Game of Thrones is one of the most popular shows on TV. It’s also been off the air for more than a year with a long winter still standing between fans and the conclusion of the series. Obviously, that’s time enough for you to have re-watched the whole series while still doing your part as a responsible TV citizen and streaming all sorts of other shows in your evaporated free time. But if you haven’t, and if you just can’t spend more than 60 hours on Thrones (hey, there’s a lot of TV, no judgments), then this guide of the 15 best episodes may help. Regardless of placement in the unfolding story of the seven kingdoms, these episodes both stand as our definitive ranking of where the episodes stack up and serve as 15 stand-alone greats that are capable of giving fans a taste of Thrones goodness whenever they need a quick hit.
Warning: There are spoilers ahead, and you won’t agree with all our picks (though, we’re pretty sure there are more than a few no doubters). Let us know where we erred in the comments section.
Here are our choices for the best episodes of George R.R. Martin’s epic fantasy series.
15. “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.
14. “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.