Game of Thrones

(Photo by Helen Sloan/HBO)

Earlier this month, HBO announced its month-long “Iron Anniversary” – a celebration marking 10 years since Game of Thrones premiered on the service on April 17, 2011. The premium cable network/streaming giant has also recently announced a slew of Game of Thrones spin-offs that will keep fans of George R.R. Martin’s dragon-filled tomes and the original TV adaptation satisfied for the next 10 years. At least. (First in line: a prequel taking us back 300 years from the events of Thrones to a very turbulent period for the Targaryens called House of the Dragon.)


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So, we’ve got fire and ice on the brain this week. Which was a perfect reason to go back in time ourselves – just two years, mind – to the time when the very last episodes of Game of Thrones arrived on HBO: an, um, turbulent period for fans of the series, many of whom began season 8’s six-episode run with expectations soaring and ended it in a state WTF disbelief. Story arcs felt rushed, they complained, and characters were taking very out-of-character turns; meanwhile, even the best moments were marred by questionable creative choices. (How much better would “The Long Night” have been if we could have actually seen it?).

Just how much did fans dislike the final season? Its Audience Score sits at just 30%, and critics were only slightly more generous, with their reviews combining to form a Tomatometer score of just 54% – the only Rotten score for any Game of Thrones season. (And it was a big drop from previous years: Every other season is Certified Fresh with a score of at least 90%.)

But was season 8 really that bad? Did a few wrong moves overshadow a whole ton of awesome moments? Was Bran really that terrible a choice for the Iron Throne? That’s what we’re asking in the latest episode of podcast Rotten Tomatoes Is Wrong (A Podcast from Rotten Tomatoes). Joining hosts Jacqueline Coley and Mark Ellis this week is Andres “Ace” Cabrera, co-founder of YouTube channel First Cut and co-host of podcast The Meaning Of. Will he be House Rotten Tomatoes… or tear that Tomatometer score down like some suddenly unhinged dragon queen laying waste to a city and all the innocent civilians who dwell there? Tune in to find out.



Check in every Thursday for a new episode of Rotten Tomatoes Is Wrong (A Podcast From Rotten Tomatoes). Each week, hosts Jacqueline and Mark and guests go deep and settle the score on some of the most beloved – and despised – movies and TV shows ever made, directly taking on the statement we hear from so many fans: “Rotten Tomatoes is wrong.”



If you have a suggestion for a movie or show you think we should do an episode on, let us know in the comments, or email us at rtiswrong@rottentomatoes.com.


Meet the hosts

Jacqueline Coley is an editor at Rotten Tomatoes, with a focus on awards and indie coverage but with a passion for everything, from the MCU to musicals and period pieces. Coley is a regular moderator at conventions and other events, can be seen on Access Hollywood and other shows, and will not stand Constantine slander of any kind. Follow Jacqueline on Twitter: @THATjacqueline.

Mark Ellis is a comedian and contributing editor for Rotten Tomatoes. He currently hosts the Rotten Tomatoes series Versus, among others, and can be seen co-hosting the sports entertainment phenomenon Movie Trivia Schmoedown. His favorite Star Wars movie is Jedi (guess which one!), his favorite person is actually a dog (his beloved stepdaughter Mollie), and – thanks to this podcast – he’s about to watch Burlesque for the first time in his life. Follow Mark on Twitter: @markellislive.


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In 2019, Rotten Tomatoes turns 21, and to mark the occasion we’re celebrating with a series of features that look back at the brightest moments on screen of the past two decades – and one year – and the things that have us excited for the future.

Game of Thrones is the latest title in the history of era-defining television – Seinfeld, Friends, The Sopranos – to reach its conclusion. Now that we know more – that Dany’s visions of the Red Keep at the House of the Undying so many years before was about ash, not snow, for one – some of the standout moments that brought us to this conclusion become clearer as well. We also talked to director Alan Taylor about a few of the epic scenes he oversaw. Read more of our interview with Taylor here.

Below are 21 of the biggest moments in the series’ eight seasons. Don’t like our picks? Take our poll or tell us your top moments in the comments.


21. “Hodor”

(Season 6, Episode 5: "The Door" 98%)
Directed by: Jack Bender
Written By: David Benioff, D.B. Weiss
The Moment: Bran wargs into Hodor to help fight the wights invading the Three-Eyed Raven HQ. When Bran and Meera are safely out the door, she pleads with Hodor to “hold the door” – a refrain that young Hodor hears in Bran’s time-travel realm, forever changing the character.
MVP: Kristian Nairn
Why It’s On the List: Understanding how Hodor came to be afflicted was hugely satisfying, harrowing, and unforgettable.


20. Cleganebowl

The Hound versus the Mountain in Cleganebowl in season 8, episode 5 of Game of Thrones, "The Bells" (HBO)

(Photo by HBO)

(Season 8, Episode 5: "The Bells" 49%)
Directed by: Miguel Sapochnik
Written by: David Benioff, D.B. Weiss
The Moment: The Hound finally faces off one-on-one against his brother.
MVPs: Rory McCann, Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson
Why It’s On the List: It’s the battle royale that fans had been clamoring for, and the series did not disappoint.


19. Battle of Blackwater


(Season 2, Episode 9: "Blackwater" 100%)
Directed by: Neil Marshall
Written by: David Benioff, D.B. Weiss
The Moment: Tyrion summons all of his bravery and leads the King’s Landing forces against Stannis’ army.
MVP: Peter Dinklage
Why It’s On the List: Dinklage’s delivery of Tyrion’s speech: “Those are brave men knocking at our door. Let’s go kill them.”


18. The North Remembers


(Season 6, Episode 10: "The Winds of Winter" --; Season 7, Episode 1: "Dragonstone" 93%
Directed By: Miguel Sapochnik; Jeremy Podeswa
Written By: David Benioff, D.B. Weiss
The Moments: We’re cheating a little here, combining two moments — one season’s finale and the next season’s opening — into one. First, Arya Stark shows us what epic vengeance looks like when she plays the role of serving wench to feed Lord Walder Frey two of his sons, Black Walder and Lothar Frey, in a pie in season 6’s finale. Then in season 7’s premiere, she sports the face of Lord Frey to poison his brood of murderous sons with wine. She peels off the old man’s face and turns to his stunned wife: “When people ask you what happened here, tell them the North remembers. Tell them winter came for House Frey.”
MVPs: Arya Stark, David Bradley
Why They’re On the List: At the time, the extermination of House Frey was Arya’s bravest and most brutal move yet.


17. Cersei’s Walk of Atonement


(Season 5, Episode : "" --)
Directed by: David Nutter
Written by: David Benioff, D.B. Weiss
The Moment: Cersei finally escapes imprisonment by the High Sparrow by agreeing to his walk of atonement.
MVPs: Lena Headey with Hannah Waddingham as Septa Unella
Why It’s On the List: It was an unforgettable turn of fortunes for Cersei.


16. Jaime Pushes Bran from the Tower

Game of Thrones, season 1, episode 1, Jaime Lannister, Bran Stark screencap (HBO)

(Photo by HBO)

(Season 1, Episode : "" --)
Directed by: Timothy Van Patten
Written by: David Benioff, D.B. Weiss
The Moment: Climbing a Winterfell tower, Bran Stark happens upon the queen, Cersei, having sex with her twin, Jaime. The latter pushes Bran from the tower hoping to permanently silence him.
MVPs: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Isaac Hempstead Wright
Why It’s On the List: Jaime’s act set the tone for the series to come: no one is safe.


15. The Execution of Littlefinger

Game of Thrones: Episode 67 (season 7, episode 7), debut 8/27/17: Maisie Williams, Aiden Gillen, Isaac Hempstead Wright. photo: Helen Sloan/courtesy of HBO

(Photo by Helen Sloan/HBO)

(Season 7, Episode 7: "The Dragon and the Wolf" 88%)
Directed by: Jeremy Podeswa
Written by: David Benioff, D.B. Weiss
The Moment: Sansa Stark puts Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish on trial at Winterfell and sentences him to death for his crimes. Arya carries out the sentence.
MVPs: Sophie Turner, Aiden Gillen, Maisie Williams
Why It’s On the List: Machiavellian Littlefinger – the man who betrayed Ned Stark in season 1, then traded Ned’s daughter Sansa to the Boltons – finally gets the end many thought he long deserved.


14. Mountain Vs. the Viper

Viper versus Mountain, Game of Thrones (HBO)

(Photo by HBO)

(Season 4, Episode 8: "The Mountain and the Viper" --)
Directed by: Alex Graves
Written by: David Benioff, D.B. Weiss
The Moment: Accused of regicide in the death of his nephew Joffrey Baratheon, Tyrion Lannister opts for trial by combat. Cersei chose violent, cruel, and massive Ser Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane as her champion. Tyrion named his brother, skilled swordsman Jaime, to fight for him, but was refused because the elder Lannister was far away fighting in the Riverlands. Because the Mountain raped and killed Elia Martell and murdered her children, her brother, Dornish prince Oberyn Martell – “The Viper” – steps up to defend the former acting hand of the king. Instead of a triumphant victory, he gets his eyes squished out of his head after taunting The Mountain.
MVPs: Pedro Pascal, Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson, Indira Varma
Why It’s On the List: One of the series’ most gruesome moments, the Viper’s death was the eye-squishing that shocked the world. The events lead to a complete breakdown of the Martell family’s rule over Dorne. The Viper’s lover, Ellaria Sand, stages a coup of the kingdom-state, murdering Prince Doran Martell, and later allies with Daenerys Targaryen.


13. The Purple Wedding (Death of Joffrey)


(Season 4, Episode 2: "The Lion and the Rose" 100%)
Directed by: Alex Graves
Written by: David Benioff, D.B. Weiss
The Moment: Olenna Tyrell facilitates the poisoning of cruel King Joffrey at his wedding to her granddaughter Margaery Tyrell.
MVP: Jack Gleeson
Why It’s On the List: After 31 episodes of Joffrey, “The Lion and the Rose” provided fans with a brutal end to the kingdom’s first vicious, idiot king.


12. The Murder (and Resurrection) of Jon Snow


(Season 5, Episode 10: "Mother's Mercy" --)
Directed by: David Nutter
Written by: David Benioff, D.B. Weiss
The Moment: Several disgruntled Night’s Watch brothers, led by Alliser Thorne, lure Jon Snow into a corner of Castle Black’s courtyard and take turns stabbing him.
MVPs: Kit Harington, Owen Teale as Alliser Thorne, Brenock O’Connor as Olly
Why It’s On the List: Another Stark family death that no one saw coming – based on the show’s history, there was no reason to think that a Stark would come back – except the Red Woman. Melisandre’s presence rightly gave viewers hope that Jon would be resurrected, but they would have to wait until season 6 to find out.


11. The Trial of Cersei Lannister

(Season 6, Episode 10: "The Winds of Winter" --)
Directed by: Miguel Sapochnik
Written by: David Benioff, D.B. Weiss
The Moment: Don’t remember Cersei’s trial? That’s because there wasn’t one. The Queen Mother blew up the Great Sept of Baelor – and one-fourth of King’s Landing along with it – with wildfire rather than submit herself to examination by the High Sparrow and his righteous thugs.
MVPs: Lena Headey, Dean-Charles Chapman, Natalie Dormer, the VFX team, editors, and composer Ramin Djawadi
Why It’s On the List: Cersei’s simmering glee, Queen Margaery’s desperate terror, the green plumes of ignited wildfire, and King Tommen’s utter devastation after the explosion – all accompanied by Djawadi’s haunting score – added up to a beautiful symphony of treachery, mayhem, and death.


10. The Wall Falls


(Season 7, Episode 7: "The Dragon and the Wolf" 88%)
Directed by: Jeremy Podeswa
Written by: David Benioff, D.B. Weiss
The Moment: Beric Dondarrion and Tormund Giantsbane are on hand to witness a terrifying and historic moment for the Seven Kingdoms – and for fans of the show – when the Night King appears out of the fog riding ice dragon Viserion, who blasts a hole in The Wall. Thousands of wights and their White Walker overlords stream through the passage created by the fallen ice.
MVPs: VFX team
Why It’s on the List: Ice dragon + falling 700-foot magical ice Wall = top 10.


9. Aegon Targaryen

Jon Snow and Rhaegal in Game of Thrones season 8 premiere (HBO)

(Photo by HBO)

(Season 8, Episode 1: "Winterfell" --)
Directed by: David Nutter
Written by: Dave Hill
The Moment: Samwell Tarly tells his best buddy Jon Snow who his birth parents are: “You’ve never been a bastard. You’re Aegon Targaryen, true heir to the Iron Throne…sixth of his name — all of it.” The next episode, “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms,” followed this moment with its companion scene: Jon telling Daenerys (to her horror). Sam and Jon’s chat was also preceded in the season premiere by Jon riding Rhaegal (pictured above) — as if Dany needed more proof of his lineage.
MVPs: John Bradley, Kit Harington
Why It’s On the List: It wasn’t the splashiest scene or the most dramatic, but it finally aired out the best-kept secret in the Seven Kingdoms. It was a highly anticipated moment and it had arrived.


8. Burning of King’s Landing

Drogon destroys King's Landing season 8, episode 5 of Game of Thrones, "The Bells" (HBO)

(Photo by HBO)

(Season 8, Episode 5: "The Bells" 49%)
Directed by: Miguel Sapochnik
Written by: David Benioff, D.B. Weiss
The Moment: The Northern coalition led by Jon Snow and Grey Worm meet the Golden Company at the gates of King’s Landing. While they stare each other down, Daenerys has been busy blowing the Ironborn fleet to hell with dragon fire on Blackwater Bay. When she’s done there, she starts on the city’s ramparts, destroying the scorpions meant to bring down her dragon, and finally makes her way to the main gate where she surprises Harry Strickland and his men with a blast of dragon fire from behind. Daenerys takes a breather with Drogon on the wall waiting for the bells to ring, signaling the city’s surrender. The bells do ring, but the Dragon Queen gets a wild-eyed look and sets upon the streets of King’s Landing, unleashing Drogon’s fiery vengeance. “You slaughtered a city!” Tyrion later scolds her.
MVPs: VFX team, Emilia Clarke for her effort in selling a moment that no one wanted
Why It’s On the List: Many didn’t agree with this plot turn, arguing that the behavior Daenerys displayed was out of character and only served as a cheap way of getting to an end; that is, giving Jon Snow irrefutable cause to also act out of character and execute her. The episode landed dead last on the Tomatometer of all 73 episodes. The burning of King’s Landing makes our top 10 here for its artistry, horror, and infamy.


7. Viserion Becomes an Ice Dragon

Viserion blue eyes Game of Thrones season 7, episode 6 (HBO)

(Photo by HBO)

(Season 7, Episode 6: "Beyond the Wall" --)
Directed by: Alan Taylor
Written by: David Benioff, D.B. Weiss
The Moment: Traveling beyond the Wall to save Jon Snow and his wight-hunting party, Daenerys finds out that her dragons are vulnerable when the Night King hurls a lance and kills Viserion. Before he can reload his magical throwing arm, she loads up Drogon with the hunting party (minus Jon) and flies away back to Eastwatch-by-the-Sea.
MVPs: VFX team, Kit Harington, Emilia Clarke
Why It’s On the List: From the wight army threat to the dragon flame, exploding ice, and downing of the great beast, everything in the final fight of the episode up and through the moment of Viserion’s death was epic, and the turning of the dragon was one of the series’ most surprising twists. Plus, the emotional investment the actors put into the moment was palpable and perfect.
Director’s Note: “The fact that you’re basically killing a puppy,” Taylor told Rotten Tomatoes, “you know it’s gonna have a very strong resonance with the audience, so I was really grateful to be able to handle that moment. And the reveal of the turn at the end, of course, was one of the yummiest episode-enders I’d ever been given – when we see the blue eye open and know what that means.”

Read more of Taylor’s take on the birth of ice dragon Viserion.


6. The Battle of the Bastards / The Death of Ramsay Snow


(Season 6, Episode 9: "Battle of the Bastards" --)
Directed by: Miguel Sapochnik
Written by: David Benioff, D.B. Weiss
The Moment: Technically two moments, but so intertwined that the latter could not have happened without the former – and Sansa Stark gets mad credit for both. From her “I’ll do it without you” shaming of Jon at Castle Black, to calling in the Knights of the Vale, to releasing the hounds on Ramsay: all Sansa. “Your words will disappear. Your house will disappear. All memory of you will disappear.” Jon swung the sword, but when all hope was lost, the future queen’s diplomacy and strategy saved the day.
MVPs: Sophie Turner, Kit Harington, Iwan Rheon
Why It’s On the List: All corners of the episode from performance to directing, to production and art design, costuming, and the pure blood, sweat, and tears – surely there were tears! – that made this scene come together were superb. The episode won six Emmys in 2016: Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series, Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series, Outstanding Makeup for a Single-Camera Series (Non-Prosthetic), Outstanding Special Visual Effects, Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Comedy or Drama Series (One Hour), Outstanding Single Camera Picture Editing for a Drama Series. The series also won Outstanding Drama Series that year.


5. Arya Stark Kills the Night King

Game of Thrones season 8, episode 3 (HBO)

(Photo by HBO)

(Season 8, Episode 3: "The Long Night" 74%)
Directed by: Miguel Sapochnik
Written by: David Benioff, D.B. Weiss
The Moment: Theon Greyjoy finds redemption protecting Bran Stark from the wight horde and the Night King, but loses his life. Just when it seems all hope is lost, the hero of Winterfell breezes past the White Walkers before they even know she’s there, and puts a knife in the Night King’s belly. He shatters into a million ice shards, the White Walkers also explode, and the wights, including ice-dragon Viserion, all crumble to the ground as so many rotting bags of bones.
MVPs: Maisie Williams, Alfie Allen
Why It’s On the List: Thus, the war against the dead ends.


4. Dragons!

Daenerys Targaryen Game of Thrones (HBO)HBO

(Season 1, Episode 10: "Fire and Blood" 100%)
Directed by: Alan Taylor
Written by: David Benioff, D.B. Weiss
The Moment: Daenerys Targaryen honors her dead husband with a king-size funeral pyre and places her dragon eggs alongside him, she adds the witch for a taste of vengeance, sets the lot on fire, then walks into the inferno. At daylight, Jorah Mormont and Rakharo approach the smoldering embers and find Daenerys, naked with three newly hatched dragons.
MVPs: This was Emilia Clarke’s moment with an impressive debut by three adorable baby dragons
Why It’s On the List: The arrival of Daenerys’ children delivered the fantasy to this fantasy epic after an entire season of talk of magic, monsters, and dragons.
Director’s Note: “A lot was going on there, obviously. It’s a tragedy, it’s a funeral, it’s the end of things, and as we discovered, it’s the beginning of everything, too. I know — I’ve heard this, and we spoke about it — that Emilia did not think her character expected to die in the flames…There’s a wonderful look she gives to Iain Glen, when he’s all torn up, when she’s about to walk in, she looks at him, and it’s such a forgiving, letting-go look, from such a place of wisdom, that I thought it was really beautiful, and that for me, was sort of the attitude that Emilia had Daenerys take into the flames, that she knew the rightness of what she was doing,” Taylor said. “She’s a Targaryen, and I think in her mind, she sort of knew flames were not gonna be the problem…that it wasn’t necessarily her death that she was walking to. I don’t think, certainly nobody, including her, expected the birth that happened, with her three sidekicks. But that was the beginning of the new dawn.”

Read more of Taylor’s take on the hatching of Daenerys’ children. 


3. Jon Snow Kills Daenerys Targaryen

Game of Thrones season 8, episode 6, series finale "The Iron Throne" (HBO)

(Photo by HBO)

(Season 8, Episode 6: "The Iron Throne" 47%)
Written and directed by: David Benioff, D.B. Weiss
The Moment: So it’s all come down to this. Eight seasons of following the adventures of the young Night’s Watch warrior and the Dragon Queen, worrying about their choices and the dread of what’s to come, feeling their heartbreak and pain, and witnessing their phoenix-like rebounds, only to have the one (Ice – not the sword) kill the other (Fire). And to punctuate the moment, Drogon melts down the Iron Throne.
MVPs: Emilia Clarke, Kit Harington, and the episode’s VFX team for Drogon
Why It’s On the List: Putting aside other major developments from the finale – that Bran the Broken is now king of the Six Kingdoms, the North seceded the union and crowned Sansa queen in the North, and Arya is now a famed and feared assassin-adventurer of Westeros – this was the true end of the tale, the “Song of Ice and Fire.” That this Targaryen love story couldn’t have a happily-ever-after ending was devastating to a vast swath of fans who hoped or expected that the characters would choose love, not tyranny and assassination. Vocal fans on social media weren’t the only ones grousing; critics weighed in and gave the episode one of the worst scores in the series’ 73-episode history, and, in perhaps an even more stunning turn of events, the season is now Rotten on the Tomatometer.


2. The Death of Ned Stark


(Season 1, Episode 9: "Baelor" --)
Directed by: Alan Taylor
Written by: David Benioff, D.B. Weiss
The Moment: King Joffrey fools everyone, promising that Ned Stark will get to confess his sins against the crown and head to the Wall to take the black, joining the Night’s Watch. Instead, and seemingly on a whim, he decides that Ned should lose his head.
MVPs: Sean Bean, Sophie Turner, Maisie Williams, Jack Gleeson
Why It’s On the List: Ned’s death set the stage for his son to be named King in the North – and every tragic consequence of the Seven Kingdoms’ split.
Director’s Note: “The most emotional moments [of the scene] for me were some of the stuff between the way we crosscut between Ned and his daughters and certainly between Ned and Arya, who sort of inherits the narrative, at the end of that episode. We hand off from Ned, and sort of take it to her in a way that I was happy with, because of course, her character, like all characters, has a long road ahead of them,” Taylor said. “Ned Stark was the lynchpin, the centerpiece of the whole thing, and his performance, I still think, is just heartbreaking and beautiful, and it’s partly because I have daughters…but I think I identify with him up there: kind of a combination of anguish and shame and despair. His performance was perfect.”

Read more of Taylor’s take on the beheading of Ned Stark.


1. The Red Wedding


(Season 3, Episode 9: "The Rains of Castamere" 100%)
Directed by: David Nutter
Written by: David Benioff, D.B. Weiss
The Moment: Roose Bolton along with Walder Frey and his brood of murderers kill Robb and Talisa Stark, their unborn child, Catelyn Stark, and the Stark army.
MVPs: Michelle Fairley as the Stark matriarch, and David Bradley as the head Frey in charge
Why It’s On the List: The Red Wedding drew the ultimate line in the sand between the Lannisters and the Starks – between ruthlessness and decency. From that point forward, the series became a battle of good and evil.


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Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen in season 8, episode 5 of Game of Thrones, "The Bells" (HBO)

(Photo by HBO)

After hanging in for over seven seasons of Game of Thrones — about 72 hours of TV — fans’ beloved Mother of Dragons just devolved into a crazy bitch literally within sight of the Iron Throne. In “The Bells,” the second to last episode of the series that aired Sunday, Emilia Clarke’s celebrated heroine nosedived from “Mother of Dragons” to “Fascist Dictator of Fire & Blood.”

What? She couldn’t handle the pressure? She couldn’t be trusted to make the right decision in the heat of the moment? She let emotion triumph over reason? She’s become her father?

Is there a single woman in the Seven Kingdoms who’s smart, powerful, and can get things done without killing people? (R.I.P., Margaery Tyrell.)

Here are the top moments from Episode 5: "The Bells" 49%.


1. Dracarys, Varys

Varys in season 8, episode 5 of Game of Thrones, "The Bells" (Helen Sloan/HBO)

(Photo by Helen Sloan/HBO)

Varys dies in this strange land by dragonfire. Tyrion betrays Varys’ betrayal of Daenerys, telling her that the secret is out and Varys is Team Aegon. And starting now, and repeatedly throughout the episode, we think, Jon could’ve stopped all this madness by sleeping with her again. We weren’t alone:

 


2. Drogon and on and on…

Drogon destroys King's Landing season 8, episode 5 of Game of Thrones, "The Bells" (HBO)

(Photo by HBO)

Drogon destroys the Iron Fleet, then the scorpions lining the walls overlooking Blackwater Bay, then the gates of King’s Landing and the Golden Company along with them, and more scorpions.

Daenerys pauses to catch her breath — she must’ve lost her voice saying “dracarys” that much.

The city takes a hair too long to ring the bells of surrender, while Dany stews in her vengeance perched atop the city walls.

Drogon next sets the streets aflame along with terrified innocent bystanders, and then begins destroying the Red Keep, which is beautiful and terrible to see. Dragonfire also sets off pockets of wildfire still hidden in the bowels of the city, sending green plumes up in the inferno that was once King’s Landing.

In the thick of the carnage, we have to say goodbye to Harry Strickland (dispatched care of Grey Worm’s revenge). We hardly knew ye!

Jon realizes the madness Daenerys’ fury has wrought. She promised him fear, and she did not disappoint.



3. Tyrion Says Farewell

Tyrion signs his own death warrant by letting Jaime go. At least the act gives us this touching moment between the two brothers.

“If it weren’t for you, I never would have survived our childhood,” Tyrion says. “You were the only one who didn’t treat me like a monster. You were all I had.”

They’re crying, we’re crying, you’re crying …


4. The Man Who Killed Jaime Lannister

Euron in season 8, episode 5 of Game of Thrones, "The Bells" (Helen Sloan/HBO)

(Photo by Helen Sloan/HBO)

In a moment so fleeting in its treatment of a major showdown that it argues (again) for at least one more episode in this too-brief final season, Euron miraculously swaggers out of Blackwater Bay at the same time Jaime arrives at the spot to sneak into the Red Keep through the exit that Tyrion told him about.

Euron tells Jaime that he will be a legend if he kills a second king. Jaime: “You’re no king.” Euron has the title of king of the Iron Islands, so to a certain segment, he qualifies. Plus, he had sex with Cersei, so that makes him king of her boudoir – a petty king, by the tone of this absurd conversation.

Naturally, stabbing ensues.

“I got you,” Euron calls after Jaime, and with his dying breath: “I am the man who killed Jaime Lannister.”


5. Cleganebowl

The Hound versus the Mountain in Cleganebowl in season 8, episode 5 of Game of Thrones, "The Bells" (HBO)

(Photo by HBO)

“You come with me, you die here,” The Hound says to Arya when they get inside the Red Keep, shooing her off. Uncharacteristically, Arya agrees, notably calling after “Sandor” to say thanks and then departs.

Sandor meets his brother on the Red Keep stairwell. Cersei: “Stay with me!” Mountain eyes her. Qyburn: “Obey!” The Mountain throws Qyburn down the steps with such force that he instantly dies. (Qyburn was a brittle man.) Thus, the monster killed his maker.

Cersei exits quickly and Cleganebowl is on!

“Yeah, that’s you. That’s what you’ve always been,” Sandor says to Gregor after knocking his helmet off, then runs his sword through his Frankensteined brother, who removes the blade and comes at his bro.

Much sword-swinging later – and a tumble down some stairs, slamming against walls, gouging of eyeballs, stabbing in the face – and The Hound realizes that skewering The Mountain just won’t end him, so he body-slams Gregor right through the wall into the fiery hellscape below.

We’ve joked about Qyburn playing Doctor Frankenstein with Gregor as his monster, but the monster’s final words from Mary Shelley’s classic 1818 horror novel seem more fitting for Sandor than for Gregor:

“I shall die, and what I now feel be no longer felt. Soon these burning miseries will be extinct. I shall ascend my funeral pile triumphantly and exult in the agony of the torturing flames. The light of that conflagration will fade away; my ashes will be swept into the sea by the winds. My spirit will sleep in peace, or if it thinks, it will not surely think thus. Farewell.”


6. “I Want Our Baby to Live”

Cersei and Jaime in season 8, episode 5 of Game of Thrones, "The Bells" (Helen Sloan/HBO)

(Photo by Helen Sloan/HBO)

Meanwhile, back in the map room, Jaime finds hysterical Cersei. We thought it was Arya sneaking up on Cersei or even wearing Jaime’s face, but no, it was a real moment between the twins.

“I want our baby to live,” she cries as they find themselves trapped by the walls collapsing in around them.

He calms her and embraces her: “Nothing else matters.” (Cue: Metallica.)

The Red Keep becomes Jaime and Cersei’s crypt – supposedly. We’ll believe it when we see their crushed skulls.


7. A Faceless Man Meets Her Match: Gravity

Arya in season 8, episode 5 of Game of Thrones, "The Bells" (Helen Sloan/HBO)

(Photo by Helen Sloan/HBO)

While Cleganebowl reaches its conclusion, Arya’s busy trying to save the city – or, at least, dodge the falling debris that may mean the end of her and the random people she’s tasked by the script with saving. (Unnecessary.) Finally, she wakes to an orgy of death save for one bright life standing before her.

“The Bells,” apparently, traded the kingdom for a horse.

What was your favorite moment of the episode? Tell us in the comments!

Game of Thrones season 8 finale airs Sunday, May 19 at 9 p.m. on HBO.



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In the world of Game of Thrones, conventional wisdom would suggest Daenerys Targaryen has proved herself a fair and just leader, powerful, and compassionate, but firm. Others may see it that Jon Snow, aka Aegon Targaryen, truly is the rightful ruler by Westeros tradition, given that his father was the uncrowned king of the land Rhaegar Targaryen, killed before he could reveal his legitimate marriage to Jon’s mother, Lyanna Stark. Or maybe possession really is nine-tenths of the law, and Cersei Lannister, who in no other way is the legitimate ruler, should continue to reign.

Why bother watching season 8, when you can read our hot takes on who should sit the Iron Throne?


Should Take the Throne: Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke)

Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones season 8 (Helen Sloan/HBO)

(Photo by Helen Sloan/HBO)

Some in Deanery’s shoes would be content to rest on their laurels: She has two dragons and a rightful claim to the throne – case closed. But Daenerys has gone above and beyond to earn her place on the Iron Throne. She’s endured personal losses (her dear dead Drogo, their unborn child, her dear undead dragon) and inspired audiences over and over again with moments of strength and steeliness. Most of all, across seven seasons of city-hopping and army-charring, she’s proven a master strategist and builder of alliances, bringing together groups as disparate as the Dothrakis and the Unsullied to form a formidable force as she moves towards what’s rightfully hers.


Should Take the Throne: Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage)

Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister in Game of Thrones season 8 (Helen Sloan/HBO)

(Photo by Helen Sloan/HBO)

Don’t dismiss Tyrion Lannister as the Miss Congeniality of Thrones’ remaining contenders. He may be likable and gentle-hearted – at least in Westerosi terms – but he is also the shrewdest political mind left, a key skill to have in a place that gets so stabby. He’s in many ways one of the series’ ultimate survivors, managing to make it to adulthood despite his family’s unbridled hatred of him, and working his way to Daenerys’ side (the likely winning side). It should be noted he’s also part of the reason there’s still a throne for the series’ aspirants’ to sit on at all, stopping the destruction/sacking of King’s Landing not once but twice – and earning his scar in the process.


Should Take the Throne: Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau)

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Jaime Lannister in Game of Thrones season 8 (Helen Sloan/HBO)

(Photo by Helen Sloan/HBO)

One key to good leadership is growth, and few characters have grown quite as much as Jaime. After all, the wounded, chisel-jawed hero who has slowly won your heart over seven seasons was not so long ago the sister-bonking cad who pushed Bran out of a tower in the final moments of Thrones’ first-ever episode. It’s been a “journey.” Throughout that journey, we’ve seen Jaime develop a number of the traits that would steer him well as king (but perhaps make his reign somewhat short): a developing sense of selflessness, a propensity for mercy (it was to be a painless death for Olenna), and an eye for talent in people, as demonstrated by his connection to Brienne.


Should take the Throne: Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey)

Game of Thrones season 6, episode 10 - Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister. photo: courtesy of HBO

(Photo by Helen Sloan/HBO)

If Game of Thrones were a particularly bloody and blindside-filled season of Survivor – Outwit! Outslay! – no one could compete with Cersei’s case at final Tribal Council. Just look what she’s both achieved and been through on her little island of King’s Landing. No one has suffered as much: she’s lost, what, all of her kids; her glorious long locks; her dad; her lover/brother/Hand; and been paraded through the streets totally naked (shame!). And she arguably pulled off one of Thrones’ most stunning strategic moves in the destruction of the great Sept of Baelor. Sure, you can admire all those fresh-faced and ambitious kids in the North, forming unlikely alliances and proving themselves in battle as they seek to usurp her, but sometimes staying in power is harder than taking power. For holding on so tightly – and never dropping a drop of red while doing so – Cersei deserves to maintain her place on her throne.


Should take the Throne: Jon Snow (Kit Harington)

Kit Harington. photo: Helen Sloan/courtesy of HBO

(Photo by Helen Sloan/HBO)

We learned in season 7 that Jon has the strongest claim to the throne, given that his dad was Rhaegar Targaryen, whose marriage to his mother Lyanna Stark was legit, but he also has Thrones’ ultimate mic-drop argument: He died and came back. Who else among these would-be throne-sitters can top that? (Berric Dondarrion isn’t really in the running.) Or say that they led a successful defense of The Wall against attack by the Wildlings? Or that they later forged a key alliance with those same Wildlings – an alliance that could prove key to defending everyone against the oncoming White Walker invasion? No? No one? We’re listening… As if that wasn’t enough, Jon has proved himself the bravest of Thrones’ lead contenders. Recall when he went beyond the Wall. Or when he stood, sword raised, circled by enemy forces in the Battle of the Bastards? And it’s not just cocksure bravery and resurrections that have us rooting for Jon. He’s a sharp mind, too, and one who puts ego aside to “bend the knee” for love.


Should take the Throne: Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner)

Sophie Turner as Sansa Stark in Game of Thrones season 8 (Helen Sloan/HBO)

(Photo by Helen Sloan/HBO)

Sure, Jon’s survived the Wall, epic battles and, well, death. And Arya has been dodging swords and arrows all across the continent for several years now. But Sansa is the Stark offspring who has survived in arguably the most dangerous places in all of Westeros: under Cersei’s roof, under Littlefinger’s thumb, and in Ramsay Bolton’s bed. The once-naïve wannabe princess has had to grow up very quickly over seven seasons of Thrones, and her developing understanding of how the world really works and a growing skill to move within it have led her safely and triumphantly back to Winterfell. Also, if ruling the Seven Kingdoms requires a strong ability to deal with toxic men, Sansa should be your top pick: Not only did she manage to outlive a spiteful Joffrey, she escaped the physical and mental clutches of Ramsay and Lord Petyr Baelish, before killing both in wonderfully satisfying fashion.


Should take the Throne: Arya Stark (Maisie Williams)

Maisie Williams as Arya Stark in Game of Thrones season 8 (Helen Sloan/HBO)

(Photo by Helen Sloan/HBO)

A girl has no name, perhaps, but she is a strong contender for the throne. More than any other Stark – living, at least – she has had to fight for her life, time and time again, and prove her skills in deception and combat (who else can go toe-to-toe with Brienne, as she did?). Arya’s racked up quite the lethal résumé in her journeys through Kings Landing, Braavos, Riverrun, and beyond: She can fully disguise herself, thanks to skills picked up with the Faceless Men; she’s developed a ruthlessness – sorry, Hound! – that will serve her well when ruling over a court of would-be usurpers; and she’s executed some of Thrones’ biggest moves, chief among them her delicious, crusty vengeance against the House of Frey. “They’re already here, my lord…” Chills.


Should take the Throne: Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright)

Isaac Hempstead Wright as Bran Stark in Game of Thrones season 8 (Helen Sloan/HBO)

(Photo by Helen Sloan/HBO)

If we’re going to consider other Starks for the Iron Throne, why not also the god-like all-seeing Three-Eyed Raven? Voted “Most Likely to Know About His Surprise Birthday Party” among the Stark kids, Bran’s childhood physical agility has given way to supernatural mental acumen now that he’s in his teens. He’ll foresee any and all plots against him, he can time travel to take lessons from the greatest rulers in the history of Westeros and beyond; with his all-seeing eye, he can find more dragons in the east and train them based on the methods of the best dragon riders ever; and he was a kind and sweet child and still seems so at heart. Honestly, other than his unsettlingly detached demeanor — which is far sight better (pun intended) than some of the crazies that have sat the Throne recently — Bran may actually be the very best choice to rule.


Should take the Throne: The Night King

Game of Thrones, Episode 66 (season 7, episode 6), debut 8/20/17: Vladimir Furdik. photo: courtesy of HBO

(Photo by HBO)

You may not think Thrones’ own Ol’ Blue Eyes has much of a claim, given that we haven’t seen so much of him over the shows’ seven seasons and that we don’t actually know too much about his motives. But when we have seen him, he has almost always outsmarted the living. Case in point: In season 7’s mammoth battle north of the Wall between Daenerys and her dragons and Jon’s forces against the White Walkers and wights, he saw an opportunity in battle to take out Viserion and then resurrected the beast as a Wall-felling ice dragon. So, he’s smart. He’s strategic. And he’s patient, another key quality for a good ruler. He has waited some 8,300 years for summer to end, after all.


Game of Thrones season 8 premieres on Sunday, April 14 at 9 p.m. on HBO.


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