30. The Ghost Of Harrenhal (Season 2 Episode 5)Another exposition and setup episode, but a really good exposition and setup episode. At the beginning, Renly Baratheon is killed by Melisandre's weird mysterious shadow baby, causing Brienne to shoulder the blame and eventually leading to the Tyrells allying with the Lannisters. Jaqen H'ghar, Arya's Faceless Man friend, makes the first kill that he had promised to her for saving his life. Meanwhile, in a turn of events not covered in Martin's books, Arya becomes Tywin Lannister's cupbearer, leading to a series of good scenes between the two in which piece by piece Tywin learns more about her (he never does find out who she is, or so we are led to think). Besides for those things, the episode is pretty bare in terms of plot developments, meaning it can only be as high as #30. Man, the Faceless Men really are awesome though!
29. A Man Without Honor (Season 2 Episode 7)While boring in some places, A Man Without Honor has some standout scenes that elevates it to #29, the first of which comes from the title. Jaime Lannister, still held captive by Robb Stark's camp, is given his distant cousin Alton Lannister as a cellmate. Jaime promptly kills him in an escape attempt that fails, and he goes on to have an interesting dialogue with Catelyn Stark about his twisted views on honour. Beyond the Wall, Ygritte the wildling slips away from her captor Jon Snow and leads him into her trap, setting up a season-long plot of Jon undercover with the wildlings. In Qarth, mysterious warlock Pyat Pree admits that he has Daenerys' dragons locked up in the "House of the Undying", and then assassinates most members of Qarth's ruling body. The real standout of the episode is the ending, or the final fall of Theon Greyjoy. After Bran and Rickon escape Winterfell, Theon leads a hunt after them and returns at the end with two burned children's bodies, making all non-book readers believe that he had really murdered his foster brothers in cold blood. The chilling scream made by Winterfell's maester Luwin makes the moment even more heartbreaking, but for Game of Thrones, that's the norm.
28. Valar Dohaeris (Season 3 Episode 1)The worst of the season premieres belongs to Season 3, named after the Valyrian expression "All men must serve". As the episode required to set up both Season 3 and Season 4 (both are adapted from the third book in the series), Valar Dohaeris has to juggle several narratives and establish new plot lines, and while it does a good job, less "epic" moments occur here than in other episodes. Scenes of note include Daenerys sailing into Slaver's Bay and long-absent Barristan Selmy arriving to be her protector. It was good to see him again and most people knew that when Joffrey dismissed him from the Kingsguard, his story wasn't over. Most of the other good scenes are actually dialogue driven, and they mostly involve the Lannisters. The ones that don't involve Jon Snow meeting the King-Beyond-the-Wall Mance Rayder, while the ones that do concern the Lannisters involve Tyrion trying to get some well-deserved credit for the battle in Blackwater Bay and Tywin and Cersei continually shutting him down. The real drama with Tyrion Lannister is only just beginning, and for these standout scenes, Valar Dohaeris is elevated to #28.
27. Two Swords (Season 4 Episode 1)The premiere of Season 4 is notable for a few reasons, the best being the introduction to Oberyn Martell, a member of the ruling house of Dorne. Oberyn is seeking revenge against the Mountain (we all know how that turned out) for killing his sister Elia and her children many years ago. Tyrion and Oberyn have witty interactions and seem to get along fairly well, foreshadowing Oberyn's eventual decision to be Tyrion's champion. In the North, Jon Snow is put on trial for abandoning the Night's Watch and going off with wildlings, in addition to killing fellow Watchman Qhorin Halfhand. Although Alliser Thorne and Janos Slynt advocate killing Jon, good old Maester Aemon uses his influence to get Jon off the hook. A standout scene of this episode, one that has inspired many Internet memes (and frankly is one of the reasons this episode is as high as #27) is the confrontation of the Hound and Arya with some Lannister soldiers in an inn. The Hound apparently REALLY likes chicken, as evidenced by his badass profane threats to the soldiers. Arya is quite the little killer, and we see her take revenge on one of the soldiers for killing her friend almost two seasons ago. Could anyone have predicted this is where Arya would be only a short few years after her introduction?
26. The Pointy End (Season 1 Episode 8)Barely missing out from the top 25 is The Pointy End, and by no means is it a bad episode - in fact, from here forward the episodes on this list start getting really good. Almost every section of the world has an awesome scene in it: first off, in the North, Robb Stark responds to his father's capture and begins to march south to war. The episode does a great job of showing the urgency involved in the move, and also that Robb is a young man, not an experienced commander. In the FAR North, Jon Snow saves the life of Lord Commander Mormont after a wight attacks him. This is the Night's Watch's first experience with wights in a long time, and it causes them to realize how woefully unprepared they are for winter. In King's Landing, Barristan Selmy is released from the Kingsguard (he does a great acting job) and Syrio Forel thwarts the Lannisters' attempts to capture Arya Stark. It's a shame Syrio is gone, as he was one of the most awesome supporting characters in the first season. Across the Narrow Sea, the downfall of Khal Drogo begins as he fights an insubordinate member of his khalasar. Although Drogo wins the fight in appropriately brutal fashion, he is cut on the shoulder, and the witch Mirri Maz Duur is allowed to treat his wounds. Big mistake, Daenerys! All in all, The Pointy End is a very good episode that in any other show's top episode list would be much higher. Once again, the company of the episodes around it actually hurt it, but by no means is it bad.