Can you believe it’s been four years since Game of Thrones concluded its legendary run? While we won’t speak about the final season, Game of Thrones remains one of television’s most successful shows, with a record 59 Primetime Emmy Awards. Game of Thrones was a “can’t-miss” television show, meaning the audience had to tune into the live airing of an episode or risk seeing spoilers on the internet. In the social media age of television, it’s rare for a show to have as much power and influence on pop culture as it did.
A select group is unequivocally regarded as the best episodes of Game of Thronesincluding Blackwater, Hardhome, The Rains of Castamere (more commonly known as The Red Wedding episode), and The Winds of Winter. For this list, however, we selected the seven most underrated Game of Thrones episodes ever.
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Games of Thrones has been described as a chess game, with each character representing a piece on the board jockeying for position to win the game. Lord Snow (season 1, episode 3) introduced nearly a dozen characters on the Game of Thrones’ chess board. Barristan (Ian McElhinney), Grand Maester Pycelle (Julian Glover), Jeor Mormont (James Cosmo), and Maester Ameeon (Peter Vaughan) all made their first appearances in this episode.
However, the most important introductions belong to Varys (Conleth Hill) and Lord Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish (Aidan Gillen), two driven characters who will do anything for more power. The episode also featured Syrio Forel (Miltos Yerolemou), Arya’s swordsmanship instructor, who taught her to say “not today” when facing death. The biggest takeaway from the episode ended up being the interaction between Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) and Jon Snow (Kit Harington), a friendly encounter that planted the seeds for their partnership in later seasons.
Kissed by Fire
Kissed by Fire may be too good for this list. There are better episodes of Game of Thronesbut Kissed by Fire includes a major turning point for Jamie Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and arguably his best monologue in the show. In a bath at Harrenhal, Jamie comes clean to Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) about how he received his nickname, “The Kingslayer.” Jamie reveals he broke his oath and killed the Mad King to save the people of King’s Landing from being burned by wildfire. Jamie may neither be good nor bad, but this speech is the first time you empathize with his actions.
Meanwhile, Jon Snow and Ygritte spend time in their bath beyond the Wall. The future Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch breaks his vow of celibacy and consummates his relationship with the Wildling. The young lovers probably should have stayed in the cave.
The Laws of Gods and Men
Three words: trial by combat. Tyrion Lannister passionately utters that phrase while standing on trial for the murder of King Joffrey Baratheon (Jack Gleeson), a crime he did not commit. As the trial progresses, Tyrion realizes the odds of walking free are not in his favor. Jamie tries to spare his brother by resigning from his position to live at Casterly Rock. However, Tywin (Charles Dance) elects to send Tyrion to the Night’s Watch, much to his son’s dismay.
After Shae (Sibel Kekilli) gives false testimony, Tyrion snaps and goes on a villainous rant directed at his family and the people of King’s Landing. Tyrion won’t leave it up to the jury to decide his fate, instead demanding a trial by combat. The memorable speech became Dinklage’s tour de force moment on the show.
It took nearly three-and-a-half seasons, but Game of Thrones finally introduced the Night King (Richard Brake) in season 4, episode 4. In the final moments of the episode, the Night King transforms a baby into a White Walker. While the series made several misfires in handling his future appearances (the meaningless symbol on the wall), the Night King felt like a terrifying and menacing villain in this short scene. This marked a major shift in the show as Game of Thrones started to steer away from the books and introduce new storylines and plot points.
Meanwhile, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) continued her rise by having the Unsullied infiltrate Mereen and leading an uprising against the city’s masters. Daenerys then crucified 163 masters in retaliation for the children who were crucified on the road up to Mereen. Looking back, this moment laid the breadcrumbs for how Daenerys will act against the wealthy and those in power, especially in King’s Landing.
The Wall became one of the show’s iconic locations as it separated the realm from the Wildlings and, more importantly, the White Walkers. It was built to be an impenetrable force that no man or woman could scale. That changed when Jon Snow, Ygritte, and the Wildlings successfully climbed the Wall. The invigorating sequence strengthens the relationship between Jon and Ygritte, one that will eventually end in heartbreak.
While the action on the Wall is nerve-racking, the most riveting moment comes in a conversation between Littlefinger and Varys in the throne room. Littlefinger explains to Varys that chaos is a ladder and that many who try to climb it fail. Littlefinger thrives on chaos and chooses to make the climb, proving he will do whatever it takes to advance in society. How’d that work out for him?
In the episode before OathbreakerJon Snow was successfully resurrected by Melisandre after several members of the Night’s Watch stabbed him to death. Jon resigns from the Night’s Watch at the end of Oathbreaker after hanging the mutineers. “My watch has ended,” Jon says as he leaves his post as Lord Commander. Technically, Jon didn’t break his oath because he served until death.
Oathbreaker also teased the “R+L=J” theory and that Jon was “The Prince That Was Promised.” Bran and the Three-eyed Raven observe a young Ned Stark at the Tower of Joy during Robert’s Rebellion. We later learn this was Jon’s birth, and Lyanna Stark chose Ned to protect him. If only Jon had known this information before sleeping with his aunt Daenerys.
The Queen’s Justice
Speaking of an aunt and her nephew, Daenerys and Jon met for the first time at Dragonstone in season 7 during The Queen’s Justice. It’s a tense first meeting as the two don’t see eye to eye yet. Thanks to some convincing from Tyrion, Daenerys throws Jon an olive branch by letting him mine dragonglass for weapons to use against the White Walkers.
However, the episode is remembered for Olenna Tyrell (Diana Rigg) and her final moments with Jamie. Cersei wants Olenna to have a painful and public execution, but Jamie elects to show mercy by giving her poison. After sipping the poison, Olenna reveals she orchestrated Joffrey’s death and wants Jamie to let Cersei know that it was her. It’s a jaw-dropping moment that provides closure to one of the biggest mysteries of Game of Thrones. Olenna went out swinging and took the phrase “speak now or forever hold your peace” to heart.