With the news that Seasons 7 and 8 of Game of Thrones will be shorter than previous seasons, it is time to say a final goodbye to the much-anticipated Episode 9. Throughout Game of Thrones, Episode 9s have given us some of the most iconic moments in the series. Yet, now that showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have brought the sword down on the fan-familiar ten-episode formula, all we can do is look back with a teary eye and reflect on what was.
The end of Game of Thrones is getting closer, relentlessly marching onward like the Night King and his Army of the Dead. I wish we could fight it. Yet, Winter is coming and the long night, for us at least, is inevitable, unless a Game of Thrones spinoff is confirmed (fingers crossed!) But before the end, let us indulge once more. So here we are, each Episode 9 ranked worst to best.
# 6 – ‘The Dance of Dragons’ – Season Five, Episode Nine
If ‘Hardhome’ were Episode 9, then Series 5 would rule the rankings. It’s not that ‘The Dance of Dragons’ is a bad episode. Far from it. Watching Drogon incinerate the Sons of The Harpy was one of the most enjoyable moments in what was quite a bleak season. It’s just that it’s not as spectacular as its competition. Though, to be fair, ‘Hardhome’ is a tough episode to follow. ‘The Dance of Dragons’ sees Jon return to the wall, Stannis burn his daughter alive, Arya murder Meryn Trant, Jaime negotiate with Prince Doran, and Daenerys fight to survive in the arena at Meereen. The bulk of the episode focuses on Stannis and Daenerys with their storylines providing both the shock factor, at Shireen’s murder, and the moment of elation when Danny mounts Drogon and flies to safety. It’s a great episode, but ‘great’ isn’t enough to top the rankings.
# 5 – ‘The Watchers on the Wall’ – Season 4, Episode 9
Again, this is not a bad episode! Season 4’s ‘The Watcher’s on the Wall’ was the climactic moment in a season full of murder, injustice and horror. The scale of the episode can be summarised as so. Giants. Mammoths. An enormous scythe. There’s more to it than that, however. Ygritte and Jon are reunited for the briefest of moments before Ollie (hate that kid!) shoots an arrow through her back, Gren and Pip both meet their end in the battle, and Janos Slynt cowers with Gilly and baby Sam in a storage room. ‘The Watchers on the Wall’ focuses entirely on the Night’s Watch/Wildling storyline. This is perhaps its only downside, as a change of scene was needed to break up the darkness. Saying that, it is still one of the greatest episodes of the series.
#4 – ‘Baelor’ – Season 1, Episode 9
Season 1’s Episode 9, ‘Baelor’, introduced fans to the true brutality of Game of Thrones. For those of us who hadn’t read the books, the survival of Ned Stark looked 90% certain (there’s always that doubtful 10%). ‘He’s the main character, he can’t die’, we said to ourselves, even as Illyn Payne brought the sword down upon the back of Ned’s neck. This was the moment that captured fans across the world, the moment that defied our expectations, the moment that taught us all men really must die. Episode 9 of Season 1 also included the defeat of Jamie Lannister’s army, at the hands of Rob Stark, and the downfall of Khal Drogo, the implications of which are felt throughout the series, particularly by Danny.
#3 – ‘Blackwater’ – Series 2, Episode 9
‘Blackwater’ was the first major battle of Game of Thrones and what a battle it was! Season 2 was very much the season of war: The War of the Five Kings. However, ‘Blackwater’ was not just a battle between Kings. It was a battle for survival, as Tyrion Lannister marshalled the defence of Kings Landing in the knowledge that failure would mean certain death for his entire family. From the Wildfire explosion, to the routing of Stannis’s forces on the beach, ‘Blackwater’ is a thrilling episode that leaves viewers feeling conflicted and on edge. We don’t like Stannis, we do like Tyrion. We don’t like Joffrey, we do like Davos. There’s no way we can win. For this reason and the sheer spectacle that it is, ‘Blackwater’ is a worthy #3.
#2 – ‘The Rains of Castamere’ – Series 3, Episode 9
To this day, ‘The Rains of Castamere’ still gets to me. Even Arya’s revenge on Walder Frey couldn’t sate my desire for bloodshed. The North remembers and so do I! As for non-book readers, we never saw it coming. Not until it was too late, until the doors had been shut and the infamous Lannister song started to play. Rob Stark’s murder, his wife’s murder, his mother’s murder and his army’s decimation shocked viewers around the world. The northerner’s cause was just, yet they were slaughtered. What made the episode more tragic was the fact that Arya came so close to seeing her family. All she got in the end was a glimpse of her brother’s headless body, his dire wolf’s head mounted on it. Despite the horror, ‘The Rains of Castamere’ will go down in TV history, a feat that secures its status near the top of the rankings.
# 1 – ‘The Battle of the Bastards’ – Series 6, Episode 9
It was a tight call between ‘The Battle of the Bastards’ and ‘The Rains of Castamere’ and I’m sure many will disagree with my rankings. Yet what decided it for me was the scale of ‘The Battle of the Bastards’ as a visual and emotional experience. This was Game of Thrones challenging Hollywood itself. Jon’s victory and Ramsey’s brutal death is exactly what we wanted/needed, though it looked unlikely for much of the episode. That’s the fantastic things about Game of Thrones, it subverts our expectations. Throughout the series, we are conditioned to doubt hope, to doubt that good will conquer evil. Rickon’s death only solidifies this doubt. Yet, in a cavalry charge reminiscent of Helms Deep, creepy uncle Little Finger’s Knights of the Vale come to Sansa and Jon’s aid, defeating Ramsey and saving Jon’s army from total annihilation. Sansa’s revenge tops it off, as Ramsey is devoured by his own hounds. I can think of no better death for such a compelling villain.