While each season’s opening episode tends to primarily be a scene-setter, it still performs a vital function. These are the episodes tasked with luring us back in to the broader story. They are required to catch us up with all the action and remind us exactly why we missed the show so dearly.
There is however a noticeable gulf in quality between some of the season premieres thus far. Here we’ve ranked them in ascending order, starting with the least impressive of the bunch:
Game Of Thrones S5 – “The Wars to Come”
The opening flashback to young Cersei meeting Maggy the Frog is an intriguing first scene but otherwise this episode struggles slightly to fully immerse us back in to the show’s numerous storylines. The Lannister/Tyrell rivalry simmering in King’s Landing and Dany’s various political wrangles in Meereen both fail to really captivate the attention. The only real drama comes in the closing moments where we see Mance Rayder tied to a stake at the Wall. All in all, it’s a remarkably uneventful Game Of Thrones season premiere.
Game Of Thrones S2- “The North Remembers”
After the chaos of season 1’s final few episodes, season 2’s premiere was decidedly uneventful. There were still some moments to enjoy of course. Joffrey being utterly awful is always strangely fun to watch and the clashes between Tyrion and Cersei were another highlight. Elsewhere we also witnessed the introduction of Stannis and his retinue, including the intriguing Melisandre, and the slaughter of Robert Baratheon’s bastards is a brutally effective sequence. Otherwise though, it was a remarkably low-key return for the show.
Game Of Thrones S6 – “The Red Woman”
The much maligned Dornish storylines rumble on in this episode and they do unavoidably drag the intensity down slightly. Away from Dorne, there are a whole host of brief set ups and meetings, none of which really offer anything particularly enticing. The episode is rescued however by the palpable tension at the Wall where Davos and Edd protect Jon’s prone body. While Snow’s eventual resurrection was no great surprise, the build up to it here is expertly handled. The final revelation of Melisandre’s true nature was also an especially shocking development.
Game Of Thrones S3- “Valar Dohaeris”
The premiere for what turned out to be one of Game Of Thrones’ greatest seasons was solid enough but suffered slightly due to the sheer amount of storylines it had to cover. Jon meeting Mance is intriguing to watch, and Tywin marking his territory at King’s Landing by mercilessly cutting Tyrion down to size is also great fun.
The episode’s highlight meanwhile is the dramatic return of Barristan the Bold as he thwarts an assassination attempt on Daenerys. The episode works perfectly as a functional scene-setter, but it doesn’t really move its storylines on in any particularly meaningful way.
Game Of Thrones S1 – “Winter is Coming”
Game Of Thrones’ first ever episode was a perfect introduction to the show as a whole. The key themes and concepts that would play out across seven seasons were introduced in a succinct and fascinating manner. We get a tiny glimpse of the impending threat of the White Walkers and see Ned Stark dutifully dispensing justice. Ned also tellingly insists he’ll address the touchy subject of Jon’s parentage at a later date.
The Stark/Lannister dynamic is noticeably thrust front and centre, just as it would be for many seasons to come. The final moments where Jaime shoves Bran from a tower window is also a fitting introduction as to just how shocking the show would be.
Game Of Thrones S4 – “Two Swords”
The aftermath of the Red Wedding is still being felt in season 4’s opener. The power shift towards the Lannisters is made abundantly clear thanks to a cold open which sees Tywin melting down the Stark’s ancestral sword. There’s plenty of great moments throughout the episode, including Oberyn Martell’s memorable arrival and Jon’s acquittal by the Watch thanks to Maester Aemon.
All of this is overshadowed however by the glorious scene involving Arya, the Hound, a band of Lannister men and a chicken. The scene is not only hilarious, but also a great piece of action as the unlikely duo team together to exact vengeance. The moment where Arya brutally kills Polliver was also a crucial step on her journey to becoming a fully-fledged merciless assassin.
Game Of Thrones S7 – “Dragonstone”
This action-packed first episode served as a strong statement of intent for the show’s seventh season. It started with Arya slaughtering all of the remaining Frey men and moved on to cover The Hound’s slow journey towards redemption. The haunting image of Clegane burying the same farmer he robbed several seasons earlier was a particularly powerful moment.
Back at King’s Landing meanwhile, Euron Greyjoy arrived and offered Cersei a mysterious grand gift during a thoroughly entertaining display of villainy. The episode’s crowning glory however came during its finale as a defiant Daenerys made a bold return to her ancestral home of Dragonstone. It’s a triumphant scene that set up the pending drama of season 7 perfectly.