'Game of Thrones': Every Final Season Episode, Ranked

From "Winterfell" through "The Iron Throne."
Courtesy of HBO
'Game of Thrones'

[This story contains spoilers through the series finale of HBO's Game of Thrones, "The Iron Throne."]

Six episodes. That's how long it took to tell the tale of Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen falling swiftly from grace, giving rise to a new king: Bran the Broken of House Stark. Game of Thrones focused on a litany of other stories along the way, centered on various heroes and villains over the course of seventy-three episodes, but all it took were those final six to well and truly upend the wheel, if not fully break it.

David Benioff and Dan Weiss' adaptation of George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire novels is now ended, with the whole world left to deal with the aftermath: Jon Snow (Kit Harington) is improbably alive, Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) is tragically deceased, and the other Stark siblings are all in their own respective versions of "living your best life." But did the final season live its best life? The answer is a resounding no from a vocal section of the fandom, while others still walk away from the final run feeling satisfied with the ending.

For us? The final season presented Game of Thrones nation with mixed results. Ahead, we survey those results, ranking the last six installments of the series from worst to best.

6. "The Last of the Starks"

Season 8, Episode 4

Directed by: David Nutter

Written by: David Benioff and Dan Weiss

The final season was already rubbing people wrong through the midpoint, thanks in no small part to the incredibly dark "Long Night" and its relatively clean White Walker resolution. But the controversy was only getting started, thanks to some significant whiffs in "The Last of the Starks," from the needlessly sloppy executions of Rhaegal and Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel) to the cringe-inducing commentary from Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) toward Brienne (Gwendoline Christie). Outside of crossbows that can apparently shoot around mountains, "The Last of the Starks" managed to offer up the single worst scene featuring Bronn (Jerome Flynn) in the entire series, and this is a man who has been to Dorne. It's easily the low point of the final season, and among the entire series' clumsiest episodes ever. But at least there was coffee.

5. "Winterfell"

Season 8, Episode 1

Directed by: David Nutter

Written by: Dave Hill

Was the final season too fast, or too slow? You would be hard-pressed to find an answer after going through "Winterfell," in which Jon Snow (Kit Harington) leads the Targaryen army back to his home in the North. Some viewers felt the series wasn't moving along speedily enough, way too caught up in all the various reunions and homecomings. Perhaps there's some merit to those complains; on the other hand, given the final trajectory of Thrones, perhaps it's best to forgive an Aladdin-esque dragon ride through the North, as it was one of the series' final moments of true happiness.

4. "The Long Night"

Season 8, Episode 3

Directed by: Miguel Sapochnik

Written by: David Benioff and Dan Weiss

Hard to see? Absolutely, no matter what anyone on the Game of Thrones crew says. But if glimpsed on an adjusted monitor or otherwise brighter conditions, it's hard to look past the true majesty of some of the final White Walker war's biggest moments: dragons soaring through the night sky, Dothraki riding off into the great unknown with flaming swords, Melisandre (Carice van Houten) collapsing into a heap in the cold light of day. Everyone expected the White Walkers to win, or at least for Jon Snow to save the day. Few people expected the White Walkers to take a loss, or for Jon Snow to get pinned down by an ice dragon while Arya (Maisie Williams) stepped in to save the day. Your mileage may vary, but the episode scores points for astonishing imagery (when visible) and risky storytelling.

3. "The Iron Throne"

Season 8, Episode 6

Directed by: David Benioff and Dan Weiss

Written by: David Benioff and Dan Weiss

Where will "The Iron Throne" rank in the pantheon of series finales? Too soon to say. "Ask me again in 10 years," as Tyrion would reply. In the immediate aftermath, however, there's this: The finale was a slow and steady walk through the pain caused by endless quests for power, the way in which heroes quickly become villains if such things ever existed at all, and a dream of spring for the human race. Haunting work from series leads Emilia Clarke, Kit Harington and Peter Dinklage, alongside some seriously haunting imagery (basically all things Drogon), leave Game of Thrones on a melancholy note sure to stick to the skull for sometime, if not quite stick to the ribs. But if you thought this story would end with comfort food, you weren't paying attention.

2. "The Bells"

Season 8, Episode 5

Directed by: Miguel Sapochnik

Written by: David Benioff and Dan Weiss

Controversial? Certainly. The failures behind "The Bells" are the same main offenders found through the rest of the final season: quickened pace and jarring writing. But the overall thematic idea of heroes gone bad in moments of crisis and terror absolutely stands shoulder-to-shoulder with so much else in Game of Thrones lore, and this time, it's fueled even further by incredible work from the cast, director Miguel Sapochnik, composer Ramin Djawadi and too many crew members to name. It's a cinematic marvel, one that depicts the horrors and cost of war better than almost any episode in the entire series; its narrative wonkiness keeps it back from achieving the heights of, say, "The Battle of the Bastards," but in the context of the final season, it's the king. Almost, anyway.

1. "A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms"

Season 8, Episode 2

Directed by: David Nutter

Written by: Bryan Cogman

A love letter to Westeros, Cogman's final episode stands out as one of the very best in the entire series, let alone the best of the final season. It's the quiet before the storm, as the men and women throughout Winterfell huddle together for literal and emotional warmth. Physical connections are made for the first time. New friendships are forged beside a thriving fire. Monumental professional achievements are reached, without a dry eye in the house. There's even a musical number. "A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms" stands out as a powerful reminder of Game of Thrones at its very best, putting its star players front and center: the characters, fueled by beautiful acting and writing. And we never wanted to leave.

Read all of THR's Final Path series, featuring character-by-character predictions:

1. Jon Snow
2. Daenerys Targaryen
3. Tyrion Lannister
4. Cersei Lannister
5. Jaime Lannister
6. Sansa Stark
7. Arya Stark
8. Bran Stark
9. Samwell Tarly
10. Theon Greyjoy
11. The Hound
12. Brienne of Tarth
13. Varys
14. Melisandre
15. Davos Seaworth
16. Jorah Mormont
17. Bronn
18. Tormund Giantsbane
19. Beric Dondarrion
20. The Dragons
21. The Night King
22. Across the World of Ice and Fire
23. Final Predictions

Follow THR.com/GameOfThrones for continuing coverage all season long.