As Game of Thrones approaches the launch of its final season, fans are attempting to cope with the fact that seven seasons' worth of set-up will soon culminate in just six episodes of action. With the multi-layered nature of the show’s plot, it’s understandable that even the most dedicated of viewers could use a refresher on everything that’s happened so far - and how those events will prove impactful as the series reaches its conclusion.
The eighth and final season of Game of Thrones begins airing on HBO on April 14, 2019. While the list of living characters has dwindled, there are still more than a dozen major players active in the plot, and each of them will be completing arcs that have spanned across multiple seasons. By looking at where these characters began, fans can gain perspective on just how far each of them has come.
The early seasons of GoT feature precious few glimpses of the White Walkers, making the overall looming threat of the series all the more mysterious. Season 4 includes one of the earliest glimpses into White Walker culture, and it’s as intriguing as it is terrifying.
Following the chaos at Craster’s Keep, a White Walker is shown carrying Craster’s infant son into the far north of the continent. After being delivered to the Night King, the baby undergoes a process that seems to transform it into a White Walker - the first direct hint of the Others' supernatural origins.
With Season 8 set to center primarily around the conflict between humanity and the White Walkers, it’s important to keep in mind that the frosty foes all began as humans themselves.
After traveling with the Hound for much of Season 4, Arya Stark is offered the opportunity to be rescued by Brienne of Tarth. Rather than accept the protection of yet another strange adult, Arya finally decides to strike out on her own - a path that takes her across the Narrow Sea to Essos.
At the fourth season’s conclusion, Arya leaves the Hound to perish and cashes in on the mysterious Braavosi coin given to her by Jaqen H’ghar. The token buys Arya passage to Braavos and into the House of Black and White, a temple in which she learns the arts of combat and face-changing.
This training proves vital to the formation of Arya as she exists heading into Season 8 - a shapeshifting cutthroat with a heart of stone and a long list of targets.
The entirety of Season 4's ninth episode is dedicated to the Night’s Watch and their desperate attempt to protect Castle Black from a Wildling onslaught. Jon Snow and his compatriots are ultimately successful, but at a terrible cost: several brothers are lost to the battle, as is Ygritte, Jon’s love.
The grace shown by Snow to his Wildling opponents in the wake of this fight sets the stage for the betrayal of the Night’s Watch mutineers, which in turn leads to Jon’s demise, resurrection, and exit from the Night’s Watch.
His fair treatment of Tormund Giantsbane and the other surviving Wildlings also lays the groundwork for the grand northern alliance which Jon heads leading up to Season 8 - he is not only King in the North but also head of a united front against the White Walkers.
Season 4 sees Bran Stark, the Reed twins, and faithful Hodor journey north of the Wall and directly into some serious trouble. Bran and his compatriots encounter some mutinous members of the Night’s Watch at Craster’s Keep during a turbulent scene that has them almost - but not quite - cross paths with Jon Snow. In the end, Bran keeps his friends safe by “warging” into Hodor and forcing the gentle giant to break a man’s neck.
The warging of another human being represents an important ethical line crossed by Bran, one he first dealt with in Season 3. While the first time could be considered an accident, Season 4 sees Bran purposefully use his power on another person - to say nothing of what he does while controlling Hodor’s body. Though he was acting in self-defense, this action marks the beginning of a more ethically ambiguous Bran, one that doesn’t mind surveying time and space as the Three-Eyed Raven by the time Season 8 rolls around.
Bran eventually uses his warging power to travel into and alter the past, dooming Hodor and his own moral compass in the process.