Through almost eight seasons of television, Game of Thrones has been an experience that has put viewer and character alike through the ringer. Almost no one from those initial seasons of HBO's fantasy drama hit looks or acts the same after their bouts with Westeros' combative process of government and conquest. And as it just so happens, with the Battle of Winterfell bringing a lot of stories to a close, now is as good a time as any to reflect on where several key characters have started, and where they are now. Please enjoy this rundown of Game of Thrones characters, then and now.
When we first saw him, Jaime Lannister was a bit of a carefree fop with a love for his sister that reached deeper than it really should have. Though eventually, through hardship and history lessons, we learned that he was a man worthy of the name “Kingslayer,” and he even lost an hand in his more badass days of Game of Thrones history. Now a man wisened by experience, and possibly in love with Brienne of Tarth, Jaime is still good looking, but much more rugged and hardened.
Lannisters certainly age well through political turmoil, as the ambitious Cersei has only gotten more ruthless and powerful as time has passed. Shortening her hair, and her patience, the current queen sitting on the Iron Throne has done pretty much everything to gain the power she sought oh-so-long ago. But as the old stories have told us, heavy is the head that wears the crown.
Tyrion Lannister is probably the biggest turnaround in the history of the Lannister family, as Game of Thrones introduced him as the debaucherous and vain member of the family. But battle, betrayal, and heartbreak set young Tyrion on a quest that would see him turn on the family, most of all in the action of killing his own father, Tywin. Now allied with House Targaryen and House Stark, he hopes for cooperation, but one would expect him not to bank on it.
The older of the two Stark daughters, Sansa was your average young woman who dreamed of etiquette lessons and lemon tarts. Which, of course, went sour after two rather painful betrothals to Joffery Lannister and Ramsey Bolton turned her life into a hellish nightmare of manipulative romance. A shrewd political operator, Sansa is wary of Daenerys Targaryen’s claim to the throne, and will do what she has to in order for her family’s name to survive.
If Bran Stark hadn’t found Jaime and Cersei Lannister having sex in Winterfell back in the series premiere, he might have had a normal childhood. But thanks to Jaime crippling him, Bran eventually found himself destined to become something greater. As the new Three-Eyed Raven, Bran now has powers that allow him to see through all of recorded history, which has been both a blessing and a curse for those around him.
Young, sweet Arya Stark was once an innocent child, with a bit of a rebellious streak. That streak became a battle cry, as Arya became obsessed with avenging the deaths of her father, mother, and older brother Robb, to name only a few. Training with the Faceless Men, Arya became an agent of vengeance, and even found herself pulling off one hell of a kill by taking out the Night King at the Battle of Winterfell.
The reported bastard son of Eddard Stark, Jon Snow was resigned to serving as a member of the Night’s Watch, an honored post that would make up for his dishonored parentage. But surprisingly, not only was Snow found not to be a bastard, he was also revealed to be Aegon Targaryen, the rightful heir to the Iron Throne. Of course, he had to die and be resurrected along the way before finding that out, and the knowledge came at the worst time ever: not too long after he got romantic with his aunt, Danerys Targaryen.
Daughter of the mad king, Aerys II Targaryen, Daenerys Targaryen was married off to Khal Drogo, in hopes that his Dothraki army would help the Targaryen family reclaim the Iron Throne. Over time, and after Drogo’s untimely death, Daenerys would eventually come to rule the might of her late husband’s army, freeing people all over and enlisting them in her cause, along with three dragons she raised since birth. She eventually fell in love with her nephew, Jon Snow, and is currently grappling with the fact that he is the rightful heir to the throne she desires.
Theon Greyjoy has fallen from grace throughout all of Game of Thrones, and hit every branch of conflict along the way. With his own family disowning him, a failed rebellion in their name, and an ambition that led him into another failed attempt at power, Theon eventually paid a physical price for his misdeeds, thanks to Ramsey Bolton’s torture and castration of the man he would force to take the name Reek. Theon eventually found himself freed of Bolton, and aligned with the Starks again, just in time to die in their name at the hands of the Night King at Winterfell.
Brienne of Tarth
A former Kingsguard for Renly Baratheon, Brienne of Tarth eventually found herself on the run, as being framed for murder kind of puts one out of any sort of positions that guard royalty. Her relationship with Jaime Lannister is an interesting thread to note, as the two went from opposing personalities (with Jaime being her hostage, originally) to a sort of pseudo-romantic relationship. While they’ve never embraced, the two are mutually respecting of each other, and it’s a romance we certainly hope comes true, despite Tormund's attentions toward Brienne.
Sandor “The Hound” Clegane
Another former defender of the crown, Sandor Clegane, or “The Hound” as he’s more commonly called, found himself protecting both Sansa and Arya Stark at various points in his Game of Thrones story arc. Almost like a proud father to Arya, Sandor admires how far Arya has come in her training, and after a brief stint with the Brotherhood Without Banners, The Hound finds himself as part of the Targaryen/Stark forces that engaged the Night King and his White Walkers in the battle of Winterfell.
Ser Jorah Mormont
A man in exile due to a conflict with Ned Stark, Ser Jorah Mormont defected to Essos and joined the Dothraki. He also became acquainted with and fell in love with its new queen: Daenerys Targaryen, swearing fealty to her. Though greyscale almost killed him, he found himself cured by Samwell Tarly, and returned to Daenerys... just in time to die valiantly defending her during the Battle of Winterfell.
Last seen as lord commander of the remaining Night’s Watch forces, Edd Tollett has always been an honored friend and colleague of Jon Snow. Even when Snow was betrayed by some of his fellow Night’s Watch members, Tollett was loyal, and instrumental to helping Jon get his revenge post-resurrection. Sadly, Edd was killed at the Battle of Winterfell, protecting Samwell Tarly from the forces of the White Walkers.
A loyal defender of the Lannister family, Bronn started out as a sellsword, basically a mercenary in the Game of Thrones world. He would eventually remain a part of the family’s defense, with his fame and status growing due to that loyalty. Currently, Bronn has been hired to take out Tyrion and Jaime Lannister, on behalf of their sister Cersei. The weapon of choice: the crossbow that Tyrion used to kill their father, Tywin.
The greatest of all spies and gossips in Game of Thrones’ kingdoms, Lord Varys knows how to get information on anyone and anything. Originally aligned with the crown in Westeros, Varys eventually leaves to support his preferred sovereign, Daenerys Targaryen. Varys still serves Daenerys to this day.
Originally one of many bastards to King Robert Baratheon’s line, Gendry wound up being the last remaining heir to the Baratheon name. Trained as a blacksmith, he was almost a member of the Night’s Watch, before becoming a sort of professional hostage/bargaining chip for various players in the Game of Thrones. More recently, he has become the lover of Arya Stark, who seduced him right before the Battle of Winterfell took place.
Always meant to be a scholar, Samwell Tarly was originally enlisted in the Night’s Watch, on the path to becoming a solider. Fate stepped in, and eventually Sam saw himself gaining a ton of knowledge, as well as a companion in the young lady Gilly and her child, and went on to cure Ser Jorah Mormont of the plague known as greyscale. Though he is more of a learned man, Sam has proven from time to time that he can defend himself quite well.
A squire in the world of Game of Thrones, all it took was a stolen ham and some rum to make Podrick into a companion that Tyrion Lannister could count on. But it's his adventures with Brienne of Tarth that kept Podrick alive and in the game, as their travels were treacherous but close. Podrick eventually found his way back in the same circles as Tyrion, and was even one of the survivors of the Battle of Winterfell, which may or may not have been due to his beautiful singing skills.
Discovered by Jon Snow as a pup, Ghost was a white Direwolf with red eyes, given to him as the runt of the litter of direwolves that yielded one dog per child of House Stark. Providing protection for Jon, Ghost seems to have a habit of showing up when most needed, as seen in the Battle of Winterfell. His survival is still in question in the long run, but signs are pointing towards that dog still being able to hunt.
Only one thing is certain in the Game of Thrones: you either win or you die. We'll see how many more of these figures, brave and brazen, survive this eighth and final season, when the show comes back this Sunday for its weekly dose of pain and politics, at 9 PM EST on HBO.