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***Update: The entire boxset of Game of Thrones S1 to S8 is now available to binge-watch on Showmax.***
In regular politics, ascension and power tend to be handled somewhat diplomatically. In Westeros, disputes usually end with someone holding a chunk of cold steel in their hands while the other party slowly bleeds to death. Yes sir, Game of Thrones wasted no time in setting up its status quo from the very first episode, as an ancient land of fantasy and myth relied on more brutal methods for maintaining order and usurping power when an opportunity presented itself.
Ahead of Season 8 and what is sure to be a series of battles and showdowns that will reshape television history, we’re looking back at some of our favourite moments from the more action-packed side of Game of Thrones.
10. Daario Naharis vs the Champion of Meereen (S4, episode 3)
Sometimes, the best fight doesn’t require ornate battle choreography, a massive amount of suspense or even a vast number of men. Instead, Season 4’s episode 3, titled Breaker of Chains, accomplished everything that it needed to do with the minimum amount of energy needed.
Faced with a rebellious city and a champion whose mouth was uttering the filthiest of obscenities her way, Danaerys opts to send in one of her more expendable soldiers to face Meereen’s greatest warrior.
The strategy? Merely confidence, bravery and a sharp knife that quickly topples the knight and leaves his throat open for a quick counter-attack. Precise, vicious and cunning. All in a day’s work, for the Dothraki horde.
9. The Battle of Castle Black (S4, episode 9)
If Game of Thrones had an absolute highpoint when it came to cinematic action, you’d be hard pressed to find any one scene more titanic than the Battle of Castle Black. Featuring everything from the woolliest of mammoths to absolute units of giants stomping into the fray, the Battle of Castle Black isn’t just some third-act action.
It’s an entire episode of carnage, as the Night’s Watch comes together for one final stand against armies of Wildlings and assorted supernatural threats, balancing tight character development with a full-scale war that had to be seen to be believed.
8. Oberyn Martell vs Gregor Clegane (S4, episode 8)
Sure, the fight between the Viper and the Mountain may have ended in a gruesome climax, but the actual dance that led up to it? Perfection. Here were all the pieces lined up, ready to be moved into position.
On the one side, you had Oberyn Martell and his thirst for vengeance, whilst on the other end of the arena was Gregor Clegane, unrepentant and more than ready to carve his opponent in half if given the chance to do so.
The resulting battle is one of speed and agility versus brute strength and fortitude, as Martell’s cunning saw him take advantage of his opponent’s size to devastating effect. Sticking and moving in for the kill, Martell looked set to enact his revenge and restore honour to his family name. And then that happened.
7. Battle of the Bastards (S6, episode 9)
With tension so thick that you could swing a broadsword through it, the culmination of Ramsay Bolton’s cruelty against the Starks was a brutal and savage affair.
A meat grinder of men, horses and armour was formed that day, born from a single arrow and Ramsay’s talent for deception. The Battle of the Bastards may have a predictable end, but it’s one that had to happen as Ramsay Bolton’s reign of terror finally meets a gruesome and violent end, drawing the curtain closed on Game of Throne’s greatest antagonist.
6. Battle of the Goldroad (S7, episode 4)
Want magic, ice and dragons? Then Season 7’s Battle of the Goldroad more than had you covered, as Game of Thrones prepared to enter the endgame. The climax of Daenerys Targaryen’s Dothraki horde’s invasion of Westeros and a battle that saw her fearsome army opposed by the combined might of a Lannister-Tarly field army, this was a fight that was all about the numbers.
And the dragons of course, a force of nature so fearsome in its unrelenting destruction that only the biggest of crossbows was capable of knocking Daenerys off her mount as the warzone became a slaughter ground of blood, fire and steel.
5. Massacre at Hardhome (S8, episode 5)
Honour, rules of engagement and a code of ethics? All of those fancy ideas went flying straight out of the window during the Massacre of Hardhome, as Jon Snow finally got a proper introduction to the real danger lurking beyond the walls of Westeros. The White Walkers had been an unseen terror for many an episode, but by this point the frigid foes had decided to make a bolder move on their march towards an eternal winter.
With resurrected underlings throwing themselves upon swords in an effort to overwhelm enemies to Snow’s one-on-one duel with an almost unstoppable White Walker who shattered at the touch of Dragonglass, this is one unwinnable fight that ends with a victory for the Night King as he raises a new army of the dead to replace his fallen minions. Winter marches on once again.
4. Ser Jorah Mormont vs the Meereen Arena (S5, episode 9)
Talk about stacked odds! Facing a gauntlet of opponents within the Meereen Arena and surrounded by an audience that was hungry for blood, Jorah Mormont had his work cut out for him in this bloody encounter. Initially outclassed by the likes of a Novos water priest, a Braavosi water-dancer and a Meereenese spearman, Jorah’s survival depended on several factors:
Skill, experience and a little bit of luck as this competition of carnage wore on and forced the soldier to adopt more creative methods to not only win the fight, but keep his own head attached to his neck.
3. Brienne of Tarth vs Ser Jaime Lannister (S3, episode 2)
Malnourished, tired and his hands chained. Some might argue that having that many odds stacked against him hardly made for a fair fight when Jaime Lannister took on Brienne of Tarth in a duel with the highest of stakes. Unfortunately for the best swordsman in all of Westeros, life was hardly fair before his fall from grace, and the events that were to transpire after the Boltons pitched up would only cement that fact.
Still, the fight between the two makes for some thrilling action! Even in a weakened state, Jaime carries himself with the grace and confidence that his legend has earned him, while Brienne finds herself between a rock and a hard place as she fights not only to protect herself but also to ensure that she returns the infamous Lannister alive and well made for some exciting viewing.
2. Daenerys’ dragons vs the White Walkers (S7, episode 6)
Outgunned and outnumbered by the Night King and his hordes of the undead, a motley group comprised of Jon Snow, Tormund Giantsbane, Beric Dondarrion, Thoros of Myr, Jorah Mormont, Gendry, and Sandor “The Hound” Clegane faced a certain death alongside the cannon fodder troops that stood by them.
Then again, the arrival of Daenerys and her legendary dragons seemed to do more than just even the odds – she flipped the table on the dreaded White Walkers and unleashed fiery hell on her enemies once again.
So what was the end result of dragon on demon combat? Tragedy, as the Night King hurled a spear and felled a dragon, its heart-breaking death rattle echoing into the valley beyond as Game of Thrones prepared to up the ante on the great war that was still to come.
1. Battle of the Blackwater (S2, episode 9)
Long considered to be the benchmark episode for Game of Thrones, Blackwater gave birth to a fierce episode that gave no quarter and showed no mercy.
King’s Landing found itself besieged by amphibious forces loyal to Stannis Baratheon, alliances were hastily formed and the war between the numerous forces ended in spectacular fashion: an ocean on fire, bathed in green flames and a last-minute surprise attack by Tywin Lannister and Loras Tyrell that closed the book on a would-be king’s dreams of power.
A classic, in every sense of the word.
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