Less than a month to go now for the final season of Game of Thrones. The trailer’s out. So are the posters. The TV channels are showing behind-the-scenes footage from previous seasons, the stars are giving tell-tale but don’t-spoil interviews everywhere. Winter is clearly in the telly air. Perfect time then to rewind to the 10 moments that have had the most impact on us – and not necessarily on the show. You know, those enduring – hardly ever endearing – images and sounds that still give us gooseflesh or send chills down our spines or secretly sneak into our nightmares. These are listed in the order as they happened. And if you still haven’t watched the show and plan to catch it before it gets over, close this tab now.
1. Jaime Lannister pushes Bran Stark (S1, E1)
A bright little 10-year-old kid innocuously climbing up the tower wall and catching the Queen being taken from behind by her own brother. Jamie Lannister casually says, “The things I do for love”, and pushes Bran out of the window. The boy starts falling and the screen goes black. This last scene of the first episode of GoT made it clear that this is a show where anything can happen to anybody anytime. And that’s exactly the kind of feeling that got all of us so hooked.
2. Ned Stark is executed (S1, E9)
Yes he was languishing in prison but no one ever believed that the hero of the show, whom we had fallen in love with because of his integrity and kindness, would be taken out in the very first season. Come on, Sean Bean, who played Ned Stark, was the top-billed star of Game of Thrones. But every television rule was emphatically broken as King Joffrey’s executioner dropped the axe on Ned’s neck. Even today, I hope – and secretly believe – Ned will somehow be back before it’s all over. George R.R. Martin, unfortunately, doesn’t.
3. Daenerys gives birth to dragons (S1, E10)
If you have seen it, you can never ever take that image out of your mind. The naked Daenerys Targaryen literally rising from the ashes – of her dead husband Khal Drogo’s funeral pyre – and three just-hatched dragons crawling all over her. The Mother of Dragons had been born as music composer’s Ramin Djawadi’s Finale piece gave an idea of the far-reaching impact that moment was going to have on the show. Prettily sitting on his mother’s shoulder Drogon screeched the end of the first season.
4. The Red Wedding (S3, E9)
In terms of camera, edit and music, the shot-by-shot breakdown of this scene is right up there with Psycho’s shower scene. For those who had read the book and knew what was coming, even they swear by the sheer rawness and brutality of this scene. The Lannisters “sent their regards” to the Starks through Walder Frey and Roose Bolton, who betrayed King Robb, his pregnant Queen Talisa and his mother Catelyn. As the wedding band played the Lannister anthem The Rains of Castamere, the Starks were slaughtered one by one. “But now the rains weep o’er his hall, with no one there to hear.”
5. The Purple Wedding (S4, E2)
If one wedding shocked us, this one turned out to be so very satisfying. Even though it ended with a 19-year-old being poisoned to death. Because by the time blood started oozing out of Joffrey’s mouth, we all despised him so much that it felt really good. It was the reception of his own wedding to the scheming Margaery Tyrell and obnoxious little Joffrey was having a field day insulting his uncle Tyrion Lannister. Before the spiked red wine made its presence felt.
6. The Mountain Vs The Viper (S4, E8)
That Ellaria Sand scream can still be heard, the horror on Indira Varma’s face unforgettable. Because it has become synonymous with the shot that preceded it. Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane, who seemed to have been completely outdone by Oberyn “The Viper” Martell, had just flipped over, gouged the eyes out of the Prince of Dorne’s face and then crushed his head like some squishy watermelon. No, you can’t unsee something like that.
7. Tyrion kills Tywin in the toilet (S4, E10)
Despite being one of the most important characters of the show, Tyrion Lannister has very few big scenes. He is usually talking his way out of things. But when he finally got a chance to make things right, he killed his father! In the toilet, with a crossbow, shooting him not once but twice. And for everything Tywin Lannister had done to Tyrion, it seemed very fair. “I am your son. I have always been your son,” he signs off before fleeing King’s Landing. Classic!
8. Hodor holds the door (S6, E5)
It’s a rare mind-bending hour in GoT history when Bran Stark’s time travelling powers wrecked the life of a young servant named Willas. In the present, the servant is asked to “hold the door” of a cave and stop the living dead from coming in and while he dutifully does that, that one phrase got burned into his mind back when he was a boy. From that day onwards, all he could say was Hodor and thus came to be known as Hodor. It was a heart-wrenching moment, not helped by the fact that Hodor never made it out alive from the cave.
9. Cersei has her revenge (S6, E10)
The pattern of Game of Thrones the show (of course, the book started it) is to have the characters suffer and suffer and suffer a little more till they finally retaliate. It happened with Tyrion, it happened with Sansa, it happened with Jon and then it finally happened with Cersei. When you thought the big villain of the show had lost her fangs, she just blew up half of King’s Landing! By using the much-hyped wildfire, she got rid of Margaery and Loras Tyrell and the High Sparrow in one monstrous green explosion. It was a jaw-dropping moment, made “evergreen” by Ramin Djawadi’s Light of the Seven score.
10. Viserion changes teams (S7, E6)
A lot of Game of Thrones has been different teams making themselves stronger, getting fresh talent and poaching big stars from other teams. Yes, like a (Winter) Premier League. Now, you can’t beat dragons spraying fire from the skies, whether you are dead or alive. But what if you can get one of the dragons to play for you. That makes it a level playing field, doesn’t it? So, Viserion being brought down by expert javelin thrower, the Night King, and then being resurrected into an Ice Dragon really sets things up beautifully for the final season. Now, that’s what you call an eye-opener!
Missed the big battles on the list? Maybe the best Game of Thrones battles deserve a separate list. Will new episodes from the upcoming Season 8 make it to that one? April 14 is the date.