The closing chapters of each "GoT" season have proven to be game changers, from episode-long battles to monumental deaths. The close of season 6 was no different, but where does it stand among the rest of the series?
15.) "Mhysa" (Season 3)
Following the shock of the Red Wedding, this episode was bound to be a letdown. The highlight was Daenerys being worshiped by the liberated slaves. It was a brief respite from the parade of tragedy, as bloodthirsty fans were then treated to Arya slaughtering Frey soldiers who desecrated Robb's corpse.
14.) "Valar Morghulis" (Season 2)
The second season's finale was also a little underwhelming, considering it mostly dealt with the fallout from the Battle of Blackwater. On the other hand, this episode left us with a giant cliffhanger beyond the Wall, as Jon was taken away by the wildlings, and the White Walkers unleashed their first major attack on the Night's Watch.
13.) "The Dance of Dragons" (Season 5)
This episode from the series' most controversial season got intense backlash when the show deviated from the books by having Stannis sacrifice his young daughter to appease the Lord of Light. On a more positive note, the fight in Daznak's Pit dazzled fans when Drogon made a grand entrance to save Daenerys from the Sons of the Harpy.
12.) "The Children" (Season 4)
A lot happened in this episode: Bran finally reached the Three-Eyed Raven (which, in retrospect, some fans might wish had not happened); Brienne and The Hound engaged in one of the best swordfights in the history of the show; and thanks to Tyrion, we discovered that there is no truth to the rumor that Tywin Lannister poops gold.
11.) "The Laws of Gods and Men" (Season 4)
This episode is an odd duck on the list. This is a mid-season episode, but it gets on the list for the gripping drama of Tyrion's trial, culminating in Peter Dinklage's finest moment in the series as Tyrion declares his hatred for everyone present and his wish that he had not only poisoned Joffrey, but all the people who reviled him even as he fought to protect them.
10.) "Watchers On The Wall" (Season 4)
Many fans expect "Battle of the Bastards" to have a format similar to this episode, which eschewed the usual jumps between stories to focus on an hour-long battle between the Night's Watch and Mance Rayder's wildling army. This is one of the most expensive and best directed episodes ever, culminating in a tragic end for Jon's relationship with Ygritte.
9.) "Baelor" (Season 1)
For those who weren't familiar with "Game of Thrones' before the TV series, this episode sent an important message: this isn't Middle-Earth. Ned Stark was the first season's main protagonist, and he received an unceremonious ejection from future seasons. In Westeros, no one is safe.
8.) "The Winds of Winter" (Season 6)
The season 6 finale opens with a long, drawn-out montage to suspenseful music before the Great Sept is blown up with Cersei's enemies inside. The rest of the episode is devoted to revealing Jon's mother, Arya getting revenge, and Daenerys finally leaving Westeros.
7.) "Fire and Blood" (Season 1)
So once Ned Stark gets killed, how do you get fans to stick around? With a finale that sets the table beautifully for future seasons, culminating in the birth of Daenerys' dragons to remind everyone that despite its bitter deaths, "Game of Thrones" is still at its heart a fantasy.
6.) "The Mountain And The Viper" (Season 4)
In the lead-up to this episode, fans hyped the battle between Gregor Clegane and Oberyn Martell like it was Pacquiao-Mayweather. But unlike the boxing match, Tyrion's trial by combat delivered, ending with a finishing move from The Mountain that was like a Mortal Kombat fatality.
5.) "Hardhome" (Season 5)
Before the next episode on the list, the Battle of Hardhome was the gold standard against which all "Game of Thrones" fights are compared. It had the scale and stakes of previous battles, but with the new twist of the Night's King and his ability to turn the dead into wights. To describe this battle as "chilling" might induce groans, but it's also an apt comparison.
4.) "Battle of the Bastards" (Season 6)
The battle between Jon and Ramsay ended in the most painfully predictable way possible, but everything before that was a marvelous horror show. Jon only survives by pure luck amidst the chaos of the battlefield, and when he is nearly crushed by the mass of humanity, director Miguel Sapochnik makes you feel every bit of the terror of being at the bottom of that pile.
3.) "Blackwater" (Season 2)
The first big battle in "Game of Thrones." It was comparative in scale to the Battle of Helm's Deep in "Lord of the Rings," but unlike that battle, there was no clear line between good and evil. With Davos on Stannis' side and Tyrion on Joffrey's side, no one was sure who to root for. While "Hardhome" and "Battle of the Bastards" exceeded "Blackwater" in scale and budget, this episode still has the best script.
2.) "Mother's Mercy" (Season 5)
The cliffhanger to end all cliffhangers. "Game of Thrones" fans have been through a lot, but the possibility of Jon Snow getting killed by his traitorous brothers in black was too much. They refused to believe Jon was dead, and it turns out they were right. But beyond that huge shock were major moments like Stannis' death, Cersei's controversial penance walk, Theon and Sansa's escape from Ramsay, and Arya being blinded by the Faceless Men.
1.) "The Rains of Castamere" (Season 3)
What else? This is the episode that rocketed "Game of Thrones" into mainstream popularity and ensured its status as appointment TV in an era of DVRs and on-demand streaming. Even more so than Ned's death, this was the show demonstrating how evil can cruelly, gloatingly triumph over good. When all is said and done, the Red Wedding will be the moment that defines both "Game of Thrones" and George R.R. Martin in the pantheon of fantasy.