Let’s get serious about this. Best episodes are not best scenes, best battles, best characters or even best story arcs. Practically every episode contains at least one amazing moment; this is Game of Thrones we’re talking about, the best show in the history of TV.
But a top ten-worthy episode has to be at the absolute top of its game from the clockwork map to the jaw-dropping fade to black. Acting, writing, lighting, music, good or bad CGI — we’re assessing all of them in this list.
After an obsessive study of the first 60 episodes, I can confirm one thing: Game of Thrones is at its best when it takes a breather. Overstuffed episodes that check in with every character the length and breadth of Westeros, but barely move any chess pieces of plot forward, run together in the memory. Time and rewatching are not kind to them.
The more an episode took its time to be dramatically satisfying on its own terms, the more likely it was to stick in the mind and make this list. Let’s all draw our flaming swords of disagreement and charge in.
10. ‘Home’ (Season 6, Episode 2)
Credit to showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss: working without the net of an original George R.R. Martin novel for the first time, as they did in “Home,” could have been hugely problematic. Especially when they were left to answer the question of whether Jon Snow could be brought back to life after his assassination or not.
Spoiler: of course he could. Why else was Melisandre and her Red Magic hanging around Castle Black? But their choice to leave him on a slab for two episodes, and to let us think the Red Woman had failed — linger on the corpse for a minute, eyes open, big gasp, fade to black — was probably the most gripping way possible to resolve the Snow death crisis.
More importantly, by that point we were awash in satisfying new plot threads. ‘Home’ gave us Max Von Sydow’s perfect take on the Three-Eyed Raven; it plausibly introduced Bran Stark’s ability to time travel via tree to visit both young Ned Stark and young Hodor. Given how much was riding on us buying that concept, this was no mean feat.
Meanwhile we got Tyrion’s teary-eyed first encounter with his beloved dragons, as well as Ramsay Bolton’s most shocking and psychotic murders (his father, stepmother and newborn brother). The episode threw Balon Greyjoy off a rope bridge and had the wildlings successfully invade Castle Black to overthrow Jon’s murderers. How could it do all of this and not feel rushed? TV magic.
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