Note: Spoilers ahead about the HBO drama’s eighth and final season.
Lyanna Mormont? Gone. Jorah Mormont? Gone. Joer Mormont? He died a few seasons ago. Maege Mormont? She didn’t make it beyond the first season. Goodbye, House Mormont – only the latest noble family to evaporate as HBO’s Game of Thrones approaches the end.
Several Houses and their vassals have perished since the series started being aired in 2011. In The Long Night, the third of the six-episode final season, at least one House was destroyed by the rampaging White Walkers, while another is facing an existential crisis that will impact the remaining episodes.
Some of the major and minor families in the Westeros continent in which the adaptation of George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire novels plays out are linked by marriage and strategic alliances. Death has unknotted the complicated linkages and brought the survivors into sharper relief. The series is now divided between three main Houses, raising the stakes for the game of thrones but also making it easier to play.
At heart, the series has always been about the tragedy that befalls the Starks. Separated by circumstance and design, each member of House Stark, with the exception of Rickon, has been on rich and strange journeys. The fate of the brood of Ned (Sean Bean) and Catelyn (Michelle Fairley) is of paramount importance in Game of Thrones, which explains why the final season is about their return to their home, Winterfell.
The honourable Ned Stark was beheaded in the first season itself, and his wife and children were scattered in all directions. Catelyn and son Robb (Richard Madden) waged war to win back Winterfell, dying for their efforts in the third season. Also dead along with Catelyn and Robb were his wife, Talisa (Oona Chaplin) and unborn child.
Daughter Sansa (Sophie Turner) chose to stay put in the Lannister household despite the role played by its ruler, Joffrey Baratheon, in her father’s demise. Sansa’s fate intersected with at least three Houses before she finally returned to Winterfell. On paper, she is still the wife of Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) – only one indication of how small the marriage market is in Westeros.
Arya Stark spent much of the series perfecting her skills as a ruthless killer. The most widely travelled of the Starks, Arya went as far as the free city Braavos, home to the Iron Bank and the Faceless Men group of assassins who trained Arya to be “nobody” but eventually helped her regain her identity as a Stark.
Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright) too logged the medieval equivalent of frequent flier miles before realising his destiny as the mystic Three-Eyed Raven. Bran survived the Night King in the most recent turn of events, and, despite his disavowal of his family name, remains one of the three surviving Stark children. Rickon (Art Parkinson) had little to do in the series, and died as bait during the Battle of the Bastards episode in season 6.
Ned Stark’s supposedly bastard son, Jon Snow (Kit Harrington), tried to take himself out of the picture by enrolling in the Night’s Watch, the squad stationed at the wall of ice that separated the known world from threats posed by the unruly tribes known as the Wildlings and the zombie-like White Walkers. Jon’s destiny, to sit on the Iron Throne, eventually brought him back to Winterfell, where he learnt that far from being illegitimate, he was actually…half Targaryen.
The quest for the Iron Throne began with the aftermath of the death of Aerys Targaryen. His uncle, Aemon (Peter Vaughan), stepped away from the succession game early on, and perished in the fifth season. Aerys’s three children influenced events in major ways. Rhaegar (Will Scolding) was a minor character, viewed only in flashback. The other son, Viserys (Harry Lloyd), pimped his sister, Daenerys (Emilia Clarke), to a Dothraki lord in the hope of raising an army to win back Westeros. Viserys was killed in the middle of the first season, paving the way for the cross-country journey of his ambitious sister.
Daenerys hopped from kingdom to kingdom, losing a husband and child in the process and gaining lovers, admirers and three dragons along the way. Just when she assumed that her path was clear came the bouncer: she has a nephew! With whom she has had sex!
Jon Snow, revealed to be the son of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen in the seventh season, is now both Daenrys’s most recent companion and a major obstacle to her succession. The numbers are simply not stacking up for Daenerys, what with the death of her trusted adviser Jorah, Jon’s re-designation, the extinction of her Dothraki and Unsullied troops, and the death of one of her three dragons. Not helping matters is the manner in which the latest season has attempted to transform Daenerys overnight from contender to the Iron Throne to party-pooper for the Starks.
The tangled family tree of the third major House has inspired major plot developments. Of the three notorious children of Tywin (Charles Dance), the witty, alcohol-loving dwarf Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) proved to be his nemesis. The unmarried Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) was secretly sexually involved with his twin sister Cersei (Lena Headey) for long enough to sire three children. Cersei was officially married to Robert Baratheon (Mark Addy), and marriage plans for the eldest son, Joffrey, briefly brought together the Lannisters and the Starks (via Sansa) before linking the Lannisters to another important family, the Tyrells.
The Baratheons and the Tyrells proved just how toxic the Lannisters could get by perishing one by one over the seasons. Robert was dispatched in a suspicious manner; Joffrey Baratheon died from poisoning; Tommen Baratheon jumped to his death; Myrcella Baratheon too was poisoned. Cersei and Jaime have a fourth child on the way – and this one will be a Lannister through and through. (An uncle, Kevan, and cousin, Lancel, were also killed by Cersei).
The other Baratheons didn’t do well for themselves. Robert’s brother, Stannis (Stephen Dillane), killed his younger brother Renly (Gethin Anthony) before being slain during battle. Renly’s death freed up his wife, Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer), who then took up first with Joffrey Baratheon (Jack Gleeson) and, following his death, Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman). The main surviving Baratheon is Robert’s illegitimate son Gendry (Joe Dempsie), who was recently resurrected to give Arya a love interest and maintain the show’s bastard count.
Margaery perished in the sixth season along with her father, Mace (Roger Ashton-Griffiths), and brother, Loras (Finn Jones), in in a fire orchestrated by Cersei. Margaery’s redoubtable grandmother, Olenna (Diana Rigg) was poisoned to death in the seventh season. With Olenna’s death, the Tyrells lost their last surviving member, and the Lannisters, one of their canniest adversaries.
The Lannisters swallowed up another royal family, the Martells of Dorne. Elia Martell (who doesn’t appear in the television series) was the first wife of Rhaeger Targaryen before being dumped for Lyanna Stark. Elia’s rape and murder by a Lannister soldier spurred her brother Oberyn (Pedro Pascal) to seek revenge. Oberyn’s gruesome death pushed his lover, Ellaria Sand (Indira Varma), to kill his older brother, Doran (Alexander Siddig). With Ellaria’s capture by Cersei in the seventh season and the deaths of her three daughters, that was the end of House Martell and Dorne: one less family and location to worry about.
Like the Starks, the Mormonts were separated by distance and circumstance. Joer Mormont (James Cosmo) was the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. Joer died in the third season after having passed on his prized sword to Jon Snow.
Joer’s sister, Maege (Elizabeth Barrett), slunk about in the background before being written out of the show. The strongest track belonged to Joer’s son, Jorah (Iain Glen), who was thrown out of the family for trading slaves.
Jorah emerges as an early ally of Daenerys Targaryen. Although he was assigned to spy on her, he fell in love and survived numerous obstacles for his beloved queen, including temporary banishment and a life-threatening skin condition. Jorah died heroically in the most recent episode, as did his only known relative, the feisty Lyanna.
Lady Lyanna (Bella Ramsey) gave the pint-sized Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) some competition in the attitude department. The imperious and outspoken Lyanna was loyal to House Stark to a fault, and went into the Battle of Winterfell as bravely as any other. The fan favourite died a glorious death, slaying a vastly larger zombie in a move that foreshadowed Arya’s neat little trick.
Theon Greyjoy was free at last after suffering humiliation, castration, psychological torture, many punches in the gut (including from his sister, Yara), and numerous attempts to redecorate his face. Theon (Alfie Allen) suffered more than any other character on the show, and was finally liberated in The Long Night in a moment as predictable as it was poignant.
Theon’s father, the iron-hearted Balon (Patrick Malahide), was tipped into the sea by his power-hungry brother Euron (Pilou Asbaek) in the sixth season. Euron has sided with Cersei Lannister, while Yara (Gemma Whelan) has returned to the Greyjoy home, the Iron Islands. Yara’s under-explored track has served mainly to give Theon character shading and throw in yet another potential female ruler into the mix.
The Tullys and the Arryns
Before Catelyn was a Stark, she was a Tully, the daughter of Hoster (Chris Newman) and the sister of Lysa (Katie Dickie) and Edmure (Tobias Menzies). Lysa married the much older Jon Arynn, a mentor to Ned Stark and Robert Baratheon. Jon Arryn’s suspicious death kicked off Game of Thrones, and although he departed in the first episode itself, he continued to influence events from beyond the grave.
Lysa and Jon had a son, the seriously spoilt Robin (Lino Faciolo). Lysa was dispatched by master schemer Petyr Baelish (Aidan Gillen) in the fourth season. Robin survived, as a pawn in Petyr’s hands, and the Vale of Arryn saved the day for Jon Snow and Sansa Stark in the Battle of the Bastards episode.
Edmure Tully had to step up and marry one of Walder Frey’s numerous daughters after Robb Stark broke his pledge to do so. Edmure survived the massacre of the Starks ordered by the Lannisters and executed by Walder Frey and Roose Bolton in the third season. Edmure was imprisoned after the killings, and it is assumed that his wife and son are out there somewhere. His uncle, Brynden (Clive Russell), died after a battle with Jaime Lannister in the sixth season.
The Boltons and the Freys
Roose Bolton (Michael McElhatton) had his own bastard son, the depraved Ramsay (Iwan Rheon), who played havoc with Theon and Sansa before being fed to his hounds in the sixth season. Ramsay’s marriage to Sansa briefly made him a Stark clan member. He paved the way for the demise of his House by killing his father, his stepmother and their son (again, the hounds did the work). With his death, House Bolton was wiped out for good.
Roose Bolton’s ally in the Stark massacre, Walder Frey (David Bradley), too met a ghastly end in the sixth season. Arya Stark murdered Walder’s sons, fed them to Walder in the form of a pie, and then slit his throat. “Tell them the North remembers,” she told a shocked witness. The Freys live on, ironically, through Edmure Tully.
The most important Tarly isn’t patriarch Randyll (James Faulkner) or his younger son Dickon (Tom Hopper). Samwell Tarly (John Bradley) was given his own story arc in Game of Thrones. An early champion of Jon Snow at the Night’s Watch, the portly and bookish Samwell got involved with the Wildling Gilly (Hannah Murray) and adopted her son, whose father is her own father, Craster (Robert Pugh). Samwell’s quest for knowledge took him to the centre of learning, the Citadel, where he discovered a cure for Jorah Mormont’s skin condition and the truth behind Jon’s parentage.
Samwell’s father and brother were burnt to a crisp by Daenerys in the seventh season. Samwell was last seen in The Long Night, crushed under the weight of the White Walkers. A stand-in for George RR Martin, with whom he shares an interest in history and context, Samwell Tarly is, like many characters in the dying light of Game of Thrones, the last of his name.