Game Of Thrones: The Show's Greatest Moments
When you play the Game of Thrones, you win or you die. As this epic fantasy ends, I've taken a look back at some of the series greatest moments. The TV adaptation of George R.R Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire is full of incredible moments and what an indescribable journey it has been since it began in 2011. As I revisit all 73 episodes, I considered a number of factors; spectacle, impact, consequence, as well as shock value, in order to put together what I believe have been Game of Thrones' greatest and most defining moments.
If you have not finished the series then here is your warning to turn back and avoid potential spoilers.
Here we go:
10. The Night King brings down 'the Wall'. (Episode 7.10 The Dragon and the Wolf)
In season seven's penultimate episodeBeyond The Wall, we see Jon Snow and some of Westeros’ most fierce fighters journey beyond the Wall with the intention of bringing back a wight to show to Queen Cersei, in hope she will join their fight against the dead. We soon see the mission go sour and the band of fighters appearing doomed, surrounded by thousands of dead, and at the Night King's mercy. We are given such relief and jubilation when Daenerys arrives with her dragons to save the day, only to have it snatched away in an instant. It was such a blow when we see the Night King bring down Viserion the Dragon with ease. Despite knowing the Night King's powers, I naively neglected the idea that it was the last we had seen of Viserion.
Game of Thrones had made a big deal about ‘the Wall’ and how it keeps everything out. I remember the horror and awe seeing the Night King bring it down in seconds with his new pet. But despite the shock, I could appreciate the glorious and spectacular cinematography before me. The chilling blue fire through a cold night sky was stunning as it tears into the foundations of the wall, like a knife to butter. What an amazing cliff-hanger this was before that long wait for the final season. The Night King and his army have arrived and Winter had well and truly come.
9. Oberyn Martell versus Gregor Clegane (Episode 4.08.The Mountain and the Viper)
The episode title says it all, the grudge match between the cunning and agile Prince Oberyn and the world's strongest man, the Mountain. Brought about by Tyrion’s request for ‘Trial by Combat’, the outcome of this battle would go on to have substantial consequences.
Besides their own heated rivalry, the Mountain and the Viper are representing both sides of a life-long family feud, Tyrion Vs Cersei and Tywin. For those reasons, this fight meant everything. Pedro Pascal wonderfully executed his portrayal of the cocky and cunning warrior, yet despite his character's initial success in the battle, these same character's traits got the better of him. A reluctance to finish the job without a confession led to the might of the Mountain to come crushing down on the Prince’s skull, in what is one of the most horrific scenes Game Of Thrones has to offer.
The death of Oberyn began a vengeful rift between Dorne and House Lannister that led to the loss of Cersei’s daughter Myrcella and saw Dorne side with the Dragon Queen in the war to come. Despite Tyrion’s defeat, Jaime releases him to prevent his death sentence, unknowing of Tyrion’s intent to murder their father, Tywin Lannister. With these huge consequences and the sheer brutality of the fight, The Mountain and the Viper deserves its place in this list.
8. Daenerys becomes 'Mother of Dragons'. (Episode 1.10 Fire and Blood')
Game of Thrones' first season was all about setting things in motion across Westeros and beyond the Narrow sea. The final scene of the first season was certainly a defining one. In episode one we see Daenerys Targaryen, then a bargaining chip for her brother, appearing weak and dominated.
Fast forward to the season finale, and we have seen Daenerys grow tremendously. Having seen her brother Viserys succumb to the heat of the golden crown bestowed upon him by Karl Drogo earlier in the season, Daenerys believes she is the true Targaryen. In the episode's final moments, we see her step in to Drogo’s funeral pyre with her three dragon eggs. As the smoke clears, sat there is the throne’s newest competitor, the Mother of Dragons. Here lies the beginning of an almighty journey with devastating consequences.
7. Ned Stark's death sentence. (Episode 1.09 Baelor)
I remember first watching Game of Thrones, and thinking any show with Sean Bean as a main character is sure to be good. I wasn’t wrong, but I suspect like many other fans, the death of Ned Stark took me by suprise. At the time, few TV shows risked killing off fan favourites but not this one.
As the new King’s Hand, Ned spent his time in King’s Landing trying to straighten it up, noble and honourable as he was. It was easy to root for Ned, possibly the most loved man in Westeros. We see him start to unravel the dirty secrets of the Lannister family and the truth behind Jon Arryn’s death. When Ned learns Joffrey is in fact a spawn of incest and bears no rightful claim to the throne, it feels like a huge win for Ned. Devastating it then is to learn that King Robert Baratheon died in a Lannister induced ‘hunting accident’ before Ned can deliver this news.
With the new over excited King Joffrey now in power, his first sickening act is the sentencing of Ned Stark. Not only is this the first major death of the show, implying no one is safe, but this particular death sets a war in motion, with more catastrophic consequences.
6. The destruction of King's Landing.(Episode 8.05 The Bells)
I’m classing this whole episode as a ‘moment’, it was all so defining and controversial, for a number of reasons. But that is the beauty of Game of Thrones; it pushes boundaries and it doesn't concede to expectation. With the Night King out the way, the attention turned to King's Landing and Queen Cersei. The Bells did feel rushed at times, perhaps with too few episodes in the season, but there have been a number of factors contributing towards Daenerys’ transition into mad queen mode. In a relatively short space of time, she has lost two dragons, her most loyal and trustworthy friends Missandei and Jorah Mormont, as well as learn she has lost her claim to the throne to the man she has fallen in love with. I’ll be the first to admit that when Cersei ordered Missandei’s execution at the hands of Ser Gregor, I urged Daenerys to ‘burn them all’ as she walked away in anger.
What unfolds in The Bells is incredibly spectacular. From a cinematography point of view, it was beautiful and breathtaking to see such destruction. Emilia Clarke, who aced her performance, even advised viewers to “find the biggest TV you can”, knowing it was a spectacle. To see King's Landing fall so quickly was very satisfying, especially as a stubborn Cersei looks on from the Red Keep. When the city surrenders, the episode takes a turn and it is here that fans are likely to part ways on their opinions of the direction of this show. In what proved to be a defining moment for the series, Daenerys was overcome by rage from all that has elapsed before her (largely due to Cersei in some form or another). Daenerys takes flight and at the horror of her key followers, Jon and Tyrion, she wreaks destruction throughout the city, burning it, and it's innocent civilians to ash. Queen of the ashes indeed.
As much as that was a defining moment for the series, The Bells has other climatic moments, namely the deaths of Cersei and Jaime Lannister dying in each others arms as the Red Keep crumbles and crushes down on them. Jaime always said when he died he wanted it to be in the arms of the woman he loved - that wish proved true. I found their demise all the more satisfying as, in a way, it mirrored the death of the Starks at the 'Red Wedding', with no way out and no choice but to accept their fate. Justice is served.
Finally, in what is one of the most anticipated fights since season one, fans are treated to ‘Cleganebowl’. ‘The Hound’ Vs. ‘The Mountain’ in a final showdown, one hell bound on revenge, the other a monster, a long awaited gruesome fight unfolds. As great as the Hound was, it almost felt right that the battle ended in the Hound tackling his monstrous brother into the fiery depths of a decimated King’s Landing. A rivalry born in fire, ends in fire.
5. Arise Queen Cersei. (Episode 6.10 The Winds of Winter)
“Power is Power,” Cersei says as she counters Lord Baelish’s remarks that knowledge is power. Of course, that was back in season one, but it gave us an insight that Cersei is not to be underestimated. Throughout seasons five and six, Cersei’s plan to give the power to the High Sparrow backfired and Cersei more than felt her comeuppance for her own sins, most notably her walk of shame. Due to appear in the Sept with Loras Tyrell to atone for their sins, Cersei had other plans. With no Tywin or Jaime to help, Cersei must prove her strength in other ways. The High Sparrow, his fanatics and most of House Tyrell are in the Sept as it is explodes in unholy flames in the most staggering display of ruthlessness. In one precisely orchestrated stroke, Cersei rids herself of most of her enemies.
With the loss of his wife Margery to his own mother’s ruthlessness, King Tommen takes his own life, leaving the throne with a new successor, Queen Cersei. With a beautiful yet terrifying score throughout, and as one the highest rated episodes of the entire series, Cersei's finest hour is in the greatest moments.
4. Arya Stark kills the Night King. (Episode 8.03 TheThe Long Night)
Back in 2011 as the series began, we knew that ‘Winter is Coming’ but not until this episode do we see the full extent of what that meant. For 10,000 years the Night King has been assembling his army of dead and we already bared witness to his most recent addition, Daenerys’ Dragon Viserion.
The Long Night certainly was dark and full of terrors, so when the Night King unleashes his full force on the amassed armies at Winterfell, I think everyone knew there would be losses. I think few could have expected that the 'Hero of Winterfell' would be its very own Arya Stark.
Fans may recall a meeting back in season two between the Red Woman Melisandre and an untamed Arya Stark. Melisandre tells Arya they will meet again, and that Arya will close brown, blue and green eyes forever. Upon their meeting again, the Red Woman repeats these words and asks the same question Arya’s first teacher Syrio Forel says, “What do we say to the God of Death?”, “Not Today”. So with this seed planted way back in seasons one and two and, having already taking care of the brown eyed Walder Frey, Arya sets her sights on the blue eyed Night King. As the Night King looks to hand Bran his fate, Arya appears like a gust of wind and, pulling off the knife-swap move she got the drop on Brienne with in season seven, the final blow is dealt to the Night King.
Game of Thrones delivered yet again, an outcome devoid of expectation; Arya Stark, ladies and gentlemen.
3. The Red Wedding. (Episode 3.09 The Rains of Castamere)
‘The Red Wedding’. The unofficial name for this episode, but sadly, so accurate. If you’re to take anything away from this moment, fulfil your promises! For all his success in his battles against the Lannisters, Robb Stark’s biggest mistake was breaking a family promise to wed a daughter of Walder Frey.
The Rains of Castamere episode does well at maintaining the idea that Robb’s offer of his uncle in his stead has gone down well. I know watching this for the first time myself, I had no idea what would unfold. Witnessing such betrayal, at the hands of the Lannister’s no less, was gut-wrenching. Seeing Ned Stark’s eldest son helpless and layered with arrows whilst he watched his wife stabbed relentlessly in her pregnant belly was brutal. It was heartbreaking to see the North lose Robb and Catelyn Stark in the space of two minutes. I’m sure many, like me, sat in despair after witnessing this slaughter. This changed the tide of the war back in favour of House Lannister and, with Roose Bolton sitting comfortably in Tywin Lannister’s pocket, hope for the Starks and the North was shattered. Who was to know what would happen to the remaining Stark children? If only we knew.
2. The first battle of Winterfell, (Episode 6.09 The Battle of the Bastards)
As one of the highest rated Game of Thrones episodes, the Battle of the Bastards was truly epic! Jon Snow had pulled off the impossible in uniting the Northern houses with the Wildlings, and as their common enemy ‘the dead’ were on their way, Jon also needed Winterfell.
Standing in their way, was Ramsay Bolton, the sycophant. Ramsay had spent the best part of three seasons tormenting his subjects and prisoners, in a variety of sickening ways. From taking Theon’s favourite toy, the murder of his own father, feeding his father’s wife and baby brother to his hounds, abusing Sansa and skinning his prisoners, the brilliant Iwan Rheon delivered a fantastic performance of Ramsay.
Formerly Ramsey Snow, Ramsey is set with defending Winterfell against fellow bastard, Jon Snow. Fans are made to fear for Jon’s life yet again when Ramsey lured him in to huge open space, using his younger brother Rickon Stark as bait. This was just another heartless and playful piece we’ve come to expect from a brilliant villain. What follows is an incredibly cinematic battle, amassing 25 days to shoot, both armies crash together, holding nothing back. When the remaining Northern army are surrounded by Ramsay’s pike men, it is Sansa who comes to the rescue, bringing with her sweet justice in the form of the Knights of the Vale, a sweeping cavalry tear through Ramsay’s army and leaving him retreating to the keep. Seeing Jon’s rage unleashed into Ramsay was so very satisfying, the man who took his childhood home, abused his sister, and murdered his brother.
As if it wasn’t rewarding enough for fans to see this infamous menace battered to a pulp, Sansa dishes out the most perfect ‘taste of your own medicine’ revenge you’re ever likely to see on TV. Tied to a chair, dripping in his own blood, Ramsay dies slowly and gruesomely as he is fed to his own starving bloodhounds, no longer interested in their master’s barking orders.
1. "Duty is the death of love" (Episode 8.06 The Iron Throne)
A controversial decision but, for that very reason, I believe this is the greatest and most defining moment of the series. Game of Thrones has everyone talking, debating how it should have ended but actually, what a fantastic job the writers, directors and cast have done in giving us that very opportunity. If a TV show just sticks to it's expectation or cowers to the fear of social media backlash, then we would have a very different experience, not one I feel would have had the global impact this phenomenon has.
I was extremely satisfied by the final episode - I felt closure and, whilst they could have explored a number of endings, for me it ticked the boxes. It was clever to have Jon Snow being unselfish yet again, as the 'shield of the realms of men', to restore peace by taking Daenerys' life. The Queen he loved, destroyed by duty to the realm; Varys would have been proud. As sad as it was to see Daenerys become self-destructive, there had been signs all throughout the series that led to this moment. As in the picture above, a fantastic metaphoric shot of the Dragon Queen, and one that is undoubtedly a stroke of genius. In that one shot, she looked more powerful than she did burning King's Landing to crisp.
A small council of the show's most loved characters is rewarding, especially as all have given so much throughout the entire series. Game of Thrones has been a emotional rollercoaster, why can't there be a happy ending?
Whilst many will say this isn't THE greatest moment, or perhaps even A greatest moment, it is undeniably a defining moment, one that not only finalises an epic journey in one of TV's greatest and most successful shows, but one that set peace in the Seven Kingdoms. The Lords of Westeros deciding to make Brandon Stark King was another escape from expectation but also a decision that means House Stark is back on top. No one can say they don't deserve it after all they endured, but with Arya as Queen of the New World, Sansa as Queen of the North, Jon Snow as King beyond the Wall and Bran as King of the Six Kingdoms, it sure does feel like a victory. If only Ned Stark could see them now.
Some may continue to question the choice of having Bran Stark as the new King, so I'll leave you with this familiar photo from Season one and just look at who was on the throne with Ned from the beginning. The mystery will remain, was the answer in front of us the entire time?
So there we have it; like Arya's list, mine is also complete. Many moments didn't quite make the cut, which shows how spectacular the entire series has been, so a shout out to the following moments:
- Joffrey poisoned at his wedding
- Night King raising dead at Hardhome
- Jon Snow's death at the hands of Night's Watch
- Hodor 'Hold the door'
- Battle of Blackwater Bay
- Jaime loses a hand
- Daenerys gains the Unsullied
- Tyrion kills Tywin
Please feel free to give your thoughts on some of the series best moments, perhaps that are not mentioned, as I'm sure like myself and many others, you have enjoyed the masterpiece that is Game Of Thrones.
And now our watch has ended.
You can catch The Digital Fix's reviews of season eight and a look back at seasons one to seven here).