Winter has officially come (and gone) on Game of Thrones.
The HBO fantasy epic wrapped up its final season with a shocking death, a few more plot twists, and some heart-wrenching goodbyes to fan favorite characters. The end of George R.R. Martin’s beloved series may not have pleased everyone, but it certainly delivered memorable moments on par with previous seasons — moments that have come to define the show and cement its greatness in the annals of television history. We’ll remember the story of Ice and Fire through these moments and the episodes that chronicled them.
Regardless of placement in the unfolding story of the seven kingdoms, this list stands as our definitive ranking of where the best episodes stack up. It also serves up 15 standalone greats that are capable of giving fans a taste of Thrones goodness whenever they need a quick hit. Here are our choices for the best Game of Thrones episodes.
Warning: There are spoilers ahead, and you won’t agree with all our picks (yet we’re pretty sure there are more than a few no-doubters). Let us know where we erred in the comments section.
15. “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” (Season 8, Episode 2)
The Story: The inhabitants of Winterfell await the impending battle against the Night King and his undead army.
Why It’s On This List: The second episode of Game of Thrones’ final season is a highlight in an otherwise disappointing run. With reunions out of the way and our main characters clued into the threat posed by the Night King, the show explored some pairing we’d been waiting to see for years. Sansa and Daenerys sitting down for a heart-to-heart, Arya and Gendry acting on their attraction to each other, Jaime answering for his crime against Bran? This episode gave us some emotional moments between fan favorites, but the most memorable came when Brienne of Tarth was knighted shortly before the battle of Winterfell began. Good luck watching without becoming a blubbering mess.
14. “Winter is Coming” (Season 1, Episode 1)
The Story: The series first episode introduces us to the Stark family, who guard the Northern territory of Westeros. The Starks are paid a visit by the King and his family after the death of Jon Arryn, the former Hand of the King, while across the Narrow Sea, exiled prince Viserys Targaryen and his sister Daenerys plot to overthrow the current king.
Why It’s On This List: Not only were we introduced to the main players of the game — the Starks, the Baratheons, the Lannisters, and the Targaryens — we were teased with the history of the Seven Kingdoms and the coming conflict between families through symbolism and imagery steeped in Martin’s text. Benioff and Weiss managed to satisfy book fans and newbies alike with a faithful adaptation that introduced exciting new elements to a beloved story.
13. “Home” (Season 6, Episode 2)
The Story: The Wildlings, led by Tormund Giantsbane, storm Castle Black and overthrow Alliser Throne and his band of mutineers before Davos pleads with Melisandre to resurrect Jon Snow. Meanwhile, Bran and the Three-Eyed Raven delve into memories of the past, particularly of Ned Stark’s youth and his relationship with his sister, Lyanna.
Why It’s On This List: “Home” does a decent job of delaying Jon Snow’s fate until the very end while also sprinkling in some Stark history through Bran’s visions that will become even more important as the season goes on. It also gave fans a much-needed win. <GoT die-hards are used to saying goodbye to beloved characters on the show, but “Home” proved the writers weren’t total sadists who just gleefully mock our pain each week.