Back in 2013, I wrote a Top 5 TV Moments version of HBO’s epic fantasy series Game of Thrones. Since that article, the show has continued to go from strength to strength following its brilliant fourth series last year.
With Season Five set to start this coming Monday, I have decided to go back to my previous article and expand it into a Top 10 list with some new exceptional moments added on.
Cersei Lannister: “‘When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die.“
10 – Wildfire destroys Stannis’ ships
EPISODE: Blackwater (Series 2)
The countdown begins with the penultimate episode of the second series which saw Stannis Barratheon (Stephen Dillane) stake his claim for the Iron Throne by bringing an army of ships to attack King’s Landing. With the horrid King Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) failing to command authority to his soldiers, it was left up to his uncle Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) to try and rally the troops. The moment that ultimately puts Kings Landing in control comes when the dwarf leader gains help from a Maester who puts a special chemical into some explosives that have been loaded onto a small ship heading towards the army. One flaming arrow from Bronn (Jerome Flynn) causes the ship to blow up leading to many of Stannis’ boats being destroyed in the process. If ever there a scene worth watching on the big screen, it’s this one!
9 – Bran is pushed from the tower
EPISODE: Winter is Coming (Series 1)
Number nine focuses on the shocking last scene of the first ever episode as adventurous youngster Bran Stark (Isaac Hepstead-Wright) decides to go climbing up the tower at Winterfell. What he sees will ultimately change his life forever as he makes the ill-timed mistake of spotting Queen Cersei (Lena Headey) having sex with her brother Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). The consequences almost prove fatal for the unfortunate lad as Jamie commits a horrible act by pushing him out of the window to prevent him from telling other people about the affair but this only ends up sparking the chain of events that will soon follow. The shot of Bran falling to the ground is undeniably awful as the screen fades to black but luckily it doesn’t kill him. This particular moment made Jamie a hated figure in the Game of Thrones universe though some justice would come his way in a later clip from the list….
8 – Lysa Arryn’s death
EPISODE: Mockingbird (Series 4)
A more recent addition to this list comes from the intense final scene from ‘Mockingbird’ as the (very) unlucky Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) finds herself being confronted by her crazy Aunt Lysa (Kate Dickie) after she wrongfully accuses her niece of being in love with new husband Petyr Baelish (Aiden Gillan). Lysa’s psychotic side finally comes out in full flow as she angrily grabs Sansa and threatens to force her to fall through the dreaded ‘moon door’. The cunning Petyr ends up coming to Sansa’s rescue by calming his new wife down but the moment he approaches her makes it clear to the audience what will happen. As she smiles at his admittance that there is only one woman he could love, it all comes crashing down on her as he finishes by saying “Your sister”. The look of sheer horror on her face is very brief and concludes with him sending her flying through the moon door as she screams in terror. A little cruel but given that her previous actions led to the Stark vs Lannister war, it was a priceless moment to savour for us fans.
7 – Jamie Lannister loses his hand
EPISODE: Walk of Punishment (Series 3)
After making the callous decision to push Bran Stark out of the tower window in the first ever episode, Jaime Lannister (Coster-Waldau) had to suffer some consequence for his actions. That was to come early in Series 3 as his love/hate relationship with female knight Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) culminated in him making the honourable decision to save her from being raped by a group of Bolton men by telling notorious gang leader Locke (Noah Taylor) about her supposed heritage. Unfortunately his moment of humanity would result in another classic ending scene as Locke decides to show Jamie whose boss by cutting off his hand much to the Kingslayer’s horror. Though most of us cheered at this payback, we would soon find ourselves surprisingly sympathising with the character as he would later show guilt about the way his life has turned out during his emotional scenes with Brienne. You’ve got to hand it (excuse the pun!) to Coster-Waldau for making us feel for Jamie with his understated performance during that storyline and it’s remarkable to think that he has now become one of the more endearing characters of the show.
6 – Daenerys takes control of the Unsullied
EPISODE: And Now His Watch is Ended (Series 3)
A lot of you probably know by now how much I desire Daenerys Targaryen and her real-life counterpart Emilia Clarke! The blond-haired beauty won me over in her first ever scene (for obvious reasons) but rather than being seen as eye candy, she would go on to develop as a character. From being a vulnerable young princess intimidated by her nasty brother Viserys, she has since gone on to become the authoritative and powerful leader we have come to love. Several moments were considered for the character including the birth of her dragons and the death of Viserys but the choice I went for was her bad-ass attack on Kraznys and his city in Series 3. Having been insulted for a couple of episodes by the slimy trader through his Valyrian tongue, Dany reveals her secret awareness of the language when handing him one of her dragons. Chaos ensures as the Khaleeshi takes control of her new army before reigning terror on Kraznys and the masters by releasing her dragons and watching on as they burn the city. The resulting scene of the Queen of Dragons marching out with her intimidating army showed just how far the young queen had come since her early scenes but hopefully her arrival at Westeros will happen very soon!
5 – Tyrion’s trial speech
EPISODE: Of Gods and Men (Series 4)
When it comes to great acting moments, perhaps the best performance on the whole show has come from the unfortunate Imp himself, Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage). He won over many supporters from the people of King’s Landing for his heroic leadership during the Battle of Blackwater in the second series but that would all be forgotten in Series 4. When the dwarf lord is wrongfully accused of poisoning his horrid nephew King Joffrey, he stands trial before his enemies including father Tywin (Charles Dance). Initially he has his name slandered by those who have crossed paths with him but none of the witnesses seem able to link him to the murder. However things take a cruel turn when his prostitute lover Shae (Sibel Kekilli) makes a shock return and decides to testify against him. The heartbroken look on Tyrion’s face says it all as he finally snaps and unleashes a fury of insults towards those who have betrayed and ridiculed him before demanding a trial by combat. Dinklage’s magnificent performance in that scene was truly award-worthy thus proving that his work throughout the whole series deserved both Golden Globe and Emmy award success.
4 – Joffrey’s death
EPISODE: The Lion and the Rose (Series 4)
No TV villain death has been more cheered and celebrated than that of the cruel King Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) at last year’s ‘Purple Wedding’. Having been responsible for Ned Stark’s death and bullying near-enough everyone he shared a room with, winter finally came for the vile youngster in only the second episode of the fourth series. After marrying the beautiful Margery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer), Joffrey proceeded to further humiliate his former fiancee Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) and uncle Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) by making them watch a group of dwarves reenact of the battle of the Iron Throne. The final few minutes would produce plenty of suspense as we yearned for someone to silence the little shit. Thankfully his reign of terror would come to a gruesome end courtesy of some poisoned wine given to him by Tyrion. The violent choking and vomiting would normally be off-putting to some viewers but a long, painful death is exactly what the young King deserved even if it did lead to Tyrion being wrongfully accused of killing him. After what happened at the infamous ‘Red Wedding’, fans knew that any future ceremonies on the show would lead to death but this time around, it was a moment to savour for Joffrey haters who finally got the justice they wanted! However it also meant losing the services of a talented young actor in Jack Gleeson who had made the character so despicable!
3 – Ned Stark’s execution
EPISODE: Baelor (Series 1)
Those of us who hadn’t read the Song of Ice and Fire books probably thought that leading character Ned Stark (Sean Bean) would become the hero of the show especially when discovering Joffrey’s (Jack Gleeson) secret parentage in the first series. Even after being arrested for treason and placed in a dungeon, we still thought that he would come out of it all unscathed. But author George.R.R Martin had other ideas for the penultimate episode as he set up the scenario of Ned having to grovel to Joffrey and the counsel in front of the public (as well as his daughters Sansa and Arya). Initially things seemed to be working well for the honourable lord as he pledged his loyalty to the young king with the initial punishment being exile to the Night’s Watch. But a cruel twist of fate saw the evil Joffrey deciding to punish Ned more violently by sentencing him to death much to the horror of his daughters. For the umpteenth time on screen, Bean was killed off, via a beheading with the shot quickly changing as his head was about to be cut off. Joffrey became a hated figure for many viewers though he would eventually get his just deserts later in the series (see my number four moment!). The unexpected turn left fans of the show horrified unlike the book readers who already knew of his eventual fate. From then on, no Game of Thrones character was ever safe though Ned wouldn’t be the only Stark to suffer a grisly demise….
2 – Oberyn Martell vs The Mountain
EPISODE: The Mountain and the Viper (Series 4)
Falling short of being my favourite moment of the entire series was a scene that left me breathless but also nursing a big ‘headache’ afterwards. Following his trial outburst, Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) makes the bold demand of having a fateful trial by combat but is disappointed when his original choices Jamie Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Bronn (Jerome Flynn) are unable to help him. Instead his champion ends up being the flamboyant Oberyn Martell (Pedro Pascal) who agrees to fight for the Imp as he looks to avenge his family’s deaths at the hands of his brutal opponent, the Mountain (Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson). During the breathtaking duel, Martell taunts the warrior with his spear and his bad-ass demands (“Raped her! You murdered her! You Killed her Children!”) about confessing to his crime but fails to get much response other than some loud grunts. When the Dornish Prince finally knocks his rival to the ground and pierces him, it looks as though Tyrion will finally be saved from his ordeal. But in the world of Game of Thrones, nothing ever works out well as Oberyn’s failure to finish off the Mountain results in one of television’s most gruesome deaths via a horrible head-crushing (full credit to the makeup department for the work on that head!). Ellaria Sand’s traumatised scream sums up the moment as poor Tyrion’s fate looks to be sealed much to the pleasure of his cruel relatives. This tense scene was a real ‘eye-opener’ for those unfortunate enough to witness it but once again, it showed how devious this great series could be in avoiding heroic cliches.
1 – The Red Wedding
EPISODE: The Rains of Castamere (Series 3)
In the end, the number one moment of Game of Thrones is also without a doubt one of the most horrifying scenes in television history with not one, not two but THREE well-known characters being killed off in the climatic last five minutes of the Rains of Castamere episode. All seems well at the wedding banquet hosted by the deceitful Lord Walder Frey (David Bradley in vile form) as Catelyn (Michelle Fairley), Robb (Richard Madden), pregnant Talisa (Oona Chaplin) and the Stark representatives celebrate the aftermath of the ceremony. However the mood changes as the music switches to the eerie “Rains of Castamere” theme which leads to Cate figuring that something horrible is about to happen. Upon discovering that right-hand man Roose Bolton (Michael McElhatton) is wearing chained armour, she tries to warn her son about what is going on only for a Frey henchman to approach pretty Talisa from behind and stab her repeatedly in the stomach much to the complete horror of those of us watching at home. Archers then unleash their arrows on Rob and his mother with several guards slaying the other Stark people while Lord Frey watches on. Poor Arya (Maisie Williams) almost gets caught up in the massacre but still endures the trauma of watching Robb’s direwolf get killed off. But it is the madness inside that devastates us as Cat takes a stand and grabs Frey’s young wife with the intent of killing her unless he lets Robb go. Unfortunately, the repulsive lord shoots down the threat and has Robb finished off by Bolton leading to her anguished cry of sorrow before she too is killed off by a guard. Huge credit must go to Martin and the show’s creators for changing the climatic tone of this episode from jubilant celebration to devastating heartbreak within the space of a few minutes. Kudos also to the likes of Michelle Fairley and David Bradley for their immaculate character portrayals throughout. The sooner winter comes for Frey and co, the better! Even a couple of years after the episode was broadcast, the sequence still appalls us but it’s that memorable that many (including myself) will always hail it as the show’s greatest ever moment.