Game of Thrones‘ fourth season ended with a great finale that left most of the major characters at turning points. It also concluded (most) of the stories told in the exceptional book A Storm of Swords, which provided so many twists and turns (and so many deaths). Now that the dust has settled though, it’s time to take a look at where things left off: Game of Thrones‘ macro structure has always been about power, and the struggle for it (or away from it) defines the series’ action. Hit the jump for where the major Houses fall into line after “The Children,” and who is the most likely to sit upon the Iron Throne next year (there are no book spoilers!)
The Westeros Power Rankings are in reverse order, from least powerful to most, as of the end of Season 4 (for Season 5’s Power Rankings, go here).
10. Houses Arryn, Frey and Tully
The Houses of Frey and Tully united at the end of Season Three after the bloodbath of the Red Wedding, but the Freys were then passed over for power when Lord Baelish was shown favor by the Lannisters instead. House Frey is the trailer trash of Westeros, but they control an important waterway, and are also now allied with House Bolton (after yet another Frey daughter’s marriage post-Red Wedding), who are on the rise. House Tully, who control the Riverlands, have been quiet throughout the Fourth season, probably cowering in the wake of the Frey’s betrayal at the Red Wedding. As for House Arryn, everyone is dead except for Robin, an annoying pre-teen who, until his mother was thrown through the Moon Door, was still suckling at her breast. There are no winners here.
9. House Targaryen
Many may feel that Daenerys — Unburnt, Khaleesi, Mother of Dragons, etc — deserves to be higher on the list. But these are the Power Rankings of Westeros, and almost no one there even knows she’s alive, much less believes in the power of her dragons. Though Dany is exerting her power in the East by freeing slaves and the Unsullied, she still faces a lot of issues with the consolidation of her power, as well as controlling her dragons. She is being built up as a future power player, but for now, she’s is little more than The Forgotten (in Westerosi terms).
8. House Greyjoy
The Greyjoys weren’t featured much in the fourth season, but still have some power. Aside from being holed up in Pyke though, this pirate-esque house is losing the ground they’ve fought for very quickly to the Boltons. Winterfell and Moat Cailin have both fallen to the Boltons after Greyjoys initially secured it, and these sea-faring people definitely seem better suited to water than land. With Theon under the control of Ramsay Bolton, it doesn’t look like the male heir of Greyjoy will have anything to do with the House’s potential rise. But Yara is a badass with an agenda, and next season, the senior members of the Greyjoy family will likely start plotting their revenge on the Boltons, and also strategizing about their (constant) desire to expand their power.
7. House Stark
Poor, beleaguered House Stark. The fall of the House of Stark was one of George R. R. Martin‘s best subversions of typical fantasy heroes. The Starks should be ruling Westeros — or at least, should have been left alone in the North — but instead they’re either dead or scattered, and their ancestral castle, Winterfell, is in ruins. Of the remaining members, Sansa is doing fairly well by being in cahoots with Littlefinger, and Arya has set sail for Braavos (which seems optimistic). Bran has finally connected with his three-eyed raven, and should be gaining some kind of magical power moving forward. As for Rickon, no one knows. Jon Snow, considered for these purposes as part of House Stark, is also setting himself up as a power player among the Night’s Watch. House Stark may be scattered for now, but they are resourceful and resilient, and despite their trials, still look like a chosen people.
6. House Martell
Largely, House Martell is still an unknown at this point. They are part of Westeros, but haven’t made much of an appearance yet (they don’t seem to like going to King’s Landing, and who can blame them after what happened when the Lannisters took power, and then again with Prince Oberyn?) The Martells seem to have some intangible power, and the fact that Myrcella Lannister was sent to them (much like Theon was sent to the Starks so long ago) suggests that they have a hold over the rest of Westeros that extends beyond Dornish wine. Next season, the Martells and Dorne should feature more prominently, and the picture will becoming clearer.
5. House Baratheon
The Westeros Power Rankings consider which family is most likely to sit upon the Iron Throne, and while Tommen is technically a Baratheon (and therefore the Baratheon’s should be #1), we all know he’s not. The only remaining true Baratheon is Stannis, who plotted a great deal this season, but didn’t really make waves until he swooped in to defend the Night’s Watch against the Wildlings. It was a badass move, and one that shows Stannis is willing to take the long way ’round when it comes to amassing loyalty and power. He’s still a long way from King’s Landing, but he does potentially have R’hllor, the Lord of Light, on his side, along with the priestess Melisandre. Never forget that Game of Thrones is first and foremost a fantasy series with plenty of mysticism: her influence could have a big effect moving forward.
4. House Baelish
Quietly, Petyr Baelish has positioned himself as Westeros’ #1 power player. He’s not particularly likely to sit upon the Iron Throne any time soon, but he should not be underestimated (“Knowledge Is Power!”). Within the last two seasons, he has gained control of two major castles and their lands. Not to mention, every major event in the series has been a part of his machinations of power: Baelish is a Kingmaker, and a Kingslayer. He is that weakling from your middle school that everyone picked on, who then came back and ended up owning the super-corporation that everyone now works for. His alliance with Sansa is also important, not only because she is an Achilles’ heel for him, but also because the Stark name still means something. Plus, he’s not afraid to push people out of Moon Doors.
3. House Bolton
The Freys may be the grossest house in Westeros, but the Boltons are the nastiest. Slowly and methodically, this quasi-forgotten house of flaying (“Our Blades Are Sharp!”) has expanded itself out of the Dreadfort to become Wardens of the North. Roose Bolton arranged for the death of Robb Stark, his former ally, and then married the fattest Frey girl (because Walder Frey pays suitors by the weight of each female offspring), to secure his situation with them. After the sacking of Winterfell, the Boltons have positioned themselves in a way that they now control all of the North, which puts them in an exceptional place of power. Plus, Roose recently legitimized his bastard, Ramsay Snow, into becoming his heir. That little psycho is the one who turned Theon into Reek, and has been able to use him to expand Bolton influence into places formerly held by Greyjoys. This family is ruthless and insane — a potent combination when it comes to power in Westeros.
2. House Lannister
For most of the Game of Thrones series, the Lannisters have been the de facto power in Westeros. They have the gold, and they have the throne. But the end of Season Four found them floundering: Joffrey was murdered, leaving his younger brother Tommen to become King. Patriarch Tywin, who was really in control, was murdered by his son Tyrion, who then fled across the Narrow Sea. Jaime, formerly a Knight of glory, is a Kingslayer, and now a one-handed one at that. Myrcella, in her mother’s words, has been “sold to the Martells like cattle,” and Cersei herself only holds the illusion of power. The only thing saving the Lannisters right now is that it has not yet been proven that Tommen is a child of incest, and not a Baratheon. His pending marriage to Margaery Tyrell, and Cersei’s arranged marriage to Loras Tyrell (if that goes through now that Tywin is gone) may keep the Lannisters in King’s Landing, but the real winners are …
1. House Tyrell
All hail House Tyrell, and the Queen of Thorns! The Tyrells have been making moves to amass power since Season Two, when Margaery, the Black Widow of Westeros, married Renly Baratheon. Her marriage to Joffrey (just before his death) keeps the Tyrells relevant in King’s Landing, and her new alliance with Tommen puts Margaery in direct conflict with Cersei. Once they marry, it will be Marg who has Tommen’s ear, not his mother. Further, with Tywin gone, it seems more likely that Margaery’s grandmother Olenna will become the new puppetmaster. However, nothing is ever certain, and Olenna working with Littlefinger to help eliminate Joffrey may come back to bite them. For now, everything is coming up roses for the Tyrells. Growing Strong, indeed.