The Top Moments in ‘Game of Thrones’ Season 6

Season 6 was an explosive one for Game of ThronesHaving finally reached the climactic finale, we’ve seen the biggest progression of plot points in the show’s history, bringing a handful of story threads to satisfying (and sometimes terrifying) conclusions. The end result has Westeros thrown in chaos: Kings Landing is a god damn mess, Daenerys is about to arrive with a massive army at her back, and while everyone vies for the Iron Throne, the White Walkers bide their time north of the Wall. And as for the series of events that got us here? Well, it’s been spectacular to say the least.

In past seasons, Game of Thrones has moved notoriously slow. George R.R. Martin is nothing if not a deliberate storyteller, and it’s led to some glacially-paced episodes. Season 6, having eschewed the source material novels, broke free and blew forward. Plot movement was the name of the game, and it gifted us with a whole treasure trove of memorable moments, both gruesome and triumphant.

1. Melisandre reveals herself to be right around a bajillion years old

Melisandre - Game of Thrones

Age is just an illusion, man | HBO

Most fans thought the season premiere would provide us with an answer to the question of Jon Snow’s mortality. What it did instead though was afford us insight into the character of the Red Priestess, Melisandre. Removing her necklace in the final scene of episode, we see a weathered old crone who’s been hiding her true form from us all this whole time. More than that, we see her questioning her faith in a way we’ve never seen before, leading us to wonder if anyone really could bring Jon back from the grave.

2. Surprise! Jon Snow’s alive

Game of Thrones - Jon Snow

He lives! | HBO

Well, as it turns out, Melisandre did bring Jon back, bringing the most contentious debate in Game of Thrones history to an end. The time between Seasons 5 and 6 had fans investigating everything from Kit Harrington’s haircut to cryptic actor interviews, all with the goal of discerning the fate of Jon Snow. Part of us never really wanted to believe he was gone for good, especially after a whole season of setting him up as the hero of the entire show. Another part though knew just how merciless this show is, leaving just enough doubt to make us think he might be gone for good. Luckily, cooler heads prevailed in the Game of Thrones writer’s room, returning our favorite bastard to the land of the living.

3. The Tower of Joy (Part I)

Battle scene in Game of Thrones

The Tower of Joy featured some bloody swordplay | HBO

For readers of the George R.R. Martin source novels, the Tower of Joy has been a long-awaited affair. In it, we see some insanely cool swordplay, as Ned Stark goes toe-to-toe with Ser Arthur Dayne in an effort to rescue his sister, Lyanna. Dayne carves up Ned’s compatriots while dual-wielding longswords, and only finds himself vanquished thanks to a well-placed stab in the back from Howland Reed. The flashback wraps up with Ned hearing a scream from the tower in the backdrop of their battle. Things cut away soon after that though, leaving a big fat cliffhanger that dangles until the final moments of the finale, and later confirming a popular GoT fan theory.

4. Daenerys goes all “Fire and Blood” on the Dothraki

Daenerys Targaryen - Game of Thrones

Daenerys has her best episode of the season | HBO

Daenerys Targaryen starts Season 6 out captured by the Dothraki, and sentenced to a life of solitude with the other Khaleesi widows. Never one to submit to the patriarchy, she takes that as an opportunity to do what she does best: burn her enemies alive. The great Khals of the Dothraki find themselves trapped in their surprisingly flammable meeting hut, while the decidedly fireproof Daenerys looks on. This in turn gives her control over the massive Dothraki army, sending a clear message to anyone who has any designs of standing in her way.

5. “HOLD THE DOOR”

Hodor - Game of Thrones

Our hero, our savior, our Hodor |  HBO

If you want to turn a Game of Thrones fan into a pile of tears and misery, just whisper “hold the door” into their ear and watch what happens. Of all the various reveals of Season 6, none were quite as heartbreaking as the story of Hodor, a man caught in a horrific time-loop involving his own gruesome death.

And since time travel is confusing, here’s the simplest way we could find to explain it: Before he was Hodor, Willis was a stable boy for the Stark family. Bran, having traveled back to Willis’s younger years and warged into Hodor’s body in his own time, forms a connection between the two periods. That essentially fries poor Willis’s brain, as he experiences his death decades in the future, forever repeating “HOLD THE DOOR,” the very words Meera screamed at Hodor in his final moments. Rest well, sweet prince, and may you Hodor on in the next life.

6. Arya gets hardcore as hell

Arya Stark and Walder Frey - Game of Thrones

Arya avenges the Red Wedding | HBO

If you thought Daenerys was toeing that line between badass and “unsettlingly murder-y,” the Season 6 version of Arya Stark pretty much took the cake. Arya, returned from the world’s worst summer-camp in Braavos possessing a very particular set of skills (and pulling inspiration from Liam Neeson circa Taken), enacts revenge on Walder Frey in the most metal way possible. It’s not enough that she appeared out of nowhere to slit his throat in cold blood. No, she freaking cooked his children and fed them to him before any throat-slitting even occurred. All this comes after she murdered the Waif, skinned off her face, and gave the middle-finger to the most feared order of assassins in the god damn world.

7. Battle of the Bastards

Jon Snow - Battle of the Bastards, Game of Thrones

Jon Snow going up against the Bolton army | HBO

The penultimate episode of each Game of Thrones season traditionally represents the climax of the story each year. “Battle of the Bastards” put all other contenders to shame though, featuring the most expensive and expansive TV battle we’ve ever seen. It’s an episode that truly had everything too: suspense, terror, redemption, revenge, a giant ripping a man in half with his bare hands, you know, typical Game of Thrones stuff. Things wrapped up with Ramsay Bolton getting his face eaten off by his own hounds while Sansa grinned on approvingly, so needless to say, everyone got what they wanted out of the whole affair.

8. Cersei kills a third of the primary cast

Cersei Lannister Season 6 Game of Thrones

Cersei blows up everybody | HBO

Game of Thrones has made a grand tradition of killing off main characters in droves, and we saw that employed to a tee in the opening scene of the Season 6 finale. A beautiful orchestral score shepherded us through the trial of Loras Tyrell, all while Cersei’s master plan to kill everyone slowly unfolded. The music cuts out right as a massive wildfire explosion decimates the Great Sept, killing Margaery, Loras, Mace Tyrell, the High Sparrow, Kevan Lannister, and hundreds of other innocent people. After Tommen exits out the window of his room, Cersei is the only one left to sit atop the Iron Throne. For anyone who’s counting, we’re now left with two Lannisters, two Starks, one Tyrell, one Tully, one Arryn, one (maybe two) Targaryens, and no trueborn Baratheons or Martells. Yeah, it’s been a rough series for the ruling houses of Westeros.

9. The Tower of Joy (Part II) and the new King in the North

Jon Snow - Game of Thrones Season 6 Finale

Jon Snow’s true identity is finally revealed | HBO

So what was that scream Ned Stark heard coming from the tower early on in the season? The answer: Lyanna Stark giving birth to Jon Snow. The implications here are massive to say the least too. Jon is the offspring of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna, making him the trueborn heir to the Iron Throne, the nephew of Daenerys, and according to some theories, the reincarnated hero fated to save the realm from evil. For now, he’ll settle for “King in the North,” having finally reunited the Northern Houses under the Stark banner (with an assist from Sansa).

10. Daenerys finally sets sail for Westeros

Daenerys Targaryen - Game of Thrones Season 6

Here come the Targaryens | HBO

We’ve been waiting a long time for Daenerys to finally pack up and go home, and Season 6 wrapped up by showing us just that. With hundreds of ships at her back, alliances with the Tyrells and Martell families in hand, and an army of Unsullied and Dothraki in tow, she’s finally gathered enough power to take the Iron Throne. Her three full-grown dragons certainly don’t hurt her cause either, and once the White Walkers begin their own invasion, odds are they’ll be needed in order to beat back the icy horde of zombies. The bonus implication of all this: Cersei’s reign in King Landing is going to be short-lived barring a massive miracle.

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