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)