By almost any metric you use, HBO’s Game of Thrones based on George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series is one of the most successful television shows ever made. It has been nominated for and won hundreds of awards including multiple Emmys and a Golden Globe. With well over 25 million viewers, it is also the most popular show that HBO has ever made. It is one of the crowning achievements of the golden age of television.
These accomplishments were far from certain when Game of Thrones began. Prior to its release, many people were skeptical that a big budget fantasy series could be successful, even on HBO. To make matters worse the pilot episode of the show had to be reshot and several of the starring roles had to be recast.
Even with such consistent on-screen success, Game of Thrones has gone through a lot of gradual changes over the years. Actors have gotten older, storylines have shifted, and production budgets have grown. These changes have affected not only showrunners but also nearly every actor and the characters that they portray. Some actors have had huge changes physically while others have gone through more emotional changes. Either way, when you look back, you see a difference.
Here is The Cast of Game of Thrones: What They Looked Like In Their First Season And Now.
Perhaps the most noticeable change, because of her screen time and aging, Arya Stark, the younger daughter of Eddard and Catelyn Stark, has arguably undergone one of the most dramatic transformations of any character in Game of Thrones.
She has gone from an outspoken tomboy to refugee to a face-changing assassin in under a decade.
Likewise, the actress who plays Arya, Maisie Williams has undergone a transformation in real life. Just 12 years old when the show began, Maisie grew up in southern England and attended Bath Dance College. Like several of the Stark children, Maisie spent her entire adolescence working on Game of Thrones but hasn’t let it affect her acting ability. She was nominated for a supporting actress Emmy in 2016 and has received near universal critical acclaim for her performance.
The middle son of Eddard and Catelyn Stark, Brandon Stark has undergone two major transformations in Game of Thrones. The first happened in season 1 when he is pushed out of a tower by Jamie Lannister after accidentally catching him with Cersei. His paralyzation and the second attempt on his life are one of the inciting incidents in The War of The Five Kings. The second change is the transformation from Brandon Stark to The Three-Eyed Raven.
The actor that plays Bran, Isaac Hempstead-Wright, like Maisie Williams, has grown up before audience’s eyes. He was just 10 years old when the show began and will turn 19 in April. Starting in 2017, Isaac became a first-year student at the University of Birmingham. He reportedly is using his Game of Thrones salary to pay for his tuition and hopes to earn a Ph.D.
13 Daenerys Targaryen
One of the characters who could challenge Arya for “biggest transformation,” we have Daenerys Targaryen.
She has gone from a royal refugee to the breaker of chains and now to the conquering commander.
With nothing but her wits and her Targaryen blood (and a few dragons I guess), Daenerys has established herself as one of the most powerful people in the Game of Thrones universe, and this transformation is completely her doing.
As she says in season 7, “I spent my life in foreign lands. So many men have tried to kill me, I don't remember all their names. I have been sold like a broodmare. I've been chained and betrayed. Do you know what kept me standing through all those years in exile? Faith. Not in any gods. Not in myths and legends. In myself. In Daenerys Targaryen.”
12 Sansa Stark
When comparing pictures of season 1 Sansa with pictures of Sansa from season 7, it seems almost impossible that they’re the same person. In addition to the age difference, Sansa has become paler, less romantic, and sterner.
You would expect a great deal of difference in Sansa after she was abused by both Joffrey Baratheon and Ramsay Bolton. While the younger Sansa dreamt of a fairytale life, the older Sansa is focused purely on survival and keeping her family safe. The actress who plays Sansa, Sophie Turner, was only 15 years old when she was cast in the role. It was her first acting experience. Since then she has starred as Jean Gray in X-Men: Apocalypse and was recently engaged to pop star Joe Jonas.
11 Tyrion Lannister
A longtime fan favorite, Tyrion Lannister, is the youngest child of Tywin Lannister and the brother of Jamie and Cersei.
Because of his dwarfism, and its subsequent social injustices, Tyrion has had to rely on his cunning and wits to succeed in Westeros.
At the beginning of the show, Tyrion takes very few things seriously. Instead, he spent his time reading and pursuing his vices. After being appointed as the acting hand of the king to Joffrey Baratheon by his father, he is forced to mount a defense of King’s Landing against Stannis Baratheon. His defense is successful but he is scared and demoted.
After being accused of eliminating his nephew King Joffrey, Tyrion takes out his father and flees to Essos. There he meets Daenerys and supports her claim to the iron throne; eventually being named hand of the queen.
10 Theon Greyjoy
Perhaps the only Game of Thrones character to go through more hardship than Sansa is Theon Greyjoy. Raised as a hostage and ward of Eddard Stark in Winterfell, Theon is the youngest son of Lord Balon Greyjoy of the Iron Islands. He was taken captive after his father waged an unsuccessful rebellion against Robert Baratheon.
In an attempt to impress his father, Theon opportunistically seized Winterfell from the Starks and appeared to murder Bran and Rickon Stark. Winterfell is recaptured by Ramsay Snow who kidnaps and tortures Theon. This prolonged period of agony first provided catharsis to fans but soon became difficult to watch.
After escaping from Ramsay, Theon, severely affected by the torture, returned to Pyke where he supported his sister’s claim to the throne. He since tried to make amends but has clearly struggled with his demons in the process.
9 Cersei Lannister
If there is one picture that displays the difference between season 1 Cersei and season 7 Cersei, it may be this. She has been one of the show’s main villains from the very first episode, but, in recent seasons, she has devolved into a much more sinister version of her past self.
Originally, Cersei was a terrible person who did terrible things, but at least they were justifiable as she was trying to protect herself and her family. After the death of all three of her children, Cersei has gone off the deep end. She blew up half of King’s Landing, used some kind of necromancy to create an undead giant, and forced Ellaria Sand to watch her poisoned daughter slowly pass away. She’s even turned on her twin brother/lover Jamie.
8 Jamie Lannister
It feels so long ago that Jaime Lannister, the favorite son of Tywin and Joanna Lannister, was taken prisoner by Robb Stark in the Battle of the Whispering Wood. It happened all the way back in season 1, but it has been the inciting incident for a radical change in Jaime Lannister.
It’s easy to draw comparisons between the Jaime Lannister of season 1 and the ideal image of prince charming because that’s essentially what he was.
Prior to his defeat in the Whispering Wood, Jamie had never been beaten in battle. After the defeat, he was captured, humiliated, and lost his sword fighting hand. Unlike his sister, Jamie wasn’t hardened by this trauma. Instead, he turned inward and made moves toward becoming a better person.
7 Jon Snow
Jon Snow was raised as the bastard son of Eddard Stark, but now, unbeknownst to him, he holds the strongest claim to the iron throne. What fans had guessed years before was the fact that Jon Snow is actually the son of Rhaegar Targaryen, Daenerys’ older brother, which would give him a direct connection to the throne.
It’s unclear how Jon will find out about his parentage, or if he ever will. He’s never seemed to have a desire for power, but, nonetheless, time and time again we’ve seen Jon Snow thrust into leadership roles he never asked for.
It’s unclear how Jon will change after the war with the Night King is over. He was raised from the dead by Melisandre, but we don’t know why or for how long. It’s possible that the change between season 1 and season 7 is bigger than we know.
6 Podrick Payne
Podrick Payne has wanted to become a knight his whole life. He served as the squire to Tyrion Lannister and saved him from Ser Mandon Moore during the Battle of the Blackwater. Following the death of Joffrey Baratheon and subsequent arrest of Tyrion, Pod was offered the chance to become a knight in exchange for testimony against Tyrion. Podrick refused and was forced to leave King’s Landing.
He became the squire to Brienne, and, despite her attempts to get rid of him, he aided Brienne on her quest to find Sansa Stark.
Along the way, he picked up a great deal of training from Brienne and became a formidable swordsman in his own right. In the season 7 finale, Podrick accompanies Brienne as Sansa’s envoy to King’s Landing. There he reunited with Tyrion and Bronn. It’s unclear if he’ll ever earn knighthood, but he’s certainly become hunky enough for it.
5 Brienne of Tarth
Prior to her performance as Brienne of Tarth in Game of Thrones, Gwendoline Christie was a relatively unknown actress. Since appearing in the show, Christie has been cast in multiple big-budget franchises. She played Commander Lyme in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 and was the imposing Captain Phasma in The Last Jedi and The Force Awakens.
Brienne’s story in Game of Thrones starts as a side character but quickly develops. She first appears as one of the kingsguard for Renly Baratheon, whom she is also in love with. After his death at the hands of Melisandre, Brienne swears an oath to Catelyn Stark to protect both her and her children. After the death of Catelyn and the disappearance of Arya and Sansa, she takes on Podrick Payne as a squire and set off to find Sansa.
4 Jorah Mormont
By the time the story in Game of Thrones begins, Jorah Mormont had already been through a lot. A former northern lord, Jorah was exiled by Eddard Stark for selling poachers as slaves to support his wife’s lavish lifestyle. He starts to work as a spy for King Robert, sending back information about the Targaryens in exile in the hope that he will be pardoned.
While spying on Dany he starts to respect and admire her and eventually falls in love with her, a love that is never returned.
Despite being exiled by her twice, once as a punishment and once to discover a cure for greyscale, Jorah’s loyalty to Dany never waivers. He’s grown older and has gone through some terrible things, but he remains one of Daenerys’ most loyal supporters.
3 Petyr Baelish
In earlier seasons, Petyr Baelish was one of the most conniving and influential characters in Westeros. As the story went on, however, viewers started to criticize Petyr’s actions, particularly in his 7th and final season.
Later on, Petyr was reduced to a shell of his former self and his once Machiavellian plans were easily picked apart by the Stark children.
It’s a shame that Baelish’s storyline ended in such an anticlimactic way. As Varys one said of him, “Littlefinger was born with no lands, no wealth, no armies. He has acquired the first two. How long before he has the army? Perhaps you'll laugh, but I know him better than most, and this is the truth. Littlefinger is one of the most dangerous men in Westeros."
Perhaps the character that has changed the least throughout the course of Game of Thrones is Bronn.
A skilled mercenary who has slowly clawed his way up the social hierarchy in Westeros, Bronn (now Ser Bronn of The Blackwater) has always been motivated by one thing, money.
Serving first as a mercenary for Tyrion Lannister, then as Commander of the City’s Watch in King’s Landing, before settling in as a helpful operative of the Lannisters, Bronn is always looking for his next opportunity to improve his wealth or stature, but hasn’t quite been able to break through the last layer to the nobility.
The actor who plays Bronn, Jerome Flynn, spent almost a decade away from acting before coming out of retirement for Game of Thrones.
1 Sandor Clegane
Sandor Clegane may not have undergone a huge physical transformation, but he has gone through one of the largest emotional changes in Game of Thrones. He was once considered one of the most dangerous and violent men in Westeros, perhaps behind only his older brother Gregor Clegane. He enjoyed killing people and thought everyone else was lying when they said they didn’t enjoy it.
After nearly being killed by Brienne of Tarth, Sandor started to take steps toward redemption. He travels with the Brotherhood Without Banners and begins to try to make amends for his past wrongs.
It has been theorized by many fans that Sandor’s redemption will culminate in a standoff with his now undead older brother. A theory that is referred to as “Cleganebowl.”
Which character had the biggest transformation from season 1 to season 7? Let us know in the comments!