A while back I ranked every episode of The X-Files and posted by top ten and bottom ten. After giving the Game of Thrones series a full rewatch, I thought I would do the same. Now this is only up to and including season 6, as this post is being written before the release of season 7. I suppose I will likely edit this once the series is completed.
Now when we get to the worst episodes, keep in mind that this term is relative to other Game of Thrones episodes. They’re still pretty good. But some of the bottom ones do have some very questionable material, to be sure.
As far as the top ten, picking the ten was actually quite easy, but ordering them was pretty difficult. Its possible they will shuffle in the future. But anyways, here we go! There may be spoilers.
The Top Ten Episodes
10. Winter is Coming
As a big fan of Martin’s book series, I was cautiously optimistic about the TV show. But the pilot episode soon put my fears to rest as it was quickly apparently they were going to do this story justice. This was such a fantastic first episode; they established the major players, solidified the Stark family and their values, introduced the politics of the world and the looming threats.
One thing they do so well is to establish the Starks as a family. If you think about it, that is the only episode where they are together as a family. But they do such a great job establishing the bonds between them and showing them as a unit, that it reverberates with us throughout six full seasons. It also creates the impression of the vast, rich history without feeling the need to go into lengthy explanations.
Usually the second to last episodes in the seasons are the big, spectacular episodes, and while in season 5 it appeared it would be the same with Danaerys’ scene in the fighting pits, it turned out that the ep before it was the big one. Hardhome saw Jon and the Night’s Watch sail north to rescue stranded wildlings, only to come face to face with The Others. And it was great. There were two moments of terrific tension and foreboding; the first when we first see the white walkers on the cliffs, then when all the dead stand up at once. This is great television directing.
8. The Door
Game of Thrones more than often proves to be thrilling and intriguing, but every once in a while t can also be emotionally devastating. By Season Six the show had pushed past the books and was now on their own, which means myself as a viewer didn’t know what was coming. So when The Door happened I was taken completely by surprise. They managed to take the beloved background character of Hodor and built a moment around him that proved to be one of the most moving moments I’ve had for a television show. It wasn’t just his death that wrecked us; it was the realization that his entire live and identity had been sacrificed because of this moment, and that it was all Bran’s doing. And even the title of this episode, which seemed pretty ordinary at frist, is suddenly imbued with meaning now.
Season 2 was certainly a dip in quality from the show’s freshman year, but they sure got the battle of Blackwater right. This was the first time GoT focused an entire episode on one location, and that was the right decision to allow us to invest in the characters wrapped up in this battle and to build the ever growing tension throughout. We got some great visuals, great acting, great moments, and great suspense. Blackwater is the shining jewel in an otherwise lackluster season (for Game of Thrones at least).
6. The Rains of Castamere
The episode that is more commonly known as “The Red Wedding” was a major turning point in the show, but I never really considered it to be one of the great episodes apart from being shocking. However, as I was going through my series rewatch, I realized just how fantastic of an hour of TV this really is, depressing as it may be.
The episode if infamous for the Robb and Catelyn story at The Twins of course, but we often forget that there is also a fantastic side story in the north where Jon’s time with the wildlings reaches its climax and he and Bran come very close to finding each other again. Meanwhile, back at The Twins, the tension is played up so beautifully that I almost wonder what would have been the best way to experience this: knowing what was coming, or being taken by surprise.
This episode probably has the best claim out of all of them for being responsible for the popularity of this show. Baelor is a very strong episode in which all of the conflicts that the season has built up to reach their peak. We get Robb’s victory at the whispering woods, Tyrion preparing for his battle, Dany tries something desperate to save Drogo’s life, and of course Ned meets his fate.
The very ending of this episode was quite the shocker for show-only viewers, and as it should be. To kill off your main character after only one year is a bold move. In retrospect we see that it had to happen in order to set the rest of the Stark stories in motion, but at the time people couldn’t believe they just saw what they saw. Quite the game changer.
4. Watchers on the Wall
Season 4 saw what they did with Blackwater and took it to the next level as the wildlings finally attacked The Wall. In this action packed episode we once again stay at one location and get a thrilling battle, including giants and massive scythes. We also get the emotional payoff of the Jon-Ygritte story, and some other moving moments as well (Grenn!). This is television at its most epic. Well, until they do it again in a couple years…
3. The Winds of Winter
After the powerhouse penultimate episode of season 6, we expected the season finale to be another wrap-up episode like they usually are. But instead what we got was a roller coaster ride of plot twists, taking us by surprise at each step. There were some epic moments in the latest hour of Game of Thrones to date, including Cersei’s wildfire plot, Tommen’s fateful decision, and of course the Arya reveal. And we also have Jon’s parentage revealed, and though book fans who have been paying attention already knew this, they way it was done was excellent.
2. Battle of the Bastards
So a couple spots ago when I said it was television at its most epic? Well then Battle of the Bastards came out and GOT topped themselves once again. Not only do we see Dany’s dragons at their fiercest, we also see The North at its bloodiest. The showdown between Jon Snow and Ramsey Bolton that had been building up all season paid off… big time. What we get is a Braveheart-level build up to a Punic War style battle, culminating in a face off between the series’ most prominent hero and most hated villain. But the film-making here is something to really be in awe of, with the small details in cinematography and editing which make us hold our breath throughout. This was damn near #1.
1. The Children
While most people would choose Battle of the Bastards or one of the other high concept episodes as their favourite, I keep finding myself drawn to the season 4 finale. There’s a lot of great moments in this episode: Stannis saving the Knight’s Watch, The Hound fighting Brienne, Bran reaching the one-eyed raven, and of course Tyrion’s final meeting with his father Tywin. And all these stories are told with quality writing and directing. There’s great action, deep emotion, and a lot of catharsis. This is Game of Thrones at its best.
There’s the best, now to the not so good. Now remember, when we are talking worst episodes here, it is relative compared to the rest of the series, not necessarily the rest of television in general. Game of Throne is a solid show, and even the bottom of the barrel has a lot of quality.
The Bottom Ten Episodes
10. The House of Black and White
I guess the biggest crime with this episode is that its just sort of boring. arya arriving in Braavos isnt that big of a deal, since we already saw Davos and Stannis there earlier. Jon’s election didn’t have the intrigue it had in the book, and then we get unrest in Meereen. More unrest in Meereen. And it won’t be the last time…
9. Walk of Punishment
Not much to say about this one. Other than a pretty shocking ending, the episode is rather bland.
I usually enjoy the season finales of Game of Thrones quite a bit, but the exception was the capper of season three. After such an intense hour where most of the Stark’s hopes were literally stabbed to death, the fallout wasn’t nearly as interesting as it should have been. And the very end where the slaves leave the city and embrace Daenerys as their queen was kinda dumb. Considering we ended the previous seasons with her emerging from fire with dragons, and seeing an army of undead emerge from a blizzard, this was a bit of a letdown.
7. The Night Lands
So what do we get in this episode? We are introduced to the ironborn bravado, which gets to be a bit much. We get Dany and her minions traipsing through the red waste. And we get Arya running away. Nothing overly exciting.
6. Valar Dohaeris
I realize that most of the shots taken against these episodes so far is that they’re just kind of boring, which isn;t really that bad. And this is another episode in that vein. We do get to met Mance for the first time, which is cool, but otherwise its Tyrion realizing he’s been shafted out of power, Dany arrives at Astapor, and Stannis licking his wounds.
5. Blood of my Blood
Now we get into episodes with some really poor decisions or bad storytelling, and the latter is the problem with this one. They way they bring Dany back with Drogon is one of the shows worst moments of writing. It was so… awkward. It was like ‘hey guys, I’m gonna head off over there a sec and…. bam! I have a dragon!” A very unearned moment played like it was supposed to be something special.
4. Breaker of Chains
The Hound is mean to peasants, rape controversy, and an uninteresting raid on Mole’s Town, this is the weakest episode in what is perhaps the show’s strongest season. And then at the end they shoot collars at the city. Yup.
3. A Man Without Honour
Jaime is one of the most intriguing characters on this show, but did they ever do a disservice to him here They have him make a failed escape attempt by killing his cousin for seemingly no reason. It was stupid.
2. The Garden of Bones
So now we are getting to parts I really hated about the show. This episode is full of torture, which I don’t particularity find compelling to watch. We get pretty nasty torture at Harrenhal, but then we get one of GoT’s worst moment when Joffrey gets really sadistic on two prostitutes. We really didn’t need that, we already knew he was horrible. It was just gratuitous nastiness.
1. Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken
Okay, so now we get to the worst episode in an otherwise awesome series, and I think most fans would agree with me on this one. First, we get the climax of the very disappointing Dorne story-line from season 5 with some terrible fight choreography more fitting for Xena: Warrior Princess. We get a cringe-worthy scenes with the Tyrells on trial. But then we have Sansa being married off to Ramsey and once again being made a victim, even worse than before. But… she already went through being a victim, it really doesn’t do anything for her character arc to have to go through it again. But that’s what happens, and it made everyone very uncomfortable.