If you weren’t already feeling nostalgic about the fact this season of Game of Thrones is going to be the last one ever, then let this sink in: eight years have passed since the very first episode aired. Eight. Whole. Years.
In that time, we’ve been blessed with 67 episodes of bloody good TV (literally). Adapted from the works of George R. R. Martin, the world of Westeros has been unlike anything that’s ever come before it. Complex plots and even more complex characters (oh hey, Cersei...) have made it some of the best storytelling we’ve ever seen.
There’s no denying that since day one, Game of Thrones has been wildly entertaining, completely compelling and always shocking (anyone else ~ still ~ not over the Red Wedding?). But it has also imparted some hard truths. What with some of the wisest characters on TV, alongside the savviest of survivors, there’s a lot more we can take away from Game of Thrones than swords and dragons.
So here’s everything we’ve learned in the last eight years. Because Game of Thrones might be ending, but the lessons it has taught us? They’re for life.
Never underestimate the power of women
Okay, we always knew that. But Game of Thrones has cemented the wonder of women in a way that no other fantasy show has. We’ve come a long way since the early days, which, let’s be honest, were a misogynistic bloodbath. The male characters - Robert Baratheon, Ned Stark, Joffrey, Ramsay Bolton, Littlefinger - have one by one bitten the dust. Now look who’s left standing. Between Daenerys, Sansa, Arya, Brienne and Cersei, the women basically run things. “Yes, all men must die,” Daenerys says to Missandei. “But we are not men”. That’s some solid girl power.
Always stay loyal
Cersei Lannister may have some questionable values, and she’s definitely made some morally ambiguous decisions in her time, but if there’s one thing the queen of the scheme has taught us, it’s the importance of loyalty. She will defend those on her side to the death. While it maybe isn’t so convenient for her enemies, her fierce devotion to the people she loves is certainly something to be admired.
Embrace your ‘imperfections’
“Once you’ve accepted your flaws,” says Tyrion in second season, “no one can use them against you.” Game of Thrones is filled with imperfect characters, both morally and (by certain standards) socially. The Tyrion Lannister we knew in the early days was a pretty bitter and dejected guy. But, he eventually comes to accept himself, and look at where he is now. Instead of getting drunk in King’s Landing and bitching about his father Tywin, he’s advising the Mother of Dragons herself. Forget Sansa’s character development, Tyrion’s journey has taught us never, ever to be ashamed of ourselves - or let anyone else make us feel that way.
Surround yourself with the best people for you
Daenerys is queen of this, and given that the odds of her winning the Iron Throne are pretty damn high, we’re taking notes. What with Tyrion, Varys, Jorah, Missandei and Jon Snow, one of the most important things she has done is surround herself with people who have smart advice, who love and understand her, and who will help pull her forward. There’s a theory that you’re the average of the five people you spend most time with - so choose those people wisely. That means more cheerleaders and fewer toxic friendships.
Books are everything
Reading is great. But while we think of it as curling up with a book and a blanket, in Game of Thrones, it’s a serious part of the power play. Take Samwell Tarly for example. He spends hours on end in the Citadel library, and one of his most common lines is “I read it in a book”. And it was in the process of reading that he found out about dragonglass, which might just be the answer to taking on the White Walkers. Knowledge is power, eh?
There’s always more to learn
In the same vein, never assume you know everything because you can always acquire, and benefit from, more knowledge. “You know nothing Jon Snow” might have become one of the most prolific memes in the history of the internet, but when Ygritte said these words, she was speaking so much truth. At this point, Jon Snow really was so naive of what was to come. Translating this into the real world, we should never, ever, EVER assume we know everything about a situation, a person or circumstance. Instead, always be open to listening and learning.
Tough experiences are the best teachers
My god have the characters seen some tough experiences. But as Arya puts it: “A bruise is a lesson, and each lesson makes us stronger”. Firstly, no matter how awful our issues are, they could be worse - we could be living in Westeros right now. But also, difficult times make us more resilient, and no one has taught us that more than Arya, who has been through one hell of a ride. Meanwhile, a similar message can be derived from Daenerys’s journey, in that you will fall before you fly. In the beginning, she’s abused and married off to Khal Drogo, and while her experience was brutal, she now has the Dothraki as part of her army. She quite literally has used her hard times as fuel, and we should do the same (maybe minus the armed forces).
Every moment counts
The general messaging here is YOLO. Although, in Jon Snow’s case, that’s not technically true. However, aside from him, pretty much no one in Game of Thrones has been safe. Remember when we thought Ned Stark was going to be one of the main characters throughout the whole series? Nope. If all the gruesome bloody and downright jaw-dropping deaths on the show are going to teach us anything, it’s that every single moment on Earth counts because you really never know what’s going to happen. This might be a grim note to end on, but hey, that’s Game of Thrones for you!