WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Season 8 of Game of Thrones.
If there's anything we've learned from Season 8 of Game of Thrones thus far, it's that Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) won't let anyone stand in her way of claiming the Iron Throne. She's already upset over finding out Jon Snow (Kit Harington) has a better claim as the last surviving male Targaryen, providing one more obstacle even if she kills Cersei (Lena Headey).
But in the latest episode, Dany has all the more reason to keep a very watchful eye on another player in the mix thanks to a new romance consummated on Winterfell grounds. This comes in the form of Gendry, the last living Baratheon, who could well be used by the Starks as a pawn to ensure another Targaryen never rules the Seven Kingdoms.
We know the North hates Targaryens, ergo the cold reception for Daenerys and her soldiers. After all, the North did join forces with the Baratheons and Lannisters decades ago to overthrow Dany's dad, Aerys, and install Sir Robert. As such, Sansa has already told Jon she's no fan of Dany being their queen, and Arya also indicated she backs her sister, building on the anti-Taragaryen philosophy their dad, Ned, inculcated in them.
With this in mind, it stands to reason that, once the dust settles, they'll be looking to ensure the North, at least, remains independent should the Mother of Dragons emerge victorious. Sadly, Dany's not willing to let that slide, making it clear everyone will bow before her. However, Gendry has emerged as a trump card the Starks could bring into play as Arya seemingly has him wrapped around her little finger.
Just before the Night King arrives, Arya, having never been with a man, seduces Gendry on what's potentially their last night alive and they sleep together. While it seems to be meaningful for the inexperienced blacksmith, Arya's overly aggressive, removing any sense of intimacy and innocence from their union.
In the past, she showed affection to Gendry and one might think all this is the culmination of a longtime crush, but in the aftermath, we see otherwise. Arya's brooding as Gendry sleeps, hinting the cold, calculating person she's become is scheming up a way to manipulate his claim as Robert's secret bastard.
It would fit her current modus operandi, which the Hound succinctly summed up by recognizing Arya as "a cold bitch" who survived, not just by being a killer, but by using people as tools. Now, with the right puppeteering, their blossoming romance could position Gendry as Arya's king on the chessboard, literally, despite his past disinterest in the throne.
Looking at Arya's contemplative face, and the fact she doesn't want Dany in charge, she may well be preparing to stir the pot up by revealing Gendry's lineage. The Seven Kingdoms, while there were minor issues, did support Robert's reign after the disastrous time under the Mad King, so a vast portion -- especially the North -- would quicker support a Baratheon regime over a Targaryen.
What's even more intriguing is, months from now, if the show does do a time-jump, should Arya end up pregnant with a Baratheon baby, the North would have yet another claimant. While this may seem like spicy speculation, let's be real, it's a game where everyone's playing for keeps and all possibilities must be considered.
We don't know what'll change between now and when the moment comes for someone to grab control of Westeros, but what's for certain is every wildcard must be taken into account. For Dany, Gendry is one of the biggest wildcards if Jon does abdicate his birthright and cede the throne to her.
Airing Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO, Game of Thrones stars Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Jaime Lannister, Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister, Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen, Sophie Turner as Sansa Stark, Maisie Williams as Arya Stark and Kit Harington as Jon Snow.