Warning: What follows features Game of Thrones spoilers for seasons one through to eight.
Game of Thrones is a television show which has become a pop cultural phenomenon during its eight-year run. It excels in many aspects but one of the features that I find the most impressive is the musical score. Composed by Ramin Djawadi, the score encapsulates everything within the epic fantasy perfectly. With the final season underway, I thought it would be a good time to have a look back through the years of wonderful music and make a list of the top twenty best tracks from Game of Thrones. Due to the huge array of music that Djawadi has provided, I have no doubt that there will be tracks that I have left out so let me know if you have a favourite piece that I haven’t mentioned here. Please note that this list will only be based on the instrumental musical score. I won’t be including songs with lyrics so you won’t find “The Rains of Castamere” (version with lyrics) or “The Bear and the Maiden Fair” on this list.
20. You Know Nothing- Season Three
One of Djawadi’s talents is being able to not only capture the feel of a whole house with a piece of music, but also being able to capture every single character with small but effective melodies to represent them. “You Know Nothing” is a theme for Ygritte, the wilding firecracker who captures the heart of Jon Snow in season three. Ygritte is a strong and sometimes vicious character who is willing to kill and pillage to survive beyond the Wall. Her strength is clear within the theme but there is also a sense of softness to it. The music starts off with a quiet and growing strength, similar to Ygritte as a character. Her silence and resolve in the show as she awaits execution from Jon Snow, only to be spared, shows her inner strength and is reflected by the deep cello mixed with the lighter strings. There is also a hint of the Stark theme within her music, linking her closely to Jon. Whilst it could be considered a theme for both Jon and Ygritte, I think it represents Ygritte more so. It is a great theme for a great character.
19- Chaos is A Ladder- Season Three
This particular piece of music could be interpreted as a character theme. That character is Petyr Baelish, otherwise known as the conniving Littlefinger. The music comes at a scene between Littlefinger and Varys, where Littlefinger describes how he goes about playing the great game of manipulation within Kings Landing. He considers chaos as a ladder where those who can play along will climb and those who cannot fall. The music starts off slowly and somewhat creepily, building and becoming stronger but in a subtle manner. In the show, we see Sansa in tears as Littlefinger’s ship sails away from Kings Landing as the music plays. This moment is accompanied by Baelish stating, “Some are given a chance to climb but they refuse, they cling to the realm or the Gods or love.” Littlefinger had given Sansa a chance to escape but she turned it down with the hope that she could marry Loras Tyrell and thus allow her to be taken away from Lannister rule. The scene comes after Sansa finds out that she is to marry Tyrion, further strengthening the hold the Lannisters have on her. The sinister theme has gotten much stronger at this point. This gradual increase emphasises Littlefinger’s ideals that those who climb will win and those who choose dreams, like Sansa, will fail. Without such perfect corresponding music for this scene, the impact would not have been anywhere near as strong. Djawadi succeeds in creating a piece of music that sounds just as scheming and deceitful as Littlefinger himself. His character and values are represented well by the music, as are the repercussions for those who do not play the game.
18. The North Remembers- Season 4
The Starks are a tragic family from the Game of Thrones universe. Their dedication to honour and loyalty ultimately resulted in the devastation of their family. The northern kingdom in Westeros is full of stubborn but fiercely loyal people who considered the Starks the protectors of the north. Their decline was a blow to the north but they were quick to name Robb (and then Jon after Robb’s death) as the King in the North. The music is also a testament to the honorable nature of the northern people, hence the title, as well as the Starks themselves. Only a few Starks remain, but this particular theme is always a reminder of the family that they once were. The music in “The North Remembers” is played in a certain scene between Catelyn and Robb’s fiancée Talisa but it has acted as a recurrent theme for several of the Stark family throughout, including the aforementioned Catelyn, Jon Snow and Sansa. The somber strings that permeate the piece are a reminder of what has been lost and how the remaining Stark children have been changed by what they have been through. It binds them all underneath one musical theme, uniting them as one no matter how far away from one another they were. With the last remaining Starks (Arya, Sansa, Bran, and Jon) now back together in Winterfell in the eighth season, the theme is sure to make another appearance.
17. The Kings Arrival- Season One
It seems like a lifetime ago that we were introduced to the world of Westeros on the screen after the success of George R.R Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire book series. Ramin Djawadi’s score manages to bring the audience into the fantasy world immediately. “The King’s Arrival”, which also acts as the House Baratheon theme, is a self-explanatory piece which plays when King Robert arrives at Winterfell with the Lannisters in tow. The tune begins energetically but softly and simply. It is reminiscent of something you would hear at a medieval festival. There is a sense of optimism and joy for the special visit from Westeros royalty. In the accompanying scene, we see the younger Stark children gathering excitedly in preparation. The music soon becomes more grandiose with full orchestral backing, further emphasizing the importance of the royal family. There is a sense of significance within the music when the simple tune becomes more extravagant and this significance relates to the scene also. This is the first time that we see the entire Stark family together and, sadly, also the last time. There is poignancy in the meeting between King Robert and Ned Stark and their respective families, due to the oncoming conflict and the characters that we will lose along the way. The music succeeds in setting up the basis of a fantasy show, but also suggests that the moment is of great importance by turning up the power of the music. Part of the theme was used in the first episode of season eight, when Daenerys and Jon Snow return to Winterfell as the remaining Starks wait to greet them. The music has come full circle, just as the show has.
16. The Tower- Season Six
One of the biggest theories from fans about Jon Snow’s parentage was confirmed in an emotional scene from season six and with it came a stellar score. Jon was confirmed to not actually be the son of Ned Stark but instead his nephew. Jon’s parents were long speculated to be Rhaegar Targaryen, brother of Daenerys, and Lyanna Stark, sister of Ned Stark and it was finally revealed that this was indeed the truth. When Bran has a vision of the past, he sees a young Ned with his sister Lyanna in the Tower of Joy. He realizes that she is dying from childbirth. Her final wish is for Ned to promise that she will keep the identity of her son safe and it is then that we realize that not only is Jon half Targaryen and half Stark, but also the true heir to the Iron Throne. The music perfectly reflects the build-up to this revelation as well as the sorrow between the Stark siblings saying their last goodbyes. It starts off gently and solemnly as we see Ned attempt to help his dying sister as Bran watches helplessly, unaware of the true nature of his family history until now. The music intensifies once Ned realizes that Lyanna has had her baby and she whispers to him, begging that he protect her son. We get a close up of the baby’s face, then the transition from a baby to a fully grown Jon. The main Stark theme rings out with the realization that Jon is far more important to this world then he knows. “The Tower” is a beautiful, sad piece that ultimately progresses into something more robust, in correlation with the sad scene progressing to something more shocking and powerful.
15. Dragonstone- Season Seven
Season Seven was one that had a rather monumental opening. Daenerys’s storyline has had several twists and turns along the way but there was always one constant throughout: she was going to go home and take her place as ruler of the Seven Kingdoms. The contender for Iron Throne is still up in the air for the meantime (what with the ice zombie invasion and all that) but in this opening scene, Daenerys is finally able to fulfil her desire of returning to Westeros where her family had once ruled. We see Daenerys and her crew arrive on the shores of Dragonstone. Dany presses her hand to the sand as she looks up at the castle where her ancestors ruled and where she herself was born. She has been waiting for this moment and is now certain of her victory. It was a difficult and sometimes painful journey but she has finally made it with an army and loyal subjects in tow, including Tyrion Lannister. Djawadi’s accompanying score to this is incredibly fitting. He combines several elements of the main Targaryen theme that had been used throughout the show. The score is intense and fiery, as is expected with the theme that follows Daenerys and her dragons, but also becomes quieter at the more personal at times. This reflects Dany’s inner thoughts and feelings, everything has led to this and her presence in Westeros will change the world. “Dragonstone” not only reflects Daenerys as a person, but also her journey and how she has developed as a person since we first saw her in season one. The intensity mixed with subtle softness reflects Daenerys’s arc throughout the show and fits with her seamlessly.
14. Winter is Here- Season Seven
An eerie interpretation of the shows main theme, “Winter is Here” is played in the last episode of season seven. The music is almost entirely on the piano, increasing the peaceful yet foreboding nature of it. It plays when we see Jaime Lannister choosing to leave Kings Landing and Cersei in favour of going north to support the fight against the Night King and his army of white walkers. We see snow start to gently fall in the capital, not only showing that winter has well and truly arrived but also suggesting the imminent danger from the Night King. As the final episode of season seven, wherein the white walkers finally break down the Wall and make their advance on Westeros, it is fitting that this piece is named as it is. The very first episode of the show was called “Winter is Coming” and although this episode itself is called “The Dragon and the Wolf”, the song title makes the whole scene feel like we have come full circle from the first episode to now. As well as feeling like an allusion to the huge battle between the living and the dead that is looming, this is also a significant character moment for Jaime. The song begins as the first snowflake falls onto his golden hand and he realises that he cannot stay. Throughout the show, every decision Jaime makes usually brings him back to his sister and one true love, Cersei. Despite all of her wrongdoings and the death of their three children, he has stayed by her side and been fiercely loyal to her. When away from her though, he shows a kindness and understanding that she simply does not. This along with his loyalty and dedication to those he cares about proves that he is not an entirely bad man (though admittedly he is an incestuous one!). He has had one of the most interesting character arcs in the whole show. His reputation as a backstabbing Kingslayer, followed by him pushing Bran, a child, from a window and paralysing him in order to keep his relationship with Cersei secret, then to his losing a hand. He had some redemption when he confessed to Brienne of Tarth that he only murdered the Targaryen king to protect the people of Kings Landing, forsaking his honourable reputation to save the city and its inhabitants. He is morally ambiguous but I can’t bring myself to hate him. His character development has all led up to this: he has finally realised what Cersei is and despite his love for her, he has chosen to protect the ordinary people as he did when he stabbed the Mad King in the back. The music continues as he sets off on horseback to continue his redemption story. We see him arriving at Winterfell in episode one of season eight, only to be greeted by the one person he probably never wanted to have to see again: Bran. Jaime’s horrified face as he sees him in his wheelchair suggests that the guilt he feels is still fresh in his mind. He isn’t entirely apathetic to his crimes like his sister. “Winter is Here” is a musical theme that not only signals a change for the Seven Kingdoms, but also a change for a character who has a lot to atone for. By keeping the music familiar but including some eerie and foreboding changes, Djawadi is able to accurately convey the uncertain fate of both Kings Landing and Jaime Lannister.
13. Reign- Season Six
“Reign” is another pivotal moment for our Targaryen princess as she finally conquers Meereen. The Second Siege of Meereen is the last battle in Daenerys’s quest to liberate slavers bay. The remaining masters fight back against Daenerys in a last attempt to restore slavery in the city. Daenerys yet again proves that she is a force to be reckoned and the “Reign” score reflects this. With her three dragons now fully grown, Dany is able to show the forces of Meereen what she is truly capable of. She climbs upon her dragon Drogon and, along with Rhaegal and Viserion, they burn the slavers ships to the ground and decimate the slavers. There is immediately a deep and menacing tone to the track before the main Targaryen riff kicks in. As cliché as it sounds, the piece is so fitting that you can almost imagine yourself riding a dragon into battle as the strong string section and bellowing chorus kick in. The music ties in well with the epic battle moment but also reflects the destructive nature that is inherent within Daenerys due to her family’s penchant for madness. She is willing to do whatever she has to in order to succeed, including burning her enemies like her insane father did. This instability is captured well within “Reign” as well as her fierce, strong attitude. Like Daenerys herself says in the scene, her reign is just beginning.
12. Hold the Door- Season Six
“Hold the Door” is a piece of music that starts off in an epic fashion, like that of a battle theme, but ends up becoming a painfully emotional moment to match the scene in the show. The scene in which “Hold the Door” is used is centred on Bran, Hodor and Meera beyond the Wall as they try to evade the Night King. After a vision goes wrong, the Night King hones in on their location and they become surrounded. Bran finds himself within another vision as Meera and Hodor attempt to get his incapacitated body to safety. Bran’s vision focuses on his father as a child in Winterfell along with his aunt and uncle and none other than Hodor himself, who we are told actually has a proper name: Wylis. To Bran’s surprise, he can talk normally rather than only being able to speak the word “Hodor”. Bran splits his consciousness into present-day Hodor to escape, but in doing so he accidentally wargs into Wylis too, who seems to notice Bran’s presence. This results in Wylis suffering a seizure, merging both past Wylis and present Hodor. Wylis hears Meera’s screams to ‘hold the door’. Hodor does in fact hold the door, leading to the white walkers ripping him apart. The audience quickly realises that this is why Hodor can only say the one word; he saw his own demise as a child, which caused his mind to break. He saw that his whole life has been building to this sacrifice because of Bran. The music begins intensely, depicting the chase and the desperate attempt to escape from the Night King and his wights, which also leads to the death of Bran’s direwolf Summer. As we get to the scene where we jump between an adult Hodor holding the door and a young Wylis convulsing on the floor, his screams of hold the door slowly but surely turn to into the phrase “hodor”. His change from Wylis to Hodor is complete. This is where the music changes pace and tone. It slows and becomes incredibly sombre, with the Stark theme becoming prominent. This shows that Hodor has always been a true Stark and will always be considered as such. Djawadi’s ability to switch from intense action to sudden sombre emotion is what makes this track so impressive. My feelings switched from heart racing anticipation to intense sadness within a few moments with this piece and that is why I feel it is one of the best. Rest in peace, Hodor. Please don’t come back as a white walker.
11. Army of the Dead- Season Seven
The season seven finale had several important moments, but none more so then the final minutes of the episode. After the death of Daenerys’s dragon Viserion, the Night King enlists him into his ranks. With a dragon now by his side, the Night King now seems almost unstoppable. The closing scene shows the white walker army advancing on The Wall, the ancient structure set up to protect Westeros from all the creatures lurking in the north. The Night King is seen flying a now undead Viserion, who proceeds to breathe icy flames on it, causing the once impenetrable Wall to crumble. As the dust clears, the army begins their steady trek to Westeros as the Night King flies ahead on Viserion. The soundtrack for this scene is equally ominous and a tad terrifying to listen to. There is a focus on a certain steady beat, marching through the piece to mirror the marching of the undead army. Djawadi also implements a full orchestra here along with a chorus, whose chanting towards the end of the piece highlights the sense of dread that flows throughout. As the wights succeed in knocking down the only protection Westeros had, the music intensifies and the chorus’s chant becomes faster and more ferocious. This is followed by a moment of pure strings, a cello I believe, playing some dark chords which are quickly joined by the orchestra again. The build-up of intensity within the music corresponds with the action onscreen. The last chilling notes of the music are used for one purpose only: to convey a feeling of hopelessness, of a battle that is already lost before it has even started. The army of the dead are here. They cannot be stopped. In terms of musical scores, I genuinely find this quite frightening to listen too. With “Army of the Dead”, Djawadi creates a track that instils fear, dread and bleakness in one of the best tracks from season seven.
10. Mhysa- Season Three
“Mhysa” is a track which plays in an episode of season three of the same name. It is a beautiful song with almost a gospel sound to it which reflects the solidifying of Daenerys’s position as an emancipator and the growth of her influence. In the episode, Daenerys has freed the Yunkai slaves from their oppressive masters. They form a circle around her and begin to chant ‘Mhysa’ at her, which Missandei translates as ‘Mother’. Daenerys is already known as the Mother of Dragons, so it seems pertinent that she would now take on this role for her people. It suggests that this Targaryen is one who will become a leader of the people as well as a leader of dragons. Daenerys is lifted up by the crowd as they continue to sing ‘Mhysa’ at her, making it clear that she is well on her way to becoming a leader of men and, more importantly, a contender for the Iron Throne. She has liberated the people and in doing so proved that her cause is about more than just obtaining power for her own gains. Of course this is not always so simple, as Daenerys finds out later in the show, but it shows that her intentions are good. The score is incredibly rousing and uplifting, blending Daenerys’s theme with the main theme of the show and growing in power and vocals as it goes on. The choral aspect is so inspiring that it sounds like a song that would be used for a deity of some kind. As the music builds, so does Daenerys’s confidence as she smiles at her people and her dragons circle overhead. Her benevolent nature is tested as the show goes on, but at this point she definitely seemed to have the qualities needed to take the Throne. Djawadi’s peaceful yet inspiring and motivating theme here is essential to setting up the atmosphere of a potential queen and her loyal subjects. Her role as Mhysa to all is becoming a reality.
9. Breaker of Chains- Season Four
I know what you’re thinking. This list is shaping up to be very Targaryen centric. I do apologise if it seems like favouritism is going on here but I can assure you that I’ve combed over all my choices multiple times, written bits for songs that I cut and changed them out and edited heavily. In my honest and unbiased opinion, I genuinely feel that some of Ramin Djawadi’s most incredible work for the show is his work on Daenerys’s theme and the variations of it. All of his work is incredible, but I feel that the Targaryen theme has a certain atmosphere and energy that is incredibly affecting. Now that is out of the way, let’s move on to the song! “Breaker of Chains” is a dramatic and harrowing piece of music that utilises Daenerys’s theme in a distressed way. After one of her dragons kills a child, Daenerys is forced to make the decision to lock them up to keep them from hurting her people. This decision is incredibly difficult for her, her dragons are her children and they mean everything to her. Whilst the perpetrator Drogon has escaped, Daenerys must lock up Rhaegal and Viserion despite their innocence. “Breaker of Chains” (an ironic title for the corresponding scene) plays as she locks the two of them up beneath the great pyramid of Meereen. As Daenerys has gained more of a following and more people to care for after freeing the slaves of Yunkai, she has gained the title of Breaker of Chains. She is considered a liberator and a freedom fighter, but this has come at the cost of her relationship with the dragons and their freedom. Drogon’s unruly behaviour means that she must confine them, despite becoming known for doing the exact opposite. As Daenerys places large chains around their necks, she begins to walk away. Rhaegal and Viserion cry and scream for their mother as she does so, both filled with confusion and fear. Daenerys, who has become a somewhat stoic person due to what she has been through, weeps as she turns around to look at them one last time before they are sealed in. It is clear that she feels that she has betrayed her true children. The music is a slow and steady version of Daenerys’s theme that doesn’t speed up at all but instead intensifies and becomes louder, reflecting the building emotional anguish that both Daenerys and her dragons are feeling. The last moments of the piece as Daenerys turns back to see Rhaegal and Viserion panicking and crying for her are the most affecting. Despite the obvious need for it, you can’t help but feel bad for these fire breathing creatures. Now that their mother is breaking the chains of those around her, she must confine them to the same chains. Djawadi is able to capture the emotion from both Daenerys’s perspective and the dragon’s perspective and by doing so creates one of the more sorrowful Targaryen themes.
8. The Children- Season Four
Season four of Game of Thrones had a fair amount of characters with new beginnings and Arya Stark was a particularly compelling one. Her journey throughout the series up to the season four finale was a tough one, full of strife and heartbreak. She spent most of her time attempting to find what was left of her family, only to be thwarted at every turn. She ends the fourth season by getting on a boat that is sailing to Braavos, finally leaving the north behind. Her loss and pain are still with her, but her future seems more hopeful as she glances back at her homeland one more time before going to the front of the ship to look forward. The musical score that accompanies this scene is perfectly reflective of Arya’s journey so far. The song starts off gently before the familiar Stark theme bellows through the softness, reminding us of Arya’s beginnings and her family ties. It is interesting to note that is the only time that we hear this. Similar to the scene, where Arya only briefly looks back toward land, the music only briefly focuses on her Stark roots. We then hear a choral variation of the main theme music from the show, emphasising the adventure to come, before we hear another familiar tune: “Valar Morghulis”. This is a piece of music from season two of the show based on the saying from Jaqen H’gar, otherwise known as the Faceless man, translating to ‘all men must die.’ Arya has several encounters with him and in season two, he tells her that she must travel to Braavos if she wants to learn to be a faceless assassin like him. She initially refused his offer to go there in order to search for her family so he gave her a special iron coin with the instruction to one day give it to a Braavos native with the phrase Valar Morghulis. This is exactly what Arya does to gain passage on the ship in the season four finale. The inclusion of the “Valar Morghulis” theme further connects her to Jaqen and anticipates their future meeting. The combination of these three music themes creates one perfect theme for Arya and offers something more optimistic for her character, which is definitely a welcome change.
7. Winds of Winter- Season Six
As with “The Children”, “Winds of Winter” is another epic finale piece. This one is similar to “Dragonstone” from season seven in that it is years’ worth of build-up leading to a singular moment. Whilst “Dragonstone” is a quieter moment, “Winds of the Winter” is the spectacle that it deserves to be. Following years of amassing her army, facing difficulties of all kinds and losing loved ones along the way, Daenerys Targaryen has finally amassed enough of a following to be able to sail to Westeros. In the final scene of season six, there are no spoken words. All we hear is Djawadi’s score but we see the full extent of Daenerys’s army. We get a clear view of the vast array of ships in the Targaryen fleet, including the army of the Unsullied and Dothraki Bloodriders, the Greyjoy’s and the Martell’s. We also see Daenerys along with Tyrion, Varys and Missandei as well as Yara and Theon on their own ship with their Greyjoy army. As her dragons fly overhead, the ships ready themselves for a long sail and Daenerys looks ready for a fight. She has a look in her eye that tells you more than words ever could: that this is what it has all been leading up to. The music is equally large in scale. A huge orchestral number with a chorus to go with it, the song mashes up Daenerys’s theme, the dragons theme, the Greyjoy theme and the shows main theme to produce a foreboding and brazen piece that is all about representing the power of Daenerys’s army. It exudes confidence and excitement which is sure to draw the audience in even further, even those who may not know the entirety of Daenerys’s story. For a character who has come so far from basically being sold off by her brother, it is incredible to see her as a powerful leader with an army, three dragons and a wealth of allies by her side (including a Lannister as her hand of the queen). As the music finishes on a grandiose note, there is one thing that everyone can be certain of: Daenerys is finally on her way to Westeros and no power in the whole of the Seven Kingdoms is going to stop her after coming so far. It is a moment that deserved a bombastic soundtrack and Djawadi definitely does not disappoint.
6. Truth- Season Seven
“Truth” is a new musical theme for season seven. It is one of prettiest musical scores from the show but there is a subtle sense of uncertainty to it that corresponds well with the characters that the theme is written for. “Truth” is a romance theme for Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen, who meet at the beginning of season seven and fall in love by the end of the season. After a tense meeting between the two, Jon makes it his mission to convince Daenerys that the white walker threat is far more pressing than any political matter. Jon travels beyond the Wall in an attempt to capture a wight as proof of their existence. After a fearsome battle, resulting in the loss of Daenerys’s dragon Viserion, Dany is convinced and pledges herself and her army to Jon’s fight against the Night King. Jon, who never really wanted to be in a position of great power anyway, bends the knee to her and the two find that they have a connection. Their love is cemented despite the horrible losses that both experience, Viserion especially. Elements of “Truth” act as a theme which plays in several different moments in season seven, such as in the dragonglass cave or when Jon is able to touch Drogon without getting roasted. However, the theme is used in its entirety in one of the most important moments of the show. Samwell Tarley and Bran Stark (who has at this point taken on the role of the all-seeing Three-Eyed Raven) are discussing Jon and come to the realisation that he is not a bastard after all. They realise what the audience already know: he is the son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark. Bran has a vision of Rhaegar and Lyanna’s wedding which confirms that they were in love and that Lyanna was not kidnapped and brutalised by Rhaegar, as was the story known across Westeros. This not only means that Jon has a stronger claim to the throne then Daenerys, but also that he is her nephew. The music swells as Bran and Sam come to this realisation and at the same time, we see Jon and Daenerys consummate their relationship on the ship on their way to Winterfell. A moment that is meant to be touching quickly becomes sour and the music reflects this as the last few notes turn a little bit ominous, suggesting the pain that this revelation will cause. Just as the scene begins small with Bran and Sam in a discussion, the music begins intimately too and gradually picks up to the big reveal. The theme itself combines both the Stark and Targaryen themes as well as a new melody which binds them together in a romantic ballad of a score. Although this would seem to be representing Jon as the Stark and Daenerys as the Targaryen, the combination of themes could also be highlighting Jon’s newfound position as both Stark and Targaryen. We’ve already heard the piece again in the eighth season (when Jon and Daenerys go dragon riding on Rhaegal and Drogon) but now that Jon knows his true parentage, I have no doubt that “Truth” will be used again and that it will not necessarily be in a happy context.
5. Goodbye Brother- Season One
The House Stark theme is the most solemn of all the musical themes in Game of Thrones, but I would argue that “Goodbye Brother” is a one of the most emotional of them all. It plays during a key moment from the show in the first season: when Jon Snow bids farewell to his family, including his brother Robb, and heads further north to the Wall. Robb then leads his father’s army to march on Kings Landing. Their goodbye is the last time that they see each other as Robb is later brutally murdered alongside his fiancée Talisa and his mother Catelyn at the Red Wedding. The “Goodbye Brother” piece has been brought over to several other tracks that come under the Stark theme and has a connection with all of the Stark characters. It holds a certain sadness that has carried over to every family member during their struggles. The theme is bound to the Starks and represents their pain and loss, but also their growth in the later seasons and their ability to overcome the tragedy that has befallen their family. The music is entirely string based, focusing on solemn violin and cello sections. This formula is sometimes switched up in the various iterations of it throughout the show, often being intensified. However, it is this softer and quieter version that packs the biggest emotional punch as it always brings us back to the Stark family parting ways for the last time back in season one. I tend to be reminded of Robb’s last words to Jon when I hear this theme, “Next time I see you, you’ll be all in black.” It is heart-breaking knowing what we know now, but it is this emotional strength that makes it one of the best pieces of music in the show. In a theme that has continued to be incredibly utilised throughout, “Goodbye Brother” will always be the remembered just as we continue to remember the Starks that have been lost.
4. A Lannister Always Pays His Debts- Season Three
“A Lannister Always Pays His Debts” is similar to “Goodbye Brother” in that it has come to be a musical theme played throughout the show which has been adapted and used multiple times. This theme is for House Lannister and is far more menacing but just as fitting for the family it is intended for. Djawadi mostly utilised violins and cellos here in an intimidating fashion, the eeriest part arguably being the opening with one, ominous cello. There is a steady drumbeat which intensifies throughout and works well with the string section to create a theme for a manipulative and conniving house. Arguably the most notable use of this theme is for the Red Wedding, where a live version of the theme plays known as “The Rains of Castamere” (I consider the main version of that song the one with lyrics which is why it isn’t included in this list). The scene shows the decimation of part of the Stark family, with Robb, Catelyn and Talisa Stark being viciously murdered by Walder Frey. Tywin Lannister plotted the multiple murders alongside Frey to cripple the northern army, and the musical score accurately represents this deception. The Lannister’s are a more complex family in a way, with characters like Jaime and Tyrion showing that they are willing to work with other houses, and I believe this theme portrays that also. It is a very beautiful and strong piece of music, suggesting a proud and noble house much like the lion that represents them. But as it builds to the conclusion, the treachery and deceit contained within cannot be denied and leaves you with a feeling of dread. It was the last piece of music that Robb Stark heard before his death, and whilst it is enjoyable to listen to, it certainly instils that impending doom sensibility. I feel that Djawadi truly managed to capture the mixed feelings that surround House Lannister with this theme and I look forward to hearing more of it in season eight.
3. Dance of Dragons- Season Five
The theme connected to Daenerys and her dragons has had several iterations during the show (and many inclusions on this list) but the track that is the most spectacular has to be “Dance of Dragons”. In the penultimate episode of season five, Daenerys finds herself and her allies trapped in a fighting pit in Meereen by the Sons of the Harpy, a group of insurgents who oppose Daenerys’s rule. With two of her dragons locked away by her own hand and Drogon missing, Daenerys seems to accept her fate as the Sons of Harpy block the exits. Just as it seems that all is lost, we hear a roar and see Drogon fly down into the pit to protect his mother. Not only is it a touching moment, it has an amazing soundtrack to accompany it. Variations on “Dracarys” and “Breaker of Chains” are included in “Dance of Dragons” and it is utilised in such a way that it creates emotion and stirs up excitement at the same time. The music starts off somewhat frantic with beating drums as Daenerys is surrounded. Once Drogon and Daenerys are face to face after he has fended off her attackers, the score slows down and creates a striking moment between the two. The love that Drogon and Daenerys have for each other is potent , with both willing to risk their lives for one another (we see Daenerys do this in season seven when she pulls a spear from Drogon’s wing whilst being charged at on the battlefield). This strength is emphasised all the more by the music theme that bonds them. After a brief pause to emphasise their special bond, the theme swells before booming with a choral addition as Daenerys climbs on Drogon and is flown out of the arena to safety. Her allies look on in awe as they soar into the distance, and the theme is equally awe-inspiring. An epic variation of the Targaryen theme was needed for a moment like this and Djawadi truly delivered in this rousing and perfect piece of music which gives me chills every time.
2. Main Theme- All Seasons
When it comes to theme songs, it’s always important to have something catchy and fitting to capture the audience’s attention immediately. When I first watched Game of Thrones, I was struck instantly by the bold, brilliant and incredibly epic theme song. It made the show seem all the more compelling as the main theme was so grandiose. I remember thinking that maybe this was a sign of great things to come. I wouldn’t say I’m someone who often gets things right, but this time I’m glad I was. Ramin Djawadi captures the audience and drags them into the Seven Kingdoms with a score that utilizes a full orchestra. There is a significant focus on percussion, with a beating drum maintaining a steady rhythm, and strings. The strings section not only carries the main theme, but most of the music on the show. This creates a tune that is exploding with high fantasy elements and creates a feeling of excitement and wonder. The chorus that kicks in towards the end of the theme is an added spark which further fuels the fire of fascination. The accompanying title sequence perfectly reflects the epic nature of the tune without actually showing any of the characters. Instead, the title shows a three-dimensional clockwork style map which shows key areas of the Seven Kingdoms. This can differ from episode to episode depending on what events have occurred. The map got an awesome revamp for the final season, which included a miniature Iron Throne popping up clockwork style. We also see an astrolabe style device which depicts various important historical events in the kingdom as well as displaying the sigils of the major houses and the title of the show. This wonderfully crafted opening combined with the stirring theme music creates an opening sequence which succeeds in immersing the viewer within the fantasy world before the show has even started. Djawadi has well and truly created one of the most memorable and recognizable television theme songs of our generation.
1. Light of Seven –Season Six
Despite the iconic nature of the main theme music for the show, “Light of the Seven” has to take the top spot as the best track from Game of Thrones. “Light of the Seven” is the first piece of music in Game of Thrones to make significant use of the piano during an almost ten minute scene in which there is very little dialogue. With Cersei due to be on trial in the Great Sept of Baelor, the audience awaits her arrival. The audience includes the High Sparrow, who forced Cersei to do the Walk of Shame through Kings Landing, and Queen Margaery, a long-standing rival of Cersei who is married to her son King Tommen. The theme begins softly but coldly. You can tell that something big and bad is going to happen, but we are still wondering what that may be. The tune feels even softer than most of the other music in the show due to the piano being the major instrument. As Margaery begins to realize that something is not quite right as both Cersei and Tommen have still not arrived at the Sept (and a good deal of Cersei’s enemies all just so happen to be there under one roof), the music escalates and becomes even more tense and chilling. Due to the length of the songs, it is a slow burn but it is even more effective this way. We also hear some soloists singing a choral section, but Djawadi only had two boy soloists here as he felt “the two of them were more haunting than using a full choir.” As the scene goes on, the High Sparrow insists that Cersei will be forced to pay the consequences of not attending her trial, but Margaery argues that Cersei is fully aware of what the consequences will be and yet she is still not there. Margaery knows that Cersei has no intention of facing those consequences. This realization leads to her attempting to get everyone to leave the Sept. Cersei’s nephew Lancel Lannister, now a devout member of the Faith of the Seven, is stabbed chasing a child down to the Sept’s catacombs leaving him unable to walk. It is through him that we see that Cersei has planted three barrels of wildfire beneath the Sept along with some candles that are slowly burning down. As Lancel agonizingly crawls towards it, hoping to extinguish the flames before it can catch the wildfire, the music becomes painfully tense and desperate. At the same time, Margaery is still attempting to get out of the Sept, she knows what is coming and the intensity of the music reflects this. We get the addition of a strings section and an organ, which climb higher and higher as the terror and panic sets in amongst the crowd in the Sept. Watching this for the first time and listening to the music, I couldn’t help but feel the tension rising myself. The music continues to build and the last minute or so of the track is nothing but pure human panic and fear. As Margaery and her brother Loras turn to look at the High Sparrow, who has finally come to the realization that he has lost to Cersei, the music escalates to its highest point, just as the audience is at the highest point of outright shock that Cersei has actually done this. We know that no one is getting out of this alive, that Cersei did what even the Mad King couldn’t do. She has burned them all. As the Sept explodes with an eerie green glow, the music stops and we see the High Sparrow consumed by the emerald fire before the entire building is engulfed. Everyone is dead and Cersei has won.
“Light of the Seven” is the most incredible track from Game of Thrones. The way that Ramin Djawadi is able to tell the story of the destruction of the Sept of Baelor is impressive as it is but I feel that you wouldn’t even have to watch the scene to get an idea what is happening. He is able to convey so many emotions throughout the piece. The initial tension and wonder that we get as we hear the piano take precedence for the first time; the building fear that something bad is going to happen; the shock when we realize what Cersei has planned; the disbelief that she will actually get away with this; the desperation and rising fear when it becomes clear that she has already won. This is a testament to Djawadi’s talent and skill as a musician and composer as well as his ability to bring this fantasy world to life. “Light of the Seven” is an extraordinary piece of music from one of the most extraordinary moments in Game of Thrones and has definitely earned its place at the top of this list.
Thanks for reading my list of the top twenty music pieces from Game of Thrones! There is so much great music throughout the show and I know there are brilliant tracks that I haven’t included. Ramin Djawadi has done amazing things with the music and I believe it will be remembered as one of the best television soundtracks out there. I’m very much looking forward to the release of the season eight soundtrack and will update this list when it has been released if there are any entries that top my inclusions in this list.
The Night King- Season Eight
The first piece of music to be released for downloading and streaming from season eight, “The Night King” is a fitting theme for the villain whom it is named for. This is another long piece, similar to “Light of the Seven” at almost nine minutes. It is also similar in that it is very piano-centric, making it stand out amongst the usual soundtrack, and has a long build-up with an epic pay off as the music continues. The corresponding scene is incredibly suspenseful as we see the characters that we have grown to love struggling to fight off the hordes of the undead. The music begins with Sansa and Tyrion in the crypts of Winterfell, hiding from the undead who have broken free of their tombs and are ravaging those who had taken refuge there. As we hear their screams and see Sansa and Tyrion hold hands whilst Sansa grabs hold of the dragonglass dagger that Arya gave her, you would be forgiven for thinking that this is the end for these two characters. Fortunately, it isn’t, but the soft and somber start of the piano reflects the mournful moment. We then see Jon getting pinned down by the ice dragon Viserion as well as Danerys and Jorah fighting for their lives against a wave of wights. Jaime, Brienne, Podrick, Torumund, Sam and Greyworm all appear to be getting savagely overwhelmed also. As the piano slowly but surely begins to escalate and introduce some strings, I was left thinking that there was no way they were getting out of this. Then we see the Night King finally reach Bran Stark, who he has been searching for. Theon bravely protects Bran but does not survive the encounter with the Night King. As he is killed, we hear the familiar main theme of the show and the strings section becomes more potent and sorrowful. The music intensifies further as the Night King approaches Bran and we get more shots of the other characters being swamped by ice zombies. As the music speeds up and becomes more frantic, it seems certain that this is the end of the line for everyone in Winterfell. But as the music grinds to a halt with a sweeping crescendo, Arya Stark leaps from behind the Night King. He grabs Arya by the throat but with a simple sleight of hand, she is able to stab him with her dragonglass dagger. She kills him and the rest of the army of the undead fall. In a scene that will be long remembered by Game of Thrones fans, Ramin Djawadi yet again creates an epic soundtrack which not only reflects the titular antagonist, it also manages to capture the various story elements within the corresponding scene.”The Night King” is most definitely one of the most striking pieces of the entire Game of Thrones soundtrack despite it being a recent addition. I would say that it even stands up against “Light of the Seven” which is primarily a theme for Cersei and her horrendous crimes. Djawadi’s themes for the shows big bad characters are incredibly strong and I feel that “The Night King” was certainly worthy of inclusion here.
The Iron Throne- Season Eight
Season eight of Game of Thrones has come to a close, signalling the end of the show entirely. Whilst season eight definitely had its issues, one constant excellent factor has been Ramin Djawadi’s score. The full soundtrack has officially been released and with it, more of the brilliant tracks from this season to follow my last entry, “The Night King”. “The Iron Throne” is an extraordinary peace that represents the end of one of the major characters. Jon Snow confronts Daenerys after her decision to burn Kings Landing and its innocent inhabitants. Daenerys attempts to coerce Jon into ruling alongside her and build a better world. Jon knows full well that Dany can never forget Jon’s true identity as rightful heir to the Iron Throne and that she would be willing to harm not only him, but the rest of his family too to stop the truth coming out. Jon also knows that Sansa would never allow Jon’s parentage to be hidden, so he does what he thinks he has to protect his family. As Daenerys embraces him, Jon stabs her through the heart and kills her. The accompanying score starts off fittingly with a soft version of the romance theme created in season seven for Jon and Daenerys. It is a sweet melody, juxtaposing with the painful scene of Jon holding Daenerys’s body. We then hear hints of her Targaryen theme as Drogon approaches and mourns for his mother. This theme, which represents Dany and her dragons, then blends with the main theme music of the show as Drogon burns the Iron Throne, reducing it to molten metal. Drogon knows that the desire for the throne is what has led to his mother’s death and the music reflects the mournful yet furious tone of the scene. The last few minutes of the piece is comprised entirely of the Targaryen theme. It starts off slow and sombre with a choral element before becoming stronger and more emotional as Drogon gently picks up his mother’s body and flies away in what is the final shot of both of them. It’s a fantastic variation of Daenerys’s music, which if you’ve read the rest of my list you will know I have a soft spot for. It is also the final variation of the theme and Djawadi made it fittingly tragic to reflect the tragic downfall of Daenerys Targaryen and the heart-breaking sorrow of her only surviving child Drogon.
The Last of the Starks- Season Eight
One of the more tragic houses of Westeros managed to get a relatively happy ending in the finale. “The Last of the Starks” is a piece that plays as we see the remaining Stark children in their roles after the war. Bran is named King of the Seven Kingdoms (an odd decision by the writers in my opinion but moving on). Sansa is able to give the North its independence and she takes her place as the Queen in the North. Arya plans to set sail to discover what is west of Westeros and Jon goes back north to the Nights Watch and heads beyond the Wall. It is suggested that he will become the new leader of the Free Folk as he reunites with the wildlings, Tormund Giantsbane and his direwolf Ghost. We get several themes intermingling here, with the main Stark theme taking precedence. There are hints of The Children, Arya’s theme from the end of season four, as well as the main theme of the show. The track is a farewell to the long suffering Starks, even if their happy ending is a little unbelievable in terms of writing (Arya’s plot armour is the main offender) but it is good to see Jon, Arya, Sansa and Bran succeed in getting what they wanted after all they have been through. Djawadi manages to inject a feeling of optimism into the piece due to the positive outcome for the last Starks, despite the families theme being a naturally solemn tune. Even the name of the track suggests that it will be a melancholy one, so to hear it with a lighter tone is a nice change. “The Last of the Starks” wraps up the Stark family perfectly and gives them a brilliant theme to rally under as they take their final bows.
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The Best ‘Game of Thrones’ Scenes Part 3: The Greatest Moments of Season 8
When Game of Thrones premiered on April 17, 2011, it was clear that the series was going to be something truly special and completely different from anything we’ve seen on television before. The series promised to break the conventions of the fantasy genre and ever since its relatively humble debut, the HBO saga has become a cultural phenomenon. Above all, though, Game of Thrones is both –the closest thing television has ever had to a blockbuster – and an old-fashioned ‘monoculture’ show consumed week-by-week, with its millions of devoted fans debating and theorizing what would happen next. And given how the television landscape is changing, it may be the last of its kind.
Game of Thrones is so popular, it’s impossible to escape the show’s vast reach and now, after an emotional decade-long journey, the world’s most popular show has ended its watch. It’s no secret that season eight has had its fair share of criticism and not everyone is happy with some decision made; yet despite its flaws, season eight gave us some truly unforgettable moments.
Greatest Game of Thrones Scenes: Brienne is Knighted
As the characters we have grown to know throughout the series surround the fire in the great hall of Winterfell, Tyrion notes the irony of the situation. Almost everyone in the room has fought the Starks at one time or another, but here they all are within the walls of their home, waiting to defend it against the coming White Walker threat. The casual setup of conversation between these monumental personalities sitting across from one another demonstrates how to frame a scene in a uniquely humanizing manor. It is curious to see the same people huddled together to keep warm and conversing so freely are the same ones we have seen survive so much to get to this point. This point furthers when Tyrion asks how many battles each person has survived between each one of him or her. After noting Ser Davos’ and Ser Jamie’s achievements on the battlefield, Tyrion mistakenly calls Brienne ‘Ser,’ although she herself is not a knight. Once he corrects himself, a confused Tormund asks why women cannot be knights. In this moment, the glaringly different cultures is apparent between those in the Seven Kingdoms and Wildlings. The rule-abiding Brienne responds with “its tradition,” and the free-spirited Tormund immediately follows this up by saying, “fuck tradition.”
From this point on, the subtlety in the characters’ behaviors is what does the most work in the scene to enhance its meaning by the end. Brienne states she does not even want to be a knight, but the audience knows this not to be true after witnessing the lengths Brienne is willing to go in order to fulfill a vow and serve. Poderick gives a look to Brienne after she states this, in essence confirming that Brienne is lying. Pod has spent the most time recently with Brienne, and he knows as well as the audience what Brienne’s true wish really is. It is in this subtle instance that the scene permanently shifts focus to Brienne. Tormund makes a suggestive remark to where if he were king how he would knight Brienne himself, “ten times over.” Although the intention behind the statement is clearly the sexual innuendo of another failed wooing attempt by Tormund, the comment is serviceable to the scene as Jamie uses it as a segway to mention that knights are able to knight other knights. In a sense, he cleverly creates a compromise to the initial tradition debate.
The weight behind the following moments is some of the most remarkable in Game of Thrones. Ser Jaime Lannister, knights Brienne of Tarth, a woman who has shown and fought with more honor than most other knights we see in the show. She has so much honor; she was willing to let go of what she truly wanted for the sake of tradition. At this moment, however, Brienne’s smile and look of true happiness confirms what everyone knew. Brienne wanted this above anything else. Furthermore, there is a hint of poetic justice in allowing Jaime to knight Brienne. From their early days in their relationship when Jaime was Brienne’s prisoner to now, their relationship has transformed to a point of adoration and respect. Brienne looks up to Jaime as everything she wants to be, and as she rises to meet his eyes as equals, Ser Brienne of Tarth’s arc reaches a satisfying conclusion. (Garreth Holton)
Greatest Game of Thrones Scenes: The Great Battle Begins
In Game Of Thrones, the high drama and politics of the land are often at the forefront of the series, with fantastical elements and bloody battles not far behind. The final season of Game of Thrones reminds viewers that the White Walkers, or Wights, are the true enemies of Westeros and have been slowly marching their way towards destruction throughout the entirety of the show. In “The Long Night” characters attempt to prepare themselves or battle, or in Tyrion’s case, get drunk on casks of wine and accept a probable death.
The opening of the episode is a lesson in restraint and tension, as the characters stare at the foreboding darkness and await their adversaries. Melisandre comes cantering out of the night on her horse and asks Jorah to command the Dothraki in raising their swords. Melisandre recites an incantation for the Lord of Light, and one by one the swords alight with a burning flame. For a moment it seems as though the Dothraki might stand a reasonable chance against the White Walkers.
Emboldened by their fiery swords, the Dothraki charge forward into the darkness with weapons ablaze. In a sobering, horrifying moment, a view overhead shows the flames sputter out as the men crash into the hordes of the undead that met them sight unseen. A few shouts and cries are heard from a distance, and scared horse retreats backwards to the stunned crowd of troops that remain. The deadly tone for “The Long Night” has been set, and the battle begins. (Meghan Cook)
Greatest Game of Thrones Scenes: The Great Battle
Over the course of Game of Thrones‘ eight seasons there have been some incredible battles but few can compare in size and scope to the audacious nighttime battle against the legions of the dead.
A cinematic feat of audacious spectacle, The Great Battle sees our favorite characters all forced to band together and put aside their differences in order to face off against death itself in its horrific final form. Stretched out to a massive 80 minutes, The Great Battle manages to give nearly everyone a great moment or two, and with several key character deaths hammered into it, the stakes are raised considerably throughout the battle.
From Melisandre setting hundreds of weapons ablaze in a single go, to the dead awakening in the crypts beneath Winterfell, The Great Battle is filled with rich and memorable moments amid a faithless struggle against a foe that truly seems to be insurmountable. Fraught with tension and brimming with terror, The Great Battle is Game of Thrones at its grim, brutal best. (Mike Worby)
Greatest Game of Thrones Scenes: Lady Lyanna Mormont Slays a Giant
The young, fierce Lady of House Mormont stayed true to her word and refused her cousin Jorah’s advice to wait out the battle in the crypts and instead helped her colleagues fight the army of the dead. When the tiny but undeniably brave Lyanna Mormont came face to face with a wight giant in the midst of the castle grounds, she did not back away. Instead, she stared Death in the cold blue eye, and in a moment of blazing glory, killed the ferocious beast 100 times her size with a shard of dragonglass. The House of Mormont’s bloodline ended when the wight lifted Lyanna and crushed her like a grape but at least she went out fighting like a champ. (Ricky D)
Best Game of Thrones Scenes: The Night King Raises the Dead in Winterfell
“The Long Night” is an episode from season eight where the battle between the living and the dead finally comes to a head. The major confrontation, known as The Battle of Winterfell, was not bad by any means but it wasn’t exactly the battle that we had all been waiting eight seasons for either. That being said, it certainly had its moments of fantastic spectacle (the dragon fight in the sky was an amazing television feat even if the lighting made it hard to see it all) as well as a few brilliant character moments. One of these moments was when the Night King raised the dead who had fallen during the battle and turned them into soldiers for his undead army.
When Jon Snow gets a chance to face the Night King head-on, the latter turns to Jon and simply raises his arms. We see all the dead, including characters such as Dolorous Edd and Lyanna Mormont, slowly open their now bright blue eyes, becoming white walkers in the Night King’s cause. The survivors of the onslaught look on in terror as they begin to rise. It looks as though that would be the end for Winterfell and all of its inhabitants. This wasn’t the case, but the feeling of sheer dread that comes when the dead rise is still pretty powerful. We then see the dead in the crypts of Winterfell spring to life and start attacking the women, children and other civilians who are hiding there, including Sansa and Tyrion. Despite the dead losing the battle in the end, their frightening nature is emphasized by their overpowering numbers and ability to convert anyone or anything that has died to their cause. This scene makes it clear that had Arya not been successful in her sneak attack on the Night King, he would have undoubtedly won the battle, taken Winterfell and brought Winterfell into an eternal winter. This moment also marks the introduction of Ramin Djwadi’s “The Night King” theme, which is one of the best villain themes for the whole show. (Ricky D)
Best Game of Thrones Scenes: The Death of Theon Greyjoy
It was quite an emotional journey for Theon Greyjoy over the years. He suffered unspeakable humiliation at the hands of Ramsay Bolton and worse, he betrayed those closest to him. Yet despite all the wrong he did and all the torture he endured, Theon bounced back better than ever – and what better way of making amends to those whom he has wronged than by returning to his old home and defending Winterfell. Theon’s arc boils down to wanting to feel loved, and once he found forgiveness, he was prepared to die for those who accepted him for who he is. He did an admirable job protecting Bran and was given a memorable death which he truly deserves. The people of Westeros will long discuss the legend of Theon Greyjoy and remember him as the last man who died at the hands of the Night King while trying to protect everything living.(Ricky D)
Best Game of Thrones Scenes: Arya Kills the Night King
After eleven years of speculation and crazy fan theories, it was Arya Stark who single-handedly saved the entire world (or at least those in it still among the living) with the help of her trusty Valyrian steel dagger and brought down the mythical foe known as the Night King (ironically the only name not added to her kill list). It was the very same dagger that’s been kicking around Game of Thrones since season one – the same weapon that she also used to kill Lord Baelish, and the same dagger that Lord Baelish claimed was stolen from him by Tyrion Lannister, which was the lie that helped kickstart the war between the Lannisters and the Starks. Who would have ever thought the same dagger that triggered the War of the Five Kings was also the same dagger that ended the Great War? I cannot help but admire how Game of Thrones alluded to this way back in season one when Syrio Forel, during an early sparring lesson, showed Arya how to switch weapons between her right and left hand. “What do we say to the God of Death,” he asked Arya. She replied, “Not Today.” (Ricky D)
Best Game of Thrones Scenes: The Death of Ser Jorah
Despite a rocky start, Jorah Mormont is one of the few characters who has been consistently loyal towards Dany and her quest to claim the Iron Throne and so it seems only right that he dies saving the Queen he solemnly swore to protect. He has saved Daenerys on multiple occasions in the past of course but never before had the stakes been raised so incredibly high. As we watched him charge unto the breach to protect Daenerys from an endless sea of walking dead, we knew it wouldn’t end well, but at least he went out fighting for the woman he loved. There is no character more deserving of such a grandiose end than Ser Jorah Mormont. Watching him die in his Queen’s arms, is not just the most touching scene of the episode, but one of the saddest scenes of the entire series. (Ricky D)
Best Game of Thrones Scenes: Daenerys Burns Kings Landing
Season eight of Game of Thrones has been a particularly polarising one, to say the least. One of the scenes that has stirred up the most controversy comes from the penultimate episode “The Bells”. After successfully infiltrating Kings Landing, Daenerys sits upon Drogon as the people of Kings Landing cower below her. As the Lannister soldiers throw down their swords and the bells signaling the surrender of the city ring out, it becomes clear that Dany has beaten Cersei. Daenerys has lost almost everything in the space of a few episodes and as she sits on her dragon looking over the city where her family was slaughtered and she and her brother were exiled, we see her face contort into an expression of pure Targaryen rage. Despite the surrender, she lives up to her father’s legacy and starts burning the civilians of Kings Landing. It is arguable that Dany’s character development has been rushed here as she was always someone who insisted that she wasn’t her father and that she would never be the queen of ashes. However, her instability caused by the loss of those she loves the most (Missadei, Jorah, Rhaegal, and Viserion mostly) combined with her feeling that she has no love in Westeros has caused her to turn into that which she feared most: the Mad Queen.
The staging of Daenerys’s sacking of the city is incredibly well done. The director of this episode, Miguel Sapochnik, is brilliant at staging battle and actions sequences having previously directed battle-heavy episodes such as “Hardhome” and “The Battle of the Bastards”. His choice to focus on the civilians as they attempt to flee Drogon’s flames is one of the best decisions of the episode. It drags you into a frantic warzone and makes you experience the pure, visceral fear that comes with that. The effects are astounding and the shots of Drogon destroying the city are epic fantasy at its best. We end up following Arya as she attempts to save some of the women and children, only to watch them be brutalized by the Dothraki before being burned alive by Drogon. Sapochnik succeeds in capturing the grim and brutal realities of war whilst also depicting Daenerys’s ultimate fall to madness. (Antonia Haynes)
Greatest Game of Thrones Scenes: The Hound and the Mountain
One of the key villains of Game of Thrones‘ first two seasons, The Hound went on to become something of an antihero and fan favorite as the show marched ever onward toward its conclusion. However, after he was left for dead in the season four finale, only to return in season six, it became glaringly apparent that The Hound was back for a reason.
“The Bells” pays off this plot thread at last with a final confrontation between the brothers Clegane. In one corner, the permanently scarred and battle hardened Hound. In the other, the necromantic, nightmare vision of The Mountain. As King’s Landing burns to the ground and The Red Keep falls around them, the Clegane brothers meet on the stairs of the royal palace for one last battle.
An intense, knock-down, drag-out affair, the final battle between the Cleganes does not skimp on the brutality that both characters are known for. The final moments of the fight see The Mountain attempting to crush his brother’s head and the Hound ramming a dagger through his brother’s skull. It’s fratricide at its absolute best, and the crashing finale, as the two brothers fall, screaming battle cries into the flames below, could not be a more just or fitting end. (Mike Worby)
Best Game of Thrones Scenes: Arya Tries to Escape the Destruction of King’s Landing
The penultimate Game of Thrones episode “The Bells” has gained a level of controversy and social media outrage that has seemingly outpaced The Red Wedding scene in “The Rains of Castamere,” but detractors and admirers alike have praised the eighth season of Game of Thrones for its impeccable cinematography. In “The Bells,” Game of Throne’s two best assets — skilled camera direction and high caliber acting performances — are both on display during the scene in which Arya tries to escape from King’s Landing.
Although Arya set out for the Red Keep with the intention of killing Cersei, the Hound cautioned her that their shared road for revenge would only end in death. Arya, a fan favorite for many, has gained a reputation in the later seasons of the show for her cold blooded precision and assassin’s skill. It is a testament to Maisie Williams that the vulnerability she shows in the final minutes of the episode comes across as added humanity to a complex character and not a step backwards to her role as an orphaned child before she killed in the name of the Many-Faced God.
When Daenerys rains fire down on the city from overhead, the landscape of King’s Landing starts to resemble a war-torn battlefield. As Arya is blown backwards and scrambles to safety, she is reminded of her role as a protector within the larger fabric of Westeros. Her desperate race to save a mother and her daughter from the destruction around them reasserts her position as a “good guy” during a season in which the line between heroes and tyrants is more blurred than ever. (Meghan Cook)
Best Game of Thrones Scenes: Jaime and Cersei Perish Beneath the Red Keep
After years of redemptive arcs, Jaime succumbed to his worst impulses in hopes of returning to King’s Landing and saving Cersei, his sister and lover. While his long arduous trek, including a bittersweet goodbye to his little brother and a nasty fight with Euron Greyjoy, eventually brought him to his queen, his escape is not so successful.
As Daenerys rains down fire and blood from above, Cersei and Jaime share one final embrace, as they accept death at last. It is a melancholic ending for two of Game of Thrones‘ best actors, and two of its most morally challenged characters. (Mike Worby)
Best Game of Thrones Scenes: Jon Strikes Down Daenerys
The ending of “The Bells” stoked much speculation that Arya would be taking down Daenerys in the series finale. However, like with the Night King, Game of Thrones pulled the old Stark switcheroo. Instead, it is Jon who does the deed.
After surveying the misery, cruelty and destruction of King’s Landing, Jon is faced with his queen once again. Still working to compromise between his loyalty and what he knows is right, Jon embraces Dany one last time before putting a dagger through her heart. As Drogon descends in mourning and Jon stands defiant, the Queen of Dragons breathes her last, effectively ending the Targaryen line. (Mike Worby)
Best Game of Thrones Scenes: Bran is Crowned as King
Over the course of eight seasons and ten years of Game of Thrones, one question was always on everyone’s lips: who will sit on the Iron Throne at the end of it all. And while no one will be occupying that particular spot, since the throne has been melted away by dragon fire, Bran was eventually selected as the ruler best suited for the job.
Really, there could’ve been no better choice. Bran is as pragmatic and sensible as any ruler could be. Also the scene offers one last chance for us to see some of the characters we’ve come to know and love over the last decade to put aside their differences and do what’s best for the seven, or six rather, kingdoms at last. It’s a fitting conclusion to one of Game of Thrones most enduring plot points. (Mike Worby)
The Best ‘Game of Thrones’ Scenes Part 2: The Greatest Moments of Seasons 5-7
When novelist-turned-screenwriter George R.R. Martin published A Song of Ice and Fire way back in 1996, I don’t think anyone could have imagined his epic fantasy series adapted to the big screen, never mind television. Things changed, however, and at the turn of the century networks like AMC and HBO took huge risks on enormous budgets and pushed boundaries with shows like Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, Rome, Deadwood and The Sopranos. Television was giving Hollywood a run for its money and in the eyes of many pop-culture enthusiasts, television was doing just about everything better – and in some cases – bigger. When Game of Thrones premiered on April 17, 2001, the season premiere received largely positive reviews and was seen initially by 2.2 million viewers. Fast forward to 2017, the seventh season, regularly drew in over 12 million viewers to HBO, with millions (and millions) more watching online. It’s impossible to say just how many viewers Game of Thrones has but ever since Ned Stark lost his head, we lost our minds theorizing on what would happen next; who would soon die; and how it would all end. That beheading was a monumental moment in what is now referred to as Peak TV and with Lord Stark’s death, Game of Thrones became a cultural phenomenon.
Ever since we’ve witnessed some truly jaw-dropping moments. From the Red Wedding to Hodor’s gut-wrenching death and everything in between, Game of Thrones has always found ways to surprise its viewers. In celebration of the series, we compiled a list of our favourite moments. This is the second of three parts – a list of the best scenes from Game of Thrones.
Best Game of Thrones Scenes: The Battle of Hardhome
If there is one thing that Game of Thrones does masterfully every time, it is the immense battle sequences. The ending battle scene from the episode “Hardhome” in season five is by far one of the best that television has to offer.
Jon Snow leads a group from the Night’s Watch on a mission to the wildling village of Hardhome in an attempt to broker peace with the wildlings and convince them to join the fight against the white walkers. He manages to convince a large group of them to come with him back to Castle Black with the promise that they will be able to live south of the Wall with their own land if they join forces. Before they are able to get out of the village, however, Hardhome is attacked by the Night King and his army of the undead. The ensuing battle is bone-chilling chaos as the wights swarm the village, killing and turning the wildlings to white walkers. They eventually break through the gates whilst the Night King looms above upon his undead horse watching it all unfold.
The scene is not only fantastic from a technical perspective but also as evidence that the army of the undead are not to be underestimated. The white walkers have always been a threat lurking in the background since the opening scene of the very first Game of Thrones episode that gradually became more and more prominent. In “Hardhome”, they are well and truly proven to be the most menacing threat to Westeros due to the sheer amount of them and their ability to increase their numbers rapidly. The most memorable element comes at the end of the episode. When Jon and the survivors escape on a boat, the Night King stands amongst the dead. As he raises his arms, the deceased slowly rise and become part of his undead army. Thousands of wildlings are transformed into wights. They stand and stare down Jon Snow, who looks on in utter fear. This is the moment when we realize that Westeros is hopelessly overpowered and outnumbered. If a happy ending to the show seemed possible before, it definitely seemed even more uncertain after the battle of Hardhome. (Antonia Haynes)
Best Game of Thrones Scenes: Drogon in Daznak’s Pit
“Dance of the Dragons” features two of the most iconic moments of the series, one of which sees Daenerys Targaryen come close to being assassinated when she and her loyal council are surrounded by the Sons of the Harpy in the middle of the fighting pits. The danger was never more palpable in Meereen as Dany, Jorah, Daario, Missandei, and Tyrion are left to do everything in their power to fend off the hundreds of gilded assassins determined to kill the Queen of Dragons. When all hope seemed lost, Drogon makes an explosive entrance and swoops in to rescue his matriarch. Watching Daenerys soar for the first time while riding Drogon remains one of the ten most iconic images of the entire series. The entire sequence is a truly remarkable visual feat with astounding special effects, expertly choreographed battles, amazing pyrotechnics, and a fearless dragon fighting off hundreds of men. As some would say, it’s a moment that will one day become the stuff of legends. (Ricky D)
Best Game of Thrones Scenes: Stannis Burns Shireen Alive
Blind faith in something impossible to understand offers no just reward. Stannis’ unquestioning belief throughout the series in the Lord of Light may have given him confidence in his claim to the Iron Throne, but his offer in the form of his own daughter proves that the costs of his claim outweigh any benefits.
As Shireen is trotted off to an unwarranted and unjustified death, Stannis remains silent throughout. Melissandre’s influence on him reaches its climax at this moment. The scene, of course, highlights the failures of Stannis as a leader, but overall it demonstrates the tragedy of war and the lengths men are willing to go to in order to achieve their final goal.
The Baratheon family shows how an abusive dynamic throughout the series is the avenue they choose to bolster Stannis to attain the Throne. Shireen’s mother Selyse, has always shown great apathy towards her own daughter, even convincing Stannis that burning their daughter was what the Lord wanted. Meanwhile, Stannis manipulates his daughter to agree to be a tool to help him reach his goal.
Only as they hear their child’s blood-curdling screams does at least one of them realize the absence of their humanity. Selyse tries to reach her but ends up getting a front-row seat to the terror she and her husband brought upon themselves. The night is dark and full of terrors, and sometimes the terrors come out of the attempts to avoid them. (Garrett Holton)
Best Game of Thrones Scenes: Jon Snow’s Death
The death of a main character is always a shock but Game of Thrones always manages to ramp this up and emphasize the drama and emotion of death. During season five, Jon Snow becomes the new Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, but not without consequences. His long-lasting rivalry with Alliser Thorne, whom he beat in the vote to become Lord Commander, intensifies despite Jon’s best efforts to appease him and his followers by making Thorne First Ranger. Thorne and his supporters detest Jon for his attitude towards the wildlings, offering them land in Westeros south of the wall. This bitterness and hatred is fueled by Jon’s kindness towards the wildlings, culminating in the ultimate betrayal by Thorne and his lackeys: a deadly mutiny.
They lure Jon away by pretending that they have news of his missing Uncle Benjen. Once he is isolated, they surround him. One by one, they proceed to stab him over and over whilst professing that their actions are “For the Watch.” As painful as it is to see Jon get brutally stabbed multiple times, his breathing labored and his face contorted with pain and confusion, it only gets worse as we see the final mutineer approach him: his steward Olly. Olly has reason to hate Jon (his parents were murdered and his village destroyed by the wildlings whom Jon has protected) but it is all the more heartbreaking to watch Olly, a boy who once looked up to and respected Jon, perform the final blow.
As Ramin Djawadi’s musical score swells, a theme for the Starks fittingly called ‘Goodbye Brother’, we zoom in on Jon and watch the color drain from his face as his blood stains the snow. He is left to die, scared and alone. It is a powerful moment. Jon is a central character who we have been through a significant amount with. To see him die by the hands of those who he considered his brothers is hard to stomach. Though he is ultimately resurrected, it doesn’t take away from the strength and emotion of this memorable Game of Thrones moment. (Antonia Haynes)
Best Game of Thrones Scenes: Cersei’s Walk of Shame
Game of Thrones has had its fair share of nudity, but in the season five episode “Mother’s Mercy”, Cersei Lannister’s naked body isn’t shown as a signal to her confidence or pursuit for sexual pleasure. During the pinnacle “Walk of Shame” scene, Cersei’s head is shaved and her body is stripped — physically and mentally — as she is forced to walk the streets of King’s Landing in atonement for her adulterous behavior with Lancel Lannister. As Cersei walks through the streets the crowd of citizens becomes unruly, screaming slurs and reaching out to grab and grope at her, with Septa Unella following closely behind, ringing a formidable bell and crying “Shame!”
At first, Cersei seems to keep her queenly placidity in check, but as the walk becomes more punishing we see her veneer of calm start to peel away. Tears begin to swell in her eyes as her feet are bloodied and rotten food rains down on her backside from the throng of townspeople. Once she finally gets to the castle and completes her journey, Cersei allows herself to fall apart completely as she sobs into the arms of Qyburn, who wraps her battered body in a cloak.
The “Walk of Shame” scene is a turning point for the series as well as a revealing moment for Cersei. Lena Headey typically plays Cersei as an immovable, frightening conqueror, a woman who would do anything to retain her place on the Iron Throne, even if that means crushing innocent people with the heels of her shoes on her ambitious climb to the top. In fact, besides her thirst to reign in Westeros and rule the Seven Kingdoms with an unforgiving fist, Cersei only truly cares about Jaime and the protection of her children. This scene is the first time that we see Cersei break down out of sheer fear and loss of control. As a character who creates enemies multiple times an episode, Cersei is a hard character to feel sympathy for; but in this scene Headey delivers a raw, layered performance that elicits a sliver of compassion on the behalf of a truly hateful woman. (Meghan Cooke)
Best Game of Thrones Scenes: Jon Snow Returns from the Dead
The term “plot armor” is usually reserved for characters who seem to have too much importance to a story to be killed off… which is why it was such a shock that Jon Snow was murdered by traitors of the Night’s Watch in the closing moments of season five.
With no answer to his parentage and no conclusion on his presumed status as the Prince Who Was Promised, it didn’t take fans long to deduce that Jon might be coming back, especially with Melisandre conveniently located at Castle Black.
While those who guessed that Jon would be resurrected turned out to be indeed correct, the way the scene plays out really makes viewers wait for it. Melisandre offers no guarantees, having almost completely lost faith in her power, and it isn’t until everyone has given up hope and left the room that the camera holds over Jon’s corpse.
After an agonizing wait, as the camera zooms in with complete silence, Jon Snow’s eyes open at last, and the great hope of Westeros lives to fight another day. (Mike Worby)
Best Game of Thrones Scenes: Kingsmoot
Over the years, the Iron Islands have been home to some of Game of Thrones‘ best family drama, both onscreen and off; the Greyjoy family and their fucked up relationships have added a personal touch to the cold, hard (and extremely wet) world of the Ironborn. In season six, the death of Balon Greyjoy kicks the family drama into high gear, especially once Theon supports Yara’s campaign to become leader of the soon-to-be-built Iron Fleet; it is a culmination of their tumultuous relationship, a brief glimpse of hope in grim, damp world of Pyke and the Iron Islands.
That internal conflict is where the Kingsmoot scene in “The Door” draws all its tension; the text of the scene itself is rather rote and perfunctory, one of many scenes overly concerned with the written traditions and poorly-paced Westeros ceremonies. But when Theon and Yara’s uncle Euron arrives on the Iron shore, he immediately throws a wrench into the proceedings, and lights a fire under one of the show’s longest simmering conflicts.
In one fell sweep, Theon and Yara’s plan to join Dany is usurped by Euron’s own, which includes using his “thick cock” and huge naval fleet to help Dany to tear down the status quo in King’s Landing. Full of swagger from his travels around the world, it’s no surprise when the unknowns of the Iron Islands side with the older Greyjoy family member, turning a hopeful scene for the Greyjoy children, into a horrifying inverse of expectations, where the boisterous Euron makes fun of Theon’s castration and Yara’s perceived audacity as he is crowned the leader of the seaborne. It also helps foreshadow one of the show’s more underrated conflicts in season seven, as the Greyjoy family’s dissonant ambitions devolve into violent chaos. (Randy Dankievitch)
Best Game of Thrones Scenes: Hold the Door
Game of Thrones has done a lot of crazy shit over the years: dragons, assassins who take the faces of other people, women fighting bears, giants fighting ice zombies… this list is a testament to that audacity. But the “Hold the Door” sequence may stand the test of time as the most batshit insane thing Game of Thrones has ever done, in one of the greatest surprises in television history.
Things begin rather innocently; Bran’s warging around in the past with the help of the Three-Eyed Raven, seeing visions of the Night King and the war to come. Through what we’ll call “plot magic”, the army of the Cold and Undead make their way to their hiding spot, in the Children of the Forest’s home. They attack the group (Meera, Bran, Hodor, and Summer) mid-warg, with dozens of ice zombies chasing them through the impeccably small, tight corridors of the CotF’s home.
While all this is going on, Bran’s dicking around in the past, viewing what appears to be just another day in Winterfell. But when the Three-Eyed Raven is killed and Meera and Hodor begin to run, Bran’s focus begins to wane, and the sounds of the present begin to leak into the background. And when the situation turns from strange to deathly, Bran accidentally wargs into a young stable boy named Wylis; in doing so, he connects young Wylis to adult Hodor, essentially letting a child see his own death. Understandably, Wylis’ mind breaks under the pressure, disabling him to the point he can only utter one phrase for the rest of his life: “Hodor”, or as Meera originally says it, “Hold the door!”
It is perhaps the single greatest surprise in Game of Thrones history, a reveal so beautifully hidden in one of the show’s most endearing characters – and of course, bullshit plot mechanics, a sequence that’s just crazy enough to work, almost like a demented homage to LOST‘s “The Constant”. Hodor’s sacrifice to save Bran (and, in theory, all of Westeros) came in a season with a lot of plot constriction in the form of meaningless deaths; his final, noble action is an emotional highlight of the season (not to mention the series). More importantly, as “The Door” flashed back between the beginning and end of Hodor’s journey, Game of Thrones offers up an important emotional grounding moment, in a season full of Big Plot Moments and Gritty, Expensive Battles. (Randy Dankievitch)
Best Game of Thrones Scenes: Battle of the Bastards
The Battle of the Bastards is the final battle between Jon Snow and Ramsay Bolton which occurs in season six. It is certainly one of the most memorable episodes in the history of Game of Thrones for its general excellence, but the battle has also been hailed as one of the greatest of all time.
The battle begins in a tragic fashion. Ramsay offers the safe return of Rickon, the youngest Stark brother who is being held captive. On the battlefield, Ramsay instructs Rickon to run to his brother Jon on the other side. Jon gallops towards him as Ramsay takes pot shots at Rickon with his bow. Just as Rickon reaches Jon, he is shot through the heart with an arrow and killed. This begins the battle with a somber tone as one of the few remaining Starks is killed so brutally. Jon’s heartache is evident as he rushes into battle. There is no shying away from the horrors of war as the fight commences. Horses are maimed and topple over to crush their riders. Soldiers are left with missing limbs, their innards hanging out and screaming for mercy. Lives are lost painfully and gratuitously. Despite the fantasy setting, the realism is harrowing. The claustrophobic shot of Jon trapped and trampled beneath the crowd of soldiers is one of the most painfully real moments. You hear his breathing get frantic as he struggles for air and the audio becomes muffled. Close up shots show the pure panic on his face. As Jon emerges fitfully from the heap of soldiers and gasps for breath (in one of the best shots in the episode), it is difficult to not want to take a breath of relief with him.
The battle also has some great character moments from Jon and his sister Sansa. Jon fights like a true warrior for his people, almost dying in the process, whereas Ramsay sits and watches on from afar like a coward. Throughout the show, Jon continues to prove his worth as a leader of the people and a solider. He may not want to be on the Iron Throne, but he is definitely one of the strongest candidates. Sansa also gets a chance to shine as she leads the Knights of the Vale in to save Jon and his men just as it looks like they are going to be defeated. Without her, they would have perished and all would have been lost to Ramsey. Sansa is a worthy ruler who has suffered significantly and lost almost everything. Her strength is quieter than Jon’s, but equally substantial.
In what is arguably one of the greatest battles in television history, “Battle of the Bastards” utilizes fantastic battle sequences, stellar music, and great performances to create a scene that will no doubt be remembered for years to come. (Antonia Haynes)
Best Game of Thrones Scenes: Danny Returns to Meereen
Let’s be honest: Dany’s two-plus season spent in Meereen are mostly a distraction, a way to keep her in place while the machinations around the rest of Westeros caught up with her journey to queen-dom. After Dany’s control of Meereen is established in season five, she struggles with the everyday ins and outs of ruling, and faces a building resistance in the form of Sons of the Harpy, a murderous resistance organized by the slave traders of the other cities in the region.
It’s a confusing, mostly inert story, only saved by the smaller moments contained within – but it all comes to a satisfying close when the all the chickens come home to roost during “Battle of the Bastards”. In one sequence, we finally see the army she’s amassed show off their strength; while she’s “negotiating” with the leaders of the insurgence on Meereen, the Dothraki army takes down the Sons of the Harpy, and her dragons deal with the naval fleets bombarding Meereen’s shores. Most importantly, however, it’s Grey Worm coming in the clutch, pointing out to all the slave soldiers that there’s no need to fight on the losing side of the battle when freedom awaits; in a way, her biggest victory in the region comes when she convinces her own people to stop killing each other, by far the strongest showing by the leadership team she’s assembled over her two seasons in the former Slaver’s Bay.
Although the Second Siege of Meereen is really a precursor to Dany’s real story kicking into high gear, two seasons of inertia are satisfyingly washed away in a sequence that unleashes the violent potential of the power she’s assembled. And before season seven, our sightings of her dragons were still rare enough to be momentous; seeing them ransack the slaver army is a great showcase for the game-changing power they bring to the battle for the throne, and a fun visual showcase for the minds behind Game of Thrones‘ increasingly impressive CGI. (Randy Dankievitch)
Best Game of Thrones Scenes: Destruction of the Sept of Baelor
Queen Cersei fell into her own trap of bolstering the Faith of the Seven and raising the High Sparrow and Faith Militant to power. After suffering the consequences of imprisonment, starvation, and public shaming through “the walk of atonement,” Cersei carefully planned her revenge for her enemies. Within ten minutes of runtime, Cersei’s revenge is on display for all of King’s Landing to see in a gloriously frightening cinematic event.
Immediately setting the tone with an ominous piece of music appropriately titled “The Light of the Seven,” the music, the cinematography, and quick jump cuts between multiple characters’ perspectives give the scene a sense of difference between normal Game of Thrones scenes. Sacrificing the linear storytelling in this instance, the scene gives way to showing (rather than telling) the events that unfold. Beginning slowly, the gaps between cuts of character perspectives is normal. The camera follows Lancel Lannister as he pursues a young boy out of suspicion while Qyburn (Master of Whispers) offers foreboding words to Maester Pycell before his “little birds” kill him. “…but sometimes before we can usher in the new, the old must be put to rest.” After revealing Cersei’s true intentions at this moment, the music and pacing begin to increase rapidly.
The boy he pursued stabs Lancel in the catacombs of the Sept. Gallons of Wildfire await detonation, and an injured Lancel becomes the only hope for the enemies of Cersei residing above. The scene then hastily jumps between a crawling Lancel and Margaery Tyrell, who finally realizes Cersei’s plot, urging everyone to abandon the Sept.
The Faith Militant’s refusal to let people leave and Lancel inching toward the few flickering candles, symbolizing the small burning hope for those within the Sept bolsters the rising tension of the scene. Chaos builds and the music swells with each cut of the camera. Finally, the High Sparrow and Margaery exchange a somber knowing look of fear. The music reaches its climax and silences. In its place, the igniting and cataclysmic rumble of exploding Wildfire that articulate the plum of green fire and smoke ravaging the Sept of Baelor.
The denouement comes from a simple yet powerful look of satisfaction from Queen Cersei as she sips her wine and walks away. In a sense, she ties a bow on an objectively fantastic display of progressive cinematic suspense. (Garrett Holton)
Best Game of Thrones Scenes: Jon Snow’s Parentage is Revealed in the Tower of Joy
Fans of the show who happened to peruse the online communities and message boards would have come across the occasional article or talking point for something called R+L=J. Essentially what that shorthand broke down to was a long whispered theory that Ned Stark was not, in fact, Jon Snow’s father after all.
As season six flashbacks to Ned Stark and a few other members of Robert’s Rebellion at the Tower of Joy, the place Rhaegar Targaryen had supposedly spirited Lyanna Stark away to when Robert Baratheon was looking for her, the road seemed to slowly be paving its way toward the reveal that Lyanna and Rhaegar were Jon’s true parents.
Toward the end of the explosive season six finale, this theory was confirmed at last when Bran had a vision, as the three-eyed raven, of his father agreeing to keep Jon’s parentage secret, so as to save him from the fate of being killed off as a possible threat to the Baratheon’s claim on the throne.
Suddenly, so many questions had answers, like why would Ned Stark, a man who values honor above all else, cheat on his wife with some random prostitute during wartime. Turns out he didn’t but as a man of honor, he did indeed keep his promise to Lyanna to protect Jon from the Baratheons, even at the expense of his honor and his reputation. (Mike Worby)
Best Game of Thrones Scenes: Arya Kills the Freys
“Leave one wolf alive and the sheep are never safe.”
The first scene of Season 7 is one of intentional misdirection. Walder Frey is alive and well, addressing his house with a feast. This is confusing in light of the fact that the audience witnesses Arya kill Walder after serving him pies of his dead sons at the end of Season 6. However, purposefully following up such a dark scene with one of celebration sets up the truth behind the events unfolding within House Frey.
Although the occasion seems like a normal celebratory feast, “Walder” makes very peculiar statements to his house. He makes it clear that it is a special meeting seeing as the house recently had a feast. Before they begin their feast however, Walder offers a toast to the “brave” men of his house, and he gives them a special wine to which they are unfamiliar. These factors build serious suspicion leading up to the reveal of Arya hiding behind the face of Walder.
Walder congratulates his men specifically for the mass murder of the Starks at the red wedding, solidifying the truth behind Arya’s revenge. Shortly after, the entire house of Frey begins to incessantly cough to the point of blood as the poison from Arya’s special wine takes effect. Just before all the men in the room are dead, Walder (Arya) gives a chilling yet sobering reminder: “leave one wolf alive and the sheep are never safe.”
Arya finally removes Walder’s face and reveals her mastery of the lessons she learned in Braavos at the House of Black and White. The opening of Season 7 brings Arya’s character full circle at this moment, and she puts her own stamp on this when she tells Walder’s former underage wife what to remember from this day. Winter came for House Frey. (Garrett Holton)
Best Game of Thrones Scenes: Euron’s Assault at Sea
The Assault on the Targaryen Fleet by the Iron Fleet (commanded by Euron Greyjoy, the King of the Iron Islands), is an action-packed, crow’s-nest-hollering spectacle that often goes overlooked when discussing the best moment in all eight seasons of Game of Thrones. The Greyjoys thrive at sea, and Euron is no exception proving he may be the best pirate in all of Westeros as he masterfully ambushes his niece and nephew at sea while cutting down several of Yara and Theon’s men with his axe – not to mention escaping near death at the hands of the Sand Snakes. Swashbuckling adventures are few and far between making the sequence a breath of fresh air and one that is jampacked with energy, ambition, and spectacular effects. (Ricky D)
Best Game of Thrones Scenes: The Caravan Battle
Sure, by the mid-point of season seven, we’d seen Danaerys’ dragons in action plenty of times. We’d seen them fry dark priests and slavers. We’d seen them eat captives and enemies. And we’d seen them rescue Dany from harm on several occasions.
However, what we hadn’t seen was what these massive creatures could do during wartime. As Jaime Lannister returned from Casterly Rock with a caravan, filled to the brim with the spoils of war, suddenly Daenarys launched a surprise attack with devastating results.
As a single of her three dragons laid waste to Jaime’s caravan, the true destructive power of these great beasts was made clear at last. No wonder the original dragon riders of the Targaryen line were able to conquer Westeros with such brutal speed and precision.
With Bronn using the dragon slaying ballista designed by Qyburn, and Jaime going on a mad charge at Daenarys during a moment of desperation, the caravan battle of season seven is one of Game of Thrones most thrilling and magnificent set pieces. (Mike Worby)
Best Game of Thrones Scenes: Arya vs. Brienne
This scene is remarkable for what it represents in Arya’s character. Reminiscing on how far she has come from her days training with Syrio Forel to a well-trained, face-stealing assassin, Arya’s character is an example of great writing. Her backstory has been built up to become a force to cause real change in the overarching story. Her spar with Brienne signifies her next step in her character arc.
As Pod trains with Brienne, Arya lurks close by after finally returning to her family home in Winterfell. To give the scene a more redemptive tone, she dons an outfit and hairstyle that closely resembles her late father’s. As she finally meets with Brienne, Arya insists on training with her, highlighting her as the only one that has been able to defeat The Hound.
As they spar, Brienne is notably surprised at the prowess Arya shows in single combat. It is clear against Brienne that what Arya lacks in stature, she makes up for in her agility and new-found knowledge. Arya characterizes this fact while in the midst of fighting. After Brienne spartan-kicks her to the ground, she hastily uses her skill to reposition herself standing. The music and sparring pick up simultaneously to demonstrate the two evenly-matched opponents.
Arya being a match to one of the strongest characters in the series shows that she is a force to be reckoned with. Thus, her presence has the ability to affect the events that are soon to come within Game of Thrones.(Garrett Holton)
Best Game of Thrones Scenes: Viserion Dies
The sixth episode of the seventh season of Game of Thrones is a thrilling 70 minutes of epic battles and tense confrontations – but it’s also an episode that tries too hard to do too much in a short span of time. “Beyond the Wall” is an oddly paced episode with convenient plot turns and major reveals that seem to unfold a tad bit prematurely – but it’s also an episode that will be remembered mostly for one scene in particular: the death of Viserion.
Of the many, many deaths we’ve witnessed on Game of Thrones over the years, the loss of the dragon Viserion might just be the most emotional. We all knew what the outcome would be when watching the Night King hurl his ice spear at the dragon – yet we desperately hoped otherwise. As the spear pierced the dragon’s neck, fatally wounding him, millions of fans immediately took to social media to mourn his death. I’ll never forget the screeching sounds of agony from his brothers’ cries, as the helpless dragon crashes into the frozen lake and sinks below the surface. (Ricky D)
Greatest Game of Thrones Scenes: The Death of Littlefinger
In a series filled with numerous characters and various storylines that never seem to intersect, it is very gratifying when characters we’ve become so invested in finally meet. It is, even more, gratifying however when characters we love finally reunite after seasons of being separated. Despite having little love for one another in their youth, Arya and Sansa Stark are beyond relieved to see one another after being apart since the season one finale. However, it isn’t long before Petyr Baelish a.k.a Littlefinger begins sowing discord between the two sisters. After a few episodes of deviously planting incriminating evidence and spreading rumors, Littlefinger seems to have succeeded in causing Sansa to be suspicious of Arya. He seems to forget that their brother Bran is an all-knowing Three-Eyed Raven that can see pretty much every horrible thing Littlefinger has done (which is admittedly, kind of lame).
Sansa summons Arya to court to seemingly accuse her of treason. Instead, she turns to Littlefinger and asks how he pleads to the accusations. Finally, the most conniving, duplicitous, Machiavellian character in the entire series is called out for all of his lies and schemes. Sansa realizes that every single unfortunate thing that the Stark family has endured from the very beginning has been caused by a domino effect that Littlefinger started. As Littlefinger begs for his life and declares his love for Sansa, she coldly thanks him for everything he has taught her and Arya slits his throat.
While it is always satisfying to watch a Game of Thrones villain meet their demise, it is also assuring to know that the Stark sisters maintained their trust and strength. Together, the pack survives. (Sarah Truesdale)
Best Game of Thrones Scenes: Destruction of the Wall
Some would argue that the season 7 finale of Game of Thrones is the most satisfying ending of all the seasons, and it isn’t hard to see why.
After the penultimate episode of season 7 saw the Night’s King bring Viserion back from the dead (so to speak), we all expected the closing moments of the Season 7 to put the undead dragon into action – and boy were we not wrong.
The Wall was originally built to defend against the White Walkers, ice creatures who were created by the Children of the Forest. It was also said to be imbued with magic that would prevent the walking dead from crossing over. Unfortunately, nobody ever considered how a wall made of ice would stand against a dragon’s flames.
As we all predicted, the 8000-year-old-wall would come crashing down thanks to Viserion – and thanks to director Jeremy Podeswa’s masterful direction, the effects-heavy sequence paid off in spades. The season seven finale gave us many revelations and some truly satisfying reveals, but the destruction of the Wall by the undead dragon was definitely the most dramatic. It was something we waited years to see and in many ways, it was the perfect cliffhanger to the season. (Ricky D)
Game of Thrones Season Eight Episode 6: “The Iron Throne” Is A Resoundingly Hollow Series Finale
As King’s Landing lies in smoldering ruins, “The Iron Throne” begins with the evocative images of Tyrion slowly making his way through Dany’s vengeful destruction of the capital city. Opening on a moment designed to revel in the horrible glory of her victory, the final hour of Game of Thrones wants to force the audience to consider the cost of revolution, of failed prophecies and broken dreams. Even more cynical, however, is the iconography of the scene, and how it reinforces the idea that while all men must die, the traditions they’ve instilled in Westerosi politics never will; all that bloodshed and destruction, and yet the ancient structures of King’s Landing remained. And though “The Iron Throne” makes a big show of Drogon burning the Iron Throne, those opening images resonate through the entire final episode: a wheel can be broken – but ultimately, Game of Thrones argues, the only thing that can replace it is another wheel.
“The Iron Throne” is but a collection of scenes rehashing and reinforcing the past, too afraid to challenge itself and engage with the potential of a more complicated resolution in its definitive moment.
For eight seasons, Game of Thrones has painstakingly examined the various structures of society that binds humanity together; love, war, political bodies, genealogy… over the years, Game of Thrones took great care to explore the disruption of traditional systems, and just how devastating the cost of revolution can be. Most importantly, it explored how challenging and unsatisfying change can be; the flawed nature of human beings made any victory a morally ambiguous one, as dangerous as it was liberating. But at its core, it always argued these revolutions, failed or successful, were worth the cost; from Dany, to Brienne, to Arya and The Hound, the characters of Game of Thrones found meaning in their journeys, seizing opportunities to break the cycles of their ancestors.
And yet, somehow the world is rebuilt in the exact image of the old, with the one added wrinkle of the North seceding from the Seven Kingdoms. In that light, Jon killing Dany is not just a conflicted man trying to end a tyrant’s reign; it is Game of Thrones playing the centrist card, refusing to truly reflect on the cost of destroying an established political system, or observe the difficulties of trying to rebuild the world in a new image. And it feels like an empty display of cynicism, a superficial reflection on the cyclical nature of civilization: once Dany is dead, it is but a few weeks before a council of people name Bran the new King of Westeros, laughing off the idea of a representative democracy and taking the simplest, most straightforward solution possible.
After years of reveling in the complicated nature of prophecy and revolution, Game of Thrones shies away from making a definitive statement about anything in its finale: “The Iron Throne” is but a collection of scenes rehashing and reinforcing the past, too afraid to challenge itself and engage with the potential of a more complicated resolution in its definitive moment. What plays out is a rather predictable checklist of events, led by perhaps the most unsettling aspect of the final episode: it suggests the world can change, but only under the power of men – or at least, not these women. Dany dies so Jon can be the tragic, conflicted hero, Brienne’s legacy is deifying Jaime’s selfish actions in the annals of history, and the crown is ultimately given to the most nonchalantly disinterested part in Westeros, the eternally smug Bran Stark – who, you may remember, has spent the entire last two fucking seasons telling everyone he is no longer Bran, and no longer has any wants or desires in the world…. except being King.
I get what Game of Thrones is trying to say in this moment: the only way to forge forward is with the knowledge and perspective of the past to draw from. But this is an inherently known entity of Westeros – look how many fucking maesters maintain the history of the realm and serve its leaders, to understand how important the past is. What makes this turn so disappointing is how little it actually reflects these values, in rebuilding its world in some nebulous vision of the future, that alarmingly looks and sounds like the exact same world of the past, right down reverting the voices in power back to the same families of men who decided things before. It is presented as optimistic, but is there any actual potential to see a vision of the future, that isn’t just the same shit happening over and over again?
For years, Game of Thrones teased the audience with its lofty speeches about breaking chains and rejecting the preconceptions of history; though a deeply nihilistic show about the absolute corruption of power, there was always a hint of optimism to the journeys of characters like Dany and Tyrion, offering hope for a world not absent of complications, but built on an altogether different foundation. Rather than seek out what that truth might be, Game of Thrones instead took the path of least resistance, hurtling itself towards a number of problematic story choices in its pursuit of nothingness, closing on 45 minutes of pomp that doesn’t take the time to consider its own circumstance.
Instead, it shrugs and suggests a handful of happy, simplistic endings for its characters, at whatever cost to narrative consistency or emotional resonance. Grey Worm (despite being an equally despicable war criminal) is given his happy ending of bringing his people to Naarth to let their gene pool die out in peace, Tyrion is set free and Jon is sent back to the Night’s Watch, Sansa gets to rule the North… each and every climactic moment in “The Iron Throne” reinforces the rushed laziness of these final seasons, a series of endings that, without the context of the proceedings this season, might almost seem logical on their face. But they all feel unearned and easy, obvious byproducts of a truncated writing process, a series of one-note moments unabashedly embracing the hollow reprise of Westeros being built in its old image.
Game of Thrones presented itself as a challenge both to its own universe, and fantasy fiction as a whole; in the end, it came up short on both accounts, ending by embracing the regressive tropes it rejected in a rushed attempt to finish its story. Rather than consider the fascinating implications of ending Game of Thrones in a world that felt different in some meaningful way, it simply just ends beginning the cycle anew, a perfunctory ending that feels as hollow as Jon’s feeble justifications for his actions the past two seasons, or just about anything that came out Bran’s mouth since he met the O.G. Three-Eyed Raven.
There are no final surprises, or poignant turns of events; look no further than Arya’s lazy ending or Sansa’s inconsequential freedom of the North for how empty much of “The Iron Throne” feels. Most of it just feels like a show tired of its own existence – or even more frustrating, a dramatic series afraid of really making a statement in its final moments, embracing the empty comforts of repetition in a collection of self-appeasing epilogues. Jon gets welcomed back up North, Arya gets interested in exploring, and Tyrion is “sentenced” to be a man of influence and riches the rest of his life (a sentence demanded by a military leader who immediately leaves King’s Landing, one of many signs how little logic was considered in the scripting of this episode): though the journey is always more meaningful than the destination, there’s a damning lack of conviction in this final episode that undercuts any of the resolutions it offers its characters.
Hundreds of thousands of words will be written to disseminate the various plot points and closing moments of “The Iron Throne“; but every moment in the final 85 minutes of the series boils down to the same nihilistic choice, in what is an ominous reflection of the current state of politics, the helpless feeling that no matter how many people try to reach a better compromise for society, the traditional structures will always remain intact. It’s a decidedly strange choice for a show so absorbed by the potential of revolution, to ultimately say that civilization is doomed to repeat itself, no matter what: that even the unifying threats of climate change and mutually assured destruction are not enough to ever bring a collection of individual cultures together, and we are doomed to let the (mostly male, completely white) leaders of the world fail us time and time again.
Game of Thrones didn’t have to make Dany a beloved queen to accomplish this; whether she remained in power or was immediately assassinated, the complications of her victory offered potential resonance to whatever GoT decided to do when it made its final political statements. The only way to truly rebuild is by destroying what came before; “The Iron Throne” never considers this possibility beyond a fleeting thought behind Dany’s final speech, and it lessens the impact of the series as a whole with the damning reveal of its superficiality in its last episode.
Yes, war and conquest can be empty and meaningless, but there is poignancy to be found in those moments that Game of Thrones never seeks, in its rushed attempts to tie everything off with a neat bow. Rather than contend with the complexities of an uncertain future, Game of Thrones ends by seeking the simplistic comforts of the past – and in doing so, ends a cultural touchstone on a dissonant, shallow bummer of an ending.
- I’ll never understand the choice to end the story on two truncated seasons. It allowed Game of Thrones to lean into its worst habits, and develop a few new ones: there isn’t a single coherent arc to any character in these final seasons, merely a series of unsatisfying checkpoints engineered to deliver any number of unearned resolutions.
- What is a stranger ending: Game of Thrones going all Not These Women, or Bran the Leader of Westeros’ First Surveillance State? you decide.
- boy, Grey Worm really devolves into a violent asshole in these final two episodes.
- Bronn might be the only character who gets their true happy ending, and that’s ok.
- Jon Snow should probably never fall in love again: he’s had two lovers, both who have died horrible deaths to further his own beliefs.
- Drogon ends Dany’s arc by melting the Iron Throne, then taking Dany’s lifeless body to some unknown location out East. Farewell, big dragon.
- the final image of the Starks walking towards their futures should be such a powerful, strong moment: but instead, it feels surprisingly rote.
- “I freed my brother, and you slaughtered a city.”
- Dany’s prophecy of walking to the throne comes true… but she never gets the chance to sit on it, shived in the chest in order to advance the goals of men in Westeros. I’ll never stop being disappointed by her truncated descent into madness these final seasons, but boy, her unceremonious ending is particularly upsetting.
- so…. what happened to the Dothraki?
- JON PET GHOST, WHO IS A VERY GOOD BOY. That is all.
- So Arya rode that horse to…. the edge of the gates and then walked the rest of the way? Game of Thrones is as quick to discard symbols as it is themes and core philosophies in its final hour.
- boy, there are a lot of Dothraki for an army that was slaughtered but a few weeks ago at Winterefell.
- Bran’s smug as fuck “Why do you think I came all the way down here?” is an absolute middle finger to any sense of social progress in Westeros.
- “You master of Grammar now, too?” if there’s one callback reference in this episode I liked, it was Davos’ learning how to read back in seasons four and five.
- Democracy in Westeros? What a joke!
- It’s very strange to come to the end of a series I’ve spent 7 years and thousands of words writing about, and feel like there isn’t much to say at the end. Maybe it’s being burnt out on a series that revealed its whole ass to the audience in its final dozen episodes, or maybe it’s just “The Iron Throne” is as dramatically inert as it is thematically hollow – as Tyrion says, “Ask me again in ten years.”
- I’m sure I’ll end up writing something about the inevitable Game of Thrones spin-offs, but this review marks the end of a journey that began in 2012, when I was but a lowly self-published blogger. A big thank you to everyone who has read, commented, and followed along this journey over the years with me; it’s been an absolute pleasure, and despite its eternally uneven quality (and roundly terrible final two seasons), I am sure going to miss this goofy, inconsistent, frustrating, unsatisfying series.
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