Spoilers for Game of Thrones season 1 – 7 ahead…
To the uninitiated, Game of Thrones may come off as a tad bit soap operatic. Especially when its followers come running up the way to express their utter shock to folks who know nothing of the series. I was once the latter before I saw the light of good television! Since the very first season, Game of Thrones has consistently delivered jaw-dropping moments that have left audience members in near-catatonic states by the end of its many, many episodes.
So with the final season just around the corner, we figured now is as good a time as any to recap all the crazy stuff that went down over the course of the show’s seven seasons. So grab a barf bag and a roll of paper towels because we’re running the ten most outrageous moments in HBO’s Game of Thrones.
10. A Family Affair
Season 7 Episode 7: The Dragon and the Wolf — It seems apt that our first choice on this list come from the latest season of the series. The series is no stranger to the subject of incest from Craster’s many daughter-wives to Jaime and Cersei’s not-so-secret relationship. But never in all my years watching the series would I have ever guessed Jon Snow joining the inbreed club!
Near the end of the episode, we hear Brandon Stark and Samwell Tarly discussing Jon’s true lineage as the one true heir to the Iron Throne. Interspersed between that conversation is another scene in which Jon sheepishly approaches Daenerys’ bedroom before getting intimate with the young conqueror. It is then revealed by Bran that Jon is actually the son of Lyanna Stark (Ned’s sister) and Rhaegar Targaryen (Dany’s brother)!
I have never been so confused and conflicted in my entire life. On one hand, I’m thinking, “Yes! Finally, they’re making some sweet music together…definitely a song of ice and fire (hehe).” While at the same time just cringing at the fact that Jon is screwing his aunty. It was just the perfect blend of romance, tragedy and melodrama to cap off the season. To be fair, a lot of us figured this out a long time ago but that certainly didn’t do much to downplay the shock factor. Well, at least we know one thing…Jon’s a family man.
9. Dragon Down
Season 7 Episode 6: Beyond the Wall — When Jon and company decide to head up North to retrieve a wight to negotiate an alliance with Cersei, things go south pretty quickly. At some point, the entire situation becomes the fantasy version of Black Hawk Down, as the remaining expedition crew, which includes Jorah, the Hound and Beric, fight on a small island on a frozen lake against an innumerable wave of the undead.
All seemed lost when suddenly (like really just out of nowhere) Daenerys arrives with her three dragons to wreck house on the horde of zombie soldiers. Things are looking up for our heroes, that is until the Night King decide to intervene.
He launches an ice javelin into the air and takes down one of Dany’s dragon, Viserion. It is a brutal sight as the javelin just shreds through the creature’s neck. Blood and fire was spraying out of his wound! For the longest time, we’ve thought Dany’s dragons invincible, that nothing could ever seriously hurt them.
This right here truly is a demonstration of the Night King’s power. No one is safe and death is coming for everyone. The best part is the guy is still not done, he just casually goes for another javelin to make it make 2 for 3. There was only one thing going through my mind at the time: ice dragon. The message is clear, do not mess with the Night King.
8. Right Through Rickon
Season 6 Episode 9: Battle of the Bastards — Ramsay bolton is an awful human being. Perhaps the most vile character in all the show. He has done many a sordid deed. From his continuous torture of Theon Greyjoy to the rape of Sansa Stark but none of them quite measure up to the horror we witnessed at the Battle of the Bastards. Ramsay played an utterly sick mind game that well should have been the end of Jon Snow and his Northern rebellion.
Before engaging them in open combat, Ramsay decides he’s going to release a hostage. It turns out to be Rickon Stark, Jon’s adoptive brother. He lets Rickon go only to start shooting arrows into the air in an attempt to pin the poor boy down. Jon realizing this rides out to meet Rickon in the open, to catch him before Ramsay can get to him.
The first arrow barely misses Rickon. The second is not even near the boy. We see the camera closing in on Ramsay as he takes his final shot, only to miss again. The visual language and the rule-of-three in tension structure implies that the danger is over. Then out of nowhere, in one loud sickening “splat”, we see a fourth arrow run right through Rickon, just a few seconds away from safety.
Knowing Game of Thrones, we should have expected this but the show in all its brilliance played with conflicting cinematography to give us a measure of false hope, much like Ramsay did. It’s ingenious, sick and revolting at the same time, not unlike that bastard.
7. Baby’s Got Blue Eyes
Season 4 Episode 4: Oathkeeper– For the most part, the first five seasons of Game of Thrones have mostly adhered to George R.R. Martin’s books. So for the longest time, fans of the book series have lorded over us TV plebeians. Annoying us to death by foreshadowing events in the book that have yet to make it to the show. However, the end of the episode “Oathkeeper” gave us a moment that NONE of us saw coming.
Earlier in the episode, one of the Night’s Watch mutineers left a baby in the woods with the purpose of appeasing the White Walkers into leaving them alone. One of the Walkers pick up the baby and brings him back to their ice fortress. At this point, I looked over at my friend, Janelle as she frantically searched for this scene in the books. Her mouth hanging open, without a single clue.
Then the White Walker places the crying baby upon an altar of ice as one of the thirteen figures gathered it walks towards the babe. The camera reveals the figure to be a White Walker with horns protruding from his skulls, distinguishing him from the others we’ve seen throughout the series. He is, you guessed it, the Night King. He places his finger on the child as his eyes turn into a dark, cold blue. The internet went nuts that night, speculating all over the place on who that horned being could have been.
For three seasons, the show has been parceling tiny morsels of information on the enigmatic White Walkers. Furthermore, the previous scenes with them were extremely brief. So to have this scary ass White Walker-turning-demon show up on screen seemingly out of nowhere came as a bit of shocker. It reminded us all that there is a greater threat going on beyond the War of the Five Kings at the time.
6. Bent and Broken
Season 4 Episode 8: The Mountain and the Viper — When Tyrion is placed on trial-by-combat for a crime he did not commit, he finds a defender in Prince Oberyn Martell of Dorne. The court has chosen Gregor Clegane aka The Mountain as their champion, which is exactly what Oberyn wanted. Long ago Clegane raped and murdered Oberyn’s sister Elia Martell before butchering her children. So for justice for Elia and Tyrion, Oberyn will duel the Lannister’s most deadly combatant.
Let me tell you something, that duel was crazy tense. At first, Oberyn taunts his prey, even taking some time to dazzle the crowd with a few flips and tricks, Then, he begins to go for the kill, jabbing and maneuvering with fantastic speed. All the while chanting “You raped her. You murdered her. You killed her children.” He manages to get the jump on Clegane, impaling him right on the chest. Things are looking good and then…he doesn’t finish the guy off.
He struts around the giant (not literally), demanding that he admits his crime only to get himself tripped up and right into the monster’s hand. Clegane bashes Oberyn’s face in with a single punch. It is some brutal ass shit with teeth flying everywhere. Then he gets on top of the guy, jamming his thumbs into his eyes before literally exploding the Dornish prince’s head. His face had more in common with a smashed watermelon than the sexy Pedro Pascal. Believe me friends, pillows were ripped that day. We’ve seen some crazy effed up things in Game but this is some next level Mortal Kombat stuff.
Season 5 Episode 10: Mother’s Mercy — the fifth season finale had some of the most gut wrenching moments in the entire show. From Cersei stripping down for her Walk of Shame to Myrcella Lannister getting poisoned by a Dornish kiss to Arya going blind for a period of time. That being said, there’ just one scene that edged them all out in the “What the hell!” department. As much as we believe in Valar Morghulis, there are just some characters we think untouchable. Chief among them being Jon Snow, the would-be king of Westeros and main protagonist.
Leave it to Game of Thrones to kick you in the balls and tell you that you’re wrong. In the final scene of the series, we see Olly (Jon’s trusty kid steward) call him down to inform him of a Wildling knowing the location of his missing uncle, Benjen Stark. Jon follows Olly but doesn’t find the Wilding.
He finds a sign reading “traitor” as Ser Alliser Thorne, Olly and three other members of the Night’s Watch proceed to take turns stabbing their Lord Commander. All while whispering into his ear: For the Watch. Jon falls over from his sustained injury, lying in a pool of his own blood. Jon’s lifeless eyes staring into the ether.
Back then, no one knew whether Jon was gonna freaking come back or not so you can imagine the panic and terror that washed through our faces. The last upstanding, righteous man in this all gods-forsaken continent had bitten the dust! People actually paused at the end to truly identify whether Jon was dead. That’s how much we needed him alive and how much we loved the guy.
4. Purple Wedding
Season 4 Episode 4: The Purple Wedding — Now we would be remiss to not mention everyone’s favourite punching bag, the asshole King Joffrey Baratheon. Long may he spin in his grave full of dragon shit. Before Ramsay made his hideous debut, Joffrey was the one everybody loved to hate. The boy had reached the climax of his dickery however on his wedding day to Margaery Tyrell.
The boy humiliates Tyrion, having him be his cupbearer, tripping him over as poor Tyrion tries to stomach the whole affair. It finally ends with Joffrey demanding that his uncle take a knee before him, to further add insult to injury. Margaery in an effort to quell her fiance’s rage, proposes that they all raise a glass to their wedding day. The whole thing just left us fuming with anger at that little shithead and then the most wonderful thing happened.
Joffrey begins choking and convulsing after he has a drink from his cup. It’s not the alcohol that’s getting to him though. He falls to the ground, unable to breathe as the Strangler, the poison in his drink, wrings the life out of him. Blood flows out of his nose as his face swells up. Cersei cradles that little turd in her arms as life leaves his bloodshot eyes. Thank the Seven, the king is dead!
Do you how long we’ve been waiting for this to happen? The answer: too long. So to see Joffrey go down at his most triumphant was such an unexpected and amazing catharsis. It was a nice change of pace to have the bad guys take a fall for once. I don’t say this much but…thanks George.
3. Eddard’s Execution
Season 1 Episode 9: Baelor — “The man who passes the sentence, should swing the sword.” Of all the tragedies to have befallen our favourites in Game of Thrones, Ned Stark’s unwarranted execution has got to be one of the greatest. The man was honourable in everything he did. Selfless, caring and most importantly, just. A rare breed of man in a world full of snakes and vultures. When Game of Thrones’ first season came out, we didn’t really know what to expect. All we knew was this was a show with plenty of fascinating court intrigue and entertaining power plays.
Nonetheless, I still assumed that this would be our standard medieval fantasy series. What happened in “Baelor” would set the tone for the rest of the show. Worried for the safety of his daughter in Lannister care, Ned falsely confesses to conspiring against the Lannisters in an attempt to seize the throne for himself. At first Joffrey decides to have Ned take up the black and join the Night’s Watch, as agreed upon with Cersei and Sansa. Then out of nowhere, the little asshole changes his mind!
Much to the disapproval of Sansa and his mother, he calls for Ned to be beheaded in front of the crowd. The sentence is carried out and a good man dies. This single act of cruelty would further claim more lives in the many battles and conflicts it would spark. The worst part is that the “king” didn’t even have the balls (or the muscles) to pass the sentence himself. This was an excellent way for the show to tell its audience what kind of program Game of Thrones is going to be. There is no room for honourable men in this game, only the most Machiavellian of the lot will live to see the next day. Rest in peace old friend and may the Old Gods give you the justice you deserve.
2. The Red Wedding
Season 3 Episode 9: Rains of Castamere — What is it with George R.R. Martin and weddings?! Does the guy just hate the whole concept of it? When Robb Stark, the former King in the North, arrives at House Frey to secure an alliance against the Lannisters, things seem to be going well. Frey, being a grumpy git, was offended at first that Robb would break his promise to marry his daughter, being betrothed to another. But ultimately he accepts the Young Wolf’s apology and counter offer to marry Edmund Tully, a royal of the Riverlands.
And so the two houses are united and celebrations are in order. For a time, the laughter is genuine and exchanges warm but right off the bat, there’s something sketchy about the whole thing. The band isn’t exactly playing a merry tune but rather the Rains of Castamere, an ancestral Lannister song to commemorate the time the Lannisters brutally slaughtered a rival family. Oh shit.
Lord Walder Frey stands up to give some meandering speech. Catelyn approaches one of Robb’s military advisor, Roose Bolton whom Robb has scorned in past instances. She pulls back his sleeve to reveal chainmail. Double oh shit! The bloodbath begins with a soldier stabbing Robb’s pregnant wife in the belly, killing both her and their unborn child! The Stark forces are ambushed and in moments, they’re all dead. Archers from the balcony rain darts down on them as the Freys and Boltons slit the throats of the Starks and all their allies.
It was ungodly. The Red Wedding has become a one of the most infamous scenes in TV history and solidified Game of Thrones’ cultural impact in media. After that episode, we thought there was no way the show could ever top the shock and awe of the Red Wedding. We were wrong.
1. Gone Home
Season 5 Episode 8: Hardhome — In my humble opinion, Season 5 was one of the weakest seasons for the show. It just seemed like the writers and showrunners were trying to drag out the final chapters of the book for as long as they could. So I didn’t really think much of it when Jon and the Night’s Watch were making their way down to the last remaining bastion of the Wildlings, Hardhome.
The Free Folk have been driven back by the ever growing army of the undead, so they gathered there to discuss the best course of action. Some of them opted to stay behind while others decided to go with Jon back to Westeros. Beyond a few brief altercations, nothing of much value happened and then…a storm came. It started off with a simple snow storm engulfing the outskirts of Hardhome as Wildlings fled the encroaching cold to enter through the refuge’s gate. There was muffled screaming before finally…silence. Then like lightning out of nowhere, the dead came rushing at the gates! That’s when the panic began.
The whole scene is a masterclass in suspense from the way they built tension with the weather before lighting the whole damn powder keg with desperate Wildlings fighting to get a spot on the boat as the Night’s Watch defend their post. And when things seemed at their worst…it got worse. He arrived. Like the freaking Horsemen of the Apocalypse, four white walker on mounted steeds watched from a cliff as the massacre occur down below. Among the four was the Night King, cold and fearsome.
By the end, Jon barely escaped with his life, watching from the ship as the other wildlings perished at the hands of the wights. Then, the Night King strode forward, staring dead at Jon from the shores. What happened next, chilled me to the very bone. He raised his arms and along with it with them, all the fallen had risen with eyes blazing blue. The episode ends with the survivors drifting off with the entire coast filled with the army of the dead. There was nothing but the sound of cold wind.
No moment since has ever come close to the shock, horror and sheer badassery of that scene. What a phenomenal way to make up for a lackluster season! What a bloody comeback, man! Scenes like Hardhome are the reason why I love Game of Thrones.
Game of Thrones Season 8 will premiere on HBO / HBO On Demand (uncensored version) on April 15 at 9am (MYT).