Over six seasons Game of Thrones has provided moments that have thrilled and stunned TV viewers. Here are the top ten Game of Thrones episodes of the first six seasons.
Warning: This post contains spoilers for the first six seasons of Game of Thrones.
|Jamie Lannister shoves Bran Stark from a tower window|
10) “Winter Is Coming” Season One, Episode One – The episode that started it all. Several big moments that sent HBO’s current signature series into motion all occur in the first 61 minutes of Game of Thrones. The show opens with a precursor to Winter and the death of Jon Arryn. The premiere primarily brings in the Stark family and also helps develop the ruse that Ned Stark is the ultimate hero of the show. After Robert Baratheon and his oversized entourage arrive in Winterfell, Jamie Lannister memorably caps the debut by shoving Bran Stark from a window and sends an early signal that no one in the cast is safe. In a different spot of the world, Khal Drogo is introduced to the Targaryen siblings. Episode One successfully immersed the audience in Westeros and hooked them into George R.R. Martin's world.
9) “The Lion and the Rose” Season Four, Episode Two – Most major character deaths in Game of Thrones occur within the last two episodes of each season. In Season Four, the poisoning of Joffrey Baratheon happened early and unexpectedly at the Purple Wedding. Joffrey's death later launched a bit of a whodunnit that resulted in Tryion fleeing Westeros. Aside from the wedding, “The Lion and the Rose” also showcases the power of Melisandre’s influence over Stannis Baratheon and elevates Ramsay Bolton into a more powerful role.
|Daenerys Targaryen emerges from the temple|
8) “Book of the Stranger” Season Six, Episode Four This episode was a major testament to Emilia Clarke’s acting. The strength Daenerys Targaryen displays as she kills the Khals and exits the burning temple is her most powerful moment on the show. “Book of the Stranger” also features two high profile meetings: Jon Snow and Sansa Stark finally reunite and Loras and Margaery Tyrell have an emotional discussion in the prison cells of the Great Sept.
7) “The Children” Season Four, Episode Ten – As far as Game of Thrones episodes go, the fourth season finale was one of the most important mid-series shows. Daenerys Targaryen locks up two of her dragons after the third goes on a bit of a killing spree. The critical battle for the survival of the Night’s Watch ends after Stannis Baratheon swoops in with his army and Bran finally reaches the Heart Tree. In King’s Landing, FrankenGregor’s resurrection begins and Tyrion murders his former lover Shae and his powerful father Tywin. The episode was capped by a worthy duel between The Hound and Brienne that led to Arya’s escape to Braavos.
|Lena Headey's scene-stealing performance as Cersei|
6) “Blackwater” Season Two, Episode Nine – Tyrion Lannister has spent a lifetime waiting for the opportunity to prove himself. After successfully serving as Hand of the King he also demonstrates bravery on the battlefield as he leads the defense of King’s Landing. Lena Headey turns in one of her best performances as Cersei Lannister as she holds her wine goblet so distinctively while she converses with Sansa Stark. For a series that wields CGI so capably, one of the most impressive uses of the production tool comes during the wildfire explosion that devastates Stannis Baratheon's fleet. Of the episodes of Game of Thrones that are centered around a battle, "Blackwater" contains the most character-driven scenes.
5) “The Winds of Winter” Season Six, Episode Ten – There was one distinctive theme of the Season Six finale: revenge. Cersei’s Mafiosa-style takeout of her King’s Landing enemies made for one of the boldest scenes on Game of Thrones. That move did have an important unintended consequence: it also led to the suicide of her son, King Tommen, and allowed her to sit upon the Iron Throne.
Even if revenge is best served cold, that dish has never been served as satisfactorily as Arya’s pie. Arya’s unexpected and cold-blooded assassination of Walder Frey finally gave her vagabond character some gratification. The Stark family also realized some happier moments as Jon Snow is crowned King in the North and the origin of his birth is finally confirmed to the audience. Daenerys Targaryen also begins her seaward journey to King’s Landing, a move that should set up a long-awaited clash for power.
|Ned Stark as he awaits execution|
4) “Baelor” Season One, Episode Nine – After a brilliant marketing campaign from HBO, one of the most surprising moments of the Game of Thrones books was revealed through the death of Ned Stark. Ned’s execution is the first of many high-profile character deaths on the series, but remains the most shocking. The episode also depicted Robb Stark’s military brilliance, included an important conversation between Jon Snow and Aemon Targaryen, and witnessed Khal Drogo’s declining health.
3) “Battle of the Bastards” Season Six, Episode Nine – A showdown that had been in the making for quite some time, Season Six’s penultimate episode saw bastard children Jon Snow and Ramsay Bolton square off to determine the fate of the Stark family home. The brilliant battle before the ramparts of Winterfell featured intense action sequences and really immersed the audience in the brutality and violence of medieval-style combat. The up-close nature of several combat scenes are reminiscent of Kenneth Branagh’s 1989 film Henry V. Certain shots, particularly the cavalry charge surrounding Jon Snow, were not just great scenes, but also an achievement in filmmaking and choreography. Appropriately, the battle’s fate is decided when the show’s biggest bastard, Littlefinger, brings in the Knights of the Vale to save the day. This episode is one of several examples of the greatness of the production quality of Game of Thrones.
|Robb Stark at the Red Wedding|
2) “The Rains of Castamere” Season Three, Episode Nine – If “Baelor” was unexpected, the Red Wedding doubled down on the Stark family’s tragedies and plot twists. The slaughter of Robb, Catelyn, and their northern army was a stunning end to the Stark's successful military campaign. By the end of this episode two beloved characters from the show’s very first scenes were no longer in the series. It was not only devastating to the North, but also destroyed so many developing stories. After three seasons, almost anything a viewer could have guessed how Game of Thrones would proceed was no longer in play. The Red Wedding is one of the biggest mid-series story resets in television history.
1) “Hardhome” Season Five, Episode Eight – Jon Snow has participated in several dynamic scenes on Game of Thrones, but Hardhome is the moment that cemented him as the star of the show. Hardhome followed Jon Snow and Wildlings as they fought for their survival against an army of Wights. Like the Battle of the Bastards, the episode is also defined by incredible action sequences. The backdrop of Winter and the quality of the battle that was filmed gave viewers something unique to television.
The signature moment of the episode, and perhaps the best scene in the series, is the Night King’s appearance at Hardhome. As Jon Snow and the surviving Wildlings are ferried from the shore, the Night King’s simple hand gesture to reanimate the dead reveals the magnitude of the threat beyond the Wall. The ease of the arm motion and the relative quiet allows the audience to feel like Jon and his compatriots as they drift away in stunned silence.
|The Night King and his army of Wights at Hardhome|