It’s been 10 years since the characters of George R.R. Martin’s fantasy epic moved out of bookstores and onto HBO film lots. During the show’s eight season run, we were entertained, thrilled, and in truth, sometimes infuriated. Thankfully, few series have concluded with a Change.org petition circulating the internet demanding the final season be reshot.
But while the show suffered from a disappointing climax (sorry, Grey Worm) there was so much awesomeness that came first. What better time than now to rank all of the Game Of Thrones seasons, from worst to best. Let’s get the former out of the way first…
8Worst: Season eight
When viewers spotted an errant Starbucks-branded cup of coffee in ‘The Last Of The Starks’, it didn’t just feel like a rare mistake made by the show’s otherwise stellar production team, but a metaphor for the whole sorry season. The final episodes are just so damn frantic. The details are lost in the bravado of it all. Gone is the commitment to world-building lore, in its place a succession of blockbuster moments – a bit like Michael Bay directing The Lord Of The Rings. Of all the main players, Daenerys – previously empathetic and thoughtful, now a one note mad queen – was done the dirtiest by Thrones‘ crazed rush to wrap things up. Bet the barista didn’t spell her name right on the cup either…
In truth, the race to the end – and the compromises to storytelling that came with it – started a season prior. There is much to like about the show’s penultimate run; Littlefinger gets his comeuppance, there is redemption for Theon Greyjoy, a zombie dragon, and get in, Hot Pie is back! But the pace of the thing is often vertigo-inducing. Seven episodes instead of the usual 10 didn’t help – and the less said about Ed Sheeran’s cameo, the better. Some fans claim it was the showrunners largely flying blind, with the writing now exclusively adapting George R.R. Martin’s ideas and not his written word, that did for the story. But what do they know?
How rad are the dragons? Randyll and Dickon Tarly aren’t fans.
Season five’s failings are amplified by coming hot on the heels of the show’s best instalment. It’s frequently very good television – just not great TV like the 10 episodes that came prior. Not only that, but as the show dials up its pace in its final two seasons, it’s hard not to look back on season five and think of all the time we spent pissing around in Essos and Dorne. There is also a lot of misogynist sludge too. Shireen is burned alive, Sansa is raped, while Cersei is forced to walk naked through the streets of King’s Landing under a hail of spit and abuse. It was as if Ramsay Bolton had joined the writing team.
How rad are the dragons? Ask the children of Meereen, we hear they’ve got a thing or two to say about Daenerys.
We’re approaching Game Of Thrones’ best era – but first the Three-Eyed fucking Raven. For its largest part, season six is remarkable TV. Now resurrected by Lady Melisandre, the heroic Jon Snow becomes the focal point of the show, providing an anchor to the widescreen storytelling absent ever since his dad’s head was severed from his body. And Sansa, after being put through the ringer since the moment she first appeared on screen, gets into My Chemical Romance (maybe) and becomes the shitkicking goth queen we never knew she could be. The death of Hodor is one of the show’s most emotionally wounding moments and the death of Ramsay as satisfying as you’d hope it might be. But Bran Stark, coming on like every ’90s indie kid moments after smoking their first spliff, for hours on end? That shit dragged.
How rad are the dragons? They sure scared the crap out of Tyrion!
In its pomp, Game Of Thrones was era-defining event TV. This is the season of ‘Red Wedding’ – the highpoint of this, and maybe every other GOT season. From the off(ing of Ned Stark’s head), Game Of Thrones had demonstrated that this was a show where anything was possible and that nobody was safe, and yet the execution of so many prominent Starks – at once! – was so sudden and so visceral, it conjured a cascade of emotions that confirmed its classic status. Despite this orgy of violence, season three is maybe the most wholesome GOT ever got. Jon and Ygritte melted viewers’ hearts, despite their chilly surrounds. While Jaime and Brienne’s road trip was Thelma & Louise with swords fights.
How rad are the dragons? Slaver Kraznys mo Nakloz’s killing by Daenerys’ youngsters is hugely satisfying – and, quite literally, fire.
Many are the TV hits that have fallen off a cliff after losing their biggest star, and yet while season two never really replaced him – Rob Stark is a man, but never THE man – Ned and his big lumpy vowels aren’t missed too much. Part of this is due to just how much there is going on – the epic Battle of the Blackwater is Thrones‘ first great battle – but also the rise and rise of the show’s best ever villain. At the dark heart of it all is the utterly detestable Joffrey – and he only gets worse! He is the kid at school who pulled wings off insects, an incel with a crown, and his presence ably fills the chasm of heroism.
How rad are the dragons? Not up to speed yet, but they make short work of Qarth warlock Pyat Pree
So much money, time and effort is routinely thrown at telly now, that the culture-quake Games Of Thrones made upon its arrival might not translate 10 years on. We’ll have a go. There’d been great television before GOT. There’d been big budget television too. But this was akin to a must-see summer blockbuster dropping every week, only with the writing of US drama at its best. As said prior, the death of Ned at the climax of the season – the show thereby killing off its only true bankable star, Sean Bean – laid out the show’s intensions from the off. But it’s the interplay between Varys and Littlefinger, the illicit union of Jaime and Cersei, the great love the Stark family share – the wrinkles of it all – that announced this was a show worthy of your investment.
How rad are the dragons? ‘Where are my dragons?!’ you might be moaning throughout this season. But fear not, they pop up (out of their eggs) by the end.
1Best: Season four
If you were to compile Thrones‘ Greatest Hits, it would look not unlike the show’s fantastic fourth season. Joffrey’s squalid death, Tyrion – whose “I will let the Gods decide” speech suggested that Peter Dinklage was perhaps the shows best thesp – murdering his dad on the toilet and Oberyn Martell losing his eyes to The Mountain’s thumbs were all highlights, but it’s the subtle nuances of the writing that spin the web that kept us hooked between the tentpole bloodshed. So often GOT was a show about pairs; Jon and Ygritte (who dies in Jon’s arms at the season end), Tyrion and Jaime, Jaime and Cersei (yuck) and perhaps best of the bunch, the unlikely couple, Arya and The Hound. A friendship built on hate, but that sees both characters grow and evolve.
How rad are the dragons? Well, Meereen’s going to need some new farmhands…