Now that Game of Thrones season 6 has ended (with a bang) it’s time to quietly reflect on… ALL THE AWESOME. The show has clocked up 60 episodes in total, giving us more horrific violence, risky sex, evil scheming, and penis removal than a weekend at Butlins. As such, it’s tough to pick out the 15 best moments to arbitrarily slot into a feature, but by god, I’m going to give it a damn good try. And oh look, I’ve managed it. Here are the 15 best moments in Game of Thrones - the ones that make us cheer the loudest, recoil in horror, or cry salty tears into our Stark-branded tank-tops. They’re all in descending order too, so feel free to tell me what you’d change or have as your #1 moment!
15. Bran pushed out of the tower
In a way, this is where Game of Thrones really kicked off. At the end of the very first episode of s1, Bran climbs one of Winterfell’s abandoned towers and discovers Jaime and Cersei going at it. Wanting to keep the incest quiet, Jaime shoves Bran off the tower, intending to kill him. While this is a relatively subdued moment compared to the big beats that come later, it does have massive implications for the rest of the show. It’s the start of conflict between the Starks and Lannisters, it cripples Bran, and it shows just how dangerous Cersei and Jaime can be.
14. Jon and Ygritte’s tragic reunion
There was never going to be a happy ending for Jon Snow and Ygritte. He was a spy for the Night’s Watch, she was a fiery free-woman loyal to Mance Rayder. He broke his vows, then broke her heart when he turned on the Wildlings and returned to The Wall. And yet we always hoped there would be some kind of resolution for them. Maybe they’d bury their differences, accept they loved each other, and fight side-by-si… Oh, that little shit Ollie just killed her with an arrow. It’s one of the show’s most tragic deaths: it didn’t have to happen, it’s perpetrated by a character desperate to right a previous wrong (who thought he was doing the right thing), and it’s more than the demise of a person - it’s the death of a love story. No, no, I’m fine, I just have something in my eye.
13. Arya kills Meryn Trant
If you have a kill-list, and you’re looking to cross off a name, this is how you do it. There’s a certain amount of embellishment to this whole scenario, done for dramatic effect - the show employs plenty of tricks within a short space of time to turn Trant from ‘bit of a dick who enjoys his job too much’ into ‘child-beating waste-of-skin’. However, when Arya finally catches up with him and stabs out his eyes before delivering a wonderful vengeance speech, it’s a real fist-pumping moment. Doesn’t matter much in the overall world of Thrones, but it’s a bad guy getting what’s due.
12. Ramsay takes away Theon’s ‘favourite toy’
This one’s just nasty. Having already popped off most of Theon Greyjoy’s fingernails for sport, up and coming villain Ramsay Snow shows his true cruelty. Having given his prisoner a false hope by first allowing him to escape and then sending in a couple of girls to seduce him, Ramsay then hits Theon where it matters (and hurts) most: his cock. “Did they really go there?” we all asked? Yes, and he’s mean enough to further mock Theon by eating a large sausage in the very next scene, and causing the audience to ask another question “He wouldn’t actually eat it, would he?”. Of course not - he’s already mailed it to Theon’s family, in a box, with a note that reads ‘In the box you will find a special gift. Theon’s favourite toy. He cried when I took it away from him’. Oh my.
11. Tyrion kills Tywin on the toilet
There’s a strange kind of beauty to this one. Having been persecuted by his father all his life, and literally prosecuted by him throughout season 4, Tyrion is freed from his cell by Jaime and instructed to leave the Red Keep. Except he doesn’t. First he finds his former lover, Shae, in Tywin’s bed. When he kills her - because he must - it’s a weirdly Shakespearean death, as he strangles her with a silk scarf and leaves her posed on the bed. For Tywin, though, it’s a crossbow bolt to the gut while he’s on the toilet. You can’t quite believe that one of the most powerful men in the Seven Kingdoms is going to be killed by his second son while in the middle of a number two. Until it actually happens.
10. Jon Snow’s death
I toyed with the idea of including Jon Snow’s resurrection here, but his death actually had way more impact. Having made the unpopular (but only realistic) decision to allow the Wildlings through the Wall, Jon Snow suddenly became a bit of a pariah in Castle Black. But few expected him to be lured out into the snow and stabbed to death by his sworn brothers. Maybe you expected it from Thorne and his cronies, but Ollie? And the fact that this was the last show of season 5, leaving us to ponder his death and possible rebirth for a whole goddam year? You’re a cruel mistress, Game of Thrones.
9. Ned loses his head
This was the first time in Game of Thrones where it became clear that anything goes. No-one is safe in this show, the bad guys can win, and our hopes will be dashed at the last second again and again. Ned swallows his honour to save his life and protect his family, but Joffrey has him executed anyway, instantly elevating him from ‘little shit’ to ‘villain #1’. It has massive implications for the rest of the show, and we’re still feeling the repercussions in season 6 as the north struggles to pick up the pieces of the lost Stark family. It felt big at the time, but this was probably the most significant moment in the whole show.
8. The Hound gets his chicken
To be honest, I could have picked any of The Hounds scenes for this list. “Fuck the Kingsguard. Fuck the city. Fuck the King!” is another close contender. However, the scene that feels ‘maximum Hound’ is where he bumps into a bunch of Lannister men in an inn, and they have an altercation over… chicken. It’s a perfect example of why The Hound is a fan fave - he’s aggressive and has a devil may care attitude, but is also eloquent and - whisper it - a decent guy beneath all the bluster. And who can forget the line: “I understand that if any more words come pouring out of your cunt mouth and I’m gonna have to eat every fucking chicken in this room”.
7. Cersei unleashes wildfire on the Great Sept of Baelor
After some heavy foreshadowing via Bran's visions and a few casual mentions from Tyrion, everyone knew there was a cache of wildfire floating around King's Landing. And it probably wasn't going to end well. However, that didn't lessen the impact of seeing Cersei unleash it on the Seven, creating one of the series' biggest holy shit moments. The High Sparrow, Margaery, Loras and Mace Tyrell, and Kevan Lannister were all incinerated in a blast of green fire, along with anyone in about a mile's radius and some poor bugger flattened by a falling bell. The timing threw out all expectations for the finale of season 6 as well, placing what felt like a climactic finisher right at the start of the episode.
6. Joffrey’s death (the Purple Wedding)
We all wanted this. We wanted it so, so badly ever since Joffrey had Ned’s head snipped at the end of season 1. Over the next 20 or so episodes we see Joff turn into a royal monster, so when The Queen of Thorns conspires with Littlefinger to kill off the boy king at his wedding, it’s a big, big moment. It’s a victory for the good guy, despite the fact that it’s still regicide. As he chokes his last we all let out a sly smile, knowing that the Lannister dynasty has taken its first step towards ruin.
5. Ramsay faces off with his own hounds
“Not the face!” we all screamed at the TV, desperately willing on the dog to eat Ramsay’s face. The end of Battle of the Bastards culminates in the most fitting death to ever appear on Game of Thrones. After a thrilling conflict, which hit all the right beats in terms of highs and lows, Ramsay is half beaten-to-death by Jon Snow. Except he stops. And lets Sansa have the final word. After enduring months of torture at Ramsay’s hand, she first tells him his house will be forgotten, then lets the hungry hounds to their work, walking away with a smirk on her face. That is the ONLY way HBO could have killed off Ramsay.
4. The Red Wedding
This is undoubtedly the stand-out moment of the first three seasons, and was really the scene that established Game of Thrones as a phenomenon (instead of being merely a damn good fantasy show). Attending the wedding of Edmure Tully, Robb Stark, his mother, his wife, and unborn child are all slaughtered by the Freys, who have been promised a share of the kingdom by the Lannisters in exchange of the elimination of the Stark family. The way it all unfolds has that classic feel of ‘oh god… is this happening? IT’S HAPPENING. OH GOD’, but it’s the way this scene comes completely out of the blue that lends it most power. Unless you’d read the books you didn’t see this coming, and the fact it wipes out almost every ‘hero’ in the show in one, short segment, is as bold as it is bloody.
3. Tyrion’s trial and THAT closing speech
You’re wondering why Tyrion’s trial is ahead of the Red Wedding? Ahead (lol) of Ned Stark’s execution? Ahead of Ramsay’s death? It’s a powerful, powerful moment and it contains some of the best acting in the whole show. When Tyrion realises it’s Shae giving false evidence against him you share his pain as the last shred of hope drains from him. Then you share his anger as he delivers his tirade against his accusers, having confessed to being guilty of “being a dwarf”. Here’s the line that absolutely nails the scene: “I did not kill Joffrey, but I wish that I had! Watching your vicious bastard die gave me more relief than a thousand lying whores! I wish I was the monster you think I am! I wish I had enough poison for the whole pack of you! I would gladly give my life to watch you all swallow it!” YES.
2. Mountain and the Viper
And, as a direct result of Tyrion’s speech… this happens. The Mountain and the Viper is classic Game of Thrones. It’s a battle between the kinda good, and the unbelievably bad. It’s beautifully choreographed, excellently paced, and just when you think it’s going to end with victory for Oberyn it all goes so horribly wrong. You watch in slow motion as the Mountain sweeps the Viper’s feet from beneath him and the realisation that something sudden and horrible is about to happen starts to dawn on you. And then comes the death - Oberyn’s head crushed like a ripe watermelon - which acts as a violent, horrific full-stop to the episode where Game of Thrones has once again taunted the viewer with victory before handing them a bitter cup of defeat. And we loved it.
1. Hold the door
Let’s end this list on a positive note. Well, as positive as Game of Thrones really gets. Hodor’s sacrifice at the end of The Door in season 6 not only cements his position as one of the most noble, loveable characters in the whole damn show, but it also answers one of the big questions we’ve been asking for more than 50 episodes. Why does Hodor say “Hodor”? The revelation comes at the end, giving us both a tragic realisation of what’s happening, and a sense that everything Hodor has ever done in the show has been leading up to this singular point. It’s smart storytelling at its best, a heroic end to a much-loved character, and easily one of the show’s most emotional scenes. Beautiful.