Last week we found out that the seventh and penultimate season of Game of Thrones will begin on 16th July. As a result I thought that I should tackle one of the big questions around the show, what is the best episode? So we’re breaking away from the movie world we normally live in to pick the 10 best episodes of the biggest show on television at the moment.
Number 10: The Lion and the Rose (Season 4, Episode 2) – The most loathsome character in the history of television finally got what was coming to him at the Purple Wedding, for that reason alone it merits a place on the best episodes list. But it’s more than that; the whole Production Design of the wedding is incredible. It looks lavish and extravagant. The dynamic between Tyrion and Joffrey, and the performances of Peter Dinklage and Jack Gleeson against one another are brilliant. What starts off as a jovial affair slowly gets tenser and tenser until it reaches that breaking point of Joffrey’s death. The rest of the episode isn’t particularly memorable, which is why it can’t be placed any higher on the list.
Number 9: The Laws of Gods and Man (Season 4, Episode 6) – There are a few nice moments in The Laws of Gods and Men, we get to visit Braavos for the first time with Stannis and Davos, and there is Yara’s assult on the Dreadfort where we get to see how completely Theon has been destroyed by Ramsey as he won’t even escape with her. But the trial of Tyrion is the moment Peter Dinklage stamped his name on more awards. The moment of betrayal from Shae is horrible for Tyrion, most people’s favourite character at that point in the show. We see how everything he’s done and said have throughout seasons 2 and 3 have led to this position that he’s in, as small moments between him and Joffrey come back to bite him. Tyrion’s tirade against King’s Landing is one of the finest pieces of acting in the history of the show, and was a very different stand out moment in the action heavy season 4.
Number 8: You Win or You Die (Season 1, Episode 7) – Season 1 had been very good television, but You Win or You Die is when it went up a notch. This was the episode where we lost our first major player in Robert Baratheon, and the fallout from there has driven the rest of the series to date. There are so many moments in this episode that stand out. Ned confronting Cersei, and us getting to see how she has been mistreated by Robert, but also her strength with the classic line “when you play the game of thrones you win, or you die”. This was also the first time that Charles Dance appeared as Tywin Lannister, one of the most imposing and powerful characters on the show, driven by this such amazing performance. Most importantly Ned is betrayed by Baelish right at the end, which was such a shocking moment, despite Baelish’s warning that he would.
Number 7: Battle of the Bastards (Season 6, Episode 9) – The scale of Battle of the Bastards is a genuinely staggering achievement; the actual battle is so brilliantly filmed. The build up to it is brilliant. There’s the confrontation between Jon, Sansa, Tormund, Davos and Ramsey, Davos’ discovery of Shireen’s pyre, and Jon telling Melissandre not to resurrect him if he dies. When it gets into the battle, the tactics Ramsey employs are brilliant, I loved the way he manipulated Jon with Rickon, and how he would have won if it weren’t for Sansa bringing Baelish and the Knights of Vale to assist them. My only issue with the episode is that no one really major dies despite how out maneuvered Jon was, as neither Rickon, nor Wun Wun were pivotal characters.
Number 6: The Mountain and the Viper (Season 4, Episode 8) – We’ve seen several huge scale battles on Game of Thrones, but no single combat has been as well constructed as the Viper’s fight with the Mountain. It’s a meeting of two very different styles with the brute force of the Mountain, taking on the fast and agile Oberyn Martell. It’s a well-choreographed fight, but when Oberyn’s desire for closure and vengeance cause him to hold off on the final blow we get one of the most brutal and shocking deaths in the history of the show. The other brilliant and memorable episodes of the show is when Sansa learns to stand up for herself when she lies to the Lords of the Vale in order to protect Baelish after he murdered Lisa Arryn. It was such a big step in her journey to becoming of the strongest characters on the show (although it was slightly offset by the poor writing for her in the fifth season).
Number 5: The Door (Season 6, Episode 5) – Oh boy, The Door. I openly wept at this episode. Poor Hodor, our sweet, gentle, giant who could only say his own name. The cause behind this was worse than we all thought. It was heroic, it was brutal, and it was heartbreaking. The episode was a stunningly directed by Jack Bender, one of the stand out moments from a behind the scenes point of view, possibly only topped by The Winds of Winter. In the rest of the episode Sansa stands up for herself against Baelish, Euron wins the Kingsmoot at the Iron Islands, Jorah finally gets some of his love returned by Daenerys after the reveal of his greyscale. These are all momentous moments but nothing overshadows Hodor’s death, not even the reveal of the origins of The White Walkers (a moment that is drastically overlooked).
Number 4: Hardhome (Season 5, Episode 8) – I think Hardhome does benefit to being a part of the weakest series in Game of Throne’s history, but there’s no denying how incredible the entire second half of this episode was. There are a lot of the most memorable moments from the fifth season in the episode, Dany’s ‘Break the wheel’ speech, Ramsey’s 20 good men to take on Stannis, but it’s all about Hardhome. This was such a spectacular action sequence. The way the undead pile into the Wildling settlement, Jon’s one on one confrontation with a White Walker, one of the best one shot characters in Birgitte Hjort Sørensen’s Karsi, and the Night King’s ‘come at me bro’ raising of the dead. Awesome.
Number 3: The Rains of Castamere (Season 3, Episode 9) – The show had pulled surprises before like losing central character Ned Stark just nine episodes in, and there have been some big ones since, but nothing compares to what we saw at the Red Wedding. The rest of the episode is still great, Jon leaves Ygritte and his undercover mission to return to the Wall, and Daario, Ser Jorah, and Grey Worm take Yunkai for Daenerys. But it’s the wedding that obviously stands out. The way the tension builds throughout the episode is masterful, and the small signs that things are going wrong are brilliant. When the band begin to play The Rains of Castamere it is such a subtle moment, but so wonderful. The actual murders are so brutal and cold, which just makes it such a shock. Brilliant, heartbreaking, and the moment I decided to stop rooting for the conventional fantasy heroes.
Number 2: Blackwater (Season 2, Episode 9) – The was the early season episode that established the scale that Game of Thrones were able to bring to the small screen, and that the show could make an entire episode focused around a single event. There are so many great character moments during the battle. Tyrion gets his heroic moment to save the city, and even give a great battle speech, although in a very Game of Thrones way. Even more interesting to me was Cersei’s emotional journey in the episode where we get to see what really drives her a character, which is her family and children. This is the moment that made her become a more sympathetic character in my eyes, and the start of my journey to devout follower of the one true queen, Cersei.
Number 1: The Winds of Winter (Season 6, Episode 10) – The most recent episode was the best in Game of Thrones history for me, the opening alone was some of the best directed television I’ve ever seen. Lena Headey’s performance as Cersei is amazing, Johnathan Pryce’s High Sparrow gets his just deserts, and the Ramin Djawadi score is simply breathtaking. But it’s not just the explosive (sorry) opening; there are so many great moments in the episode. The reveal of John Snow’s lineage, the King in the North moment, Baelish putting seeds of doubt in Sansa’s mind, Arya getting revenge on Walder Frey, Sam getting to enter The Citadel and the sense of wonder, and the best Tyrion scene since season 4. It’s by far the most complete episode in Game of Thrones history. And the happy ending as a Cersei fan earns it the top spot on my list.
So those are what I think are the 10 best episodes of Game of Thrones to date. What is your favourite episode? What are you hoping to see happen in the next season? Let me know.