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Game of Thrones has introduced a vast number of characters over the years, and even all the crazy number of gruesome deaths hasn't whittled the number down to just a handful. Now, heading into Season 8, a lot of those characters have become beloved in their own ways, but some definitely started out somewhere between underwhelming and distinctly unpleasant. Whether because of the company they kept or the decisions they made, some just weren't MVPs among the fandom.
Fortunately, some characters improved and became more widely appreciated as time passed, and we've put together a rundown of Game of Thrones' most improved characters that we now can't imagine the show without.
Ser Davos Seaworth
Ser Davos first appeared back in the Season 2 premiere of Game of Thrones, as Stannis Baratheon's right-hand man. He was diehard Team Stannis, even telling his son that Stannis was his god. Given that Stannis wasn't exactly the most appealing or charismatic character ever to try and claim the Iron Throne, Davos didn't feel like a character who would have much going for him after Stannis' defeat at the Battle of the Blackwater.
Who could have guessed that Stannis would die at the end of Season 5, with Davos to survive him into Season 8? Davos' attachment to Shireen endeared him to viewers, and his bond with Jon Snow certainly didn't hurt. He's more fun and funnier as Jon's right-hand man than he was as Stannis' side, and he even brought Gendry back into the mix last season.
Game of Thrones isn't overflowing with humor even on its funniest days, but I still laugh at the memory of Davos introducing Jon by "This is Jon Snow" after listening to Missandei list off Dany's many titles. While other characters are fighting for power and control, Davos brings a lot of heart. And no incest, murder, or manipulation. So win-win!
The Hound seemed like a villain through-and-through early on, especially after he killed Arya's friend Mycah. His case wasn't helped by the fact that he looked like a TV show villain thanks to the giant burn scar on his face. Honestly, in Season 1, the best that could be said of him was that he was less terrible than his brother and he wasn't actively cruel to Sansa.
His true colors began to show a bit more in Season 2 when he saved Sansa from the angry mob in King's Landing, and he really came into his own after... well, kidnapping Arya. As far as kidnappings go in Game of Thrones, though, the Hound nabbing Arya so that he could safely ransom her to her family wasn't too bad. Unfortunately, her family members started dying every time the Hound got close to dropping her off, and an odd friendship was struck between Arya and the Hound.
For viewers who may not have been convinced that the Hound really is one of the good guys after the first six seasons, Season 7 saw the Hound sign on for an ill-advised but heroic mission, bury the farmer and his daughter that he wronged years earlier, and show clear relief when he learned from Brienne that Arya was alive. Is he still coarse and uncouth? Sure. But if CleganeBowl really does go down in Season 8, I know who I'm rooting for.
Once upon a time, Gilly was just one of Craster's many daughter-wives who was pregnant with her soon-to-be-born child/sibling. Sam took a fancy to her, and she might have just been the catalyst for the larger story of Sam using dragonglass to kill a White Walker back in Season 3. Instead, Gilly stayed in the mix at Sam's side as part of an arc that seriously diverged from the books.
Gilly may not be everybody's favorite character, but it's hard to deny that her lot in life has vastly improved since escaping Craster, and she has risen to the occasion. While living in a land completely unlike the world she grew up in beyond The Wall, she is caring for her child and learning to read and write. In the process of that learning, she stumbled upon arguably the most game-changing news in the history of the series: the annulment of Rhaegar's marriage to Elia and subsequent marriage to Lyanna Stark.
Sam was able to tell Bran that Rhaegar and Lyanna were married, leading to Bran's realization that Jon's not actually a bastard, but actually a legitimate Targaryen. Plenty of fans were actually pissed at Sam after he shared the news with Bran, as he conveniently left out that he never would have found out about Rhaegar and Lyanna if not for Gilly in The Citadel. Sam has always been sold as a lovable character, so it's a sign that fans appreciate Gilly that they'd turn on him in Gilly's defense!
If there is one thing Game of Thrones should really be commended for, it's how the show managed to transform the guy who shoved a 10-year-old out of a window into somebody with a good heart who wants to be an oath-keeping hero. Season 1 Jaime didn't really have much to redeem him other than his head of hair. As it turned out, he just needed to be captured, sent on a road trip with Brienne of Tarth, and lose a hand to show his true colors.
Jaime's confession of what really happened on the day he killed the Mad King was one of the most spellbinding speeches delivered in a show packed with memorable monologues, and his dynamic with Brienne has been such an unexpectedly big hit that plenty of people probably would tune into that sitcom that Nikolaj Coster-Waldau pitched. Do viewers need to try and forget the scene between Jaime and Cersei that folks at Game of Thrones insist was not a rape scene, though? Pretty much.
By the end of Season 7, he came to his senses about Cersei at least a little bit after he realized she intended to double-cross Daenerys and Jon rather than honor their truce to fight the White Walkers and army of the dead. By heading north toward Tyrion and Brienne rather than staying by his sister, maybe he has a shot at staying redeemed. A lot may depend on whether or not Cersei really does have a bun in the oven.
Gendry is an example of a character who was perfectly fine to begin with but really skyrocketed in popularity later on. The sole surviving bastard of Robert Baratheon was Arya's travel pal for a couple of seasons until Melisandre bought him from the Brotherhood so she could use his blood to more or less curse the enemies of Stannis Baratheon. Just another day in the life of Gendry!
Davos saved him from being bled dry by Melisandre and sent Gendry off in a rowboat at the end of Season 3, and it was this move that guaranteed nobody forgot about Gendry. He may not have turned up again for almost four seasons, but Gendry in the rowboat became a popular meme on social media, with actor Joe Dempsie even getting in on the fun. Everybody wanted to know where Gendry was and if Gendry was still rowing.
Now, heading into Season 8, Gendry is a fan-favorite whereas characters who simply disappeared into the background are largely forgotten. He can reunite with Arya, forge dragonglass weapons to battle the dead, and apparently make great time running on foot across dangerous snowy terrain. Who could have guessed that a character could get a boost by being written off a show for a while?
The Starks were presented as "the good guys" of Game of Thrones from the very beginning, what with all the honesty and honor and lack of siblings hooking up with each other. That said, there was one of the Stark kids that didn't win an abundance of fans early on. After becoming betrothed to Joffrey, Sansa quickly seemed to favor the Lannister way of life in the south rather than the ways of life she grew up with in the North.
It didn't help that Sansa didn't get along with Arya, and Arya was a fan-favorite almost immediately. Fans who loved Arya weren't necessarily going to love Sansa. In hindsight, it's easy to say that Sansa was a child who was blinded by the prospect of getting everything she wanted and too naive to know she was being manipulated. At the time... well, not everybody was very kind to poor Sansa.
Now, Sansa is the Lady of Winterfell who basically won the Battle of the Bastards for Jon and managed to learn from the likes of Cersei and Littlefinger without becoming like them. Now that Jon has hooked up with Dany, perhaps the Northerners will look to Sansa more than ever for guidance. Honestly, Sansa is probably the most competent member of the Stark family to potentially rule a kingdom.
Will more characters earn the right to call themselves "most improved" by the end of Season 8? Only time will tell. Fortunately, Season 8 will soon get into gear. The premiere of the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones airs Sunday, April 14 at 9 p.m. ET on HBO, with episodes of varying length airing for the subsequent five months. Be sure to tune in!