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We are mere days away from what will most likely be one of the biggest entertainment events this year coming only behind Avengers: Endgame. Thrones’ fans have collectively waited almost a decade for the conclusion to this epic story. While we wait just a little longer, lets take a look back on each individual past season. Check out our rankings of each season from least to greatest.
7. Season 2 (2012)
Highs: Brienne of Tarth intro, Ja’qn Hagar, Ygritte, Ghost birth Stannis
Lows: Everything Theon, Robb Stark’s hubris, marriage to Talisa, Everything Cat Stark
When you truly examine it, Season 2 of Game of Thrones is a real grind to get through. It introduces a myriad of necessary players all important in their own right but nevertheless it was the beginning of the show’s attempt to naturally balance all of these crucial storylines in an effort to set up further plot points beyond this season. It maintained a blink-and-miss-it approach to all character’s motivations and arcs and attempted to leave viewers on a semi-high note with the Battle of Blackwater towards the end of the season.
Season 2’s importance to the overall series cannot be stated enough but that doesn’t make it good or even great in terms of its rank against the other seasons. The Robb/Cat dynamic is almost unforgivable with how poorly the characters are framed as pressure towards them continues to mount forcing them to make dumb decisions. Full Disclosure: Upon rewatch, I enjoyed watching Ramsey mess with Theon so badly.
6. Season 6 (2016)
Highs: Sansa’s development, Battle of the Bastards, Ramsey’s Hounds, R+L=J, the name “Dickon”, Sept of Baelor meets wildfire
Lows: Rickon’s inability to zig-zag, Dany/Dothraki plot, Mereen’s upheaval, High Sparrow, Everything Tommen
The biggest gripe with Season 6 that landed it this low in our rankings was its wasted time with Dany and the Dothraki people. It’s understood Why she had to ultimately win them back after the death of her first husband, but the build up to the final moment in the fire feels unnecessary. On the other side of the narrow sea, Tommen continually displays his ineptitude at ruling as he is manipulated by both his mother and the High Sparrow by way of their new convert, Margaery Tyrell.
The major saving grace of this season is easily the “Battle of the Bastards” which pitted Jon against a fully formed Ramsey Bolton (formerly Snow) but overall the entire season offered little in comparison to others in my opinion. Great things happened, but its lack of consistency or even balance between episodes caused us to long for the more exciting moments while enduring the slower ones.
5. Season 3 (2013)
Highs: Thoros of Myrh, “The Rains of Castamere”, The Red Wedding, Edmure Tully intro, Podric and the ladies
Lows: King Joffrey, Karstark’s disobedience, Oren, The Boltons, Martin Lannister (same actor who becomes Tommen)
Sure, you can easily point to The Red Wedding as one of the pinnacle moments in the entire series but do you remember having to get there within the season? It was difficult! Robb clearly demonstrates he’s not the story’s hero by the countless immature decisions he makes never once even hinting at the potential to become that which fans were craving only to be murdered in spectacular fashion and leaving us to remember how much time we’ve wasted listening to his speeches of duty, honor and being the rightful heir…blah, blah, blah.
It also felt as if so many other storylines of this season were set up only to be paid off several more seasons later. “We promise, more is coming…just not this season. And oh, by the way, we’re gonna murder some pretty important people just so you are left for an entire year to wonder what the heck is going to happen next.” (That’s if you stay away from the books until then.)
4. Season 1 (2011)
Highs: Syrio Forel, Lyanna Stark references, Joffrey’s heritage, “Baelor”, The Mountain vs. his horse, Bronn
Lows: “Baelor”, Cat kidnapping Tyrion, Everything Theon
Ultimately, the middle ranking had to go to a season that didn’t quite blow us away but also didn’t flat out bore us to death. What’s been interesting over the years is the first season’s increasing importance to the character’s, specifically the Starks, who are still alive at this point in the story. Nevertheless, to get to that important place we first had to endure a 10 episode exercise in world-building.
This isn’t so much a complaint but an observation of an essential necessity to better appreciating the series as a whole because it all starts with these first 10 episodes. However, its slow burn isn’t lost and in a binge-age of viewing it made a difficult lesson in patience. Still, as someone who has only committed to watching the show and not diving into the books, the brass set on the creators to kill off the only major player with a redeeming quality in its penultimate episode was a television moment that essentially melded a fan base.
3. Season 5 (2015)
Highs: Sam/Gilly coitus, Myrcella payback, Zombie Mountain, Harhome, Janus Slynt death, Maggie the Frog
Lows: Sons of the Harpy, Bran, Faith Militant, Mance Rayder’s death, Shireen’s demise
For most of the season, anything south of the wall seemed to be spinning its storytelling wheels in anticipation of the North catching up. The Faith Militant was a horrible irritant introduced into King’s Landing that only proved worse as the season progressed once you realized that none of its arc would be resolved in this season. The similar argument could be made for the Sons of the Harpy as well. Their existence was essential for Dany’s growth and provided an emotional investment for fans as realizing that Dany’s claim for the throne isn’t just another string of words and birthright but something that is earned. Still, how the Sons, a bunch of aristocrats, could bring down Sir Barristen Selmy is baffling.
What’s even more impressive is Season 5’s ability to lull you into a sense of security with all of the major players as their stories crawl forward. You feel as if the worst of it is all behind you regarding character deaths and betrayals leaving a new group to build a better future….and then Ollie shows up. The final shot of Season 5 as the camera sits above a murdered Jon Snow only to cut to black is one of the best moments of the entire series and surpassed The Red Wedding or Baelor as the biggest mouth-drop.
2. Season 7 (2017)
Highs: Jon’s heritage, Jon+Dany, Littlefinger’s death, beyond Eastwatch, the Dragon Pit
Lows: Cersei, Euron, Tyrion as The Hand, Tyrion as a 3rd wheel, Thoros R.I.P.
With such a long wait in-between season 6 to this one, each episode proved worthy as they wonderfully and masterfully built upon themselves culminating in a spectacular finale. Contrary to some, the disregard for time when it came to traversing Westeros and the Narrow Sea and characters moving from location to location wasn’t that big of a deal. It helped create a hyper-focus towards the progression of the story by favoring on-screen matchups and interactions between characters that fans had been longing to see.
The season was a complete success that provided many moments filled with drama, action, humor and yes…death. The finale did a wonderful job at managing expectations by delivering on the conclusion of some storylines as well as leaving a glimmer of hope mixed with a shred of doubt for the wars to come.
1. Season 4 (2014)
Highs: The Purple Wedding, the Moon Door, Tywin’s bowel movement, Queen of Thorns, Lysa/Petyr coitus(w/Sansa hearing), The Mountain vs The Viper, Brienne vs The Hound
Lows: Sansa/Boltons, Tywin, Tommen
There could be no other place the fourth season than in the top spot because post-Red Wedding the only place to go is up and this season managed to do so while slowly moving the needle back towards favoring the “good guys” allowing them to hit back after spending much time with villains prevailing. From its first moments, everything felt wide open in terms of where the story could take us and for much of the season it was left undecided just who would emerge on top in terms of power as the Game was clearly evolving.
The stakes were suddenly higher and all of the old guard that we came to understand as the voices of reason for their respective sides were dead. For the first time, it was their children making the decisions and left to sift through the rubble of the world that their elders left as an inheritance. Season 4 doesn’t feature any large scale battles or clever twists but it is easily the most consistent season of the series with something momentous occurring in almost every episode. We would be lying if the last image of Joffrey at his wedding didn’t help us sleep at night.
Our rankings might differ from yours but as we continue to count down the days/hours/minutes until the Season 8 premiere we can come to an understanding and joint appreciation that the entire epic that is Game of Thrones has occupied a significant portion of our TV-viewing lives and all will be resolved in little over two months. Here’s to wishing that your favorite character survives when all is said and done. Seven blessings to you all.