The end is near for Game of Thrones. As winter finally arrived, Season 7 found all the power players converging throughout Westeros.
There were reunions, war and a culling of many fan favorites. All the plotlines started to focus in on two main events: the struggle for the Iron Throne between Cersei Lannister and Daenerys Targaryen and the fight against the Night King and his army of undead.
This shortened season (only seven episodes) still delivered on many of the thrills that we’ve expected from the show, including excellent acting, sudden deaths and the best shot battle scenes on TV. But the pacing seemed a bit off. Scenes that would usually have time to breathe often felt rushed. Time became elastic as pieces were moved into place to fit the end goal, rather than to go on a realistic journey. Despite these problems though, there was still plenty to love this season. Let’s rank the episodes from worst to best. Spoilers below!
7. “Beyond the Wall”
Weakest scene: Arya becomes utterly unlikable for the first time in the series. She actively threatens to kill Sansa, after she discovers the letter she wrote a few seasons ago in favor of Joffrey and the Lannisters. Sansa obviously wrote it under duress and Littlefinger is obviously playing the siblings against each other. But Arya somehow appears to fall for it. It’s out of character and frustrating to watch.
Best scene: Jon’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad idea to capture a wight North of the Wall goes poorly. The team is trapped and surrounded by the army of the dead. All hope seems lost until Daenerys and her dragons arrive at warp speed to save them. The sequence is thrilling, as dragons lay waste to the army of the dead. I have no idea how Jon got his message to Daenerys and she got to them with her dragons in less than a day. But in the moment, those concerns fade away, especially when the Night King effortlessly kills one of the dragons. They had seemed invincible to this point. But not only can the Night King kill them, he can bring them back as wights as well.
Weakest scene: Arya running into a camp of friendly Lannister soldiers, including Ed Sheeran. While the scene itself isn’t awful, there seems to be no point to it other than to give the singer a gratuitous cameo. He’s even singing when Arya arrives. Ugh. With such a tightly-wound season, this time could’ve been put to better use.
Best scene: Daenerys arrives at her ancestral home of Dragonstone. The scene is mostly silent, with Emilia Clarke’s expressions doing all the work. You can feel the weight and anticipation of the Mother of Dragons arriving in Westeros for the first time in the show’s history. As she travels up the steps, to the throne room and finally to the war room, there are only three words that say it all: “Shall we begin?” Yes, and it’s about time!
Weakest scene: Sam and the audience get fed up with the maesters of Oldtown. He steals a few books and leaves. After all the drama of Sam joining the maesters, it feels like this whole arc was for Sam to cure Jorah and steal a few books. Sure, those books wind up being useful, but there’s a lack of payoff here.
Best scene: Jon forms his own Avengers team to capture a wight north of the Wall and bring it back as proof of the White Walker threat. On its own, this is a terrible idea, as proven in the next episode. But the act of getting the team together is thrilling, bringing us fan favorites like The Hound and Jorah on the same team as a returning character: Gendry!
Weakest scene: Sansa once again undermines Jon’s rule in public, when she argues with him about accepting an invitation to meet with Daenerys. Even though he asked her to not challenge his decisions in front of the lords in the previous episode. The Winterfell plot begins to get stuck in a rut.
Best scene: Euron Greyjoy’s navy attacks Yara’s fleet. As the Greyjoys and Sands head onto the deck of their ship, they are surrounded by fire and death. Euron fights like a man possessed, killing two of the Sand Snakes effortlessly and kidnapping Yara, Ellaria and Tyene. Theon, still suffering from PTSD, can’t handle it and jumps overboard. The real big action piece of the season gives Cersei an early win in her war against Daenerys.
3. “The Queen’s Justice”
Weakest scene: The sweet reunion between Sansa and Bran sours quickly when he reveals that he’s now the Three-Eyed Raven. This transformation appears to have left Bran emotionless and tactless. He describes how beautiful Sansa looked in her wedding dress the night Ramsey raped her. It’s an uncomfortable, unnecessary scene.
Best scene: As the Lannister army invades and conquers Highgarden, Jamie meets with Olenna Tyrell, giving her a merciful death by poison. After drinking it down, the Queens of Thornes gets one last barb in, confessing that she’s the one who caused Joffrey’s death. Her last words? “Tell Cersei. I want her to know it was me.” Diana Rigg’s performance on this show was a gift. Glad that she got one last electrifying appearance.
2. “The Dragon and the Wolf”
Weakest scene: Bran, who can see everything as the Three-Eyed Raven, doesn’t realize that Jon’s real parents are Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark until Sam arrives and prompts him with news discovered in the High Septon’s journal. As the reveal of Jon’s Targaryen takes place, we cut back to the related Jon and Dany having sex. This is more awkward than that Luke and Leia kiss!
Best scene: The meeting of all the power players at King’s Landing is superbly tense and well-acted. We get moments with all our favorite characters reuniting or meeting for the first time. Brienne and The Hound. Tyrion, Pod and Bronn. Jamie and Brienne. Daenerys and Cersei. And the best of them all, Cersei and Tyrion. The scene allows two the show’s best actors, Lena Headly and Peter Dinklage, to face off in a way they haven’t for several years. It’s a wonderful scene of pain and anger out of the damage they’ve done to each other over the years. But to survive against the Night King, everything needs to be laid out on the table. And that’s what these to do in a masterful scene.
1. “The Spoils of War”
Weakest scene: Not much to criticize in this one. The scene where Jon shows Daenerys the cave drawings is well-acted but a bit cheesy. Plus, it’s basically an exposition dump.
Best scene: I must give a tie for this episode. There are two segments that stand among the best of the season. First, Arya returns to Winterfell, reuniting with her siblings. But it’s when she runs into Brienne of Tarth that things truly get exciting. Arya asks to spar with Brienne and the fight is one of the season’s finest. The two women engage with very different fighting styles, Arya’s speed clashing with Brienne’s strength. They fight to a mutually-satisfying draw.
The other scene is, obviously, the Loot Train Attack. As the Lannister forces head towards King’s Landing, they are swarmed by a horde of Dothraki. Not only are they superior fighters to Jamie’s army, but Daenerys appears on the back of Drogon, who lays waste to the caravan. The battle brings high stakes as you don’t want any main character to get hurt. When Bronn launches the Scorpion projectile at Drogon, you want both to somehow come out alright. Same when Jamie charges at Daenerys. It’s this battle that turns the tide of war firmly in Daenerys’ favor. It’s one of the most thrilling action sequences the show has ever done.