Game of Thrones season 7 finale: From 'Winds of Winter' to 'Mhysa', the best endings, ranked
In a few hours from now, everyone will be talking about the thrilling Game of Thrones season 7 finale.
Titled 'The Dragon and the Wolf', the GoTS7 finale, depending on which fan you're speaking with, could allude to Jon and Dany, to Jon's parents (Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark) or Jon himself (since he's both dragon, and wolf). From the trailer that HBO released last week, we do know that the finale will see all the major players converge at King's Landing for the cosiest of chats. Jon and company have a wight that they're hoping will convince Cersei of the threat beyond the Wall, and the urgency needed in dealing with it.
Season 7 has made fairly huge narrative strides — it needed to, with Game of Thrones itself scheduled to wind up in about six episodes more. While it hit the high notes consistently — the big battle sequences at Tumbleton (aka the loot train attack) and beyond the Wall; some of the character interactions (Jon-Dany); and the humour — it has also faltered with glaring plot holes, a complete disregard for concepts like distance and time, and frittering away smart characters. The finale episode could be a chance then, for this seventh season to redeem itself — even as it attempts to match up to the previous six season finales.
The Game of Thrones season finale has a tradition of being — with some exceptions — a step back from the fever pitch developments of the episode that precedes it. For instance, in season 1, the finale was the episode after Ned Stark's execution; in season 3, it was the one immediately after the Red Wedding. The finale offers the characters and the audiences breathing space, a chance to look back at the events/losses of the episode before it, and take stock of a new reality.
The Game of Thrones season 7 finale occurs in the aftermath of Viserion's death (and more spookily, his resurrection) at the hands of the Night King. How will it compare to its predecessors? We'll find out within just a few hours; but in the meantime, here's a look at all Game of Thrones season finales — from 1 to 6 — ranked in order from best to not-best.
1. Game of Thrones season 6 episode 10 — The Winds of Winter
Run time: 1 hour 7 minutes.
What happens in the episode:
The finale that's had perhaps the highest body count so far, The Winds of Winter begins with the Tyrells — Mace, Margaery and Loras — gathered at the Sept of Baelor for the latter's trial, as well as that of Cersei. When Cersei doesn't show up, the High Sparrow sends a few of the Faith Militant, along with Lancel, to the Red Keep to bring her along. Lancel, however, is suspicious when he sees a child running into the tunnels below the Sept. He follows the child, only to be stabbed in the dark, and realises that a whole cache of wildfire is about to blast the Sept to smithereens.
Margaery realises something is amiss too, but before she can get Loras and her father out of the Sept, it blows up, taking with it most of the King's Landing aristocracy, the High Sparrow and his minions (all except Septa Unella, who has been whisked to a Red Keep dungeon where Cersei leaves her to the mercies of the Mountain), and of course, the Tyrells. While this is going on, Qyburn gets his little spies to kill Maester Pyrcelle.
Tommen, watching from the Red Keep, is aghast. He steps up to the window, and leaps to his death.
Cersei crowns herself Queen, while a disapproving Jaime — just back from a campaign in the Riverlands — looks on.
Meanwhile, at the Riverlands, Arya's first task on returning to Westeros, is to take on the guise of a serving girl at the Twins. She serves Lord Walder Frey his own sons, baked in a pie, and then takes a a knife to his throat.
In the North, Jon banishes Melisandre from Winterfell after Ser Davis confronts her with proof she burnt Shireen at the stake. Jon, the Battle of the Bastards behind him and Sansa by his side, is chosen to be King in the North. We're also privy to one of Bran's visions (the youngest surviving Stark has been left at the Wall along with Meera Reed by his uncle Benjen) which shows that Jon was the baby born to Lyanna Stark in the Tower of Joy, with Rhaegar Targaryen possibly his father.
Across the Narrow Sea, Dany breaks up with Daario Nahaaris and leaves him in charge of Mereen. She then makes her way to Dragonstone with the Dothraki, the Unsullied and her dragons, in the ships Yara and Theon Greyjoy have brought her.
What also happened but we didn't care about: Varys brokers an alliance between Ellaria Sand and Lady Ollenna, and wins them over to Daenerys' side.
Why it gets the top spot:
That music. The shock value. The emotional heft. The excellent follow through from the pretty spectacular preceding episode — The Battle of the Bastards. The Starks finally getting back control of their family home. The throwback to Robb Stark being named King in the North.
Winners: Jon, Arya, Ramin Djawadi's score, Cersei, wildfire
Losers: the people of Westeros, the Tyrells, the High Sparrow and the Faith Militant, Maester Pyrcelle, Lancel Lannister, Septa Unella, Walder Frey
Deserved better: Tommen Baratheon, Daario Nahaaris
2. Game of Thrones season 5 episode 10 — Mother's Mercy
Run time: 1 hour
What happens in the episode:
Stannis Baratheon, having suffered heavy losses along the way, continues to march on Winterfell. Having sacrificed Shireen at the stake in an unsuccessful bid to appease the Lord of Light to bolster his fortunes, the sole surviving Baratheon brother finds they have only dwindled further — Melisandre has abandoned camp, his wife Selyse has committed suicide, most of his food supplies have been burnt and that nearly all his army's horses, lost.
Just when he is issuing orders to his army to dig trenches and prepare for a Winterfell siege, he sees that Ramsay Bolton and his men have ridden out to engage them in battle. Stannis — in the face of certain defeat — makes a brave last stand, but his side is routed in battle. Wounded, Stannis sits by a tree and is found by Brienne (who has been keeping a vigil with Podrick in the woods near Winterfell, should Sansa need to be rescued from Ramsay's clutches). Brienne pronounces judgment on him for the murder of Renly Baratheon, and then executes him.
While Ramsay is battling Stannis, Sansa tries to get signal Brienne for help. However, she is found by Myranda, who threatens to maim her. Theon pushes Myranda to her death before grabbing Sansa's hand and jumping off the Winterfell ramparts onto the heavy snow below.
Over on Essos, Arya strikes a name off her list: taking on the face of a younger girl, she presents herself before Ser Meryn Trant at a brothel. He picks her because she stands up to his beatings. When they're alone, however, Arya stabs him in the eyes and reveals her true identity, before cutting his throat. Back at the House of Black and White, Jaqen H'ghar drinks a vial of some liquid to punish Arya for taking a 'face' before she has become 'no one'. Arya goes blind.
In Mereen, Tyrion, Grey Worm and Missandei gather their wits after the attack by the Sons of the Harpy in the fighting pits. It is decided that Jorah and Daario will track Dany (who was rescued by Drogon) and bring her back. With Drogon refusing to heed her commands, Dany wanders away from the knoll where they have landed after flying away from Mereen. She hears the sounds of riders on horses — and is quickly surrounded by a huge Dothraki khalasar.
Back in Westeros, Cersei — after being persistently badgered by Septa Unella — 'confesses' to the High Septon. She then endures a walk of shame — naked and through jeering crowds that pelt her with garbage — from the Sept of Baelor to the Red Keep. At the Red Keep, however, Maester Qyburn presents her with her new protector: Ser Gregor 'the Mountain' Clegane, who has been resurrected from the dead.
And speaking of the dead — the big moment of the finale comes at the Wall, where Jon is told his uncle Benjen has been found. He follows Olly and Ser Allister Thorne away from his rooms, only to be stabbed by them several times as well as others from the Night's Watch. He falls to the snow, and the blood drains out of body.
What also happened in this episode that we didn't care terribly about: Jaime and Bronn leave Dorne for King's Landing, taking Myrcella and Prince Trystane Martell with them. When bidding her farewell, Ellaria Sand kisses Myrcella on the lips. On the boat, Myrcella tells Jaime she knows he is her father, and they have a touching reunion — but within a few minutes, Myrcella begins to bleed, and we find out that Ellaria had administered her poison.
Why this gets second spot:
Slowing down the pace a bit from the previous episode that saw the stunning Sons of the Harpy attack and Drogon's subsequent rescue of Dany, this finale scored with the sequences featuring Jon's death and Cersei's walk of shame. Theon finally shaking off his Reek persona and fear of Ramsay to help Sansa, and Stannis' valour made for smaller, satisfying moments. Also immensely satisfying: Arya striking Meryn Trant's name off her list.
Winners: Ramsay, Theon and Sansa, Brienne, Arya (for scoring revenge against Meryn Trant).
Losers: Stannis Baratheon, Arya (for being blindsided), Jon, Dany
He deserved worse: Ser Meryn Trant.
3. Game of Thrones season 1 episode 10 — Fire and Blood
Run time: Around 57 minutes
What happens in the episode:
We see a blood smeared sword — the blood fresh from Ned Stark's beheading. Arya is taken away from the place by Yoren, who chops her hair in an alley and gives her the name 'Arry' along with the pretense of being a boy. He plans to take her north, while he journeys to the Wall with his newest bunch of recruits for the Night's Watch. Arya meets Hot Pie and Lommy and is briefly bullied by them, until she fights back — and gets help from Gendry, who is also going to Castle Black to work in the armoury.
Robb and Catelyn receive the news of Ned's death at their camp, where Jaime Lannister is held captive. Catelyn consoles Robb and later attacks Jaime, who confesses to having pushed Bran off the tower at Winterfell. Later, as his banner men decide their next course of action, and how best to avenge Ned Stark, they name Robb King in the North and swear allegiance to him.
At the Red Keep, Joffrey doles out punishments (a minstrel who is caught singing a song, insinuating the Lannisters were responsible for Robert Baratheon's death, has his tongue cut off) and sundry cruelties — he forces Sansa to look at her father's severed head, as well as that of Septa Mordane's. When Sansa refuses, Ser Meryn Trant roughs her up on Joffrey's orders. Realising that Joffrey is standing at a height with precious little in the way of a safety net, Sansa nearly pushes him to his death, until the Hound steps in and prevents her from doing anything disastrous.
At Castle Black, Jon rides away in the dead of the night with Ghost to join up with Robb and avenge Ned's death. Sam and the others pursue him and convince him to return, and stay true to his pledge. The next morning, the Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, Ser Jeor Mormont, tells Jon to focus on the real danger — the one that lurks beyond the Wall, and takes Jon with him on a ranging party to find Benjen Stark.
In Essos, Dany wakes from her miscarriage to find that Drogo is in a catatonic state. She confronts Mirri Maz Duur about failing in her promise to bring the Khal back to life. Mirri Maz Durr pronounces her prophecy: 'When the sun rises in the west and sets in the east, when the seas run dry and the mountains turn to dust — then he will return and not before'. In their tent that night, Dany attempts to revive Drogo one last time, and realising the impossibility of the prophecy, smothers him to death. She build a funeral pyre for Drogo, and has her dragon eggs carried into it. She makes Ser Jorah promise that he won't intervene in what she has to do next, and having tied Mirri Maz Duur to the pyre, walks into the flames herself. The next morning, when the Dothraki awake amid the cooling ashes of the pyre, they find Dany — unburnt and unharmed — with three baby dragons nestled against her.
What else happens in the episode: Bran and Rickon both have dreams that their father is waiting in the crypt. Tyrion is named an interim Hand of the King by Tywin Lannister and sent to King's Landing. Shae follows.
Why this finale ranks high:
Because it was the first ever finale of Game of Thrones we saw. Because of the way Ned Stark's execution showed us that no one in Westeros was safe. Because dragons were born and Dany survived the flames, even if she lost Drogo.
Winners: Joffrey, ancient magic.
Losers: the Starks.
Could have been spared some pain: that misguided minstrel.
4. Game of Thrones season 4 episode 10 — The Children
Run time: 1 hour and 5 minutes
What happens in the episode:
The Wildings' attack on the Wall is temporarily stymied by the men at Castle Black, but Jon knows the Night's Watch can't hold out against another one. He walks out beyond the Wall and attempts to negotiate a truce with Mance Ryder when Stannis Baratheon comes charging in with his army and defeats all the Wildlings. Tormund is among the captives and he reminds Jon to give Ygritte (killed in battle the night before) a proper cremation. Jon carries Ygritte beyond the Wall and builds then sets alight her funeral pyre.
Also beyond the Wall, Bran, Meera, Hodor, Summer and Jorgen Reed reach the weir tree. They're attacked by wights, who kill Jorgen, although the others make it safely into a cavern under the tree thanks to some timely help from the Children of the Forest. Bran meets the Three-Eyed Raven.
Tyrion is to be executed for the murder of Joffrey (after his nominated champion, Oberyn Martell, is killed by Cersei's champion, the Mountain, in the trial by combat). Jaime arranges for Varys to smuggle Tyrion to Essos, and springs his little brother from the dungeons. Tyrion, moved by some impulse, decides to sneak into his old Hand of the King chambers one last time. There he finds Shae in flagrante delicto, calling out to 'Tywin... My lion'. When she realises Tyrion in the room, she reaches for a knife and there is a brief struggle, before Tyrion gets his hands on the gold chain around Shae's neck and strangles her with it. He also picks up a crossbow and confronts his father — who is on the chamberpot — about why Tywin wanted him dead. And when Tywin angers him, Tyrion shoots his father dead. Tyrion is then hidden by Varys and the two set sail for Essos.
Brienne and Podrick, on Sansa's trail, run into the Hound and Arya instead. Brienne says she's honour bound to take Arya to safety as she had sworn to protect Lady Catelyn Stark's daughters. The Hound and Brienne, however, get into a fight — with Brienne dealing the Hound a final blow that seems near fatal. Unable to find Arya, who has hidden during the skirmish, Brienne and Podrick go off to look for her. Arya sees the Hound badly wounded, and though he incites, then begs her to end his life, she merely takes his silver and makes for the docks. There, the coin and the words given to her by Jaqen H'ghar — 'Valar Morghulis' — earn her passage on a ship from Braavos, and she too (like Tyrion and Varys) sails to Essos.
What also happens in the episode:
Melisandre sees Jon Snow for the first time. The Mountain, poisoned by Oberyn Martell's spear (before he crushes the Dornish prince's head) and nearly dead, is revived by Maester Qyburn using some it's-probably-best-we-don't-know method. Cersei pushes back against her father (who is pressing her into marriage with Ser Loras Tyrell, at the same time that Margaery is to marry Tommen) by telling Tywin Lannister about her relationship with Jaime. Dany is aghast that Drogon has apparently killed and eaten a child, and chains up Rhaegal and Viserion in a dungeon.
Why this gets the fourth spot:
The season 3 and 4 finales are in a close contest as to which one's better. Both cap some very shocking happenings: In season 3, it's the 'Red Wedding' — murders of Robb and Talisa Stark (and their unborn child), and Catelyn Stark. Season 4 sees the 'Purple Wedding' — Joffrey's death — and Oberyn Martell's death at the hands of the Mountain. The Children has the edge because of the Brienne-Hound showdown, and Tyrion's last acts in King's Landing.
Winners: Brienne, Stannis
Losers: Tywin, Rhaegal, Viserion
Could have fared better: the Hound. Because as a wise man once said of the younger Clegane brother: "You're not mean, you have sad eyes".
5. Game of Thrones season 3 episode 10 — Mhysa
What happens in the finale:
Frankly, not much. Why this finale is important, however, is because of where the previous episode leaves us. Dany has gained control of Yunkai. Ramsay castrates Theon. A one-handed Jaime saves Brienne from the bear pit at Harrenhal. Sansa marries Tyrion. Bran heads to the North with Meera, Jogen Reed, Hodor and Summer. The Wildlings find out Jon is still faithful to the Night's Watch and fight him, as he breaks free, leaving a stunned Ygritte behind. And at the Twins, Lord Walder Frey murders Robb, Talisa and Catelyn Stark, with a little help from Roose Bolton. The Hound brings Arya to the Twins, but realises her family has been massacred and rides away with her.
The finale picks up these threads and we see Balon and Yara Greyjoy find out about Theon's fate (thanks to a box with a severed body part thoughtfully shipped to them by Ramsay), while Sansa — beginning to find some kind of peace with Tyrion — receives news of her family's deaths.
Meanwhile, Jon — with a few arrows sticking into him courtesy Ygritte — reaches Castle Black, as does Sam with Gilly.
On Dragonstone, Ser Davos saves Gendry (having learnt of Melisandre's plan to sacrifice him to the Lord of Light). He puts him in a boat and pushes him off to sea. He also tells Stannis of a raven they've received from Maester Aemon atCastle Black: it speaks of the death of Jeor Mormont, and of Sam having seenWhite walkers beyond the Wall. Melisadre looks into the flames and convinces Stannis that he must ride North with his armies, as the real battle lies beyond the Wall, against the forces of darkness.
What else happens in this episode:
On their way back to Castle Black, Sam and Gilly meet Bran and the Reeds and help them cross beyond the Wall. In Essos, Daenerys delivers another inspiring speech and the people of Mereen hail her as their 'mhysa'.
Why we love this finale:
Because it'll always be 'the one after the Red Wedding'.
Winners: Ser Davos, Dany.
Losers: the Greyjoys.
In limbo: Gendry, who Ser Davos condemns to three straight seasons of rowing.
6. Game of Thrones season 2 episode 10 — Valar Morghulis
What happens in this episode:
After a thrilling Battle of Blackwater in the episode before the finale, thanks to Tyrion, with some last-minute showboating by Tywin Lannister and new allies, the Tyrells, Stannis is banished back to Dragonstone. Jon has been captured by wildlings, along with Qhorin Halfhand; Catelyn Stark sets Jaime Lannister free, under Brienne of Tarth's charge; and Jaqen H'ghar helps Arya, Hot Pie escape from Harrenhal.
The finale opens with Tyrion recuperating from his injuries. In the throne room, Joffrey rewards Littlefinger for brokering the alliance with the Tyrells. Loras Tyrell also petitions Joffrey to marry his sister Margaery. Setting aside his betrothal to Sansa on the grounds that her father and brother committed treason, Joffrey pledges to make Margaery his queen. Sansa is happy, believing she will be free of Joffrey, but Littlefinger cautions her that this isn't the case, and suggests that she think of him, Lord Baelish, as an ally.
At Winterfell, Theon gathers his men to ride out against Ramsay Snow, who has besieged the holdfast. Theon delivers a crackerjacker of a motivational speech, at the end of which, his men knock him out cold and hand him over to Ramsay (thanks to a reward promised by the Boltons). The Ironborn also kill Maester Luwin when he tries to intercede and lay waste to Winterfell. Osha, Rickon, Bran, Hodor and the direwolves emerge from the crypts (where they've been hiding) and as per Maester Luwin's dying instructions, decide to make their way to the Wall, and find Jon.
Beyond the Wall, Qhorin Halfhand incites Jon to kill him, so the Wildlings will look on him with less suspicion. Sure enough, the ploy works, and Jon is taken to see Mance Ryder by Ygritte. In another part of the frozen North, Sam sees White Walkers gathering.
In Qarth, Dany must save her dragons from the House of the Undead, and Pyat Pree. She enters the warlock's tower and finds herself in the throne room of the Red Keep, with the Iron Throne — only the roof has caved in, the castle in ruins, and snow blankets it all. She enters another room — and this time, she is standing beyond the Wall, staring into the frozen wasteland. She spots a tent in the distance, and enters to see Khal Drogo there, with her baby son. Dany has an emotional reunion with her husband and child, but the cries of her dragons reminds her that this is merely an illusion and she makes her way out again, to find Drogon, Rhaegal and Viserion have been chained by Pyat Pree. She too, is briefly shackled by the warlock — but, a well-timed 'dracarys' order later, Dany and the dragons make their way out of the House of the Undead.
Also in this episode:
Robb Stark marries Talisa; Jaqen H'ghar meets Arya and gives her a coin and teaches her the words 'Valar Morghulis' as a way to reach him if she's in trouble; Stannis is furious with Melisandre for showing him false visions of success; and Varys convinces Ros to spy on Littlefinger for him.
Why this isn't our favourite finale:
Because it just isn't as epic as the other finales?
Winners: the Tyrells, Littlefinger, Dany
Losers: Theon Grejoy, Winterfell
They're in so much trouble and don't know it yet: Robb and Talisa, Ros