Somehow, it seems like we've always had the people of Westeros in our lives, and looking back at characters in season 1 of Game of Thrones, we can at least be certain that it's been a long, long time since we first met some of these plucky, young whippersnappers. From Arya to Sansa to the Mother of Dragons herself, the Game of Thrones cast has changed a lot since season 1. Age is a funny thing that way.
But while we're likely to spend most of Game of Thrones season 8 clutching our own faces and hoping our faves don't end up dead (or worse, wights!), and rooting for a few of them to end up on the all might Iron Throne, we're also allowed to take a moment to feel a little sentimental. These characters weren't always so powerful, or successful. In fact, there was a time when they were all just scraping by.
These one-time kiddos started out this world with big dreams (Arya wanted to be a great fighter, Sansa wanted to be a queen, and Dany just wanted her damn dragons), and now, those dreams are realized! It's enough to make your eyes well up with prideful tears.
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Daenerys in Season 1 of Game of Thrones
Back when we first met Dany, she had nothing. She was being sold to Khal Drogo as his bride; her brother was dictating her every move; and she seemed completely at the whims of others. Only, she had a fire inside that demanded to be set free.
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Daenerys in Season 8 of Game of Thrones
Looking back at season 1, it's hard to imagine that this Dany and that Dany are the same person. She's now rolling into other people's kingdoms, draped in furs, and making out with the most desirable bachelor in the North. Of course, that's all about to get very, very complicated since Jon Snow now knows they're related.
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Jon Snow in Season 1 of Game of Thrones
This wee little youngling was just trying to do right in the world and to find a place where his bastard status wouldn't be a burden. So off to the Night's Watch Jon went.
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Jon Snow in Season 8 of Game of Thrones
Now, Jon knows he's not a bastard, he's got a complicated relationship with his relative-he-didn't-know-he-was-related-to-until-now, and he's actually the rightful king of Westeros. Not too shabby (except for the whole accidental incense bit, of course).
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Sansa in Season 1 of Game of Thrones
Once upon a time, Sansa was most concerned with pretty dresses and sewing lessons, but ultimately that was because she was raised to do so. Under all that, she still knew how to sling a hell of a one-liner, which should have tipped us off...
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Sansa in Season 8 of Game of Thrones
And y'all thought she was just a girl looking for a gown. Sansa has learned a thing or two over the years, and she's had some truly harrowing experiences. The result is the shrewd, powerful, pragmatic Lady in the North that we deserve.
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Arya in Season 1 of Game of Thrones
Wee baby Arya just wanted to fight like her brother did in the Winterfell yard. With the exception of Jon, none of the Stark kids seemed to be as skilled as Arya, but it wasn't until she escaped King's Landing pretending to be a young boy, Arry, that she got her chance to shine.
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Arya in Season 8 of Game of Thrones
Now, Arya is a seasoned assassin, something she sweetly betrays to Jon when they finally reunite at Winterfell. And now that Gendry is back in the picture, things are looking very good for Arya heading into the finale.
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Varys in Season 1 of Game of Thrones
Good luck telling the difference between Varys in season 1 and Varys now. Maybe it's all the secrets he keeps but he never seems to change.
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Sam Tarly in Season 1 of Game of Thrones
Little Sam was once just a scared young man forced into service at the Wall. Even back then, there were hints that he was destined for more.
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Sam Tarly in Season 8 of Game of Thrones
Sam hasn't become a great warrior, but he has shown himself to be an important player because of his greatest strength: knowledge (specifically of that whole R+L=J business).
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Cersei in Season 1 of Game of Thrones
Once upon a time, Cersei looked like every privileged queen in every painting we'd ever seen: Extravagant gowns, long flowing hair, and free-flowing wine. Despite all that, her eyes were filled with contempt and deceit. It was clear she'd be a major player in the endgame.
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Cersei in Season 8 of Game of Thrones
Now, there are two rulers in Westeros, and Cersei is naturally one of them. While her locks were taken from her at the hands of a religious zealot, her new 'do goes well with her new warrior queen look. It's a visual that betrays just how worried Dany should be about the woman on the Iron Throne.
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Tyrion in Season 1 of Game of Thrones
Tyrion started out as the "god of tits and wine" — the one Lannister the other Lannisters left out, mistrusted, and generally forgot. He spent his time on leisure, rather than getting in the thick of the action. Even when he did step up, he was knocked out immediately and his family never let him forget it.
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Tyrion in Season 8 of Game of Thrones
Now, Tyrion is the hand of the Queen and, hopefully, the queen on the right side of history. He attempted to broker peace with his sister Cersei, but his familial bond and trust of a ruthless monarch who just happens to be his sister may get him in trouble.
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Jaime in Season 1 of Game of Thrones
Season 1 Jaime was awful. He was a douchey knight, committing adultery and incest, trying to kill small boys named Bran because he wanted to be able to continue said problematic sex. On top of it all, he was arrogant and completely insufferable.
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Jaime in Season 8 of Game of Thrones
I know they say that people don't change, but in the case of Jaime Lannister, that adage is a lie. Jaime has lost everyone he loved and felt the gravity of his past decisions, and now, he truly seems to want to do the right thing. We'll just have to see how that goes.
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Theon in Season 1 of Game of Thrones
Theon was a jerk, full stop. As Ned Stark's ward, you'd think he'd have learned some manners, but as we quickly learned in subsequent seasons, the situation just made him resentful and hungry for his own power.
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Theon in Season 8 of Game of Thrones
Theon has been through it. Much like Jaime, he seems to be committed to living out the rest of his (let's be honest, likely short) days doing right by his sister Yara and the North, where he was raised by Ned Stark.
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Missandei in Season 3 of Game of Thrones
Missandei started out as a liberated slave, meek and subservient to her new queen, Daenerys. She definitely started to betray that she had a mind of her own, but only subtly in those first few appearances.
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Brienne in Season 2 of Game of Thrones
When we first met Brienne, she was a gruff warrior with only one focus: achieving her mission. We did occasionally see her softer side break through, but pretty much only when Jaime Lannister was around.
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Brienne in Season 8 of Game of Thrones
Now, Brienne has a stronger sense of self and has allowed herself to show affection (in her own way) to young warriors in which she sees promise. She scooped up Podrick Payne and later gave Arya her respect. But ultimately, Brienne has always been a badass.
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Grey Worm in Season 8 of Game of Thrones
Now, Grey Worm is a top member of Dany's team and he's got a talented, badass partner in Missandei. The only thing is that because he's still a warrior, he's got a major target on his back in season 8.
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Podrick Payne in Season 8 of Game of Thrones
Now, Podrick has a much better setup, working as the right-hand man to Brienne of Tarth. Not only has he grown up a bit, he seems, dare I say it, happier.
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Bran in Season 1 of Game of Thrones
Way back when, Bran was a young sprite climbing all over the Winterfell walls. But that all ended when Jaime pushed him out a window. He spent much of the first few seasons being carted around by Hodor and his other caretakers.
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Bran in Season 8 of Game of Thrones
Bran still can't walk, but he's got a much cooler ability now that he's the Three-Eyed Raven. Of course, that ability also makes him a bit of a sullen teenage dud when it comes to moments like, you know, Jon Snow returning to Westeros alive. That disposition probably doesn't help all those Bran/Night King theories, either.
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Gendry in Season 2 of Game of Thrones
Ah, what a fresh face young Gendry once had! He was working as a blacksmith's apprentice in King's Landing until the Lannisters started murdering anyone who might be a Baratheon bastard. Luckily, he escaped and met Arya on the road.
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Gendry in Season 8 of Game of Thrones
Now, Gendry has seen some stuff. What? We're not sure. Apparently, he was just rowing the whole time he wasn't on our screens. But now, he's a skilled weaponsmith in the fight against the White Walkers. He's also still gots lots of chemistry with Arya now that they're not kiddos.
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Jorah Mormont in Season 3 of Game of Thrones
When we first met Jorah, he was a necessary guide for young Dany. He often spotted danger for Daenerys before she ever could, but even back then it was clear his affections were pretty romantic in nature.
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The Hound in Season 1 of Game of Thrones
And the award for Least Changed Character In Westeros goes to...
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The Hound in Season 8 of Game of Thrones
... The Hound because he literally hasn't changed an ounce. And that, in essence, the basis of his charm.