'Game of Thrones': Every Episode Ranked Through 6 Seasons

8:00 AM 6/23/2016

by Josh Wigler

From "Winter Is Coming" through "The Winds of Winter," THR ranks every single episode of 'Game of Thrones.'

Helen Sloan/HBO

Three rangers ride north, searching a frozen world. Their search reveals only death; two of the men are cut down by creatures with ice coursing through their veins and pouring out of their mouths. The lone survivor returns south, and before long, he's also cut down, his head removed by an honorable man, all in service of the King's justice.

These opening moments of HBO's Game of Thrones establish the rules of the realm. This is a story where heroes are complicated, killing men who don't necessarily deserve it, due to their divergent moral codes. At the same time, it's a story where monsters stalk the shadows, far outside the reach of mortal man's interpersonal conflicts … but only hidden for so long. The premiere episode's title, "Winter Is Coming," echoes House Stark's words for a reason.

Since that opening episode, Thrones has taken viewers along for a ride filled with glorious highs and gut-wrenching lows, with nearly every twist and turn meticulously designed to elicit powerful responses from the viewer. Much more often than not, these efforts pay off; the instances where they don't are much harder to name, and even then, the misses are always aiming at the right goals — much like the foolhardy Westerosi who often lose their lives in noble, if misguided, pursuits.

With 60 episodes currently under its belt, here's a look back on every single Game of Thrones installment thus far, ranked in ascending order of greatness.

Follow along with all our Game of Thrones coverage here.

  1. 60
    60

    "Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken"

    Season 5, Episode 6

    Macall B. Polay/HBO

    Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) controversy notwithstanding, the midpoint of season five features a shockingly defanged clash between Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Bronn (Jerome Flynn) against the Sand Snakes. It would rank as an all-time high Power Rangers battle, but jarringly cartoonish by Thrones standards.

  2. 59
    60

    "The Night Lands"

    Season 2, Episode 2

    Even the second-lowest-rated Thrones episode contains excellent Tyrion trickery as he exiles Janos Slynt (Dominic Carter) to the Wall. Season two's second episode also debuts the first, but not the last, Melisandre (Carice van Houten) and Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) sex scene — a relationship that's strongly hinted at in the books, but outright confirmed on the show.

  3. 58
    60

    "The Prince of Winterfell"

    Season 2, Episode 8

    Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance) flees Harrenhal to protect King's Landing from the Baratheon army, ending his storyline with Arya (Maisie Williams), an easy high point of the season, and one of the show's best deviations from the books.

  4. 57
    60

    "A Man Without Honor"

    Season 2, Episode 7

    Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) continues his downward spiral by killing two innocent children, originally believed to be Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright) and Rickon (Art Parkinson); but he had already reached his point of no return an episode earlier.

  5. 56
    60

    "The House of Black and White"

    Season 5, Episode 2

    Jaime announces his intent to travel to Dorne to rescue his daughter, the beginning of one of the more misguided and maligned stories in the series. Far North, however, Jon Snow (Kit Harington) enjoys some surprising success, elected as the 998th Lord Commander of the Night's Watch. Spoiler: It does not end well.

  6. 55
    60

    "No One"

    Season 6, Episode 8

    Arya Stark's war with the Waif comes to an end, wrapped up neatly after a fairly frustrating cliffhanger one week earlier. The Riverrun story ends with a bit of a shrug as well, even if it's always delightful seeing Jaime Lannister and Brienne of Tarth sharing screen time together.

  7. 54
    60

    "Blood of My Blood"

    Season 6, Episode 6

    The outing is undeniably slowed down by Samwell Tarly and Gilly's trip to Horn Hill, where they suffer through one of the most uncomfortable family dinners in Game of Thrones history. But the episode is helped by the return of Benjen Stark, last seen in season one, his existence now residing somewhere between human and White Walker.

  8. 53
    60

    "Lord Snow"

    Season 1, Episode 3

    Courtesy of HBO

    It did not begin well for Jon, either, as his first episode at the Wall makes clear. But thanks to solid advice from Tyrion (Peter Dinklage), the future Lord Commander makes peace with his new fate at the coldest edge of the civilized world.

  9. 52
    60

    "The Wolf and the Lion"

    Season 1, Episode 5

    Alas, poor Jory (Jamie Sives), we knew him … well, we didn't know him all that much, frankly. But it was still brutal to watch the Ned Stark (Sean Bean) loyalist killed so suddenly, once the bad blood between House Stark and House Lannister finally reached its tipping point.

  10. 51
    60

    "The North Remembers"

    Season 2, Episode 1

    The mass murder of Robert Baratheon's bastard children remains one of the most sickening moments in all of Thrones, but it's offset by a premiere episode that otherwise dwells on Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) roaming the Red Waste, and the Night's Watch spending far too much time with wildling creeper Craster (Robert Pugh).

  11. 50
    60

    "Garden of Bones"

    Season 2, Episode 4

    Dany's four-episode exile in the Red Waste ends as she finally reaches Qarth — the greatest city in the world, and also the site of some of the wonkiest book deviations in the whole series.

  12. 49
    60

    "The Ghost of Harrenhal"

    Season 2, Episode 5

    Self-appointed king candidate Renly's reign ended before ever moving past Storm's End, killed at the hands of Melisandre's shadow baby — a supernatural occurrence that remains one of the show's more surreal moments to this date.

  13. 48
    60

    "The Wars to Come"

    Season 5, Episode 1

    Courtesy of HBO

    In the books, Melisandre fakes the death of wildling leader Mance Rayder (Ciaran Hinds), but the show pulls no such punches. The King Beyond the Wall dies a quick death, ending his story far sooner than book readers expected and appreciated.

  14. 47
    60

    "First of His Name"

    Season 4, Episode 5

    Jon Snow's fight against the Night's Watch mutineers amounts to little more than an action scene for action scene's sake, with his story biding its time before the big battle at the Wall. Still, hard to argue that it wasn't gratifying to see Karl (Burn Gorman) eat a sword.

  15. 46
    60

    "The Broken Man"

    Season 6, Episode 7

    Sandor Clegane's return from the dead was foretold by book enthusiasts who read between the lines in A Feast for Crows, the fourth novel in Martin's fantasy series. But confirmation of his continued survival was a big treat nonetheless, especially because it further solidified the inevitable clash between the Hound and the Mountain fans lovingly refer to as "The Cleganebowl."

  16. 45
    60

    "Dark Wings, Dark Words"

    Season 3, Episode 2

    At long last, siblings Meera (Ellie Kendrick) and Jojen Reed (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) make their Game of Thrones debut, after missing their expected season two arrival. Better late than never!

  17. 44
    60

    "Kill the Boy"

    Season 5, Episode 5

    Daenerys feeds a man to her pet dragon, then proposes marriage to the man's friend a few scenes later, because that's how the Khaleesi plays the game.

  18. 43
    60

    "Sons of the Harpy"

    Season 5, Episode 4

    Farewell, Barristan Selmy, killed unceremoniously in an alleyway brawl, well ahead of his time. In the books, Barristan the Bold remains alive and well; the character's demise on the show did not sit well with actor Ian McElhinney.

  19. 42
    60

    "The Red Woman"

    Season 6, Episode 1

    Jon Snow remained dead through the season six premiere, a disheartening development in the moment, ultimately redeemed one week later. But the episode ended in a powerful way all the same, when Melisandre of Asshai revealed her true form as an impossibly ancient woman, hundreds of years older than anyone ever imagined.

  20. 41
    60

    "Book of the Stranger"

    Season 6, Episode 4

    "None of you are fit to lead the Dothraki … but I am." With those words, Daenerys set her entire storyline on fire, literally and metaphorically, by burning Khal Moro and his brutish blood riders to the ground and cementing her status as Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea. It stands proudly alongside the Dragon Queen's many badass moments throughout her run on Thrones.

  21. 40
    60

    "The Bear and the Maiden Fair"

    Season 3, Episode 7

    Courtesy of HBO

    Jaime Lannister does his best Ron Burgundy impression, hopping into a bear pit to rescue Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) from certain doom. Of course, it's an immediately regretted decision, but one that bonds the two unlikely companions closer together.

  22. 39
    60

    "The Kingsroad"

    Season 1, Episode 2

    Ned Stark kills his daughter's dire wolf Lady for crimes she did not commit, on orders from King Robert (Mark Addy) — more specifically, orders from Robert's wicked Lannister wife Cersei (Lena Headey) and "son" Joffrey (Jack Gleason). Meanwhile, the Hound (Rory McCann) slays the butcher's boy and doesn't even receive a slap on the wrist. That's justice in Westeros for you.

  23. 38
    60

    "Breaker of Chains"

    Season 4, Episode 3

    Any episode that begins with Joffrey's dead, purple face is off to a good start. The episode succeeds in its focus on the immediate aftermath of the so-called "Purple Wedding," bolstered further by Daario Naharis (Michiel Huisman) pulling a Strong Belwas against the Meereenese champion.

  24. 37
    60

    "Valar Morghulis"

    Season 2, Episode 10

    An action-packed episode (not to mention an Emmy-winning one, earning a nod for special visual effects) dealing in the fallout from the Battle of the Blackwater, featuring a brand-new war wound smacked across Tyrion's face, stumbles somewhat with a clumsy ending to the Qarth storyline, particularly at the House of the Undying.

  25. 36
    60

    "Valar Dohaeris"

    Season 3, Episode 1

    Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham) tries his best to turn the tables on Melisandre, to no avail. Another old warrior has better luck, as Barristan the Bold saves Daenerys in Astapor, offering his services to House Targaryen for the first time since the Mad King's reign ended in fire and blood.

  26. 35
    60

    "High Sparrow"

    Season 5, Episode 3

    Courtesy of HBO

    Jon Snow executing Janos Slynt ranks as one of the most satisfying moments of roundabout revenge in the show's history, while Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen) abducting Tyrion from a Voltantis tavern ranks as one of the most surprising new pairings.

  27. 34
    60

    "You Win or You Die"

    Season 1, Episode 7

    The title of the episode, and the catchline of the series, is born here, as Cersei warns Ned not to push forward with his accusations about impending King Joffrey's true heritage. It's second only to the closing line of the episode, as Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen) holds a dagger to Ned's throat: "I warned you not to trust me."

  28. 33
    60

    "Oathbreaker"

    Season 6, Episode 3

    Jon Snow's first episode back from the dead saw him abandoning the Night's Watch, technically able to leave the sacred order due to his death and rebirth. Just as important, the episode featured an impressive flashback to the Tower of Joy, one of the most beloved sequences in Martin's book series, lovingly and faithfully rendered on the show … even if it didn't quite end with the equation some fans were counting on.

  29. 32
    60

    "The Climb"

    Season 3, Episode 6

    Chaos is a ladder, according to Littlefinger, espousing the personal philosophy that fuels all of his political machinations. The Wall, meanwhile, is a symbol of monumental achievement, as Jon and Ygritte (Rose Leslie) climb the thing against all odds, rewarding each other with the show's most passionate kiss.

  30. 31
    60

    "Walk of Punishment"

    Season 3, Episode 3

    What happens when the greatest swordsman in Westeros suddenly loses his sword hand? That journey plays out in the subsequent episodes, but Jaime's journey toward redemption begins here, his hand cleaved off in the episode's chaotic closing moments.

  31. 30
    60

    "What Is Dead May Never Die"

    Season 2, Episode 3

    Tyrion is at his King's Hand best here, playing clever head games against Littlefinger, Varys (Conleth Hill) and Grand Maester Pycelle (Julian Glover) to ferret out a traitor. The episode closes with another brutal blow to Arya Stark, who helplessly watches as Lannister men kill her protector Yoren (Francis Magee) and her friend Lommy Greenhands (Eros Vlahos).

  32. 29
    60

    "The Dance of Dragons"

    Season 5, Episode 9

    Courtesy of HBO

    After seasons and seasons of waiting, it finally happened: Daenerys Targaryen rides a dragon. Granted, she's not flying toward Westeros — at least not yet — but her soaring liftoff from the fighting pits of Meereen nevertheless stands out as a season five high point.

  33. 28
    60

    "Cripples, Bastards and Broken Things"

    Season 1, Episode 4

    In retrospect, Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley) wrongly arresting Tyrion for ordering her son's assassination was a regrettable move, one that undeniably escalated the tension between Stark and Lannister past any possible reconciliation — but it made for one heck of a cliffhanger.

  34. 27
    60

    "Mhysa"

    Season 3, Episode 10

    The Red Wedding permeates the entire episode, from the immediate aftermath featuring the butchered body of Robb Stark (Richard Madden), to Joffrey's outward gloating and Tywin's quiet pride in ruthlessly blindsiding the Starks — not to mention Tyrion's shame over it all.

  35. 26
    60

    "Mockingbird"

    Season 4, Episode 7

    Book purists were heartbroken when Littlefinger uttered "your sister," and not "only Cat," before pushing Lysa Arryn (Kate Dickie) through the Moon Door. Looking past that nitpick, it was a breathtaking ending that established Littlefinger's misguided motives, fueled almost entirely by his childhood crush.

  36. 25
    60

    "Oathkeeper"

    Season 4, Episode 4

    Up to this point, no other episode had so firmly established the show's ability to lap the books as "Oathkeeper," which ended with the first sighting ever of the White Walkers' home, in both the source material and the adaptation. It was figuratively and literally chilling, as viewers watched an infant become a Walker with equal parts horror and awe.

  37. 24
    60

    "Home"

    Season 6, Episode 2

    Historically, the second episode of season six will be best remembered as the one where Jon Snow came back to life. But that's selling all the other standout elements short, including Theon's tearful farewell to Sansa, his father's shocking death at the Iron Islands, Ramsay Bolton's brutal rise to power at Winterfell, and the first sighting of Bran Stark since season four — not to mention his first true use of time travel.

  38. 23
    60

    "The Gift"

    Season 5, Episode 7

    Courtesy of HBO

    Like "Oathkeeper," this season five episode pushed the show's story well beyond the books, with Tyrion and Daenerys finally sharing the screen for the first time — a new dynamic further (and better) explored in the season's other breakout book-bypassing episode, "Hardhome." Jorah pulling a Maximus Meridius on fellow gladiators was a major highlight as well.

  39. 22
    60

    "The Old Gods and the New"

    Season 2, Episode 6

    Theon conquering Winterfell in the name of House Greyjoy felt like a proud notion on paper, but actually following through with executing Rodrik Cassel (Ron Donachie), a man he grew up with, proved a much harder feat in practice … especially when it came to cleanly cleaving the warrior's head off.

  40. 21
    60

    "The Pointy End"

    Season 1, Episode 8

    "What do we say to the God of Death?" "Not today." The last stand of Syrio Forel (Miltos Yerolemou) is one of the iconic moments of the first season of Thrones, and one that has lasting impact, fueling Arya's thirst for vengeance from that day forward.

  41. 20
    60

    "And Now His Watch Is Ended"

    Season 3, Episode 4

    With a single word, Daenerys Targaryen proved the full extent of her capacity to manipulate, maneuver and murder: "Dracarys." With that, she commanded her dragon to roast an Astapor slaver alive, marking the beginning of her sweep across the cities of Slaver's Bay.

  42. 19
    60

    "Mother's Mercy"

    Season 5, Episode 10

    Also known as "The One Where Jon Snow Died," though in time, any frustration over the apparent demise of the show's de facto hero will fade away once he returns from the grave; it is known. Beyond the Jon of it all, "Mother's Mercy" marks new beginnings and ends for many characters, including the final fall of Stannis Baratheon.

  43. 18
    60

    "Winter Is Coming"

    Season 1, Episode 1

    Courtesy of HBO

    The one that started it all, worthy of respect for that reason alone. It's also worthy of respect due to the grueling effort put into making the pilot work, involving recasting and heavy reshoots. Ultimately, the finished product succeeded, putting all the pieces in place for every single riveting moment of Thrones to come.

  44. 17
    60

    "Fire and Blood"

    Season 1, Episode 10

    Magic returns to the world of ice and fire as Daenerys not only survives a massive fire, but emerges with three baby dragons, the first of their kind in more than 100 years. It's a game-changing moment for Thrones, paving the way for subsequent instances of mythical mayhem.

  45. 16
    60

    "The Children"

    Season 4, Episode 10

    The Hound versus Brienne, Bran's party battling an army of Harryhausen skeletons, Stannis Baratheon beating back the wildling army … the list of action-packed scenes is virtually endless, punctuated by young Arya setting sail for Braavos, finally free of her Westeros baggage, her future unknown.

  46. 15
    60

    "Kissed by Fire"

    Season 3, Episode 5

    Those wondering how someone could possibly return from the dead (hint-hint, Jon Snow fans) don't need to look any further than this season three outing, which saw the Hound kill Beric Dondarion in single combat — only for Beric to come booming back to life, thanks to his red priest pal Thoros' fire magic.

  47. 14
    60

    "Two Swords"

    Season 4, Episode 1

    Whether or not they ate every single chicken in the place, Sandor Clegane and Arya Stark certainly killed every last Lannister loyalist in the roadside tavern. It's not their first scene on the road together, but it's their best, making them more than worthy of the Best Onscreen Duo award.

  48. 13
    60

    "Second Sons"

    Season 3, Episode 8

    Courtesy of HBO

    Weddings rarely end happily on Game of Thrones, especially in season three. But what Tyrion and Sansa's marriage lacks in literal death, it overcompensates with Tyrion killing the mood, drunkenly mouthing off at King Joffrey in full view of every guest — disapproving daddy Tywin included.

  49. 12
    60

    "The Laws of Gods and Men"

    Season 4, Episode 6

    After enduring a lifetime of trials and tribulations for the simple crime of "being a dwarf," Tyrion takes his actual trial as an opportunity to sneer back at the peanut gallery. In the episode's closing moments, Peter Dinklage delivers his finest moment of seething rage in the entire series, snarling where he typically snarks, setting the stage for the endless lows still ahead on Tyrion's path.

  50. 11
    60

    "A Golden Crown"

    Season 1, Episode 6

    Bronn brutally beating Lysa Arryn's finest champion, kicking him straight out of the Moon Door, would be enough to rank this episode among the top entries in the series. The fact that the same episode contains Daenerys breaking free of her wicked brother Viserys — by way of a hot vat of molten gold covering the last son of the Mad King Aerys' head, no less — clinches it.

  51. 10
    60

    "The Watchers on the Wall"

    Season 4, Episode 9

    Mance Rayder's army and the Night's Watch finally collided in an episode so epic it warranted special Imax screenings. But within the awesome spectacle of it all, the frailty of humanity does not go unnoticed, exemplified in the deaths of Jon Snow's friends and even his lover Ygritte. Of course, there's levity, too, in the form of Janos Slynt pulling a page out of Paul Reiser's Aliens playbook, disappearing just as soon as the going gets too tough.

  52. 9
    60

    "The Lion and the Rose"

    Season 4, Episode 2

    In a world where heroes rarely win and villains rarely lose, it's worth pausing to relish victory for the good guys. There are few better examples than Joffrey's choking death at his own wedding, comeuppance for years and years of sniveling brutality — and yet, seeing the life drain out of his purple face was a haunting image for even his biggest detractors.

  53. 8
    60

    "The Door"

    Season 6, Episode 5

    When thinking about the purest and most brutal blindsides, Thrones fans often think back on Ned Stark's beheading and the Red Wedding. Season six added another painful memory to the list in Hodor's death — somehow both incredibly classy and extraordinarily devastating in the same breath. Losing such a beloved character in such a complicated and unexpected way is pretty much the only way to say goodbye to someone like Hodor. His final scene will always be etched in Thrones lore, a pop culture moment fans will be discussing for years and years to come.

  54. 7
    60

    "Baelor"

    Season 1, Episode 9

    Courtesy of HBO

    "Ser Ilyn, bring me his head!" Even with those orders in place, few believed the executioner's sword would actually fall on Ned's head. Technically, it didn't; the executioner instead used Ned's own sword to behead the Lord of Winterfell, ending the show's most identifiable protagonist in an instant. Sean Bean's early exit served as both a breathtaking gut punch and a word of warning that all but screamed: "Winter is coming, and nothing can prepare you for the cold, harsh reality of this fantasy world."

  55. 6
    60

    "The Mountain and the Viper"

    Season 4, Episode 8

    The main matchup of the episode, not to mention the greatest one-on-one battle of the whole series, managed to pack a Stark-sized wallop even after viewers were put through their "Baelor" and Red Wedding paces. Try scrubbing the image of Gregor Clegane bursting fan-favorite newcomer Oberyn Martell's (Pedro Pascal) head like a pimple out of your brain; not possible.

  56. 5
    60

    "Blackwater"

    Season 2, Episode 9

    Season two's Emmy-winning penultimate installment marked an enormous triumph of the size and scale possible from both Thrones as a story and the show as a flesh-and-blood product. Director Neil Marshall's singular focus on the battle between Baratheon and Lannister, complete with a roaring speech from Peter Dinklage at his lionhearted best, is often cited as the high-water mark of Thrones, and rightly so — if not for a few other showstopping moments.

  57. 4
    60

    "Hardhome"

    Season 5, Episode 8

    Far from the first major deviation from the source material, but easily the most jaw-dropping, this episode features Jon Snow witnessing firsthand the atrocious power of the White Walkers. The 15-minute closing battle scene brought the series' tradition of penultimate episode stunners one episode early, ending with the Night's King (Richard Brake) spreading his arms out with viral arrogance. "Come at me, Crow," said the monster, the memes and the makers of the HBO series, boldly declaring their ability to break away from the books and still deliver an extraordinarily entertaining experience.

  58. 3
    60

    "Battle of the Bastards"

    Season 6, Episode 9

    With respect to "Blackwater," "Watchers on the Wall" and "Hardhome," no episode can touch "Battle of the Bastards" in terms of sheer size and scale. The war for Winterfell is an absolute achievement, unlike anything ever seen on television before — almost more Saving Private Ryan than Game of Thrones at points. The episode earns bonus marks for stealthily featuring a second rock star battle sequence, as a dragon-riding Daenerys incinerates Meereen's would-be conquerers in the blink of an eye.

  59. 2
    60

    "The Winds of Winter"

    Season 6, Episode 10

    Easily the greatest season finale in Game of Thrones history, and arguably the show's greatest episode yet; a neck-and-neck horse race with the top contender, and the probable winner if not for the Red Wedding's iconic status. There's not a single knock against "The Winds of Winter," from Cersei's Godfather-like slaughter of her enemies in the opening moments to Daenerys Stormborn sailing for Westeros in the closing ones. That's not even mentioning the reveal of Jon Snow's true parentage and Arya Stark's "baking bad" moment, either. The fact that season six's closing installment not only topped the seemingly unstoppable "Battle of the Bastards," but did so just one episode later, only adds to the finale's mythic quality.

  60. 1
    60

    "The Rains of Castamere"

    Season 3, Episode 9

    Courtesy of HBO

    The Red Wedding, the single most iconic scene in the books, came to ruthless life with all the pain, fury and betrayal experienced on the printed page — which is exactly why it's the perfect Thrones moment, capturing this story's ability to shock and stun its audience better than anything else. The act of horror defined the show, out "Baelor"-ing "Baelor," becoming an unforgettable moment of entertainment history. Viewers will never forget where they were when they watched the North fall.

comments powered by Disqus