Game of Thrones took a nosedive in its eighth season. The quality of storytelling suffered, the production crew's attention to detail went out the window, and the producers refused to be held responsible for any of it, evading the blame or, at worst, shifting the blame to viewers.
The show is still better than a lot of what's out there, but it has become an entirely different quality of show compared to its prior seasons, and as a fan, it's painful because that juxtaposition makes it ever clearer how amazing this final act could have been and how much potential was squandered in the rushing of this last season.
Let's revisit some of the greatest moments from Game of Thrones to relive the best of what this series had to offer, to remember the show for the amazing journey it took us on and not the disappointing destination we ended up at.
10. The Ice Dragon
Forget for a moment where the "resurrected ice dragon" storyline actually went and cast yourself back to where it all started.
The death of Viserion was shocking. We saw this dragon birthed in fire, then grow up over several years—only to lose him to the enemy. His death was big enough of a hit on its own.
But then we see massive chains. Pulling something from the waters. The waters where the dying dragon settled. The Night King approaches it. To touch it. And its EYES OPEN?
This may have been the very last actually shocking scene in Games of Thrones, but it was a good one.
9. The Hall of Faces
When Arya first arrived at the House of Black and White, it was fun because there was a strange sort of mystery to the whole thing (plus we'd seen Jaqen H'ghar change his face and we wanted to know how the heck he did that and who the Faceless Men were).
But when Arya first encounters the Hall of Faces, things got serious real quick. It deepened the lore of Game of Thrones and cranked the mystery up several levels. What a cool idea, and kudos to whoever designed that set.
8. The Shadow Demon
Even in a fantasy series about White Walkers, and the risen dead, and mythical dragons, and magical fire priestesses... seeing something as otherworldly as a shadow demon is guaranteed to draw out a "WTF?!" from even the nerdiest of viewers.
And it's not like she summoned one out of the flames—she gave birth to it. Yup, this showed us that Ned's death was only the start and that the series still had many tricks up its sleeves.
7. The Sept of Baelor
Most viewers remember this moment as either "that kick-ass spectacle of an explosion" or "that sad moment when Margaery gets blown to bits," but I actually love this scene because it's the first time we ever hear piano in the scoring for Game of Thrones.
It primes us with an uneasy feeling, like it's something that we shouldn't be hearing, as if it were a bad omen of things to come, that something about the series was about to shift in a dramatic way.
6. The Red Wedding
If you thought Ned's death was ballsy for a TV show, then the Red Wedding probably had you on your knees. The show once again flexed its willingness to kill off key characters—Robb and his pregnant wife with child, capped off with the throat-slitting of Catelyn.
Cutting to silent black has never been more effective or more fitting, as we really needed that moment of silence to process everything that just happened. Powerful and memorable!
5. Hold the Door
Many elements came together to create this fantastic moment: we got to see Bran warg into the past, we got to see how Hodor got his name and why that's the only thing he can say, and we got to see Hodor make a heroic sacrifice like no other. It's hard to think of a more heartbreaking moment.
4. The Viper vs. The Mountain
By this point in the series, we'd already seen Ned's execution and the Red Wedding. Anyone who let down their guard deserved what was coming—and I was one of those people.
Oberyn Martell was one of my favorite characters. And while Game of Thrones had always been a brutal show, it also had its moments of victory. I genuinely (and foolishly) believed this was one of them.
The reversal hit like a sack of bricks and it has stuck with me ever since. Truly one of the most well-executed scenes in the entire series.
3. The Judgment of Eddard Stark
The only crime committed by Eddard Stark was incessant naivety, and he certainly paid for it. For many viewers, Game of Thrones was simply a good show for most of its first season; it wasn't until this scene that we realized that Game of Thrones was a show unlike any other.
The willingness of a TV series to kill off one of its main characters—who was played by an actor of Sean Bean's caliber, no less—and to do so in the first season? That bought a lot of trust from viewers as it promised one thing: nobody is truly safe in this world.
Well, we all know how that turned out... and yet we can't deny that we'll never forget the first time we saw Ned Stark lose his head.
2. The Hound vs. Brienne of Tarth
You know why fight scenes—whether in movies, TV shows, books, or wherever else—are so often boring or non-impactful? Because they have clear protagonists and antagonists. You know who you're rooting for, and you know the protagonist isn't going to die (or else the story would end).
Yet in this fight scene, we have two fan favorite characters doing everything they can to avoid bloodshed, but their goals are so opposed that conflict is inevitable. Even as the fight commences, we don't know who to root for.
That's a recipe that works, and it results in one of the most tense, most suspensful, and most heartbreaking fights in the history of fiction.
1. The Battle of Hardhome
The Battle of Hardhome isn't simply the best battle of the series—with the Loot Train Attack as a close second, even over the Battle of the Bastards—but the most existentially dreadful scene in the show's entire running.
The 20-minute fight sequence is more nail-biting than any zombie film, and there are some fist-pumping moments like when we discover that Valyrian steel can defeat White Walkers. But the most hard-hitting moment is the ending, which sends chills up the spine.
When the Night King raises his arms, you think he's just showing Jon how much death and carnage he can bring—until the corpses begin to twitch and their eyes flicker open, at which point you realize there's no way to beat an entity whose army can only grow.