Game of Thrones is an adaptation of the epic dark fantasy novel series A Song of Ice and Fire from writer George R.R. Martin and showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss. The series airs exclusively on HBO and stars Peter Dinklage, Lena Headey, Kit Harrington and Emilia Clarke. Season 7 debuts summer July 16, 2017.
Set on the fictional continents of Westeros and Essos Game of Thrones weaves several plot lines with a broad ensemble cast. The first narrative arc follows a civil war among several noble houses for the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms; the second covers the attempts of the exiled last scion of the realm’s deposed ruling dynasty to reclaim the throne; the third chronicles the rising threat of the impending winter and the legendary creatures and fierce peoples of the North.
With only 13 more NEW Game of Thrones episodes remaining before the series officially comes to a close (7 for Season 7 and 6 for Season 8), I thought it would be a good time to rank my favourites so far. Let us know which ones you love the most in the comments section and if I missed any essential ones that you also love.
MAJOR SPOILER WARNING FOR ALL SIX SEASONS!!!!!
#10. The Mountain and The Viper (Season 4, Episode 8)
Pedro Pascal came into season four like a boss and went out in what has to be the most gruesome on-screen death in series history. The Red Viper, aka Oberyn Martell, from the exotic new locale Dorne made quite the impression in season four. He sexed everyone he could sex and he made his true mark when he became Tyrion Lannister’s champion during the trial by combat debacle against The ferocious Mountain Gregor Clegane.
The fact that Martell probably could have beat the toughest warrior on the show if he had just stopped showboating and trying to force a confession out of his nemesis makes the outcome all-the-more horrific. The screams when Clegane thrusts his thumbs into Oberyn’s eyeballs before he pancakes his entire head is easily the most shocking and gore-tastic finish that we’ve seen on the show. Ellaria’s scream and reaction is also priceless, adding a true horror stamp and finish to a suspenseful episode.
#9. Winter is Coming (Season 1, Episode 1)
Simultaneously the happiest episode in Game of Thrones history and also the one that set the shocking tone of what’s to come. You won’t see the Stark family altogether ever again after the debut episode. Ever. Because you know… Everyone is dead or was dead and is now seeking some sort of quest for vengeance. We kick the series off with a flash of White Walkers in a nasty opening and we close with Jaime Lannister pushing a little kid out of a window after he’s caught boning his sister.
We get a bit of everything in ‘Winter is Coming’: humour, violence, politics, world-building, and my favourite quote from the series when Ned Stark tells his son, “The man who passes the sentence should swing the sword”. Ned says this right before he executes a rogue Night’s Watch soldier who is trying to warn him about the monsters on the other side of the wall. Karma Ned.
#8. Blackwater (Season 2, Episode 9)
Season 2 was a different beast than the first 10 episodes… We were introduced to more magical elements, many new characters all vying for the Throne and a slower burn story structure that all led up to an incredible fight at ‘Blackwater’ Bay when Stannis and his men stormed King’s Landing. This is Tyrion’s episode… He was Hand of The King and he went to war, rallying his men after Joffrey bitched out and Cersei nearly drank herself to a double suicide because she was also a coward.
Not only is this the finest Peter Dinklage episode (his war speech was kick-ass and his battle axe moves even sweeter), but it was the first time we saw a movie-scale fight taking place on the small-screen. From the explosions on the water, to the storming of the beach, we were bearing witness to the series’ first big brawl after we had to skip season one’s fight due to budgetary reasons.
#7. The Door (Season 6, Episode 5)
‘The Door’ — what a tease of an episode title… Kristian Nairn’s performance as Hodor, the loveable oaf who could only say one thing and one thing only – “Hodor”, became one of the most iconic references to the entire franchise. We all love Hodor because he was one of the most innocent figures on a show where there are no traditional unflawed heroes. He just wanted to help and that’s what he did, whether it was carrying Brandon Stark across the damn country or becoming a warg battle machine during intense showdowns.
I love this episode so much because it has what I feel to be the craziest plot twist of any show I’ve ever seen. The fact that writer George RR Martin knew the origin of HODOR that far in advance and had plotted that incredible reveal makes me want to high-five him so hard… So yes, as the White Walkers move in to kill Brandon Stark, he yells at his friend Hodor to “Hold the door”, as they try to evade death. Brandon does this WHILE he has mentally travelled back in time and a younger Hodor witnesses the carnage through Brandon as a child and begins to have a seizure shouting “hold the door” until it sounds like – you guessed it – HODOR. It’s intense as shit – Hodor saw his death as a child and lived his entire life for this one moment – to hold the damn door and help his friends escape. Heart-breaking doesn’t even begin to describe this moment.
#6. The Watchers on The Wall (Season 4, Episode 9)
By the time Jon Snow and The Night’s Watch fought the Wildling army at the Wall, it had been a couple seasons since we had a major clash ala ‘Blackwater’. This time the budget was bigger, the bodycount was higher and the action was spectacular. From the giants riding mammoths, to the giant shooting a bow and arrow which launched a puny human into the air, to the giant charging the gate (did I mention THE GIANTS?!?)… ‘Watchers on The Wall’ was the episode that turned Jon Snow into the hero we were all waiting for and was a stunning display of chaos and action sequences that put major studio films to shame.
This one has everything – shocking death, incredible stuntwork, a hook shredding people who were climbing the wall, GIANTS, Jon Snow kicking ass – you name it. Neil Marshall’s direction was riveting and it was great to welcome him back after his work on ‘Blackwater’, cementing him as one of the premiere big battle filmmakers working in television.
#5. The Winds of Winter (Season 6, Episode 10)
Hate her or just simply disklike her – but you can’t help but want to high-five Cersei for executing the most vicious, clever and amazing revenge plot in Game of Thrones history. After she was forced to walk naked through the streets in season 5, getting pelted with shit and blood and “SHAME!”, season 6 was her chance for vengeance. The opening to this kill-tastic finale is one of the most bonkers moments of ANY TV show I’ve seen.
While we patiently await Cersei to stand trial, we are treated to a series of peculiar events before we realise she had zero intention of showing up but instead struck the match which ultimately wiped out nearly all of her competition – ever. Yes – everyone – all those Sparrows who tortured her, all the backstabbers who were a threat to her family – she burned them all and she did it with such style and swagger that you couldn’t help but love the drastic lengths in which she went to secure the Iron Throne for herself. Lena Headey is a boss but she literally became THE BOSS here and it was profoundly satisfying just as much as it is terrifying…
#4. Baelor (Season 1, Episode 9)
This is THE episode, the turning point not just for Game of Thrones as a TV show, but for all of television dramas that followed… Nobody is safe. NOBODY. That includes the man we all thought was going to be the lead of the show (for non-book readers anyway). After Ned Stark thought he had struck a deal to take the Night’s Watch after he’s imprisoned, our new king Joffrey decided to take matters into his own sick and twisted hands and called for Stark’s execution instead…
It was the craziest thing I had seen on TV at the time. I couldn’t believe what was happening. I know Sean Bean dies in damn near everything he stars in, but I didn’t see this coming at all. (Note: I read all of the books during season 2’s airing to get into the real game finally). From this episode onward, Game of Thrones was truly an ensemble series (there are no ‘main’ characters), and the show could have turned into a big mess but it actually got better as it went along.
#3. Hardhome (Season 5, Episode 8)
Director Miguel Sapochnik’s ‘Hardhome’ is terrifying. After Jon Snow travels to a wildling fishing village to try and rally the people to his side in order to fight the White Walker army, things take a dramatic turn for the worse when that very threat launches a full-scale assault on the town. Snow goes toe to toe with one of the Walkers and we find out that his sword is made of that good shit when he slices the ghoulish bastard into smithereens.
The wights (aka zombies or undead warriors controlled by The Night’s King) have never been so scary as they are here… I know the undead have been pardon the pun – done to death, but I was legit disturbed by their relentless onslaught in ‘Hardhome’. Like an army of unstoppable ants, they just swarm this helpless village while Jon and the wildlings fight for survival. That ending too…. You won’t find a more intense climax in a Thrones episode as the Night’s King (Richard Brake) stares down Snow and proceeds to resurrect every person his army just mowed down in the most staggering display of power that we’ve seen on the show yet.
#2. The Rains of Castamere (Season 3, Episode 9)
The ending that shocked the world. The Red Wedding.. Dun dun dun! Yes this is the moment that show creaters Benioff and Weiss had wanted to film since pitching the series to HBO because they knew long ago that THIS episode, THIS event would make Game of Thrones the powerhouse that it is today. They weren’t wrong… I was floored reading the book, but the show was even harder to grasp seeing all of that stab-happy betrayal unfold before my eyes. Rob Stark, his mother, his wife, his army – slaughtered in the house of Frey after dishonouring his promise to wed Walder’s daughter… Don’t break a promise to a psychopath people – shit can go South real fast.
Michelle Fairley’s final performance as Catelyn Stark is gut-wrenching as we see her plead for her son’s life, only for Roose Bolton to “send the Lannister’s regards” before plunging his dagger into the King of The North, effectively ending the war against Tywin Lannister’s empire. Catelyn has nothing left, so she slices Walder Frey’s wife’s throat, only for her own neck to be cut seconds later as the episode ends in complete silence, jaws-on-the-floor, tears on your faces, stunned looks all-around – The Red Wedding people – aka the worst after-party of all time.
#1. Battle of The Bastards (Season 6, Episode 9)
Jon Snow vs. Ramsay Bolton – hero versus villain – this is the biggest and most beautiful episode in Game of Thrones history. Not even death can stop Kit Harrington from finally taking out the show’s most despicable baddie as The Stark and Wildling army meets the Bolton’s on the battlefield in a display of action that not only rivals all big budget war movies, but destroys them. That initial moment of contact when the horses collide on both sides of Snow is ridiculous. The stuntwork and action choreography has never been better than it is in ‘Battle of The Bastards’ and the ‘over-the-shoulder’ tracking shot where Snow is cutting down his enemies is one of the best things ever filmed in my opinion.
Joffrey may have been a bitch but Ramsay was a psychotic evil bastard (literally) and we have been waiting for several seasons to see this prick get his – and spoiler alert – we got that in spades. Whereas Joffrey went out like a ho after an old lady poisoned him, Ramsay gets the shit knocked out of his face by the Snow-man and then his battered face gets chewed off by his own hounds. Not only was this the biggest spectacle in Thrones history it was the most satisfying episode as well because good finally triumphed over evil – a trend that just didn’t exist in the past, when the most stunning moments featured good guys getting murdered in horrible ways. This is the best of the best and it’s the episode I’ve watched the most so far. Director Miguel Sapochnik did such an amazing job and that’s why he owns two of the top three spots on this list. I’m sad he won’t be back for season 7, but the work he left for the fans is legendary.
Honourable Mentions That Almost Made The Cut:
- And Now His Watch is Ended (S3)
- A Golden Crown (S1)
- The Children (S4)
- The Dance of Dragons (S5)