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[Warning: This story contains spoilers through the season seven finale of HBO’s Game of Thrones.]
Frozen prophecies. Brutal battles. Sacred sites brought to ruin in a single act of fiery destruction.
These are just some of the major events seen throughout the Game of Thrones season finales. In the first few years of the show, these finales were typically utilized as opportunities to come down from the rollicking highs of the season’s penultimate episode, traditionally the most action-packed episode of any given year. In recent seasons, the past two especially, there’s been a sea change in how the finales operate, loaded with as much action and intrigue as any episode nine (or episode six in the case of season seven) that came before.
With seven finales under our belt, and only one more to go (and who knows when we’ll see that final episode), here are our current rankings of the Game of Thrones season enders:
7. “Valar Morghulis” (Season Two)
It’s possible that this episode receives some retroactive redemption, depending on how events shake out in the final season. As it stands, the show’s version of the House of the Undying sequence is such an unfortunate departure from how the scene’s depicted in the books that it’s impossible to rank this finale higher than any of the others. Again, with that said, if Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) walks through a ravaged Red Keep, covered in snow, at some point in the final few episodes, then the Thrones writers will earn some marks for some very clever foreshadowing.
6. “Mhysa” (Season Three)
Another curious Daenerys scene, in which she meets her newest followers by way of crowd-surfing. Okay! The episode’s scenes dealing with the Red Wedding fallout are where the episode shines brightest, including Arya (Maisie Williams) shocking the Hound (Rory McCann) by brutally murdering some folks on the side of the road and Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) and Tywin (Charles Dance) having one of their final meaningful debates over the strategic brilliance of the Stark mass-execution versus the absolutely deplorable nature of the move.
5. “Mother’s Mercy” (Season Five)
Goodbye, sweet Stannis (Stephen Dillane). The season five finale marked the end of the line for the last Baratheon — at least, the final Baratheon until Gendry (Joe Dempsie) returned to the mix. It was also the episode in which Jon Snow (Kit Harington) was betrayed and killed by his fellow members of the Night’s Watch. It was a frustrating cliffhanger, sure, but one that gave us a ton to talk about in the time between seasons.
4. “Fire and Blood” (Season One)
Remember when Dany burned the corpse of Khal Drogo (Jason Momoa) in a huge bonfire, stepped in the middle of said bonfire, then emerged not only unscathed, but with three new baby dragons wrapped around her body? Great times. Simpler times, too, considering the frozen fate awaiting poor Viserion. The first-ever finale remains a memorable one for a few other reasons, too, including Robb Stark (Richard Madden) becoming the King in the North, not to mention Sansa (Sophie Turner) being forced to stare at her father’s severed head — one of the show’s most disturbing visuals up to that point.
3. “The Children” (Season Four)
“You will never walk again … but you will fly.” The Three-Eyed Raven’s words to Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright) may prove very prophetic indeed, assuming the young Stark manages to warg into the Night King’s new ice dragon. Even if that never comes to pass, “The Children” will always stand out as one of the greatest Game of Thrones finales, due to the riveting fight scene between the Hound and Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie).
2. “The Dragon and the Wolf” (Season Seven)
The most recent season finale earns the penultimate spot, what with its tremendously executed execution of Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen), the deeply disturbing fall of the Wall and the wonderful scenes in King’s Landing in which so many characters reunited and/or met each other for the first time. With that said, it’s a game of inches between the season seven and season four finales. “The Dragon and the Wolf” almost loses out due to the ‘sexposition‘ scene in which Bran narrates Jon’s true Taragaryen origin, just as Jon and Daenerys are making love. It’s one of the most oddly conceived scenes in the entire series, but not so odd that it overpowers the greatness found elsewhere in the episode.
1. “The Winds of Winter” (Season Six)
It’s the best season finale, and it’s not even close. Really, “The Winds of Winter” remains one of the very best hours of the entire series, thanks in large part to the opening sequence in which Cersei crushes her enemies by leveling the Sept of Baelor. There are few better set pieces in the entirety of Thrones, second only to the Red Wedding. No matter what comes next in the final episodes, the Light of the Seven scene will always keep this installment in the conversation of the best ever in Game of Thrones history.
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