From Worst To Best


WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD. BE WARY.

Game of Thrones’ seventh season was a rollercoaster. Fully untethered from the source material provided by George R.R. Martin’s novels, the show often felt like–and pretty much has become–the realization of a fan’s wildest dreams. Characters like Daenerys “Dany” Targaryen and Jon Snow, separated in years past, finally met; long-awaited battles were fought that dramatically change the balance of power between warring rulers; the trio of dragons made its way to Westeros to bring destruction to their master’s enemies; and theories that were percolating for decades were confirmed or denied.

It shouldn’t be surprising, considering all of this, that season 7 was also one of the most uneven of the show to date, full of some of the highest highs and lowest lows of HBO’s television adaptation. We’ve gone through it, episode by episode, to point these out.

Here our ranking of the episodes of Game of Thrones season 7, from worst to best.



7. Episode 6: “Beyond the Wall”


The penultimate episode of the season is mostly taken up with Jon and friends’ strange decision to trek into the frozen north in order to retrieve a “living” wight that can be presented as evidence of the looming threat to naysayers at King’s Landing. Things, of course, go awry, and we end up watching characters inexplicably warp across great distances in order to facilitate a showdown in which one of Dany’s dragons is lost to the White Walkers. Messy and rushed, this episode doesn’t end well for anyone involved, fictional characters or viewers.

Best Moment: The Undead Polar Bear In The Storm

Regardless of anything else, the appearance of an undead polar bear in the middle of a snowstorm is a great, frightening scene.

Worst Moment: The Sudden Dragons

Geography is important to Game of Thrones. The movement of armies–their speed in getting from place to place–has a great impact on the strategies of the world’s warring factions. “Beyond the Wall” discards any consideration for even the faintest realism for the sake of a cheapened surprise moment: Dany arriving with her dragons just as Jon and his comrades are about to be overtaken by the White Walkers.



6. Episode 5: “Eastwatch”


An episode mostly focused on moving various pieces into position for plot developments to come, “Eastwatch” doesn’t have much to recommend it. A few good moments don’t make up for an hour of television that plays out more like a lavishly produced Wikipedia summary than interesting drama.

Best Moment: Tyrion And Jaime, Reunited

The rapid pace of Season 7 didn’t leave much room for the kind of quiet character interactions that make up many of Game of Thrones’ best moments. Fortunately, “Eastwatch” requires a scene in which brothers Jaime and Tyrion meet in secret, allowing for a tense moment carried not by action or plot revelations, but great dialogue and acting.

Worst Moment: Arya Finds Sansa’s Traitorous Letter

It’s important for one of the finale’s plot twists that Arya and Sansa find themselves at odds after their initial reunion, but the script never fully justifies why the two sisters are so willing to distrust one another. Arya’s anger at finding the letter Sansa was coerced to write after their father’s death, urging Robb to stop his rebellion, is one of the worst moments in a bad plotline.



5. Episode 1: “Dragonstone”


The season began with an episode that was mostly concerned with setting the table for everything else to come. Characters arrive at new destinations or we catch up with where they were when the previous season ended. While not necessarily bad, the premiere wasn’t exactly exciting.

Best Moment: Dany Returns To Westeros At Last

Readers and viewers alike have been teased with Dany’s return to Westeros for a long, long time. The opening of Season 7 finally saw her arrive, coming ashore on the island of Dragonstone and setting in motion the much anticipated open war between her forces and those of the reigning House Lannister.

Worst Moment: Arya Poisons The Freys

While seeing the two-faced Frey family finally receive their comeuppance for facilitating the Red Wedding is great, Arya’s disguise is far too silly to give the scene of long-awaited revenge the gravity it deserves.



4. Episode 7: “The Dragon and the Wolf”


Season finale “The Dragon and the Wolf” is packed with surprises. From Cersei’s faked alliance with Jon and Dany to the arrival of the White Walkers–and their undead dragon–at the quickly-destroyed Wall, the show ended on a cliffhanger that’s making the continued wait for Season 8 very difficult.

Best Moment: Dany And Jon, Together At Last (Ew)

Dany and Jon’s romance had to become reality at some point and, in this episode, it did. It also happened to coincide with the long theorized revelation that they’re also related. Confirming Jon’s stakes-changing parentage is a huge moment. Pairing the reveal with a scene of him having sex with his aunt is as hilarious as it is shocking.

Worst Moment: Sansa And Arya’s Littlefinger Plot Is Revealed

The scene in which Sansa and Arya show that they were only acting like they were, for some reason, going to murder each other in order to set up Littlefinger is among the worst of the season. Defying everything we know about the two characters up until this point just to spring a finale plot twist is one of the clumsiest writing decisions in the show to date.



3. Episode 3: “The Queen’s Justice”


“The Queen’s Justice” sees Dany and Jon meet for the first time, leading to an unexpectedly tense exchange between two powerful rulers with mutual goals. The episode also features a surprise Lannister victory over the Highgarden armies, which is shown a bit too quickly to hold the dramatic impact such a huge turn of events deserved. Still, there are several great moments in this early episode.

Best Moment: Olenna Gets The Last Word

Having captured the indomitable Olenna Tyrell, Jaime grants her a merciful death rather than return her to his ruthless sister. Far from being cowed by her impending death, Olenna uses her last minutes of life to finally reveal to Jaime that she was responsible for the death of his son. It’s a great character moment and one of the most cutting instances of revenge in a show packed with them.

Worst Moment: Bran’s Grown Up To Be A Complete Jerk

Bran’s return to Winterfell and reunion with his sister Sansa should be a heartwarming moment. Instead, Bran is now depicted as an insufferable, cold-hearted jerk after his mind-opening voyage beyond the Wall. He speaks in vague sentences like a first-year university student who just completed an Intro to Philosophy class. His change in character should be an interesting development, but it’s too much of a departure from what came before to feel in any way natural.



2. Episode 2: “Stormborn”


After a fairly dull premiere, “Stormborn” gets Season 7 moving. Dany begins forming the strategy she hopes will win her the Iron Throne, Jon’s summoned to an audience with her, we see Arya beginning her journey back to Winterfell, and the first major battle of the new season takes place. A good balance of intimate dialogue and large-scale action makes this one of the best episodes of the year.

Best Moment: The Sea Battle

Though the direction of the ship-to-ship fighting is a bit too disorienting to work as well as it should, Yara and Theon’s confrontation with their bloodthirsty uncle Euron is as brutal and tense as it ought to be. The final moments in which a terrified Theon flees his defeated sister in a crucial moment is heartbreaking, too.

Worst Moment: The Scab Cure

So gross it almost wraps around to being good, Sam’s experimental greyscale treatment results in a grotesque scene in which removing the giant, rocky scabs infecting poor Jorah’s flesh results in some of the grossest practical effects of the entire show.



1. Episode 4: “The Spoils of War”


While most of this episode is a competent continuation of plot threads introduced by the season so far, it ends in one of the most grandiose combat sequences the show has ever seen. At long last, Dany’s army fights a battle against Westerosi forces and the result is stunning.

Best Moment: A Chaotic Battle

The scale of the battle that ends “The Spoils of War” is immense. Thundering horses and a fire-breathing dragon create a believable sense of complete chaos and terror. Jaime and Bronn’s actors do a wonderful job selling the utter fear of being suddenly confronted with a creature out of legend, and their actions in the fight to come, both brave and reckless, help humanize what could’ve been a hollow special effects showcase.

Worst Moment: The Surprise Army

Though the ensuing battle makes it worthwhile, the sudden approach of Dany’s dragons and Dothraki army is goofy enough to start the scene off on the wrong foot. You don’t have to be a stickler for realism to think it’s still pretty silly that a few hundred charging horses couldn’t be heard at least a little bit further in advance.