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Every ‘Game of Thrones’ Episode, Ranked

You’re going to have to find something new to bridge the gap with your Lyft driver, your boss, your agent, and your more distant family members at Thanksgiving. After eight years—eight years!—“Game of Thrones” is coming to an end next week. It feels surreal to leave the world of Dothraki-speaking dragon riders, fiery Free Folk, and the Army of the Dead, but debts have been paid, winter has come and gone, valar morghulis, and so on. 

So, in loving tribute to Jon, Arya, Daenerys, Cersei, Tyrion, Hodor, and all the fallen soldiers, we’ve ranked each “Thrones” episode from the worst to the best in time for the highly anticipated series finale. The end result is filled with blood, sweat, severed heads, errant coffee cups, wildfire, and the occasional bit of dragonglass. As is always the case with “Thrones,” the debates and disagreements are part of the fun — so pour one out for the lost ones, and follow us deep into Westeros.

 

Game of Thrones Season 5 Episode 6
CREDIT: Courtesy of HBO

73. Season 5, Episode 6: “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken”
Director: Jeremy Podeswa
Writer: Bryan Cogman
Aired: May 17, 2015
This is the episode where Sansa marries Ramsay. And on their wedding night, he brutally rapes her and makes Theon watch. Although we don’t see the act, a great number of fans and critics admonished the show’s creators and writers for this scene, which many considered both torture porn and a fetishization of rape.

72. Season 3, Episode 10: “Mhysa”
Director: David Nutter
Writers: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss
Aired: June 9, 2013
By this finale, hearts are broken all over Westeros — namely, those of anyone rooting for the now-murdered Starks, or for Ygritte and Jon’s budding romance. But it was the tired “white savior” narrative, perpetuated by Dany being carried by the freed slaves of Yunkai, that left many viewers rightfully disheartened.

Game of Thrones Season 4 Episode 3
CREDIT: Courtesy of HBO

71. Season 4, Episode 3: “Breaker of Chains”
Director: Alex Graves
Writers: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss
Aired: April 20, 2014
Sansa’s escape from King’s Landing with Littlefinger is about the only positive—albeit short-lived—takeaway from this chapter. Mostly, everyone is left confused as to why Jaime decides to force himself on Cersei next to their son’s corpse in one of the series’ biggest blunders.

70. Season 2, Episode 5: “The Ghost of Harrenhal”
Director: David Petrarca
Writers: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss
Aired: April 29, 2012
On the whole, Benioff and Weiss do a solid job of weaving together dozens of storylines, but “Harrenhal” is one that falls victim to having to dart across Westeros to tell them all. Renly is murdered by Melisandre’s smoke baby at the top of the episode, but there’s little time to process before we’re on to the next story beat.

Game of Thrones Season 2 Episode 8
CREDIT: Courtesy of HBO

69. Season 2, Episode 8: “The Prince of Winterfell”
Director: Alan Taylor
Writers: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss
Aired: May 20, 2012
Ahead of the season’s big battle of Blackwater, this filler episode still manages to remind us how much strategy is required to win a war. We learn Catelyn has made the mistake of releasing Jaime Lannister of her own accord, and Yara takes Theon to task for “killing” valuable hostages.

68. Season 7, Episode 6: “Beyond the Wall”
Director: Alan Taylor
Writers: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss
Aired: August 20, 2017
Jon, the Hound, and a posse of others head North to capture a wight to prove the Army of the Dead is real. Really? Daenerys lost Viserion for this slapdash mission? And of course the Night King reanimates him and now he has a dragon, too. Worst of all, Jon is spared — despite his tactical stupidity — when Benjen helps him escape and dies in the process.

Game of Thrones Season 4 Episode 4
CREDIT: Courtesy of HBO

67. Season 4, Episode 4: “Oathkeeper”
Director: Michelle MacLaren
Writer: Bryan Cogman
Aired: April 27, 2014
Honor still exists in Westeros, and most of it is concentrated in Brienne of Tarth’s pinky finger. She lives up to the episode’s title and vows to find and protect the missing Sansa. The pacing feels unusually lethargic, but the White Walkers make a galvanizing appearance.

66. Season 3, Episode 1: “Valar Dohaeris”
Director: Daniel Minahan
Writers: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss
Aired: March 31, 2013
A lot’s happened since Season 2’s ending, including a White Walker battle we never see much of. There are some character-building conversations, including one in which Tywin calls Tyrion a “spiteful little creature,” but, as an episode, this installment gives just a taste of plotlines to come, leaving much to be desired.

65. Season 5, Episode 4: “Sons of the Harpy”
Director: Mark Mylod
Writer: Dave Hill
Aired: May 3, 2015
Margaery – who controls Tommen via the marital bed – becomes a threat, so Cersei allows the High Sparrow’s Faith Militant to arrest Margaery’s brother Ser Loras for homosexuality. (Cersei will come to regret this alliance.) At Winterfell, Littlefinger tells Sansa not to worry about Ramsay because Stannis will likely overthrow the Boltons. Ruh-roh.

Game of Thrones Season 6 Episode 6
CREDIT: Courtesy of HBO

64. Season 6, Episode 6: “Blood of My Blood”
Director: Jack Bender
Writer: Bryan Cogman
Aired: May 29, 2016
Nowhere near as evocative as the previous week’s episode (more on that later), “Blood of My Blood” isn’t a total waste, because it features Bran’s long-lost uncle Benjen as his unexpected hero. Just as the White Walkers are gaining on Bran and Meera, Benjen appears on his horse and whisks them away.

63. Season 5, Episode 5: “Kill the Boy”
Director: Jeremy Podeswa
Writer: Bryan Cogman
Aired: May 10, 2015
Daenerys considers marrying a Meereen nobleman named Hizdahr to keep the peace, and Twitter goes crazy calling Hizdahr the Lionel Richie of “Game of Thrones.” In the North, Jon chooses to head to Hardhome to form an alliance with the Wildlings, much to the chagrin of the Night’s Watch.

62. Season 2, Episode 4: “Garden of Bones”
Director: David Petrarca
Writer: Vanessa Taylor
Aired: April 22, 2012
There’s much (necessary) table-setting in the “Garden,” but some of its storylines linger—for better or for worse. Set against the backdrop of Renly and Stannis’ fight for the Throne, we watch Joffrey force Ros to brutally beat another prostitute, Dany move from one extraneous plot point in the Red Waste to another in Qarth, and Melisandre birth a shadow monster.

Game of Thrones Season 5 Episode 2
CREDIT: Courtesy of HBO

61. Season 5, Episode 2: “The House of Black and White”
Director: Michael Slovis
Writers: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss
Aired: April 19, 2015
In this serviceable installment, Arya joins the Faceless Men in Braavos and Jon is made Lord Commander of the Watch. Both ascend professionally but also become marked targets for their enemies. Ellaria tries to avenge Oberyn’s death by taking Myrcella Baratheon’s life but Prince Doran shuts down the plan.

60. Season 2, Episode 7: “A Man Without Honor”
Director: David Nutter
Writers: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss
Aired: May 13, 2012
We get Ygritte’s first uttering of the show’s unofficial motto, “You know nothing, Jon Snow,” but it’s Arya and Tywin’s exchange over dinner, on leaving a legacy, that serves as a sound thematic backbone for this episode. Stannis moves toward his desired kingship, Cersei and Tyrion weigh the costs of Joffrey’s whims, and Theon parades the charred bodies of two little boys in a poor attempt to strike fear into those he rules.

Game of Thrones Season 7 Episode 5
CREDIT: Courtesy of HBO

59. Season 7, Episode 5: “Eastwatch”
Director: Matt Shakman
Writer: Dave Hill
Aired: August 13, 2017
Jon and Drogon the dragon become friends. At Winterfell, Arya and Littlefinger bump heads, and Bran warns the Seven Kingdoms the Night King is coming. Daenerys and her three dragons defeat the Lannister and Tarly armies on Roseroad. When Randyll and Dickon Tarly refuse to bend the knee, Drogon burns them to death.

58. Season 4, Episode 6: “The Laws of Gods and Men”
Director: Alik Sakharov
Writer: Bryan Cogman
Aired: May 11, 2014
Yara attempts to save Theon from Ramsay, but Theon is so brainwashed he betrays Yara and she is nearly captured. In contrast, Tyrion fights for his life against the false accusations Cersei brought against him for Joffrey’s murder. The latter makes way for Peter Dinklage’s Emmy-winning monologue. While that monologue is fiery, there is never a real sense that Tyrion, one of the show’s most untouchable characters, is actually going to die.

Game of Thrones Season 5 Episode 7
CREDIT: Courtesy of HBO

57. Season 5, Episode 7: “The Gift”
Director: Miguel Sapochnik
Writers: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss
Aired: May 24, 2015
Sansa tries to get Theon to help her, but he’s still brainwashed. So he tells Ramsay of Sansa’s plans, and Ramsay flays and kills an elderly Northern woman who tried to help her. Jorah and Tyrion are sold into slavery as fighters in Meereen, which they use to get Daenerys’ attention. Dany’s time in Meereen is arguably the most tedious chapter in her rise to the top, hence the lower ranking.

56. Season 1, Episode 2: “The Kingsroad”
Director: Tim Van Patten
Writers: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss
Aired: April 21, 2011
Remember when travel time made sense on “Thrones”? In this appropriately named episode, Ned’s riding south to King’s Landing with Sansa and Arya in tow, and Jon Snow heads north to join the Night’s Watch. The split allows for some necessary audience orientation that’s designed to bear fruit later on.

55. Season 8, Episode 4: “The Last of the Starks”
Director: David Nutter
Writers: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss
Aired: May 5, 2019
This episode featured a number of characters making life altering choices. Jon chose to tell Arya and Sansa who he really is, despite Daenerys’s pleas, and Jaime chose to return to Cersei and be “hateful” despite his budding romance with Brienne. Most disturbingly, Cersei chose to behead Missandei — and now Cersei has to die.

Game of Thrones Season 5 Episode 1
CREDIT: Courtesy of HBO

54. Season 5, Episode 1: “The Wars to Come”
Director: Michael Slovis
Writers: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss
Aired: April 12, 2015
Stannis fails to get the Wildlings to fight with him against Roose Bolton, and their leader Mance dies on a pyre because of the refusal. Jon mercifully shoots Mance with an arrow to end his agony. Most importantly, this season opener features Maggy the Frog’s freakishly accurate prophecy for Cersei.

53. Season 3, Episode 7: “The Bear and the Maiden Fair”
Director: Michelle MacLaren
Writer: George R.R. Martin
Aired: May 12, 2013
This episode marks the first of four directed by Michelle MacLaren, the only woman out of 19 directors to ever call “action” in the series’ history. Onscreen, it’s best known for Brienne’s face-off with a bear, but it’s valuable for smaller moments like Tywin’s highly enjoyable humiliation of Joffrey and Ygritte’s flirtations with Jon.

Game of Thrones Season 1 Episode 3
CREDIT: Courtesy of HBO

52. Season 1, Episode 3: “Lord Snow”
Director: Brian Kirk
Writers: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss
Aired: May 1, 2011
We get the first taste of life on the Wall as Jon’s training begins, and Ned finally sees some sunshine in King’s Landing. Major players are introduced in this episode: Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish, Lord Varys, Renly Baratheon, and Grand Maester Pycelle, but everyone’s mostly still getting their bearings.

51. Season 5, Episode 9: “The Dance of Dragons”
Director: David Nutter
Writers: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss
Aired: June 7, 2015
Arya spots Meryn Trant in Braavos and plots his assassination because he killed her teacher Syrio Forel. But first, Arya has to deceive her Many-Faced God boss, Jaqen. In the North, Ramsay stymies Stannis so a desperate-to-win Stannis serves up his sweet, innocent, Greyscale-stricken daughter Shireen as a human sacrifice for Melisandre. Clearly, the Lord of Light allowed this needless death so that Melisandre could later redeem herself and we could cheer for Stannis’ well-deserved demise. But the act itself still proves hard to swallow.

Game of Thrones Season 6 Episode 1
CREDIT: Courtesy of HBO

50. Season 6, Episode 1: “The Red Woman”
Director: Jeremy Podeswa
Writers: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss
Aired: April 24, 2016
Fans’ deepest fears are realized when it is revealed Jon Snow is undeniably dead. But there is hope. Now that Stannis is deceased, the Red Witch is suddenly available and looking for gigs. Can this secretly ancient sorceress work something out with the Lord of Light for good old Jon-Jon?

49. Season 4, Episode 5: “First of His Name”
Director: Michelle MacLaren
Writers: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss
Aired: May 4, 2014
Sweet, daft Tommen becomes the King of the Seven Kingdoms. Because he lacks Joffrey’s cruel streak, everybody acquiesces, including Margaery, who agrees to become his wife. Meanwhile, Jon and Bran nearly reunite at Craster’s Keep, but Bran choses to skip brotherly love to pursue his path as the Three-Eyed Raven.

Game of Thrones Season 6 Episode 7
CREDIT: Courtesy of HBO

48. Season 6, Episode 7: “The Broken Man”
Director: Mark Mylod
Writer: Bryan Cogman
Aired: June 5, 2016
The Hound is alive. Last time we saw this dude, Brienne had carved him up and left him for dead. But now, the Hound is hanging with hippie types who help him heal—until his new friends are needlessly slaughtered. This also marks the debut of Lady Lyanna Mormont. The episode would’ve ranked higher if guest star Ian McShane’s character would’ve been allowed to live a little longer.

47. Season 1, Episode 8: “The Pointy End”
Director: Daniel Minahan
Writer: George R.R. Martin
Aired: June 5, 2011
The circumstances set to shape the rest of the Starks’ lives really begin to solidify. Sansa falls victim to Cersei’s manipulation while Robb mobilizes the North (his visualized call to arms via dozens of ravens flying out of Winterfell is gorgeously cinematic). At the Wall, Jon kills his first wight in a terrifying confrontation.

Game of Thrones Season 2 Episode 3
CREDIT: Courtesy of HBO

46. Season 2, Episode 3: “What Is Dead May Never Die”
Director: Alik Sakharov
Writer: Bryan Cogman
Aired: April 15, 2012
By now, “Thrones” is putting equal weight on going deep into its universe and expanding wide, introducing key players like Margaery Tyrell and Brienne of Tarth while showing us the inner workings of its key characters. Tyrion’s savvy way of rooting out Cersei’s informant (dammit, Pycelle) is even better on screen than on the page.

45. Season 8, Episode 6: “The Iron Throne”
Directors: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss
Writers: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss
Aired: May 19, 2019
The series finale delivers exactly what we already knew was coming but desperately wanted to believe wasn’t true: an undercooked plot that left many feeling cheated in favor of speedily tying up loose ends. Is the cinematography stunning? Yes — from Tyrion’s slow walk through the ashen apocalypse to Sansa’s crowning to that perfect alignment of Drogon’s wings and Dany. Does it gorgeously capture characters making truly confusing choices? That too. While each character receives a fitting ending to this particular chapter (with hypothetical spin-off options aplenty), the ending to one of the greatest epics television has ever known felt rushed by the spectacle of it all, making the final scenes of almost a decade of world- and character-building appear more like a blur than the final strokes of a masterpiece.

44. Season 2, Episode 2: “The Night Lands”
Director: Alan Taylor
Writers: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss
Aired: April 8, 2012
This episode’s plot points, though still geographically distant, dovetail around a cohesive theme. With Cersei struggling to control her petulant king, Dany hoping to convince the Dothraki she can lead, and Theon realizing his sister Yara is a fiercer warrior than he’ll ever be, it raises the question, “Who deserves power and why?”

Game of Thrones Season 3 Episode 4
CREDIT: Courtesy of HBO

43. Season 3, Episode 4: “And Now His Watch Is Ended”
Director: Alex Graves
Writers: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss
Aired: April 21, 2013
Many back-and-forth conversations in King’s Landing reveal the players trying to fill power vacuums around Sansa, Joffrey, Littlefinger, and the realm at large. And on the other side of the Narrow Sea, Daenerys needs only one word to win the Unsullied and incinerate her enemies: “Dracarys.” Now we’re talking.

42. Season 7, Episode 4: “The Spoils of War”
Director: Matt Shakman
Writers: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss
Aired: August 6, 2017
Arya reunites with Sansa and Bran. And Bran, who is in full-on Three-Eyed Raven mode, is sitting in the godswood and reveals he knows about Arya’s kill list. It is also here that Bran gives Arya the Valyrian steel dagger she will use to kill the Night King in Season 8.

41. Season 6, Episode 4: “Book of the Stranger”
Director: Daniel Sackheim
Writers: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss
Aired: May 15, 2016
Sansa, Brienne, and Podrick arrive at the Wall and catch Jon just in time. The end result is a heartfelt and touching reunion between two siblings who have changed in innumerable ways. But the good times are short-lived when a demented letter from Ramsay provokes Jon and Sansa to retake Winterfell.

Game of Thrones Season 3 Episode 4
CREDIT: Courtesy of HBO

40. Season 7, Episode 3: “The Queen’s Justice”
Director: Mark Mylod
Writers: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss
Aired: July 30, 2017
Jon and Daenerys meet for the first time, Sansa reunites with Bran, and Cersei kisses Tyene with the same poison that killed Myrcella. But the high point of the episode comes when Jaime gives Lady Olenna poison after taking over Highgarden. As she’s dying, Lady Olenna delights in confessing she orchestrated Joffrey’s murder.

39. Season 3, Episode 2: “Dark Wings, Dark Words”
Director: Daniel Minahan
Writer: Vanessa Taylor
Aired: April 7, 2013
The highlight here is undoubtedly the introduction of Lady Olenna Tyrell, the sharp-tongued grandmother to Margaery. Sure, we learn that Bran’s a warg and Margaery’s a masterful manipulator, but in this installment, little beats a witty woman with plenty of ambition.

38. Season 4, Episode 1: “Two Swords”
Director: D.B. Weiss
Writers: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss
Aired: April 6, 2014
It’s a picturesque, cold-open start to Season 4, with the red-hot forging of two swords from Ned’s single blade. Not only does it mark the near-total annihilation of House Stark, it visually cues several major changes in form for Jon, now a Wildling sympathizer, and Daenerys, who’s ruling with powerful reinforcements for the first time.

Game of Thrones Season 5 Episode 3
CREDIT: Courtesy of HBO

37. Season 5, Episode 3: “High Sparrow”
Director: Mark Mylod
Writers: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss
Aired: April 26, 2015
A number of crucial plot points emerge in this installment, including Littlefinger convincing Sansa to marry Ramsay, Cersei making the High Sparrow the head of the Faith and Jon refusing to help Stannis take back the North. Later, Jorah kidnaps Tyrion to get back in the good graces of Daenerys.

36. Season 6, Episode 3: “Oathbreaker”
Director: Daniel Sackheim
Writers: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss
Aired: May 8, 2016
Davos and Melisandre overcome their differences when they see Jon is alive and ready for justice. He hangs his murderers, including a young and unrepentant Olly, and then resigns as Lord Commander, giving the job to Edd. In Braavos, Arya trains as a fighter, abandons her identity, and regains her sight.

35. Season 3, Episode 3: “Walk of Punishment”
Director: David Benioff
Writers: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss
Aired: April 14, 2013
The episode where Jaime gets his sword hand cut off. In Slaver’s Bay, there’s debate around Dany’s acquiring of the Unsullied, but it’s a relief to see her inching closer to standing a real chance at becoming Queen of the Seven Kingdoms.

Game of Thrones Season 7 Episode 2
CREDIT: Courtesy of HBO

34. Season 7, Episode 2: “Stormborn”
Director: Mark Mylod
Writers: Bryan Cogman
Aired: July 23, 2017
In an attempt to impress Cersei, Euron and his Iron Fleet attack Yara’s ships and Euron takes Yara, Ellaria, and Tyene prisoner. The attack costs Daenerys key allies and chips away at her fighting power. Meanwhile, Tyrion sends an invitation to Winterfell so Jon and Daenerys can meet.

33. Season 3, Episode 8: “Second Sons”
Director: Michelle MacLaren
Writers: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss
Aired: May 19, 2013
Here, we’re gifted arguably the show’s best motley duo in Arya and the Hound (though the pairing of Tyrion and Bronn ranks high, too). Sprinkle in a few jokes from the Imp at his wedding to Sansa, and bit of blood magic thanks to Gendry, Melisandre, and some leeches, and this shapes up to be a wildly entertaining prelude to a certain blood-red affair.

32. Season 1, Episode 5: “The Wolf and the Lion”
Director: Brian Kirk
Writers: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss
Aired: May 15, 2011
It’s the midseason upswing, and tensions between the royal family and the Starks build when Ned refuses Robert’s command to kill a pregnant Daenerys. It crescendos in a sword fight between Jaime and Ned that sees the King’s Hand taken out by a spear through the leg. Bonus: The introduction of the delightfully off-kilter Lysa of the Eyrie.

Game of Thrones Season 1 Episode 4
CREDIT: Courtesy of HBO

31. Season 1, Episode 4: “Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things”
Director: Brian Kirk
Writer: Bryan Cogman
Aired: May 8, 2011
Living up to its title, this episode has them all. One cripple: Bran. Two bastards: Jon and revealed son of King Robert, Gendry. Three broken things: Samwell Tarly’s morale, the splintered lance lodged into Hugh of the Vale’s neck—a first of many bloody deaths—and the kidnapped Tyrion’s trust in northerners.

30. Season 1, Episode 1: “Winter Is Coming”
Director: Tim Van Patten
Writers: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss
Aired: April 17, 2011
The pilot does a formidable job of setting the stakes for the world and the relationships the series navigates. From the White Walkers to the Starks to the Targaryens, we hit the ground running in the struggle for the Iron Throne. Bran, on the other hand, just hits the ground after Jaime Lannister pushes him out a tower window, instigating the action of the entire series.

Game of Thrones Season 1 Episode 7
CREDIT: Courtesy of HBO

29. Season 1, Episode 7: “You Win or You Die”
Director: Daniel Minahan
Writers: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss
Aired: May 29, 2011
Robert’s death by boar aside, this episode serves mostly as the final build-up to the face-off between Ned, Cersei, and the newly crowned Joffrey. The final shot of Littlefinger’s blade to Ned’s throat illustrates the deception that often defines success in King’s Landing. When you play the game of thrones, alliances are shaky at best.

28. Season 3, Episode 6: “The Climb”
Director: Alik Sakharov
Writers: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss
Aired: May 5, 2013
Most of the action here centers on Jon and the Wildling’s stressful ascent at the Wall (we can still hear that ice cracking), but in a delayed-gratification bit of foreshadowing—considering the next time they meet will be five seasons later at Winterfell—Melisandre speaks of the many eyes Arya will “shut forever.”

Game of Thrones Season 7 Episode 1
CREDIT: Courtesy of HBO

27. Season 7, Episode 1: “Dragonstone”
Director: Jeremy Podeswa
Writers: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss
Aired: July 16, 2017
The episode opens with Walder Frey — um, didn’t Arya slit his throat? But, in fact, it’s Arya wearing his face and using the disguise to kill off the rest of his male relatives with poisoned drinks — proving she’s not just murderous, but quite the prankster. Infamously, pop star Ed Sheeran makes a pointless guest appearance as a Lannister Kingsguard.

26. Season 2, Episode 10: “Valar Morghulis”
Director: Alan Taylor
Writers: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss
Aired: June 3, 2012
We get some firsts here: Dany finally weaponizes her dragons to free herself of Qarth’s blue-lipped monster Pyat Pree, Joffrey thanks someone (and agrees to marry Margaery Tyrell), Robb makes his most decisive move toward sealing his own fate by secretly marrying Talisa, and we see the White Walkers the furthest south yet when they attack the Night’s Watch in a cliffhanger of a season finale.

25. Season 6, Episode 8: “No One”
Director: Mark Mylod
Writers: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss
Aired: June 12, 2016
Arya survives the Waif’s knife attack and convalesces at her friend Lady Crane’s place. The Waif kills Lady Crane and tries for Arya, but Arya kills her in the dark. Now an expert assassin, Arya leaves Braavos and heads to Winterfell. And the Hound avenges the hippies in the Riverlands.

Game of Thrones Season 7 Episode 7
CREDIT: Courtesy of HBO

24. Season 7, Episode 7: “The Dragon and the Wolf”
Director: Jeremy Podeswa
Writers: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss
Aired: August 27, 2017
Daenerys and Cersei finally meet, with Daenerys still hoping to work with her enemy to take down the Night King and his army. Cersei agrees, but, of course, is lying. Daenerys and Jon hook up as we find out she’s his aunt, and Sansa confronts Littlefinger before Arya kills him with the Valyrian steel dagger. The Night King destroys the Wall with Viserion’s blue death flames.

23. Season 4, Episode 9: “The Watchers on the Wall”
Director: Neil Marshall
Writers: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss
Aired: June 8, 2014
An epic battle between the Night Watch and the Wildlings proves Jon is a natural-born leader who acts strategically and helps the Watch prevail. Sadly, the star-crossed love affair between Ygritte and Jon comes to an end when Olly shoots and kills her with an arrow in Jon’s defense.

22. Season 8, Episode 1: “Winterfell”
Director: David Nutter
Writer: Dave Hill
Aired: April 14, 2019
The frenzied anticipation around the final premiere elevated this episode, even if it only somewhat delivered. Yes, full-body chills were elicited watching Dany’s army march into Winterfell, but her and Jon’s dragon-riding date felt more like an unnecessary CGI-enhanced reminder of his Targaryen lineage. Euron the Ridiculous is still serving much-appreciated laughs, though, even if the character is slightly one-dimensional.

HBO's "Game of Thrones" season 2Tyrion- Peter DinklageCersei- Lena HeadeySansa- Sophie TurnerJoffrey- Jack GleesonHound- Rory McCannMarilyn Trant- Ian BeattieMyrcella- Aimee RichardsonTommen- Callum WharryHigh Septon- David Verry

21. Season 2, Episode 6: “The Old Gods and the New”
Director: David Nutter
Writers: Vanessa Taylor
Aired: May 6, 2012
We grow to hate Theon for betraying the Starks and taking Winterfell, but acknowledge what the show’s good at: making us understand a complicated character’s reasons (in this case, daddy issues). We also get to see Tyrion slap Joffrey—and it feels so damn good.

20. Season 8, Episode 5: “The Bells”
Director: Miguel Sapochnik
Writers: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss
Aired: May 12, 2019
Daenerys loses her benevolence, and with Drogon’s help, incinerates the innocent King’s Landing hoi polloi in this suspenseful but controversial penultimate episode. Those who think Dany shouldn’t have gone to the dark side must recall Lady Olenna’s season seven advice to forgo peace and “be a dragon”: That’s exactly what Dany did. Cersei, meanwhile, goes from smug to fearful and dies crying in Jaime’s arms, which some considered too soft a death for such a beastly queen. (But, hey: Arya can’t get them all!) At least the Hound took out the Mountain.

19. Season 1, Episode 6: “A Golden Crown”
Director: Daniel Minahan
Writers: David Benioff, D.B. Weiss, and Jane Espenson
Aired: May 22, 2011
Much of the series’ sixth episode centers on proximity to the crown, with Sansa pining to marry future king Joffrey and give birth to his blonde babies (a well-placed lightbulb moment for Ned), and Khal Drogo gifting Viserys the headgear he “always wanted” by pouring molten gold onto his skull and killing him.

Game of Thrones Season 2 Episode 1
CREDIT: Courtesy of HBO

18. Season 2, Episode 1: “The North Remembers”
Director: Alan Taylor
Writers: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss
Aired: April 1, 2012
With Ned’s death, the show’s lost its center — but it makes room for a new affinity for Robb, whose role as King in the North makes him far more fun to watch. Not fun to watch? Robert’s alleged bastards (and potential heirs) murdered at Joffrey’s behest.

17. Season 5, Episode 10: “Mother’s Mercy”
Director: David Nutter
Writers: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss
Aired: June 14, 2015
In this exciting and jam-packed season finale, Sansa and Theon escape Winterfell and Ellaria avenges Oberyn by killing Myrcella with a poisonous kiss. Arya assassinates Meryn but loses her eyesight as punishment. Cersei walks naked in the streets to repent for her sins and Olly and the Watch double cross Jon and kill him. Jon’s death heightens the stakes for fans of the show and the books because George R.R. Martin has yet to release his sixth novel, which would’ve revealed the hero’s fate.

Game of Thrones Season 4 Episode 7
CREDIT: Courtesy of HBO

16. Season 4, Episode 7: “Mockingbird”
Director: Alik Sakharov
Writers: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss
Aired: May 18, 2014
Arya and the Hound continue their darkly funny odd-couple bit, and in King’s Landing, the Mountain agrees to a trial-by-combat with Tyrion. (Things look bleak until Oberyn volunteers.) In the Eyrie, Littlefinger kisses Sansa then, after a jealous Lysa tries to kill Sansa for the smooch, he kills the mad aunt.

15. Season 1, Episode 10: “Fire and Blood”
Director: Alan Taylor
Writers: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss
Aired: June 19, 2011
Once thought to be “so green he pisses grass,” Robb begins a welcome new chapter when he’s named King in the North. But it’s Daenerys who delivers one of the most iconic images of the series as she stands covered in nothing but soot and dragons in the remains of Khal Drogo’s funeral pyre.

Game of Thrones Season 5 Episode 8
CREDIT: Courtesy of HBO

14. Season 5, Episode 8: “Hardhome”
Director: Miguel Sapochnik
Writers: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss
Aired: May 31, 2015
Cersei ends up on the wrong side of her arrangement with the High Sparrow and, like Margaery’s brother, is arrested for her sins. Cersei hates her jailer, a merciless Septa Unella. At Hardhome, Wildlings join forces with Jon, but soon after White Walkers attack and Jon meets the menacing Night King for the first time.

13. Season 4, Episode 8: “The Mountain and the Viper”
Director: Alex Graves
Writers: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss
Aired: June 1, 2014
Oberyn is undoubtedly one of the show’s most fascinating characters. His bisexuality, agile fighting style and vengeance against House Lannister all make him thrilling to watch. For a moment, when he seemingly defeated the Mountain in a trial-by-combat battle, it appeared that justice — and a fan favorite — had prevailed. But… nope. A not-quite-dead Mountain crushed his head.

12. Season 3, Episode 5: “Kissed by Fire”
Director: Alex Graves
Writers: Bryan Cogman
Aired: April 28, 2013
Jon and Ygritte make love (hats off to the location scouts for finding that spectacular volcanic cave lake), but things are less fun elsewhere. Tywin promises Sansa to Tyrion, Jaime relives the dark moment that earned him his “Kingslayer” moniker, and a bad decision loses Robb half his army in an episode that artfully capitalizes on characters’ vulnerabilities.

Game of Thrones Season 4 Episode 10
CREDIT: Courtesy of HBO

11. Season 4, Episode 10: “The Children”
Director: Alex Graves
Writers: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss
Aired: June 15, 2014
Tywin is far from father of the year. But who thought he’d stoop so low as to bed Tyrion’s one true love? After Jaime helps Tyrion escape prison and a death sentence, Tyrion discovers Shae in Tywin’s bed and strangles her to death. He then kills Tywin on the toilet. Tyrion isn’t the only one waving adieu to love in this satisfying season finale. In the North, Jon cries as he burns Ygritte’s remains in a funeral pyre.

10. Season 8, Episode 2: “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms”
Director: David Nutter
Writer: Bryan Cogman
Aired: April 21, 2019
The particular nature of each character is revealed in a nutshell. Set just before the battle we’ve been approaching for eight seasons, how each hero faces down what could be their last night on Earth—from Arya and Gendry’s love-making to Brienne’s tear-jerker of a knighting—is the sort of send-off we need in a final season.

9. Season 6, Episode 2: “Home”
Director: Jeremy Podeswa
Writer: Dave Hill
Aired: May 1, 2016
The Wildlings storm Castle Black just in time to subdue Alliser and his allies, so that Melisandre can bring Jon back from the dead. And just when it appears that the Red Witch’s magic isn’t working — so much hair cutting and chanting — the Lord of Light allows this Hail Mary and resurrects a pale but sinewy Jon who springs to life, gasping for air. Depending on how you feel about Jon, this game-altering act is either one of the coolest things to ever happen on TV or a waste of good magic.

Game of Thrones Season 6 Episode 10
CREDIT: Courtesy of HBO

8. Season 6, Episode 10: “The Winds of Winter”
Director: Miguel Sapochnik
Writers: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss
Aired: June 26, 2016
Tired of the Tyrells and the High Sparrow and his Militants, Cersei uses wildfire to blow up the Great Sept and all of her enemies in this tension-filled season finale. Ramin Djawadi’s unnerving orchestral arrangement heightens a wrathful montage filled with stabby children and emerald-colored flames. Despite or because of all of Cersei’s calculations, she loses Tommen. He commits suicide upon learning of Margaery’s death — making her, in an ironic moment of triumph, the Queen. Elsewhere, a disguised Arya kills Walder Frey and his sons.

7. Season 1, Episode 9: “Baelor”
Director: Alan Taylor
Writers: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss
Aired: June 12, 2011
“Baelor” proves there’s been absolutely nothing protecting any of our favorite characters. Just as Robb is gaining ground in his fight against the Lannisters—with help from Walder Frey, an important decision come season three—Joffrey demonstrates his “mercy” with a swift death sentence that sends Ned’s head rolling in the most heart-stopping moment of the season. This was the episode that moved “Thrones” from hit to sensation, as it revealed the show’s willingness to dispense even with beloved characters.

6. Season 8, Episode 3: “The Long Night”
Director: Miguel Sapochnik
Writers: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss
Aired: April 28, 2019
Fulfilling life’s purpose is a major theme on “Thrones.” That’s why Beric defeated death multiple times so that he could die saving Arya from the Army of the Dead. Similarly, Theon, Jorah, and Melisandre contributed to the cause during this massive battle before their moving deaths. Foremost, Arya trained as an assassin so she could kill the Night King with that fateful Valyrian steel dagger, Catspaw.

Game of Thrones Season 3 Episode 9
CREDIT: Courtesy of HBO

5. Season 3, Episode 9: “The Rains of Castamere”
Director: David Nutter
Writers: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss
Aired: June 2, 2013
For book readers, the Red Wedding was one of the most anticipated scenes of the entire adaptation and, girl, did it deliver. The Starks’ creeping realization of their impending doom gives way to an all-out massacre, but it’s the silence before Catelyn’s throat is slit, with its almost unbearable tension, that’s burned itself into our brains.

4. Season 6, Episode 5: “The Door”
Director: Jack Bender
Writers: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss
Aired: May 22, 2016
In the show’s most tear-inducing installment, we learn the backstory of an unassuming stable boy named Wylis who realizes his life’s purpose – to “hold the door” and protect Bran, the new Three-Eyed Raven, from the Night King and his White Walkers. And so becomes “Hodor.” The Night King’s origins are also revealed. Although his inception isn’t as heartbreaking as Hodor’s, you can’t help but feel a little compassion for the man the Children of the Forest vengefully turned into an icy monster in order to quell an ever expanding human race.

Game of Thrones Season 6 Episode 9
CREDIT: Courtesy of HBO

3. Season 6, Episode 9: “Battle of the Bastards”
Director: Miguel Sapochnik
Writers: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss
Aired: June 19, 2016
This breathtakingly shot epic battle (which reportedly utilized 600 crew members, 500 extras, 70 horses, and 65 stuntmen) begins when a rotten-to-the-core Ramsay shoots and kills a running Rickon with an arrow, provoking Jon to charge prematurely. It seems that Jon and his outnumbered army have lost the suffocating skirmish until Sansa and Littlefinger arrive with the Knights of the Vale. The Starks win and retake Winterfell. And Sansa repays Ramsay’s brutality by feeding him to his hounds. In Meereen, Yara and Theon join Team Daenerys.

2. Season 2, Episode 9: “Blackwater”
Director: Neil Marshall
Writer: George R. R. Martin
Aired: May 27, 2012
“I’d rather face a thousand swords than be shut up inside with this flock of frightened hens,” Cersei tells Sansa in the safety of Maegor’s Holdfast. Lucky for us, we get to see both sides of the battle—green wildfire flames on one and a vial of poison on the other—in the series’ most exhilarating blockbuster episode.

Game of Thrones Season 4 Episode 2
CREDIT: Courtesy of HBO

1. Season 4, Episode 2: “The Lion and the Rose”
Director: Alex Graves
Writer: George R.R. Martin
Aired: April 13, 2014
The creator of it all, George R.R. Martin, delivers one of television history’s most satisfying deaths. Like any good departure on “Thrones,” the boy king’s death came as a massive surprise, and not even the injustice of Tyrion taking the fall could dull the satisfaction of watching Joffrey meet his purple-faced end. Seriously, go rewatch it and try not to be thrilled.

Briana Rodriguez wrote the entries for episodes from Seasons 1 through 3, as well as episodes 1 through 4 from Season 4 and episodes 1, 2, and 6 from Season 8. Mekeisha Madden Toby wrote the entries from Seasons 5 through 7, as well as episodes 5 through 10 from Season 4 and episodes 3 through 5 from Season 8

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