Game of Thrones has always been the story of the Stark children. From the lessons their father and mother imparted in the early seasons to the travails they’ve had on their own, we’ve seen the Stark children separate and come back together. We’ve followed Arya, Sansa, Jon Snow, and Bran as they went from children on the frozen edge of the world to some of Westeros’ most important people. But despite a central role in the series, the future of House Stark and who would continue it is still in question heading into the show’s final episode.
Originally the person most likely to carry on the family line, Jon’s Targaryen family reveal already puts a damper on the idea that he would have Stark children. Making that even more complicated his former paramour and recently discovered aunt, Daenerys, just committed genocide in King’s Landing, which is also sure to put her on the outs with him as well making the idea of them having children pretty unlikely.
As for Bran, the only remaining true born male heir of House Stark, there are more than a few question marks to contend with. While we don’t have much context for it in the show, in the books, Bran and those around him are pretty convinced that he can’t have children. Perhaps the show decides this isn’t the case, or the book characters are simply wrong, but that still doesn’t seem likely. Even more complicated is Bran’s actual relationship to his Stark heritage. Back in season 7 he rejects the name Lord Stark, and more than a few times in season 8 he’s mentioned that he’s more Three-Eyed Raven now than he is Brandon Stark of Winterfell.
With the male line ruled out for House Stark, it seems like the most likely way for it to continue is through the female line, but things don’t look much better there. Arya may have explored romance earlier in season 8, but she made it clear when she rebuffed Gendry’s proposal that she wasn’t going to be anyone’s lady. And even if she did agree to marry Gendry, it’s unlikely that their children would have been Starks thanks to his newly legitimized Baratheon name. Since Gendry is the only surviving member of his house, and Arya wouldn’t be ruling Winterfell, the children would take his name.
This means that everything falls on Sansa Stark if the family line is to continue. Almost every possible ending would have Sansa in Winterfell and serving as Warden of the North. Of course, Sansa really has no romantic partners on the show. If it’s going to be a character we already know, the most likely answer is Tyrion, but he may want to continue the Lannister line as the last surviving member of his house as well. If that’s the case, then Sansa could take on a husband, probably someone we don’t know from the show, and have a child and continue the Stark line that way.
While the Westerosi precedent is fairly clear that male succession is the standard, passing a family name through matrilineal succession wouldn’t be unheard of. House Stokeworth and House Oakheart both seem to have passed the house name on matrilineally and, of course, House Mormont did too. The only real requirement for succession of this nature is that the woman needs to have a more valuable name than the man. And in the case of House Stark, there’s almost no name in Westeros as important, so that shouldn’t be hard for Sansa.
Should Sansa choose not to marry, or not have an heir, then House Stark would likely die out and some other family would become the Wardens of the North and the Lords of Winterfell. If Sansa, or Bran, or Jon were to name this successor family, it’s likely that the other Northern lords would accept them as the new ruling house. However, if someone from the south, say Tyrion for example, were to name a house to succeed the Starks it’s entirely likely that the North would reject the suggestion, no matter how reasonable, and start a rebellion.
Few places in all of Westeros have been quite as important to the story of Game of Thrones as the North and no house there matters more than House Stark. With so many loose ends and important questions to answer going into the finale, let’s hope that the show takes enough time to let us know its fate.