Game of Thrones is something of an anomaly in the sense that unlike many television series that have gone on for five or more seasons, there really aren’t any outright bad episodes. Each and every chapter of the saga that’s unfolded before our eyes over the course of the last six years has its merits, but regardless of how praiseworthy the series has been, we can all agree that some episodes stand far above others.
With 67 episodes in the can, we here at Epicstream decided to take a look back at each and every one of them and see which ones reign supreme and which ones leave us wanting more. Here is every Game of Thrones episode ranked from worst to first:
Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken (S5E6)
While "Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken" includes enough plot revelations to offer hope for future episodes, poorly-paced storytelling and unnecessary, excessive brutality make it a bit of a hard pill to swallow. Ramsay’s forced consummation of his and Sansa’s marriage is beyond disturbing to watch, while Jaime and Bronn’s battle against the Sand Snakes makes for one of the worst-choreographed fight scenes of the entire series.
No One (S6E8)
"No One" sees a few fan favorites return to the playing field, and it also moves the final few pieces into place for the highly-anticipated showdown between Jon and Ramsay. However, the episode also focuses heavily on the culmination of Arya's Braavos adventure, which is arguably the most painfully drawn out plot line of the series to date. While table-setting is important and necessary, it would have been nice if the episode had just a bit more meat to it.
Blood of My Blood (S6E6)
Admittedly, “Blood of My Blood” is packed with plenty of crowd-pleasing moments, such as Jaime’s standoff with the High Sparrow and the return of such characters as Walder Frey, Drogon, and Benjen. Nevertheless, speaking in terms of plot progression, the majority of the happenings of this episode are of little significance, unduly emphasizing content that has no real impact on the main storyline.
The Red Woman (S6E1)
What does “The Red Woman” accomplish? Well, it confirms that the titular red priestess Melisandre is incredibly old, and it also confirms that Ellaria and the Sand Snakes are some of the weakest links on the show. What it doesn’t do is provide any real payoff for the massive Season 5 cliffhanger in which Jon was killed by his Night’s Watch brethren. Still, Sansa’s touching reunion with Brienne of Tarth and Cersei’s heartbreaking reaction to the news of Myrcella’s death manage to give the episode plenty of heart.
The Wars to Come (S5E1)
“The Wars to Come” is in many ways your run-of-the-mill season premiere, existing primarily to remind viewers which major players are still in the game. There are certainly some excellent moments, such as Jon’s mercy killing of Mance Rayder and the start of Tyrion’s journey in Braavos, but after an outstanding Season 4 finale, the events of this episode – for the most part – feel lackluster by comparison.
The Night Lands (S2E2)
In this episode, we’re introduced to not only the Iron Islands but Yara Greyjoy, who doesn’t really end up doing anything noteworthy for another three or four years. While “The Night Lands” isn’t quite as strong as the Season 2 premiere, the moody tone, dark intrigue, and hefty dose of Tyrion help make up for the overall lack of action. Still, the decision to leave out several major characters ultimately alienates viewers who aren’t fully invested in each and every ongoing plot thread, which is a tough act to balance with such a massive ensemble cast.
The House of Black and White (S5E2)
In “The House of Black and White,” we see Arya arrive in Braavos to begin her most uninspired, uninteresting arc of the entire series. Elsewhere, we see Jon Snow appointed as Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, Jaime preparing to rescue Myrcella, and a whole lot of other instances of pure setup that help pave the road for later episodes, but do little to ramp up the pace after the equally lethargic season premiere.
High Sparrow (S5E3)
Despite the episode taking its name from the religious leader played by Jonathan Pryce, the true standout of “High Sparrow” is Jon Snow, who proves how seriously he takes his newfound position as Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch by executing the insubordinate Lord Janos Slynt. While Season 5 as a whole was the weakest of the series, this episode marked a turning point in which viewers were given a sense of hope for what was to come. What’s more, nearly every segment serves a significant purpose, with very little filler to weigh the narrative down.
The Broken Man (S6E7)
As we approach the latter half of Season 6, “The Broken Man” succeeds in keeping the episode from feeling like mere setup for the finale by reintroducing long-forgotten characters such as The Hound, while also inserting some fresh-faced newcomers – most notably Lyanna Mormont – into the fray. The Arya/Braavos scenes, while not great, are more bearable than usual, and Olenna Tyrell is as captivating as ever. “The Broken Man” isn’t the type of episode that leaves you gasping, but it is the type that makes such episodes possible.
Dark Wings, Dark Words (S3E2)
Although “Dark Wings, Dark Words” introduces a number of memorable characters, it comes at the expense of pacing. Thankfully, the episode begins to rev up once the formalities are taken care of. From there, we get such stand-out moments as the hard-hitting duel that leads to the Bolton’s capture of Jaime and Brienne, as well as the budding relationship between Joffrey and Margaery. And while Ramsay’s torturing of Theon would eventually overstay its welcome, at this point in the season, it still felt like fitting retribution for his heel turn and betrayal of the Starks.
Lord Snow (S1E3)
After captivating viewers with the first two episodes, “Lord Snow” puts the pedal to the metal, introducing such major players as Littlefinger, Varys, Grand Maester Pycelle, and several others. Furthermore, we’re transported to both King’s Landing and the Wall for the first time, establishing the backdrops for Ned Stark and Jon Snow’s respective arcs for the season. It isn’t quite as heavy on character development as its predecessors, but it’s still an intriguing transitional episode with a number of standout performances.
Kill the Boy (S5E5)
“Kill the Boy” is an overall solid episode, with both the Jorah/Tyrion and Theon/Sansa scenes jockeying for position. However, while the former scenes are fun and energetic, the latter provide a sense of balance by introducing some heavy emotional weight to the already-grim outlook over at Winterfell. Elsewhere, plots continue to advance at a slightly slower rate than one would expect for the midpoint of the season, keeping in line with Season 5’s trend – at this point – of good-but-not-great episodes.
The Bear and the Maiden Fair (S3E7)
At times, "The Bear and the Maiden Fair" feels like a bit of a holding pattern as Game of Thrones moves its pieces into place in preparation for the final three episodes. That being said, we’re treated to an absolute highlight when Jaime returns to Harrenhal to rescue Brienne, thus completing his season-long redemption arc. And while the Jon and Ygritte scenes are enjoyable, as well, the rest of the episode suffers from inconsistent pacing and a bit too much setup for future developments.
First of His Name (S4E5)
“First of His Name” is slow at times, but only by Game of Thrones standards, which means there’s still more than enough for viewers to appreciate from the narrative. Over in King’s Landing, we see the normally confrontational Cersei attempt to make amends with her enemies, while north of the Wall, Jon and his raiding party lay waste to the Night’s Watch mutineers at Craster’s Keep. Meanwhile, the gory battles and heavy emotional beats are balanced out by the interactions between Brienne and Pod, which provide some welcome comic relief.
Sons of the Harpy (S5E4)
Although the eponymous Meereenese insurgency was one of the weaker parts of Season 5, “Sons of the Harpy” is an episode that delivers on multiple fronts. The dynamic between Jaime and Bronn is almost as entertaining as Jorah and Tyrion, and the final battle is both gorgeous and heart-pounding. The scenes with Jon, Stannis, and Melisandre are forgettable, but thankfully there’s more than enough substance elsewhere to keep us engaged.
The two standout moments of “Oathbreaker” are undoubtedly Jon executing his murderers and Bran’s vision of his father’s duel with Ser Arthur Dayne that took place years ago. The latter of these two events is of likely of interest to those invested in a particular fan theory that’s since been confirmed, but nevertheless, we were only given a brief tease before Bran was cut off from discovering what happened after Ned won the fight. Aside from these sequences, the episode feels a bit uneven, with Daenerys’ Vaes Dothrak scenes leaving much to be desired.
Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things (S1E4)
Nuanced characters and an engaging plot help "Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things" stand out as an episode that’s rich in both character development and intrigue. The budding friendship between Jon and Sam, Littlefinger’s story about how The Hound got his scars, and the subsequent skirmish between him and The Mountain all serve as highlights of the episode, and each for different reasons. It may be light on the action, but the tension and intrigue remain as high as ever.
The Kingsroad (S1E2)
While some fans complain about how inexplicably fast characters are able to traverse the continent of Westeros, let’s not forget that “The Kingsroad” was an episode almost entirely spent detailing Ned, Sansa, and Arya’s journey from Winterfell to King’s Landing. Nevertheless, there were some great moments, such as the reveal of Joffrey’s true colors, as well as the brief but enjoyable interaction between Jon and Tyrion. Everyone is shifted out of their comfort zones, and every character that appears on-screen is given a chance to shine.
The Climb (S3E6)
“The Climb” is an episode that deals with just that: the climb. To be specific, it’s the wildling’s death-defying scaling of the Wall that this episode shares its namesake with, but back in King’s Landing, we’re treated to a show-stealing scene between Tywin and Olenna that yields less than favorable results for Tyrion and Cersei. It’s heavy on the interpersonal exchanges, scheming, and plotting that Game of Thrones is known for, allowing viewers to catch their breaths before ramping back up again for the impending season finale.
Valar Dohaeris (S3E1)
"Valar Dohaeris" is a bit overzealous in its attempt to reintroduce a multitude of characters and plotlines, but as a table-setter for the season, it serves its purpose admirably enough. Jon finally reaches the wildling camp, which leads to the introduction of Mance Rayder, and we even get our first glimpse of a giant. True, it’s not the kind of episode fans will be clamoring to rewatch, but sometimes winding the machine back up, reintroducing some key story lines, and retracing the lines of allegiance makes for a worthwhile hour of television.
The Prince of Winterfell (S2E8)
It’s not a stretch to say that “The Prince of Winterfell” is merely a placeholder before the Battle of the Blackwater. As far as placeholders go, though, this isn’t all that bad. There are no real action sequences, but the episode makes the most of its character moments, particularly Arya’s interactions with both Jaqen H’ghar and Tywin, and the interplay between Jaime and Brienne. Plus, in terms of plot advancement, we learn that Bran and Rickon are alive, so it’s not like it’s all filler.
Garden of Bones (S2E4)
One of the series’ darkest and creepiest episodes sees Joffrey use the weight of his authority to torture a pair of prostitutes, while elsewhere in the realm, Melisandre gives birth to a shadow demon. It isn’t all sadism and supernatural that contribute to the episode’s bleak tone, though, as we also see the horrors of war thanks to a bone-chilling field amputation; sans anesthesia, of course. The only downside is that “Garden of Bones” also marks the start of Daenerys’ misadventures in Qarth.
The North Remembers (S2E1)
In “The North Remembers,” we finally get to meet Stannis Baratheon. Unfortunately, when we do, he’s burning men to death, but that’s nothing compared to the sadism of Joffrey, who orders the death of children across King’s Landing. It’s a violent episode, but it’s still successful in bringing viewers up to speed, despite the amount of information they throw at you along the way. It’s an excellent way to kick off the season, capped off by an ominous, glowing comet to connect our characters, both old and new.
The Ghost of Harrenhal (S2E5)
"The Ghost of Harrenhal" utilizes some unfamiliar character pairings to explore the show’s shifting power structure, all while building momentum leading into the second half of the season. Catelyn and Renly come to an agreement and he agrees to join forces with Robb, but Renly’s subsequent death by Stannis and Melisandre’s “shadow baby” force her to flee with Brienne. The most interesting plotline in the episode, though, is Arya’s deal with Jaqen H’ghar, who promises her three lives in return for her having saved his.
“Oathkeeper” is highlighted by Daenerys freeing the slaves of Meereen, but it’s a poignant conversation between Jaime and Tyrion that helps round out the episode, showing viewers that Tyrion isn’t as alone as he thinks. In fact, Jaime has a number of standout scenes, including his conversation with Bronn and the touching moment in which he gifts Brienne a new suit of armor and a Valerian steel sword. And in terms of intrigue and suspense, we learn that Olenna was behind Joffrey’s death, much to the surprise of those of us that haven’t read the books.
What is Dead May Never Die (S2E3)
Tyrion’s cunning is on full display in this episode, as he plots three alliances through the promise of marriage to see who in the Small Council he can trust. Meanwhile, in the Stormlands, we’re introduced to Brienne of Tarth, who partially shatters the incredibly strict gender boundaries of Westeros after besting Loras Tyrell in combat. In the darker corners of Westeros, you have Theon’s betrayal or Robb and the birth of Arya’s famous kill list, and all of these scenes work together to make for an episode that fairly successfully captures what Game of Thrones is all about.
Walk of Punishment (S3E3)
This episode is one of the series’ more humorous outings, at least by Game of Thrones standards, thanks to Tyrion and Cersei’s Small Council high jinks and anything involving Podrick’s “gift”. That’s fortunate because it adds the perfect amount of levity to help compliment the episode’s final, shocking scene in which Jaime’s hand is chopped off. “Walk of Punishment” strikes a nice overall balance, remaining plot-heavy when necessary while still staying light on its feet.
Breaker of Chains (S4E3)
While "Breaker of Chains" is a bit of a letdown after the Purple Wedding, the episode expertly weaves together a number of necessary plot points. It’s also interesting to see how the show has come full circle, as we once again find ourselves in the aftermath of a carefully orchestrated murder that threatens to upset the balance of power. What’s not interesting, though, is seeing the newly-redeemed Jaime force himself on Cersei right next to the barely-cold body of their dead son.
A Man Without Honor (S2E7)
In case there’s any doubt, the title of this episode most certainly refers to Jaime, who has a heartfelt reunion with a distant cousin and then proceeds to bash his head in so he can escape from Stark captivity. Or perhaps the title refers to Theon, who orders for his surrogate brothers Bran and Rickon to be killed. The point is, this is a very dark episode, but if you’re a fan of sexual jokes and innuendos, you have the Jon/Ygritte scenes help balance out some of the doom and gloom.
“Dragonstone’s” position on this list isn’t necessarily a fault of the episode itself, but rather the fact that other installments in the series simply deliver more bang for the buck. That being said, there is still plenty to love, including Arya’s decimation of the Freys and Daenerys’ long-awaited homecoming. Overall, “Dragonstone” is a solid season opener that brilliantly reestablishes the chessboard for the penultimate season.
Mother’s Mercy (S5E10)
How satisfying was it to finally see Cersei pay for her crimes? Sure, her so-called ‘redemption’ would be short-lived, but her walk of atonement will likely never fail to put smiles on the faces of viewers who watched her mercilessly throw her weight around for five seasons. Still, the episode ends on a dour note thanks to the loss of Jon, who’s brutally stabbed by his supposed brethren of the Night’s Watch and left to die in the freezing cold. And while Sansa’s intriguing storyline felt a bit too hurried, a number of appropriately bleak cliffhangers still manage to salvage what was an overall lackluster season.
"Eastwatch" trades the fiery spectacle of the previous episode for a slow-burn approach, but nonetheless, it delivers some spectacular revelations and reunions. For one, we learn that Jon Snow isn’t really the bastard he believes himself to be, but good luck telling him because he’s too busy putting together a Suicide Squad-esque band of misfits to journey north of the Wall. The only real fault with this episode is that (it’s been said before, it will probably be said again) there’s plenty of setup with little payoff, which is forgivable, but questionable when you have a seven-episode season.
Kissed by Fire (S3E5)
One of the highest points of Season 3 is “Kissed by Fire,” in which Jaime shares the intimate details behind his “Kingslayer” nickname with Brienne – he murdered the Mad King before he could unleash wildfire on the people of King’s Landing. Speaking of intimate, we also see Jon and Ygritte consummate their relationship, but the episode isn’t completely devoid of action. A stunning swordfight between Beric and The Hound adds a tasteful dose of adrenaline into this otherwise calm affair.
“Stormborn” is a perfect Game of Thrones sampling platter. The gathering of Daenerys’ war council is GoT politics at its best, while elsewhere we get a touching reunion between Arya and Hot Pie, as well as her long-lost direwolf Nymeria. Finally, it’s all capped off by a breathtaking naval assault in which Euron and his forces storm Yara’s fleet after setting it on fire and proceed to lay waste to Daenerys’ allies in devastatingly quick and brutal fashion.
Winter is Coming (S1E1)
And so it begins. The series premiere of Game of Thrones wasted little time establishing stakes, from Jon Arryn’s murder to the incest between Jaime and Cersei to the supernatural threat of the White Walkers. It’s brilliantly capped off, too, by Jaime pushing the adventurous young Bran out a window to keep his and Cersei’s twincest a secret. The only downfall is that there are a LOT of characters, locations, and history that the episode attempts to establish in one hour, which can be intimidating for first-time viewers.
Second Sons (S3E8)
"Second Sons" is an episode with a relatively low number of storylines to keep track of, which gives the arcs we do see on-screen some room to breathe. As a result, we witness the bizarre arranged marriage of Tyrion and Sansa, and Sam is finally given his moment in the sun when he kills a White Walker. Considering this episode precedes the infamous Red Wedding, it’s actually surprising that “Second Sons” is as good as it is, but then again, the hopeful tone and aspects of humor sprinkled in should have been our clue to the darkness lurking just around the corner.
The Pointy End (S1E8)
This is the episode that marks the beginning of the end for Ned Stark, as he and his men are captured by the Lannisters. Things aren’t looking much better outside of Westeros, either, with Khal Drogo suffering a wound that indirectly leads to his death later in season. It’s a solid episode that sets things up for the inevitable war between the Starks and Lannisters, and it leaves you genuinely concerned for the safety of both Arya and Sansa, who are now the blackest of black sheep within the confines of King’s Landing.
The Gift (S5E7)
After the disturbing Ramsay/Sansa post-wedding scene in the previous episode, “The Gift” thankfully attempts to put Sansa back in control of her life by having her plot with Theon against her new husband. Things naturally go south, but it allows us to see Sansa depicted as both a strong and broken character, giving viewers a taste of Sophie Turner’s range that hadn’t been seen in previous episodes. The smaller character moments are the real highlight, though, such as the continued antics of Tyrion and Jorah, as well as an entertaining scene with Bronn and the Sand Snakes.
The Old Gods and the New (S2E6)
This episode features two emotionally-charged, tension-filled scenes that are surely engrained in the minds of viewers. The first is Theon’s conquest of Winterfell, which is billet pointed by his disturbingly sad execution of his trainer while Bran and Rickon look on in tears. The second is the riot in King’s Landing, which sees a mob literally rip a man apart and Sansa nearly raped. Tyrion slapping his nephew Joffrey and putting him in his place for inciting the chaos is one of Peter Dinklage’s best moments of the season, save for his speech at the Battle of Blackwater.
The Wolf and the Lion (S1E5)
In “The Wolf and the Lion,” we get our first glimpse of how much of a threat the Seven Kingdoms considers Daenerys to be, with news of her Dothraki alliance driving Robert to order a pre-emptive strike. This drives a bit of a wedge in his relationship with Ned, but it’s Jaime driving a sword into his leg that stands out as one of the highlights of the episode. Additionally, we get our first look at the Eyrie, which is a sight to behold, and a heartfelt conversation between Robert and Cersei adds a nice touch of levity to the high drama.
Two Swords (S4E1)
While not particularly eventful, "Two Swords" expertly lays the foundation for the coming excitement of Season 4, in which the Starks have been all but swept from the board while the Lannisters assume their position as the main characters. From an action standpoint, the episode is relatively quiet, though we do get an excellent scene in which The Hound and Arya take out an inn full of Lannister men. It’s definitely an episode meant to ease viewers back into the show after a long off-season, but the pace is perfectly appropriate for a season opener.
After the drama and death of the Red Wedding, the Season 3 finale helped raise viewers’ spirits by bringing back some familiar faces, with Jon, Sam, and Gilly returning to Castle Black, and Jaime and Brienne finally arriving in King’s Landing. However, this episode isn’t without its fair share of action, such as a profound and shocking moment for Arya, who stabs a soldier in the throat for mocking her dead brother. We also witness the continued torture of Theon, in a sequence that truly establishes just how sick and twisted a character Ramsay is.
Lysa had been an unbearable character since she was first introduced, so few of us were likely upset that she was thrown through the Moon Door. Admittedly, it does come as a bit of a surprise but considering it’s Littlefinger that does the deed, that shock is short-lived. Other surprises include Oberyn volunteering to be Tyrion’s champion in his upcoming trial by combat, which is preceded by his heartbreaking recount of how he witnessed Cersei’s hatred for her little brother firsthand when Tyrion was a baby. Plus, we get to see Daenerys pursue her first real relationship since Khal Drogo’s death, which is a nice step forward for her character.
Book of the Stranger (S6E4)
“Book of the Stranger” is an episode rich with sibling reunions. From Jon and Sansa to Theon and Yara to Margaery and Loras, it’s warm moments like this that almost make you forget how cruel the Seven Kingdoms can be, though Ramsay quickly reminds us. Nevertheless, the episode goes a long way toward amending some of the cruel injustices of the past without erasing them entirely, and it showcases the greatness that can be achieved through a perfect balance of setup and payoff.
A Golden Crown (S1E6)
The concept of trial by combat in Game of Thrones is something most of us associate with “The Mountain and the Viper,” but we’d be foolish to forget that it was first introduced in “A Golden Crown” when Bronn made his series debut to fight for Tyrion with a stunning display of swordsmanship. Meanwhile, in Essos, we finally witness the death of Viserys, who managed to overstay his welcome after only six episodes. The uniquely grotesque “crown” of molten hot gold that Khal Drogo fashions for his brother-in-law remains one of the most memorable manners of death in the entire series.
The Dance of Dragons (S5E9)
"The Dance of Dragons" successfully delivers all of the shock and awe we’ve come to expect from the series' penultimate episodes. We get our first real taste of Daenerys’ dragons (Drogon, to be specific) in action when he returns to aid his mother by biting, crushing, and burning the Sons of the Harpy in a brutal, yet visually-stunning sequence. This action-packed episode then culminates with Daenerys climbing onto Drogon’s back and bidding him to fly, making her the first Targaryen dragon rider in over a century. It’s an epic moment, though it doesn’t completely erase the memories of Stannis burning his daughter alive earlier in the episode.
You Win or You Die (S1E7)
The title of this episode comes from Cersei’s chilling and ominous message to Ned: “When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.” Had Ned heeded these words, though, we would have missed out on one of the most tension-filled moments of the season, in which Ned’s own honorable intentions come back to bite him in the throne room. And as ill-fitted as Robert was to be King, at least in a time of peace, it was still sad to see him go in this episode.
The Queen’s Justice (S7E3)
“The Queen’s Justice” sees the much-anticipated meeting between Jon and Daenerys, providing the ultimate payoff for viewers but leaving much to be desired for the duo since their conflicting agendas immediately put them at odds. However, the moment viewers will likely remember the most is Olenna’s death. We can at least take solace in two things, though: The first is that Olenna goes out peacefully. The second is that she still manages to get the last laugh, admitting to Jaime that she murdered Joffrey before imploring him to share this news with Cersei.
Valar Morghulis (S2E10)
After the breathtaking Battle of Blackwater, we see that rather than being rewarded for his valor, Tyrion is instead ostracized by his nephew Joffrey. Additionally, we see Sansa forge a new alliance, Daenerys reunite with her dragons, Theon fall from his short-lived grace, and Winterfell burn. Still, arguably the best moment of the episode is the ominous final scene, which introduces a new threat in the form of the White Walkers. It’s a moment that truly makes you question whether or not we should even care about the war between the Lannisters and the Starks, since the victor will likely have to deal with the White Walkers in the long run.
“Home” is an episode that could easily be called “Four Deaths and a Resurrection.” We see Ramsay savagely kill his father, mother-in-law, and baby brother, we see Euron kill Balon, and in the closing moments, we see Jon gasp for air as he comes back to life. These are hardly the only highlights, as we also get to see Tyrion get on the good side of Daenerys’ dragons, plus there’s Theon’s touching farewell to Sansa to help pull on the heartstrings.
Fire and Blood (S1E10)
In “Fire and Blood,” we witness the massive fallout of Eddard Stark's execution: Sansa is taken hostage, Arya flees in disguise, Robb and Catelyn lead an army against the Lannisters, and Jon struggles with his divided loyalty. Meanwhile, Daenerys is forced to deal with the consequences of her decision to use blood magic, which in turn leads to the death of her husband, her unborn son, and the loss of her Dothraki army. What she gains, though, is the gift of three dragons. This episode also plants the seeds for the massive power struggle that’s been unfolding over the course of the series thus far, with news of Joffrey’s true parentage – and in turn, his claim to the Iron Throne – failing to be buried with Ned Stark.
And Now His Watch Is Ended (S3E4)
"And Now His Watch Is Ended" is heavy on the themes of betrayal and revenge, complimented by a mind-blowing, fiery surprise for those who stand in Daenerys’ way, as she eliminates the entire ruling class of a slave city by simply uttering the word “Dracarys.” On the other end of the power scale, you have Jaime and Theon – two despicable characters who face torturous and humiliating justice for their past sins but start to become more sympathetic in the process. The immense talent of the show’s writers is on full display in this episode, as they fire on all cylinders and give us a reason to care about the very characters we despised just one season earlier.
The Watchers on the Wall (S4E9)
Perhaps one of the most cinematic episodes to date, “The Watchers on the Wall” is host to one of the greatest battle scenes of the entire series, where the Night’s Watch manages to fend off the ruthless army of the wildlings and protect the Wall. Furthermore, the epic scope of this spectacle is exacerbated by the fact that we get to watch it unfold throughout the course of the entire episode, making an awesome moment feel like it lasts a lifetime (or at least an hour), with plenty of giants, mammoths, ice scythes, and casualties along the way.
This is the episode that establishes the fact that there are no rules in Game of Thrones because it breaks the biggest one of them all when Ned Stark, the primary protagonist of the series thus far, is beheaded. Few other shows have the fortitude to cast someone with as much star power as Sean Bean, build him up as a central figure of the story, then kill him off all in the first season, but that’s exactly what happens in “Baelor.” It goes to show what honor and nobility are truly worth in Westeros.
The Dragon and the Wolf (S7E7)
While much slower in pace than the finales that precede it, "The Dragon and the Wolf" delivers satisfying conclusions to several major story arcs and masterfully sets up the series' impending final season. Still, despite the pacing, a lot actually transpires in this jumbo-sized episode. Littlefinger is killed, Jaime and Cersei part ways, Jon and Daenerys knock boots, the Night King flies atop an undead dragon, the Wall crumbles, and now we’re expected to wait patiently until 2019 to find out what happens next. After seven seasons, winter is finally here.
The Children (S4E10)
“The Children” is equally as emotional as it is action-packed. Daenerys being forced to chain up her dragons is a truly poignant moment, as is the conclusion to Brienne and The Hound’s epic swordfight. The real star of the episode, though? Tyrion, who murders the woman he loves and the father he hates after he discovers they were having an affair. Additionally, we get to see the aftermath of Jon and the Night’s Watch’s battle with the wildlings, and we witness a major step in the evolution of Arya, who sets sail for an uncertain future in Braavos after refusing to put the dying Hound out of his misery.
“Blackwater” is home to the first truly massive battle in Game of Thrones, as Stannis and his army storm King’s Landing by land and by sea to try and seize the Iron Throne from King Joffrey. Not only is it the first time that we really get a chance to see what the show is capable of in terms of big-budget brawls, but it’s also our chance to see both Joffrey and Tyrion for who they truly are. In the face of battle, Tyrion rises to the occasion, delivering a rousing speech that helps rally the King’s forces, while Joffrey cowers away with his tail between his legs, abandoning his own troops at a crucial moment. This ultimately leaves you rooting for King’s Landing and Stannis’ army equally, if only for the satisfaction of seeing Tyrion elicit more of a reaction from the Lannister soldiers than their cowardly King.
Beyond the Wall (S7E6)
For years, fans clamored for an actual clash between ice and fire (White Walkers and dragons), and on that front, “Beyond the Wall” more than delivers. Sure, the episode requires more suspension of disbelief than usual, but we can hopefully all agree that the ends justify the means. It’s not without heartbreak, though, as Viserion is struck with one of the Night King’s ice spears and sent plunging into the frozen lake before being brought back as a wight. Ultimately, "Beyond the Wall" delivers the epic battles and plot twists we’ve come to expect from a penultimate episode of a Game of Thrones season, despite doing so in ways that sometimes defy the show’s logic.
The Mountain and the Viper (S4E8)
If you need any reminders of just how brutal The Mountain can be, then look no further than “The Mountain and the Viper.” Just when it seems as though Oberyn has the upper-hand, playing the role of David to The Mountain’s Goliath, the show delivers one the most jaw-dropping (or perhaps skull-crushing) scenes to date, firmly reminding viewers that nearly all semblances of hope in Westeros are backhanded. While it’s a difficult episode to watch, it still ranks as one of the most powerful.
The Laws of Gods and Men (S4E6)
Tyrion’s trial for the murder of Joffrey is the highlight of this episode, as it affords the scorned imp the opportunity to finally let loose and express his long-suppressed rage against the society that mocks him and the family that resents him. Peter Dinklage turns in one of his best performances to date, and despite being betrayed by his bitter ex-lover Shae, Tyrion still manages to hold his composure and opt to fight for his life rather than admit guilt for a crime he didn’t commit.
The Lion and the Rose (S4E2)
In all seriousness, is there a single person out there that wasn’t happy to see Joffrey finally bite the bullet? After nearly four full seasons of watching this unbearable, petulant little man-child throw his weight around, emotionally torment Sansa, and belittle Tyrion, it’s hard to feel even the slightest bit of sympathy for Joffrey, despite being poisoned at his own wedding. For a series that more often than not robs us of our favorite characters, “The Lion and the Rose” offers viewers a rare and welcome dose of poetic justice by finally giving Joffrey what he deserves.
The Door (S6E5)
Quite a bit transpires in “The Door.” We learn the origin of the White Walkers, we see Euron throw his hat in the race that is the power struggle in the Iron Islands, plus we get a new revelation that further supports Daenerys’ claim to the Iron Throne. However, that all pales in comparison to the tragic conclusion of Hodor’s journey. Learning how the loveable giant lost his ability to speak in full sentences, we witness his shouting of “hold the door” slowly transforms to “Hodor” moments before he sacrifices himself to protect Bran, in a scene that perfectly blends past and present to deliver one of the most emotional sequences of the series.
The Spoils of War (S7E4)
Sure, Arya returns to Winterfell for the first time since Season 1, and Jon and Daenerys have some nice moments, but let’s not pretend the real highlight of this episode isn’t the Battle of the Goldroad. The look on Jaime’s face when he first catches glimpse of Daenerys riding on the back of Drogon says everything there is to say about this moment. Whether it’s by the sickles of the Dothraki riders or by Drogon’s fiery breath, the Lannister army is unequivocally decimated. It’s a fight that elicits a number of mixed feelings (let’s face it, Jaime’s far too compelling for us to want to see him die), and this internal conflict is perfectly embodied by Tyrion, who watches the melee from a safe distance while quietly encouraging his brother to retreat and live to fight another day.
While Season 5 was filled with some less-than-stellar moments, the best of them can nearly all be found in “Hardhome.” For one, we get a decent dose of shared screen time between two of the standout characters of the series – Tyrion and Daenerys. Furthermore, there’s plenty of development in the storylines of the majority of the big-name characters, including Sansa, Arya, Theon, and Cersei. Still, the real reason this episode shines so bright is because of the epic battle that sees Jon Snow and the wildlings take on an army of undead minions – an army unleashed by the White Walkers, who are finally propelled to the forefront of the series, much to the delight of eager fans.
The Rains of Castamere (S3E9)
Ah, the Red Wedding episode… If you’ve read the novels, you probably saw this coming. If not, this was probably one of the most shocking moments in Game of Thrones history, as we witness an absolute bloodbath that wipes out nearly all of House Stark, including Robb’s unborn child, courtesy of the Freys and the Boltons. However, before the Bolton betrayal, we learn that the Lannisters were the true masterminds behind the attack, which is what makes Joffrey’s fate in “The Lion and the Rose” all the more satisfying. Nevertheless, watching the brutal butchering of countless innocents makes “The Rains of Castamere” difficult to watch. It’s powerful and compelling episode, but perhaps not one best suited for repeat viewings.
The Winds of Winter (S6E10)
“The Winds of Winter” is quite an eventful offering. Jon Snow is declared King in the North, Arya completes her two-season arc in Braavos, Cersei eliminates all of her enemies in one fell swoop, Tommen commits suicide, Cersei ascends to the Iron Throne, and most importantly, Daenerys finally sets sail to Westeros, setting the stage for an even greater power struggle in Season 7 as she attempts to claim what’s rightfully hers. Perhaps most notable, though, is the confirmation of Jon’s true parentage, which surely satisfied those invested in that particular fan theory.
Battle of the Bastards (S6E9)
“Battle of the Bastards” is home to one of the grittiest, most visceral fights to take place in all of Game of Thrones; like World War I trench warfare, but with a massive giant fighting for the Allied forces. At one point, we even see a literal pile of bodies that both sides of the fight are forced to climb over to in order to engage, lest they be buried beneath a mountain of death comprised of the lifeless corpses of their brothers-in-arms. It all pays off in the end, though, as Ramsay is finally knocked off his high horse and the banners of House Stark once again hang proudly in Winterfell. And while Rickon’s death at the start of the battle is certainly tragic, this still remains one of the sweetest victories for House Stark since the start of the series.
What about you? Do you agree with our ranking? Let us know in the comments section!