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At some point within the next two years, we will have the entire Game of Thrones catalogue available for review. Until then, we’re only six episodes shy of the ending — which is more than enough material to judge in the meantime.
The HBO fantasy series from David Benioff and Dan Weiss has certainly experienced its fair share of low points, but for the most part, even a weak episode of Game of Thrones can compete pound for pound against any other show within the genre. That goes for full seasons of the series, as well. It’s when you start measuring Thrones against itself that the results get really interesting, and even a little bit contentious.
With all of that out of the way, and with every episode of Thrones now under our collective belts with the lone exception of the final six outings, here’s how The Hollywood Reporter ranks the existing seasons of the series:
7. Season Two
Yes, the second season of Thrones contains “Blackwater,” one of the single most riveting hours of the entire series and certainly the first episode to showcase a truly epic battle sequence, but this is also the season that completely butchered Daenerys‘ (Emilia Clarke) trip to Qarth, specifically the House of the Undying sequence — one of the best scenes from the book and one of the weakest scenes of the TV series.
6. Season Five
The Jon Snow (Kit Harington) cliffhanger was an incredibly frustrating final note for the season, one that definitely impacts its placement in our rankings. Another major factor: season five contains the worst episode of the entire series, “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken,” featuring the “climax” of Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Bronn’s (Jerome Flynn) trip to Dorne. Even though the season hosts “Hardhome,” one of the best episodes of them all, it’s not enough to break past some low points.
5. Season Seven
The most recent season of Thrones was the biggest and most action-packed one yet, filled with emotionally charged reunions and furiously fought battles. If we were judging on sheer spectacle alone, there’s no question that season seven would rank at the top of the list. But that’s not the only criteria. Season seven moved fast, and that’s not even a dig at the speed with which a raven can make it from beyond the Wall to Dragonstone. The shortened season simply felt rushed, unnecessarily accelerating storylines and ending on an abrupt note. Perhaps it will fare better further down the line, if it’s judged as the first half of the final season. For now, it’s just shy of the midpoint of our rankings.
4. Season One
Nostalgia plays a factor on this one, but with that said, you never forget your first. Season one is the reason why we’re here in the first place, filled with a slew of unforgettable moments: Ned Stark (Sean Bean) losing his head, Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright) losing his ability to walk, the birth of the dragons… the list goes on. The first iteration of Thrones is a stone-cold classic, even as it worked its way through some growing pains.
3. Season Six
There are enough slow points in the season to prevent it from rising any further (looking at you, “The Broken Man” and “No One”), but it also contains three of the very best episodes in the entire series: “The Door,” in which we lost Hodor (Kristian Nairn) in brutal fashion; “The Battle of the Bastards,” the most impressive battle scene in Thrones lore; and “The Winds of Winter,” which kicks off with the Sept of Baelor’s destruction, quite possibly the single greatest sequence in Game of Thrones history outside of the Red Wedding. Speaking of which…
2. Season Three
The Red Wedding. You don’t need anything more than those three words in order to explain why season three was such a success. Everything built up to the brutal betrayal of the Starks, both within the season and in the years leading up to the violent moment. Benioff, Weiss and the entire Thrones team perfectly executed the most iconic scene from George R.R. Martin’s source material. Really, it’s an epic season outside of the legendary heartbreaker, between Arya (Maisie Williams) and the Hound (Rory McCann) beginning their travels through Westeros, Jon becoming closer with Ygritte (Rose Leslie), Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) continuing to navigate the political underbelly of King’s Landing and more.
1. Season Four
The very best season of Game of Thrones, filled with moment after moment after moment. Think about how much occurs during this one year of the series: Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) dies, Tywin (Charles Dance) dies, Ygritte and Jon’s buddies at Castle Black lose their lives, the Red Viper (Pedro Pascal) is brought into the fold and swiftly smashed to smithereens… really, the list goes on. Oh, and there’s Tyrion’s trial, which features some of the finest work from Peter Dinklage in the entirety of Thrones. Even if the single best scene and episode of the series exists in season three, season four’s consistent level of excitement gives it the ultimate edge in our rankings.
How would you rank the seasons of Game of Thrones? Let us know in the comments section.
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