The second part of that fine Vox article is a list of the “holy shit!” moments when George R.R. Martin shows himself to be a new kind of fantasy/sci-fi author where nobody is safe and nothing is sure.
The essential episode guide to Game of Thrones — if you want to see or relive the show’s biggest “Holy shit!” moments
** “A Golden Crown” — season one, episode six **
Why it shocks: “A Golden Crown” delivers Game of Thrones’ first big ‘They did what?’ moment — and really, there are two of them. (Hint: One is in the title. The other one involves a heart.)
“The Pointy End” — season one, episode eight
Why it shocks: What do we say to the god of death? NOT TODAY, DAMMIT.
** “Baelor” — season one, episode nine **
Why it shocks: “Baelor” contains, narratively speaking, one of the most unexpected deaths in TV history (unless you read the A Song of Ice and Fire book series before watching Game of Thrones). Also, who knew Joffrey was really that much of an *expletive*?
** “Fire and Blood” — season one, episode 10 **
Why it shocks: OH SHIT, DRAGONS.
** “Blackwater” — season two, episode nine **
Why it shocks: In addition to being a brilliantly staged and choreographed battle scene, the whole episode is worth watching for a single jaw-dropping moment.
“The Climb” — season three, episode six
Why it shocks: This episode’s titular “climb” is a genuine thrill ride, with (literal) high stakes.
“The Bear and the Maiden Fair” — season three, episode seven
Why it shocks: Oh, like you don’t want to see Brienne of Tarth fight a freaking bear.
** “The Rains of Castamere” — season three, episode nine **
Why it shocks: Sorry, if you’re new here, we can’t utter a word about this one, and if you’re not new here, then you already know exactly which episode this is.
“The Mountain and the Viper” — season four, episode eight
Why it shocks: The melon pop heard round the world.
** “The Children” — season four, episode 10 **
Why it shocks: The identity of the person behind the shocking moments in “The Children” is arguably even more shocking than the moments themselves — but if you’ve been observing that person’s rough journey thus far, this plot development may feel more inevitable than surprising.
“Hardhome” — season five, episode eight
Why it shocks: Technically, there’s some important establishing plot stuff that happens in “Hardhome” regarding dragonglass, Valyrian steel, and the sheer horror of the fact that the real villains of Game of Thrones are terrifying ice zombies. But let’s not front: We’re all here for this moment.
** “The Dance of Dragons — season five, episode nine **
Why it shocks: As shocking as it is all by itself to see a certain character’s journey to the Iron Throne come to an abrupt end, the manner in which said character brings about their own demise is one of Game of Thrones’ grimmest moments. (Also, hella dragons.)
“The Door” — season six, episode five
Why it shocks: This freaking show waited six and a half seasons to bring you a stunning plot twist involving a minor character we met in the show’s very first episode.
** “The Winds of Winter” — season six, episode 10 **
Why it shocks: The climax of “The Winds of Winter” episode is a master class in delivering a hugely satisfying narrative payoff with an absolutely devastating punch to the gut. Oh, and R+L=J!
“The Spoils of War” — season seven, episode four
Why it shocks: Amid all the dragon artillery bombing happening in “The Spoils of War,” let’s take a moment to appreciate that the episode’s bit of climactic madness involves one reluctantly redeemed character saving another. (The great thing about Game of Thrones’ latter seasons is how full they are of narrative alignments like these, both tiny and huge.)
** “The Dragon and the Wolf” — season seven, episode seven **
Why it shocks: You’d think that the creation of a zombie ice dragon would be the lasting image from “The Dragon and the Wolf,” but really, it’s the look of surprise on Littlefinger’s face when he realizes that a couple of teenage girls (who’ve beautifully overcome their own longstanding sibling rivalry) have bested him at his own years of games. Chef’s kiss.