Right before Season 4 started, Rolling Stone ran a rather intriguing list about who the “top” characters are on Game of Thrones. They defined “top” as “memorable.” Now that Season 4 is over, things have changed. As a result, I don’t entirely agree with Rolling Stone and I suspect you won’t either. But, before we look at their list, it’s worthwhile — not to mention fun — looking at which scenes on the show are the most memorable.
After all, in the last season on Game of Thrones, the action, twists, and huge events just kept coming. George RR Martin cut his teeth working on the 1985 The Twilight Zone reboot, which if you’ve never seen it, was the king of the twist ending.
Reel Good wrote a great article ranking the show’s most significant moments, but I just couldn’t resist playing the game myself, so here’s my list. I’d love to hear your most Game of Thrones memorable moments.
1 – Ned Stark’s death
You never forget your first time. Nothing sends the “no one’s safe” message quite like the first time we see just how ruthless George RR Martincan be with his characters. Reel Good’s Rank: 16
2 – The Red Wedding
Visceral. Bloody. Shocking. Controversial. Reel Good’s Rank: 6
3 – The Duel & Prince Oberyn’s Death
As Reel Good so aptly put it [to Oberyn], “Eyes on the prize, you dummy.” Even if you read it in the books first, seeing the Oberyn’s head explode is really something else. Reel Good’s Rank: 3
4 – Theon’s Dismemberment
The scenes when Ramsay tortures Theon are almost unbearable, but Ramsay’s “penectomy” takes it to a whole new level. You could easily extend this item to include any of Ramsay’s scenes. Reel Good’s Rank: N/A
5 – Tyrion kills Tywin and Shae
Patricide. The Lannister patriarch and villain dies – something we just never thought we’d see happen. Forget where it happened. If anything, we thought we’d see Tywin die on the throne, just not that throne. Reel Good’s Rank: 1
6 – Joffrey’s Death
Another “you never thought you’d see the day.” Reel Good’s Rank: 5
7 – Jaime Lannister Pushes Bran Out the Tower Window
There’s an old adage in Hollywood that you never kill kids or dogs. George RR Martin has no problem breaking both of these rules. Reel Good’s Rank: N/A
8 – “Dracarys!”
Daenerys commands her dragons to incinerate the slave master Kraznys and the Pyat Pree wizard of Qarth. A marvelous display of power. Nothing says “Holy dragons!” quite like immolation. Reel Good’s Rank: N/A
9 – Littlefinger Pushes Lysa Arryn Out the Moon Door
It makes my acrophobic little palms sweat just thinking about it. Reel Good’s Rank: N/A
10 – Daenerys Hatches Her Dragons in the Flames
Even though we figure she will survive — after all, “oh yeah she wasn’t fireproof after all” would be pretty stupid death — when Daenerys walks into Khal Drogo’s funeral pyre and later emerges unsinged with baby dragons, it’s still astonishing. Reel Good’s Rank: N/A
11 – Tyrion “pushes the nuclear button” at His Own Trial
Instead of trusting he would be sent to the Wall and astounded by Shae’s betrayal, Tyrion loses it and asks for a trial by combat. Later, Tyrion has an “oh crap” moment when he learns his sister picks the universally feared Mountain as his adversary — and nobody will fight him. Reel Good’s Rank: 4
12 – Tyrion Escapes
Jaime and Varys help Tyrion escape from the dungeon and impending destruction. This is a borderline deus ex machina resolution — aka the “death-row pardon” — but it works. Reel Good’s Rank: N/A
13 – Varys’ Wizard-in-a-Box
When Varys shows Tyrion the wizard who “cut” him in a trap door beneath the floor, it is unexpected, creepy, and chilling. The startling scene reveals a hidden and alarming facet of the deceptively mild eunuch. Reel Good’s Rank: 8
14 – Yara Defies Balon and States She Will Rescue Theon
When Balon Greyjoy casts off Theon for not being a man anymore and Yara defiantly informs her father she will “march on the Dreadfort, find her little brother, and bring him home.” A marvelously powerful, majestic, and even transcendent scene.
Reel Good’s Rank: N/A
15 – Arya’s Teachers Sacrifice Themselves for Her
Arya’s “dancing master” (SyrioForel) and her governess-type person (Septa Mordane) sacrifice themselves to save Arya when Lannister guards try to take her into custody. It’s quite touching — even though, as fans at Westeros.org have been buzzing, Syrio Forel might not be dead. Reel Good’s Rank: N/A
16 – Battle of Castle Black
This is my favorite episode ever, so I could (and maybe should) rank it higher. Reel Good’s Rank: 2
17 – “A crown for a king”
When Viserys finally gets his comeuppance, it’s a grisly business indeed. Reel Good’s Rank: 16
18 – Jaime Rescues Brienne of Tarth from the Bear Pit
After Locke sends Brienne to fight his bear with only a wooden sword, it looks like near certain death. Reel Good’s Rank N/A
Other worthy mentions might include when Jon Snow gives Arya her sword Needle, Locke chops off Jaime’s sword hand, Ned Stark kills Lady, Melisandre and Stannis burn heretics — including his brother-in-law(!) — on the beach in Dragonstone, Maester Luwin dies under the Heart tree after Theon seizes Winterfell, and undoubtedly many others.
All images copyright HBO.