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Ranking The GAME OF THRONES Episodes (Introduction)

March 30, 2018

Game of thrones notebook

The Game Of Thrones finale (Season 8) is still more than a year away. Whatever shall we do in the meantime? How about developing a rubric and using it to rank every Game Of Thrones episode in existence, and by extension, the seasons? Yes, that’s what we’ll do. Read on for the introduction and methodology.

Seven seasons and 67 episodes in (and eagerly awaiting the eighth), Game Of Thrones has had a singularly amazing and inspirational run. It is a unique and wonderful entertainment experience for a number of reasons including memorable characters, a propulsive story, and immersive world-building, not to mention pure entertainment value, with the added spectacle of medieval fantasy.

A few other websites have compiled a ranked list such as what we will have forthcoming on this site. These lists are always fun to read and compare, but most of them don’t express any kind of methodology behind the rankings. They have ultimately inspired me to design a rubric of my own for ranking the episodes, and by extension, the seasons.

The goal was to create enough data (mostly subjective data, that is) for each episode that the episodes and seasons become easy to rank. It will be interesting to see how this finished list compares with other lists (for example, the The Ringer’s list—just a small part of that site’s invaluable coverage of the show), as well as with the consensus of the general show-watching public.

There is no singular reason that Game Of Thrones is so excellent. Boiling down the show’s most important core elements into a cohesive rubric was challenging and stimulating. Here is what we have come up with:

While creating this system, the governing principle was that episodes should be judged on the collection of stories they comprise, and that seasons should ultimately be judged in terms of how good a collection of episodes they are. Each episode earns points for each of its story lines within. Each story line within an episode can earn up to 15 points, scored in each of three areas (Story, Worldbuilding, and Entertainment) on a scale of 1-5 (no zeros).

Story

First and foremost, Game of Thrones is a great story. The various plots are constantly charting new and compelling paths into the future, delivering defining moments, developing beloved characters, and inevitably paying off events from the past. Despite the many ways one episode’s plot might extend to or from another episode, the “Story” score refers to how interesting the story is in the moment, which allows the score to stand for only what happens within that specific episode’s run time, regardless of cliff-hangers and other complications.

Worldbuilding

Worldbuilding refers to the combination of fantasy spectacle, history and lore, and filling in the previously unseen corners of Westeros and Essos. All of the novelistic detail, rich backstories, and fantasy flourishes that supplement the story help to determine the “Worldbuilding” score.

Entertainment

Finally, regardless of whether an episode is plot-heavy or taking us to previously unexplored locales, or none of the above, Game of Thrones, is almost always massively entertaining. Since it is a TV show that people watch for entertainment (presumably), this becomes the third category.

For example…

Let’s say an episode features five story lines. Once each story line’s points have been totaled (a maximum of 15 points each), the total points for that episode will be divided by the total available points: 75 (15 per storyline [X] 5 story lines). That product is then multiplied by 100 for the final, normalized episode score. This allows every episode to be scored on the same scale, even if they don’t all have the same number of story lines (which they don’t).

This will be a large and very fun undertaking, and I will be enlisting another impartial Game Of Thrones fan to ensure that the scores for each storyline are all within reason. Scores for individual story lines are sometimes a tad stingy or a tad generous, but that should ultimately balance out, as each storyline is only worth a fraction of its episode’s score.

UPDATE: The visual presentation for all of this content is still being figured out, so stay tuned here, and follow us on social media if you like. Be on the lookout in the near future for further explanation of what exactly is going on here, as well as in-depth reviews of each season, the full ranked list of episodes, and probably more stuff too. Coming soon!

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