It may be mostly men who end up sitting on the Iron Throne in King’s Landing, but the third season of Game of Thrones is all about the women. I’ll be running a series of weekly GoT lady power rankings to help you make sense of the show’s lethal queens and plucky challengers. “You might find a bit of armor useful when you become queen. Perhaps before,” Cersei Lannister warns her young rival Margaery Tyrell, but her advice could apply to everyone on this list. The season is on, and the knives are out.
1. Cersei Lannister: The queen of Westeros, Cersei managed to have her hated husband killed in a hunting accident and her enemy Ned Stark executed in the first season. She took a step backwards in the second as her younger brother Tyrion became Hand of the King, curbing her ability to run Westeros from behind the scenes. But since Cersei got Tyrion demoted after a major battle, she’s pretty much free to do what she wants. That doesn’t mean she’s secure, though. All women have to give up their influence over their sons sometime. And with Joffrey’s impending wedding, Cersei will need to keep an eye on more than ceremony and reception arrangements.
2. Margaery Tyrell: Nipping at Cersei’s heels is Margaery, formerly the wife of Renly Baratheon, who was assassinated by his brother Stannis last season. It takes a formidable woman to move from being the wife of a traitor to the fiancée of the guy her late husband was trying to dethrone, but from her low-cut dresses to her keen sense of public relations, Margaery is no ordinary noblewoman. Cersei may be content to rule the Red Keep, but Margaery’s willing to venture out into the slums of King’s Landing to hang with war orphans. As she builds up the regime’s image—and her own—with an act that’s one part Princess Diana and two parts shark, she should be making Cersei Lannister very nervous.
3. Daenerys Targaryen: Yes, Dany’s got dragons and the conviction that the Iron Throne is hers by right. But she also has a boat full of seasick Dothraki warriors to take care of, a fraternity of warlocks who are trying to kill her, and a tough moral choice: Does she buy a slave army and try to conquer the native country she barely remembers? Or does she wait for her power base to grow and her dragons to reach full size? The risks are high, but so are the potential rewards—and if nothing else, Dany’s dragon-tooth necklace is my pick for the top look of the episode.
4 Ros and Shae: “We’ve both done rather well, you and I,” the former Winterfell prostitute remarks to the former camp follower at one point in the season 2 premiere. She’s not exaggerating. Ros and Shae have become key advisors to two of the most important people in King’s Landing, and Shae’s lover is Tyrion Lannister. They’re proof that common women can gather a great deal of influence while people overlook and underestimate them.
5. Sansa Stark: Sansa, separated from the rest of her family in King’s Landing, cast off by Joffrey, and increasingly paranoid about the possibility that Joffrey will kill her for the fun of it, is in the opposite position from Dany. Unlike the exiled Targaryen, who has a keen sense of what resources are available to her and what rights she’s prepared to claim, Sansa’s in a position of power: She just doesn’t know it yet. It takes a special girl to be sought out by the devious Master of Coin, and an even specialer one to know what to do with that influence. If Sansa wakes up to her ability to be a player, she could be a force to be reckoned with. But as long as she’s telling herself stories about ships rather than plotting, she’ll remain on the sidelines.
6. Catelyn Stark: Last season, she was leading the delegation sent by her son Robb, the King in the North, to negotiate with Renly Baratheon. Now, her own son is locking her up in chains after she freed Jamie Lannister, Cersei’s brother (and lover), and the killer of the sons of one of Robb’s key allies. Cat’s a poignant reminder that family and politics don’t always go together. She’ll have to wait to get back in the game. And the other women playing it would be wise to learn from her example.