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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.
For nearly a decade after that opening episode, Thrones brought viewers along for a ride filled with glorious highs and gut-wrenching lows, with fire and blood at each and every turn. More often than not, the twists and turns paid off. Sometimes, they very much did not — and in those cases, the misfires were much like the Westeros movers-and-shakers who often lost their lives in noble, if misguided, pursuits. (Some swings-and-misses, of course, are just utterly painful and baffling. Here's looking at you, Dorne.)
With David Benioff and Dan Weiss' Game of Thrones series finale officially out in the universe, here's a look back on every single episode in the series, ranked in ascending order of greatness.
Follow along with all our Game of Thrones coverage here.
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