HBO’s high-fantasy series Game of Thrones premieres its eighth and final season in April. So it’s time to pause your whole-series rewatch to look back at one of the best parts of the show: the music.
Dragons and White Walkers are cool, but they wouldn’t have nearly the same punch if they appeared in silence. Composer Ramin Djawadi is responsible for all the tunes that accompany the murder, magic, and intrigue. And he’s done such a good job that just hearing the score from an important scene is enough to transport fans back there and make them relive the whole thing. And that can be good or bad, depending on the scene. Most of them are pretty intense.
Here are five tracks from Game of Thrones sure to stir some feelings.
Memorable theme music can be the foundation of fanhood. It’s one of the first things you think of when you hear the name of a show you like. Game of Thrones’ sweeping theme music sets the tone and gets fans excited because it means they’re about to see more politics and adventure in Westeros. Or, if they’re a specific kind of fan, it means that their phone is ringing.
If you can hear this music and not imagine the opening credits and swooping around the world map, it hasn’t done its job. But it’s a good theme, so that’s what immediately pops into our heads, along with a sense of dread that one of our favorite characters might be about to die.
“A Lannister Always Pays His Debts”
This is the theme music for the rich and powerful Lannister family. It usually plays when they’re scheming to destroy their enemies or bickering with each other. But in the Season 3 episode “The Rains of Castamere,” it becomes a full-on portent of doom when it plays during one of the series’ most famous scenes.
The band at the event later known as the Red Wedding begins ominously playing the Lannister theme moments before the massacre of the Starks and the end of their campaign against the ruling family. And by the time Catelyn Stark names that tune, it’s already too late.
This track takes its name from the high Valyrian word meaning “Dragonfire.” And the music appears during two major scenes during Season 3. The first is in the episode “And Now His Watch Is Ended” when Daenerys Targaryen first claims her army of Unsullied and orders them to liberate themselves from their former masters (by liberating the masters’ blood from their bodies). This is also the first time we see one of her pet dragons turn its flame-spouting snout on a human, so the name is appropriate.
The theme appears again in the Season 4 episode “Breaker of Chains” when Daenerys takes her army to Meereen to free more slaves there. It expresses the Mother of Dragons’ rise to power and the increasing strength of her armies.
“Hardhome, Part 2”
The Battle of Hardhome is one of the major action sequences in Season 5, and it has some epic fight music to go along with it. But this second part of the piece accompanies the Wildings and Night’s Watch’s frantic retreat from the White Walkers and their growing army of blue-eyed zombies.
One of the most striking moments of this piece comes at the end, when the survivors finally see what everyone is up against. And it’s not even music: The end of the episode — and the last eight seconds of the piece on the soundtrack — play out in complete silence. And sometimes, from an emotional perspective, that’s just as effective as blasting a bunch of horns and drums.
“Hold the Door”
You’d be hard-pressed to find a Game of Thrones fan who doesn’t get sad when they hear this music from the Season 6 episode “The Door.” It’s not just that it plays during the death of beloved character Hodor, although that’s enough of a downer on its own. It’s also that it accompanies the realization that Hodor’s inability to say anything but his own name was Bran Stark’s fault.
Bran is in a vision of the past of his home of Winterfell when the Night King arrives to kill him and the Three-Eyed Raven. While staying in the vision, Bran takes control of Hodor’s body in the present so that Meera can escape with his physical body. But Bran doesn’t have complete control and also takes control of the past version of Hodor (then named Wyllis), and he starts repeating Meera’s cries — in the present — to “Hold the door” until it devolves into “Hodor” and becomes all he can say for the rest of his life.
This is one of the most complicated scenes in the entire series, and it’s also one of the saddest. These two feelings are unrelated.