Much ink has been spilled this year on the problems throughout the final season of “Game of Thrones.” While some claim the finale tainted their memories of the HBO series, we still have fond memories of its eight-season run. So in an attempt to inject a bit of positivity into the dark pit of the Internet, here are our favorite scenes from the groundbreaking show.
Warning: This post contains a multitude of spoilers.Several of the video clips below contain strong language and violence.
The Starks find the direwolf puppies (Season 1, Episode 1)
The scene in which Ned Stark and his children stumble upon a rotting deer carcass and find a litter of direwolf puppies feels like a fitting beginning for the show. And that’s because it was the origin for the entire series. George R.R. Martin has repeatedly said the scene was the first one he wrote, having no idea at the time what the actual story would become. The scene, though, foreshadows everything: The wolf represents the Starks, and the stag represents the Baratheons (at the time, Robert Baratheon sat on the Iron Throne).
The scene also teases out the traits of several main characters.
Ned says the pups won’t survive without their mother and that putting them down is the humane thing to do. Theon — who eventually gives his life to save Bran — eagerly pulls his blade out and grabs a puppy from Bran, planning to kill it. Jon Snow, ever the nice guy, points out there were five direwolf puppies and five Starks. “You were meant to have them,” he says.
When Bran asks why Jon won’t get one, he says, “I’m not a Stark.” Of course, he is, but he doesn’t know it yet. Instead, he ends up with a sixth that they find, the runt of the litter — an outcast just like Jon.
It’s a lot to pack into a three-minute scene, and the richness of these interactions only becomes apparent seasons later. Good storytelling rewards multiple viewings, and no scene emphasizes this more.
Daenerys gets her Unsullied army (Season 3, Episode 4)
Some viewers may rank the dragon birthing scene as the high-point for Daenerys: She walked through Khal Drogo’s fiery funeral pyre, and by morning, she sat unburnt with three baby dragons. But that scene didn’t have the oratory intensity and slick planning Miss Stormborn would demonstrate in later seasons.
Instead, let’s recall how she got her giant army of Unsullied from Kraznys mo Nakloz; it demonstrates Daenerys’s fierceness, and it’s also weirdly relatable (raise your hand if you’ve heard someone talk trash about you in a foreign language that you happen to know!).
Daenerys conducts the dragon-for-Unsullied trade in the common tongue with translator Missandei as the go-between with Kraznys mo Nakloz. The guy hurls insults that he doesn’t think Daenerys hears and gets upset he can’t control the dragon. Daenerys then reveals that she’s been on to him the entire time, saying in his own language: “I am Daenerys Stormborn of the House Targaryen, of the blood of Old Valyria. Valyrian is my mother tongue.”
After dropping a “dracarys” on the fool, she tells the Unsullied to kill all the masters and free all the slaves.
The ‘chaos is a ladder’ speech (Season 3, Episode 6)
“Game of Thrones” usually trafficked in subtlety, but in one scene, Petyr Baelish (i.e. Littlefinger) perfectly lays out the show’s themes for Varys. The two are standing in the throne room at King’s Landing, tossing verbal barbs back and forth. At one point, Varys remarks on the Iron Throne, which was supposedly built from 1,000 swords “taken from the hands of Aegon’s fallen enemies, forged in the fiery breath of Balerion the Dread.” Littlefinger says he counted, though, and there aren’t even 200.
Later, Littlefinger defines the Seven Kingdoms: “It’s the thousand blades of Aegon’s enemies, a story we agreed to tell each other over and over 'til we forget that it’s a lie.” Varys responds that without the lie, there is only chaos, which he characterizes as “a gaping pit.”
Littlefinger disagrees: “Chaos isn’t a pit. Chaos is a ladder. Many who try to climb it fail and never get to try again. The fall breaks them. And some are given the chance to climb, but they refuse. They cling to the realm or the gods or love. Illusions. Only the ladder is real. The climb is all there is.”
In the end, of course, Tyrion argues that Bran needs to be king because he’s the keeper of all of humanity’s stories — and stories are the most powerful force of all. The callback seems to argue that stories are more important than the ladder, that the chaos truly turned out to be a gaping pit. Whether that’s true is left to the viewer to decide.
The Hound orders a chicken (Season 4, Episode 1)
The relationship between the Hound and Arya became one of the better story lines in “Game of Thrones,” with their odd-couple, love-hate dynamic unspooling over the course of their travels. After the Red Wedding, they drop by an inn and run into Lannister guys. As one of them, Polliver, blabs on about how they can do whatever they want in Westeros, the ever-surly Hound insults the king and tries to get the guy to shut his yap by ordering a chicken.
“You’re going to die for some chickens?” Polliver responds, and honestly, if you’ve never eaten a chicken worth risking your life over, you haven’t lived yet.
The battle is on, with the Hound fighting the lot of them, and Arya jumping in to kill Polliver, the Lannister fighter who had stolen her sword (the Needle) and killed her buddy.
Tyrion’s ‘confession’ (Season 4, Episode 6)
Tyrion stands on trial after being framed for the murder of King Joffrey. Shae, the prostitute he fell in love with, gave false testimony that’s sure to indict him. And Tyrion just snaps.
“I wish to confess,” he tells his father, who is overseeing the trial, before turning to the crowd. “I saved you. I saved this city and all your worthless lives. I should have let Stannis kill you all.”
He’s referring to the Battle of the Blackwater, during which his ingenious idea to use wildfire saved King’s Landing. But in a cruel twist, those very people (including his own family, most of whom hate him) are about to sentence him to death. And he knows why.
“I am guilty of being a dwarf,” he says. “I’ve been on trial for that my entire life. . . . I did not do it. I did not kill Joffrey but I wish that I had.”
Though he seems unhinged in the moment, he makes one of his smartest ploys yet: demanding a trial by combat. Tyrion has numerous standout scenes, from (erm) debating with Cersei to his rousing speech about stories mattering in the final episode. But in this scene, Peter Dinklage vacillates between anger, horror and betrayal — while keeping his clever edge. He does so deftly in one of the show’s most unforgettable moments.
‘Hold the door!’ (Season 6, Episode 5)
One of the biggest tear-jerkers of the series, Hodor’s end had to be included. This scene depicts Hodor’s final moments — valiantly giving his life so Bran can get away from the wights and White Walkers. But it’s also heartbreaking because it shows the audience the source of Hodor’s lifetime of suffering.
It turned out that a warging-gone-wrong incident resulted in a young Hodor (who, at the time was a stable boy named Wylis) having a seizure in Winterfell, and him seeing his eventual death. “Hold the door!” is the command he would be given, and it’s the one that haunted him for the rest of his life, until the moment he actually held that door and died.
Lady Olenna’s startling confession (Season 7, Episode 3)
Lady Olenna was the sassiest Westerosi, someone who could go toe-to-toe with the most cunning Lannister. And while she had many enjoyable scenes — telling Cersei to get Loras out of the clink, teasing Tywin about his kids’ penchant for incest, demanding cheese — her most memorable and delicious line came much later in “Game of Thrones,” as the show’s dialogue began deteriorating.
Jaime describes how they outsmarted Daenerys and how he convinced Cersei to give Lady Olenna a painless death. Before Olenna takes a swig of the poison wine, she gets in some final jabs about Cersei: “She’s a disease. I regret my role in spreading it. You will, too.”
After Olenna chugs her poison, she describes Joffrey’s horrific death and drops one of the bigger “Thrones” bombshells: “A shocking scene. Not at all what I had intended. You see, I’d never seen the poison work before. Tell Cersei. I want her to know it was me."