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From Ned's death to Cersei's fiery revenge, look back the wildest twists and turns

Shaun Harrison
game-of-thrones-season01.jpg
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WARNING! Here be dragons... and spoilers!

Jaime pushes Bran out of a tower window In Game of Thrones' bold series premiere, viewers uninitiated to the twisted mind of George R.R. Martin received a double whammy in the episode's final scene. Not only are the golden-haired Lannister siblings revealed to be involved in an incestuous relationship, but when young Bran Stark, who has a talent for climbing castle walls, catches them in flagrante delicto, Jaime shoves him out of the tower window to an uncertain fate below. Welcome to Westeros! Shock rating (out of 7 hells): 5 hells!

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Jaime ambushes Ned

Upon learning that Catelyn Stark took his brother Tyrion prisoner, Jaime Lannister takes his anger out on Ned Stark while he's in King's Landing. The sudden skirmish ends with Stark bannerman Jory stabbed through the eye and Ned felled by a cut to his leg. Shock rating: 4 hells!

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Daenerys eats a raw horse heart

The Dothraki honor the horse, which of course means that pregnant Khaleesi must impress the Dothraki wise women by consuming a stallion heart ... raw! Um, Dany, you have a little something right there. No, you didn't get it. Never mind. Shock rating: 1 hell!

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Drogo crowns Viserys

Brandishing a sword in the Dothraki holy city is bad, but the drunken Viserys Targaryen crosses the line when he threatens to cut out his sister Daenerys' unborn child. As judgment, Khal Drogo declares that he will grant his brother-in-law a "golden crown that men will tremble to behold" and then proceeds to pour molten gold over Viserys' head, killing him. Shock rating: 6 hells!

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Littlefinger betrays Ned

Upon the death of King Robert Baratheon, Ned is determined that the king's true heir -- younger brother Stannis Baratheon -- shall ascend to the Iron Throne, not Joffrey, that bastard of Lannister incest. Although Littlefinger had promised that the city's guards will support that cause, when Ned orders them to take Joffrey and Cersei into custody, they turn around and start killing the Stark men instead. Littlefinger himself holds a knife to Ned's throat. He did warn Ned not to trust him! Shock rating: 3 hells!

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Ned Stark is beheaded

Violence and double-crosses may be expected on Game of Thrones, but killing off the series' central hero in the first season is a game-changer that no one saw coming. Although Ned reluctantly swallows his pride and agrees to confess to treason in order to assure the safety of his children, King Joffrey shows no mercy and orders his execution. Before Ned's two daughters can fully comprehend the command, Ser Ilyn decapitates Ned in front of a raucous mob. Shock rating: 7 hells! (No, really ... did that just happen?!)

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Daenerys becomes the Mother of Dragons

Look, the Targaryen bloodline guarantees two things: platinum blonde hair and varying levels of crazy. That's why we're not terribly surprised when Daenerys climbs into the funeral pyre with the corpse of her beloved Khal Drogo. But then she emerges unscathed (but naked) with three newly hatched baby dragons, creatures thought to be long extinct, we have to bow down to Khaleesi. Really, dragons really do trump everything. Shock rating: 4 hells!

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Joffrey bullies whores with a crossbow

For Joffrey's name day, his uncle Tyrion Lannister tries to temper the brat's cruel ways with a gift of two whores as an outlet for his sexual frustration. Unfortunately, Joffrey's sadistic lust for violence and need to insult his uncle are even stronger. Pointing a loaded crossbow at the two women, he forces one to beat the other senseless and then later dumps her abused body in Tyrion's room. Shock rating: 3 hells!

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Melisandre gives birth

Congrats! It's a shadow baby! We're not quite sure what to expect when the red priestess disrobes in front of Davos, reclines on her cloak and spreads her legs, but it's not giving birth to what looks like a black Smoke Monster. The little shadowy fella stretches to a man's height before slipping through the bars blocking the mouth of a cave. They grow up so fast! Shock rating: 5 hells!

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Renly is assassinated

As Renly Baratheon prepares to turn in for the night, a gust of wind blows open the flap of his tent and black smoke rushes inside and then coalesces into the shape of a man, with a face that looks eerily like Renly's brother Stannis. Before this fact can register, the shadow stabs Renly through the heart and then dissipates. Loyal Brienne can only look on in horror as her beloved king dies in her arms. Shock rating: 5 hells!

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Theon reveals the corpses of the "Stark boys"

As usual, Theon is distracted by his lust and sleeps with the wildling Osha, which turns out to be a ploy for her to sneak the imprisoned Bran and Rickon Stark out of Winterfell. Embarrassed and needing to prove that he is truly one of the Ironborn, Theon dramatically unveils the charred corpses of two boys and claims that they're the Stark offspring that he was able to recapture. Shock rating: 3 hells!

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Jaime kills his own cousin

Jaime Lannister may be the prisoner of Robb Stark, but he hasn't given up hope. When his distant cousin Alton Lannister is thrown in the clink with him, he and Jaime share reminiscences about when Alton once squired for him and other squire-knight stories. It's a touching moment for the Lannister clan until Jaime reveals his plan for escape involves Alton's help. What does he need to do? Die! Jaime headbutts and then beats Alton repeatedly with his shackled hands. While the guards check on the convulsing man, Jaime is able to make good his escape. Thanks, coz! Shock rating: 4 hells!

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Blackwater Bay goes up in flames

As Stannis Baratheon's naval forces close in on King's Landing, Tyrion Lannister steps up to the challenge of defending the city by spreading wildfire, a substance so hot it burns water, into Blackwater Bay. The resulting flames bathe the bay in an eerie greenish hue and engulf enough of Stannis' fleet to buy time for Tywin Lannister and Loras Tyrell to arrive with reinforcements and rout Stannis. Shock rating: 5 hells!

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We meet the White Walkers

We've got chills, and they're multiplying after getting our first glimpse of the mysterious beings known as the White Walkers. The creepiest thing about the creatures? Their electric blue glowing eyes that see into your pitiful soul. We're talking to you, Samwell Tarly! Shock rating: 2 hells!

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Slavemaster demonstrates the Unsullied lack of fear

No matter how you slice it, those slavemasters are sick bastards. To demonstrate the benefits of purchasing the Unsullied, Astapor slavemaster Kraznys slices off the nipple of one unflinching warrior-slave, and the viewers are left regretting eating dinner before watching. Shock rating: 1 hell!

16 of 48 Helen Sloan/HBO

Jaime overplays his hand

Unfortunately, Jaime doesn't know when to stop yapping. After he saves his fellow prisoner Brienne, he lays it on thick when stating his own case and says his dad Tywin will reward his captors with untold riches. Their leader Locke plays along at first -- before throwing Jaime down and unceremoniously lopping his sword hand off! You might be a Lannister, but arrogance doesn't pay. Shock rating: 6 hells!

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Mutiny at Craster's Keep

Recruiting dangerous criminals for the Night's Watch has its drawbacks. When a few of the hungry and irritable Black Brothers discover that their host, the wildling Craster, is keeping all the best food for himself, insults are exchanged, blades are drawn and chaos ensues. In the end, Craster is killed and Commander Mormont, who tries to keep the peace, is literally knifed in the back by one of his own men. Shock rating: 4 hells!

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Daenerys overthrows Astapor

We have a winner, winner, dragon dinner! When Daenerys rebels against the slavers in Astapor, she orders her dragons to spew fire against the tyrannical masters, sending them to the crispy afterlife in grand fashion. After meting out this moral punishment, she then takes away their newly liberated 8,000 Unsullied for her rapidly growing army to wrest back the Iron Throne. Do not mess with this khaleesi! Shock rating: 6 hells!

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Joffrey kills Ros

Once Littlefinger discovers that Ros has informed on him to Varys, he decides to have her killed since she's such a "bad investment," an echo of the threatening little anecdote he told her in Season 2. Her ambition is her undoing, and the only thing we're grateful for is that we didn't have to see her getting killed, only the aftermath of cruel King Joffrey using her for target practice for his new crossbow at close range. Shock rating: 3 hells!

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Theon loses his manhood

Having two naked ladies writhing all over you isn't so bad! But wait, it's just another ploy by Theon's mysterious tormentor to teach him a lesson about his old womanizing ways. Again with the knife, but the target body part isn't Theon's pinky finger this time! Although we're horrified, we're kind of astounded that he stuck around long enough to get aroused instead of, you know, trying to escape the torture chamber. Shock rating: 5 hells!

21 of 48 Helen Sloan/HBO

The Starks attend the Red Wedding

In perhaps one of the most traumatic scenes in scripted television, heroes Robb Stark and his family are massacred after his uncle makes a political marriage. We don't know what's worse: Robb's pregnant wife getting stabbed multiple times in the stomach, Robb uttering, "Mother," before he's dispatched by a traitor or mom Catelyn's suicidal madness in which she kills an innocent and then waits patiently for her own throat to get cut. Will HBO pay for our therapy? Shock rating: 7 hells!

22 of 48 Helen Sloan/HBO

Arya uses the pointy end again

The girl is spoiling for a fight after her brother and mother were slain at the Red Wedding, so it's very nice of Polliver to cross her path. Not only does he top her hit list for killing one of her friends, but he had also stolen her sword, Needle. Arya dispatches him personally by sliding her reclaimed blade into his head and neck. She comes away with her sword, a horse and her thirst for blood slaked for now. What more does a girl need? Shock rating: 4 hells!

23 of 48 Macall B. Polay/HBO

Joffrey gets choked up at the Purple Wedding

A groom perishing on his wedding day shouldn't be cause for celebration, but fans have been waiting for this particular bloodletting for four years. At the feast, newlywed King Joffrey whips out his signature cruelty to humiliate everyone in sight, which naturally makes him thirsty. Alas, the wine doesn't give him a buzz unless you count oxygen deprivation caused by choking. The suspected poison works fast, and as the teen tyrant collapses and turns purple, the question is not "Who wanted Joffrey dead?" but "Who didn't want him dead?" Schadenfreude never tasted so good. Shock rating: 7 hells!

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Jaime rapes Cersei

The show one-ups itself in the disturbing department when quarreling twins Jaime and Cersei Lannister have a decidedly unsexy interlude in the wake of their son Joffrey's murder. The heightened atmosphere of grief, anger and frustration are too much for Jaime, and he forces a protesting Cersei to succumb to his carnal desires right there by the corpse of their incest-conceived son. "It's not right," she cries, along with Thrones fans everywhere. Shock rating: 7 hells!

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The White Walker birds and the bees

We see what we think is how baby White Walkers are made, and it's kind of like Cabbage Patch kids, but far creepier and without the birth certificates. It turns out that the baby boys the wildlings leave out in the snow are taken and brought to a circle of stones and an altar. A head honcho White Walker (he has a fleshy crown protrusion) then "christens" the baby by laying a diseased-looking fingernail along the rugrat's chubby cheek until its eyes glow White Walker blue. Shock rating: 4 hells!

26 of 48 Helen Sloan/HBO

Tyrion demands a trial by combat

During his regicide trial, the Imp lashes out at his sister and the gathered crowd. "I did not kill Joffrey, but I wish that I had. Watching your vicious bastard die gave me more relief than a thousand lying whores," he says. "I wish I was the monster you think I am. I wish I had enough poison for the whole pack of you." To cap off his venomous diatribe, he demands a trial by combat because there's no such thing as a fair trial in King's Landing. Shock rating: 5 hells!

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Littlefinger teaches a flying lesson

Littlefinger has already shown himself to be a wily schemer and now he proves he's not above committing murder more directly. When his wife Lysa flies into a jealous rage (and rightfully so, since she caught him kissing her niece), he reassures her that he's only ever loved one person his whole life. Aw, he means her, right? Nope. "Your sister," he clarifies before shoving her through the Eyrie's Moon Door so she can "fly" to her death hundreds of feet below. Shock rating: 5 hells!

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The Mountain duels the Red Viper

By now, fans should expect everyone they love to die, but this knowledge doesn't make what happens to Oberyn Martell any easier to bear. In the trial by combat, the Red Viper uses his Cirque du Soleil acrobatics to knock The Mountain down, but just when victory seems assured, Oberyn gets too cocky. Before long, he's the one flat on his back, teeth knocked out, blood bursting from his eyes and brains splayed all over the concrete. Shock rating: 7 hells!

29 of 48 HBO

Ygritte dies in Jon Snow’s arms

Jon Snow loves Ygritte enough to break his sacred vow to the Night's Watch for her. So when he betrays her to return to the Night's Watch, it breaks her up inside and she vows to kill him when she gets the chance. She gets the chance during the Wildling attack on Castle Black, but she's interrupted by Olly when he shoots an arrow through her back. Jon holds her as she takes her last breaths. She asks if he remembers the cave where they first made love, and says they should have never left. Shock rating: only 3 hells, but 7 icy tears.

30 of 48 HBO

Tyrion commits double murder

After Jaime helps him break out of the dungeon where he was awaiting execution, Tyrion stops by his father's room, where he finds Shae, his former lover who testified against him during his trial, in his bed. Heartbroken and enraged, he strangles her. Then he confronts his father while Tywin sits on the toilet, and shoots him with a crossbow after he repeatedly calls Shae a "whore." Add "patricide" to the list of medieval-sounding crimes characters on Games of Thrones have committed. Shock rating: 6 hells!

31 of 48 HBO

Ramsay rapes Sansa

Sansa Stark is forced to marry brutal psycho Ramsay Bolton, and on their wedding night he rapes her. She was was a virgin and he had previously promised not to harm her. Adding another horrible dimension is Ramsay forcing his slave Reek, formerly Theon Greyjoy, who had been like a brother to Sansa, to watch. The audience sees the despicable act from Reek's perspective. Everything about it is stomach-turningly awful. Game of Thrones shows a rare sense of restraint by not depicting the actual act, and this is still maybe the hardest scene to watch in the history of the show. Shock rating: 7 hells!

32 of 48 HBO

The Night's King shrugs the dead back to life

As Jon Snow & Co. retreat from Hardhome to escape the swarming undead wights, the Night's King, the leader of the White Walkers, reanimates all the people who died during the battle with simple raise of his hands. We previously knew that White Walkers have the power to reanimate dead bodies, but we didn't know it was so easy. How are supposed you fight an enemy who can create a loyal, tireless army with a shrug? Shock rating: 6 hells!

33 of 48 HBO

The sacrifice of Shireen

Shireen is a bright and kind girl. Her father, Stannis Baratheon, moved mountains to cure her of the usually fatal illness that left her face scarred. He loved and protected her when her condition had seemed hopeless. So naturally, she was doomed. After a series of misfortunes befall Stannis' army as they march from the Wall to Winterfell, Stannis finally agrees to Melisandre's suggestion that he allow her to sacrifice Shireen to curry favor with the Lord of Light. Making us watch this little girl being burned alive at the behest of her parents is one of the cruelest things this show has ever done. And it ended up being for nought, as Stannis lost the battle and his life soon after. Shock rating: 7 hells!

34 of 48 HBO

Cersei’s walk of shame

For most of the series, Cersei Lannister has been a haughty, long-haired princess manipulating her surroundings and the people unfortunate enough to be related to her while locked away in the security of the Red Keep. But in the Season 5 finale, she is humbled. As punishment for adultery, incest and conspiracy, Cersei's hair is cut short and she's forced by the High Sparrow to walk naked from the Great Sept of Baelor to the Red Keep through a seemingly endless crowd of her subjects as they hurl filth (both garbage and profanity) at her. This moment is shocking both for its brutality and how bad it makes us feel for a character we hate. Shock rating: 7 hells!

35 of 48 HBO

Myrcella is poisoned

Myrcella Baratheon, we hardly knew ye. Jaime and Cersei's daughter spent most of the series as a naive child or unseen while sequestered in Dorne, and finally reemerged in Season 5, only to die from being poisoned by Oberyn Martell's vengeful widow Ellaria Sand. And literally moments after happily revealing that she knows Jaime is her real father. Shock rating: 5 hells!

36 of 48 HBO

Arya’s eyes go Stark white

Arya kills Meryn Trant in retaliation for his role in the many Stark deaths, but she doesn't have permission from the Faceless Men to do so. In fact, she has disobeyed the Many-Faced God's will, and as punishment, she suddenly goes blind. It's a completely unexpected consequence and it's unknown if it's permanent. Shock rating: 4 hells!

37 of 48 HBO

The assassination of Jon Snow

He's probably not dead forever, but Jon Snow's murder is still incredibly traumatic. After Maester Aemon dies and Sam leaves, Jon has no more allies at Castle Black, and the Night's Watch's resentment turns into outright mutiny. Jon is stabbed over and over by a multitude of men he used to command, but no twist of the knife hurts more than the betrayal of his own little Brutus, Olly, who used to look up to Jon before he came to regard him as a wilding-lover. Game of Thrones has killed its Stark heroes before, but it never gets any easier, and Jon is the heart and soul of the show. His death ends Season 5 on a hopeless note. Shock rating: 7 hells!

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Melisandre is an old woman

Call Nev and Max, because Melisandre (Carice van Houten) is the greatest catfish of all! Without her ruby necklace on, the Red Priestess reveals she's really a frail old woman. And if Melisandre can have a shadow baby at 400 years old, then maybe the tabloids will finally stop pressuring Jennifer Aniston to pop one out like her womb is about to expire. Shock rating: 2 hells!

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Jon Snow lives!

We all knew it was coming, but that didn't stop Jon's resurrection from being a completely gasp-worthy moment (quite literally). After getting a rousing pep talk from Davos, Melisandre attempts the same spell Thoros of Myr used to resurrect Beric Dondarrion. However, it doesn't seem to work and they leave the room with their heads hung low. But no sooner does the door close behind them than Jon pops back to life, struggling for air and likely wondering why he's alone, naked and covered in leeches. Shock rating: 2 hells!

40 of 48 HBO

Daenerys burns the khals

When Daenerys ends up in Vaes Dothrak, the Dothraki capital city, she's sent to the Temple of the Dosh Khaleen, a retirement home for widows of Dothraki khals, while the ruling committee of khals decides what to do with her. Obviously, Daenerys is not at all interested in what these men have in mind for her, and when she's brought before them for a meeting, she tells them exactly what she thinks -- that none of them are suited to lead the Dothraki, and she'll be taking over from here. Then she tips over some flaming braziers and incinerates the boy's club. Immediately after, in a moment that mirrors the birth of her dragons in Season 1, she emerges from the flames unburnt and triumphant. And the thousands of Dothraki gathered to watch the blaze bow to their Khaleesi when they see her. Shock rating: 4 hells!

41 of 48 HBO

Hold the Door!

Hodor's backstory was one of the great mysteries of Game of Thrones before this moment. The sweet, simple giant had a one-word vocabulary that consisted of his name, and the reason why was revealed in the most heartbreaking way possible. Hodor was once a normal boy named Wylis, Bran learns in a vision shown to him by the Three-Eyed Raven. But when Bran accidentally reveals his location to the Night King in a vision, the Three-Eyed Raven is forced to download all of his knowledge to Bran, since once the White Walkers get to the cave he's defenseless. When the White Walkers and the wights get there, Bran is still in a trance, but he hears what's happening and splits his consciousness between the vision and the present by warging into Hodor. In the present, Hodor is repeatedly ordered by Meera to "hold the door" against the attacking wights to allow Bran and Meera to escape. But in the vision, the stress of the split consciousness causes Bran to accidentally warg into Wylis, who then experiences his own death in the future. Wylis hears Meera's command to "hold the door," and repeats it over and over as he has a brain-breaking seizure until it gets contracted into just "Hodor." So Hodor's whole existence is him waiting to catch up to his own death. So sad. Shock rating: 5 hells!

42 of 48 HBO

Poetic justice for Ramsay Bolton

Ramsay Bolton's preferred method of executing his enemies was to feed them to his dogs. Before the Battle of the Bastards, he told Jon Snow and his advisors that he had been starving the dogs to make sure they were famished enough to kill them all. But it doesn't play out that way, and after the battle Ramsay finds himself the Starks' captive inside Winterfell's kennel. Sansa releases the hounds on her evil husband, and they show Ramsay that maybe he should have been a little nicer, because hunger trumps loyalty. Shock rating: 4 hells!

43 of 48 HBO

King's Landing goes kaboom

In the Season 6 finale, the explosives that Cersei Lannister has been talking about for years finally go off -- in spectacular fashion. She doesn't show up for her trial in the Great Sept of Baelor, because she's blowing it up. She kills two of her main enemies -- the High Sparrow and Margery Tyrell -- and positions herself to become the queen. Of course, she indirectly kills her son Tommen, who defenestrates himself rather than deal with the mess his mother has caused. You win some, you lose some. Shock rating: 5 hells!

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Arya gets her revenge

The Season 7 premiere kicked off with a delightful shocker when Arya donned her freshly excised Walder Frey face in order to get her full revenge for the Red Wedding. Having invited all of the (male) Freys to a feast at the Twins, Arya-as-Walder instructed the men to raise their glasses and toast. Little did they know that Arya had poisoned their wine, killing off Walder's entire male family in an instant. Shock rating: 3 hells!

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Viserion becomes an ice dragon

After Viserion was fatally struck down by one of the Night King's ice spears during the frozen lake battle, the Night King had his army pull his corpse up from the frozen depths and then he resurrected him as an ice dragon wight. We understand that the writers had to even the playing field between Daenerys' army and the Night King's, but our tears for Viserion hadn't even dried before he became the enemy. It was all just too much and too soon. Shock rating: 7 hells!

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Sansa and Arya execute Littlefinger

It's fitting that as all the major players down south settled on a truce (albeit a fake truce) the person responsible for all the strife in Westeros would finally meet his gruesome, bloody end. After accusing him of murder, treason and a million other wrongdoings that plunged Westeros into chaos and war, Sansa ordered Arya to slit Littlefinger's throat. This death may not have been as cathartic as Joffrey's or Ramsay's, but it's certainly been a long time coming. Shock rating: 5 hells!

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Jon is a Targaryen

Even if you knew it was coming, it was still a shock to the system to see the truth about Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark's story come to light. The flashback depicting their love and marriage -- and therefore, the reveal that Jon is the true heir to the Iron Throne -- was made all the more shocking by the fact that it was intercut with Jon and Daenerys' love scene aboard their boat to the North. Nothing quite kills the mood like realizing the two characters currently in bed together have no idea they are aunt and nephew. Shock rating: 4 hells!

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The Night King destroys the Wall

The Wall has been the only thing keeping all the White Walkers at bay for centuries, but the Night King was not willing to let it stand for another day. Using his new resurrected ice dragon, Viserion, the Night King blew a hole right through the Wall (potentially killing quite a few beloved characters) and allowed the army of the dead to march right through it into Westeros. Shock rating: 6 hells!