Obviously, if you haven’t watched all of the Game Of Thrones episodes, then there are spoilers in this post and really, what are you doing If you haven’t seen all the episodes yet? Get on it!
Game Of Thrones may be over, but the debates over the show probably won’t be ending any time soon. Part of what made the show one of the best of all time has been the endless debates about the series. Which battle was the best? Who was the worst villain? Should the show have slowed down the storylines at the end? What was Tyrion’s funniest line? (“I drink and I know things.”)
Or this classic: Which Game Of Thrones episode is the best from each season? Eight seasons, 73 total episodes, we pick eight total. It’s a daunting task, especially in the early seasons when the show was so good you’d be hard-pressed to find a bad episode at all. There really are so many good ones!
In fact, there are so many good episodes that many have to be left off of a list like this. Episodes like “The Lion And The Rose,” when evil King Joffrey gets his just desserts, and “A Golden Crown” from Season 1, when Dany’s brother Viserys is “crowned” by Khal Drogo didn’t make the list, despite being absolutely stellar. So which eight Game Of Thrones episodes did make it? Let’s take a look.
“Baelor” (Season 1, Episode 9)
“Baelor” is the Game Of Thrones episode when the show truly showed what it was. After eight episodes of learning to love and respect the great Ned Stark -- the protagonist of the show and its biggest star -- the audience watched in horror as nasty King Joffrey commanded his executioner Ilyn Payne to “bring (him)(Ned’s) head” and Ned lost his head.
It was the first “holy crap!” moment of the show that immediately made the audience realize this show wasn’t like anything before it. The stakes were higher because even the most beloved characters could be gone at any moment. It was the first time audience members cried, but it wouldn’t be the last time.
The episode is most remembered for that moment of course, but there are other moments that proved to be some of the most important events to happen, that might not have seemed as important at the time. Like… Robb Stark agreeing to marry one of Walder Frey’s daughters. It would take a couple more seasons, but we now know how that worked out (see below).
Also in the episode, Lord Mormont presented Jon Snow with his family’s Valyrian steel sword, known as “Longclaw.” It’s a sword that Jon would use in the most pivotal battles on the show. “Baelor” is also the episode that saw Dany betrayed by Mirri, who lied about wanting to help Khal Drogo overcome his festering wound.
Oh – AND – Jaime Lannister was captured by Robb Stark’s men after The King In The North tricked Tywin Lannister on the battlefield. Overall it’s a very powerful episode, both immediately and looking back after knowing the whole story. The events in “Baelor” set the stage for almost all the events that followed, in one way or another.
"Blackwater" (Season 2, Episode 9)
When it comes to Game Of Thrones episodes, many of the truly great standouts are the enormous battle episodes, of which “Blackwater” was the first. Before “Blackwater,” the largest battle was off screen, before Game Of Thrones had really big budgets.
Like “Baelor,” “Blackwater” set up a tremendous amount, not the least of which was the precedent of staging huge war scenes that played out over entire episodes. With an increased special effects budget, the episode literally exploded onto TV screens in a huge burst of green wildfire.
The moment that Ser Davos realized they were sailing into wildfire and Bronn lost his flaming arrow, the show changed again. It was a moment equal to Ned losing his head, at least in terms of its dramatic importance.
The entire episode was set in one location, King’s Landing, another first for the show. Tyrion showed his courage again by leading the battle while Joffrey cowered in fear. The Hound, until this episode loyal to Joffrey, saw the explosion and decided this wasn't his battle. He took off, never to return to the Lannister fold.
In the end, Tywin Lannister arrived with his forces to save the day, but not until after the audience was left hanging when Tyrion took a sword to face and the show leaft everyone unsure of the popular character’s fate. Good stuff, that.
“The Rains Of Castamere” (Season 3, Episode 9)
Of all the Game Of Thrones episodes over the years, this one, “The Rains Of Castamere” is easily the most famous – or infamous at least. If you don’t know it by its proper title, you definitely know it as “The Red Wedding.”
“The Rains Of Castamere” is not only the most shocking episode of Game Of Thrones, it might be the most shocking episode of any TV show, ever.
If you somehow don’t remember it, it’s the episode when Walder Frey got his revenge on Robb Stark after he went against his word and married someone other than one of Frey's daughters, as Stark had promised to do.
The episode was an even crazier example of what the show first set up in “Baelor,” that anyone could die, at any time, including the biggest hero on the show. Plus, it wasn't just Robb who received the Lannister’s regards, it was his wife, his unborn child and his mother, Catelyn Stark. The bloodbath at The Red Wedding will forever be one of the most incredible moments in TV history.
Something to take note of if you haven’t watched in a while. The music was fantastic. When the wedding band (led by Coldplay drummer Will Champion, no less) started to play the Lannister song “The Rains Of Castamere," it set an amazing mood of foreboding that culminated in Lady Cat noticing the men in chainmail and realizing things were about to go very, very wrong for the Starks.
“The Laws Of God And Men“ (Season 4, Episode 6)
"The Laws Of Gods And Men” aka “The Trial Of Tyrion Lannister” is an amazing episode with an absolutely stunning performance by Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister.
The episode continued the fallout from The Purple Wedding and the death of King Joffrey. Tyrion was put on trial by his father, Tywin, and had to defend himself. During the trial, Tyrion was betrayed by Shae, his lover for most of the show up to that point. A devastated Tyrion finally declared that he will face trial by combat, knowing The Mountain will be champion for the King.
Season 4 was filled with so many amazing episodes, this was the hardest episode to pick out of the whole show. Of course, there was “The Lion And The Rose,” but there was also “The Mountain and The Viper” when Oberyn Martell battled The Mountain on behalf of Tyrion and had his eyes popped out and his skull crushed as a result. “The Children” was another contender, when Tyrion broke the vice-like grip of his father (and his death sentence) by shooting Tywin on the throne. No, not the Iron Throne, but the more modest one everyone sits on.
Season 4 was PACKED with intensity and just might have been the most sustained season of excellence during Game Of Thrones’ run.
"Hardhome" (Season 5, Episode 8)
“Hardhome” and the Battle Of Hardhome has been called the best battle in the show’s history. Whether it is or not, is up to the individual viewer, but the episode itself is incredible.
This episode of Game Of Thrones came towards the end of what was often seen as a uneven season for the show. Many of the episodes had been bogged down by Dany’s lack of progress as a character, the loss of a great character at the end of Season 3 in Tywin Lannister and other plot points that many fans grew tired of like the ongoing fight between Cersei and The High Sparrow.
But the season ended with three incredible episodes, starting with “Hardhome” and going right through to the end when Cersei made her infamous walk of shame through the streets of King’s Landing.
The Battle Of Hardhome tops the other two for one major reason, it was the first time viewers see the White Walkers and their army of wights in full effect. These were not plodding Walking Dead-style zombies. They were more like World War Z zombies, moving at lightning speed and attacking with tremendous veracity. The episode was as terrifying for viewers as the battle is for the characters.
“The Battle Of The Bastards” (Season 6, Episode 9)
The penultimate episode of Season 6 is epic in every sense of the word. Not because Dany made her first real alliance with a powerful house in Westeros when she made a pact with the Greyjoys. No, it was because Jon Snow finally faced off against one of the most brutal villains in Game Of Thrones when he fought Ramsay Bolton on the battlefield outside Winterfell.
From the opening parlay between the show’s two most important bastards to the final scene with Sansa serving up Ramsay to his starving dogs, “The Battle Of The Bastards” delivered everything a Game Of Thrones fan could ever want.
There is tremendous loss, as another Stark child, Rickon, was brutally killed while Jon Snow tried valiantly to save him. Fans also saw the beloved giant Wun Wun go down, but not before sacrificing himself to get the gates of Winterfell open, which allowed Jon Snow and his forces to storm the castle.
Viewers also saw the first real evidence of the resolve of Sansa Stark, who for the first time emerged as a real player of the great game when she turned from the little frightened dove into a cunning strategist by bringing in the Knights Of The Vale to save the day.
In a show full of incredible battles, it’s in the “Battle Of The Bastards” when the show reached its artistic zenith.
“The Dragon And The Wolf“ (Season 7, Episode 7)
It is not a coincidence “The Dragon And The Wolf” was nominated for eight Emmy awards. The finale of Season 7 of Game Of Thrones brings together almost the entire cast for the first time in the shows long history and not only fully reveals some major plot points that had been debated for years, but also brings to an end one of the best characters in the show’s run.
Just for starters, that meeting of Cersei, Dany and almost all of the rest of the major characters in the dragon pit at King’s Landing was a special moment. Characters the audience had known for years, met for the first time and Cersei saw what she was up against with Dany and her dragons. She also saw what the world was up against in the White Walkers and their army of wights.
Meanwhile up in The North, where the remaining characters were, Sansa and Arya teamed up to take down when of the most crafty players in game when they tricked Littlefinger into a false sense of security before turning on him and taking him out of the game with a quick slash of his throat by Ayra. Littlefinger was a major character from the beginning and his death marked a seriously important moment in the development of Sansa and her sister Arya.
Oh – and then there are other minor details, like Jon's true heritage being solved for the audience once and confirming the legendary equation of R+L=J. Plus, the zombie dragon completely disintegrating The Wall, which, you know, had stood for thousands of years. Minor stuff.
“A Knight Of The Seven Kingdoms “ (Season 8, Episode 2)
Season 8 was controversial, to say the least. Many fans complained the showrunners moved too quickly or didn’t develop character’s motivations effectively. While that’s all true, it wasn’t bad television, it might not have lived up to the hype, but there were still some amazing moments, including "A Knight of The Seven Kingdoms."
Picking a Game Of Thrones episode from Season 8 is tough. There were the two major battles, in “The Long Night” and “The Bells” which each had epic moments and some serious flaws, there was the series finale, with Jon Snow killing Dany and Drogon melting the symbol of namesake of the show, not to mention carrying his “mother’s” body off to the east. Plus, we saw the deaths of other major characters like Cersei and Jaime. And of course, there was Cleganebowl.
The best episode through all of that though, was Episode 2 “A Knight Of The Seven Kingdoms.” It was set entirely in Winterfell as the Northmen prepared for the upcoming battle with The Night King and his army of the dead. While there wasn't any serious action to speak off, the episode was heartfelt and mournful, without being sappy. It was the perfect way to begin the end of this epic story.
Brienne became Ser Brianne, Tormund endeared himself further to fans with his story about a giant nursing him, while Tyrion and the others sat and drank and philosophized on life. Arya made peace with Beric and The Hound and made something else with Gendry.
All in all, it was a most satisfying way to say goodbye to a lot of characters and, really, the show as fans knew it.
So there they are, the best Game Of Thrones episodes from each season. What do you think, did we get it right? Let us know in the comments and answer the poll about the best of the best below as well!