14 Times MVP Samwell Tarly Literally Changed the Course of Game of Thrones

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Love him or hate it, you can't deny that Samwell Tarly (John Bradley) is the smartest and sometimes the bravest character on Game of Thrones. He's managed to turn his humble beginnings as "Lady Piggy" of the Night's Watch into a political alliance with Jon Snow and true love with Gilly. While one could argue that just about every character in the series has experienced growth, we'd counter that Sam's journey has been the most essential in preparing us for the war to come. So let's look back at all of Sam's major turning points and ponder what lies ahead for our reluctant hero.

01
Sam Gains an Ally
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Sam Gains an Ally

In the fourth episode of the first season, Sam arrives at Castle Black, forced to join the Night's Watch after his father bluntly tells him that if Sam refuses, he'd kill him and stage it as a hunting accident. The move to the brotherhood causes Sam to forfeit his rights as heir of House Tarly, but he concedes he'd rather take on the new adventure than bear further criticism from his father about his weight and scholastic interests.

Unfortunately, Sam is immediately pegged as a "pampered lord" by Master at Arms Alliser Thorne. The statement fuels the already harsh mocking from the other recruits who call Sam "Lady Piggy." Jon Snow steps in to defend Sam, and a powerful friendship is born.

02
Sam's First Flash of Brilliance
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Sam's First Flash of Brilliance

Later in the first season, once the trainees are deemed men of the Night's Watch, Samwell takes an assignment with Maester Aemon while Jon complains about his appointment as steward to Lord Commander Jeor Mormont. Sam points out that Lord Mormont probably chose Jon because he saw someone who could be groomed for command. Talk about foreshadowing future events!

03
Sam Introduces Us to the White Walkers
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Sam Introduces Us to the White Walkers

When Jon Snow and Lord Commander Mormont are attacked by a wight outside the Wall at the end of season one, Sam informs the Night's Watch he's read a book that states the dead can only be brought back to life by the touch of a White Walker, mythical beings who sleep beneath the ice.

04
Sam Meets Gilly
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Sam Meets Gilly

Sam meets Gilly in the second season when the Night's Watch stop at Craster's Keep during an expedition beyond the Wall. We learn that Craster is a wilding who marries his daughters and sacrifices the sons borne of these illegitimate unions to the White Walkers. Among the women is Gilly (who we later learn is pregnant with a boy). Sam is heartbroken by her mistreatment and vows to rescue her when the ranging party returns.

05
Sam Discovers Dragonglass and Faces Death
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Sam Discovers Dragonglass and Faces Death

Near the end of the second season, the Night's Watch continue their march beyond the Wall toward the Fist of the First Men, where Sam finds a collection of Dragonglass weapons. Not long after, a group of White Walkers attack their group. Sam's lack of athleticism leads to him tripping in the snow and being left behind when an eerie mist rolls in and the undead approach. A walker riding a dead horse notices Sam but ignores him and orders the wights toward the Fist, where other members of the brotherhood hide.

06
Sam Becomes a Hero and a Surrogate Father
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Sam Becomes a Hero and a Surrogate Father

In season three, when the traitors of the Night's Watch kill Craster the wildling and Lord Mormont, Sam rushes to Gilly's hut and urges her to flee from Craster's Keep. During their escape, the pair encounter a White Walker that Sam kills with a dragonglass dagger, making him the first person on the series to defeat one of the undead in this manner. As we all know, the pair eventually fall in love, sharing a kiss in the penultimate episode of season four and consummating their relationship soon after.

07
Sam Meets Bran
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Sam Meets Bran

Later in the third season, on their journey south toward Castle Black, Sam and Gilly cross paths with Bran, Hodor, Jojen, Meera Reed, and Summer the direwolf. The group explain they are on a pilgrimage beyond the Wall to find the Three-Eyed Raven, and Sam gives them his dragonglass for protection.

08
Sam Becomes a Warrior
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Sam Becomes a Warrior

While Sam may not look or think like your typical warrior, he encounters a number of battle situations in the fourth season. During the wildlings attack on the Wall, he defends Castle Black's southern gate with Pypar (who ultimately dies in his arms) and kills the villainous free folk warrior Thenn warg with a bolt to the head. The fight leaves the Night's Watch in ruins, which prompts Jon to propose a radical solution for putting an end to the wildling threat: assassinate their leader, Mance Rayder. Sam attempts to stop his friend from heading beyond the Wall alone, but Jon makes his decision to depart and leaves his sword Longclaw with Sam.

09
Sam Campaigns For Jon and Finds His Calling
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Sam Campaigns For Jon and Finds His Calling

In season five, during the selection of the new Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, Jon tells Sam about Stannis Baratheon's offer of legitimization. Jon confesses he's always wanted to be Lord of Winterfell but tells a dismayed Sam he plans to decline the offer. So when Maester Aemon asks if there are any more candidates planning to run, Sam submits a nomination for Jon and gives a speech about his friend's heroism during the mutiny at Craster's Keep and the wildling attack. Sam's show of faith results in a win for Jon and deepens their relationship as confidants.

Later the same season, Sam learns from Stannis Baratheon that an abundance of dragonglass may exist on Dragonstone. Although still unsure exactly how the substance kills White Walkers, this news (coupled with the death of Maester Aemon) prompts Sam to ask Jon, his new Lord Commander, for permission to travel to the Citadel in Oldtown. Sam argues that the best way for him to help the brotherhood is to study and replace Aemon as the new maester of the Night's Watch.

10
Sam Stands Up to His Father and Gains Valyrian Steel
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Sam Stands Up to His Father and Gains Valyrian Steel

Knowing the Citadel doesn't allow women, Sam takes Gilly to Horn Hill to visit his family in season six. Unfortunately, his father abhors the free folk, so Sam stretches the truth and simply introduces Gilly as a northerner. Of course, the truth slips out over dinner, forcing Sam to stand up for his adopted family. In an act of defiance, Sam steals his father's 500-year-old Valyrian steel sword Heartsbane, the ancestral blade of House Tarly.

11
Sam Cures Jorah's Greyscale
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Sam Cures Jorah's Greyscale

In the seventh season, after stealing some books from the Citadel's library, Sam confirms the existence of dragonglass on Dragonstone and writes to inform Jon. In the days that follow, Sam encounters a greyscale-covered Jorah Mormont among the sick in Oldtown. While the Citadel's Archmaester Ebrose considers the ailment incurable, Sam recalls a risky treatment developed by Archmaester Pylos that he believes may work in the early stages of Jorah's condition. Ebrose dismisses the idea and notes that the technique has been banned because it puts both the patient and the surgeon at risk. Spurred by the realization that Jorah is the son of his former Lord Commander, Sam performs the procedure in secret, scraping away the greyscale for good.

12
Sam Joins Forces With the Three-Eyed Raven
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Sam Joins Forces With the Three-Eyed Raven

Later in season seven, Samwell interrupts a meeting of the Conclave, the collective Archmaesters, as they discuss a raven sent by Bran Stark about the army of the dead. They don't want to heed Bran's warning, but Samwell attempts to convince them the wights and White Walkers are real. Frustrated by the Conclave's lack of action, Sam returns to his room, where he helps Gilly with her reading, which just happens to be the journal of High Septon Maynard. The two discover that Prince Rhaegar had his first marriage annulled and that he secretly remarried while in Dorne. However, the information doesn't resonate until after Sam decides to leave the Citadel and travel to Winterfell, where he reunites with Bran Stark.

After learning of Bran's new powers as the Three-Eyed Raven, Sam confesses his desire to help Jon win the war against the Night King. Bran counters, revealing Jon is actually the son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark. At that point, Sam recalls the passage Gilly read to him from the High Septon's journal, and together they realize Robert's Rebellion grew from a lie since Jon is the true heir to the Iron Throne.

13
Sam's Faith Is Put to the Test
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Sam's Faith Is Put to the Test

After that awkward meeting with Daenerys Targaryen where he learns about the death of his father and younger brother, Sam meets with Bran to discuss the issue of Jon Snow's new status as heir to the throne. The two decide Sam should be the one to break the news, and Sam does so in the crypt under Winterfell — mirroring the (doomed?!) conversation between Robert Baratheon and his future Hand to the King, Eddard Stark.

14
Sam's Future in the Game
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Sam's Future in the Game

Over the last seven seasons, Sam has shown just how far he's willing to go in order to put his best friend in a position of power. Now that he's aware Jon Snow is actually Aegon Targaryen, heir to the Iron Throne, and he's been made privy to the details behind the death of his family, is it possible our favorite underdog hero will turn heel and undermine Daenerys?

Either way, fans are betting Sam will survive through the finale. During an interview with The Hollywood Reporter back in July 2016, actor John Bradley supported the theory that Sam will live to chronicle the adventures of the show and become the author of what we know as A Song of Ice and Fire. The idea stems from a moment in the season seven episode titled "Stormborn." Archmaester Ebrose talks with Sam about a book meant to chronicle the circumstances surrounding Robert Baratheon's death. In some ways, the scene give us Lord of the Rings vibes, which George R. R. Martin told The Guardian is an influence for his work. If you recall, Tolkien's Samwise Gamgee winds up being an essential character in the overall tale when he picks up the task left idle by Bilbo Baggins to finish the story of the ring.

But for Sam to survive long enough to write a book, he must put up a fight against the Night King. Will Sam rise to the occasion and carry Heartsbane into battle? Or will he survive on the strength of his intelligence?

We can't say for sure, but we can't wait to find out.