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You Rank or You Die: ‘Game Of Thrones’ Episode Rankings, Part 1

GOT-rank-pt1The internet loves ranking things. And the internet loves Game of Thrones almost as much as it loves ranking things. You can find lists about almost anything regarding the show from favorite characters to funniest quotes to bloodiest deaths. There are plenty of all three to go around, but when you look at one’s list of best episodes, what can that tell you about them? If the top ten is heavy on seasons one and five, you might infer that they enjoy the political maneuvering and “gathering storm” of intrigue. If Daenerys-heavy installments cluster at the bottom, maybe one is not a fan of our dear Khaleesi. If the top three are “Baelor,” “The Rains of Castamere,” and “The Mountain and the Viper”, then perhaps one just loves to see unsuspecting family members cry uncontrollably on the couch. No matter the takeaway, we love to play the ranking game because it gives order and structure to things that are mostly subjective.

With that said, I am here today to rank the first 50 episodes of Game of Thrones. It should go without saying that this contains spoilers from all five seasons. I have read the books and I will refrain from bringing up any major plot points not used in the show, although I will make some smaller references for comparison’s sake. I am also not a book purist, and welcome many changes the show has made along the way. I will borrow Rob Cesternino’s line about Survivor and say: “Game of Thrones is like pizza, even when it’s bad, it’s still pretty good.” Further, these opinions are my own and are not meant as a definitive fact. It’s merely a way of strolling down memory lane, having a few chuckles, and sparking conversation.

Littlefinger might disagree with me about structure, preferring the ladder of chaos instead. But even ladders have a hierarchy of rungs. So we’d best start from the bottom…

50. A Man Without Honor (2×07)

As I just said, this is not a bad episode by any means. It just doesn’t really have any highs that can compete with everything else. The best part here is the continued banter between Tywin and Arya and it shades Tywin with some deeper colors than just “power-hungry rich guy”. But beyond that, everything else is just kind of vanilla. Jon and Ygritte chase each other through the North (Jon’s season two arc is one of my least favorite parts of the saga, so I won’t have much good to say about it), Pyat Pree and Xaro murder the other Qartheen leaders whose names we don’t know, and Sansa learns she is starting to have her period. Alright.

The episode draws its title from Jaime Lannister, who until now had only one scene in the first six episodes of season two. He has a long chat with his cousin Alton, which is kind of nice but goes on a tad too long and is promptly forgotten because he proceeds to bash Alton’s head to a pulp. However, it does serve to set up two critical mistakes for Team Stark: Catelyn freeing their most valuable hostage and Robb’s banner-men losing faith in him. The episode ends with Theon stringing up two charred bodies that are supposed to be Bran and Rickon. But even if you don’t know they’re fake, it sure FEELS fake, because if he’d really killed them they would have had to show Theon at least finding the boys first.

49. Winter is Coming (1×01)

The very first episode of the show had the dubious task of not only explaining this world and its history to new viewers, but it also had to introduce a good chunk of its cast. As such, it’s mostly just setup, which is fine, but setup episodes are not going to make it very high on the list. There’s a lot of clunky exposition like Tyrion explaining what a bastard is, and who is related to whom. By the end of the hour, with the possible exception of Robb, we have a pretty fair idea of who each of the Starks are, which is more difficult than you might think for a pilot episode. The scenes in Pentos really pop off the screen, because the tropical climate and nomadic Dothraki culture stand out against the dreary backdrop of Winterfell. And it has one of the most memorable final scenes of the series. All well and good, but the real story hasn’t even started yet.

48. The Wolf and the Lion (1×05)

This is the first episode of the show to hit the pause button on an ongoing storyline– in this case, Jon and Daenerys. While that can be an asset in future seasons, it sort of hurt “The Wolf and the Lion” in my mind, because that means we get a whole lot of Eddard investigating around King’s Landing, and I found Eddard to be a likable but slightly bland character. We are sprinkled with Tyrion and Catelyn fighting the hill tribes of the Vale and meeting Lysa at the Eyrie, but season one does not have the strongest material for King’s Landing and I sorely missed Jon and Daenerys right as their storylines were taking off. We do get a pretty good climax with Ned fighting Jaime and the first notable death: poor Jory Cassel.

47. Fire and Blood (1×10)

Most of this finale is various characters’ reactions to Ned’s execution. While it doesn’t really lead to anything momentous, it does give each of the Starks a moment to rage before cooler heads bring them back to reality. Jon is about to race off to join Robb’s war before his sworn brothers – who, only a few episodes ago were beating up on him like 1980s teen-movie bullies – prevent him from being labeled a deserter. Sansa is about to shove Joffrey off a bridge before The Hound pulls her back from something that would get her executed. Robb (in a wonderfully acted and directed scene) vows to obliterate the Lannisters before his mother talks him out of it for the sake of the girls. But beyond the “King in the North” chant, not a whole lot happens in Westeros.

“Fire and Blood” will mainly be remembered for the death of Khal Drogo and the birth of the dragons. It’s just a solid sequence of events that takes out one piece on the chessboard (or two, if you count the witch) and replaces it with three more. It’s by far the strongest season-ending scene.

46. Valar Morghulis (2×10)

Again, finales tend not to have the punch that others do, though there are a few bright spots in Arya’s farewell to Jaqen, Luwin’s dying words to Bran’s group, and Brienne totally destroying some Stark thugs to the surprise of Jaime. Where this finale sort of loses its footing is with some anti-climactic endings to season-long plots. First, we have the end of the Greyjoy occupation of Winterfell. Theon gives a rousing speech to his men, which suggests they will fight the soldiers waiting outside, but Dagmer knocks him in the head “Looney Tunes”-style, and they just casually walk out of Winterfell like office workers at five o’clock. Then we have Daenerys who traipses through the House of the Undying (absurdly different from the book but I understand that the budget can’t accommodate) to find Pyat Pree and her dragons. The warlock appears to have Dany checkmated but then she says “Dracarys” and the dragons breathe fire on him and he just sort of collapses. There’s not much of a fight and you wonder why the dragons didn’t just burn him without her prompting.

Finally, we have the events up north. Qhorin Halfhand wants Jon to infiltrate the wildlings and stages a fight with him to keep up the ruse, which ends in Jon killing him, but they did a somewhat poor job getting that across on screen, so it looks like Halfhand attacks Jon for no reason. And the final scene with the invading dead army looked stunning and was a great way to end the season, but that’s almost negated because it’s dealt with off-screen in the prologue to “Valar Dohaeris”. So while the finale does tie off the stories before hiatus, the climaxes that seemed so promising ended up being somewhat empty. Hey, kind of like Xaro’s vault! Maybe it was a metaphor all along!

45. Valar Dohaeris (3×01)

The first episode of each season tends to be one of my least favorites as it’s usually focused on recapping and setting up the plot instead of forward momentum, and this is no different. After such a big cliffhanger the previous year with the advancing zombies, an off-screen battle deflated much of the hype. As did the absence of such characters like Arya, Bran, Theon, Jaime, and Brienne, though the episode would have understandably felt too bloated if it accommodated every subplot. The highlights came in the form of Davos and Daenerys. It finally felt like Davos was taking some agency when he made his way back to Dragonstone to warn Stannis of Melisandre and attempted to kill her, which doesn’t go as planned. And I always welcome an appearance by our favorite pirate Salladhor Saan, who steals every scene he’s in (which, sadly, has only been three at this point). Over at Slaver’s Bay, Dany treats with Kraznys to bargain for Unsullied, and her new role as Queen Badass is a welcome return to form after the slow burn of Qarth. We also get the triumphant return of Barristan Selmy, even if it’s treated with smaller fanfare than it should be.

The rest of the episode is sort of underwhelming after a long ten-month hiatus. The King’s Landing scenes move at a slow pace, although it shows Margaery’s ability to win over the general populace, something that was sorely lacking in the Joffrey Administration. And we have the introduction of Mance Rayder, played by veteran actor Ciaran Hinds. Many people cite Hinds as an odd choice for Mance, despite being a great actor in his own right. The Mance in the book is a little bit younger and sings songs while playing a lute, and Hinds doesn’t make much of an impression in the early going. He does get better in “The Children,” though. But that’s 19 episodes off.

44. The Wars to Come (5×01)

I’ll say it here: I’m clumping all these premieres together. It’s fun to catch up with old friends but we’re really just pulling out of the driveway. There’s usually a minor action scene to keep things interesting while the power players set the agenda for the season. This time around, that scene is the burning of Mance, which plays out about as well as it could have, given the major alteration they made. Oh, and this is Stannis’ best season by far. He seems to excel when he’s actually lording over people besides the poor schmucks stuck in Dragonstone.

Just in case this is the last time we see him (which is certainly possible, just ask Gendry and the Blackfish), we get in one final jab at poor, pathetic Robin Arryn, and Tyrion and Varys provide some always-appreciated poop humor, although we miss out on a return from Magister Illyrio. As a trade-off, we get Lancel and Kevan back into the fold. You lose some; you win some.

43. Two Swords (4×01)

Our first season four episode on the list (and for you season four fans, rest easy – you won’t see another one for a while) has three great tent poles to lift it up: Tywin melting Ice into Oathkeeper and Widow’s Wail, the introduction of Prince Oberyn, and Arya and The Hound wrecking Polliver’s crew. The swords are the focal point of the premiere, including the two that Grey Worm and Daario balance on their hands, in a light-hearted scene that I also enjoyed, and the loss of one Stark sword is bookended by the return of another as Arya embraces her dark side in a brutal bar clash. Oberyn, meanwhile, doesn’t quite have a sword but his dagger gets some action with a Lannister goon. It’s one of the more memorable character introductions we get, for sure.

42. The North Remembers (2×01)

This premiere is probably the best of the bunch. We check in with all of our existing subplots, but they tie many of them together with the red comet, a space rock with a long red tail visible to the naked eye everywhere from Craster’s Keep to Dragonstone to the Red Waste across the sea. It’s a brilliant way to connect all of these threads together, and each group has a different interpretation for what the event means. Tyrion also arrives in King’s Landing and immediately fits in with the crowd that runs there. You almost forget that he spent the entire first season anywhere else. The City Watch finding all of the bastards and killing them is a chilling end that sets the tone for season two.

A more difficult task is the introduction of Stannis and Team Dragonstone. Unlike just about every other character we’ve met in the show so far, these guys are not introduced to us through the eyes of an already existing character. They’re just thrust into the story as a detached entity that we are supposed to calibrate on our own. They run into Catelyn and Team Renly soon enough, but I think this does the job for the time being.

41. The Kingsroad (1×02)

Remember the good old days when Joffrey was that well-behaved prince that won Sansa’s heart? Well, that comes to a crashing end when he taunts Arya and her friend, and gets one of our direwolves killed. The infamous “butcher’s boy” incident was still sending shockwaves through Game of Thrones as recently as the season four finale when it was cited by The Hound as a reason he should be put out of his misery. It’s a good wrinkle for the story before our caravan even arrives in King’s Landing.

The assassin in Bran’s bedroom adds intrigue and Catelyn decides to head for King’s Landing to warn Ned of Lannister treachery. Catelyn is a polarizing figure among Game of Thrones fandom, and after she flees Renly’s camp, they never really did a lot with her, but her decision to personally deliver the news to Ned is partly why she is one of my favorite characters in book/season one. She took action and got dirty, and she never has another scene in Winterfell because she’s always in the midst of Robb’s war campaign or delivering Tyrion to the Eyrie. Tyrion and Jon have a classic conversation about why Tyrion reads so much (“My brother has a sword, and I have my mind, and a mind needs books like a sword needs a whetstone.”), but the Daenerys bits are mostly forgettable.

40. The Prince of Winterfell (2×08)

On the eve of battle, the two sides make last-minute preparations. Tyrion tries to find the best way to defend the city, and in the middle of planning, gets a bomb dropped on him when Cersei claims to have found his secret whore. But there’s a twist! She made a mistake and found Ros, not Shae, and Tyrion doesn’t miss a beat and pretends that his world has crumbled. It’s so satisfying to see Cersei so smug about this alleged victory even though we know she was shooting blanks. Stannis doesn’t get as much screen-time, but we get some of his backstory and he gets to play Grammar Nazi with the illiterate Davos. What’s the Westerosi equivalent of Grammar Nazi? Is it Grammar Lannister? Grammar Frey?

Elsewhere, Arya manipulates Jaqen into helping her escape (I always like it when unflappable characters suddenly get flapped, and Jaqen looked very flapped when she names him), and the Jaime/Brienne buddy comedy begins much to the ire of Robb. The episode ends with the revelation that the young Stark boys are still alive. I already mentioned how unlikely it was that they’d be killed that way to begin with, but I guess if you were going to go that route, then it makes the most sense to reveal it at the end of the episode instead of the beginning.

39. Lord Snow (1×03)

Except for one quick scene in “Winter is Coming”, this is our first taste of King’s Landing, but it’s less of a taste and more of a Thanksgiving dinner. This marks the debut of Littlefinger, Varys, Renly, Pycelle, Barristan, Lancel, and Syrio Forel, plus Night’s Watch characters Mormont, Aemon, Yoren, Thorne, Pyp, and Grenn. That’s a LOT to take in, but it still opens up the world to a host of new possibilities. The two that make the biggest immediate impact are Littlefinger and Syrio, and Viserys gets the first of several come-uppances with a well-positioned whip snap from Rakharo. Perhaps the best segment comes in the form of Jon proving himself as a Night’s Watch recruit and befriending Tyrion. I hate that this is all that those two will have in the story, unless they somehow cross paths again in the final two books.

Oh, and one notable drawback? It has maybe the weakest ending of all 50 episodes. Ned watches Arya practice with Syrio and … hears the sound of swords clanging from his war days. Okay.

38. Dark Wings, Dark Words (3×02)

After being the most interesting locations in the season premiere, Dragonstone and Slaver’s Bay are dropped in favor of Arya, Bran, Theon, and Jaime/Brienne. This episode is notable for introducing a ton of new characters: Lady Olenna, Orell, the Reeds, the Brotherhood, Locke, and the man we will come to know as Ramsay. Bran’s story this season is admittedly playing with scarce book material, but it makes the most out of the introduction of the Reeds. Arya’s scenes are fun, and Jaime and Brienne continue to have good chemistry, but the standout is the introduction of The Queen of Thorns, and Diana Rigg sizzles as the scheming grandmother who speaks her mind. Ultimately, this is kind of on a similar level as “Valar Dohaeris”, but because it’s juggling more storylines, it doesn’t drag as much.

37. The Climb (3×06)

“The Climb” is really kind of average, on the whole. Melisandre arriving to take Gendry away is a book departure, but it does give her a chance to interact with Arya as well as fellow Lord of Light worshipper, Thoros. Her dismay at seeing Dondarrion revived so many times helps give a new dimension to a character, that up until now, had seemed so confident and assured, to the point of being a parody. The episode highlight, though, is the titular climb to the top of the wall, which is visually effective. By the time Jon and Ygritte reach the top, I finally felt that their relationship had peaked (pun absolutely intended), and the overlay of Littlefinger’s speech was a nice way to unite some of the subplots together. Lord Baelish has a pretty quiet season three, but he proved he is a force to be reckoned with in this game, as he bests Varys by having his informant, Ros, killed by Joffrey.

The rest of the episode is pretty standard fare. Scenes with Bolton and with the Freys help plant more seeds for the Red Wedding. There is some marriage drama in King’s Landing and a finger-flaying at the Dreadfort, but at least we get a fun interaction between Tywin and Olenna – in which Olenna seems to win. Not a bad episode by any means, but one that doesn’t have enough highs to compete with the others.

36. Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things (1×04)

It was around this time, and these events, in the book that made me officially give the story my seal of approval. The episode title ties some of the various plots around the theme of outcasts – the cripples (Bran), bastards (Jon, Gendry), and broken things (Tyrion, Sam, The Hound, and Viserys, all to some extent) are the showcase here. Jon is able to rally the other Night’s Watch recruits around Sam, and Tyrion shows his humanity, much to the skepticism of Robb, by giving Bran the blueprints to a new horse saddle. Unfortunately, he’s captured by Catelyn at the Inn, in what could be considered the overt sparking event in the War of the Five Kings and perhaps the moment where the story truly begins. It’s here that we also receive two wholly original scenes that attempt to make Viserys and Alliser Thorne more three-dimensional, which is one thing that the series can really do better than anyone else.

35. Mhysa (3×10)

Finales generally suffer the same fate as premieres: hitting the final notes for all our characters before the long break, and setting up next year’s stories. And surprisingly, a lot of the best stuff from “Mhysa” comes from the supporting players: the conversation between Bolton and Frey in the aftermath of the massacre is part chilling, part humorous, and part intriguing because we pretty much haven’t seen either of them in any scene of substance without one of the main characters present. It comes after Bran tells a fun little ghost story about those who break the sacred “Guest Rites” rule. We return to Pyke and check in with Balon and Yara as they get Theon’s dick-in-a-box. Patrick Malahide doesn’t get much to do as Balon, but his performance feels so strong and Yara gives a nice little pep-rally speech. Oh, and who can’t love Ramsay Snow taunting Theon with a sausage?

The Red Wedding aftermath is handled perfectly: Opening with Arya seeing Robb’s body being desecrated by the direwolf head instantly returns us to the pain of the previous week, and Tyrion’s dismay at the dirty scheme at least reassures us that there is SOMEONE in King’s Landing whom we can still count on. Did you see how well he and Sansa were getting along? Unfortunately, it lasted exactly as long as it takes a raven to fly from The Twins to the capitol.

Sadly, we end on a misstep. I don’t mind Dany’s scene with the freed slaves as her entourage looks on, but the shot of her staring into the sky as we pan upward above the bad CGI-created crowd was so ridiculously cheesy for a show that only one week earlier had brutally killed a chunk of its cast–not a way to get people excited for season four, but the episode still seemed to do its job of putting everyone at ease after the Red Wedding and showing that the good guys can fight back.

34. The Gift (5×07)

Although there are some pretty critical moments in “The Gift”, I still can only sum it up as: just fine. Tyrion and Daenerys finally meet, and Cersei is blind-sided by Lancel and the High Sparrow and thrown into a jail cell, both major moments, and yet I didn’t really think much of them. I think both came an episode too early, which doesn’t seem that significant but there was certainly a little bit more in the Reign of Cersei that they could have played with.

The Bronn/Tyene interaction was just downright pointless, and took away from another subplot that could have used more airtime. Undoubtedly, the highlight belongs to Sam and Maester Aemon. In a show where just about everyone is killed in a brutal and tragic fashion, Aemon slipped quietly at a ripe old age, comforted by people who cared for him. It was good of them to include references to “Egg”, considering it’s probably unlikely they will adapt “Dunk and Egg” on screen and to give Aemon a little more character before he dies. I’m not sure that Gilly needed saving from two douchebags in order for her to finally make a move on Sam. But still…Oh my.

33. Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken (5×06)

This episode will be remembered for the Sansa rape controversy. Ramsay did some pretty nasty things to his bride in the book, and I have generally approved of Sansa’s merged storyline with the Boltons this season, but it still felt like a step too far. It’s meant to get us to hate Ramsay and sympathize with Sansa, but we’ve already hitched onto both of those trains. Wouldn’t it be more interesting to see her maneuver herself out of that situation? It’s a shame this is all that most people will talk about because there is some genuinely good material here. Tyrion and Jorah continue to be an awesome duo as they manipulate Mr. Eko, and Arya’s trip into the hall of faces is one of the most beautifully creepy scenes the show has ever done. The soundtrack there is gorgeous, as is the fairy tale atmosphere of the godswood wedding.

Beyond the ending, the main problem is the structure. The Hall of Faces is a great crescendo but comes too early in the episode, Theon finally speaking his name again should have been saved for later when he finally rebels, and Ramsay gives no discernible reaction to his “pet” regaining his autonomy. The Dornish scenes were passable but rushed, and I don’t know how to feel about Margaery’s arrest coming from simply being aware of Loras’ homosexuality. Without getting into book spoilers, the original version is slightly more interesting. It’s a delight to see Olenna back, though.

32. The Ghost of Harrenhal (2×05)

Get ready to check off a lot of season two on your bingo card. They somehow turned Tyrion and Lancel into one of the most rewarding pairs to put on screen. It’s almost guaranteed comedy when that happens. We get our first look at Arya as Tywin’s cupbearer and the chemistry between them, and between Arya and Jaqen, is instantly crackling. The one main problem this episode has is the opening. Renly is killed by Melisandre’s monster in the first few minutes. It’s something that feels like it should be at the end, not the beginning. They give the episode-four-ender to Mel birthing the shadow demon, which is understandably a good knockout punch, but I’d be in favor of shifting the order so episode four ends with Renly dying and Brienne’s and Catelyn’s escape.

31. The Old Gods and the New (2×06)

Hey, remember when Joffrey had feces thrown at him? I do, too. Good times. It also has the High Septon being literally ripped apart by a vengeful mob and the equally graphic Ser Rodrik execution. I am a sucker for when minor characters like that are given a time to shine amongst the numerous talented main players (see also: Yoren’s final stand). Arya has her second Harrenhal kill in Amory Lorch who gets a dart to the neck right as he knocks on Tywin’s door to rat her out. Lord Baelish also makes a pilgrimage to Harrenhal to chat with Tywin and it’s a very tense scene as Arya is trying to hide her face from the man who could identify her. The cool thing is we never really get a definitive answer if he recognizes her or not. That’s one of the great things about Littlefinger; he could have pegged her as Arya the moment he walked in the room, but he never lets on. His love of Catelyn and his protectiveness of her daughters give him incentive for keeping the secret.

30. Sons of the Harpy (5×04)

If the future of the Meereen storyline already rests on the shoulders of Tyrion and Varys, then I can see why Barristan was chosen for an early death. I wish we got more time with Barry the Bold, but there are worse ways he could have been taken out. The Faith Militant, meanwhile, was rushed into the Gestapo role a bit too quickly for my liking, but I chalk that up to a long and complicated storyline that was squeezed into a compressed season. Their tactics lack the subtlety that you usually see in Game of Thrones, as does Melisandre’s very HBO-ish seduction of Jon. She doesn’t need to bare her breasts to be seductive. Sometimes keeping things hidden is more effective. “Sons of the Harpy” ranks this high because of Jaime and Bronn’s Dornish adventure and the Stannis/Shireen moment. It’s a wobbly installment but mostly wobbles on the good side.

29. The Night Lands (2×02)

This episode gives us our first, and best, appearance of Salladhor Saan! Lucian Msamati just kills it every time and he rivals Bronn for some of the best lines. Another great addition here is Balon and Yara Greyjoy. I never much cared for these characters when I read “A Clash of Kings” but the sets for Pyke look terrific and Patrick Malahide stole my attention whenever he spoke. I wish we could have spent more time there. You hear that, George, Benioff, and Weiss? The rest of the episode is pretty standard. Tyrion exiles Janos Slynt to the Wall for the bastard massacre, and Jon discovers Craster is sacrificing his babies to the White Walkers.

28. What is Dead May Never Die (2×03)

I really like the pit-stop at Camp Renly because the mentality of the characters in his corner of the kingdom, for as brief as it lasts, is so much different than any of the others. Renly – who has one of the best costumes by the way – is portrayed as the cool young king that the cool young hipsters like. They’re referred to as the Knights of Summer because they are young and itching to fight, having never experienced true winter. So there’s this carefree atmosphere to it all, even as we know dark things are on the horizon. Margaery wastes no time telling us that she is more complex and interesting than her book counterpart when she tells Renly she’s cool with him banging Loras so long as she can be the queen.

Tyrion plays a game with fellow Small Council members by telling each of them a different story about whom he wants to marry Myrcella off to. When Cersei angrily comes to him with one particular version, he knows Pycelle is the spy he needs to take care of. The three stories are spliced together to look like one continuous scene and it’s practically seamless. Great direction. Finally, Arya’s group is attacked by The Mountain’s men, which results in their capture and the heroic death of Yoren. It comes just moments after Yoren tells Arya how he was sent to the Wall and how he has learned to sleep at night despite the horrible things he’s seen. I mentioned how I love when these C-level characters get their one moment to steal the show, and Yoren is no exception.

27. You Win or You Die (1×07)

The bells chime for Robert Baratheon as our king is killed not by a sword, not by molten gold, but by a feral boar in the woods. From the moment he signs his last decree, it’s a tense road to the final minute as the state of the kingdom and our favorite characters are in doubt. Ned’s public stance against Joffrey lulls us into a false state of hope, because in one swift motion the City Watch turns on his men, and Littlefinger holds a knife to his throat, which was one of the big “Oh shiiiiiiit” moments I distinctly remember from the book.

Then there’s the introduction of Tywin as he skins a dead stag while talking war games. Charles Dance is one of the best castings the show has ever done, so kudos to that. Daenerys and Jorah thwart an assassination plot from a wine seller and Drogo gives a fiery speech to his fellow Dothraki about crossing the sea and killing those who want to harm his Khaleesi. But let’s not bury the lead: “You Win or You Die” has the notorious sexposition scene with Littlefinger and his whores. There’s going to be sex on HBO… Okay, fine, but do we need to have two girls pleasuring each other and moaning while Baelish narrates his most important character backstory just minutes before he turns the political tide of Westeros? Luckily, they never really do it to this degree again, but man, that was weird as hell.

26. The Bear and the Maiden Fair (3×07)

This is an annual George R.R. Martin-written episode, and surprisingly, the best part of it wasn’t even written by him. The bear fight at Harrenhal was originally in episode eight but was moved up at some point in post-production. It’s tough to show the danger of the situation without putting the actors in harm’s way, but overall I think they did a pretty good job. And damn, how great would it have been if they’d tossed Locke into the pit? The other highlight is Dany’s parlay with the emissary from Yunkai. In Astapor she used brute strength to achieve her goal, but now she can implement Teddy Roosevelt’s famous “speak softly but carry a big stick”-style of diplomacy. And what big sticks the Unsullied and the dragons are! By the way, give yourself a pat on the back if you correctly predicted I would use Game of Thrones to illustrate early 20th-century American foreign relations.

This is also infamously known as the episode where Ramsay performs the biggest cock-block ever in history…or perhaps cock-chop is the better word. Oh, and Tormund humps his backpack. George definitely wrote this one.