Winter Is Here

The day has finally arrived, as “Game of Thrones” launches its highly anticipated seventh season tonight at 9 p.m. EST on HBO. Fans of the show have had some extra time to kill this year as the season was pushed from a normal spring starting time to mid-July.

Many have re-watched the previous six seasons and 60 episodes (sometimes more than once). I did, too! And in preparation for the launch of tonight’s penultimate season, here’s a look at the 10 best episodes of the series so far. Here’s the list in ascending order:

10. “The Dance of Dragons,” 5.09 (aired June 7, 2017)
About: This is, of course, a devastating episode to watch. Most will remember it for the horrible sequence when Stannis burned, or rather allowed his daughter to burn. That was one of the top five worst things I’ve seen on this show. So why then, you might ask, is this episode on the list? Well, the episode comes around with a stunning conclusion to the tensions in Mereen with the Sons of the Harpy. When Drogon enters the arena, and Daenerys flies off, was a magical moment. I may have named one of my fantasy football teams Drogon’s Fire after this episode.

9. “Baelor,” 1.09 (aired June 12, 2011)
About: When making a list of the best Marvel films, you have to include “Iron Man” because it’s the one that started it all. For many of us who were show watchers before reading the books, “Baelor” was the episode that really hooked us. I enjoyed most of the first season, but it wasn’t until this episode that I was “all in.” Poor Ned Stark, R.I.P.

8. “The Watchers on the Wall,” 4.09 (aired June 8, 2014)
About: This is the penultimate episode of the fourth season, and continued the tradition of powerful ninth episodes in seasons. It was also one of the first real hero moments for Jon Snow, a character who’s become incredibly important to this story. For the first few seasons, I wasn’t sure what to make of Jon Snow (Kit Harrington). But in this episode, we see him become a leader and a pretty fair warrior. Plus, the score and scale of this episode was incredibly cinematic.

7. “The Door,” 6.05 (aired May 22, 2016)
About: Brace yourself for waterworks. All I have to say is “Hold The Door” and we all instictively want to cry. Pour one out for Hodor (Kristain Nairn)… This episode gave us some great stuff, but it was hard to watch once and almost harder to watch in a re-watch. That’s some powerful stuff.

6. “The Mountain and The Viper,” 4.08 (aired June 1, 2014)
About: This was a crucial episode. The fourth and parts of the fifth season were uneven at times. But this was a fun, rousing end to Tyrion’s sham of a trial. It was sad to see The Viper (Pedro Pascal) fall, but it was an incredible and incredibly shocking episode.

5. “Blackwater,” 2.09 (aired May 27, 2012)
About: This was the first real battle episode for “Game of Thrones,” and it was epic. Plus, this is a great episode for Tyrion (Peter Dinkledge), who gives an incredibly rousing speech to get the troops fired up.

4. “The Rains of Castamere,” 3.09 (aired June 2, 2013)
About: This is a devastating episode. I remember watching it for the first time and sitting alone in the dark for about 15 minutes, unsure of what I’d just seen. For a while, this was my go-to as the best episode of the series. And while it might always be the most memorable, the re-watch showed me that it isn’t really the “best” episode. Still, as a fan of House Stark, it’s impossible to watch, really.

3. “The Winds of Winter,” 6.10 (aired June 26, 2016)
About: This was the season six finale, and a show our friends at The Ringer proclaimed as the series’ best. I think it’s right up there. It’s also one of the most shocking. Queen Cersei (Lena Headey) attempts to settle all the Lannister Family debts. Of course, her son gets caught in the crossfire. While finales are normally quieter episodes, setting the pieces in place for the next campaign, this one was a ball of fire that changed the world for good.

2. “Battle of the Bastards,” 6.09 (aired June 19, 2016)
About: I was tempted to put this episode as No. 1. It is the best battle episode of the series, and one of the most action-packed. We all remember about the fight between Jon (Harrington), his army and Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon), which was a fitting conclusion to that story. And, of course, Sansa (Sophie Turner) got her revenge against Ramsay, too. But don’t forget, this episode begins with Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) settling things in Mereen, and using her dragons to get the job done! This is an awesome hour of “Thrones.”

1. “Hardhome,” 5.08 (aired May 31, 2015)
About: I went back-and-forth about this for a while, but I think “Hardhome” is the best episode. First, it features the first conversations with Daenerys and Tyrion, which is something we’d been waiting for a while. And it doesn’t disappoint. Then, it gives us an epic battle in the snow which was one of the most stunning visual pieces the show has done. It also set up the real stakes and the real battle. As Davos says in the season seven trailer, “it doesn’t matter whose skeleton sits on the Iron Throne.” “Hardhome” is the episode that made that real. Plus it gave viewers a look at something that wasn’t really featured in the books. It remains the most stunning of the first 60 episodes.


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