This is the end of Game of Thrones, everyone. And whether you’ve been a fan since season 1 or you binged the entire series to be part of the biggest event in TV history, once the show is gone, it will be sorely missed. As such, we’re looking back at all the high-fantasy battle moments the show offered. Although many of these sequences popped up in the latter half of the series, the beginning of the show holds many more character moments in those scenes than high-fantasy combat.
Take a look at our ranking of the noteworthy battles in Game of Thrones and share your thoughts on the list as well as the final episode below.
Greyjoy Naval Battle
When It Happened: Season 7, Episode 2, “Stormborn”
Why it’s epic: Euron Greyjoy dropping a staircase with his house’s sigil on the deck of the ship and killing someone in the process is the highlight moment of the scene. It encapsulates the madman he is at heart and just how capable he is fighting out at sea. He completely annihilated Yara and Theon’s forces and takes the former hostage in the process. It’s a crushing event to see unfold, mostly because of how Theon reacts to the attack and what it means for his character’s arc. But, it’s a pretty short (albeit pretty) sequence that doesn’t top the rest of what the show has to offer in terms of battles.
Best moment: For many, it has to be seeing the Sand Snakes from Dorne get killed by Euron in the most heinous of ways. A lot of people hated their storyline, and for them to get killed meant audiences no longer had to suffer from such a subpar section of the plot.
Repercussions: Theon momentarily reverted back to Reek when Euron taunts him with his sister in tow, but more importantly, Dany lost her fleet to her enemies. One of many losses during her stay at Westeros and a sign of things to come for her on her quest for the Iron Throne. And although not a direct repercussion, Olenna’s quote to Dany earlier on is echoed in these results. In that scene, she listened to clever men tell her how to attack King’s Landing systematically rather than like the dragon she is, as Olenna put it, and she suffers for it for almost two seasons trying to play their game under their rules.
The Uprising at Daznak’s Pit
When It Happened: Season 5, Episode 9 “The Dance of Dragons”
Why it’s epic: All of Daenerys’ issues as a ruler in Meereen come to a head in this episode when she and her team are cornered into the pits by the Sons of the Harpy. Two of her dragons have been locked away and Drogon is nowhere to be seen. Dany and Missandei hold hands, as it appears they’re about to die. But then she closes her eyes like she’s summoning something and Drogon appears out of a puff of fire and saves his mother.
Best moment: Watching Dany mount a dragon for the first time. It showcases Dany “becoming a dragon” in a more literal sense than in the questionable acts we’ve seen from her up to this point. It sets up so much of how the dragons will be used going forward. Where previously help of the dragons was on a small scale, this foreshadows how much of a tool these beasts will go on to become.
Repercussions: Dany has to take a trip back to her Dothraki roots as a result of this escape plan, but she subsequently gains more forces for her army. Once she proves to the Dothraki that she is the unburnt, she comes back to Meereen and swiftly sails to Westeros with more than enough power to take the throne and more. But she doesn’t, which is where her downfall begins.
Battle Beyond the Wall
When It Happened: Season 7, Episode 6 “Beyond the Wall”
Why it’s epic: The episode gathers the greatest fighters the show has ever featured and teams them together to fight the Wights and White Walkers in their own turf. That alone is badass. However, a lot of the battle wears down due to a lot of plot conveniences and time-travel shenanigans. We also see the Night King claim Viserion as the latest member of his undead army after he spears him out of thin air with an icicle. We all knew he would somehow gain control of a dragon to get past The Wall, but the moment he gained it was a surprise nonetheless.
Best moment: Many people thought a bulk of the squad would end up dying during the attack they received while stranded on a frail patch of ice. Although Thoros didn’t make it, a lot of them ended up living. At the moment, however, it appeared as if anyone could die at any second. The tension during this fight is palpable to anyone watching for the first time. Unfortunately, if you know the outcome, a bit of this moment loses its luster.
Repercussions: Dany lost her first dragon, scaling her massive forces down a peg or two in the process. Moreso, she lost a child, and that kind of loss, especially when compounded, can really affect someone’s disposition. However, they got the Wight they were looking to take back to Cersei as proof of the oncoming threat. The mission also resulted in Dany and Jon Snow getting closer, which many speculate will lead to the birth of children of their own. Of course, less scaly.
Battle of the Blackwater
When It Happened: Season 2, Episode 9, “Blackwater”
Why it’s epic: Firstly, this episode launched the show into mainstream popularity because it was the first battle in the series. The showrunners had to convince HBO to give them the budget to pull this off and they still had to hide most of the battle in the darkness of night to make up for some technical problems. In spite of that, this is the most character-driven war in the series and is why it is so beloved among many diehard fans. Not only does this widen the scope of the series as not just being about political maneuvering, but the events that unfold go on to showcases the core of many characters involved, like The Hound, Cersei Lannister, Tyrion Lannister, Ser Davos Seaworth, and Stannis Baratheon.
Best moment: Of course, the best moment in the episode is the wildfire taking out a bulk of Stannis’ fleet. The reaction of Tyrion, who made the plan, is a look of horror and sadness. Meanwhile, the alchemist who created the fire is ecstatic that his mad experimentation was a success. That’s war. Ships fry, Davos and his son are sent flying, and the green flames highlighted against the darkness is breathtaking to behold.
Repercussions: Stannis is officially backed into a wall and questions Melesandre’s prophecies of him being the true king of the Seven Kingdoms. It also showcases how Tyrion’s hard work to save the city with a child as its king goes unappreciated. His father comes in during the final moments (a repeated move during Robert’s Rebellion) and takes all the credit while taking Tyrion’s place as Hand of the King in one fell swoop.
The Battle at Castle Black
When It Happened: Season 4, Episode 9, “The Watchers on the Wall”
Why it’s epic: It’s an entire episode at The Wall with Jon Snow in his first big battle. It’s also the first big battle of the show as the creators didn’t have to work with such a limited budget as they did for season 2’s “Blackwater.” It also introduces the show’s first big battle tracking shot, however this time following the entirety of the battle at the castle gates and not just Jon, as would come to be in future shots. And, like Jon points out to a frightened Janos Slynt, there “are giants riding mammoths.”
Best moment: There are many great character moments, like Ser Allistor admitting to Jon Snow that he was vehemently wrong to not listen to his warning of the ensuing threat earlier. Another is when Samwell Tarley adds the death of a Thenn to his list of accomplishments. However, the death of Jon’s first love Ygritte at the hands of his disciple Olly is such a defining character moment for Jon amongst the carnage and glorious cinematography.
Repercussions: The battle completely decimates the remaining forces at The Wall, leading Jon to meet the wildling leader Mance Rayder, and Stannis Baratheon to subsequently capture him with a sneak attack. This effectively ends the ensuing war against man and the free folk, although a few are a bit apprehensive to let the grudge die.
The Sacking of King’s Landing
When It Happened: Season 8, Episode 5, “The Bells”
Why it’s epic: It’s the Loot Train battle turned up to eleven. We watch Dany take on the entirety of King’s Landing’s forces with essentially half the battle power she had when she first came to Westeros, and she completely decimates the city all the same. After suffering the loss of her beloved dragons, Jon Snow, and advisors, Dany has no one to check her Targaryen nature of burning problems away. Unfortunately, this horrific trait manifests itself in the most cold-hearted way possible: by burning a city’s worth of men, women, and children.
Best moment: Arya’s on-the-ground perspective of a crumbling city. It showcased in several tracking shots Arya getting knocked down, knocked out, and trampled on during the ensuing chaos of dragon flame and collapsing structures. Not only does the sequence feature pristine cinematograph, it highlights the horror of the innocent citizens caught up in the game of thrones.
Repercussions: Dany has resigned her option to possibly rule Westeros with love, albeit the success of that notion was slim, and decided to rule with fear instead. What this means to the countless other houses in Westeros is unknown, but rest assured her vast rise to power and how she got there will not go over well in the final episode.
The Loot Train Battle
When It Happened: Season 7, Episode 4 “The Spoils of War”
Why it’s epic: This is the first time we got to see what several real-life stuntmen look when they’re on fire. Storywise, it showed the true potential of a dragon in open battle, and how devastating they can be. We see soldiers reduced to ash from Drogon and Dany above and cut down before a Dothraki horde below, which was foreshadowed by King Rober Baratheon in season one when he told Cersei “only a fool would meet the Dothraki in an open field.”
Best moment: There is a lot in this sequence. However, the look on Dickon Tully’s face when he sees several of his comrades engulfed in flames and reduced to ash by Drogon is a first-person reaction that completely sells the horror these foot soldiers are facing. He gives a look of pure terror and confusion so chilling that it represented what every soldier must’ve felt that day, at least those who got to live.
Repercussions: One of many foreshadowings that the people of King’s Landing would stand no chance against Daenerys and her dragons, no matter if they were only contending with only one. The most telling scene is in the moments that follow in the next episode, where the fear of Dany and her dragon was the only reason the remaining Lannister soldiers bowed before she gave them the choice to bend the knee or die.
The Battle of Winterfell
When It Happened: Season 8, Episode 3, “The Long Night”
Why it’s epic: It’s the culmination of a looming threat promised to take Westeros by storm for 7 whole seasons. The way Winterfell’s first line of defense buckles at the wall of death that are the Wights is one of the dourest things we’ve seen on television. It’s also the biggest battle ever made for film and TV, so there’s that.
Best moment: Arya Stark earning MVP of the episode by killing the Night King and by proxy, the entire White Walker threat. It was such a shock of pure subversion that it elicits the reaction of attending a sports event. What’s more, this subversion actually made sense when you travel down the road of the Arya’s history.
Repercussions: An angry, angry fandom.
Battle at Hardhome
When It Happened: Season 5, Episode 8, “Hardhome”
Why it’s epic: It happened out of nowhere. Usually, each season’s epic moment is reserved for the penultimate episode. This time, however, it came an episode early—and it showcased why the White Walker threat is so terrifyingly hopeless.
Best moment: One of many moments where it looks all but hopeless for Jon Snow, he finds himself in the middle of wildling country fighting off the undead and a White Walker, whom shatters swords on-contact. Bloody and broken, he limps away from the White and falls in the snow reaching for Longclaw, despite the futility. However, he is rewarded when his weapon clashes against the enemy’s and it doesn’t break. He dodges a swing and takes the kill, and it is perfection.
Repercussions: A huge fraction of the wildling army, as well as the Night’s Watch, now belong to the army of the dead.
Battle of the Bastards
When It Happened: Season 6, Episode 9 “Battle of the Bastards”
Why it’s epic: It’s the first truly big budget battle of the show, and it set a standard of how battles must look moving forward in the series. However, despite the technological advancements and high stakes it inspired, this remains the series’ best battle.
Best moment: Watching Jon face an army of soldiers galloping towards him on their horses. Instead of running or succumbing to fear, he gives a look of acceptance toward his inevitable death and unsheathed his sword to courageously go out swinging. It says everything you could possibly say about Jon and the kind of person he is with little to no words. What’s more, we see this moment play out once again with another character in season 8, episode 5, and their reaction to impending doom was much less heroic.
Repercussions: The end of this war led to the extinction of House Bolton. It also leads to the Stark family reclaiming their ancestral seat at the capital of the North.
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