Picking your favorite episode from your favorite show is like being asked to appoint your favorite child. They each have their merits. They often have their own respective flaws. But we love them all the same.
So when the Screener staff sat down to pick out our collective five favorite episodes of HBO's "Game of Thrones," something rather surprising happened – we agreed. At least, for the most part.
"Blackwater," "The Rains of Castamere" and "Mother's Mercy," in no particular order, rang out from the masses as consensus selections. Some fought for "Baelor," while others suggested the "Battle of the Bastards" deserved a seat at the table.
As you watch the video above to see which episodes eventually cracked our final five, we offer up the arguments from four different staff "Thrones" fans, each lobbying for their top-of-the-mountain, ultimate episode to sit on the proverbial Iron Throne of our list, as the greatest "Game of Thrones" episode of all time.
Season 2, Episode 9
"Blackwater" accounts for a lot of firsts: It stays with a single location, King's Landing; it set the tradition for every season's ninth episode as a battle and setpiece; it all but ends the Baratheon/Lannister conflict; and never looking up from the fog of war, it celebrates Tyrion (Peter Dinklage)'s tactical skills. The city defends itself with a wildfire trap, a guerrilla takeover from under the city itself, and is finally secured with Tywin (Charles Dance)'s arrival.
It's also the first, practically only, chance to see Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) as she really is: Neither engaging in shady contests of will with her kin, nor lying -- to herself or others. "Blackwater" is a notable peek at the once and future Queen of all Westeros, as she simply (and drunkenly) explains herself, in an episode-length monologue that takes her from the Red Keep to the Iron Throne itself.
Executioner standing by to make sure nobody in the Keep ends up hostages or worse, Cersei's getting ready for suicide and looking for a puppy to kick -- but Sansa sits mesmerized, as Cersei explains everything from rape culture to the finer points of theology. Later, in the Great Hall, Cersei tells her youngest son his last bedtime story: The Lion cub, beset and abused by Stags and Wolves, who is ready to rule them all... And beloved by his fierce mother.
These add up to the truth about Cersei: Something only we will ever get to see. As Cersei prepares for death, it's a rare glimpse from the inside: Bitter, hilarious and heartbreaking. "Blackwater" is loved for the battle, but it's the nasty truths Cersei spills in the Red Keep -- intimate, useful, abhorrent -- that mark the true beginning of Sansa's education, and set the tone for everything that follows.
- Jacob Clifton
Season 5, Episode 8
Everyone knows that the final few episodes of "Game of Thrones" seasons are when stuff gets real, and "Hardhome" stayed true to pattern.
Season 5 was a spectacular letdown of a season, focusing on all the wrong things and somehow lacking the punch of previous years. By the time fans got to "Hardhome," they'd pretty much given up on the season entirely. Then Jon Snow's epic 30-minute battle scene with the White Walkers and wights collectively blew our minds and renewed our faith in "Game of Thrones" entirely.
We can still hear the "gasp!" heard round the world when we all realized Jon's Valyrian steel sword could actually destroy White Walkers.
When you factor in Daenerys and Tyrion's first, tense meeting -- finally! -- you've got a near perfect episode full of action, suspense, and the tell tale power struggles "Game of Thrones" is best known for.
- Lindsay MacDonald
Season 1, Episode 9
Through the first eight episodes, we had seen guts and gore and plenty of drama, but it wasn't until the righteous Eddard Stark found his head on the literal chopping block that non-book readers realized one very important lesson about HBO's "Game of Thrones" – there were no sacred cows in GRRM's mystical realm.
At this point in the inaugural season, Sean Bean was still by in large the main star in a cast of soon-to-be-household-names-just-not-yets. Certainly there would be a last second reprieve for the show's leading man, the good leader of the North?
Nope. Down came the blade, off went his head and the tone for the series was etched in stone.
Not to be overlooked, "Baelor" was also the episode where Catelyn Stark brokered a fateful deal with Walder Frey, exchanging House Frey's support in the Starks battle against the Lannisters, for Robb and Arya Stark's eventual hands in marriage to Frey offspring. Of course, Robb would later marry Talisa Maegyr, angering Lord Frey and fueling the events that unfolded in Season 3, Episode 9's "The Rains of Castamere" – aka, The Red Wedding.
- Eric Anderson
'The Rains of Castamere'
Season 3, Episode 9
After getting tired of roaming the halls of Hogwarts, Argus Filch decided to head to the Riverlands where he became a dastardly king and lived in a castle. Then, he got very mad because his kid wasn’t able to marry a Stark so he had a whole bunch of people killed, including Hermione Granger’s mother. Getting bored, yet again, with castles, magic and death, the man moved to New York City and changed his name to Abraham. He currently kills vampires for a living.
- Aaron Pruner (Disclaimer: In case you didn't notice, Aaron doesn't watch much 'Game of Thrones' but as a Harry Potter fan, you can imagine his surprise when we showed him The Red Wedding.)