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Game Of Thrones is my favorite show of all-time. It's so complicated, yet carefully organized. It features incredible acting performances, all-time musical scores and maybe the best cinematography in the history of television. I was invested in every single minute of it, even if I didn't always agree with the choices the creators made. Now that it's all over, I'm devastated. There's nothing else on television I look forward to with anywhere close to the same intensity. So, I'm going to do my best to cope by writing some more articles looking back. Let's start with the seasons.
Perhaps my favorite Game Of Thrones-related debate that often crops up between fans is arguments about the best and worst seasons. I like these conversations because they're often a lens into each person's perspective and a good indication of why they actually watch the show. Are they coming for the slow burn of multi-episode schemes and clues that will pay off much later or are they coming for the shocking deaths and/ or action-heavy battles? Are they into the political or the supernatural? There are just so many different elements, and the balance between them is different in every season. Still, I think there are objectively some that work better than others. So, let's talk it out and then you can feel free to yell at me about my opinions in the comment section.
8) Season 8
Season 8 will not be remembered nearly as negatively as it is right now. It unquestionably has some beautiful moments (Brienne being knighted, Arya and the Hound's last goodbye, etc), as well as some stunning individual shots (Dany as the dragon in the final episode, Melisandre lighting the weapons during the Battle of Winterfell), but it's certainly fair to say a lot of fans were expecting a bit more and were disappointed by some endings specific characters got (Jaime & Cersei) and some of the plots that were kinda just dropped. Season 8 was also unquestionably rushed and would have been much better using the same major beats but spreading them throughout ten episodes instead of six. Even with extended runtimes, there's something different about letting fans stew over what's coming for a week instead of giving them the answer later in the same episode.
Best Moments: Theon's last stand at Winterfell, Brienne being knighted, Arya and the Hound's final goodbye, the music throughout and Jorah's death.
7) Season 7
The first one without 10 episodes and the first to dramatically speed up the timeline, Season 7 is pretty polarizing for a lot of fans. For me, it's a bit of a mixed bag. It's nice to see Dany join the plot in Westeros for the first time. It's nice to see the major characters get serious about the threat of the White Walkers for the first time. The Wall is a great tease for Season 8. There's a lot here to love, but because so much of the focus is on giant shake-ups to the balance of power, it feels chaotic and paced differently than earlier seasons. In just 7 episodes, Dany sails to Westeros and attacks Casterly Rock. Cersei and Jaime attack Highgarden and kill Lady Olenna. Dany attacks the Lannister army with her dragons. A wrecking crew sets off north of the wall. Dany attacks the Army of the Dead. Damn near every major character converges on Kings Landing to negotiate a truce. The Army of the Dead attacks the Wall. It's just soooooo much on such a grand scale, all shoved into 7 episodes that the show loses a bit of the intimacy and slow burn appeal it had in earlier seasons.
Best Moments: Lady Olenna's badass death, Varys and Dany's argument about who he serves, the battle in 7x4, White Walker zombie and the Wall falling.
6) Season 5
The last 3 episodes of Season 5 are terrific. "Hardhome" might be a Top 5 episode overall for the entire show, and there are a ton of payoff moments in the last two episodes, as well, including Princess Shireen's death, Cersei's Walk Of Shame, Arya finally catching up to Meryn Trant and obviously Jon Snow's death. But the first part of the season is really slow. I like the High Sparrow stuff, but it's definitely not a favorite plotline for many fans. Most of the stuff in Dorne does not really work. Arya in Braavos is a mixed bag, and how the show handled Ramsay and Sansa in 5x6 remains a topic of controversy. It's still a good season that's far better than most anything else on television, but it features the only prolonged stretch of episodes during the entire show's run that suffer from a clear lack of momentum.
Best Moments: The Night King raising the dead, Jon Snow's assassination, Stannis burning his daughter to death-- then losing everything almost immediately afterwards, Arya ending Meryn Trant, Cersei's Walk Of Shame and the promise of her vengeance to come and Mance being burned alive.
5) Season 2
Season 2 does a great job of making the Game of Thrones world feel a lot bigger, both in terms of physical locations and the concepts that are possible. We're introduced to places like Qarth. We meet and spend significant time with Theon's birth family the Greyjoys. We get the faceless men, Melisandre and her magic and we see wildfire introduced at Blackwater, the first truly epic battle of the series. Season 2 is great. The only reason it's not higher on this list is because everything else, to me, is just a little bit better, and at times, the stuff North of the Wall with Jon Snow can sometimes drag a little bit. It's important for his overall narrative, but it kinda be really frustrating and slow as you're watching it through.
Best Moments: The wildfire shot, the Spice King putting Daenerys in her place, Dany's dragons coming into their own and Tyrion's run as Hand of the King.
4) Season 1
Remember that time HBO considered Game of Thrones' pilot to be such a disaster executives decided to bring in a new director and recast significant characters? Well, I can't speak to that original pilot, but the new version is absolutely incredible and serves as the perfect jumping off point for the rest of the show. The larger Season 1 is also our only real chance to spend time with some really awesome and memorable characters who lose their lives including Ned Stark, Robert Baratheon, Viserys Targaryen and Khal Drogo. The stakes are much lower compared to the rest of the show. Almost all of the action is contained within The Starks vs The Lannisters, Dany learning to live with the Dothraki and Jon growing up and adjusting to the Wall. That makes for a real tight and well-organized season and the perfect introduction to many of the characters we grow to love.
Best Moments: Ned's death, Khal Drogo's speech about the wooden horses, Dany realizing she's the dragon and all the scheming in the aftermath of Robert's death.
3) Season 3
The first place people always go to with Season 3 is the Red Wedding. That's understandable given how intense the reaction was, but the best thing about Season 3 is almost certainly all of the wonderful character development and interplay between Jaime and Brienne. In just a few short episodes, Game Of Thrones was somehow able to turn Jaime Lannister, one of the biggest villains on the show into a sympathetic, complicated and even touching character. It's an absolute masterwork by the writers. Once you add in the Red Wedding, the beginning of Arya and The Hound's time together, lots of great back-and-forths between Littlefinger and Varys and the full Joffrey experience, there's just so much to love and look forward to each episode.
Best Moments: Chaos Is A Ladder, The Red Wedding, Jaime's speech about the Mad King and Jaime getting his hand cut off.
2) Season 6
There are so many great episodes throughout Season 6 ("Battle Of The Bastards", "Winds Of Winter", "The Door") and so many fun reveals, as well (The Red Woman is ancient, Jon Snow is still alive, The Hound is still alive, what Hodor's name means, etc). All of it works. None of it feels forced, and it all climaxes in spectacular fashion at the end of Episode 10 with most of the plotlines finally coming together. We learn Jon's true parentage, and he's crowned King In The North. We see Cersei crowned First Of Her Name and Dany finally sails for Westeros with fully grown dragons and the allies she's always wanted in order to take the Seven Kingdoms. There were so many possible future outcomes and because it was still unwritten, fans could envision the future however they wanted.
Best Moments: Hold The Door, Cersei blowing up the Sept, Jon's King In The North moment, the cinematography during the Battle of the Bastards.
1) Season 4
Season 4 is such a slow and careful burn. Every time something happens, especially at Kings Landing, it moves the pieces around the board to create an even more interesting scenario. Example: Cersei hates Tyrion and routinely feels like he'll be the ruin of the Lannister Family. After Joffrey is murdered, she has him arrested and put on trial. A deal is struck between Jaime and Tywin to send Tyrion to the Wall, but Tyrion betrays that deal and goes off on the Lords of Kings Landing, ultimately demanding a trial by combat. His champion, Prince Oberyn Martell, is defeated by the Mountain, and he's sentenced to death. Not wanting to see his brother die, Jaime decides to free him, after which he stumbles upon his father's affair with his ex-girlfriend Shae. He murders both Shae and Tywin and escapes with Varys and into an exciting and unknown future. That's one epic plot, strategically unfolded over the course of 10 episodes, and oh by the way, the other plots including Arya and the Hound, Littlefinger and Sansa and the "Watchers On The Wall" battle are pretty spectacular too.
Best Moments: Joffrey's death, The Mountain Vs The Viper, Ygritte's death, Tywin manipulating Jaime into leaving the Kingsguard and Tyrion's trial.