Every Game of Thrones Episode from Season 5 Ranked

by | June 16, 2015 | Comments

Now that Game of Thrones has completed its fifth season, arguably its bleakest and most controversial to date, we’re free to begin our annual period of mourning and/or withdrawal. Part of that process will inevitably involve looking back at everything we loved (and hated) about season five, and how better to facilitate that process than to see how each episode ranked against the others, according to the Tomatometer? Read on for a brief summary of events and the critical reception for every installment, from the spectacular to the controversial.  [WARNING: Minor spoilers below.]

Episode 8: "Hardhome" 100%

What Happens: As Arya takes on a new challenge in her training to become one of the Faceless Men, Sansa squeezes a confession out of Reek. Meanwhile, Tyrion and Jorah negotiate with Daenerys, and Jon Snow arrives at the wildling village of Hardhome, only to be confronted by an unexpected assault.

What Critics Thought: Following several episodes of setup, “Hardhome” blends a sharp script with spectacular blockbuster action to offer viewers a powerful, game-changing payoff.

Episode 3: "High Sparrow" 100%

What Happens: As Tommen and Margaery celebrate their wedding, Cersei makes a decision with far-reaching consequences in King’s Landing, while Stannis attempts to woo Jon Snow to his cause. Elsewhere, Littlefinger convinces Sansa to join the Boltons, if only for strategic purposes, and Tyrion’s journey to Mereen takes an unexpected turn.

What Critics Thought: “High Sparrow” expertly weaves together characters from Game of Thrones‘ sprawling stories, though the episode ultimately belongs to Jon Snow, whose new position highlights unexpected qualities.

Episode 4: "Sons of the Harpy" 96%

What Happens: As the Faith Militant dispense holy justice in King’s Landing, Jon Snow is again approached about joining Stannis, this time by a seductive Melisandre. Jaime and Bronn arrive in Dorne, but immediately find trouble, and as Tyrion continues his journey to meet Daenerys, she finds her own city under siege from within.

What Critics Thought: An episode that benefits from the intricate plotting of the previous three, “Sons of the Harpy” balances bloody action with illuminating character interplay.

Episode 5: "Kill the Boy" 94%

What Happens: At Winterfell, Brienne secretly puts plans in motion to rescue Sansa, who is surprised to be reunited with Theon. Meanwhile, Jon Snow makes a very unpopular decision about the wildlings, and Daenerys takes decisive action to secure peace in Mereen. Finally, Jorah leads Tyrion through a treacherous shortcut to Mereen.

What Critics Thought: “Kill the Boy” takes a fresh approach to themes of growth and change, using poignant storytelling to dramatize the challenges of making life-altering choices and struggles with power.

Episode 1: "The Wars to Come" 96%

What Happens: As season five premieres, Cersei mourns her father’s death and navigates a changing political landscape in King’s Landing, while Daenerys deals with a political choice of her own. Tyrion and Varys successfully arrive in Essos, and Jon Snow approaches Mance Rayder with a proposition.

What Critics Thought: A solid season premiere, “The Wars to Come” ratchets up the anticipation for inevitable bloodshed while deepening focus on characters and locales.

Episode 10: "Mother's Mercy" 92%

What Happens: In the season five finale, Stannis arrives at Winterfell and engages the Boltons in combat, while Sansa and Reek see an opportunity for escape. Cersei is made to atone for her sins in King’s Landing, and Arya defies the Many Faced God. Elsewhere, Tyrion is reunited with Varys in Mereen, while Jon Snow contemplates his fate at the Wall.

What Critics Thought: “Mother’s Mercy” wraps up a particularly dark Game of Thrones season with a finale that delivers strong character work and and a handful of appropriately bleak cliffhangers.

Episode 2: "The House of Black and White" 96%

What Happens: At the Wall, Stannis makes a tempting offer to Jon, who finds unexpected support as a candidate for Lord Commander, while Brienne and Podrick run into a familiar face in the Vale. Cersei and Jaime receive a threat from Dorne, while Tyrion and Varys set out for Volantis and Daenerys incites civil unrest in Mereen. Finally, Arya arrives in Braavos, but doesn’t receive the warm welcome she expected.

What Critics Thought: Building upon the season opener, “The House of Black and White” increases the intensity by calling upon some major characters to make some tough decisions.

Episode 7: "The Gift" 82%

What Happens: As Stannis presses onward to Winterfell in a snowstorm, Sansa begs Reek for help, to no avail. Jorah and Tyrion enter the fighting pits and encounter Daenerys, while Jaime attempts to reason with Myrcella. In King’s Landing, Olenna Tyrell attempts to free Loras and Margaery from the Faith Militant, who prove to Cersei that holy justice knows no bias.

What Critics Thought: “The Gift” is a jam-packed installment that delivers long-awaited plot turns in a satisfying manner, even though it continues a disturbing theme from the previous episode.

Episode 9: "The Dance of Dragons" 84%

What Happens: Arya’s training is sidetracked by an old enemy, while Jaime negotiates Myrcella’s return to King’s Landing. In the North, Stannis is sabotaged by Ramsay and makes a difficult personal decision, while Jon returns from Hardhome. In Mereen, a fighting tournament devolves into chaos and Drogon enters the fray.

What Critics Thought: Underscored by an especially heartwrenching moment and a spectacular display of power, “The Dance of Dragons” successfully delivers the shock and awe audiences have come to expect from the series’ penultimate episodes.

Episode 6: "Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken" 53%

What Happens: In Dorne, Jaime and Bronn are captured in their rescue attempt, while Jorah and Tyrion are taken by slavers en route to Mereen. Littlefinger and Olenna Tyrell separately arrive in King’s Landing for negotiations with Cersei, and Sansa marries Ramsay Bolton, only to quickly experience his cruelty.

What Critics Thought: Unbalanced storytelling and unnecessary, excessive brutality add up to disturbing viewing, although “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken” still includes enough plot revelations to offer hope for future episodes.