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Jon Snow’s dying eyes, peering up at the sky as his blood pours out from the guy, stands out as one of the strongest visual moments in any story on television this year, let alone on Game of Thrones.
And yet, as powerful as that scene was, it was just one of the show-stopping moments on Thrones in 2015. Even looking beyond the events on the show itself, this was a tremendous year to be a fan of the HBO fantasy series, between casting news for the season ahead, meta moments about the people working on the world of Westeros, and more.
Here are ten of the greatest Thrones moments from 2015, presented in chronological order:
1. “Fetch Me A Block”
The classic Jon Snow line from A Dance with Dragons did not make it onto the show, but the sentiment remained, when Jon ordered and carried out the execution of Janos Slynt, in one of his first official acts as Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. It was an immensely satisfying end for an immense coward, and also a bit of hard-earned poetic justice, seeing as Slynt was one of the men most responsible for the death of Jon’s father Ned.
2. A Gift of Lions and Dragons
In the A Song of Ice and Fire books on which Thrones is based, Tyrion Lannister and Daenerys Targaryen have yet to meet. But the show hurried the pace of their inevitable first encounter, putting Peter Dinklage and Emilia Clarke’s iconic characters in scenes together as early on as episode seven, “The Gift.” It lived up to the episode’s title, with Dinklage and Clarke’s chemistry immediately powerful and palpable, paving the way for some of the best scenes of the season.
The horrors at Hardhome are discussed but not witnessed in A Dance with Dragons, certainly not by Jon Snow. So it was as much of a shock for book-reading viewers as show-only fans when Snow and his allies found themselves surrounded by an army of the undead. The highlight reel is virtually endless, from Jon’s discovery of Valyrian steel turning White Walkers into ice, to the Night’s King’s infamous arms-wide-open “come at me, Snow” moment. The result? Easily the best episode of season five, one of the best in the series, and quite possibly the best battle sequence in the whole show, “Blackwater” included.
4. Snow Falls
When will the Starks catch a break? Not in season five, if ever. Jon Snow, deemed untouchable by most fans, finally fell at the hands of his own Night’s Watch brothers, an act of cowardly betrayal that ended season five on the most frustrating cliffhanger in the show’s history. But the shocking moment also yielded some of the most fun theorizing in the Thrones community since … well, ever. People spent the summer months debating Jon’s actual fate, and floating out possibilities for how he’s still alive, or at least how he’ll return from the dead. That’s not even mentioning the watchful eyes glued to Kit Harington’s hair over the past several months. Even if the moment was painful to endure, the endless speculation about Jon’s future has provided equally endless entertainment.
5. Return to the Iron Islands
What’s ahead in season six? A whole lot of unknown. For the first time ever, book readers are just about as in the dark as show-only fans, since season six will mostly focus on material yet to be published by George R.R. Martin. But there are some lingering stories from his past books that have not made it onto the show yet, with an eye to premiere next year. Case in point: Theon Greyjoy’s extended family in the Iron Islands are about to make a splash, with Pilou Asbaek cast as his frightful pirate uncle Euron. For fans in the know, the past few months (and the months still ahead) have been brimming with excitement over one particular word: Kingsmoot. You’ll know it when you see it.
6. A Song of Deadwood and Weirwood
In further exciting casting news, two major names were added to the roster for Game of Thrones season six during this past off-season: Max von Sydow as the new Three-Eyed Raven, whose voice was heard during the season six teaser trailer; and Ian McShane of Deadwood fame, playing an unknown character who may or may not be connected to the late Sandor “The Hound” Clegane — although, if theories pan out, the word “late” might need to be stricken from the record.
7. When You Play The Game of Emmys …
… you win! Finally, Game of Thrones walked away from the Emmy Awards with the top honor of outstanding drama series. What’s more, the show won the record for most number of Emmys for a single series in one year. It was a surprising result considering some of the competition, like the final year of Mad Men, but fans of ice and fire were thrilled to see their favorite show recognized in such a big way.
8. Iron From Ice
In the months since Game of Thrones ended its fifth season, many fans have continued exploring Westeros in the form of a video game series created by Telltale. In the game, players follow the lives of the Forresters, a noble house in the North of Westeros with a fate that’s tragically similar to House Stark. The game wrapped up its first season in November, but Telltale exclusively confirmed with THR that a second season is already in development — which is a very happy development, considering the first year’s brutal climax.
9. A Promise of Spring
Call it a Valyrian-foil hat theory if you wish, but a later-than-usual premiere for Thrones season six, combined with the sighting of Martin as a flesh-hungry zombie on Syfy’s Z Nation fueled predictions that the sixth book in his series, The Winds of Winter, could actually arrive before season six. As time has worn on, those hopes have subsided somewhat, if not entirely. Still, for a few weeks at least, there was a real sense that the long-awaited book six could actually make it to shelves before the show returns to the airwaves — a sign of devotion from a passionate fan base, if nothing else.
10. The First Sign of Winter
Whether or not Jon Snow lives, he’s at least alive and well in the Game of Thrones season six marketing campaign. With weeks to go before we close the book on 2015, HBO unleashed a new poster and teaser trailer for the sixth year of Thrones, both of which featured Snow prominently. It’s either HBO recognizing that Jon is the show’s hottest topic by far right now, or a sign that the whole “dead is dead” philosophy comes equipped with a loophole. That’s certainly one way to cap off a marvelous year for Thrones.
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