable traits, is defending the status quo from a very real existential threat in terms of the White Walkers. The thing is though, this isn’t actually that noble since pretty much everyone, were they aware of said scary ice zombies, would do the exact same thing. This is reactionary and I don’t think any of us doubt Jon would immediately return things to how they were before the White Walkers attacked.
Which is to say he epitomizes the status quo, while Daenerys represents change to the system on a fundamental level. Yes, she comes in the guise of the invader, but no institution willingly evolves unless compelled by an outside force.
Daniel: I admire your audacity in comparing Daenerys with Saddam Hussein and giving it a positive slant, just as I raise my eyebrows at your use of the word “willingly” to describe forced changes. If we are to take more historical cues from that, however, we should have learned by now that foreign invaders can’t just march into a country with a vastly different culture and tear down existing power structures to erect their own. You will have a never-ending war against insurrectionists, which is what Daenerys faced in Slaver’s Bay and might very well face in Westeros.
Also, I’d like to point out the reason that Jon is aware of the existential threat from the White Walkers and Daenerys is not. While Daenerys was busy plotting her return to Westeros, Jon was busy defending Westeros from the only threat that matters. He was in the right place at the right time because of his good character. He is consistently making good choices, being the only ruler left that seems guided by a strong, moral compass. Everyone else is motivated by revenge or power but him.
Matt: In your argument for local leadership, you still forget to mention that not even Jon’s King of the North subjects have seen the White Walkers. Except for, you know, the Wildlings. Who are, again, outside invaders to the people of Westeros.
And the more I think about it, the more it seems each is an able leader who has come to power due to an alien power base and derides their authority to rule based upon force and their name being either Targaryen or Stark (but also secretly Targaryen).
So maybe, in terms of upsetting the status quo, it will be best if the White Walkers win.
I mean, that would still be better than Sansa ending up ruling.
Daniel: The best part about the White Walkers winning would be the resulting spin-off series, where we follow an undead Littlefinger serving as Hand to the Night King. I’m pretty sure not even death can stop Westeros’ version of Machiavelli from scheming.
Matt: I’m not going to lie; you may have just stumbled upon TV gold with that GoT/ Walking Dead mashup. Personally, I’d watch the ever-living crap out of it.