Season 7 of the HBO fantasy series arrives July 16, so let’s relive the 7 most jaw-dropping scenes from ‘Game of Thrones’ so far.
MASSIVE SPOILERS FOR SEASONS 1-6 AHEAD!
What’s made Game of Thrones an enduringly popular TV series — and the most pirated, in fact — is the many twists it plants in almost every episode. Don’t get too attached to the main characters. They might be facing the executioner’s blade or wildfire flames soon after you profess your love for this Game of Thrones scene stealer.
To get you excited for season seven, look back at the most shocking moments from Game of Thrones so far.
Ned Stark’s Beheading
It wouldn’t be hyperbolic to call this season-one capper one of the most shocking character kills of any TV show. Even the unsheathing of the massive sword that would take Ned Stark’s head was chilling.
When Sansa heard the swoosh of the deadly execution, she looked up to see flocks of birds soar away from the scene of the crime. It was practically poetic — just as the birds flew from the coop, so did Sansa’s innocence. She has focused on avenging her father ever since.
Oberyn Nymeros vs. Gregor Clegane
It was the arm sweep heard ’round the Game of Thrones fan base.
The brutish Clegane was appointed the Court’s champion to battle Oberyn Nymeros, who represented Tyrion in a trial-by-combat fight. We were treated to a frenzied four-minute duel where the swift-footed Oberyn pranced around Clegane and stabbed him with a spear multiple times, finally landing a decisive blow to the chest.
But Oberyn didn’t want to just take a life. He wanted Clegane to confess to raping and murdering his sister Elia Martell and her children. His thirst for a confession became his undoing, as Clegane tripped Oberyn and dug his fingers into his eye sockets to kill the Red Viper of Dorne in one of the most brutal scenes in season four.
What added to the horror was the frantic screaming pouring out of his paramour, Ellaria Sand. That’s a tough thing to unhear.
Don’t Mess with Daenerys
When it comes to badass Daenerys scenes, few score as many you-go-girl points as season six’s Dothraki khals scene. The Dragon Queen announced she’d lead the Dothraki people. But the leaders, all rape-hungry men, mocked and threatened her. She barely flinched when she said calmly to them, “You’re not going to serve me. You’re going to die.”
She pushed over fire lanterns, setting their HQ ablaze, and emerged from the fiery trap unharmed. And naked, even. It’s Game of Thrones. Expect a lot of unwarranted nudity.
What makes this moment so epic is how the entire Dothraki audience to this mass murder pledged allegiance to Daenerys by kneeling and bowing their heads. This is just the beginning, the scene told us.
Don’t lie: you shed a tear when you watched Hodor defend his friends against hordes of wights and White Walkers. Game of Thrones’ most huggable character was suddenly given the spotlight, as we learned how Hodor — real name Wylis — became afflicted with the condition of constantly repeating “Hodor.”
With danger closing in on Bran, Meera and Hodor in the cave in season six, Bran inadvertently warged into young Wylis, linking the minds of the present-day Hodor and the young stableboy from the past. Such a mental trauma caused Wylis to suffer a seizure, during which he heard Meera shouting, “Hold the door!” through Bran and began repeating it, eventually slurring the sentence together until it became “Hodor.”
Through Bran’s warging, young Wylis witnessed his own future death, damaging his mind irreparably. Hodor kept bracing against the door to give Meera time to escape with the still-unconscious Bran, and that tear you shed just got a lot less lonely.
The Shocking Red Wedding
Even if you read the books, few could have expected the intense Starkicide known as the Red Wedding.
Arranged by Lord Walder Frey as revenge against King Robb Stark for breaking the marriage pact between House Stark and House Frey, the massacre was ruthless in its suddenness and execution. Joining the Game of Thrones kill count in one fell swoop: Robb Stark, Queen Talisa Stark, Lady Catelyn Stark and countless Stark loyals.
Frey was identified as the conspirator to the Red Wedding, but the real mastermind playing puppet master of the Red Wedding was Tywin Lannister. He partnered with Frey and Lord Roose Bolton to betray the Northern army in return for clemency and rewards. Fracturing the marriage pact was simply a cover for the massacre.
Even the GoT actors couldn’t resist publicizing their reaction to the Red Wedding when it aired. Maisie Williams, who plays Arya Stark, took to Vine (remember that?) to echo what many viewers were thinking when Stark blood spilled on that wedding floor:
The Horrific Battle of Undead at Hardhome
Even if you’re a zombie-movie devotee, you probably felt chills slink up your spine when those four White Walkers on horses overlooked the Wildling town of Hardhome. You knew you were about to see something remarkable.
What followed was the intense Battle of Hardhome, where tens of thousands of Wildlings fell to the hundreds of wights led by the White Walkers. As gruesome as some death-kills may have been, it was the kind of scene you couldn’t look away from.
But what was truly terrifying was knowing how the Night King could easily gather more forces to his army: as Jon Snow looked on from his escaping boat, the Night King raised his hands and the dead Wildlings reawakened with glowing blue eyes, transforming into more wights to battle the Night’s Watch and other Men.
Fun fact: The Battle’s filming schedule lasted longer than most 20-minute segments you’ll see on TV, according to Kit Harington, who plays Jon Snow. “We spent a month filming that sequence,” Harington told a reporter. “A month, a solid month. It equated to about a minute of footage a day.”
Cersei’s Revenge at the Sept of Baelor
The Green Trial, as fans call this shocking moment in the season six finale, displayed the hatred buried deep within Cersei Lannister. She orchestrated the destruction of the Great Sept of Baelor, a massive center of religious worship for the Faith of the Seven and the seat of the High Septon of the Faith.
Cersei ensured the caches of wildfire found in the basement of the Great Sept were ignited, causing deaths inside and around the center, including but not limited to those of Queen Margaery Tyrell, Lord Mace Tyrell, Ser Kevan Lannister and the High Sparrow.
What Cersei couldn’t predict, though, was how devastated her son Tommen, the king of the Iron Throne, took the death of his wife, the queen. He committed suicide by leaping from his window in the Red Keep.