When to Apply Super Phosphate to a Garden, Home Guides, SF Gate
When to Apply Super Phosphate to a Garden
- 1 When to Apply Super Phosphate to a Garden
- 2 The Importance of Phosphorus
- 3 Super and Triple Super
- 4 Minimize the Effects of Fixation
- 5 Fertilize Effectively
- 6 Fertilizing Plants 101: Everything You Need to Know to Do It Right
- 7 What Nutrients Do Plants Need?
- 8 The Different ‘Feeders’
- 9 Types of Fertilizers and Their Uses
- 10 Organic vs. Man-Made Fertilizers
- 11 How to Apply Fertilizer to Your Garden
- 12 Best Game of Thrones episodes of all time – all 73 ranked from worst to best
When to Apply Super Phosphate to a Garden
Phosphorus is one of the three primary plant nutrients. Fertilizers often supply significant amounts of phosphorus, along with nitrogen and potassium, the other two primary nutrients. Super phosphate is a common synthetic phosphorus fertilizer. It contains a large percentage of phosphate, but you need to apply it carefully to ensure that your plants can use the phosphorus.
The Importance of Phosphorus
Phosphorus is considered a primary nutrient because it is essential for plant growth and because the quantity required by crops is large relative to the supply of available phosphorus in many soils. Fruiting crops such as tomatoes (Lycopersicon esculentum) and squash (Cucurbita spp.) are particularly sensitive to phosphorus because this element is directly involved in the formation of reproductive structures. An abundant supply of available phosphorus also encourages proper root development and vigorous early growth.
Super and Triple Super
Super phosphate fertilizers come in two common forms: single super phosphate and triple super phosphate. Both are manufactured by reacting insoluble mineral phosphate with acid to create a soluble, readily available form of phosphate. Single super phosphate is about 20 percent phosphate (this percentage corresponds to the second number in a standard N-P-K fertilizer analysis), and it also contains significant quantities of calcium and sulfur. A different type of acid is used to manufacture triple super phosphate, which contains about 48 percent phosphate with less calcium and sulfur.
Minimize the Effects of Fixation
Soluble phosphorus fertilizers are subject to a troublesome phenomenon that does not apply to nitrogen and potassium fertilizers. This phenomenon is known as fixation. When you apply soluble phosphorus fertilizers, such as super phosphate, to the soil, chemical reactions cause this readily available phosphorus to revert to forms that are not available to growing plants. This means the benefit of phosphorus fertilizer decreases steadily after application. Consequently, apply phosphorus fertilizers at the proper time and during certain seasons to minimize losses caused by fixation.
The most important time to apply super phosphate is before planting — phosphorus is critical for seedling root development and early growth. Perform this application very soon before planting to ensure that fixation does not render the phosphate unusable by the time it is needed by seedlings. Side-dressing may be beneficial if a soil test indicates low phosphorus reserves. The best time for side-dressing super phosphate is when plants enter a stage of high nutrient demand, such as when tomatoes begin to bear or ripen fruit. For perennial crops, apply in early spring when vigorous growth ensures that plant roots can take up the phosphate before it is immobilized by fixation.
Fertilizing Plants 101: Everything You Need to Know to Do It Right
Jennifer is a full-time homesteader who started her journey in the foothills of North Carolina in 2010. Currently, she spends her days gardening, caring for her orchard and vineyard, raising chickens, ducks, goats, and bees. Jennifer is an avid canner who provides almost all food for her family needs. She enjoys working on DIY remodeling projects to bring beauty to her homestead in her spare times.
Did you know fertilizing your plants is fascinating? Most gardeners don’t.
In fact, most gardeners don’t know how to fertilize their garden properly. I’ll admit it. In my earlier years of gardening, I fertilized when I felt like it or if I felt like it.
Beyond that, my garden was on its own.
However, I’ve since learned that fertilizing is something every garden needs. Your garden soil, the nutrients which fill it, and the proper application of fertilizer can make all of the difference in your harvest.
Which is why I’m going to fill you in.
What Nutrients Do Plants Need?
Plants require specific nutrients from the soil. The issue is when you plant each year, the plants will draw those nutrients out of the soil, and they don’t magically restock themselves.
Therefore, it is important to fertilize your plants, to ensure they are getting the nutrients previous plants could have already taken from your soil.
Also, it is important to fertilize plants while rebuilding your soil. It will allow the plants to be able to naturally pull what they need from the soil without any additives.
Here are the nutrients plants need:
Nitrogen is naturally in short-supply within nature. All plants need it, and over the years, plants have learned to pull as much as they possibly can out of the soil to ensure they have enough to survive.
However, when looking at how vital nitrogen is, you’ll understand why. It helps plants to make protein which helps them create new tissues and keep building and is vital to their survival.
This nutrient is essential to plants because it is what they need to produce reliable root systems. Phosphorous is what encourages their roots to grow.
Also, it helps plants to produce buds, blooms, and flowers to produce fruit. It also helps the plant to create healthy seeds for more offspring.
We’ve heard carbohydrates are bad. For plants, they are not. Plants need carbohydrates to feed themselves.
Well, potassium enables them to make carbohydrates. It also helps the plant to become disease-resistant, which encourages a healthy life.
Plants don’t need much calcium added to the soil, but you will need to make sure there is enough of it in there.
The reason is calcium is what helps bind the soil together. Calcium will improve soil conditions and give the plant an easier chance of survival.
If you’ve made it through any science class, you’ve heard of photosynthesis. It is the process plants use to produce their food.
The source of the food is the sun. Plants need magnesium to process sunlight to feed themselves. Without it, they won’t survive.
Plants need proteins to build and rebuild itself if it becomes damaged. Sulfur is a vital part of proteins.
Without sulfur, a plant could struggle to make proteins which could be the downfall of the plant altogether.
Each of these nutrients can be placed into your soil using different varieties of fertilizer, which we’ll discuss further down.
However, it’s important to know what your plant needs, what it could be lacking, and make sure you either build those nutrients back into your soil or apply them directly to your plant.
If not, you could lose your harvest altogether.
The Different ‘Feeders’
Different varieties of plants require different amounts of fertilizer to be happy producers. The terms are: plants could be a heavy feeder, moderate feeder, or a light feeder.
It is essential to know what type of feeder each of your plants is to make sure you fertilize accordingly.
Heavy feeders are as the name implies. They require a significant amount of nutrients to efficiently produce.
You should apply fertilizer as you plant the crops and again later in the growing season. You could use a fast-acting liquid fertilizer on occasion as well.
The plants which are heavy feeders are:
Plants which are considered moderate feeders react better to fast-acting liquid fertilizers than any other type.
However, they seem to like mulch being applied to them because it helps the soil to drain better. Mulch allows them to pull nutrients they need from the soil as needed.
Plants which are moderate feeders are:
Light feeders don’t require much fertilizing. Instead, add a smaller amount of fertilizer when you are planting the crop.
Beyond that, they take care of themselves. Plants which are light feeders are:
Understanding what type of feeder your plants are, will let you know what they need during planting and how much attention you need to give them during the growing season as far as applying more nutrients.
Types of Fertilizers and Their Uses
There are many different types of fertilizers. There are some which are more common than others, and it is important to know how to utilize the more common options.
However, you need to understand upfront, fertilizing is a balance. If you don’t feed your garden enough, you could end up with weak plants.
But if you fertilize your garden too frequently, you’ll end up with a great deal of foliage on your plants and minimal harvest.
Some common types of fertilizers:
- Liquid fertilizer
- Granular fertilizer
- Powdered fertilizer
1. Dry Fertilizer
When you use a dry fertilizer, you will want to use them on plants which are already established. Dry fertilizer is a good option if you are giving your heavy feeders the second feeding later on in the growing season.
2. Slow-Release Fertilizers
Most slow-release fertilizers are either specialty synthetic fertilizer or organic fertilizers. They are meant to feed your crops over a period. Slow-release fertilizers are a good option for long-term healthy plants, but not for plants under distress.
3. Liquid Fertilizers
These fertilizers are fast acting. They are an excellent option for plants under distress and in need of a boost. If you buy a specialty fertilizer high in potash, it could boost your harvest as well.
When you apply manure to your soil, it helps it to hold moisture. It will also add nutrients to your soil. Manure is an excellent fertilizer to add to your soil in the fall to give it time to break down and build up your soil.
It is also a good thing to add to your soil after planting. You can apply two to three inches of manure around your plants as a type of mulch.
Organic vs. Man-Made Fertilizers
Fertilizers can either be items you find naturally out in nature, or you can purchase chemicals made by man. They each have their pros and cons. It is essential to understand what they are because both fertilizers can be helpful, and both have their downfalls.
Here is what you need to know:
1. Organic Fertilizers
Organic fertilizers are items such as compost, manure, blood meal, bone meal, and cottonseed meal which can be raised or purchased. They can be applied to your crops and give them a natural boost.
However, you need to be aware; organic fertilizers can be useful. Yet, they have their shortcomings too. The pros of using organic fertilizers are:
- Organic fertilizers are not water soluble. Therefore, they are released slowly to the plant.
- Improves the soil structure
- Organic fertilizers can be grown or raised, which could make them inexpensive or free.
- Manure and compost are easy to find in most areas, making organic fertilizers easily accessible.
The cons of organic fertilizer are:
- The items you use to fertilize organically are frequently bulky, making them hard to transport, store, or distribute.
- Because organic fertilizers slow-feed, they could be ineffective when dealing with plants in distress.
- Since organic fertilizers aren’t usually packaged and aren’t manufactured, the components could be different for each batch. This could make it difficult to know how much to apply to your garden.
2. Synthetic Fertilizers
Synthetic fertilizers are human-made chemical-based fertilizers. Because they are manufactured, they are water-soluble which makes them release quickly.
Like organic fertilizers, synthetic fertilizers have their pros and cons. Here are the advantages of using synthetic fertilizers:
- Less expensive
- Easily accessible
- A quick release which makes them work fast
The cons of using synthetic fertilizers are:
- Add nothing to your soil
- Bad for the environment because of production methods and potential of contaminating water supplies
- Could burn your plants because of how quickly they work
How to Apply Fertilizer to Your Garden
Now that you know about the different types of fertilizers, their purposes, pros and cons, and what different plants need from the soil, you are ready to talk about the different methods of applying fertilizer to your garden.
Here is what you need to know to fertilize your garden well:
1. The Numbers Matter
When choosing a fertilizer from a store choose a well-balanced option. You’ll see fertilizer labeled 5-5-5 or 10-10-10.
But what do the numbers mean? The figures not only show the fertilizer is balanced, but they are balanced in key ingredients.
The first number tells you how much nitrogen is in the fertilizer. The second number tells you how much phosphate is in the fertilizer. The final number tells you about the amount of potash.
It is important to know what you are buying and what the numbers mean to purchase what is best for your specific gardening needs.
2. Feed the Roots
You can feed the roots of your plants by applying manure and compost during planting and before the growing season to build up the nutrients in your soil.
Also, when your plants are well established, you can add fertilizer to the base of the plants to add necessary nutrients to the plants.
3. Feed the Foliage
It is essential to make sure you feed the foliage of your plants too. Plants can absorb eight to twenty times more nutrients through their foliage than through the roots. Which is why it is a good idea to apply liquid fertilizer to your plants from time to time.
Also, liquid fertilizer can increase your harvest drastically, if applied at the right times. It is a good idea to spray your plants when transplanting, when they’re blooming, and after the first fruits begin appearing.
However, check the list of what type of feeder the plant is because you may not need to fertilize quite as much for some varieties.
4. Check Your Soil and pH
Finally, you need to check your soil and find if there are any deficiencies. If there are, you’ll need to add a balanced fertilizer and whatever nutrients the soil is deficient in.
Also, check the pH of the soil because if the soil is not balanced, the plant won’t be able to absorb nutrients.
Most plants prefer a pH balance of 6.0-7.0.
Well, you are now fully in the know about fertilizing your plants. If you feed your plants at key times, you should be fine.
However, if your plants begin to look weepy it might be a sign they are in need of nutrients. Plants have a way of letting you know when they are in need.
But I’d like to hear from you. What is your favorite type of fertilizer? What’s your preferred method of application? Do you have any secrets to ‘keeping the balance’ of fertilization in your garden?
We’d love to hear from you. Leave us your thoughts in the comment section below.
Best Game of Thrones episodes of all time – all 73 ranked from worst to best
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What better way to bide your time to post-lockdown freedom than mowing your way through quite possibly the best television show there ever was?
As appetite whetter but also nostalgic ramble down the byways – to your left freshly-slaughtered farmboys, to your right burning Dothraki khals – here is our countdown of all 73 episodes ranked from worst to best.
73. The Iron Throne (season eight, episode six)
For many fans, this season and series finale will go down at the biggest anticlimax in Games of Thrones’ history. Somehow, The Iron Throne managed to be as slow as it was long and insincere in its most promising moments. Dany was murdered by her lover/nephew (yet, somehow, he survived Drogon’s iron-melting reaction), said nephew did absolutely nothing with his claim to the Throne but got himself sent off to live a futile life with the Night’s Watch, Bran (BRAN!) became King of the Six Kingdoms, and far more. Sigh.
72. Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken (season five, episode six)
Ramsay’s rape of Sansa – with Theon forced to watch – becomes instantly notorious and by all accounts provokes a rethink by Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and DB Weiss regarding the use of sexual violence as plot device. The firestorm may have died down but the sequence remains shocking for all the wrong reasons, with the assault on Sansa framed as Theon’s ordeal as much as hers.
It is regrettable that Benioff and Weiss had to go there; the exchange of vows between Ramsay and Sansa in the Godswood shortly beforehand is among the most beautifully shot Game of Thrones sequences and looks like something from a dark fairy tale. Elsewhere, Jaime and Bronn’s adventures in Dorne are a bad, or maybe very good, Xena: Warrior Princes pastiche, as the Sand Snakes confront them in the Water Gardens of Sunspear looking like a crack-squad of cos-players. The episode title is the motto of House Martell – but Lady Olenna would be aghast at being dragged into this mess.
71. Breaker Of Chains (season four, episode three)
By the time the Black Wedding rolled around, Benioff and Weiss should have been forewarned about using rape as a plot device. They’d already “gone there” in season four, with Jaime appearing to force himself upon Cersei in the presence of their son Joffrey’s corpse.
The sequence is framed as consensual in the George RR Martin novel. But Game of Thrones seems ambivalent as to how we should interpret it. The director, Alex Graves, later said that the encounter was consensual. But in HBO’s Inside the Episode featurette, Benioff commented: “She’s saying no, and he’s forcing himself on her. It was a really uncomfortable scene and a tricky scene to shoot.”
Breaker of Chains also introduces us to one of flimsiest of the new characters crated by Benioff and Weiss – vengeful ragamuffin Olly, who will later shoot poor Ygritte with an arrow and (quite the encore this) stab Jon Snow. In Essos, Daenerys’s long and very dreary conquest of Meereen plods ever onwards. Problematic and dull – what a clunker this was.
70. The Prince of Winterfell (season two, episode eight)
The ultimate Game of Thrones placeholder. Stannis’s armada is bearing down on King’s Landing and Tyrion is preparing his defences. Meanwhile in Winterfell, Theon struggles to keep control of the fortress, with his sister Yara suggesting his grand gesture of invading his childhood home is for naught as it is of no strategic use to the Iron Islanders. And Ygritte and Jon Snow continue their slow-burning infatuation (Ygritte saves Jon from execution at the hands of the Lord of Bones). This episode doesn’t quite Jump the Stark – it’s perfectly serviceable Game of Thrones. But it’s clear that the really exciting stuff is being held back. By the Seven, you just wish they’d get on with it.
69. Mhysa (season three, episode 10)
The “White Saviour” narrative of Daenerys’ liberation/conquest of Meereen provoked much unfavourable comment and just seems a bit naff in retrospect Also this is the point at which it dawns on many viewers that Daenerys is going to be bogged down in Meereen for the foreseeable future. Still there are moments to savour — though “savour” perhaps isn’t quite the word. Arya must endure the sight of Frey soldiers parading her dead brother Robb decapitated and with his dire wolf’s head sewn on. And having already been pinged by Cupid’s arrow, Jon Show is now shot by three of Ygritte’s as their relationship reaches its difficult phase and he continues his flight from the Wildlings and return to Castle Black.
68. Oathkeeper (season four, episode four)
Night’s Watch renegades cut a bloody trail through Craster’s Keep and yet again the viewer is required to ponder why mid-period Game of Thrones is so obsessed with interweaving sex and violence. Meanwhile the Cersei-Jaime rape/not rape in Breaker of Chains is promptly forgotten about – surely Cersei would react in some way rather than allow events to merely wash over her?
Sansa meanwhile strikes up an alliance with Littlefinger – which, given that season four Sansa is a long way from the wide-eyed teenager to whom we were initially introduced, feels slightly implausible. Surely she can see right through him by now?
67. The Gift (season five, episode seven)
An episode that promises much and yet is honkingly underwhelming. Tyrion and Daenerys finally meet in a dusty fighting pit in Essos and Cersei’s attempt to manipulate the High Sparrow backfires. Her own indiscretions exposed, she follows Margaery into the dungeons. It should have been one of the biggest shocks of the season. So how was it that Cersei’s grand humiliation landed with such a thud? As with the dreary Tyrion-Daenerys meet-cute – with a bonus Ser Jorah back and still trying to win his way back into his Khaleesi’s affections – it is a thumping disappointment. GoT is finally outpacing the Martin novels and exploring new territory. What a shame the showrunners appear unsure which direction to take.
66. A Man Without Honour (season two, episode seven)
Jon Snow is introduced to his great love (sorry Daenerys, we all know this to be true) and she is initially…a bit annoying. Early Ygritte is all about trousers humour and laddette banter – with little to indicate her tragic romance with Jon will become one of GoT’s most affecting arcs (and would ultimate see Kit Harington and Rose Leslie wed in real life). There is also a flash of Nasty Jaime – remember him? – as he kills his own cousin in an (unsuccessful) attempt to escape the Starks. And in Essos, GoT is still trying to make us care about the machinations in Qarth, where – do try to stay awake – the Thirteen are toppled and the warlocks seize power and Xaro betrays Daenerys.
65. The Broken Man (season six, episode seven)
The Hound lives! And he’s hanging out with Lovejoy. Not only does Game of Thrones break its own rules by bringing back a character we were plainly lead to believe is dead. But they have him working for a pacifist preacher played by Ian McShane. The internet is at this very moment still reeling from McShane’s description of Game of Thrones as “t*** and dragons” – ensuring that his presence punches a hole in the fourth wall and takes you out of the moment (Maesters in the Citadel have diagnosed this as as “Sheeran Effect”). In Braavos, Arya is ambushed by the Waif (please go away, Waif) and in the Riverlands Jaime has an underwhelming stand-off with Brynden “Blackfish” Tully, to whom he is laying siege. Next!
64. Book of the Stranger (season six, episode four)
Bran’s Wildling protector Osha is bumped off by Ramsay. Her exit is much too casual considering her significance in keeping the future Three-Eyed Raven alive in previous seasons. Jon reunites with Sansa and Theon with Yara Greyjoy. And Daenerys has her revenge against the Khals by burning them within their temple and walking unhurt through the flames. A stunning end to a mediocre episode.
63. Eastwatch (season seven, episode five)
Gilly uncovers the secret of Jon Snow’s parentage in a dusky tome. Meanwhile Sam has had enough of the Citadel and its fusty ways (yes, who’d have thought an ancient centre of learning would be old fashioned).
Tensions grow between Sansa and Arya in Winterfell. And Jon Snow has a meet-cute with the other significant male in Daenerys’s life, Drogon (let’s spare a thought, and not for the last time, for poor Ser Jorah). There is also a disappointing resolution to the Jaime-scorched-by-fire cliffhanger, as it is confirmed Bronn really did just pull him under the water. Not very exciting.
62. Valar Dohaeris (season three, episode one)
A brutal battle between the White Walkers and the Night’s Watch party ranging north of the Wall should have been a GoT highlight. But, presumably because of budget constraints, the action happens off screen, and between seasons. Tyrion broods while his father Tywin claims all the glory for winning the Battle of the Blackwater. There is some excitement in Essos, where Daenerys is saved from an assassination attempt by Ser Barristan Selmy (aka Ser Jorah 2.0). So the board is being set for what is obviously going to be a lively series. But as a season premiere – when GoT was becoming the biggest thing in television – it underwhelms more than it excites.
61. Winterfell (season eight, episode one)
For all the destruction and terror Game of Thrones set us up for in throughout its penultimate season, season 8’s premiere felt a little too much like the start of a separate story. For die-hard fans, there was a heavy dose of welcome nostalgia (Jon reunited with Arya, Gendry flirting with our lovely little Faceless Man, Samwell telling his best mate he’s actually the heir to the Iron Throne) but little movement between scenes – and a little too much rom-com dragon riding – didn’t meet expectations. At least Yara was saved.
60. Oathbreaker (season six, episode three)
Jon Snow is back from the dead. But then we already knew this was going to happen after Kit Harington turned up at Wimbledon with his Night’s Watch hairdo intact. The episode also features one of Bran’s Bran’s Three-Eyed Raven dream sequences, as he flashes back to a young Ned Stark rescuing his sister, Lyanna from the Tower of Joy. But in a devastating feint, the action cuts after he has defeated the building’s protectors. The big reveal regarding Jon Snow’s parentage is going to be stretched out for maximum effect (notwithstanding that, just like his resurrection, we’ve already guessed where it is leading).
59. The Wars To Come (season five, episode one)
The first Game of Thrones flashback sees a young Cersei receiving a chilling prophecy regarding her future children from Maggie the Frog. Meanwhile, Tyrion crawls out of a box in Essos and Daenerys discovers she has a struggle on her hands to retain power in Meereen (soo….why not forget Meereen and come to Westeros?). Most significantly of all, Mance Rayder is burned by Stannis after refusing to bend the knee. In the books, Mance still lives (Stannis barbecued an imposter). It’s hard not to think the show-runners missed a trick by dispensing with the excellent Ciarán Hinds.
58. Valar Morghulis (season two, episode 10)
The closest Game of Thrones has come to feel-good and cuddly. In a vision within the House of the Undying, Daenerys reunites with Khal Drogo and the child they never had. Sansa dodges the ultimate crossbow bolt when released from her engagement with Tyrion. Fleeing Harrenhal, Arya has a fateful encounter with Jaqen H’ghar, who invites her to train as one of the Faceless Men in faraway Braavos. And Sam has a close encounter with a White Walker and horde of undead, who ignore him and march onwards. The outlook is less happy for Tyrion, whose sterling work preventing King’s Landing being razed by Stannis is glossed over as Tywin takes all the credit.
57. The Red Woman (season six, episode one)
Episode one of season six and we’ve all stayed up to discover if Jon Snow really is dead or if, as expected, the show is going to bring him back. The answer is… wait and see. The season opener delays the big reveal regarding Snow’s fate and instead teased us with relatively trivial developments. Back in Dorne – yes, sigh, Dorne – Doran Martell is hastily usurped by Ellaria and the Sand Snakes, another potentially intriguing storyline that the series immediately allows wither and die. There is a “big reveal” at the end as Red Woman Melisandre sheds her clothes and, removing her ruby neckless, is shown to be withered and ancient. Not that anyone was especially invested in Melisandre – but it is an affecting sequence. However, by then viewers were all shouting “what about Jon Snow!” at the screen.
56. The Night Lands (season two, episode two)
Stannis and Melisandre have a hot and steamy ecumenical encounter on top of the Painted Table at Dragonstone (don’t tell Daenerys – who will much later do a lot of her top-level plotting there). The Mother of Dragons and her rapidly diminishing Dothraki “horde” wander the desert. And saucy Theon Greyjoy slobbers all over his sister on the way to reconnecting with his father, Balon Greyjoy. Jon meanwhile discovers Craster is protecting himself from the Walkers by offering up his incestuous newborn boys. It’s one of those episodes that hopscotches breathlessly all over the Seven Kingdoms and further afield. Good fun – but not one that lingers especially in the memory.
55. Lord Snow (season one, episode three)
The Great Game of Thrones Info Dump. We are introduced to – very deep breath, with a sit-down afterwards – Varys, Littlefinger, Grand Maester Pycelle and the all the major players in the Night’s Watch. Elsewhere, the Mother of Dragons breathes fire for the first time as she stands up to her loathsome brother Viserys. Game Of Thrones is revealing itself as much more than a swords and sorcery romp with bonus nudity (though it still insists on the bonus nudity). And Old Nan utters to Bran the meme-able line, “Oh, my sweet summer child. What do you know about fear? “
54. The Bear and the Maiden Fair (season three, episode seven)
The platonic friendship between Jaime and Brienne is forged in the white heat of her pit fight with a bear, as he returns to save her. Their dynamic is more or less irrelevant to the wider story but it is nonetheless one of the most affecting in all of Game of Thrones. As one special relationship is cemented, however, another is sundered as Theon says farewell to his manhood. Arya is meanwhile taken captive by the Hound; though it seems unlikely in the moment, they will quickly become GoT’s most formidable double act.
53. The Long Night (season eight, episode three)
The Battle of Winterfell broke our hearts on, indeed, a long (and extraordinarily dark) night. In 82 minutes we saw a number of untimely deaths; Lyanna Mormont, Theon Greyjoy, Beric Dondarrion, Melisandre and – most significantly – The Night King and his army of undead soldiers (go get ’em, Arya). It was a bit of an anticlimax, leaving lots of questions unanswered, but a brilliant piece of television.
52. No One (season six, episode eight)
Arya’s tutelage at the House of Black and White is complete and she confronts Jaqen H’ghar, presenting him with the face of the Waif. Rather than reacting in horror, Jaqen seems pleased – though Arya denies she is “no one” and sets off for Westeros very much a Stark again. Cersei is let down by her beloved son Tommen, who denies her the right to defend herself against the charges levied by the High Sparrow through trial by combat.
This will ultimately set her on the path to becoming the Mad Queen of Westeros. Brienne and Jaime meanwhile have an emotional reunion at Riverrun and Daenerys and Drogon return to Meereen not a moment to soon, as the Masters are about to invade. Action, treachery and the knowledge that Arya has finally concluded her Braavos storyline makes for a winning trip to Westeros.
51. The Bells (season eight, episode five)
A lot of loose ends were tied in the penultimate episode of series. In the wake of ever-steeping loss, Mad Queen Daenerys officially fell off her rocker and torched King’s Landing to a crisp. Cleganebowl claimed the brothers. Drogon finally met the dragon-fearing Westerosi’s expectations. Varys, Cersei, Euron, Qyburn and a character arc-destroying Jaime all met their bitter end. Arya finally stopped acting like a robot. It was a dark and perfect set-up for the finale, however rushed.
50. The House of Black and White (season five, episode two)
Not a fan favourite – but an episode that stands up to multiple rewatches. Jon Snow is elected Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch – this is obviously going to end well – and Jaime recruits a delighted and entirely willing Bronn for his mission to rescue Myrcella from Dorne. En route to Winterfell – not that she knows it yet – Sansa makes a disastrous misstep in declining to join Brienne. Instead she remains with creepy Littlefinger. And in Braavos Arya knocks on the door of the House of Black and White only to be initially rejected. Eventually Jaqen H’ghar appears and she begins training. Lots going on here in an instalment that really should be more highly rated.
49. Sons of the Harpy (season five, episode four)
A satisfyingly talkie episode. Loras Tyrell is clapped in chains by the increasingly audacious Sparrows and Tommen blanches from cracking down on the zealots, for fear of shedding blood (it’s going to be a lot worse Tommen). Melisandre tries to seduce Jon Snow, sensing he is more than just a grumpy and youthful Lord Commander. There is a foreshadowing of the recent season eight trailer, set in the crypts of Winterfell, as Sansa lights a candle for her dead family and Littlefinger recalls the history of Lyanna’s kidnapping at the hands of Rhaegar Targaryen. And it’s a big farewell from Ser Barristan. He is ambushed by Sons of the Harpy in Meereen – a gripping end to an absorbing examination of the relationship between belief and power and how easily the balance between the two can flip.
48. Garden of Bones (season two, episode four)
Game of Thrones at its silliest. We try to keep a straight face as Melisandre gives birth to Stannis’s shadow baby (as does Ser Davos). There’s a chilling insight into Joffrey’s psychopathy as he tortures two prostitutes. And Daenerys and the Dothraki arrive at Qarth, dullest city in all of Westeros. It’s all quite ripe – and yet, somehow, hangs together. Game of Thrones has earned our trust by now and we’re willing to go along, shadow babies and all.
47. The Queen’s Justice (season seven, episode three)
Enron Greyjoy is confirmed as late stage Game of Thrones’s most outrageous character as he sails triumphantly into King’s Landing. Tyrion’s reputation as a military genius suffers when the Lannister’s outsmart him, leading to the conquest of the Tyrell seat at Highgarden and the end of Lady Olenna. Still she has the last cackle, informing Jaime it was she who poisoned Joffrey. As with much of season seven, things feel rushed – early Game of Thrones would have rewardingly dragged three or four episodes out of the King’s Landing-Highgarden plot.
46. Dark Wings, Dark Words (season three, episode two)
The wickedness of House Bolton is hinted at as Jaime and Brienne are kidnapped by their boorish troops. The Brotherhood Without Banners is introduced and Margaery’s attempted to ingratiate herself with Joffrey lays bare her manipulative streak. Lady Olenna, the Queen of Thorns, is introduced in classic mid-period Game of Thrones where you can practically hear the plot thickening.
45. The Kingsroad (season one, episode two)
The one with the big dramatic farewell between Ned and Jon, in which Lord Stark tells his “son” that he will reveal the truth about his mother the next time they meet. There will be no next time Ned! Catelyn continues the Detective Pikachu phase of her career after an attempt on Bran’s life fuels her suspicions and she uncovers a strand of blonde Cersei hair in the tower from which he “fell”. Jon and Tyrion lay eyes on the Wall for the first time. And there is an early glimpse of Joffrey’s sociapathy as he has the Hound run down the butcher’s boy who bests him in battle. It’s a case as slowly as she goes as Game of Thrones sets off on his great eight-season journey.
44. The North Remembers (season two, episode one)
Season two is regarded as one of GoT’s strongest. The opening episode is certainly a showcase for Tyrion, who casually strolls into King’s Landing and reveals he has been named Hand of the King by Tywin. The look on Cersei’s face! Robert’s illegitimate heirs are hunted down by the Kingsguard with one exception (run Gendry run!). And we are introduced to Stannis, who sets his stall out early by burning men to death in order to win the favour of Melisandre’s Lord of Light.
43. The Laws of Gods and Men (season four, episode six)
Tyrion is betrayed by Shae during his trial for the murder of Joffrey. His only recourse is to demand absolution by combat. Fortunately Oberyn Martell has a huge grudge against Cersei’s champion, the Mountain. Yara’s attempt to rescue Theon comes unstuck when she discovers her brainwashed brother now identifies as “Reek”. The downside of keeping a growing dragon is revealed to Daenerys as Drogon attacks a goat herder and his son (and their goats). Stannis’s plans suffer a setback when the Iron Bank in Braavos decline to bankroll his war on the Lannisters. Not at all epic – but wheels continue to grind fascinatingly forward.
42. You Win or You Die (season one, episode seven)
“I warned you not to trust me,” says Littlefinger as he holds knife to Ned Stark’s throat. Lord Eddard is unmasked as a naive nincompoop as he is out manoeuvred by Cersei and Lord Baelish. And that after Cersei’s warning that «When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.»
King Robert is dead, gored in suspicious circumstances while hunting. As the power vacuum fluctuates, Ned tries to do the right thing rather than the smart thing and and loses. Ser Jorah saves Daenerys from a poisoning attempt – he’s officially gone over to Team Khaleesi– and Khal Drogo changes his mind and agrees to invade Westeros on behalf of his queen. We are introduced to arch-Machiavelli Tywin Lannister, skinning a stag (sigil of, hint hint, House Baratheon). Game of Thrones at its most Game of Thrones-y.
41. Kill the Boy (season five, episode five)
Tyrion and his kidsnapper/road movie buddy Ser Jorah pass through the ruins of Old Valyria and are set upon by the Stone Men. But there’s an upside at Tyrion claps eyes on his first dragon. In Winterfell, Sansa is reunited with Theon who, so far as she knows, is responsible for the deaths of Bran and Rickon (yes, Rickon, look it up). At the wall, Maester Aemon urges the new Lord Commander Snow to «kill the boy and let the man be born”. Jon is torn over whether to strike an alliance with the Wildlings but, at Aemon’s prompting, decides this is the smartest course. The news does not go down well with the ranks and file (who will soon be slicing and dicing Lord Commander Snow).
40. Blood of my Blood (season six, episode six)
The Arya in Braavos storyline has been a proper snooze. But things perk up as she refuses to bump off the leading lady from Richard E Grant’s actorly troupe. Drogon reappears, to the relief of Daenerys. But the real dramatic comeback is courtesy of Benjen, last seen all the way back in episode one and presumed lost to the Walkers. He’s a bit creepy and potentially undead himself but nonetheless swoops in to save Bran and Meera. Jaime thunders into King’s Landing and, clopping very impressively up some steps on horse-back, orders the Faith Militant to stand down. But Tommen has been seduced by the cult and Margaery has won her freedom by playing along too. So, so exciting.
39. The Climb (season three, episode six)
Jon Snow is embedded with the Wildlings – sssh, despite being all cuddly with Ygritte, it’s just a ruse – and together they scale the Wall. With the sun glimmering through the clouds, they share a passionate kiss on the summit. This is in every sense the high point of their relationship. There is also a delicious face-off between top-of-their-games Tywin Lannister and Lady Olenna. When Lord Baelish – who utters his quote “chaos is a ladder” – departs King’s Landing, Sansa feels utterly abandoned.
38. The Wolf and the Lion (season one, episode five)
The Eyrie is unveiled in all its gravity-defying glory, as, in all her bonkerdom, is Lady Lysa Arryn. Jaime Lannister and Ned Stark cross steel at King’s Landing. But the most moving sequence is the quietest as Robert and Cersei discuss their empty husk of a marriage and how they wish things had been different. The superbly written scene helps humanise two dislikable characters.
37. The Pointy End (season one, episode eight)
An arguably flippant title belies a deeply rewarding episode. Ned is imprisoned so Robb rallies the North. At the Wall one of Benjen’s slain fellow rangers returns to life and attacks Jon – his first encounter with a Walker (get used to it Jon). It’s the start of a slow farewell for Khal Drogo, injured defending the honour of Daenerys, who intervenes as the Dothraki are enjoying their traditional raping and pillaging. This is hardly “the calm” – but considering what is coming next (ask Ned Stark and his head) The Pointy End is, on reflection, the last time Game of Thrones could be enjoyed as a conventional fantasy adventure obeying the traditional rules of engagement.
36. The Ghost of Harrenhal (season two, episode five)
Arya’s new career as Tywin Lannister’s cup-bearer grows more interesting as she takes up Jaqen H’ghar on his offer to eliminate three of her enemies. In doing so she will placate the Many-Faced God, who is apparently a bit miffed after Arya rescued Jaqen and his pals. In Qarth Daenerys meets cue-ball headed warlock Pyat Pree at a garden party. And one of the entire series’s most pivotal scenes unfolds as Stannis’s shadow baby kills Renly. This is a tiny bit silly – the Shadow Baby looks like its made out of demonic ink – but it sets Brienne on a quest for vengeance that will bear fruition three seasons down the line.
35. First Of His Name (season four, episode five)
Jon hints at his future leadership potential with the Night’s Watch by defeating the mutineers who have taken over Craster’s Keep. Finally free, Craster’s unfortunate “wives” burn their depraved home to the ground. Cersei seems almost pleased as Tommen is crowned king and comes across eager to get along with daughter-in-law Margaery (it won’t last). But there is disappointment in Meereen where Ser Jorah talks Daenerys out of sailing for Westeros. Instead she resolves to tighten her grip of Slaver’s Bay Why Jorah… why? But not even this frustration can take the edge off another spectacularly solid episode.
34. High Sparrow (season five, episode three)
More “Hello” Sparrow. We are introduced to Cersei’s apparent ally but ultimately her tormentor, who heads a religious cult that has swept in from the provinces to King’s Landing. There is drama north of the Wall where the new Lord Commander’s first task is to behead the cowardly Janos Slynt. “I’ve always been afraid,” shrieks Janos at the end, which is frankly not telling us anything we didn’t already know. It also confirms that, in following the example of his Ned Stark, who beheaded that deserter in the very first episode, Snow is growing into his father’s son. Only he isn’t actually his son – but now isn’t the time to worry about that. Tommen meanwhile enthusiastically consummates his marriage with Margaery– which pleaseth Cersei not at all.
33. Second Sons (season three, episode eight)
Samwell Tarly demonstrates he is not to be under-estimated as he defeats a White Walker (he’s still banging on about it, seasons later). The episode is named for the mercenary company whom Daenerys wins over to her side (Daario Naharis is so smitten his kills his superiors as they plot to eliminate her). Arya and the Hound set off for The Twins, where Sandor plans to ransom Arya to Robb Stark. This is a marvellous plan and is going to end very happily for all involved. With hindsight, Second Sons would go down as the episode preceding the Red Wedding – but more than stands up on its own.
32. Walk of Punishment (season three, episode three)
Ouch. The one where Jaime loses his hand to the Bolton soldiers and the episode abruptly closes to the hard rocking strains of the Hold Steady performing the Bear and the Maiden Fair. Meanwhile Cersei and Tyrion spar at the Small Council, before Tyrion unveils his plan to have Lord Baelish marry Lysa Arryn. Theon thinks he has escaped his tormentors with the help of an enterprising serving boy, who pops up later to kills the soldiers pursuing him. We will later discover all is not as it seems.
31. Kissed By Fire (season three, episode five)
Game of Thrones goes steamy (rather than merely gratuitous). In a romantic magical grotto, Jon and Ygritte take their relationship to the next level (ie. the level before Jon betrays Ygritte and she dies trying to turn him into a pin-cushion). There is also a special moment between Jaime and Brienne as, having finally reached Harrenhal, Jaime reveals he acquired his unfortunate Kingslayer sobriquet when he slew Mad Aerys II to save King’s Landing from being levelled with Wildfire. And the Hound does battle with Beric Dondarrion in trial by combat.
His victory proves academic as Beric is resurrected by Thoros of Myr. A very special episode for those for whom the Jon-Ygritte romance was one of GoT’s most engaging storylines. Thankfully romantic portmanteaus had ceased to be a thing by 2013 – otherwise everyone would be going on about “Jygritte”
30. A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms (season eight, episode two)
This episode was the calm — no, claustrophobia — before the storm. Though he’d both murdered and attempted to murder many of new Winterfell’s loved ones, Jaime get off relatively scot-free (at least while everyone is too preoccupied with the looming threat of the undead) to tie relationships together, knight Brienne, and get drunk with many of our series favourite (including his brother) while Jon tells his lover/aunt he’s the one with the right to the Iron Throne. It was the perfect start to the end.
29. The Last of The Starks (season eight, episode four)
Machiavellian Thrones fans rejoice — brutality is back in town. Though more than a few unexplained plots points remain, this was the first episode of the season to feel like a GOT classic. In just over an hour we saw Brienne losing her virginity to Jaime, Jon spilling his secret to the masses, Arya rejecting Gendry’s marriage proposal, the remaining Targaryen-loving troops almost entirely annihilated, Rhaegal killed, Jaime running off in the night (breaking Ser Tarth’s heart), Missandei chained and beheaded in front of Greyworm, and Daenerys reaching peak exasperation. A promising (albeit terrifying) sign of things to come.
28. The Lion and the Rose (season four, episode two)
Joffrey suffers horrible, gasping death by poisoning which is of course exactly what he deserves. This is the high point of his wedding to Margaery Tyrell, at which he also merrily humiliates his uncle Tyrion (hence Tyrion being later pinned for the assassination). The real horror, however, is the expression on the face of Sansa as she must sit through a mocking recreation of the killing of her brother Robb. The Purple Wedding, in short, has something for everyone. There’s even a cameo by Icelandic pop elves Sigur Rós. North of the Wall, Bran has a vision of dragons of King’s Landing – preposterous as everyone knows dragons died out decades ago.
27. Stormborn (season seven, episode two)
Dab a tear as Arya, back in Westeros, reunites with her (now semi feral) direwolf Nymeria. At Dragonstone, Daenerys and her advisors get down to business (on the very table Ser Jorah and Melisandre got down to business). Avert your eyes, meanwhile, as Sam cures Jorah of his greyscale by erm slicing it off in disgusting detail. As the world’s most popular TV show, Game of Thrones is now a mega-budget production as demonstrated by a gripping sea-battle in which Euron Greyjoy attacks Theon and kidnaps Yara. Oh and one for all the softies out there as Missandei and Grey Worm consummate their slow-burn infatuation with a passionate cuddle.
26. Mockingbird (season four, episode seven)
Lysa Arryn is dumped, literally, by Lord Baelish who, shoves her through a Moon Door. Nudity is served up with characteristic Game of Thrones enthusiasm as Melisandre and Dario pad around in various states of undress and for very different reasons (Melisandre to taunt Selyse Baratheon, Daario by command of Daenerys).
25: Cripples, Bastards and Broken Things (season one, episode four)
The game’s afoot in King’s Landing where Ned Stark investigates the death of his Hand of the King predecessor Jon Arryn and his final words, “the seed is strong”. Daenerys stand up to the loathsome Viserys, making it clear that as the bride of a Khal she is the one with the power, not he. And ungainly, easily startled Samwell Tarly arrives at the Wall where he and Jon Snow strike up a friendship for the ages. Things are looking up, too, for Catelyn Stark as she recognises Tyrion, journeying home from the Wall, and seizes him. Four episodes in and Game of Thrones was becoming ever more complicated and rewarding.
24. The Dance of Dragons (season five, episode nine)
How to beat the White Walker epic that was the preceding episode, Hardhome? By having Daenerys climb aboard Drogon for the first time, as she does when the Sons of the Harpy try to usurp her. But this triumph is offset by Stannis’s horrid sacrifice of his beloved Shireen, at the urging of Melisandre. A child burning at the stake is further than most television would dare go and the impact is every bit as devastating as you might expect.
23. The Children (season four, episode 10)
Bran shows he has the wight stuff as he survives an undead attack to finally reach the Three-Eyed Raven. Alas, Jojen Reed dies as the skeletal warriors bear down. Stannis proves that, aside from the upcoming daughter-burning, he’s one of Westeros’s smartest rulers as he sweeps in to save the Night’s Watch and defeat the Wildlings. As if that isn’t intense enough – it is! – Tyrion shoots Tywin on the privy and Brienne overcomes the Hound, who is then left for dead by Arya. Sandor lies on the ground gasping for breath. The viewer could be forgiven for wanting to do likewise.
22. Home (season six, episode two)
Jon Snow is alive! But you knew that. We all knew because, honestly, Game of Thrones had invested far too much in the character to simply bump him off. The rules change in the upcoming final season and it’s safe to assume many of our favourites are for the chop. But Jon’s resurrection in the very final scene of Home (the reckoning is saved for the next episode) is more drawn-out confirmation rather than a bolt from the heavens. In fact, the real twist comes earlier as Roose Bolton is murdered by his son Ramsay. We are also introduced to Euron Greyjoy – hello he’s just shoved his brother Balon off a bridge – and Bran travels back to Ned’s youth in Winterfell.
21. What Is Dead May Never Die (season two, episode three)
Margaery Tyrell and Brienne of Tarth – a yin and yang when it comes to scheming and subtlety — are introduced as Catelyn Stark arrives at Renly’s camp. And Theon Greyjoy crosses the line when, instead of warning his adoptive brother Robb of Balon Greyjoy’s plans to invade the north, he symbolically burns the letter containing the information. Tyrion’s guile is wonderfully illustrated as he shares three distinct plans for marrying Myrcella with “trusted” members of the Small Council. Pycelle is ultimate unmasked as Cersei’s spy. Season two has it all: plotting, violence and small but ultimately significant character moments, such as when Arya resolves to write her kill list.
20. And Now His Watch Is Ended (season three, episode four)
A gut-punching twist for Theon as it is revealed that the friendly server boy who tried to help him escape is actually his tormentor, Ramsay Bolton. There is also bad news north of the Wall as the loutish dregs of the Night’s Watch turn on Lord Commander Mormont. He is killed, along with the loathsome Craster in a mutiny. Daenerys has one of the best moments yet as she commands her new legions of Unsullied to turn on the slavers of Astapor. She also utters the fateful word «Dracarys” – “Dragonfire» in High Valyrian – and teenage Drogon does his worst.
19. The Old Gods and the New (season two, episode six)
The stakes are rising as Theon’s conquest of Winterfell goes horribly awry. He laboriously hacks down Ser Roderick with Rickon and Bran watching. In King’s Landing, the locals are restless and Sansa is almost trapped in a riot. Sensing Joffrey is losing his grip, Tyrion puts manners on him in the traditional fashion of slapping him across the face. Meanwhile Robb Stark and nurse Talisa continue to flirt – to the chagrin of Catelyn, who reminds Robb he has agreed to marry one of Walder Frey’s daughters.
Ygritte and Jon Snow sizzle amid the ice as they are force to cuddle to maintain their body temperature through the night. In Harrenhal, Arya’s attempt to pass herself off as a mere mason’s daughter takes a wobble when Petyr Baelish arrives for meeting with Tywin and appears to recognise her. Tense and thrilling!
18. The Watchers on the Wall (season four, episode nine)
One of the Game of Throne’s most epic set-pieces. The entire 51 minutes is given over to the fight between the invading Wildlings and the tiny company of Nights Watch soldiers protecting the Wall. Mammoths and giants stride from the forest, Ser Janos Slynt is revealed as a coward as he runs snivelling to hide with Gilly. Jon Snow becomes de facto leader on the ramparts but cannot save Ygritte, who is cut down by Olly and dies in Jon’s arms. A reminder that, at its best, Game of Thrones surpasses everything else on television.
17. The Mountain and the Viper (season four, episode eight)
The tense, brutal and ultimately very-squelchy fight to the death between “Red Viper” Oberyn Martell and Mountain Gregor Clegane ends with so much gore it might well induce a headache (though not as big a headache as that suffered by Oberyn). The extent to which Ramsay has crushed Theon’s spirit is confirmed as Reek, “posing” at Theon, convinces his fellow Iron Islanders to surrender Moat Cailin (their reward is that they are skinned by Ramsay). Jorah is rumbled for having previously conspired against Daenerys and exiled. But nobody remembers any of that – all that sticks in the memory is the gross-out horror as the Mountain squishes Oberyn’s brains out.
16. A Golden Crown (season one, episode six)
It’s a premature farewell to unpleasant Viserys Targaryen who has one meltdown too many when the Dothraki pour a literal crown of molten gold over him. A fitting adieu to a skin-crawling character and still one of the best ever Game of Thrones deaths – partly because it’s too cartoonish to take seriously. At the Eyrie we are introduced to the concept of trial by combat as Bronn steps forward to defend Tyrion’s honour.
15. Winter Is Coming (season one, episode one)
And so it begins. With Benioff and Weiss having scrapped 90 per cent of the disastrous original pilot and started over, Game of Thrones announced itself with a stunning first episode. North of the Wall, the walkers make their first attack. In Winterfell, we meet the extended Stark household as they prepare to welcome King Robert Baratheon and his dashing family. Daenerys is introduced as a timid young woman about to be married against her will to brutish Khal Drogo. Then we see Cersei and Jaime cuddling and Bran pushed from the tower-top. And with that, it’s clear Game of Thrones is like nothing we’ve ever watched before.
14. Fire and Blood (season one, episode 10)
Daenerys strides from Drogo’s funeral pyre, unburnt and with her three cuddly baby dragons. With Ned dead (see below) Robb is declared King in the North by his bannermen. Joffrey taunts Sansa by showing her the head of her father on a spike. Jon attempts to flee the Night’s Watch and avenge his father but is talked out of it. Instead he is to embark on a mission north of the Wall to find this missing uncle. The perfect finale – and a powerful primer for what is to follow.
13. Dragonstone (season seven, episode one)
A rare cold open – and a hot surprise for the warriors of House Frey. They are poisoned by Arya, using her Faceless Men training to disguise herself as Walder Frey (whom she has already killed off). Points are deducted for a clodding Ed Sheeran cameo – look, it’s Ed Sheeran Game of Thrones all but shouts. And there is a stomach churning sequence in which Samwell Tarly, now studying at the Citadel, cooks stew and cleaning bedpans (use your imagination or, on seconds thoughts, don’t). And then the perfect final scene as Daenerys reaches Westeros, the score swells and, at Stannis’s table (the one we were telling you about), she turns and says, “Shall we begin?”
12. The Dragon and the Wolf (season seven, episode seven)
The Wall finally comes down as the Night King, riding the resurrected Viserion, torches it with blue flame. And then the hordes march onwards and…well, we’ve been hanging on for the past 18 months. On the subject of long-awaited moments, the very many fans hoping for a Daenerys-Jon Snow romance finally have their wish as they have an intimate encounter on the boat back from the Wall (well not that intimate, Tyrion is listening in the hallway).
Littlefinger likewise receives his overdue reward as Sansa and Arya outfox him and he is publicly executed (by Arya, who is handy like that). It’s thrilling, overwrought (and a bit unconvincing in the case of the outwitted Littlefinger it has to be said)… all that we could want from a Thrones finale.
11. Two Swords (season four, episode one)
Season four opens with an episode in which Arya and the Hound wipe out an entire inn of Lannister soldiers. It’s one of the show’s best fight scenes and a hint at what a fantastic double-act Arya and Sandor will make. The charismatic Pedro Pascal makes his debut as Oberyn Martell. Plus there’s a horrific reveal as Daenerys sets off for Meereen: all long the road, dead slave children are nailed to mile markers. Jon, despite having consorted with Wildlings, convinces the Night’s Watch of his loyalty. Brutal and fast-moving, this is Game of Thrones at its most glittering.
10. Beyond the Wall (season seven, episode six)
Straight in at number 10 – and controversially so, we expect. Jon Snow and his crack squad of wight-kidnappers travel to the deep north to capture an undead. The plan – to bring the creature to Cersei as proof of the Night King and the threat he poses – is obviously deeply silly. And some of the details of the confrontation between the Night King and Team Jon are indeed ridiculous – the face off on the frozen late, the ravens traveling at light speed. Yet rewatched, the sheer scope is breathtaking. Think back to how you felt as the Night King spears Viserion, who crashes into the icewater only to be resurrected as an undead dragon. Incredible.
9. The Spoils of War (season seven, episode four)
Game of Thrones series seven is often dismissed by fans as lacking in the devious delights of years past. But this is the second episode from the season to make our top ten. The reason, of course, is the clumsily-named yet gobsmacking/jaw-dropping etc etc, Loot Train Battle. Jaime and Bronn are marching south from their victory at Highgarden when over the hill sweep the Dothraki, with Daenerys and Drogon above. A record for the highest number of stunt-men set simultaneously ablaze was achieved by the episode (disappointingly this is not a world record accepted by Guinness) And then Jaime, in an admirable display of courage and stupidity tries to spear Daenerys and is nearly barbecued by Drogon. Nearly two years on, we still haven’t quite got our breaths back.
8: The Winds of Winter (season six, episode 10)
The stirring, chilling score by Ramin Djawadi finds its match in a stirring, chilling performance by Lena Headey as Cersei. Battered, humiliated and broken-hearted she finally seals off the last of her emotions and executes her plan to eliminate her enemies. Wildfire detonates beneath the Great Sept and, ooof, it’s game over for – take a seat, this is a long list – Margaery, the High Sparrow, Uncle Kevan, Lancel etc. There’s a bittersweet coda when Tommen, her beloved son, kills himself. Significant events are also afoot as Arya returns to Westeros and serves Walder Frey his sons for dinner. Jon is crowned King in the North and Daenerys sets sail for Westeros, dragons swooping overhead. The perfect crescendo as Game of Thrones hurtles towards its end game.
7. The Door (season six, episode five)
“Hold the door, hold the door”. Game of Thrones has thrilled, upset and shocked. But rarely has it broken our hearts quite as effectively as here. The Night King and his hordes over-run the Three-Eyed Raven. Bran “Wargs” into Hodor but somehow the timelines are scrambled and Past Hodor has his circuits fried. As Meera Reed shouts at Present Day Hodor to “hold the door” his teenage incarnation cries her instructions out until they become “Hodor…Hodor…”
Sansa is elsewhere at the height of her self-assurance confronting Littlefinger for leaving her at the mercy of Ramsay . And Daenerys reveals the full extent of her (thumpingly platonic) feelings for Ser Jorah as she sends him away to find a cure for his Greyscale. You come away with your heart fluttering and your mind completely scrambled. Bonus points for Richard E Grant cameoing as a luvvy actor in Braavos.
6: Mother’s Mercy (season five, episode 10)
The Shame Walk did the impossible in making us feel for Cersei Lannister, who steps unrobed through King’s Landing as the great unwashed jeer, laugh and make rude gestures (often all three at once). It’s good night from Stannis as Brienne finally takes revenge for the killing of Renly three seasons previously. Ser Meryn Trent has an unfortunate time as well as he is stabbed in the eyes by Arya. And they can all consider themselves getting off lightly compared to Jon Snow. He his teased that his uncle Benjen has returned and then knifed by Olly and his gang of Night’s Watch avengers. Surely the best Game of Thrones season finale to date?
5: Battle of the Bastards (season six, episode nine)
Benioff and Weiss have promised the longest and most breathtaking onscreen battle ever in season eight. They’ll do well to surpass the showdown between Jon Snow and Ramsay Bolton. Unfolding in the fields outside Winterfell this is a suffocating, muck-caked struggle to the end. Poor Rickon (the Stark child who never learned to run in a zig-zag) is shot in the back by Ramsay. Jon almost comes a cropper as the Bolton armies press in. And then, Sansa’s secret alliance with Littlefinger pays off and the Knights of the Vale gallop through to save the day like Blücher’s Prussians at Waterloo. There’s no let-up in this episode – the other big moment is Daenerys and her dragons torching the Great Masters’s fleet at Meereen.
4. Baelor (season one, episode nine)
Poor, poor Ned. The shock is genuine among non-book readers who discover too late that Game of Thrones truly is prepared to go “there”. And by “there” we mean the executioners’s block before the Great Sept of Baelor. With daughters Sansa and Arya watching, Ned is dragged to the chopping spot on the orders of Joffrey. He loses his head and Sansa and Arya are traumatised in ways that will shape the entire future of Game of Thrones. Unlike the Mountain and the Viper, the death is presented with a degree of compassion, the camera lingering on Arya as the death blow falls. There is tragedy too for Daenerys, as Drogo is bested by his infection and she loses her unborn baby.
3. Blackwater (season two, episode nine)
An epic Game of Thrones battle but also one that doesn’t flinch from the savagery of war. As Stannis’s armada approaches, the women take shelter in the Red Keep and Cersei leaves Sansa in no doubt as to their fate should the Baratheons prevail. Joffrey, ever the coward, flees at a crucial moment but Tyrion rallies the defenders and his Wildfire ploy succeeds and Stannis is defeated. The moral complexity is fascinating as equally sympathetic characters are pitted against once another. All our favourites have a moment in a heart-stopping denouement.
2. The Rains of Castamere (season three, episode nine)
The Red Wedding is the most “Game of Thrones” moment in the entire series and it is hard to imagine season eight topping it for sheer, convention-defying deviousness. The Boltons and the Freys turn on the Starks at what was to have been Robb’s knot-tying. He, Catelyn and Talisa Stark die horribly. Roose Bolton utters the immortal zinger “The Lannisters send their regards”. Arya is outside as her family are gutted and beheaded. Heartbreaking, gobsmacking, pulse-bounding, jaw-dropping – Game of Thrones at the bloody zenith of its powers.
1. Hardhome (season five, episode eight)
Season five is generally perceived to be the weakest in Game of Thrones’ history. But you can’t argue with the power of Hardhome as the Night King and his minions overrun the Wildling encampment, Jon Snow and his Night’s Watch brothers powerless to stop them. From the Walkers watching calmly from high above as the wights rush through to Jon Snow’s individual face off against one of the undead, it’s thrilling and exhausting. And then, the Night King walks along the jetty and, in howling silence, raises his arms and with them the freshly slain villagers. All this time later, the scene retains its haunting punch.
Did we get our rankings right? What’s your favourite Game of Thrones episode, and where did it rank in our list? Let us know in the comments section below
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