Their Perilous Journeys: How 11 “Game Of Thrones” Characters Made It From The First Season To Its Last

Tyrion didn’t call it “the great game” for nothing.

Game of Thrones premiered on HBO in 2011, and soon became the most watched show on television. Over its seven seasons so far, the fantasy drama — based on George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire novels and adapted for TV by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss — has had highs and lows. But even in its most controversial moments, the show has been a massive pop culture event, bringing audiences together on a scale we may never see again.

The sprawl of Game of Thrones as it unfolded has been especially unparalleled, featuring dozens of main characters and key locations. There have also been callbacks, intricate fan theories, jarring changes from the books, and many, many characters dying (and sometimes coming back to life). It's all been a lot to digest, not to mention remember over the years.

Season 8 — the final six episodes ever of Game of Thrones — begins April 14. We've traced the journeys of 11 of the show's main characters who were there in the first episode for what we hope is a helpful guide for this final season — which promises to be the bloodiest final run of a show yet! Like, really: Most of these characters are going to die.

The Queen of Zero Fucks

In Season 1, Cersei Lannister, keen on keeping her children born of incest a secret, confronts Ned Stark at King’s Landing and delivers a warning that has rung true time and again: “When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.”

From the very beginning, one thing has always been certain of Cersei, whom we first meet as King Robert Baratheon’s wife: She will topple anyone to get what she wants — power. You’re either with her or against her.

Throughout much of the series, Cersei rarely leaves King’s Landing. But in the first episode of Season 1, our introduction to her sets plans in motion that have affected many characters, namely the Stark children, throughout the show.

While on a trip to Winterfell, King Robert attempts to woo Ned back to King’s Landing to act as hand of the king. During the royal family’s stay, Bran Stark is scaling a tower when he spots the queen having sex with her brother, Jaime. To keep their incestuous relationship secret, Jaime tosses Bran from the window, but the fall doesn’t kill him. Instead, he’s in a coma for several weeks before he awakens without the use of his legs.

Even with the bombastic Robert Baratheon as king, it’s Cersei who proves to be a shrewd leader and master manipulator. Within the first season, several of her enemies — those who threaten to expose the secret that she fathered three children with her brother — are killed, including her husband’s best friend and hand of the king, Ned.

“Power is power,” Cersei tells Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish in Season 2, rebutting the master of coin’s assertion that knowledge is power.

Cersei eventually reaches the ultimate prize by assuming the Iron Throne, but at tremendous cost: All of her children die — two by poisoning, one by suicide — as does her father, not to mention mass murder and a hefty amount of debt.

Let’s take a look at Cersei’s murderous, scheming path that has made her a fan favorite for her sheer audacity.

In Season 1, she conspires to kill Bran while he recuperates from being pushed from the tower by Jaime. Back at King’s Landing, she takes out her biggest threat, Hand of the King Ned Stark, after he confronts her about her children being born of incest.

When King Robert succumbs to injuries sustained during a hunt — thanks to the wine her cousin gave him during the trip — Cersei quickly installs Joffrey on the throne. Ned is then betrayed by Littlefinger, who sides with the Lannisters, and is imprisoned.

But one threat being eliminated leads to new ones. When Joffrey unexpectedly orders that Ned be beheaded, war erupts between the Starks and Lannisters, with Jaime getting captured by Robb Stark’s forces in the process.

What transpires is a series of chess moves that culminate in several key events and decisions.

Cersei’s brother Tyrion, installed by their father as hand of the king, arranges to send her daughter, Myrcella, to Dorne. She then, despite her best efforts, loses control of Joffrey to Margaery Tyrell and her family and is put in her place when Tywin orders her betrothed to Loras Tyrell to secure the Reach and the alliance with Highgarden.

She witnesses Joffrey’s death from poisoning at his wedding reception and, convinced it was at the hands of Tyrion and Sansa (whom he was ordered to marry), plots to take her younger brother down with a stacked trial for murder. (She’s also raped in front of Joffrey’s casket by Jaime, who later frees Tyrion from prison!)

The repercussions of Cersei’s actions come back to haunt her again when Tyrion kills Tywin out of revenge before fleeing King’s Landing to serve by Daenerys’s side in exile. Without her authoritarian father to keep her in check, Cersei then proceeds to make other missteps. She postions the High Sparrow to become the new High Septon, and allows him to reinstate the Faith Militant, knowing that they will convict Loras Tyrell for being gay and drive a wedge between her son, King Tommen, and Loras’s sister, Margaery Tyrell, who is now betrothed to Tommen.

Things escalate when Margaery is arrested for giving false testimony in defense of her brother. But so is Cersei, when it’s revealed that her cousin Lancel Lannister had confessed to having an affair with her. Enter the phase of the Shame Nun and Cersei’s refusal to confess. But after a while, Cersei breaks down, confesses, and is forced to endure the walk of atonement to the Red Keep, naked.

More tragedy awaits, however, when Jaime returns from Dorne with their dead daughter, killed by a poisonous kiss.

She also still faces a pending trial in the Great Sept of Baelor. But Cersei is about to become Extra Cersei.

She has former maester Pycelle killed to consolidate her power and then uses barrels of wildfire to blow up the sept, killing Margaery and Loras Tyrell; their father, Mace; all of the Sparrows, and her uncle, Kevan Lannister.

She also has Septa “Shame Nun” Unella captured and tortured by the Mountain.

But again, Cersei’s gain is met with tragic setback when a despondent King Tommen kills himself by jumping out a window.

Her quest for power and revenge drives her, however, and she has ex-maester Qyburn — now her hand — crown her queen of the Seven Kingdoms. She then has Ellaria Sand captured and brought back to King’s Landing, where she poisons her daughter Tyene and condemns her to watch Tyrene’s body rot in a cell.

Faced with proof that the Army of the Dead are very real and marching south, Cersei also feigns allegiance to Jon Snow and Daenerys in fighting the White Walkers, but instead has secret plans to hire the famed Golden Company mercenaries to supplement the Lannister forces to protect the South after the great battle in the North.

The revelation drives a rift between her and Jaime, who, disgusted at the betrayal, leaves King’s Landing to ride north and join the fight.

Cersei now begins Season 8 completely alone in the capital — no children, no brother, no father, but on the Iron Throne she so coveted.

From Lannister Black Sheep to Hand of the Queen

Tyrion Lannister has somehow survived a near-fatal battle injury, two trials by combat, a powerful sister who wants him dead, and a treacherous sex worker who switches allegiance to his father.

No other character on Game of Thrones has seen as much of Westeros and survived as many pitfalls as Tyrion, but let’s go back all the way to the beginning, where we see him getting drunk with prostitutes as his family visits Winterfell. It’s his last flash of carefree debauchery before shit gets real — and fast.

Tyrion accompanies Stark bastard Jon Snow, who has decided to join the Night’s Watch, to the Wall. But on his way back to King’s Landing, he’s captured by Catelyn Stark, who suspects he’s conspired to assassinate her son Bran.

Tyrion is then taken to stand trial at the Eyrie in the Vale, where Catelyn’s sister, Lysa Arryn, rules as regent.

He survives after his paid champion, Bronn, wins the trial by combat, and his father, Tywin Lannister, sends him to King’s Landing to act as hand of the king to idiot psychopath Joffrey Baratheon. While there, Tyrion manages to blunt some of Joffrey’s cruelest and more inept inclinations and successfully defends the castle from Stannis Baratheon’s army using that bright green wildfire, although he suffers a deep gash across his face that nearly kills him.

After he recovers, Tyrion is supplanted by his newly returned father as hand of the king, and ordered to marry Sansa Stark after Joffrey ditches her in favor of Margaery Tyrell and an alliance with her house.

Despite threats from his father, Tyrion never consummates the marriage and is eventually named treasurer. But things take another turn when Cersei falsely accuses him of poisoning Joffrey at his wedding to Margaery.

During his trial, Shae, the sex worker he fell in love with earlier in the show, testifies against him as Cersei’s witness. Tyrion is enraged and demands a trial by combat. But this time, his champion, Oberyn Martell of Dorne, loses to Cersei’s fighter, Gregor Clegane aka the Mountain aka the Man Who Likes to Kill and Is Very Good at It.

Doomed to die, Tyrion catches another break when his brother, Jaime, frees him from prison.

What follows is perhaps Tyrion’s defining moment. We all remember what happens: After killing Shae for her betrayal, Tyrion, armed with a crossbow, confronts Tywin, his demeaning father, while he’s literally shitting on the toilet.

“All my life you’ve wanted me dead,” Tyrion says.

“Yes. But you refused to die. I respect that, I even admire it,” Tywin responds. “You fight for what’s yours.”

But when Tywin tries to defuse the situation by repeatedly referring to Shae as a whore, Tyrion shoots him in the stomach.

“You shot me,” a stunned Tywin says as Tyrion reloads. “You are no son of mine.”

An unmoved Tyrion responds: “I am your son. I’ve always been your son.“ He fires a second arrow, killing Tywin.

Soon after, Tyrion is smuggled out of Westeros with spymaster Varys.

Tyrion’s path to hand of the queen to Daenerys Targaryen is a messy one, but basically, after a few kidnappings, he lands in the fighting pits of Meereen. After Tyrion is made one of Dany’s advisers, ruling the city gets complicated as the masked group the Sons of the Harpy wreaks havoc by staging violent uprisings.

During one attack, Dany is whisked away by her dragon Drogon, leaving Tyrion behind to run the city. From there, it’s a series of wins and setbacks that culminates in Dany returning with Drogon and the Dothraki horde to quell the uprising and restore order.

After being named hand of the queen, Tyrion joins Dany as she takes Theon and Yara Greyjoy’s Iron Fleet, as well as those of Dorne and the Reach, to Westeros.

Which brings us to Season 7, where we see Tyrion advise Daenerys on a series of thwarted attacks on King’s Landing before she loses her cool and destroys a Lannister caravan with her dragons.

Tyrion then accompanies Dany at the Dragonpit, where, while on the team trying to prove the existence of the undead with a wight that was captured and brought down from beyond the Wall, he privately persuades Cersei to join the fight (a promise she later tells Jaime is a lie).

We last see him creeping in the hall of a ship, watching as Jon Snow enters Dany’s bedroom for sex time.

Now, as Westeros’s fate hangs in the balance, we’ll see if Tyrion’s knack for survival can carry him through the big war to come in Season 8. With Cersei doubling down at King’s Landing and Jaime riding north to Winterfell, he might be the last Lannister standing.

Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen, the First of Her Name, Queen of the Andals and the First Men, Protector of the Seven Kingdoms, the Mother of Dragons, the Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, the Unburnt, the Breaker of Chains, Fucker of Nephews

The only daughter of the Mad King Aerys II Targaryen, Daenerys lives in exile in Pentos with her brother, Viserys. After their dad was overthrown in Robert’s Rebellion, their older brother, Rhaegar, was killed along with his wife, Elia Martell, and his only two kids (oR sO We tHiNk!).

Viserys is pretty keen on getting that Iron Throne back for himself, so he marries off his younger sister to Khal Drogo of the Dothraki in exchange for using his horse army to retake Westeros. As a wedding gift, Dany receives petrified dragon eggs, rather than the traditional toaster. After enduring some truly horrific sexual violence — really, this show was pretty fucked up in its early seasons — she becomes pregnant. Drogo also slowly stops treating Dany like shit and, to prove that her offspring will be a strong Dothraki, she eats a horse heart. A drunk Viserys, mad at his lack of Westeros invasion, threatens Dany, prompting Drogo to kill him by pouring molten gold on his head. Fancy!

A thalassophobic Drogo (it means he’s afraid of the ocean! Look it up!) slowly comes around to the whole idea of retaking the Iron Throne for Dany and ransacks a village. When Dany objects (quite rightfully!) to the fucked-up way the Dothraki treat women, one of them fights Drogo, who ends up with a chest wound. Dany pleads with a captured woman to use magic to save him, but she fucks up the spell on purpose and he ends up in a vegetative state. Dany then goes into labor but the child is stillborn, as the magic lady used him to keep Drogo alive. Dany eventually smothers him with a pillow to end his suffering and then constructs a funeral pyre. But she also walks into the burning structure with her eggs and walks out unscathed with three actual motherfucking baby dragons. Yikes.

As the new leader of the Dothraki, Dany leads her khalasar through the desert, but it’s not much fun at all. Eventually, they end up in Qarth, an oasis populated by some weirdos including a bunch of warlocks. One of the weirdos, Xaro, offers to marry Dany and fund her return to Westeros using his 100% totally real, no foolin’ fortune, which is hidden behind a big safe door. With Xaro’s help, one of the warlocks, Pyat Pree, kills the other Qartheen leaders by magically duplicating himself into a small army of 13 and kidnaps Dany’s dragons. When Dany goes to retrieve her babies, she’s tested by a series of visions showing her on the Iron Throne and her late husband and baby alive and well. Nevertheless, she having her baby dragons burn Pree alive. She returns to Xaro’s house to steal his fortune but finds, shockingly, it’s not real. Instead, she locks him up in his empty vault with a servant girl who betrayed her. Grim.

Dany and her ever-growing dragons travel to the city of Astapor, home to a troop of 8,000 eunuch slave soldiers known as the Unsullied (plus a few thousand still training) who are available for purchase for the low, low price of one dragon. Dany survives an assassination attempt involving a scorpionlike creature thanks to a hooded stranger, who reveals himself to be Ser Barristan Selmy, the former lord commander of the Kingsguard who decided to go support someone less psychopathic after he was fired by Joffrey. Dany offers to sell her biggest dragon, Drogon, to purchase the Unsullied, but when the deal is done she reveals she speaks fluent Valyrian, so she totally knew all the rude shit the slavemaster was saying behind her back (surprise, bitch!). She then has the Unsullied kill all their masters and free the slaves before commanding Drogon to kill the slavemaster (surprise again, bitch!). With her new army, she marches along to Yunkai, determined to continue kicking ass and breaking chains, but the city is protected by some shady mercenaries called the Second Sons. One of them, Daario Naharis, has the hots for Dany, so he abandons the Second Sons and pledges loyalty to her instead. Joined by Grey Worm of the Unsullied and Jorah of the eternally pining, Daario sneaks into Yunkai through the back gate (lol) and Dany’s forces soon capture the city. To celebrate, she crowdsurfs on the newly freed people. Messed up.

Dany’s dragons have gone from scary big to SCARY big, and even Dany is getting worried. She and her crew head to Meereen to free everyone there because why not? Distracted in her new digs, she discovers the masters in Yunkai have reinstituted slavery and the situation in Astapor has also turned to shit. Worried she’ll never be able to rule Westeros if she can’t preside over these backwood towns, she decides to stay in Meeren to undergo Queen 101. After banging Daario, Dany sends him and Jorah back to Yunkai to threaten the slavemasters into subordination. But she discovers Jorah had been secretly sending information about her back to Westeros, so she orders him into exile. In even more bad news, Drogon has killed the daughter of a shepherd and disappeared. To avoid more dead shepherd children, Dany locks up the other two dragons in some catacombs. Sad.

Dany later goes to visit her chained-up dragons but, understandably, they want nothing to do with her. Meanwhile, a group of underground insurgents, the Sons of the Harpy, are going around Meereen causing trouble. When Ser Barristan is murdered by one of the insurgents, Dany rounds up a bunch of noblemen and feeds one of them to her chained-up dragons.

Regaining her senses, she agrees to their plea to reopen the fighting pits. One of the gladiators reveals himself to be Jorah Mormont, who brought a “I’m sorry I sold you out” gift in the form of Tyrion Lannister. She keeps Tyrion around, but once again tells Jorah to GTFO.

At the beginning of the gladiator Olympics, Jorah suddenly reappears and harpoons a Son of the Harpy who was about to stab Dany. And just when it seems all is lost, Drogon appears to burn a few assassins and Dany flies the hell outta there.

She soon finds herself back in Dothraki territory as a foreign khalasar encircles her. Welp.

With things not looking too good for old Dany, she manages to avoid becoming a sex slave by revealing herself as the widowed wife of Khal Drogo. Per Dothraki custom, she’s sent to live with the other widows in a depressing shack. Soon growing sick of that, she decides to take control of all the Dothraki by burning all of their leaders alive. Good plan! After she emerges, naked and unscathed, everyone bows to her. Quite right!

Jorah informs her he’s come down with a nasty case of Greyscale, so she welcomes him back before sending him off to get well. Meanwhile, a fleet of slaving ships are laying siege to Meereen — seriously, these guys don’t give up! — so Dany calls their leaders in for a meeting. She surprises them by, well, murdering them and having her dragons destroy much of the fleet while Daario and the Dothraki get rid of the last of those pesky Sons of the Harpy.

Dany then meets with Theon and Yara Greyjoy, with whom she makes a pact to borrow some ships in exchange for defeating their uncle, Euron Greyjoy, and letting the Iron Islands be independent within Westeros. Dany also dumps Daario, telling him he needs to stay in charge in Meereen to keep the peace and allow her to be single and ready to mingle (i.e., marry) once she gets to Westeros. Tyrion, meanwhile, is appointed hand of the queen, and together with the rest of her motley crew she sails to Westeros. About time.

Arriving at her ancestral home, Dragonstone, Dany is keen to get down to the business of conquering the Seven Kingdoms. Melisandre turns up and says Dany may be connected to the “Prince That Was Promised” prophecy. Her translator, Missandei, helpfully explains “prince” is a gender-neutral term in ancient Valyrian — so forward-thinking! Melisandre also mentions that Jon Snow is connected to this, so an intrigued Dany has Tyrion invite him to Dragonstone, where she wrongfully assumes he’ll bend the knee. Instead, all he wants to do is talk about the undead. Boring!

Meanwhile, part of Dany’s fleet led by the Greyjoys and the Sand Snakes has been destroyed, killed, or captured by guyliner-fan Euron. The plan to take Casterly Rock also goes belly-up, and Dany’s ally, Olenna Tyrell, is forced to drink poison by Jaime Lannister at Highgarden.

Riding Drogon, Dany leads the Dothraki to destroy the Lannister army caravan, but Bronn manages to use a giant crossbow to injure the dragon. As Dany tries to help, she’s almost killed by Jaime until Drogon unleashes a burst of fire. Jaime and Bronn dive into the river to escape.

In the aftermath, Dany executes Randyll Tarly and his son Dickon (lol) when they refuse to bend the knee. After Jon and the cured Jorah head north of the Wall with a few others to capture a wight, Dany receives an urgent raven from rowing expert and Baratheon bastard Gendry begging for assistance.

Defying Tyrion’s advice that it’s too dangerous, she flies north to rescue the men just in time, but loses Viserion to a spear from the Night King, who subsequently turns the dragon into a zombie.

After Dany makes a dramatic arrival in King’s Landing on the back of a dragon, Cersei agrees to help defeat the White Walkers (oR dOeS ShE?!). Dany then celebrates back on the ship by having sex with Jon, who she doesn’t know is actually her nephew. Ew.

He Who Sees All

Bran Stark’s journey is one of Game of Thrones’ most complicated character arcs, as he’s gone from being a cute little kid who aspired to be a knight, to a paralyzed teenager with prophetic dreams, to a Three-Eyed Raven in a young man’s body. He surely will play a huge role in the final season, as the Night King’s Army of the Dead was marching straight to Winterfell at the end of the Season 7 finale.

The series premiere of Game of Thrones ends with Jaime pushing Bran out of a Winterfell window after Bran — who would skip around the turrets and walls of the castle with impunity — spotted Jaime and Cersei having sex. “The things I do for love,” Jaime says as he cavalierly defenestrates Bran.

After the fall, Bran is paralyzed from the waist down, and one by one, his family members leave him at Winterfell — but he is protected by Summer, his direwolf. Bran begins to have dreams about a Three-Eyed Raven (an actual bird, not the supernatural being he will later become). Sometimes he dreams he’s Summer, which he tells Maester Luwin, his teacher at Winterfell. After Theon sacks Winterfell in Season 2, Bran and his brother Rickon escape with the help of Osha, a wildling kept at Winterfell, and Hodor, the son of Bran's nanny, Old Nan. And their direwolves! Summer and Shaggydog.

On their way to find Jon Snow at Castle Black, Bran — who continues to have psychic dreams — meets Meera and Jojen Reed. Jojen, who is more practiced than Bran with his abilities (or “greensight,” as he calls it), tells Bran that he is a “warg,” and that Bran can control the bodies of animals through their minds. As it turns out, Bran can also control the weak-minded Hodor’s body, which turns out to be crucial. Bran decides not to go to Castle Black, and heads north of the Wall with the Reeds to find the Three-Eyed Raven. At that point, Osha takes Rickon and Shaggydog to what they hope is safety. (But no — this is Game of Thrones.)

By Season 4, Bran has a good command of his warging superpower, and frequently uses Summer’s body. As they continue their quest, they’re attacked by wights, and one stabs Jojen to death. One of the Children of the Forest then appears, and takes them into a cave. She then takes them to the Three-Eyed Raven, who it turns out is an old man in a bunch of roots growing down from the weirwood tree above! Bran asks the Three-Eyed Raven whether he will ever walk again, and he says nope. “But you will fly,” he says.

There was no Bran in Season 5 at all!

In Season 6, he returns with a much better haircut, and is learning how to do his thing under the Three-Eyed Raven (who is now played by Max von Sydow). Game of Thrones has rarely used flashbacks, but Bran and Max von Sydow go through a bunch of important moments from the past, including at Winterfell (where they see young Hodor, whose real name was Wylis) and at the Tower of Joy, where Jon Snow was born.

In one of these visions — Bran becomes sort of addicted to having them, much to Max von Sydow’s chagrin — the Night King grabs Bran’s arm, which reveals their location in the cave to him. Not good!

So yes, the Night King comes to kill everyone, including the Three-Eyed Raven — and Summer, weep! Meera pulls Bran out of the cave to drag him to safety. Bran, who is in a vision at Winterfell, wargs into Wylis, causing the boy to have a seizure. He is also inhabiting Hodor in the present, and Meera shouts at Hodor to “Hold the door!” to stop the wights. As Wylis writhes on the ground in the vision, he yells out “Hold the door!“ as Nan tries to tend to him. Hodor = Hold the door! Do rewatch this scene, everyone, and cry with me about Hodor’s sacrifice.

This whole sequence is important to the past and future mythology of Game of Thrones. There has been endless speculation about the Night King’s relationship to Bran, including fans who are positive that Bran is the Night King.

Season 6 wasn’t over for Bran yet. As he and Meera flee the wights, they are rescued by Bran’s long-lost uncle, Benjen Stark, who disappeared early in Season 1. Benjen is not alive, but he’s not a White Walker either. (Benjen rescues Jon late in Season 7, too, but then he’s taken down by the wights. Bye, Benjen.) Bran, now the Three-Eyed Raven, has one more important vision: He returns to the Tower of Joy, witnessing Jon’s birth and Ned’s sister, Lyanna, handing Jon to Ned as she’s dying.

In Season 7, Bran and Meera go back through the Wall to Castle Black, and later return to Winterfell. There, he is reunited with Sansa, and then Arya. Bran is honing his powers of sight into the past and present, and doing fun side projects like busting Littlefinger for his treachery. He plans to tell Jon who he really is, especially after Sam tells Bran that Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna married, making Jon the true heir to the Iron Throne.

Bran also continues to be psychically connected to the Night King — not good! But if he wargs into the ice dragon Viserion in order to bring down the Army of the Dead? Good!

Back From the Dead to Fight the Dead

Just like Ghost, the Albino direwolf he adopts, Jon Snow is the runt of the Stark family litter. Eternally emo, he is treated like shit at Winterfell by matriarch Catelyn Stark because he’s the bastard son of Ned Stark and a “tavern whore” (oR sO He tHiNkS!!!). It’s a pretty easy decision then for him to peace out and head north to Castle Black at the Wall to join the Night’s Watch, who, rather than being the band of valiant soldiers Jon imagined, are actually a bunch of conscripted losers and criminals.

Jon befriends Samwell Tarly (a proud nerd), aces his training, and swears his oath. Lord Commander Jeor Mormont takes a shine to him and bestows upon him Longclaw, a sword made of Valyrian steel that once belonged to his son, Jorah, who’s now in exile (and eternally pining for Daenerys). But not long after swearing his oath, Jon almost quits the Night’s Watch to head south and avenge the recently headless Ned. He’s convinced to stay and head north of the Wall to try to work out WTF is going on with the White Walkers, and to look for his missing uncle Benjen, a Night’s Watchman who has disappeared.

At Craster’s Keep, a homestead north of the Wall where a dirty old man impregnates his daughters and sacrifices his sons to the White Walkers, Sam meets Gilly, one of Craster’s pregnant daughters. Jon, meanwhile, gets knocked out by Craster while watching him sacrifice a son.

Encountering a band of the Free Folk, aka the wildlings, Jon fights one of them only to discover she’s a woman, Ygritte (who the real Jon Snow will later marry offscreen). He’s supposed to execute Ygritte, but she escapes, and when he chases after her they get trapped in an ice cave and have to share body heat (!!!). Still, Jon resists temptation because he’s a Good Upstanding Night’s Watchman. After mocking both his virginity and lack of knowledge about everything (“You know nothing, Jon Snow”), Ygritte soon takes Jon prisoner. Qhorin Halfhand, another senior Night’s Watchman taken prisoner by the wildlings, has Jon kill him so the Free Folk see him as being on their side. It works! And Ygritte takes Jon to a wildling camp.

At the camp, Jon sees his first giant and mistakes Tormund, a wildling with a good red beard, for Mance Rayder, the actual King Beyond the Wall. It’s pretty embarrassing. Jon convinces them he’s on their side and soon joins their plans to attack the Wall. But first, sex! Cave sex! In a hot spring! With Ygritte!

After cave sex, they climb the Wall and Jon saves Ygritte when she almost falls. The wildlings attack an old man’s farm on the other side of the Wall, but Jon can’t kill the poor old fella, so Ygritte does it with an arrow. Having shown he’s not truly a wildling, Jon fights with Orell, who’s got a major crush on Ygritte, and only defeats him when Bran, who was also captured while beyond the Wall to find the Three-Eyed Raven, enters the mind of his direwolf and comes to the rescue. Jon escapes, but a heartbroken Ygritte expresses her discontent by shooting a bunch of arrows at him.

Recovering back at Castle Black, Jon is as shocked as the rest of us to learn about the Red Wedding. Ramsay Bolton has surmised (correctly) that with Robb and Catelyn Stark out of the way, Jon will be the next most influential Stark, even if he’s the runt.

Jon joins the other Night’s Watchmen in defeating some mutineers who killed Jeor Mormont and took over Craster’s Keep. Back at Castle Black, Mance and his wildling army launch an attack. And when Ygritte hesitates in shooting Jon with an arrow for just long enough, Little Orphan Olly — who fled to the Night’s Watch for safety from the wildlings — fires his own arrow, killing her. Wow, Olly, WTF?

As Stannis Baratheon and his army arrive, Jon burns Ygritte’s body to stop her from becoming a wight. Stannis then asks for Jon’s help in convincing Mance to bend the knee and help him retake the North, but he refuses. Ever reasonable (and a little bit of a pyromaniac), Stannis has Mance burned at the stake; Jon shoots him with an arrow to put him out of his misery.

Old mate Sam nominates Jon to serve as the new lord commander, which he wins thanks to Maester Aemon’s deciding vote. After Jon beheads someone who defies his commands to show he means business, other members of the Night’s Watch slowly turn on him because of his affection for the Free Folk. Joined by Tormund, Jon heads north of the Wall to Hardhome to try to convince the wildlings to put aside their beef and fight the undead together. But they’re suddenly attacked by — wait for it — the White Walkers and their wight army. Jon’s Valyrian steel sword, however, is able to shatter one White Walker into a zillion pieces to everyone’s surprise, most notably the shattered White Walker’s.

Suddenly, the Night King turns up and raises all the dead right in front of Jon as if to say, “You see this, bitch?” Jon does indeed see it and returns to Castle Black with the surviving Wildlings, angering the Night’s Watchmen even more.

After Sam and Gilly head off to Oldtown so Sam can start his nerd (maester) studies, Little Orphan Olly, not content with having brutally murdered Jon’s only love, lures him out to a trap where everybody Julius Caesars him. Olly gets the last word as he plunges the knife into Jon’s heart, “For the Watch.”

Damn, Olly. You ice cold.

But all is not lost! The Red Priestess Melisandre, having returned to Castle Black after Stannis’s campaign came to an end, performs some trademark Melisandre magic and raises Jon from the dead. He executes all the people who stabbed him — take that, Olly! — and then formally leaves the Night’s Watch, having decided quite reasonably that dying constituted an end to that particular legal contract.

After reuniting with Sansa (Stark reunion! *crying*), Jon begins a campaign to reunite the Northern houses to defeat the Boltons and kick them out of Winterfell. Ramsay taunts Jon by telling him he’s holding his youngest brother, Rickon, hostage.

At the Battle of the Bastards, Ramsay tells Rickon to run to Jon and kills him in a hail of arrows (Almost a Stark reunion! *crying*). It looks for a while like Ramsay’s forces have Jon’s encircled during the battle and he almost suffocates to death. But shady old Sansa has successfully petitioned Littlefinger to send forces from the Vale, who come to the rescue at just the right moment. Jon punches Ramsay to a pulp before Sansa feeds him to his own dogs. It’s pretty badass.

The Northern houses, led by young Lyanna Mormont, then proclaim Jon King of the North. It’s quite the promotion. Bran, meanwhile, has had a vision that Jon is really the son of Rhaegar Targaryen, brother of Daenerys Targaryen, and Lyanna Stark, sister of Ned.

Tyrion invites Jon to the island of Dragonstone, where he is able to meet Daenerys Targaryen and ask for some dragonglass to kill the undead. But after an awkward introduction, Jon refuses to bend the knee. With a ragtag group of misfits, he heads to Eastwatch-by-the-Sea to go north of the Wall on a mission to capture a wight and show the other houses what they’re up against. But in the process they become trapped by the Night King’s forces on an icy island. Daenerys flies in at the last minute and saves them, but loses her dragon Viserion in the process (he soon becomes zombified). Jon doesn’t initially make it out with his comrades, but long-lost Uncle Benjen sacrifices himself to allow an escape. RIP.

Taking a ship the hell outta there, Jon calls Dany “my queen.” It’s a major turn-on for her. In King’s Landing, he tries to get Cersei to see just how scary the undead are by showing her their captured wight, but she gets pissed when she learns he’s pledged himself to Dany. She then makes a secret plan to pretend like she’s helping, but really she’s going to double-cross them. Classic Cersei!

Jon and Dany finally have sex on a ship and we see Jon’s butt (it’s quite nice and deserves a mention). Bran also discovers that Rhaegar and Lyanna were secretly married when she gave birth to Jon, meaning that, in addition to being someone who just had sex with his aunt, he’s actually the rightful heir to the Iron Throne.

Arya Stark, Badass Assassin Extraordinaire

When we first meet Arya Stark, we see a young adventurous girl being forced to sew and partake in other traditional lessons expected of a lady of Winterfell. When we last saw Arya, that same girl had turned into an accomplished assassin, a skill she puts to efficient use when she slashes Littlefinger’s throat for betraying the Stark family.

To get there, Arya’s path was long and winding, and marked by personal loss and a drive to avenge her family.

In Season 1, she and her sister Sansa join their father, Ned Stark, on a trip to King’s Landing after he is named hand of the king; Ned thought it would be valuable for his daughters to experience how the Seven Kingdoms’ major court operates. This is where things start to go awry. It’s on this trip that Ned confronts Cersei about her children’s parentage: Joffrey and the others don’t biologically belong to her husband, King Robert Baratheon, and are instead the product of brother–sister incest. After Robert dies on a hunting trip, Cersei and Joffrey have Ned arrested. Arya escapes the castle and takes to the streets in search of safety from the Lannisters. And it’s from the streets that she witnesses her father’s public beheading. In her despair, and with her life in mortal danger, Arya is whisked away by Yoren, a recruiter for the Night’s Watch who was a friend to Ned.

To keep her disguised on their journey out of King’s Landing, Yoren cuts Arya’s hair and tells her to pretend to be a boy so she can join him as a new recruit for the Night’s Watch in the North.

The journey is short-lived, however, when the group of recruits is captured and brought to Harrenhal. As a prisoner, Arya starts to recite the names of her enemies and quietly begins to plot her revenge against those who have wronged the Starks.

Arya remains at Harrenhal and even serves as Lord Tywin Lannister’s cupbearer. Once he discovers she’s a girl, she escapes from the castle with the help of Jaqen H’ghar, another man originally from the Night’s Watch on his way to the Wall. Joined by her friends Gendry and Hot Pie, Arya heads north toward the Riverlands despite the offer from Jaqen to go with him to Braavos and train with the Faceless Men. Before parting ways, Jaqen leaves Arya with a coin and instructions on how to find the Faceless Men: Recite the phrase “Valar Morghulis” to any man from Braavos.

While on their journey, Arya, Gendry, and Hot Pie are captured by the Brotherhood Without Banners, and once her true identity is discovered, Arya is taken to the commander of the Brotherhood in their Riverlands hideout.

She later tries to run away from the Brotherhood, but is captured by the Hound, Sandor Clegane. The Hound tells Arya that he plans to take her to the Twins and ransom her to her mother, Catelyn, and brother Robb, who are attending her uncle’s wedding.

Once there, Arya experiences the most traumatic event in her life: Disguised as a girl and her farmer father, she and the Hound witness the Red Wedding, aka the slaughter of her mother; her brother; his new bride, unborn baby, and direwolf; and hundreds of unsuspecting soldiers.

The Hound takes Arya flee on horseback before anyone realizes who they are. His original plan upended, the Hound sets off for the Eyrie, where he plans to ransom Arya to her aunt Lysa Arryn, but they arrive just days after she was pushed out the Moon Door by Littlefinger. After leaving the Eyrie, they meet Brienne of Tarth, who swore an oath to Catelyn Stark that she would protect Catelyn’s daughters. The Hound loses the ensuing battle, but Brienne loses track of Arya, who hides and runs away. She travels by horse until she finds a ship setting sail for Braavos, and upon showing the captain her coin from Jaqen H’ghar and repeating “Valar morghulis,” she’s allowed to board.

Once she arrives, the youngest Stark daughter struggles in Braavos but eventually finds a home at the House of Black and White, and trains with Jaqen in the cult of the Many-Faced God. While learning to become “no one,” Arya kills the first person on her list, Meryn Trant, by using her new skills and switching faces. But Jaqen punishes Arya for “taking a life that wasn’t hers,” and makes her go blind.

After redeeming herself, Arya is given her vision back but ultimately has to flee Braavos and the House of Black and White when she fails to complete a mission to kill another woman.

Arya begins her journey back in Westeros by first going to the Twins, where she disguises herself as a server and seeks revenge on Walder Frey for carrying out the Red Wedding. She slits his throat, then, using his face to trick the rest of House Frey, poisons them all at a feast. After leaving the Twins, she journeys on and stops at the Inn at the Crossroads, where she reunites with Hot Pie and learns her brother Jon Snow has been named King in the North after retaking Winterfell and defeating the Boltons.

After some time, Arya lands back in Winterfell and is able to finally come face-to-face with her sister Sansa, now Lady Stark after Jon leaves her in charge when he goes to meet Daenerys Targaryen at Dragonstone.

Arya’s final act in Season 7 is, of course, another lethal mission, this time as she and Sansa expose Littlefinger for his treachery. After Sansa lays out her case for treason, prompting Littlefinger to beg for his life, Arya coldly slashes his throat, leaving him gasping in a pool of blood.

Arya is a long way from the girl we met in Winterfell in Season 1; now she’s got a revenge list no one wants to be on. With just six episodes left, we’ll see how many names she’s able to check off.

The Leader of the Pack

From the beginning, Sansa Stark, the eldest daughter of Catelyn and Ned Stark, has dreams of living a fairy-tale life in King’s Landing. Then King Robert Baratheon asks her father to become hand of the king and she is betrothed to Prince Joffrey.

But once in King’s Landing, Sansa quickly gets a taste of how treacherous the capital is and how deceitful the players are.

It isn’t long before she witnesses the death of her father, who was beheaded at Joffrey’s command, and cruelly forced to look upon his head on a spike.

All alone at King’s Landing with few allies, Sansa slowly begins to wilt under the constant humiliation and psychological warfare from the Lannisters. But after several seasons of this, she’s finally given a brief glimmer of hope.

After Joffrey is poisoned (later revealed to be the handiwork of Lady Olenna) and killed in Season 4, Sansa immediately escapes the commotion with Ser Dontos, who leads her to a ship where Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish is waiting.

They travel (without Dontos, who was killed on Littlefinger’s orders) to the Eyrie, where Sansa’s aunt, Lysa Arryn, rules as lady regent of the Vale. Arryn and Littlefinger quickly marry after she confesses to poisoning her husband and framing the Lannisters to prove her love for Littlefinger.

Meanwhile, Sansa uses the code name “Alayne” to throw people off about her real identity, as she is being hunted down by the Lannisters. But her troubles continue when Lysa accuses her of instigating a kiss with Littlefinger. Mad with jealousy, Lysa attempts to throw Sansa through the Moon Door, but relents after Littlefinger promises to send Sansa away. Of course, Littlefinger the Liar instead throws Lysa out of the hatch and she plummets to her death.

Still not necessarily safe from Cersei’s clutches and traveling with a guardian with questionable morals, Sansa soon learns that she will be going back to Winterfell, but the reunion at her birthplace will be anything but joyous: She’s to be married to Ramsay Bolton, whose father, Roose Bolton, murdered her brother Robb and who now serves as warden of the north.

While there, Sansa is repeatedly raped and belittled by Ramsay, who later becomes warden of the north after murdering his father, stepmother, and half brother.

The terror Sansa experiences at Ramsay’s hands only ends once she — having learned a thing or two from Littlefinger about being duplicitous — calls upon the Vale to help her reclaim her rightful place as the figurehead of Winterfell. Oh yeah, the Vale are also the folks who got her brother Jon Snow out of that tiny bind he was in while attempting to take back the castle during the Battle of the Bastards.

In Season 7, Sansa is reunited with her sister, Arya. Both women have changed in different ways, and once again it seems like their differences will drive the sisters apart.

Littlefinger, in an attempt to prey on suspicions about the person Arya has turned into, tries to plant the fear in Sansa’s head that her little sister wants her dead. Littlefinger’s mind game seemingly works, especially considering how stunned Sansa looks as she watches Arya and Brienne show off their sword-fighting skills.

When the time comes, those seeds of doubt Littlefinger thought he had placed in Sansa’s head about Arya are turned against him when it’s revealed that Sansa was onto his game. His surprise trial — which he thought was for Arya — includes charges that he worked with Cersei and Joffrey to undermine Ned Stark, as well as the murder of Sansa’s aunt Lysa.

As he begs for his life and no one comes to his aid, Arya slits his throat with the dagger once used in an attempt to kill her brother Bran in Season 1.

Now, as we look ahead to Season 8, Sansa faces another enemy: the White Walkers, who are slowly but surely making their way to Winterfell.

After all she’s been through, it may be naive to wish things turn out well for Sansa, but as she acknowledges to Littlefinger before sentencing him to die: “I’m a slow learner, it’s true, but I learn.”

Let’s hope she’s learned enough to survive what comes next.

The Golden-Handed Kingslayer

Jaime Lannister, who earned the nickname Kingslayer for stabbing the Mad King (Aerys Targaryen) in the back while he served in the Kingsguard, starts the series joining King Robert Baratheon on his journey to Winterfell. It’s there that, after he and sister, Cersei, are caught having sex, he pushes Bran Stark out of the window of a tower. The fall leaves Bran paralyzed, a key plot point that grows more meaningful as time goes on.

After the trip to Winterfell, Jaime joins his father, Tywin, in searching for his brother, Tyrion, who is being held captive by Catelyn Stark on suspicion of attempting to kill Bran. After winning a battle at Golden Tooth, Jaime then sets out for Riverrun to fight Robb Stark and his army, but ends up being captured.

Jaime remains imprisoned at the Stark camp until he strikes a deal with Catelyn and she agrees to have Brienne of Tarth escort him back to King’s Landing in exchange for her captive daughters, Sansa and Arya. But while on their journey south, the two are taken captive by a man from House Bolton. And it’s during this imprisonment that Jaime’s life is forever changed when his sword-fighting hand is cut off by his captors, leaving him weakened physically and mentally.

Jaime and Brienne are eventually taken to Harrenhal, where the Kingslayer has surgery on his arm. Roose Bolton eventually agrees to let Jaime head back toward King’s Landing, but not Brienne. Already on his way to the capital, Jaime learns that Bolton plans to torture Brienne, so he returns to Harrenhal to find her forced to fight a bear (with a wooden sword!). After he intervenes and helps save her, they both set off for King’s Landing.

In King’s Landing, Cersei gives Jaime a gold prosthetic hand, and, after being given a new Valyrian steel sword, refuses orders to return to Casterly Rock and rule in Tywin’s stead.

But more tragedy awaits as he later holds his son Joffrey as he dies from poison secretly administered by Olenna Tyrell on his wedding day. (He also inflicts his own pain and suffering on Cersei when he rapes her in front of Joffrey’s body.)

The backstabbing and intrigue only continue with Cersei hellbent on Tyrion paying with his life in a fixed trial — she believes conspired with Sansa to kill Joffrey. The end result is a trial by combat, nullifying a deal Jaime made with Tywin: He’d return to Casterly Rock as the Lannister heir if Tyrion were sent to the Night’s Watch after being declared guilty. But Jaime’s unhappiness with how everything went down — and his belief that Tyrion was not involved in Joffrey’s death — prompts him to break Tyrion out of prison, which in turn leads to Tywin’s murder.

Later, after getting what is perceived to be a threatening message from Dorne, Jaime and Ser Bronn of the Blackwater attempt to secretly rescue his and Cersei’s daughter, Myrcella, who is betrothed to Trystane Martell to strengthen the Lannister alliance. But Ellaria Sand and the Sand Snakes are waiting for him and he’s imprisoned. However, Trystane’s father, Doran, allows Jaime to return with his “niece” after he agrees to Trystane taking his uncle Oberyn’s place on the Small Council.

After boarding the ship, however, Ellaria gives Myrcella a poisonous kiss on the lips to avenge the death of Oberyn, and Myrcella dies in Jaime’s arms, forcing him to return to King’s Landing with yet another dead child.

Ellaria later stages a coup after Jaime demands her head for killing his daughter.

Back at King’s Landing, Jaime’s sister gets herself into a hot mess after enabling the Faith Militant, only to wind up locked up by the Sparrows for having an incestuous affair with her cousin, Lance. She must then endure the Shame Nun, who eventually breaks her into confessing, and the naked walk of atonement to the Red Keep.

After consoling Cersei, Jaime proposes using Tyrell forces to drive out the High Sparrow, who is preparing to make Margaery also do a walk of atonement. However, when he arrives with the army, the High Sparrow emerges from the Great Sept with Tommen to announce that Margaery will be released amid a new alliance with the Lannister House.

Tommen then commands Jaime and his army to retake Riverrun for the Freys, which they do. But when he returns, he finds that Cersei has carried out the act of mass murder that he killed Aerys Targaryen to prevent: the use of wildfire to destroy the Great Sept (and all the Sparrows with it), and that, as a result, Tommen, their last remaining child, has killed himself. He leads the Lannister army, which has joined forces with the Tarlys, to Highgarden, where they defeat House Tyrell. It’s only after he forces Lady Olenna to drink poison that she tells him she was really the one behind Joffrey’s death.

During his return to King’s Landing, Jaime comes face-to-face with dragons and their destruction when Daenerys Targaryen shows up with Drogon and the Dothraki soldiers, decimating his caravan. He nearly takes out Dany in a surprise attack when she lands, but Drogon unleashes fire at the last second, and he is forced to jump into the river and escape.

After lamenting the power of the dragons, he convinces Cersei to meet Jon Snow, Daenerys, and Tyrion at the Dragonpit to discuss an armistice to defeat the White Walkers. Cersei eventually promises to support their cause, but later tells Jaime she has no real plans to do so, prompting him to leave King’s Landing and ride north to join the fight against the Army of the Dead.

Jaime now faces the difficult realities of his choice to join the North in fighting the White Walkers for the sake of the rest of Westeros, knowing Cersei doesn’t plan to abide by the truce.

Backstabber to Hero

Oh, Theon — you have caused so much trouble!

Before the events of Game of Thrones, Lord Balon Greyjoy of the Iron Islands, Theon’s father, chose the losing side during Robert Baratheon’s rebellion. As a punishment, Theon was made a “ward” (sort of like a hostage) of Ned and Catelyn Stark. He was raised with the Stark kids, as a seething sibling, but grew especially close to Robb, his peer.

At the start of the story in Season 1, we see that Theon might be trouble. He’s full of resentment, has misplaced ambitions, and thinks he’s smarter than he is — he’s basically a total asshole. Robb trusts Theon like a brother, though, and Theon is a strong fighter, so Robb takes him south, first to the Twins where the Freys are, and then to fight alongside him on the battlefield. After Ned is executed, and Robb is declared King of the North, Theon swears his loyalty to Robb.

It doesn’t last. Against Catelyn’s advice (she sees Theon for who he is), Robb sends Theon to the Iron Islands to forge an alliance with his father. But Balon still hates the Starks, and is planning to invade the unprotected North. Also, Theon has arrived home to find himself displaced in his father’s affections (such as they ever were) by his sister, Yara.

It’s not long before Theon betrays Robb, and invades Winterfell himself on his father’s behalf. He succeeds in taking over the castle, but botches almost everything about it — including letting Bran and Rickon, once his little brothers, escape. Theon sends one of his lackeys to find two other innocent boys, murder them, and burn their bodies beyond recognition. He hangs their bodies on display at Winterfell, saying it’s Rickon and Bran. Disgusting, Theon!

Soon, though, Theon’s dumb luck will end. Like...end horribly.

Roose Bolton sends his son, Ramsay, to Winterfell to take it back for Robb. Theon is brought to the Bolton castle, the Dreadfort. There he is tortured — and fooled by Ramsay, who is a psychotic sadist — and then tortured some more. He is flayed, he is castrated, and he is kept on a rack. Ramsay breaks him down so viciously, naming Theon “Reek” because of how bad he smells, that not only does he not kill Ramsay when he has the chance, but when Yara comes to rescue him, he won’t go with her.

Theon goes to Winterfell with Ramsay, acting as his obedient servant. At Winterfell, Ramsay is going to be a warden of the North and marry Sansa, Theon’s former sister. Theon is in full Reek mode, and therefore he isn’t capable of helping Sansa, even when Ramsay rapes her on their wedding night and insists Theon watch. (That scene was divisive to say the least, with Sen. Claire McCaskill backlash-tweeting that it was “disgusting and unacceptable,” while others praised it for presenting rape as the horror that it is. Also, there were calls for boycotts.)

Ramsay’s control over Reek weakens, however, as Sansa continually begs for Theon’s help, especially after he tells her that the boys he killed at Winterfell weren’t Bran and Rickon. In the finale of Season 5 — after three seasons in captivity — Theon escapes Ramsay, jumping with Sansa from the Winterfell wall.

On the run, Theon leaves Sansa in the care of Brienne — a better bodyguard than he is — and heads back to the Iron Islands and his pissed-off sister. But he wins Yara back by supporting her in her quest to be queen of the Ironborn, an act that pits both of them against their uncle, Euron.

Yara and Theon then steal the best ships of the Iron Fleet from Euron, and head east to the Free Cities. It’s a move that totally backfires later, but first, they join up with Dany and Tyrion in Meereen and declare themselves loyal to her. (We’re now at the end of Season 6.)

At Dragonstone at the beginning of Season 7, Dany asks Yara and Theon to take Ellaria Sand back to Dorne. While they’re on their way, and right before Yara and Ellaria make out in earnest, their ships are attacked by Euron, who takes Yara hostage as Theon — back in coward mode — watches helplessly.

After being rescued and brought back to Dragonstone, Theon sees Jon Snow for the first time since Season 1 — and Jon is not happy to see him! In the season finale, Theon goes to the Dragonpit summit in King’s Landing with Team Dany, where he sees Euron, who tells him that Yara is still alive. By the end of the episode, Theon, having been forgiven by Jon, is heading god-knows-where to rescue Yara accompanied with some scraggly Ironborn guys.

As far as where Theon fits into the final season’s endgame, I imagine his redemption tour will continue, with him finding Yara and possibly killing Euron.

I also think Theon may well die! If he does, I will raise a glass to him.

Brothers in Violence and Loathing

The Clegane brothers. In the ranking of fucked-up people, they would surely be up there.

The arc of the elder brother, Gregor “the Mountain” Clegane, is decidedly less interesting: He’s an unrepentant rapist and murderer unquestioningly loyal to House Lannister — and especially to Cersei. He defeats Tyrion’s champion, Oberyn Martell, in a trial by combat, only to succumb to poisoned stab wounds Oberyn inflicted on him in the fight. But then Cersei’s amoral ex-maester, Qyburn, brings the Mountain back as a giant Franken-zombie who does the queen’s bidding — you know, like torturing the Shame Nun. And that’s the Mountain!

Sandor “the Hound” Clegane, on the other hand, is a messy bitch who loves drama and has seen it unfold across Westeros. He also has zero love for his brother; Gregor was a vicious bully who burned Sandor’s face in a fire when they were children.

Here are the main points on the Hound:

  • The Hound kills the innocent butcher’s boy who had befriended Arya on the orders of idiot psychopath Joffrey Baratheon, for whom he serves as bodyguard.
  • He’s there for the purge of the Starks from King’s Landing after Ned Stark accuses Idiot Psychopath of being a product of incest.
  • A member of the Kingsguard, the Hound is also present for the Battle of the Blackwater, but after witnessing the use of wildfire to decimate Stannis Baratheon’s fleet, he defects — not a fan of fire, the Hound! — and heads north.
  • In the Riverlands, the Hound is arrested by the Brotherhood Without Banners and confronted by Arya, who demands justice for the murder of the butcher’s boy (RIP Mycah). Except the Hound wins his trial by combat by killing Lord Beric (flaming sword and all), only to witness him brought back to life by Red Priest Thoros.
  • The Hound later captures Arya with the intent to ransom her to King Robb Stark at the wedding of Edmure Tully and Roslin Frey at the Twins. But once again, he encounters drama as they arrive to witness the Red Wedding and bloody Frey betrayal unfolding. The duo barely escapes.
  • On the way to ransom Arya to her aunt Lysa Arryn in the Vale, the Hound encounters Brienne of Tarth, who had sworn an oath to Catelyn Stark to bring her daughters home. Brienne ends up kicking his ass, and Arya leaves him to die despite his pleas for her to just kill him right there.
  • After his road to recovery (which, shocker, involves more dead people) the Hound ultimately joins the group of men — including the Brotherhood Without Banners — led by Jon Snow beyond the Wall to retrieve a wight as proof to Cersei that the White Walkers’ a wight as proof to Cersei that the White Walkers’ army of the dead is very real and very determined.

After all of that ish, the Mountain and Hound reunite at the end of Season 7 as the wight is presented in all its undead glory to Cersei at the Dragonpit. During a brief confrontation, the Hound appears taken aback by the new zombie fighter version of his brother, but still vows to end him.

“You’re even fuckin’ uglier than I am now. What did they do to you?” the Hound asks his silent Franken-brother. “Doesn’t matter. That’s not how it ends for you, brother. You know who’s coming for you. You’ve always known.“

He’s last seen sailing to White Harbor on his way to Winterfell to aid in the fight against the Night King. It sure looks like Season 8 will bring us that long-hyped and long-hoped-for brother vs. brother Cleganebowl in which only one terrifyingly large (pseudo-)human prevails!

Lettering by Juan Carlos Pagan; Images courtesy HBO; Maps by BuzzFeed News

For more on the final season of Game of Thrones, click here.

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