It has wonderful, deep themes and a compelling, twisted narrative, but another reason to love Game of Thrones is its fights.
The big battles like Hardhome, Blackwater and Battle of the Bastards are great, but the 1v1 and other small-scale deathmatches can be even more satisfying.
- Why who rules at the end of Game of Thrones makes sense
- Why Jon Snow's fate was sealed from the start
It's a show packed with loads of characters and just how tough many of them are is emphasised over years and years, so when the biggest of those titans face off it brings a special type of excitement.
Warning: The videos linked to below contain violence intended for adult audiences.
Now that the show has come to an end, yet arguments over how good it was continue to rage, it seems like a good time to look back at the very best fights it gave us.
The 11 Greatest Fights in Game of Thrones:
Ser Arthur Dayne vs Ned Stark et al
The Sword of the Morning's battle in one of Bran's visions is the greatest swordfight in all of Game of Thrones. It's very significant to the story's central lore, but on a choreography level, it's kind of bliss for action fans. Arthur uses two swords and for much of the scrap is facing off alone against four foes. The way it's staged, each of those four enemies is striking at him at the same time - none are standing back and giving him a break, like they often do in scenes like this. It's superb.
Brienne of Tarth vs Sandor 'The Hound' Clegane
There's a visceral nature to this fight that makes it special, as well as being between two characters you're almost rooting for equally. Brienne's opening scene had her defeat Ser Loras Tyrell in a sparring match, after he'd defeated The Mountain in a jousting match. The Hound, of course, is one of the toughest characters in the show. So it made for an evenly matched fight between two characters you care about equally, and it was executed flawlessly. This is Game of Thrones at its best.
Oberyn 'The Viper' Martell vs Gregor 'The Mountain' Clegane
Perhaps the single most brutal moment in all of Game of Thrones comes at the end of this trial by combat. What this fight means for Tyrion and the other Lannisters gives it wonderfully high stakes, and it really feels like The Viper will win - but then the end happens and even if you knew The Mountain would win, it doesn't make how he does so any less shocking. That he yells about carrying out atrocities against the Martell family before killing Oberyn makes it all the more sadistic, but it's the unbelievable head trauma that's gloriously sickening.
Sandor 'The Hound' Clegane vs Beric Dondarrion
The first time we saw a flaming sword in this show, it was swung by the guy with maybe the coolest sounding voice in the world - Beric Dondarrion. His match against the Hound takes place in a darkened cave and in addition to the flaming sword where an opencast fire adds to Sandor's terror. The lighting is fantastic and the staging of the swordfight is really well done, climaxing with one sword smashing another in half and continuing on to tear halfway through poor Beric's torso.
Brienne of Tarth vs Arya Stark
Although this doesn't end with one combatant being bloodily murdered, there's a brilliant rhythm to it and what it tells us about the two characters is super cool. Brienne is reluctant to fight Arya, not imagining how adept she is at combat, but quickly realises as her younger foe starts dancing rings around her. Provoked and perhaps a little humiliated, she kicks Arya to the ground - which only makes the Stark shift gears and eventually win the duel with a crafty dagger move she later goes on to save the entire world with.
Jon Snow vs white walker
There's one moment at the end of this fight that was the single greatest moment in 'Hardhome', one of the best episodes of Game of Thrones ever. The white walkers were terrifying and this was the first time Jon Snow faced off against one. It owned him, hard, until he - and we, the audience - came to understand something crucial to the show's plot: Valyrian steel destroys white walkers. How it was revealed made for one of the show's most iconic and thrilling shots.
Khal Drogo vs Mago
It was heart-breaking how early Khal Drogo left this series - the guy's physical performance was one of the most pleasing things in the first season. It's put to really good use in this scene, which has him taking a blade to the chest basically to intimidate his foe, before systematically dropping all his weapons while taunting Mago about what will happen to his corpse. Drogo ducks and dodges a bunch of attacks as he does so, before killing Mago in a suitably vicious manner.
Sandor 'The Hound' Clegane vs Gregor 'The Mountain' Clegane
Cleganebowl is kind of sad in that it's one of the most blatant bits of fan service in the show, and it was never going to live up to expectations. It's also far from the best fight for either of these absolute titans, yet it still delivers the goods. It's ridiculously epic, taking place in a crumbling castle with a ferocious dragon flying around overhead. And it's very violent, of course, even if it isn't quite as amazing as it should have been.
Samwell Tarly vs two random men of the Night's Watch
Not really a fight, this one, but more of a brutal bashing. Samwell was the most annoying character in the show and seeing him get pummelled by these two meanies was a bit of fun. I mean, I didn't want him to die and it was nice when Ghost came in and saved him, but it was still enjoyable seeing him take a beatdown.
Bronn vs Ser Vardis Egen
Dirty old Bronn really introduced himself properly with this scene and many people remember it more for his quip about fighting with honour after he wins. But the combat itself is very well done, too, and one of the best scraps in the show. It painstakingly shows Bronn tiring out his much more heavily armoured enemy by ducking and evading his attacks for a few minutes, before getting in a few sneaky slices and ultimately felling him. The way he works at it, Floyd Mayweather-style, is really amusing.
Jon Snow vs Karl Tanner
Seeing this nasty so-and-so get a sword through his head was very satisfying. He kind of owned Jon in the fight, too, and taught him a lesson about the importance of fighting dirty in the process. The enormous loogie he spits in Jon's face is intensely disgusting - making it all the more relieving when one of the women he'd victimised attacks him from behind, before Jon finishes him off.