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Every Episode of GAME OF THRONES… Ranked

May 5, 2020

The great undertaking has come down to this. This exercise has been done before in several places, but not with this methodology. Each episode has been scored against a rubric based on its storytelling, worldbuilding, and entertainment. If you’ve been following along with the season-by-season reviews, you already know why each episode ranks where it does. For more thorough explorations of each season, those links are provided, but if you really just want to see where your favorite episodes rank, then read on!  The full list with a few additional episode blurbs awaits…

Rationale

Season 1 Episodes

Season 2 Episodes

Season 3 Episodes

Season 4 Episodes

Season 5 Episodes

Season 6 Episodes

Season 7 Episodes

Season 8 Episodes

73. The Last of the Starks

The Last of the Starks Episode Game of Thrones

The Last of the Starks, merely tied for the lowest score according to our rubric, nabs the bottom spot overall for fumbling important character arcs when there was precious little time remaining in the series. It’s the kind of misstep this series so rarely made, the kind so bad that it challenged our ability as viewers to “just roll with it.”

72. The Red Woman

The Red Woman Episode

71. Dark Wings, Dark Words

Dark Wings Dark Words

70. The Gift

The Gift Episode

69. Beyond the Wall

Beyond the Wall Episode Game of Thrones

Beyond the Wall is also among the handful of late-period Thrones episodes that threatens, and maybe even breaks, the entire story’s internal logic. BtW atones for its transgressions somewhat with its thrilling action romp plotting, even if it will leave you scratching your head.

68. Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken

Unbowed Unbent Unbroken Episode

In case the episode title doesn’t ring a bell, Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken is the infamous episode in which Sansa is forcibly married to Ramsay Bolton. The final scene is difficult to watch and problematic for at least a few reasons (here are two: this is the most narratively-excessive rape scene in the show; and, of course, the key scene frames the violence against Sansa through Theon’s eyes, tempting the audience to empathize with him above Sansa). Those very real concerns aside, this is still a strong episode from start to (almost) finish. Ser Loras’ royal inquest scene is an all-timer.

67. Eastwatch

Eastwatch Episode Game of Thrones

Eastwatch has a number of nice moments, but if you wanted to pinpoint the exact episode in which the series’ pacing problems became a permanent fixture, then this is the one you’d settle on.

66. Kill the Boy

Kill the Boy Episode

65. A Man Without Honor

A Man Without Honor

64. The Night Lands

The Night Lands

Pretty much every Thrones season features a downshift in one of its first few episodes. In Season 2, that happened with The Night LandsIt’s not an offensive episode, it just doesn’t have a lot going on and overlaps a bit with the previous episode.

63. First of His Name

First of His Name Episode

62. Garden of Bones

Garden Of Bones

61. The Iron Throne

The Iron Thrones Finale Episode Game Of Thrones

Well… how do you feel about the finale?

If you’re asking us, the first half would have served as an adequate wrap-up if it weren’t poisoned by the latter half.

60. Mockingbird

Mockingbird Episode

59. The Climb

The Climb Episode Game of Thrones

The Climb will always be remembered fondly for how it intercut Jon and the wildlings climbing the wall with the “chaos is a ladder” conversation between Littlefinger and Varys. Great moment. Decent episode.

58. Walk of Punishment

Walk of Punishment

57. Blood of My Blood

Blood of My Blood Episode Game of Thrones

Season 6 was a thrill from start to finish. If there was a lull anywhere in the middle, Blood of My Blood would be the main culprit.

56. Fire and Blood

Game of Thrones, Fire and Blood, Daenerys, Jorah

The first season’s finale, and the episode that gave us our first look at Daenerys’s dragons. For that storyline alone, this episode could perhaps rank higher, but the rest of its runtime is essentially a dirge in honor of the seismic events of Baelor.

55. The Ghost of Harrenhal

The Ghost Of Harrenhal

54. Sons of the Harpy

Sons Of The Harpy Episode

53. The Kingsroad

Kingsroad Episode Game of Thrones

The Kingsroad is the second episode, but it feels significant that it’s also the first episode following the arduous process of polishing and reshooting the pilot. This episode benefits from essentially being “part two” of the pilot. 

52. The Pointy End

Game of Thrones, The Pointy End, Samwell, Mormont

51. The Bear and the Maiden Fair

The Bear and the Maiden Fair Episode

How you feel about The Bear and the Maiden Fair may be tied to how you feel about castration. It’s that episode. It’s certainly memorable, and even features Jaime saving Brienne from a bear. You could make the case that this episode is Thrones in a nutshell.

50. Winterfell

Winterfell Episode Game Of Thrones

The final season premiere would benefit from being thought of as “part one” of a double-bill with A Knight of the Seven KingdomsBut as a stand alone episode… that’s why it’s down here.

49. You Win or You Die

Game of Thrones, You Win or You Die, Vaes Dothrak

Another supremely memorable episode, most notably for Cersei getting to deliver the episode’s namesake line in a conversation with Ned Stark. It’s ultimately a middle-of-the-pack episode but certainly has its charms.

48. The Broken Man

The Broken Man Episode Game of Thrones

47. The Old Gods and the New

The Old Gods And The New

46. Stormborn

Stormborn Episode Game of Thrones

45. The Laws of Gods and Men

The Laws of Gods and Men Episode

Tyrion’s rigged trial makes for one of the most showstopping set pieces of the series and no one even has to raise a sword. There isn’t much else going on in this episode but — in the parlance of our times — the Tyrion scenes slap.

44. The Prince of Winterfell

The Prince Of Winterfell

43. The Wars to Come

The Wars To Come Episode

The Wars to Come is saddled with the responsibility to lay all kinds of track that leads to thrilling destinations throughout the fifth season, and yet it manages to deliver with a number of strong stories that make this better than a typical regrouping episode.

42. The Dragon and the Wolf

The Dragon and the Wolf Episode Game of Thrones

41. Oathkeeper

Oathkeeper Episode

40. The House of Black and White

The House of Black and White Episode

39. Home

Home Episode Game of Thrones

Jon Snow returns. Tyrion pets dragons. Bran swims through time. Home certainly benefits from contrasting the funereal pace of the sixth season premiere, but it is quietly one of the best episodes for exploring many of the fantasy elements in the series.

38. And Now His Watch Is Ended

And Now His Watch Is Ended

37. Lord Snow

Game of Thrones, Lord Snow, Arya

36. Breaker of Chains

Breaker of Chains Episode

35. What Is Dead May Never Die

What Is Dead May Never Die

Theon’s tragic arc in the second season is one of the most compelling parts of that season. Also, if the scene in which Theon burns that letter isn’t meant to be a Barry Lyndon reference, please don’t tell me.

34. Dragonstone

Dragonstone Episode Game of Thrones

Another highly entertaining season premier, Dragonstone takes us back to a time when the series was arguably still at its peak following Season 6.

33. The North Remembers

32. The Bells

The Bells Episode Game of Thrones

The Bells is a controversial episode that sits somewhere near the middle of the pack. The dragon attack is harrowing and unforgettable, and the episode as a whole will age well for those who are at peace with Daenerys’s fate.

31. High Sparrow

High Sparrow Episode

30. The Queen’s Justice

The Queen's Justice Episode Game of Thrones

29. Valar Dohaeris

Valar Dohaeris

28. Oathbreaker

Oathbreaker Episode Game of Thrones

27. Book of the Stranger

Book of the Stranger Episode Game of Thrones

26. Mhysa

Mhysa

25. Valar Morghulis

Valar Morghulis

Valar Morghulis is the excellent second season finale that wraps up Dany’s stint in Qarth, as well as Theon’s brief career as a conqueror. It also comprises compelling character resets for Arya, Bran, Tyrion and Stannis. There’s a lot going on, and it’s all mostly great, including first White Walker sighting since the pilot.

24. Two Swords

Two Swords Episode

23. No One

No One Episode Game of Thrones

22. Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things

Game of Thrones, Cripples Bastards and Broken Things, Tyrion

21. The Lion and the Rose

The Lion and the Rose Episode

Hilariously, there are quite a few famous wedding episodes in Game of Thrones. This one is known colloquially as “The Purple Wedding.” You probably can’t call it the most famous of the bunch, but it’s one of the rare times where the story twists in a way that both shocks and delights its audience.

20. A Golden Crown

Game of Thrones, A Golden Crown, Daenerys

A Golden Crown is one of the standout episodes from the middle of Season 1. The emergence of Bronn as a character of note and the tense, brutal scenes in Vaes Dothrak, make it indelible. The ending foreshadows the seismic events Thrones would become known for a few episodes later in Baelor.

19. The Long Night

The Long Night Episode Game of Thrones

18. Mother’s Mercy

Mother's Mercy Episode

17. The Spoils of War

The Spoils of War Episode Game of Thrones

We had seen dragons in combat prior to The Spoils of War, but with Daenerys finally back in Westeros, and from the perspective of the Lannister army, this Season 7 battle brought something new to the table.

16. The Wolf and the Lion

Game of Thrones, The Wolf and the Lion, Tyrion

The Wolf and the Lion is the underrated Thrones episode that gives us our first substantive look at the Eyrie. It also provides plenty of worldbuilding in King’s Landing as the Starks learn that they may have bitten off more than they can chew.

15. Winter is Coming

Winter is Coming - Jon Snow

Winter is Coming started it all! Despite being partially re-shot and recast after the initial try, the pilot works beautifully to introduce an unreasonable number of characters and set a number of story arcs into motion.

14. A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms

Knight of the Seven Kingdoms Episode Game of Thrones

13. The Dance of Dragons

The Dance of Dragons Episode

The Dance of Dragons features an atrocity that must be answered for, but not in the way that some of the series’s other questionable episodes do. Shireen’s sacrifice is a true horror, but it’s tragic rather than problematic and serves as a reminder of how moving Thrones can be at its best.

12. Second Sons

Second Sons

Second Sons is another relatively unheralded episode that actually hits pretty hard. Don’t let the following seasons’s recasting of Daario Naharis cloud your memory, Second Sons is deliriously entertaining from it’s first scene to its last.

11. The Mountain and the Viper

The Mountain and the Viper Episode

The title says it all; this one features decades of geopolitical strife all coming to a head with an iconic showdown.

10. The Door

The Door Episode Game of Thrones

Along with Shireen’s sacrifice, the unexpected revelation of Hodor’s backstory is among the greatest plot points in the show based on then-unpublished source material from Martin, debuting in bittersweet fashion on screen instead of in print.

9. Baelor

Game of Thrones, Baelor, The Twins

Ned’s dead, baby. It’s almost quaint to look back at Season 1 and think about how shocked everyone was, but the shock was real. After eight seasons, Baelor holds up as a signature episode.

8. Kissed By Fire

Kissed By Fire

Kissed By Fire is likely the greatest Thrones episode not to feature a signature set piece, unless you count the baths of Harrenhal…

7. The Watchers on the Wall

The Watchers on the Wall Episode

Through no fault of its own, The Watchers on the Wall feels like the odd man out of conversations about Thrones’ best battle episodes. What Watchers has that some of the others lack is a palpable sense of sacrifice and camaraderie among men at arms, also the weight of choosing duty over all else.

6. The Children

The Children Episode

The Children has it all; journeys coming to an end, new journeys beginning, savage combat, treachery, and a few surprise developments. Cathartic moments abound, and many characters’ stories are turned upside-down in this fourth season finale.

5. Battle of the Bastards

Battle of the Bastards Episode Game of Thrones

Battle of the Bastards isn’t the single greatest battle in the series, but it is undeniably elevated by Ramsay Bolton’s giddy villainy. Thrones is generally content to explore the grey areas of its fantasy world, but Jon vs. Ramsay is about as clear a battle of good and evil as you could dream up.

4. Hardhome

Hardhome Episode

Hardhome is one of the series’ signature episodes for the way it took an event merely alluded to in the books and turned it into a cinema-quality spectacle. The White Walker ambush is the ultimate marriage of what this show is best at; propulsive storytelling, worldbuilding, and pure entertainment.

3. The Rains of Castamere

The Rains of Castamere Episode Game of Thrones

The Rains of Castamere is as good a candidate as any for the top spot for the way it successfully destabilized its audience’s sense of safety. Even on rewatch, the episode still captivates because every moment is so precisely engineered.

2. The Winds of Winter

The Winds of Winter Episode Game of Thrones

It’s not a battle episode, but the opening sequence revolving around the Great Sept of Baelor, with the perfect music backdrop (“Light of the Seven“), is one of Thrones‘ crowning achievements. This sequence would be enough for most episodes, but to pair it in the same episode with a revelation about Jon’s parentage, and Dany beginning her voyage back to Westeros makes the sixth season finale an embarrassment of riches.

1. Blackwater

Blackwater Episode Game of Thrones

From the quiet, electric establishing scenes through the numerous twists and momentum shifts during the battle, Blackwater is an intimate look deep into the hearts of the main characters while they are at their most strung out. Game of Thrones at its best.

What do you think? Which episodes are ranked too high? Which are too low? We’ve got our reasons for everything on this list and we stand by it, but we’d love to hear your rationale as well.

Valar Morghulis. Valar Dohaeris.

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