WARNING: ALL THE SPOILERS AHEAD.
It’s always wise to remember that the journey is just as important as the destination—a lesson especially pertinent to fans during the final season of Game of Thrones. Whether or not the series did a competent job of concluding its various storylines is a controversial topic, but few would argue that the character arcs of Game of Thrones themselves stand as some of the most compelling in recent television history.
Every character on Game of Thrones—and A Song of Ice and Fire, the book series from which it was adapted—experiences some sort of personal journey throughout the course of the story. Whether they be a major protagonist like Tyrion Lannister or a supporting figure like Hot Pie, everybody in Westeros gets an arc, and no one is left unscathed by the wars of the Seven Kingdoms.
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"Stick 'Em With The Pointy End"
- Young Arya rejects the traditional feminine trappings of sewing and courtesy by engaging in swordplay and archery. She adopts a direwolf pup and names her Nymeria.
- She accompanies her father to King’s Landing. Along the way, Sandor Clegane murders her friend Mycah.
- Syrio Forel teachers her to fight and saves her life when the Kingsguard come to take her captive. She witnesses her father’s public execution.
- Yoren, a recruiter for the Night’s Watch, sneaks her out of King's Landing and spirits her back to the North. Along the way, she befriends Gendry, Hot Pie, and Jaqen H’Ghar.
- Yoren is killed, and the remaining recruits find themselves held captive by Tywin Lannister and Gregor Clegane at Harrenhal. The Lannister men remain ignorant of her identity.
- Arya, Gendry, and Hot Pie escape Harrenhal thanks to Jaqen, who leaves Arya with a mysterious Braavosi coin and the words “Valar Morghulis.”
- The gang are taken in by the Brotherhood Without Banners. The Hound kidnaps her.
- Arya and the Hound arrive too late at the Red Wedding to save her mother and brother from being slaughtered, but manage to escape the chaos.
- Clegane’s continued attempts to ransom Arya fail, but as they travel together, he teaches her how to kill.
- Brienne of Tarth finds them and beats the Hound in a viscous duel. Arya leaves Clegane for dead and departs for Braavos.
- Arya gets to the House of Black and White in Braavos. She reunites with Jaqen H’Ghar. He begins to tutor her in the face-swapping ways of the Faceless Men.
- Following some sanctioned assassination missions, and an instance of outright vengeance against the man who killed Syrio Forel, Arya runs afoul of the Faceless Men and must kill her rival before returning to Westeros.
2,740387Was this one of the best character arcs?
- In Westeros, Arya murders Walder Frey—the perpetrator of the Red Wedding—and all of his male heirs.
- Arya reunites with her sister Sansa and brother Bran in Winterfell. She executes Petyr Baelish.
- She reunites with Jon Snow and kills the Night King in the Battle of Winterfell.
- She accompanies the Hound to King’s Landing where she plans to assassinate Cersei Lannister, only to be talked out of it at the last minute by Sandor. She flees Daenerys' destruction of the city with a new lease on life.
- After the destruction is over, Arya is skeptical of Dany, and tells Jon as much. After Jon kills Dany and is imprisoned, Arya attends the parley with Grey Worm. She helps the Starks negotiate Jon's release, then tells the family that she's going "west of Westeros." She sails away from King's Landing on a Stark-branded shift, seemingly destined for a life of exploration.
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"All Dwarfs Are Bastards In Their Fathers' Eyes"
- Tyrion travels with the royal party to Winterfell, but splits from them to visit The Wall and the Night’s Watch. Here he forms a friendship with Jon Snow.
- On his way back to King’s Landing, Tyrion is wrongly arrested for Bran Stark's attempted assassination.
- Taken to the Eyrie, Tyrion demands a trial-by-combat and is championed by Bronn, who wins his freedom and accompanies Tyrion back to King’s Landing.
The Hand Of The King
- Tyrion fights in the war against the Starks alongside Bronn under the command of his father Tywin. He meets and falls in love with the sex worker Shae.
- He becomes the Hand of the King to his nephew Joffrey Baratheon. He does his best to bring the young monarch into line.
- Tyrion leads the defense of King’s Landing in the Battle of the Blackwater with a clever wildfire scheme, but is wounded in an attempted assassination during the fighting.
- After clashing with his father over Shae, Tyrion is forcibly married to Sansa, though he refuses to consummate the marriage.
- Tyrion is falsely accused of murdering Joffrey by his sister Cersei. After an explosive trial he demands a trial-by-combat.
- Prince Oberyn Martell of Dorne offers to be Tyrion’s champion, but Oberyn dies and Tyrion is sentenced to death.
- His brother Jaime frees him from death row, and Varys spirits Tyrion out of the city, but not before a pit stop to murder the duplicitous Shae and his cruel father.
- Varys sends Tyrion to Essos to join Daenerys Targaryen’s cause. Along the way, Jorah Mormont kidnaps him, and the two of them are in turn captured by slavers.
The Hand Of The Queen
- Tyrion and Jorah show up in Daenerys’ conquered city of Meereen. Tyrion is able to appeal to Dany enough to join her service.
- Following a brief stint of ruling the city during her exodus, Tyrion helps Daenerys regain control of Meereen. He is named Hand of the Queen.
- He accompanies Daenerys and her forces back to Westeros, drawing him into direct conflict with siblings Jaime and Cersei Lannister.
- Tyrion brings Daenerys together with Jon Snow, which allows them to fall in love and form an alliance against the White Walkers.
- He seemingly manages to forge a truce with Cersei after discovering her pregnancy, only to have her go back on her word immediately.
- He survives the Battle of Winterfell alongside Sansa in the crypt, after which he accompanies Daenerys back to King’s Landing.
- He fails to negotiate peace between his sister and his queen and—following one last attempt to aid Jaime in finding a peaceful solution—Tyrion is forced to watch as Daenerys burns King’s Landing to the ground.
Epilogue: The Hand of the King, Part II
2,077338Was this one of the best character arcs?
- After the destruction of King's Landing, Tyrion discovers Jaime and Cersei's bodies.
- After Dany's victory speech, he disavows his title as Hand of the Queen, and is jailed for it.
- In captivity, Tyrion convinces Jon to kill Dany.
- After Jon kills Dany, Tyrion convinces the lords and ladies of the Six Kingdoms and the North to elect Bran the Broken as king.
- Bran names Tyrion Hand.
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- Sandor accompanies the royal party to Winterfell, and on his way back to King’s Landing he kills Arya Stark’s friend under the orders of Cersei Lannister.
- He battles his brother Gregor at a tourney and refuses subsequent offers of knighthood. He joins the Kingsguard when Joffrey Baratheon becomes King.
- Sandor steps in several times to protect Sansa Stark from violence and cruelty.
"F**k The King"
- He defects from the Lannisters during the Battle of the Blackwater. He tries to free Sansa from the Lannisters' cruelty.
- He kidnaps Arya from the Brotherhood Without Borders and attempts to ransom her back to her family. In the process, he becomes a mentor of sorts for the young killer.
- Sandor battles to the near-death with Brienne of Tarth for possession of Arya, only to have Arya leave him for dead.
1,903337Was this one of the best character arcs?
- He is found by a traveling septon and nursed back to health. He is quickly brought back to a life of violence when he newfound community is slaughtered.
- Sandor joins the Brotherhood Without Banners and heads north to confront the coming threat of the White Walkers—a mission that leads him beyond The Wall to kidnap a wight.
- He saves Arya’s life in the Battle of Winterfell, allowing her to kill the Night King and end the conflict.
- He accompanies Arya to King’s Landing where he convinces her to abandon her mission of vengeance—before completing his own by killing his undead brother, dying in the process.
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- Theon accompanies Robb Stark when he marches to war against the Lannisters. After reuniting with his birthfather Balon Greyjoy, he betrays his adoptive brother and family.
- He leads the capture of Winterfell and pretends to murder Bran and Rickon Stark. Shortly thereafter, he loses possession of the castle to Ramsay Snow.
- Theon is tortured so horrifically by Ramsay that he takes on the persona of “Reek,” forgetting his own identity.
- When he frees Sansa Stark from her captivity at Winterfell and her abusive marriage to Ramsay, the old Theon begins to emerge. He returns to his sister Yara’s side.
- Theon attempts to help Yara win the Salt Throne, but they lose out to their mad uncle Euron. The siblings flee Essos in search of Daenerys Targaryen.
- The Greyjoys join Daenerys’ growing army, but their fleet is ambushed by Euron and Yara is captured. The coward Reek takes over once more and Theon flees, leaving Yara with Euron.
1,452512Was this one of the best character arcs?
- After an encounter with Jon Snow reaffirms his Stark identity, Theon mounts a mission to save his sister.
- After saving Yara, he returns to the service of Daenerys in time for the Battle of Winterfell.
- Returning to Winterfell, Theon is warmly welcomed by Sansa, and given the opportunity to directly defend Bran Stark from the coming of the Night King.
- Theon gives his life to save Bran from the Night King and dies a Stark. In so doing, Theon buys Arya Stark enough time to slay the Night King.