Few characters on HBO's Game of Thrones underwent as truly amazing a transformation as Sophie Turner's Sansa Stark. When comparing the naive, spoiled little girl we met in the first episode with the strong, compassionate, brilliant leader we leave in the series finale, it's almost hard to believe that they are one and the same woman. But for eight long, grueling years, Sansa Stark routinely proved why she was one of the best of the best, both in terms of content of character and her sheer level of intellect and cunning in the game of thrones itself.
Sansa endured more hardships and tribulations than most other characters in the series, but she never let any of the abuse she endured break her spirit or stop her from achieving her goals and dreams. She remained kind despite all that she went through, and learned from those who sought to manipulate her for their own gains. "My skin has turned from porcelain, to ivory, to steel," Sansa is famously quoted as saying in A Song of Ice and Fire - and the television series remained entirely faithful to that arc.
8 Season 1: Little Dove
When we first meet young Sansa Stark in Winterfell, she is a perfect little lady, skilled at sewing and desirous of marrying a handsome young prince so that she may one day be queen. She accompanies her father, Ned Stark, to King's Landing, soon finding herself betrothed to the young Prince Joffrey - a fateful decision if ever there was one. Sansa quickly acclimates herself to life in the capital, playing the dutiful role of a future Lady, attending tournaments, and engaging in a seemingly innocent courtship with Joffrey.
Everything changes, however, as soon as King Robert is killed. Soon, Ned Stark tries to expose the truth of Joffrey's birth and the Lannister corruption, leading to Sansa being treated as a traitor because of her father's perceived treason. She is forced to publicly plead for leniency in her father's sentence, including writing a letter to her brother, Robb, with words that are not her own. In the end, Ned is executed while she is forced to watch, and Sansa's life is forever changed.
7 Season 2: Little Bird
When the second season of Game of Thrones begins, Sansa is essentially a prisoner of war within the walls of the Red Keep. She is forced to remain dutiful and acquiescent to King Joffrey, enduring his verbal abuse and physical abuse at the hands of his Kingsguard. She is made to endure threats of violence against her family, perverse wishes that she will lick the blood of her family from Joffrey's sword, and a near rape by enraged citizens of the capital.
But all the while, Sansa remains strong, kind, and increasingly wise. She learns from the teachings passed on to her by Cersei, who teaches her of the role she will be expected to play, but also how to subvert them. She becomes close with Tyrion Lannister and his lover, Shae, who serves as her handmaiden and closest confidante. At season's end, Joffrey ends their engagement so that he may instead marry Margaery Tyrell - but Petyr Baelish makes her realize that Joffrey will never willingly let her go.
6 Season 3: Lady Stark
Now freed of her engagement to King Joffrey, Sansa starts season three more chipper than we've seen her in prior episodes. Though she seems more vibrant and alive, she is also much more aware of the true nature of people and the world in which they live. She comes under the guidance of the Tyrell family, growing close with the manipulative Margaery and the wise matriarch Olenna. Arrangements are made so that Sansa might marry Ser Loras Tyrell, who is closeted, unbeknownst to Sansa.
She refuses Petyr's offer of smuggling her out of King's Landing, though she weeps over the lost opportunity as she watches him leave. The plans for marriage between Loras and Sansa never materialize, as she is forced into marrying none other than Tyrion himself, at the behest of Tywin and Cersei Lannister. While their marriage is never a romantic one, it is clear that they share a deep respect and compassion for one another. But then, as the season draws to an end, the Red Wedding occurs, permanently severing the close bond between Lannister and Stark.
5 Season 4: Alayne Stone
When season four begins, Sansa is in the throes of depression, refusing to eat and no longer praying after the losses that House Stark endured at the Red Wedding. Soon enough, Joffrey and Margaery's wedding day arrives, and with it comes Sansa's opportunity for both revenge and escape. Joffrey is brutally poisoned by Olenna Tyrell, thanks to poison that had been hidden in the gemstone of a necklace Sansa wore. Lest she be accused of murder, Sansa is smuggled out of the city by Ser Dontos Hollard and Littlefinger, who then takes Sansa to the Vale of Arryn.
At first, Sansa assumes the identity of Petyr's niece, Alayne, in order to not rouse suspicion. But upon meeting with her aunt, Lysa Arryn, it becomes clear that the pretense isn't as successful or as needed. As viewers already knew, Lysa is not exactly the most mentally sound character in the series, and she soon becomes convinced that Petyr and Sansa are engaged in a sexual affair, threatening her niece multiple times over it. Before she can kill Sansa, however, Petyr intervenes, throwing Lysa to her death - a fact which Sansa later helps him cover up during an unofficial trial.
4 Season 5: A Bolton Bride
Now with much darker hair and an almost stony demeanor, Sansa accompanies Lord Baelish and her younger cousin, Robin Arryn, as they journey around the Vale. Their course soon changes toward the North, as Littlefinger has brokered a marriage between Sansa and Ramsay Bolton, the bastard son of Roose Bolton, who now lays claim to Winterfell after the betrayal of the Starks at the Red Wedding. Despite her protests, Sansa and Ramsay are married, and she is forced to endure countless instances of sexual and physical abuse at the sadistic Ramsay's hand.
During her period of intense abuse, Sansa reconnects with Theon Greyjoy, who has spent years subjected to Ramsay's cruelty and now only believes his identity to be Reek. Though Theon initially betrays her trust, he soon seems to come back to his former self, and helps Sansa escape from Winterfell, going so far as killing Ramsay's psychopathic lover Myranda to help them reach their freedom.
3 Season 6: The Red Wolf
The sixth season picks up with Sansa and Theon both on the run from the Boltons, fleeing through the freezing woods of the North. Just as it seems as though they will surely be recaptured by Bolton men, Brienne of Tarth and Podrick Payne arrive, saving their lives. Brienne pledges her service to Sansa, as she served her mother before her and must keep her pledge of loyalty as any loyal servant would do. With Brienne and Podrick by her side, Sansa makes her way to Castle Black, culminating in an incredibly emotional reunion with her brother, Jon Snow.
Sansa quickly proves herself to be a shrewd planner of battles and attacks, as she and Jon, along with Ser Davos Seaworth, begin to make plans for reclaiming Winterfell in the name of House Stark. Their plans are made all the more urgent and pressing when they learn that Ramsay has their youngest brother, Rickon, hostage. The Battle of the Bastards ensues, leading to Rickon's tragic death, and a win for House Stark after the knights of the Vale come to fight on Sansa's command. Sansa gets revenge against Ramsay at last, watching him be eaten alive by his own hounds. Jon goes on to be named the King in the North - despite Sansa having routinely shown herself to be the more capable, rational leader.
2 Season 7: Lady of Winterfell
When the seventh season begins, Jon quickly makes clear his intentions to abandon his post as King in the North so that he may go and meet with the Dragon Queen, Daenerys Targaryen. Sansa is, rightfully, livid - until Jon makes it clear that, in his absence, he is leaving the title of Winterfell's leader in her hands. Sansa becomes the ruling Lady of Winterfell, taking care of the daily responsibilities of ruling. She is unexpectedly reunited with both her younger brother, Bran, and her younger sister, Arya.
While many years have passed, the bond between the Starks is closer than ever - until, that is, Littlefinger sees this as a threat, and begins to exploit the long-lasting tensions between the sisters. For some time, Sansa and Arya are shown to be at one another's throats, and the series leads viewers to expect them to turn against each other, with one of them perhaps winding up dead in the end. But by season's end, it's revealed that the Starks were perfectly aware of Lord Baelish's plans all along, as Sansa calls for his execution, and Arya carries out the sentence.
1 Season 8: Queen in the North
The eighth season begins with Sansa still serving as Lady of Winterfell, but her powerful role is immediately compromised by the return of Jon and the arrival of Queen Daenerys. Sansa is once again enraged that Jon would abandon his post as King in the North and bend the knee to the Dragon Queen, feeling as though he has betrayed his loyalty to the North. From the very beginning, Sansa likewise never trusts the Targaryen queen - and everyone can tell it, even Daenerys herself. Sansa's loyalty and interests lie in the North, and she refuses to accept the notion of Daenerys as queen.
Sansa reconnects with old friends such as Theon Greyjoy, Sandor Clegane, and Tyrion Lannister. She survives the Battle of Winterfell by tending to the people in the crypts, and upon learning the truth of Jon's lineage, she reveals the threat to Daenerys' claim to power to her Hand, Tyrion. Sansa remains in the North during the catastrophic Battle of King's Landing, but the reveal of Daenerys' compromised power has already destabilized loyalty within her ranks - including Jon's loyalty. After Jon kills Daenerys, Sansa serves on the council that elects Bran the new King, but she insists on the independence of the North. In the end, Sansa is crowned the first Queen in the North, becoming queen just as she had always wanted. Long may she reign.