Gendry Rivers — sorry, Waters — wait, sorry, Baratheon — has had one hell of a character arc in this final season of Game of Thrones. He was pivotal in arming Winterfell for the battle against the dead, he actually survived said battle, he reunited with a close friend, leading to one of the most talked-about sex scenes in the show’s history, and he became the Lord of Storm’s End as a legitimized Baratheon.
That last not-so-little detail opens up a world of possibilities for Westeros — because when Daenerys Targaryen named him the rightful heir to the Baratheon name in episode 4 this season, she also cleared a path for him to stake a claim as the rightful heir to the Iron Throne. After all, the Targaryens aren’t the only family that has ruled over the Seven Kingdoms. After ousting Daenerys’ own father and brother from power, Gendry’s father, Robert of the House Baratheon, the First of His Name, King of the Andals and the First Men, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms, and Protector of the Realm, sat on the throne at the start of this very series.
When Daenerys consulted with Tyrion Lannister after appointing Gendry his lordship, it became clear that the move was as politically savvy as it was gracious. Gendry, who has lived as a bastard peasant for virtually his entire life, would forever grateful and indebted to the Mother of Dragons for her generosity, making him loyal to her and honoring her claim to the throne, right?
But as many fans have speculated, there’s no time like the present for Gendry to appeal to the people of Westeros. While King Robert’s personal affairs — his mistreatment of women, his unsustainable spending habits, his hedonistic impulses — made for a stormy royal court, Gendry’s father did rule over a time of relative peace and prosperity for the realm, especially considering his predecessor. Daenerys’ father, King Aerys II, was known as the Mad King for a reason: he was a paranoid, bloodthirsty ruler with a propensity for living up to the family words, “fire and blood.” Now that Daenerys herself is slipping into similar behavior, as clumsily evidenced by her needlessly murderous attack on King’s Landing in last week’s episode, Gendry has the chance to make his case for the throne.
Joe Dempsie, who plays the blacksmith-turned-lord, says he thinks Gendry could be a compassionate leader for the common folk of Westeros — but there’s the question of whether he even wants the throne.
“Gendry’s been searching for his place in the world, and he had this innate feeling that he was destined to be a part of something bigger or more important,” Dempsie told The New York Times, though he’s not giving any spoilers. “His part in the Battle of Winterfell fulfilled that desire for his life to have some meaning. Being legitimized solidified that for him. I don’t know that there’s a craving for greater power, but we’ll have to wait and see. It all depends on what kind of a character Gendry really is.”
We’ve got one episode left to find out. The series finale of Game of Thrones airs Sunday, May 19 on HBO.