WARNING: HEAVY SPOILERS TO FOLLOW.
Game of Thrones has been with us for nearly a decade, but when it began, it was still a rather niche show. It wouldn’t become the cultural phenomenon that it is today for a few years, after shockingly killing off many beloved characters in the early seasons. That type of device almost feels stale at this point as other shows rushed to mimic the Thrones playbook to help breakthrough on their own.
Thrones, however, shocked its audience better than its contemporaries due to the strength of George R. R. Martin’s source material and that every death was a necessary one, used to push the story forward in new and exciting directions. But Thrones offered up more than just twists and turns. It raised the bar for what could be accomplished on television from both spectacle and complex character work. As we approach the final season, let’s look back at the best of what this groundbreaking show had to offer…
25. Season 2, Episode 10: “Valar Morghulis”
In the aftermath of the Battle of Blackwater Bay, Tywin Lannister struts into the throne room atop his horse (after relieving itself) to accept his position as Hand of the King. The prospect of having Tywin in King’s Landing for a full season is exciting, but Tyrion being cast aside breaks our hearts, though Tyrion does get a very heartwarming moment with Shae who pledges her love to him. Jon Snow is forced into a duel with The Halfhand, whom he must kill to gain the Wildlings’ trust. Arya receives the coin from Jaqen H’ghar, setting up her series-long arc. Robb marries Talisa and though it feels doomed, it’s also quite romantic. Brienne kills a trio of Stark men to protect her prisoner, Jaime Lannister while Daenerys goes to the House of the Undying to retrieve her dragons and encounters the ghost of Khal Drogo! While many season finales for Thrones simply pick up the pieces from the penultimate episode, Season 2’s closer has plenty of highlights of its own, ending on the Army of the Dead marching on the Night’s Watch and our first full-look at the White Walkers.
24. Season 5, Episode 9: “The Dance of Dragons”
Season 5 is largely defined as being the season of misery. Nothing goes right for any of our characters and it ends up being an endurance test of how much pain and suffering the audience can take. The penultimate episode is no exception and can be tough to sit through. On one hand, we have a spectacular sequence in the fighting pits where Daenerys and team are ambushed by the Sons of the Harpy and Drogon arrives just in time to whisk our Khaleesi off to safety. It’s the biggest setpiece with the dragons the show has done since Season 3. However, we also have Melisandre and the Baratheons burning Princess Shireen at the stake in what is a horrifying display of cruelty. Listening to a little girl scream for her life as she’s burned to death isn’t the most pleasing way to spend a Sunday evening, which makes this episode hard to revisit, even for how eventful it is.
23. Season 1, Episode 7: “You Win or You Die”
We’ve come so far since Robert Baratheon was king of the Seven Kingdoms that we often forget just how good this show’s early episodes were, particularly once things fell apart. We open the episode with Ned confronting Cersei about the truth of her children’s parentage and the “Dumb Ned” meme was born. Nevertheless it’s a great scene that gives Cersei the iconic line of “When you play the Game of Thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.” Robert Baratheon soon dies and everyone is scrambling to seize power with poor Ned Stark stuck in the middle of it all. He casts off many sound plans and goes with his own, which backfires with a calamitous scene in the throne room once he goes toe-to-toe with Cersei and Joffrey. We also get the introduction to Tywin Lannister, who scolds Jaime while skinning a stag. Perfection.
22. Season 1, Episode 6: “A Golden Crown”
This was when Thrones first told its audience that it wasn’t playing around as Khal Drogo smothers Viserys Targaryen in molten gold for threatening Daenerys. It’s one of the all-time great episode closers, but certainly not the only highlight. In the Eyrie, Tyrion confesses to Lady Lysa and Catelyn about making Cersei eat dog poop as a child before enlisting Bronn to serve as his champion in a Trial By Combat. Bronn’s duel with the Knight of the Vale is one of the show’s best early fight scenes and marks the beginning of a long friendship between Bronn and Tyrion. In King’s Landing, Ned is put in charge while Robert goes on a hunt and quickly declares The Mountain as a criminal and summons Tywin Lannister to answer for The Mountain’s crimes. This is also our first, blink and you’ll miss it, look at Beric Dondarion. In the north, Robb and Theon must protect Bran from Wildlings. We’re introduced to Osha and it’s one of the only times we ever actually see the future King in the North fight anyone.
21. Season 3, Episode 4: “Now His Watch is Ended”
This is a rather slow episode until it’s breathtaking finale, but what a finale it is. Searching for an army to help retake Westeros, Daenerys has had to deal with a plethora of insults and degradation from the slave masters of Astapor in her purchase of the Unsullied. She makes an unthinkable deal, trading a dragon for them. What only Daenerys knows is how ruthless she can really be, turning both her dragons and her newly acquired Unsullied against the slave masters. At the time, it was one of the show’s most stunning and replayed sequences. Elsewhere in the episode, Lord Commander Mormont is murdered by fellow brothers of the Night’s Watch. In King’s Landing, Lady Olenna furthers her plans to marry Sansa and Loras together. Watching Sansa and Loras stumble through small-talk is fun enough, but it’s hard to not to be waiting in anticipation of the dragons throughout this episode.
20. Season 6, Episode 5: “The Door”
Largely considered the saddest episode of the show, because it probably is. There have been plenty of heartbreaking deaths throughout the series, but nothing stings quite so much as losing both Summer the Direwolf and Hodor, our gentle giant, within the span of a few minutes. We learn that the Children of the Forest created the White Walkers, which leads Bran into needing to know more. Unfortunately he meets the Night King who tracks him to the Three-Eyed-Raven’s cave and all hell breaks loose. Bran gets caught in a past-present loop of warging into Hodor, which is what causes a perfectly normal young man named Wylis to lose his senses and become the Hodor we know, unaware that his origin will also be his death. It’s deeply poetic and profoundly sad but incredibly poignant all the same. Elsewhere, Sansa confronts Littlefinger for selling her to the Boltons and we get some satisfying barbs thrown Littlefinger’s way. We also get the Kingsmoot on the Iron Islands and Arya watching a production of the War of the Five Kings which features Richard E. Grant as Robert Baratheon.
19. Season 4, Episode 8: “The Mountain and the Viper”
This is a loaded episode (as many GOT episodes tend to be). In the Eyrie, we see Sansa becoming a Littlefinger-level schemer as she defends him over Lysa’s death. Outside, Arya and the Hound arrive only to discover Lysa is dead and Arya bursts out laughing at the ridiculousness of it all. In Mereen, romance is kindled between Missandei and Grey Worm while Jorah is exiled for his spying in Season 1. Mole’s Town is sacked by the Wildlings as we await the battle at The Wall and the Boltons seize total control of the North and take Winterfell. Then we get to the main event: Tyrion’s second Trial by Combat. The fight itself is probably the most thrilling one-on-one fight sequence the show has ever done and Oberyn Martell is one of the best characters the show has ever given us. Unfortunately, the Red Viper watched The Princess Bride one too many times and demands a confession from The Mountain rather than just letting him die. The skull-crushing final moments are some of the most gruesome and horrifying we’ve ever seen.
18. Season 6, Episode 2: “Home”
“Home” isn’t a big Game of Thrones episode in the classical sense. There’s no giant setpiece with White Walkers or Dragons, but it’s exceptional for how consistently good it is from start to finish. We’re reintroduced to Bran who is traveling through time with the Three-Eyed-Raven, now played by Max Von Sydow. We get to see Ned, his brothers, and sister Lyanna as children in Winterfell and meet a young Hodor. Unfortunately the Boltons control Winterfell now, and Ramsay murders his father after his step-mother gives birth to a son. He then feeds his step-mother and baby to his dogs. In Mereen, Tyrion does his best to rule with Daenerys missing and unchains the dragons in a wonderfully tense scene. In King’s Landing, Jaime has a fun face-off with the High Sparrow while Zombie-Clegane smashes the heads of those who badmouth Cersei. The main event takes place at The Wall where the Wildlings help retake Castle Black from Alliser Thorne while Melisandre brings Jon Snow back from the dead. The direwolf Ghost being the first to notice is one of my favorite small touches in the show.
17. Season 6, Episode 4: “Book of the Stranger”
This marks the first of our Stark reunions on the show as Sansa, Brienne, and Pod make it to The Wall. For two characters that have no history together on the show, watching Jon and Sansa embrace feels like the happiest moment in the series after all they’ve gone through. This episode also marks the point where our characters stop reacting to events and begin putting their own plans into motion. Sansa convinces Jon to take back the North with her, Cersei and Jaime plot a hostile takeover of King’s Landing with the Tyrells, and Daenerys reminds the Dothraki of her power as she burns all of the Khals alive and takes over the Khalassar. It’s filled with fun moments both big and small, such as Littlefinger playing Robyn Arryn to threaten Lord Royce, Tormund batting eyes at Brienne, and Theon reuniting with Yara (Asha) and supporting her claim to rule the Iron Islands. This is a big turning point in the season for everyone.
16. Season 7, Episode 6: “Beyond the Wall”
On paper this should be a Top 10 episode, but much like “The Dance of Dragons” it is problematic bordering on controversial. It’s Exhibit-A for fans who were angry with the way the show decided suspend the rules of geography and time as Daenerys swoops in on her dragons to save the day beyond The Wall. While it is inconsistent with how the show has depicted traveling previously, the greater issue with the episode is that it leans hard into the growing tension and feud between Arya and Sansa, the show’s weakest storyline this side of Dorne. A lot of decisions to move the plot along are also baffling like The Hound throwing rocks across the ice or Jon Snow fighting longer than he has any reason to. However the episode does boast some of the best spectacle the show has ever seen and the trek beyond the wall provides for a lot of fun and interesting character pairings. It has enough entertainment value to look past most of its weaknesses.
15. Season 6, Episode 8: “No One”
Arya’s story in Bravos finally comes to its conclusion as she finds herself in a Terminator-like chase through the streets that culminates perfectly with her slicing a candle with her sword Needle so she can fight blind. It’s a great mix of action, cleverness, and pay-off that we’ve been waiting two seasons for. This is also one of the best episodes for Jaime Lannister as he works to take control of Riverrun. He’s reunited with Brienne, Pod and Bronn have a fun bit together, the Blackfish is great in every scene he gets, and Jaime gets a great scene unloading on Edmure Tully all of the motivations behind his decisions during the show’s run. Elsewhere we see The Hound come into the company of the Brotherhood Without Banners again while the Slave Masters bombard Mereen before Daenerys makes her return. Tyrion also tries to teach Grey Worm and Missandei drinking games, which is a very fun bit.
14. Season 3, Episode 5: “Kissed by Fire”
While Season 3 only represents about a half of the third book, A Storm of Swords, this episode feels like it has all of the best scenes from that book that don’t include weddings. We open with The Hound facing Beric Dondarion in a Trial by Combat with Beric wielding his signature flaming sword. At the time, this fight raised the bar for the show’s one-on-one duels and is still one of the most exciting. As Jon and the Wildlings continue their journey south, he and Ygritte sneak away to the best-looking cave you’ve ever seen where Jon breaks his chastity vows. This episode cements their relationship together and is one of the show’s few genuinely happy moments. Robb Stark makes a fateful decision to execute one of his bannermen, effectively losing the war. We also see pre-Tommen as a Lannister cousin. Meanwhile at Harrenhal, Jaime has his famous bathtub scene with Brienne where he confesses to what truly happened the night he killed the Mad King. It’s probably Nikolaj Coster-Waldau’s finest moment on the show. The episode ends with a terrific three-way conversation with the Lannisters in King’s Landing as Tywin tells his children they’ll each be wed against their wishes. It’s one Charles Dance’s best scenes on the show as well and a great moment to end a signature episode on.
13. Season 7, Episode 3: “The Queen’s Justice”
The war between Cersei and Daenerys takes a big step forward after Euron Greyjoy devastates Yara’s (Asha’s) fleet and takes Ellaria Sand and her daughter prisoner. Seeing Euron strut through the throne room and taunt Jaime is a lot of fun (he’s the villain we deserve after dealing with Ramsay for so long) but Cersei’s cruel death sentence to the women of Dorne is both horrifying and delicious in a way only Cersei can manage. The episode opens with a moment we’ve been waiting a long time for: the meeting of Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen. Their relationship is off to a rocky start (we need room for growth after all), but their scenes together have a lot of meat to chew on and offer great moments. Even better are Jon’s scenes with Tyrion as they commiserate over their past experiences and plan how best to work together. Near episode’s end, we get our first look at Casterly Rock as the Unsullied sack the city only to discover the Lannister army has abandoned its home to take Highgarden. We close on a now-iconic scene of Lady Olenna confessing to Jaime that she poisoned Joffrey. “Tell Cersei. I want her to know it was me.” No better exit for one of the show’s best characters.
12. Season 4, Episode 6: “The Laws of Gods and Men”
Tyrion Lannister stands trial for the murder of his nephew, King Joffrey. While we get a bit with Stannis going to Bravos to plead with the Iron Bank (our first look at both) and Yara (Asha) fails to rescue Theon from Ramsay, the bulk of this episode is devoted to Tyron’s trial. Tyrion is forced to reckon with all of the times he made the audience cheer when he dealt with Joffrey in Season 2 as Hand of the King, but the real gut punch comes when Shae shows up to testify against him. There’s lots of great moments for all of our Lannisters, and for a moment, it seems that Tyrion will head off to The Wall and hook up with Jon Snow. But much like as it wasn’t with Ned Stark, it won’t be for Tyrion, as he unleashes into an epic tirade on all of the people of King’s Landing, culminating in his demand for a Trial by Combat. He foils his father’s plans and ends with a glorious stare-down between him and Tywin. Game of Thrones is often at its best when it focuses on a single location and this episode is no different.
11. Season 7, Episode 7: “The Dragon and the Wolf”
The whole plan to bring a dead man from beyond The Wall to King’s Landing in an effort to convince Cersei to call a truce seems very ill-conceived from the start. It does, however, put just about every major character left alive in a single location together for the first time and the show is at its best when its major characters are playing off of each other. The big meeting that opens the episode is a marathon of fun bits between Brienne and the Hound, Tyrion and Bronn, The Hound and The Mountain, Euron and everyone else, and Jon Snow looking almost as dumb as Ned Stark. Then we get the great big one-on-one between Cersei and Tyrion where each character vents multiple seasons worth of grief at each other. We’ve missed seeing these characters and actors share the screen together and we get our money’s worth here. What else happens: Jon and Daenerys consummate their feelings for each other which is now very complicated after Bran discovers that Jon is the true-born son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark and rightful heir to the Iron Throne. And then we end on the Night King bringing down The Wall with his Ice Dragon. The Great War is finally here.
10. Season 1, Episode 9: “Baelor”
The episode that started it all and changed television forever. This may not be the pilot to the show (which is still excellent), but it’s what set the larger story of Game of Thrones into motion, positioned it as a show where no character was safe, and created a ripple-effect across the entire television landscape as shows began to mimic its ruthlessness as a way to breakthrough in a very crowded media landscape. This was the moment where the show became essential appointment television and something you had to talk about the next day with friends, family, and co-workers. Sean Bean, the biggest actor on the show, the main character of the story, was executed as a traitor and all of sudden audiences’ worlds were flipped upside down. Even if it didn’t have this medium-defining moment, the episode is still a blast as Tyrion plays drinking games with Shae and Bronn before trying to lead the Hill Tribes into battle. Robb Stark scores a big victory as he captures Jaime Lannister and Daenerys allows the Witch to treat Khal Drogo with blood magic (and Jorah gets to kill a Dothraki Blood Rider). But this episode is all about the final sequence and was a world-shattering event when it aired.
9. Season 5, Episode 8: “Hardhome”
There had been little reason to get excited over what was happening in Season 5 up until this moment. Tyrion’s misadventures in Essos as he makes his way to Daenerys are fun, but everything else is quite dreary as the High Sparrow and Ramsay Bolton dominate a lot of the storyline. It was great to finally see Tyrion and Daenerys meet for the first time, as two of our biggest and most-liked characters. They get two juicy scenes together that don’t disappoint but what makes this episode a classic is Jon Snow’s trip to the Wildling camp. For book readers, this was something new and no one really knew what to expect. Are we just having Jon go here to shake up the mundanity of Castle Black? It seemed to be going that way until the Army of the Dead and the White Walkers attack. This was something no one expected and the scene erupts into a massive battle sequence that ended up being one of the show’s most thrilling. Jon Snow faces off against a White Walker and then stares down the Night King across the water as he raises more dead for his army. Few closing shots have felt so hopeless and unnerving and the Night King raising the dead is one of the most iconic moments of the whole show.
8. Season 7, Episode 4: “The Spoils of War”
Ironically enough, one of the show’s shortest episodes is one of its best. We get another Stark reunion as Arya returns home to Winterfell and has a great scene with Sansa in the crypts before reuniting with Bran. Brienne and Pod watching the Stark siblings make their way through the Winterfell courtyard is one of the more heartwarming moments in the show. One of the most fun moments comes a little bit later as Arya challenges Brienne to a sparring duel. The choreography is great but its the character moments sprinkled throughout that make this one of the best scenes of the season. Then comes the battle that it feels we’ve waited over six seasons for: Daenerys and her dragons wreaking fiery havoc on the Lannisters. From a pure spectacle perspective, this might be the finest sequence the show has ever done from the Dothraki horde rushing past the Lannister lines to Drogon breathing fire down on poor unfortunate souls. It’s epic and jaw-dropping. Unfortunately it’s so one-sided that it feels like it’s the only battle like this we’ll get as the Lannister forces have nothing to match Daenerys’ firepower (pun intended).
7. Season 4, Episode 10: “The Children”
While we’d become accustomed to the show saving its big moments for the penultimate episode each season, and the finale cleaning up the mess afterwards, Season 4 was no regular season. While we spent all of the previous episode at The Wall, the battle was not won. Jon journeys behind enemy lines to kill Mance Rayder but is saved by the arrival of Stannis Baratheon. Also beyond The Wall, Bran reaches the Three-Eyed-Raven but must contend with a pack of wights (zombies) to get there and we lose Jojen Reed in the process. In King’s Landing, Jaime and Varys help Tyrion escape but Tyrion takes a detour which leads him to murdering both Shae and his father, Tywin. It’s unfortunate to lose such a great character and actor like Charles Dance as Tywin, but his final scene on the toilet is a great one. The biggest highlight might come in the form of Brienne as she and Pod find Arya and the Hound. After some posturing over who’s the best person to take care of Arya, Brienne and the Hound engage in a brutal fight with each other that makes you feel beaten and exhausted by the end. We then get a harsh and powerful scene between Arya and the Hound as she leaves him to die and boards a ship for Bravos, leaving Westeros behind. For the first time, she’s in charge of her own destiny and it felt possible that the entire story could have almost ended right here.
6. Season 4, Episode 9: “Watchers on the Wall”
This is one of two episodes of Game of Thrones that takes place exclusively in one location. So many episodes feel like we’re only getting little bits of everyone’s stories, so being able to take the time to build a single story from beginning to end does both the show and the audience a lot of favors. Watching Jon take command of the Wall’s defenses and Sam step up to protect Gilly and Little Sam is a big moment for the characters in an episode filled with many great moments. Ghost is unleashed inside the walls, giants try to break through the gate, that amazing 360-degree shot of fighting within the courtyard, and Jon holding a dying Ygritte in his arms. It’s a fantastic battle episode that would soon be outdone in the spectacle department, but the way it’s able to build its story and arc its characters through a single hour makes it one of the show’s most effective.
5. Season 4, Episode 2: “The Lion and the Rose”
Almost a bottle episode but not quite as we make quick stops to the Dreadfort to see Ramsay hunting a young girl before torturing Theon more, Bran does some warging, and Stannis burns his family members for keeping the old gods. But then we get to King’s Landing where all of the fun happens surrounding Joffrey’s wedding to Margaery. Jaime and Tyrion have a great scene together as Jaime bemoans the loss of his hand and Tyrion sets him up with Bronn for sword lessons, beginning another wonderful friendship. Later, Tyrion watches as Joffrey chops up his wedding present before the festivities really get underway. Game of Thrones is best when all its characters can interact with each other and we get plenty of juicy, fun moments at the wedding reception. Oberyn taunts Tywin and Cersei, Jaime threatens Loras that he’ll never marry Cersei and Loras retorts “Neither will you.” Brienne gets a couple good bits throughout, and then we get to the dwarf show of the War of the Five Kings which starts funny but ends up being disturbing. Then after some hilarious complaints about the pie from Joffrey, he claws at his neck and succumbs to a brutal poison, dying in Cersei’s arms. The one character audiences hated more than anybody was just shockingly wiped off the board, and it was only the second episode of the season. We could watch this one again and again.
4. Season 3, Episode 9: “The Rains of Castamere”
A common refrain from book readers after Ned Stark lost his head at the end of Season 1 was, “Oh, just wait until…” and then we decided that we shouldn’t even mention the words: Red or Wedding together. It’s hard to imagine an event more shocking or brutal than Ned’s execution, but the Red Wedding is the real pivot point of this whole saga. Ned’s death starts the war, but the Red Wedding ends it and everything after has the feeling of being in a post-Red Wedding world. Even without the wedding, this episode is packed with big moments of action as Jorah, Daario, and Grey Worm infiltrate and sack Yunkai while Jon Snow is forced into battle with the Wildlings as Bran hides in a tower nearby. The sequence with Jon, Bran, and the Wildlings is especially thrilling due to both its missed-connection nature and Bran discovering he can warg into humans. And then comes the wedding itself. First we are lulled into a false sense of security (they’re going to name the baby Ned Stark!) but as soon as the hall’s doors close and the band starts playing “The Rains of Castamere”, we know we’re doomed. The show has never quite achieved such a sense of dread as it does here and once the betrayal takes place, it is both vicious and heartbreaking. All of our heroes are slaughtered and then… silence.
3. Season 6, Episode 10: “The Winds of Winter”
As is often tradition, the big episode of each Thrones season comes before the finale. With an episode as big as “Battle of the Bastards”, surely that’d be the case again, but as soon as that haunting piano melody begins playing in King’s Landing, we know that we’re in for something different. The opening twenty minutes of this episode is some of the best the show has ever done from storytelling, plotting, editing, scoring, and effects. As the tension ramps up inside the Great Sept of Baelor and Margaery clues in on what’s happening but is helpless to do anything, we quickly understand we’re about to see one of the biggest moments in this show’s history: the destruction of the Great Sept and everyone in it as Cersei smugly sips her wine. The High Sparrow, the Faith Militant, the Tyrells — all taken out in an instant. The show wipes nearly all of its pieces off the board in one fell swoop and the future looks both grim and even more dangerous than before with an unchecked Cersei at the helm.
We didn’t even mention the shock of King Tommen plummeting to his death, though we’re glad to be rid of him too. And that’s all just the first twenty minutes! Bran learns that Jon is not Ned Stark’s bastard while Jon is named King in the North and Arya avenges the Red Wedding by feeding Walder Frey his sons before cutting his throat. In Mereen, Tyrion is named Hand of the Queen and Daenerys finally sets sail for Westeros. Everything we’ve been waiting for to happen is finally happening as this finale provides more audience satisfaction within 70 minutes than any collection of episodes before it.
2. Season 2, Episode 9: “Blackwater”
This is an episode that almost didn’t happen. Due to budget constraints — the show wasn’t close to the hit it is today — the Battle of Blackwater Bay was going to happen off-screen like the Battle of the Whispering Wood in Season 1. Thankfully HBO ponied up a few extra million bucks and we were provided with not only the show’s first battle episode, but its first single-location episode. Season 2 provided plenty of fun with Tyrion acting as Hand of the King to Joffrey, but the season was all about the build-up to this episode and it did not disappoint. It’s hard to describe the difference between these “bottle” episodes and regular episodes, but you can feel the difference. The way we move through the story, how we’re able to linger on moments and provide nuances we otherwise would not have time for. Varys telling Tyrion that he’s the city’s only hope, Sansa goading Joffrey into battle, and Bronn and the Hound about to tear each other’s throats out before the battle begins are some of the most fun character bits of the whole show. Then there’s Cersei, drunk and rambling to Sansa as the battle rages. This is some of the best Cersei we get in the whole show and ends on a haunting scene with her and young Tommen as she’s about to poison him, thinking the battle is lost. The battle itself doesn’t hold up to the bigger battles the show would be known for, but its storytelling and character work make it one of the most rousing and rewarding episodes in the series.
1. Season 6, Episode 9: “Battle of the Bastards”
We start big and we don’t let up. The first moments of this episode are the slavers’ ships hurling flaming barrages at Mereen before Daenerys rides Drogon, frees her other dragons, and unleashes fiery vengeance on the slave masters. It’s a rousing and thrilling sequence as Daenerys flies through the air with her other dragons in formation, but even that can’t quite compete with what comes later. Before we get there, special mention to the alliance between Yara (Asha) and Daenerys — a character coupling we unfortunately don’t get nearly enough of going forward. Now we go to Winterfell where Jon, Sansa, and co. face off against Ramsay. The initial meeting is a tension-filled delight but it all comes down to battle as Ramsay baits Jon into giving up his position by using his brother Rickon against him. Rickon’s death is hard because of what it does to Jon but provides one of the most epic and powerful images of the whole show: with hope lost, Jon Snow draws his sword, and faces down an avalanche of cavalry speeding towards him. The ensuing battle is grisly, brutal, exhausting, exhilarating, and powerful. It’s one of the finest battle sequences committed to screen in either television or film. Not until the Knights of the Vale arrive to save the day, and Wun Wun breaks down the gate, and Jon leaves Ramsay a pulpy, bloody mess do we come up for air as the Direwolf banners drape over the castle walls, but we still have one final loose end to tie up. Sansa confronts Ramsay and feeds him to his dogs, fulfilling the wishes of every person who watches the show. For the first time in forever, the heroes won.