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The Most Paused Game Of Thrones Moments

During its reign on HBO, which lasted for eight season and a full decade, there's no question that Game of Thrones cemented its legacy as one of the most popular television shows in modern memory. As one of the last true examples of "appointment television," Game of Thrones became a reason to gather together during each season and experience some of TV's biggest shockers in a group. Not only was the show more fun to watch with friends, but if you watched it late, you risked seeing or hearing spoilers pretty much anywhere on the internet.

With all of that in mind, it's no surprise that Game of Thrones produced some of the most talked about moments of the past ten years on television. From baby dragons and sudden beheadings to face-swapping and the walking dead, here are some of the biggest moments in Game of Thrones history that you probably paused and rewound several times over. Spoilers for the entire series to follow!

Game of Thrones proves it means business when Ned Stark loses his head

As the series opens, audiences are immediately drawn to Ned Stark, the patriarch of the Northern Stark clan, and his strong sense of honor and duty. Along with his wife, Catelyn, Ned is the proud father of five children — Robb, Sansa, Bran, Arya, and Rickon — and the alleged father of Jon Snow, a bastard Ned claimed to have produced with a tavern wench. Throughout the first season, viewers follow Ned as he leaves the Stark family home of Winterfell to serve as Hand of the King to Robert Baratheon, a position that leads to his death.

After (correctly) asserting that Robert's eldest son, Joffrey, isn't Robert's son at all but the product of incest between Robert's queen, Cersei Lannister, and her twin brother, Jaime, Ned is put on trial for high treason. However, even though he pleads guilty, Joffrey — who has a bit of a sadistic streak, to put it mildly — has Ned beheaded anyway. With that, the sword stroke heard 'round Westeros simultaneously closed out the first season of Game of Thrones and taught viewers that nobody, not even Ned Stark, was safe.

Daenerys' dragons come to life

When audiences first meet Daenerys Targaryen, she's a far cry from the queen she will eventually become. As a meek young bride on her way to meet her unfamiliar husband, Khal Drogo, Daenerys doesn't seem particularly imposing, especially when compared to her vicious and ruthless brother, Viserys. As one of the few remaining Targaryens, Daenerys is a valuable asset. However, as she assimilates into Khal Drogo's Dothraki tribe, she finds herself much more powerful than Viserys. After she and Drogo fall in love and she becomes pregnant with his child, it seems like the couple could conquer the world together.

Unfortunately, Drogo meets an untimely end thanks to an infected wound and a vindictive witch doctor, leaving Daenerys on her own with a Dothraki horde. Luckily, she also has three dragon eggs, and after burning her late husband on a funeral pyre, she descends into the fire herself, clutching three eggs, and her skeptical horde thinks all hope is lost. However, by morning, the fire is gone, and Daenerys is still alive, rising from the ashes with three baby dragons clinging to her naked body. Three dragons — Viserion, Rhaegal, and Drogon — were born in this moment, and so was a queen.

Daenerys vs. Astapor is a truly pause-worthy scene

By season three, Daenerys has named herself as the Mother of Dragons, having successfully tamed her now teenaged monsters into weapons of mass destruction who still listen to the woman who gave them their lives. But as Daenerys, who also refers to herself as "the Unburnt," makes her way towards Westeros to claim her throne, she discovers an unknown horror on her side of the Narrow Sea — the slave trade.

Upon visiting Astapor, Daenerys realizes she needs to assemble an army if she's ever going to conquer the armies of King's Landing, so she decides to make a trade with Kraznys mo Nakloz, a particularly cruel and repulsive slaver. Daenerys agrees to trade her largest dragon, Drogon, to Kraznys in exchange for his powerful Unsullied army and his translator, Missandei, but once Daenerys confirms that the army is hers, she tells Kraznys — in Valyrian, their shared native tongue — that a "dragon is not a slave," letting Drogon loose with a single "dracarys." And just like that, the winged beast torches both Kraznys and his town, giving us one of the best moment in Game of Thrones. With an army behind her and her first victory under her belt, Daenerys truly becomes a conqueror in one short moment.

Game of Thrones shocked us all with the Red Wedding

Game of Thrones is packed full of unbelievably brutal moments, but most of them pale in comparison to the infamous Red Wedding. In the show's third season, Robb Stark walks back a deal with his mother's ally — Walder Frey, who controls an important part of the North — and marries the woman he loves, Talisa, instead of one of Walder's many daughters. Walder is angry, but it seems that the Stark family mollifies the old man by offering up Catelyn's brother, Edmure, for marriage instead. Walder accepts, and Robb, Catelyn, and a pregnant Talisa attend the wedding at the Twins as Walder's guests.

From the moment that the band strikes up the mournful tune "The Rains of Castamere," which is about a slaughter, to Catelyn catching Walder's men locking the doors, it's obvious to everyone that this wedding won't end happily. As Edmure and his wife are whisked to safety, Talisa is attacked and stabbed in the stomach. While trying to save her, Robb is filled with arrows and eventually stabbed to death by Roose Bolton. The final shot of the episode — where Catelyn kills one of Walder's daughters, only to have her own throat slit moments later — is one of Thrones' most disturbing and indelible images.

Things take a nasty turn at the Purple Wedding

Shortly after the Red Wedding, a different set of nuptials in Westeros goes seriously wrong, but at least this time, the death is satisfying rather than tragic. Ever since Ned's beheading, his eldest daughter, Sansa, has remained captive at King's Landing under the "care" of Joffrey and the Lannisters, and after King Robert dies as well, Joffrey takes the throne. Luckily for Sansa, Joffrey decides on a new bride — the beautiful and high-born Margaery Tyrell — and marries her in a lavish ceremony, making her the queen.

Naturally, because this is Westeros, the wedding goes awry in the most gruesome way possible. After emotionally torturing everyone at the ceremony, it seems like Joffrey starts to choke on his cake. But as it turns out, someone poisoned his wine, and he dies in his mother Cersei's arms while Sansa escapes. As he takes his last breath, Joffrey points to his befuddled uncle, Tyrion Lannister, setting up a season's worth of intrigue and putting an end to one of the show's worst and most brutal characters.

Game of Thrones gets gory with Tyrion's trial by combat

After the Purple Wedding, Tyrion is imprisoned and held captive for the murder of his nephew and Westeros' monarch, despite the fact that he's innocent. With his family against him, Tyrion has very few options where justice is concerned, but he does have one trick left up his sleeve: a trial by combat.

Luckily, during Tyrion's time in prison, one visitor to King's Landing — who came to town for Joffrey's wedding — is sympathetic to his cause and might be able to help him out. When Tyrion demands a trial by combat during his extremely rigged court proceedings (yet another great Game of Thrones moment), his conniving sister Cersei immediately chooses the Mountain, a towering fighter, as her champion. However, Oberyn Martell, the Prince of Dorne, has been seeking revenge against the Mountain for years. Oberyn offers to be Tyrion's champion, and during the fight, his chances look good ... that is, until Oberyn's hubris gets the best of him, and the Mountain reigns supreme in the most disgusting way possible. Lots of characters have died in horrifying ways on Thrones, but Oberyn's death remains truly unforgettable.

You'll want to press pause after the horrors of Hardhome

Throughout the series, while the Targaryens, Starks, Lannisters, and other ancient families squabble over control of the realm and the Iron Throne, another threat inches its way towards the Seven Kingdoms. Despite a massive wall that separates Westeros from the mysterious North, which is referred to as simply "beyond the Wall," the White Walkers and their undead army spend the entire show heading towards Westeros to eradicate all other life.

As the show progresses, the White Walkers show off several frightening powers, but the scariest White Walker sequence of the entire show takes place in the fifth season. As Jon Snow joins a group of wildlings to try to convince them to join the Night's Watch and fight against the Walkers, Snow and company realize they're losing and abandon ship, leaving hundreds of wildlings for dead. In complete silence, the leader of the White Walkers, the Night King, simply raises his arms and revives all the people he just slaughtered as vicious wights. It's a truly terrifying scene, and it proves just how frightening the Walkers really are.

Jon Snow returns

Unfortunately for Jon Snow, his alliance with the wildlings, which continues after the massacre at Hardhome, doesn't go over well upon his return to Castle Black. Despite the fact that he's simply trying to save humanity by assembling as large of an army as possible, his fellow Night's Watchmen feel betrayed and powerless, especially because by this point, Jon serves as the commander of the Night's Watch. One night, his mutinous men finally devise a plan. After luring him outside by telling him his long-lost uncle Benjen has returned to the castle, Jon's men turn on him and stab him to death, leaving him for dead as the fifth season draws to a close.

Obviously, this was one of the biggest cliffhangers in modern television history — even President Barack Obama was apparently desperate for answers — and shortly into the show's sixth season, Jon made his way back to the realm of the living with a little help from Westeros' resident Red Priestess, Melisandre. Jon Snow's death was an incredible moment in its own right, but his return couldn't have been more satisfying.

The entire history of Hodor

Game of Thrones always had an enormous, rotating cast of characters, but few were as beloved as Hodor, the gentle giant who always accompanies Bran Stark on his journey. From the moment we meet Hodor, it's clear that he's only capable of saying one word — specifically, "Hodor" — but the reason for his impediment isn't fully explained until the show's sixth season.

Throughout his journey, Bran discovers that he is the heir apparent to the omniscient and all-seeing Three-Eyed Raven, and as the current Raven takes him through time and history to help develop his powers, Bran makes some unsettling discoveries. One of those is exactly how Hodor became Hodor, but unfortunately, it's Bran's fault. While exploring his consciousness with the Three-Eyed Raven, Bran and his companions are attacked by wights in real time, and as Bran watches a young Hodor, an older Hodor "holds the door" shut to protect his young ward. When the two timelines merge, young Hodor is changed forever, and old Hodor dies protecting Bran, offering up a baffling yet heart wrenching piece of closure for this lovable character.

You'll definitely want to hit pause during the Battle of the Bastards

During its run, Game of Thrones had no shortage of incredible battle sequences, but the best of the best is definitely season six's Battle of the Bastards, an epic and long-awaited showdown between Jon Snow and Ramsay Bolton, the vicious, cruel, legitimized bastard of Roose Bolton. Before the battle even begins, Ramsay brutalizes Jon's sister, Sansa (the two are briefly married before Sansa escapes his clutches along with his other victim, Theon Greyjoy), kidnaps Rickon Stark, and even takes control of Winterfell. So yeah, this is personal.

The entire battle is made up of pausable moments, from Jon's heroic charge onto the battlefield to the moment where he's nearly crushed to death by horses and corpses, but the episode's final stretch delivers victory after victory. Between the moment where Jon beats Ramsay to a pulp to the climax where Sansa feeds her tormentor to his own hungry hounds, "Battle of the Bastards" will keep you pausing and rewinding from start to finish.

Cersei's last stand

By the final episode of season six, Cersei Lannister, Westeros' resident ice queen, has faced enough humiliation to last a lifetime. With her last living child, Tommen, and his bride Margaery on the throne, the Queen Mother has been (accurately) accused of adultery, incest, and other high crimes by the ultra religious High Sparrow, whose cult has all but overtaken King's Landing. After forcing Cersei to walk naked throughout the city and face abuse from her subjects, the High Sparrow wants her to stand trial at the Sept of Baelor, but Cersei, as usual, has other ideas.

While Margaery, the High Sparrow, and most of King's Landing wait for Cersei in the Sept, viewers see her coolly watching things from a high tower, biding her time until the entire Sept explodes, thanks to a blast of wildfyre (her doing, of course). Even though this leads Tommen to leap to his death out of grief, leaving Cersei childless, it's an undeniable victory in the moment, and the beautifully shot scene — scored to perfection by Ramin Djawadi — closes out the season perfectly.

Winter comes for House Frey

As season seven opens, another one of the show's vindictive female fighters finally gets her revenge. After Walder Frey massacres her mother and brother during the Red Wedding, Arya Stark sets out on a lifelong mission of vengeance, muttering the names of those she wants to kill to herself every night before she goes to sleep. Eventually, she meets a man named Jaqen H'ghar who can change his face at will, and she makes her way to Braavos to train with him.

Armed with the ability to adopt anyone's face, Arya finally gets revenge on one of her worst enemies. As the season opens on Walder Frey eating dinner in his hall, he's visited by what appears to be one of his daughters. However, it's actually Arya, who kills his children, serves him a pie made of his two sons, and slits his throat in one of the show's most triumphant moments.

Viserion's second coming is one of the most shocking scenes in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones' later seasons were marred by apparent rips in the space-time continuum and stupid strategies, both of which made it hard to enjoy the seventh season episode "Beyond the Wall." Still, the episode has one of the most pause-worthy moments of the entire show.

In a feeble and doomed attempt to convince Cersei that the White Walkers are a serious threat, Jon Snow and a group of fighters decide to venture beyond the Wall to capture a wight that they can show her, despite the fact that nobody has ever done this before. The gang manages to grab a wight, but of course, these creatures rarely travel alone, and before long, Jon and his team are trapped on an ice floe in the far North, surrounded by the undead. 

Luckily, at the very last moment, they dispatch Gendry to get help, and apparently, Gendry runs pretty quickly. Before long, Daenerys shows up with her dragons to save the day. Unfortunately, the Night King is one step ahead of the Dragon Queen, and thanks to a particularly well-aimed javelin throw, he kills one of her dragons. Viseron's death is tough enough to handle, but when he reawakens as an undead dragon, it's even more shocking.

Jon Snow's real parents

Throughout the series, Jon Snow constantly laments his status as a bastard child of Ned Stark, so much so that he even begins the series desperate to join the Night's Watch (a ragtag group of convicts and bastards who guard the Wall). However, as it turns out, Jon is far from a bastard.

Though Ned always claimed Jon was his offspring, it was just a way to protect Jon's true identity. Jon is actually Ned's nephew, and the Stark bastard has royal blood. The son of Ned's sister, Lyanna, and Rhaegar Targaryen, Daenerys' brother and the heir to the throne, Jon is actually Aegon Targaryen, and he has a better claim to the throne than Daenerys does. This reveal, which came thanks to Bran Stark's time travels as the Three-Eyed Raven during season seven, not only confirmed a long-standing theory from the books, but it gave Jon an entirely new role as the show came to an end.

The Night King is vanquished in Game of Thrones

As Game of Thrones drew to a close, everything seemed to lead to two points: who would take the Iron Throne and whether or not the Night King could be defeated. Ultimately, nobody got the Throne, but the Night King met his end thanks to an unexpected attack.

In the episode called "The Long Night," as the White Walkers descend upon Winterfell and our favorite remaining characters, all hope seems lost, especially because the Night King can conjure a new army out of dead bodies any time he wants. Bran, as the Three-Eyed Raven, waits for his nemesis in Winterfell's sacred godswood, and as the humans try to hold off the army of wights and White Walkers, the Night King is getting closer and closer. The situation looks dire ... that is, until Arya Stark leaps from the darkness and kills the Night King herself. A highlight of the final season, Arya Stark's biggest kill is a stunning twist, providing Game of Thrones with one of its all-time best moments.