From jokes to serious interactions, the stars of “Game of Thrones” talk about what it’s like when asked about spoilers.
USA TODAYWhich episode of “Game of Thrones” reigns supreme? Ahead of the very last episode of the epic HBO series, we ranked all 72 episodes from worst to best. The night may be dark and full of terrors, but “Thrones” is dark and full of some brilliant episodes, some terrible and several mediocre ones.Don’t walk alone with winter coming: All the news, recaps, thoughts and plot analysis right to your inbox72. Season 5 Episode 6: “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken”The infamous “Sansa rape scene” episode provided a narrative choice that mired “Thrones” in controversy and lost some fans. Even without the horrific ending, “Unbowed” is dull and lazily written, featuring the show’s worst fight scene ever, between Jaime, Bronn and the Sand Snakes.Sophie Turner as Sansa Stark and Alfie Allen as Theon Greyjoy in the “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken” episode of “Game of Thrones.” (Photo: Helen Sloan/HBO)71. Season 4 Episode 3: “Breaker of Chains”Speaking of controversial rape scenes, “Chains” includes Jaime’s rape of Cersei that makes no narrative sense and is gratuitously brutal. That’s enough to sink it in the rankings, but the episode is also slow and full of non-events.More: ‘Game of Thrones’ is actually about millennials70. Season 2 Episode 2: “The Night Lands”Despite introducing great characters like Gilly and Pod, “Night Lands” is a grating episode and includes one of the show’s most pointlessly exploitative sex scenes, as Littlefinger watches oral sex through a keyhole, and the tedious Greyjoy storyline begins.Maisie Williams as Arya Stark in “The House of Black and White” episode of “Game of Thrones.” (Photo: Macall B. Polay/HBO)69. Season 5 Episode 2: “The House of Black and White”It’s not always fair to compare the series to the George R.R. Martin books on which it’s based, but Jon Snow’s election as Night’s Watch Lord Commander is a lame footnote here compared to the triumph it represented in the books. The episode also includes several more underwhelming moments, from the introduction of Dorne to Brienne and Sansa’s run-in.68. Season 6 Episode 2: “Home”Did you know that Jon Snow didn’t really die? Oh my gosh! The question that dominated pop-culture conversations for a year is answered in the most anticlimactic way possible, when Melisandre resurrects him with little to no consequences in a far too understated scene.67. Season 4 Episode 4: “Oathkeeper”Do you remember that Bran was captured by the Night’s Watch mutineers in Season 4, and that Locke was trying to kidnap him? Yeah, let’s all forget that, thanks.66. Season 1 Episode 2: “The Kingsroad”The series’ second episode has to continue the task of the premiere, setting the stage and introducing characters, and it all starts to get a bit tiresome. The pace is excruciatingly slow leading up to the confrontation between Joffrey and Arya. But we can thank this episode for providing the GIF of Tyrion slapping Joffrey. Read: How ‘Game of Thrones’ went from everyday fantasy to a bonafide phenomenon65. Season 4 Episode 5: “First of His Name”Speaking of Bran and the mutineers, Jon comes to execute them in this episode, and Bran heads north instead of seeking out his brother, echoing a nearly identical scene from Season 3. “Name” also provides one of the series’ worst moments of telling instead of showing, when Lysa oh-so-conveniently explains that Littlefinger convinced her to poison her husband and start the war, for no one’s benefit but the audience.64. Season 5 Episode 5: “Kill the Boy”In this collection of rather odious actions from heroes and villains alike, Ramsay’s sadistic lover Myranda starts to taunt Sansa; Dany lets her dragons burn a Meereenese master; and Olly and the Watch traitors start to hate Jon. The script has nothing to balance all the unpleasantness.63. Season 5 Episode 3: “High Sparrow”Another joyless outing from Season 5, this episode launches the Sansa/Ramsay story, which, in addition to leading to the rape scene, also regresses her character three seasons, making her the same betrothed victim she was in Season 2.62. Season 8 Episode 5: “The Bells”The visuals, direction and the absolute commitment of the actors are the only things that keep this terribly written episode from being at the very bottom. The biggest problem with “Bells” is what it means for the endgame of the series (Mad Queen Dany, boring death for Cersei). But taken as a self-contained episode, it’s a stunning piece of television. 61. Season 2 Episode 1: “The North Remembers”The Season 2 premiere is a a letdown, a slow and overstuffed episode that tries to catch the audience up on too much at once. It spends so little time in any one location that it’s tough to re-embrace the characters we grew to love in Season 1.60. Season 5 Episode 4: “Sons of the Harpy”If you haven’t caught on yet, Season 5 was not a particularly good year for “Thrones.” This episode in particular is a collection of the stories that were never as exciting or as engrossing, from the big Sons of the Harpy attack that plays out like a sad brawl to the introduction of the Sand Snakes, the biggest missed opportunity in “Thrones” history.Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) is filled with rage at the death of one of her dragons as she rides her last remaining dragon. (Photo: HBO)59. Season 8 Episode 4: “The Last of the Starks”Season 8 has been a disappointment for fans in a multitude of ways, and the cracks in the storytelling started to show in this Frankenstein of an episode that felt like three different stories stuffed into one. In addition to some of the most frustrating logical lapses (how did Dany not see Euron’s ships as she flew to Dragonstone), it also pushed the rushed Mad Queen storyline to the front. 58. Season 6 Episode 4: “Book of the Stranger”This episode is probably the best example of the show’s weakness as it ages. Daenerys recycles the same trick from Season 1 – walking through fire – to escape her Dothraki captors, a scene that is meant to be momentous but offers nothing the audience didn’t already know. Tormund, Jon, Gendry, Jorah and Davos, ready to go beyond the Wall. (Photo: HBO)57. Season 7 Episode 5: “Eastwatch”The Northmen are grumbling about their chosen leader? Groundbreaking. This table-setting episode in Season 7 twiddles its thumbs before the big beyond-the-wall mission, repeating more old patterns and stories. 56. Season 2 Episode 7: “A Man Without Honor”This episode isn’t bad, just aggressively mediocre. Xaro Xhoan Daxos’s betrayal of Daenerys is predictable, as is Jaime’s murder of his cousin. Nothing about the episode pops, not even Theon’s fake murder of Bran and Rickon.55. Season 2 Episode 8: “The Prince of Winterfell”The writers spent a lot of time trying to endear the audience to Robb’s illicit love, Talisa, without success. The couple finally gives in to their mutual attraction in this episode, but the scene is grossly sentimental. Although their union eventually causes the Red Wedding, the couple’s romance falls decidedly flat.54. Season 5 Episode 1: “The Wars to Come”Like other season premieres, “Wars” is mostly a casual check-in to remind viewers who’s alive and where they are without much else going on except, perhaps, when Jon saves Mance from being burned at the stake.53. Season 3 Episode 10: “Mhysa”A bit of a letdown after the Red Wedding, “Mhysa” is mostly remembered for its awkward and unfortunate white-savior moment, when Daenerys is hoisted up by the former Meereenese slaves, who are mostly people of color.52. Season 1 Episode 3: “Lord Snow”The beginning of Season 1 was often both excruciatingly slow and overstuffed, which made the entire season seem a bit unbalanced. “Lord Snow” introduces a dozen or so major characters, including Littlefinger and Ser Alliser, but wastes time on a seemingly endless scene in which Robert tells war stories to Jaime and Barristan.51. Season 3 Episode 1: “Valar Dohaeris”The Season 3 opener fails to deliver on the promised battle between Mormont’s Night Watch garrison and the White Walkers. Perhaps it was a budgetary consideration, but it’s a disappointment nonetheless, and another insignificant “speed around the world” premiere.More: ‘Game of Thrones’ merch, ranked: From awful to awesome50. Season 6 Episode 3: “Oathbreaker”“Oathbreaker” is an episode of lazy conveniences. It’s convenient, to make the story work later in the season, that the Three-Eyed-Raven prevents Bran from following Ned into the Tower of Joy; that the Umbers decide to give up Rickon and Osha to Ramsay; and that Qyburn is able to charm Varys’s “little birds.”49. Season 7 Episode 6: “Beyond the Wall”“Beyond” sums up the big problem with Season 7: Elevating spectacle over narrative logic. (How does Gendry run to the Wall so fast? Why don’t the wights follow him? Where do the Walkers get a giant chain?) The episode is a cool idea that was thrown together with little regard for every episode that came before. The character work and dragon vs. walker battle are what save the episode from ranking lower on the list. 48. Season 6 Episode 1: “The Red Woman”The Season 6 premiere, despite Brienne’s rescue of Sansa and Melisandre’s big reveal, is overshadowed by the Jon Snow question, as the writers invent reasons not to burn his body, and to get Davos to defend him.47. Season 5 Episode 7: “The Gift”Another middling Season 5 episode that doesn’t move the story, “Gift” includes pointless Sand Snake nudity; Sansa’s continued abuse at Ramsay’s hands; Stannis’s men caught in the snow; and Olenna unable to influence the High Sparrow.The Tarly family dinner did not, shall we say, go particularly well(episode 6). (Photo: HBO)46. Season 6 Episode 6: “Blood of My Blood”This episode is a great showcase for Sam, who returns to Horn Hill to confront his terrible father. But it’s undermined by the ending, in which Dany rallies the Dothraki she’s already rallied just so we can see a dragon again.45. Season 7 Episode 7: “The Dragon and the Wolf”The last episode for nearly two years, and the last before the final season, “Dragon” is wildly disappointing. The King’s Landing summit is underwhelming and the Jon and Dany romance is forced and will likely be undone as quickly as it was manufactured. The final sequence, as the White Walkers are marching beyond the Wall, is a visual mess that’s hard to follow.44. Season 8 Episode 3: “The Long Night”Many of the series’ battle episodes are at the very top of this list, which only made the long-anticipated clash between the living and the dead at the Battle of Winterfell all the more disappointing. The poorly-lit, poorly-directed and overlong episode fell flat, and was only partially rescued by Arya’s surprise victory at the end. 43. Season 3 Episode 3: “Walk of Punishment”Starting here, the episodes move from mediocre to middling, often with some of the best sequences followed by some of the worst. In “Walk” writers brilliantly introduce Edmure and the Blackfish but try too hard to make Talisa a thing. It never works. 42. Season 8 Episode 1: “Winterfell””Thrones” returned after nearly a two-year hiatus for its final season with more of a whisper than a bang, offering a table-setting season premiere that was merely average. Although reunions and revelations were necessary and sometimes welcome, overall the episode was a little slow. 41. Season 7 Episode 2: “Stormborn”Season 7 has a wealth of reunions and disparate characters meeting for the first time, and “Stormborn” does both well, from Arya visiting Hot Pie to Varys oozing hatred at Melisandre. However, a few scenes – including one with Dany questioning Varys’s loyalty, weeks too late – seem forced.40. Season 4 Episode 1: “Two Swords”There are moments when “Swords” feels radically different from the “Thrones” before it, and given the massive change brought on by the Red Wedding, it only makes sense that the series should strike a different tone. Notably, there’s a strong focus on the Lannisters, which is jarring but sensible.39. Season 3 Episode 6: “The Climb”Jon and Ygritte’s summit of the Wall is one of the series’ most terrifying sequences, and this episode shows off Rose Leslie’s (underrated) talent. The episode ranks lower on the list because of the way the writers throw away Ros, a character who was never developed in the way she deserved.38. Season 1 Episode 5: “The Wolf and the Lion”Season 1 really gets going in Episodes 4 and 5, and this one introduces some of its bigger ambitions, like Ned and Jaime’s fight in the streets of King’s Landing, with neither holding back. Also RIP Jory Cassel, one of the only purely good characters in “Thrones” history.37. Season 7 Episode 3: “The Queen’s Justice”The long-awaited meeting of Jon and Dany is, well, fine. This is the first episode in which people and armies seemingly teleport around Westeros, a contrivance that undermines the established narratives. But Olenna’s last scene is one for the ages.36. Season 2 Episode 5: “The Ghost of Harrenhal”Nothing’s particularly wrong with this Season 2 episode, in which Renly dies, Brienne swears her oath to Catelyn and Jaqen begins his kills for Arya, but nothing’s particularly exciting about it, either.35. Season 6 Episode 8: “No One”This solid outing is one of the series’ funnier episodes and features several gratifying moments: Arya beats the Wraith, Brienne and Jaime reunite and Dany gets back to Meereen, finally ready to fight.Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister in “The Laws of Gods and Men” episode of “Game of Thrones.” (Photo: Helen Sloan/HBO)34. Season 4 Episode 6: “The Laws of Gods and Men”It’s hard to believe Peter Dinklage won an Emmy for playing drunk Tyrion in Season 5 but not for the aching performance he gives here. His trial sequence is well done and the episode might be higher on the list if not for Stannis and Davos’s lethargic trip to Braavos, and Yara’s nonsensical failed rescue attempt of Theon.33. Season 2 Episode 4: “Garden of Bones”One of the weirdest and most horrifying “Thrones” episodes, “Bones” is forever remembered as the one where Melisandre gives birth to the shadow demon baby. It’s almost enough to make us forget the scene where Dany refuses to show her dragons at the gates of Qarth, probably because it would be too expensive to animate them.32. Season 5 Episode 10: “Mother’s Mercy”A good finale for a bad season, “Mercy” helps pull “Thrones” out of the quagmire of Season 5, getting Sansa out of Winterfell and allowing Brienne to execute Stannis – a bit of justice in the hard, cruel world. And yes, it’s the one with “shame, shame, shame.”31. Season 2 Episode 6: “The Old Gods and the New”This episode, in which Theon takes Winterfell and the King’s Landing peasants riot, is unpleasant, but it’s the sort of smartly done misery that moves the story along well. But it has a major flaw in Dany’s much-parodied “where are my dragons?” scream, doing nothing to improve her boring Qarth plot.Natalie Dormer as Margarey Tyrell, and Jack Gleeson as Joffrey Baratheon in the “Game of Thrones” episode “Dark Wings, Dark Words.” (Photo: Helen Sloan/HBO)30. Season 3 Episode 2: “Dark Wings, Dark Words”Although we’ve seen bits and pieces of Margaery’s political brilliance before, her skill is truly on display in “Wings,” as she ably seduces and manipulates Joffrey. The episode also includes Jaime and Brienne’s incredible fight on the bridge, a single combat sequence that’s perhaps only bested by Brienne’s other great fight, with the Hound in Season 4.29. Season 4 Episode 7: “Mockingbird”“Mockingbird” is a fairly typical “table-setting” episode – Oberyn agrees to fight for Tyrion, and Brienne learns where to look for Arya – except for the shocking ending, when Littlefinger throws his meal ticket, Lysa Arryn, through the Moon Door right in front of Sansa.28. Season 1 Episode 8: “The Pointy End”This episode does double duty, setting up so much of the later seasons while simultaneously upping the tension for this one: Jon kills his first wight; Syrio Forel dies defending Arya; Dany fights slavery for the first time; and Robb calls his banners.27. Season 5 Episode 9: “The Dance of Dragons””Dragons” includes one of the series’ most horrific moments – Stannis burning Shireen at the stake – and one of its most triumphant, Drogon rescuing Dany from the fighting pits. One is too horrible to watch, and the other is beautiful to behold. The combination in one episode is a microcosm for series as a whole.26. Season 2 Episode 10: “Valar Morghulis”Like many other “Thrones” finales, “Morghulis” is about picking up the pieces from a major event, in this case the Battle of the Blackwater. It does so quite well, including one hilarious and inspired moment where Tywin Lannister’s horse defecates just before the ceremony honoring him. Never was there a better metaphor for politics.Isaac Hempstead-Wright as Bran Stark in the “Game of Thrones” episode “Winter is Coming.” (Photo: Nick Briggs/HBO)25. Season 1 Episode 1: “Winter is Coming”The very first episode of “Thrones” is a pacing mess when you revisit it after all these years, but it accomplishes the overwhelming task of introducing some 20 characters, disparate locations and the stakes of the series, both supernatural and human.24. Season 3 Episode 8: “Second Sons”As depressing as “Thrones” can get, it offers rare moments of triumph, like Sam’s defeat of the White Walker, a scene in which the biggest shock is the courage of a coward, rather than murder or mayhem. On the far more cringeworthy end of the spectrum is Sansa and Tyrion’s disastrous wedding.23. Season 1 Episode 4: “Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things”From here, we start to get to the really good episodes that rise above a solid B grade into A territory. After three introductory episodes, “Thrones” properly hits its stride as the characters settle into their new locales, tensions between the Starks and the Lannisters mount and we get to know these people.22. Season 7 Episode 1: “Dragonstone”One of the few Season 7 episodes that exhibits patience, “Dragonstone” opens a season with the usual check-in with characters around the world. Dany’s, however, is a powerful silent scene in which she and her armies land on Dragonstone and she touches Westerosi soil for the first time. It’s one of the most anticipated moments of the series, and is carried out with understated grace.21. Season 2 Episode 3: “What Is Dead May Never Die”Season 2 is an absolute treat for Tyrion fans. The youngest Lannister sibling rules as Joffrey’s Hand with more savvy than anyone but his own father. His cleverness is shown off in this episode in a jaunty, hilarious sequence, as he gives conflicting information to different sources to suss out Cersei’s spy.20. Season 3 Episode 7: “The Bear and the Maiden Fair”Seasons 2 and 3 do wonderful work with Jaime’s path to redemption, but it isn’t until he dives into the bear pit to save Brienne that he becomes a figure worth rooting for. The rescue is a glorious sequence.19. Season 4 Episode 10: “The Children”One of the few finales that goes all out, “The Children” is a monumental episode that’s devastating on scales both intimate and large. It includes the Hound and Brienne’s combat, Tyrion’s heartbreaking murders of Shae and Tywin and Bran’s arrival at the Three-Eyed-Raven’s cave. There is no scene or moment that isn’t packed with meaning, emotion or both.18. Season 6 Episode 7: “The Broken Man”The Hound was absent for a season and a half, but his epic return is well worth the wait. Helped by a guest appearance from the wonderful Ian McShane, whose Brother Ray is the only man who could possibly soften old Sandor Clegane.17. Season 5 Episode 8: “Hardhome”Many fans might rank this episode much higher, but once you get over the surprise of the White Walker battle, the cracks in the technical craft surface. The sequence is often visually messy and confusing. That said, an OK battle scene on “Thrones” is vastly better than a good one in any other series.Natalie Dormer as Margarey Tyrell and Jack Gleeson as Joffrey Baratheon in “The Lion and the Rose” episode of “Game of Thrones.” (Photo: Macall P. Polay/HBO)16. Season 4 Episode 2: “The Lion and the Rose”The Purple Wedding, when Joffrey is poisoned at his nuptials with Margaery, is the opposite of the Red Wedding, in that it’s horrific from beginning to end. The long, unrelenting lead-up to Joffrey’s frothing demise is strained but expertly executed, so that when the little sociopath’s life finally ends, it’s a huge relief. But Tyrion’s implication in the murder makes that relief woefully fleeting. 15. Season 3 Episode 5: “Kissed by Fire”Not all of the best episodes have battles, deaths and dragons. Sometimes it’s love and intimacy that makes “Thrones” great, as in this episode that sees Jon and Ygritte consummate their love while Jaime bares his soul for Brienne. “Kissed” is the kind of hour that makes grandiose and fantastical “Thrones” feel personal and relatable.14. Season 1 Episode 7: “You Win or You Die”This episode gets its title from Cersei’s famous line, “When you play the game of thrones you win or you die, there is no middle ground,” which serves as a mission statement for the series. It’s here that the dangers of the game are thrown into (ahem) stark relief, as Ned makes mistake after mistake that lands him in a dungeon.13. Season 8 Episode 2: “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms”Before Season 8 started go off the rails, “Thrones” aired this quiet, contemplative episode that threw most of its main characters together in a castle and let them get drunk and philosophical. The rare moment in the final season that focused on character instead of baffling spectacle, “Knight” is a reminder of how the series excels when it takes a pause. Gwendoline Christie as Brienne of Tarth on ‘Game of Thrones.’ (Photo: Helen Sloan, HBO)12. Season 7 Episode 4: “The Spoils of War”In “Spoils,” “Thrones” finally lets the all of its dragon fire free, and the horror Drogon unleashes on the Lannister army is a sight to behold. The sequence is claustrophobically directed, never letting you get away from the fire and the screams. Seeing terror in the eyes of Bronn and Jaime, the seasoned, cynic warriors, is perhaps scarier than the dragon itself.11. Season 1 Episode 6: “A Golden Crown”“Crown” gets lots of little things right, from Bronn’s trial by combat for Tyrion to the wildling attack on Bran to, of course, a death by molten gold. Viserys Targaryen is the first major character to die on “Thrones,” and the scene set a high standard for killing off characters in ways both shocking and meaningful.10. Season 6 Episode 9: “The Battle of the Bastards”This episode is famous for the unbelievably brutal battle, a sort of “Saving Private Ryan” moment for the series. It’s not that “Thrones” was ever shy about the horrors of war, but “Bastards” outdoes them all, accumulating mountains of bodies and suffocating pits of limbs, displaying some of the series’ most grotesquely striking visuals.Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen in the “And Now His Watch Has Ended” episode of “Game of Thrones.” (Photo: Keith Bernstein/HBO)9. Season 3 Episode 4: “And Now His Watch Is Ended”“Thrones” has unleashed dragon fire nearly a dozen times, but at no point did Daenerys’s dragons let loose to greater effect than in her liberation of the Unsullied, a sequence that launched a thousand memes and pulled the Mother of Dragons out of a season-long stupor.8. Season 6 Episode 5: “The Door”In a series where deaths are as common as drinking and sex, it’s difficult for any one killing to have emotional resonance. But no one’s passing hits harder than Hodor’s, the sweet, simple giant who dies in the present while being simultaneously destroyed in the past. 7. Season 1 Episode 10: “Fire and Blood”This episode will long be remembered for the iconic image of Dany emerging from the ashes of her husband’s funeral pyre, unharmed and clutching three baby dragons. But it also deserves praise for the deft way it handles the aftermath of Ned’s death, setting up the show to succeed without its leading man.Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson as The Mountain and Pedro Pascal as Oberyn Martell in “The Mountain and the Viper” episode of “Game of Thrones.” (Photo: Macall B. Polay/HBO)6. Season 4 Episode 8: “The Mountain and the Viper”After four seasons of death and brutality, “Thrones” writers still fooled fans into believing the good guy could win out if his cause was just. But “Thrones” is not that kind of show. Oberyn’s fight against the Mountain might seem like a David and Goliath victory, but instead it’s a (literally) crushing defeat.5. Season 6 Episode 10: “The Winds of Winter”This episode is all about the elegant and breathtaking opening, in which Cersei destroys the Sept of Baelor and her hundreds of enemies within it. Scored to melodic strings, the sequence is executed to perfection, building toward the explosion yet finding one more rollercoaster drop with Tommen’s suicide. That Daenerys also finally sails for Westeros is simply the cherry on top.4. Season 1 Episode 9: “Baelor”For most of its run, “Thrones” has saved its biggest battles and most jaw-dropping moments for the ninth episode of the season, which means its best episodes (and our top four) most often come right before the finale. Cutting off Ned Stark’s head was the coming-out party for “Thrones,” announcing the series would do anything and kill anyone – even its top-billed protagonist – in the name of storytelling. Later seasons would lean much too far in the direction of shock for its own sake, but when Joffrey ordered Ned’s head off it was a singular moment of terror and tragedy. It also showed remarkable restraint, filmed through Arya’s eyes and artfully keeping the moment of violence offscreen, which made it all the more terrible in viewers’ imaginations.3. Season 4 Episode 9: “The Watchers on the Wall”“Watchers” could have been a mere rehash of Season 2’s “Blackwater,” but it’s an entirely different animal. The best battle the series has portrayed, “Watchers” is a cold and bloody examination of omnipresent “Thrones” themes of love, duty and honor, pitting Jon against the woman he loves as he and the Night’s Watch defend Castle Black against Mance Rayder’s wildling army. This battle is one of the few to focus on infantry rather than commanders, and the deaths of Pyp and Grenn are among the series’ most affecting, even though they were minor characters.Oona Chaplin as Talisa, Richard Madden as Robb Stark and Michelle Fairley as Catelyn Stark in “The Rains of Castamere” episode of “Game of Thrones.” (Photo: Helen Sloan/HBO)2. Season 3 Episode 9: “The Rains of Castamere”Everyone remembers the end of this pivotal episode, the infamous Red Wedding sequence in which Robb, Catelyn, Talisa and the Stark army are slaughtered by Roose Bolton and the Freys, but the entire hour is a masterstroke. For most of the episode, the good guys prevail, as Dany takes the slave city of Yunkai, Jon escapes the wildlings and Arya finally gets close to her family, which only makes the bloodbath at the Twins more affecting. “Castamere” didn’t just change the course of “Thrones”; it raised the bar for what we expect from our TV shows.A scene from the “Blackwater” episode of “Game of Thrones.” (Photo: HBO)1. Season 2 Episode 9: “Blackwater”“Blackwater” is a torrent of emotions and violence, a complete and satisfying story on its own. The first “Thrones” hour to stay entirely in one location, it chronicled Stannis’s assault on King’s Landing missing no detail. The episode began the series’ smart pattern of building up to battles by taking time to focus on characters big and small, allowing its nonviolent conflicts to continue in the shadow of swords and steel. The episode is full of brilliant moments, from Joffrey forcing Sansa to kiss his sword to Cersei’s drunken rants to Tyrion’s profanely inspiring address to the troops. One massive green explosion aside, it’s also surprisingly low-tech, relying on impeccable acting and writing for its intrigue instead of dragons or white walkers. It’s a masterful example of exquisitely slow-built tension, followed by bittersweet relief.AutoplayShow ThumbnailsShow CaptionsLast SlideNext Slide Read or Share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/tv/2019/03/25/game-thrones-best-episodes-ranked-hbo-game-of-thrones-season-8-jon-snow-daenerys/3232057002/