GoT, then and now
The years have taken a toll on the residents of Westeros and Essos. With the grand finale of Game of Thrones nigh upon us, EW is taking a look back at the main characters’ journeys and growth (or lack thereof) over the years. What a long, strange trip it’s been.
This gallery was originally published April 22, 2016, and most recently updated May 10, 2019.
Arya Stark (Maisie Williams)
Arya has only gotten fiercer and sharper since her days of totally schooling her little brother at archery. She’s studied the art of water-dancing, infiltrated enemy territory as Tywin Lannister’s cupbearer, road-tripped through Westeros with the Hound, trained to become a Faceless (Wo)Man in Braavos, and returned to her homeland a crack assassin — as Walder Frey and the Night King both found out. Now she’s en route to King’s Landing, bearing a sword with Cersei’s name on it.
Jon Snow (Kit Harington)
Jon hasn’t changed all that much when you really think about it. Sure, he’s sharpened his fighting skills, he’s loved and lost, he’s become a leader (against his will), and he died and came back to life. But he’s still the honest, noble, fundamentally decent person he’s always been. (Honestly, you’d think he would’ve learned by now to keep secrets to himself.) He may not be a true son of Ned Stark, but the two of them share a lot of the qualities that got Ned beheaded. With luck, things will end up a little better for Jon.
Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright)
The award for Most Changed Since Episode 1 probably goes to Bran, who isn’t even technically Bran anymore, we guess? He’s gone from adorable, curious kid to eerie, weirdly calm Three-Eyed Raven, all-knowing and all-seeing guardian of humanity’s collective memories. His long journey north made him a master of his supernatural abilities, the creepy stare, and turning people’s words back on them with poetic irony. (“The things we do for love.” Aaaah!)
Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner)
If Sansa’s evolution has been less radical than her siblings’, it’s been no less invigorating to watch her progress. Sansa went to hell and back many times over, but the naïve, petulant Stark child has emerged a strong, smart, politically and strategically adept woman. She’s gotten her revenge on those who made her suffer, and governs Winterfell with a steely resolve. If anyone deserves to sit on the Iron Throne, it’s her — but we know she’d be too smart to take that job.
Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen)
Speaking of characters who went to hell and back… Theon lost part of himself on his journey (ahem) and eventually lost all of himself, descending into the mindset of “Reek.” Slowly but surely, though, Theon re-emerged, eventually getting his shot at redemption several times over. He helped Sansa escape Ramsay Bolton’s clutches, rallied the Ironborn and rescued his sister, and finally went down valiantly protecting Bran from the Night King. He may have betrayed House Stark, but he atoned for his sins in the end.
Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke)
Dany has gone from Dothraki property to Khaleesi to Mother of Dragons to Breaker of Chains to conqueror. She learned a lot about ruling during her time in Slaver’s Bay — mainly that ruling is really, really difficult. Unfortunately, a lot of her worrisome tendencies haven’t exactly gone away. She’s shown herself to be a very impulsive ruler, which isn’t always what you want in a head of state, and we know she’ll stop at nothing to get the Iron Throne, which might include burning King’s Landing and all its people. For someone who claims to want to end tyranny, that would be a pretty tyrannical move. Her heart, ultimately, seems to be in the right place. But you know what they say about good intentions.
Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage)
He may have gotten his start as a prostitute’s best customer, but Tyrion has risen to become one of the few men actually fit to sit on the Iron Throne. He enjoys the nitty-gritty business of governing more than almost anyone, and he’s even good at it! Joining up with Daenerys in season 5 was probably the best thing that could have happened to him. Through it all, Tyrion has retained his piercing wit, his penchant for wine, and a loquacious tongue. He’s made a lot of mistakes lately, though, many of them borne out of faith in his sister’s humanity, which, dude, have you been paying attention? Who’s to say, though? It’d hardly be the biggest surprise Thrones has pulled if his faith in Cersei is actually rewarded.
Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau)
Jaime was one of the most hated men in Westeros once upon a time, and, well, maybe still is. But the man who pushed Bran out the window of a high tower, who slaughtered Ned Stark’s men in the streets of King’s Landing, and taunted Robb Stark while a prisoner of war learned a lot about himself traveling the Kingsroad with Brienne — and losing his hand. Having helped Tyrion escape to Essos and fought alongside Brienne at Winterfell, he’s come a long, long way — but even now, he just can’t seem to quit Cersei.
Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey)
Cersei has never been known to let things go. She sought swift and merciless retribution when Arya’s direwolf bit her son, when she merely suspected Tyrion of poisoning Joffrey, and when Margaery got a bit too comfortable as queen. Season 7 saw Cersei triumphant, at last sitting on the throne with no one to stand in her way. Now with the Golden Company at her command, she stands poised to crush Daenerys’ army, and we all know things will not be pleasant for our heroes if she wins. That would be a classic Thrones move, though, wouldn’t it? And then the series finale could be a West Wing-esque day in the Cersei Lannister administration!
Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie)
Brienne has spent her life not as the belle of the ball, but the warrior woman slicing said ball to shreds (which is why we love her, to be clear). But she finally took off her armor (literally and figuratively) by hooking up with Jaime. Sadly, that moment of vulnerability ended in heartbreak, as Jaime rode off to King’s Landing to return to Cersei. (Here’s hoping she has more scenes to come — if that’s her conclusion, that would be a real bummer.) Still, the newly christened Knight of the Seven Kingdoms has secured her place in the hearts of Thrones fans everywhere, and she remains the steadfast fighter and protector she’s always been.
Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel)
The first slave Dany freed in her conquest of Slaver’s Bay, Missandei stuck by her side through it all — rebellions, the perils of governing, a voyage across the sea, and a battle against death itself. She also found love and a glimmering hope of happiness with Grey Worm as their romance bloomed across the seasons. But alas, Missandei’s loyalty to the Dragon Queen led her to King’s Landing, where she was put back in chains and met a tragic end — though not without one last show of loyalty.
Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson)
Like Missandei, the commander of the Unsullied has remained fiercely loyal to the Mother of Dragons since meeting her, leading her army to victory numerous times. Introduced as a stoic warrior, Grey Worm revealed more and more humanity as the show progressed through his romance with Missandei. Now that he’s lost his love, he’s sure to have only one thing on his mind: conquering King’s Landing and securing the throne for his queen.
Varys (Conleth Hill)
The Spider is still as crafty and conniving as ever. Enticed by the prospect of Jon Snow ruling Westeros, he’s now tried to rope Tyrion into a plot against Daenerys. He has frequently claimed to simply want what’s best for the realm, but his motives remain mysterious, and his loyalties can shift quicker than it took HBO to erase that coffee cup. Whoever ends up on the Iron Throne, you can bet Varys will play a role in putting them there.
Ser Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen)
Ser Jorah went through banishment, exile, greyscale, and an excruciating treatment process, remaining steadfastly loyal to Daenerys all the while. In the end, he died as he lived: protecting the queen and Khaleesi he loved. As Jon Snow remarked, Ser Jorah surely wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
Gendry (Joe Dempsie)
Everyone’s favorite Westerosi blacksmith dropped off the map for a while, after Ser Davos put him in a rowboat to escape Melisandre’s clutches/leeches. He was Arya’s first road-trip companion (alongside Hot Pie!) before the Hound came into the picture, and their friendship would blossom into something more, sorta, a few seasons down the line. Gendry re-emerged in season 7 as a hammer-wielding warrior (or at least a more warrior-esque blacksmith) and came out the other side of “The Long Night” to find a lordship awaiting him. See, upward mobility is possible in Westeros! Provided you’re the bastard son of a king, that is.
Beric Dondarrion (David Michael Scott/Richard Dormer)
Remember way, way back in season 1 when Ned Stark sent a group of men out to kill the Mountain? Yep, one of them was Beric. He lost an eye and his life — multiple times — but Thoros of Myr repeatedly brought him back, courtesy of the Lord of Light. Two seasons and one casting change later, Beric resurfaced among the Brotherhood Without Banners as the flaming sword-wielder we all know. Alas, his purpose to the Red God was fulfilled at the Battle of Winterfell, protecting Arya from a horde of wights, allowing her to escape and take out the Night King.