Every Game of Thrones fan knows by now that the season “finale” isn’t really that. It’s more of a formality than anything. The true fans know that each season’s 9th episode is where the shitteth is bound to hitteth the fan…eth. These episodes tend to be the strongest of the series, the lone exception being Season 4’s “The Viper and The Mountain” and as a result, draw some of the best and most hard hitting moments from the series.
But, in the grander scheme of things, just how awesome have these been in terms of setting up each respective season’s formality finale. Here’s my ranking of each 9th episode of the series, ranked from worst to best.
Once again, this is one angry guy on the internet’s opinion. Don’t take my ranking as gospel. Argue with me, that’s how discussions happen.
Obviously SPOILER WARNING. So if you don’t want to find out that Jon Snow is secretly Tyrion Lannister’s tall clone or that Bran Stark is the 13th Doctor, I’d wouldn’t suggest reading any further.
#6 – “The Dance With Dragons” (Season 5)
Season 5 was the furthest thing from a weak season. We saw Jon elected Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch and the House of Black and White for the first time, as well as witnessing Cersei finally get what was coming to her. However, “The Dance with Dragons“, when held up against the other 5 ninth episodes (this is going to get confusing soon) it just doesn’t offer much. I mean, Drogon comes back and Dany flies away…stalling her Westeros return even longer. It probably doesn’t help that “The Dance with Dragons” was preceded by “Hardhome” and followed by “Mother’s Mercy“, two of the series’ strongest episodes so far.
Although the pit sequence was a strong string of fights, when held up against the previous battle against the Night’s King at Hardhome and the shame walk and murder of Jon Snow in “Mother’s Mercy“, this episode was pretty forgettable, and felt more like filler than a penultimate Game of Thrones episode should. That being said, it still ranks among one of that season’s best, so a “worst of the best” kind of scenario really.
#5 – “The Rains of Castamere” (Season 3)
Now this is where I get skewered from ear to ear and turned into a Cannibal Corpse song but hear me out, then you can do all of the skewring you want. Again, as far as Season 3 goes, “The Rains of Castamere” ranks fairly highly. It’s where television audiences saw the Game of Thrones universe turned on its head, killing off a whole slew of major characters…and Catelyn Stark (by far the series’ most irritating and frustrating character).
What ranks this episode so low on this list is the fact that well…it didn’t affect my cold White Walker heart as much as I thought it did. It was also really hard to feel bad for Catelyn Stark and her son Robb when both of them had made so many awfully terrible and downright stupid mistakes. It just got to the point where I couldn’t feel sorry for those characters anymore. Still, as episodes go this one was fairly decent and the impact that the Red Wedding had on the Game of Thrones universe is still fairly valid, so it lands a little higher than “The Dance with Dragons.” Now, if you’ll excuse me, all of tumblr are coming after me.
#4 – Baelor (Season 1)
At this point in the series, fans kind of new what to expect. What we didn’t know was just how mental George RR Martin really was (I had read the books at this point so his unpredictability was still a fresh and exciting thing to me, now it just has me living in fear). “Baelor” sees Season 1’s central protagonist Eddard Stark imprisoned, thinking he’s off to join the Night’s Watch, followed swiftly by his execution at the hands of the impish King Joffrey Baratheon.
Game of Thrones had taken the show’s main draw and gone “oh him? nah” and decapitated him without a second thought. Most audiences would have given up on a show at this point, but this is what properly hooked people in. It displayed that Game Of Thrones would pull no punches, and set it on the path to becoming one of THE most enticing and unpredictable shows on television. And we hadn’t even seen any battles yet.
#3 – Blackwater (Season 2)
My top three on this list are all battle centric. Not very surprising. Moving swiftly on. “Blackwater“was the first major battle sequence that we had experienced in the series, and it set an extremely high bar. From a great build-up, including Tyrion getting all badassly armoured up and putting his master plan for defeating Stannis’ fleet into action.
We get to see Joffrey being a wimp, The Hound bashing in the skulls of any Baratheon soldier he lays his eyes on, and Tyrion being a pretty outstanding general and basically saving the city.
I had only started reading the books at this point, and the atmosphere and tension was replicated perfectly for this episode. “Blackwater“ would be higher on this list, if it weren’t for the two big battle scenes since then. Still, this is where it all started!
#2 – Battle of the Bastards (Season 6)
The most recent addition to the list, and one of the most popular episodes to date, “Battle of the Bastards“ is one of television’s finest hours to date, and a real high point for the series. For me, it all comes from the excitement of being a book-reader and not knowing what was going to happen. That and watching Jon Snow beat the living snot out of Ramsay was worth all of that pondering over the summer of wether he was dead or not.
The frame where Jon Snow full on Leroy Jenkinsed himself to face the combined Bolton and Karstark force, only to be interrupted by his own Wildling army, would put most movie battle scenes to shame. That and if the last three seasons have proved anything, Game Of Thrones is at it’s peak when Jon Snow is going full-on Westerosi Wolverine and swinging his sword round like a whirling dervish, slicing down anybody who gets in his way.
Also, watching Sansa get her own back was a pretty good moment and looked like we’d actually get some payoff from Tyrion and Danaerys’ story. All-in-all a very well rounded episode. There was only one that could top it.
#1 – The Watchers On the Wall (Season 4)
I’m going to level with you here: The siege of Castle Black was and currently still is my absolute favourite point of “A Storm of Swords” (the third book in the series). Next to Tyrion’s trial by combat (taking place in this season’s eighth episode, LOOK IT UP) it’s one of the most cathartic, fast paced and emotional moments of the series.
Simply put, it’s a whole episode dedicated to Night’s Watch at the Game Of Thrones saga North of The Wall (a good decision as getting this in fragments would have taken forever). We got to see Jon “get what earned when he earned it” and fully take control of the Night’s Watch, moulding and forging his time with the Wildlings, his killing of Qhorin Halfhand and his constant shit taken at the hands of Alliser Thorne into a hardened steel exterior. This episode also sees Ygritte’s death (and so far the death of the only romance I’ve ever cared about in Game Of Thrones) and also the start of Ollie’s descent into the deep pit of devious beedy-eyed little shits (but he’s dead now, so isallgood).
As “finales” go, I feel that this is where Game Of Thrones set their already high bar, and with the way things are progressing, I can only guess that we’ll see more of these…well…I hope we do.
So there’s the list. Obviously there’s some curveballs there, and anybody that knows me will say that this is a very “me” list. For all I know, “The Dance With Dragons” could be your favourite episode and that’s fine! Or it could be “The Rains of Castamere“ in which case I’d say you were sadistic and should probably seek medical attention. Overall, I think we can all agree that each ninth episode of a Game Of Thrones season sets it up for some hard-hitting action, some big ol’ giant twist, or “The Dance With Dragons.”
Ya’ll take care now