(The eighth and final season of Game of Thrones debuts on April 14th, marking the beginning of the end for HBO’s cultural touchstone. Over the years, we’ve covered all 67 episodes of the series, and are revisiting those original reviews in our new retrospective series titled, “Winter is Coming”. We’re pulling these straight from our vacuum sealed digital time capsules, so step into the virtual time machine with us and read our impressions from way back! With the benefit of hindsight, there is plenty of reasons these reviews will raise some eyebrows)
Let’s begin in the south, where Daenerys’ army grows ever larger. Turns out catapulting broken chains over the walls of Meereen didn’t exactly spark an outright rebellion, so Grey Worm and the Unsullied go undercover, sneak into Meereen to bring the slaves an assortment of weapons to help incite an uprising. It’s great to kick things off where last week’s “Breaker of Chains” ended, but how disappointing is it that once again, we are denied any sort of intricate battle? All we get to see is three masters trapped in an alley, and a Targaryen banner perched atop a high tower, and that’s about it. In return for the 163 children that were nailed to posts along the desert path to Meereen, Dany shows no mercy, and goes against Ser Barristan’s advice to answer injustice with justice – a decision we can assume will come back and bite her in the ass.
Over at King’s Landing, it’s nice to see Jaime participating in another dueling lesson with Bronn, who shames Jaime for not having visited his brother in prison. This leads to a great scene between the two brothers, and just like that, we’re back to liking The Kingslayer. “Are you really asking if I killed your son?” says Tyrion, and Jaime replies, “Are you really asking if I’d kill my brother?” The titular sword comes to us in the episode’s warmest sequence — Jaime giving the Valyrian steel sword to Brienne and assigning her the task of finding and protecting Sansa (and Podrick), is without a doubt the highlight this week. The hope is that we get more of Brienne and Pod, as they could prove to be another excellent pairing.
“Oathkeeper” promises that the Stark children will soon reunite
Meanwhile, Sansa figures out that Lord Petyr Baelish was instrumental in orchestrating Joffrey’s death, and that the crystals on the necklace given to Sansa by Ser Dontos carried a poison called The Strangler made from purple crystallized plants. Anybody paying close attention shouldn’t be surprised that Lady Olenna also had a hand in the murder since there is a clear shot of her pulling one of the stones off the choker.
Bryan Cogman, the show’s story editor has written some memorable episodes in the past including “What is Dead May Never Die”, “Kissed by Fire” and “Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things.” This week, he does a great job in shining a light north of The Wall. Over at Castle Black, what few crows left standing are being trained by Jon Snow to help defend against the thousand-or-so wildlings set to descend on them very soon. But Snow has more than the Wildlings to worry about – Alliser Thorne and Slynt feel threatened by the growing popularity of Ned Stark’s bastard son, and Roose Bolton’s right-hand man Locke poses as a new recruit for the Night’s Watch, in the hopes that Snow will lead him to Bran and Rickon. (In case anyone forgot, Locke is the man who chopped off Jaime’s hand, attempted to rape Brienne, and later threw her in a bear pit. He’s an ally to the Boltons, and was sent North to find Bran and Rickon Stark in order to kill them.)
Last week on our Game of Thrones podcast, I made it clear that I didn’t like the decision to have Jaime rape his sister, but I wasn’t surprised by it either. For a show that features women getting raped, or threatened with rape, or at least mentions a rape each and every week, it didn’t come as a shock that a man who pushed a child out a window, murdered his own cousin, and so on – was capable of doing terrible things. That said, the scene was unnecessary and undermined his character growth throughout all of season three. Even worse, Jaime is back to being the charming, conflicted, and caring man we saw last season. Given the controversy and flood of online think-pieces caused by the rape scene last week, I don’t want to spend too much time discussing Cersei’s scenes, but let’s just say that Cersei is clearly angry with him, and for many reasons, none of which touch on rape. How weird is that?
Over at Craster’s Keep, Karl Rast is busy drinking out of Mormont’s skull and raping all of Craster’s daughters… cause you know, what’s a Game Of Thrones episode without rape? After one of the ex-Crow mutineers leaves Craster’s last born son out in the forest as a sacrifice, somewhere close by, Bran and company hear the baby’s cries. Bran assumes the point of view of Summer and sends his direwolf out to investigate. In his vision he sees Ghost (Jon Snow’s direwolf) locked in a cage, just seconds before Summer falls through thin ice. Unfortunately, that leads to Bran, Hodor, Jojen, and Meera to be taken captive. The good news is, we know Jon Snow is on a collision course with Bran, which means we will see Jon reunited with both Ghost and his brother soon. The bad news is, we’re not sure if Summer survived, nor if Jon will make it there in time. With Jojen having seizures, Hodor locked in chains, Ghost in a cage, Summer in a trap, and Bran unable to walk, things are looking dire for the Stark boy and his friends.
Finally, “Oathkeeper” ends with a White Walker riding some sort of zombie horse with the male Craster baby in tow, and headed to some sort of Fortress of Solitude. Before the credits roll, the White Walker touches the baby’s cheek, its eyes turn ice-blue. “Oathkeeper” isn’t the strongest episode, but a necessary one, allowing mysteries to unfold and promising that the Stark children will soon reunite.
– Ricky D
It’s nice to know that Margaery had nothing to do with Joffrey’s murder.
Lady Olenna is all business as evidenced in her conversation with her granddaughter Margaery this week.
It took Sam long enough to realize that sending Gilly to a Moles Town whorehouse was a bad idea.
Jon and Bran will soon reunite.
Brienne and Pod start a new adventure!
Even though Joffrey is dead, we are constantly reminded how terrible he was!
Joffrey hated Ser Pounce and wanted to skin him alive.
“You just do what needs to be done.” – Lady Olenna
I wasn’t too fond of the Spartacus reference.
I honestly don’t give a shit about Hodor. I don’t understand the internet’s obsession with him.
“Sometimes it’s better to answer injustice with mercy” – Ser Barristan.
“A man with no motive is a man no one suspects.” – Little Finger.
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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