To say that Game of Thrones is a depressing show to watch is about as self-evident as Ramsay Snow’s addiction to sadistic torture: it’s pretty much common knowledge at this point. Each new season seems to raise the stakes when it comes to depressing content, which is no small feat when you consider that the first season ended with the supposed hero losing his head. Game of Thrones may be a series that appeals to the masochist in all of us, but even the most depressing show on TV (unofficial title) has its rare moments of happiness. Although it takes a fair amount of digging to unearth moments from the show’s five seasons that don’t immediately make you want to rage at the cruelty of the show’s writers, they do exist. Here are 10 moments from Game of Thrones that actually weren’t horribly depressing.
10. Tyrion and Bronn’s Lighthearted Conversations
Tyrion Lannister has a pretty rough lot in life for being a member of the richest and most powerful family in Westeros. Thankfully for him (and us), he developed a biting wit to help him navigate a harsh and judgmental world. Nowhere is that searing comedic timing on better display than with Tyrion’s frequent conversations with his hired bodyguard Bronn. Their half-insulting, half-affectionate back-and-forth ribbing became a much-needed source of comic relief in earlier seasons that helped viewers catch their breath in between all the vicious backstabbing (often literal) and slaughter that comprises a typical episode of Game of Thrones. Sadly, Tyrion and Bronn were separated last season, but at least the show’s writers had the good sense to pair another Lannister, Tyrion’s brother Jaime, up with Bronn to keep the lighthearted tradition alive.
9. Jaime Gives Brienne His Sword
One of the most surprising developments of Game of Thrones‘ third season was Jaime Lannister’s transformation from villain to sympathetic antihero. Most of that transformation was the result of his companionship with the honorable knight Brienne of Tarth, whose strong, no-nonsense demeanor managed to soften the Kingslayer into a halfway-decent person (it also helped that his ego was put in check when his sword-hand was unceremoniously chopped off). From there, Brienne and Jaime became perhaps the most striking example of unrequited love on the show and their most touching scene came when Jaime sent Brienne on a mission to find Catelyn Stark’s missing daughters. In a true act of nobility, Jaime gave Brienne his sword as a parting gift, which was a significant gesture given that it was branded “Oathkeeper”, a reference to Brienne’s oath to protect the Stark girls. It was also refreshing to see something good come out of Eddard Stark’s death, as Oathkeeper was forged from the remains of his Valyrian greatsword, Ice.
8. Robb Falls in Love
You’d be hardpressed to find many viewers who found the romantic pairing of Robb Stark and his bride Talisa to be one of the more compelling storylines of season three, but it’s hard to deny that for a brief period, the couple at least represented an island of happiness in a sea of misery. Observant viewers probably guessed that this relationship wasn’t going to have a happy ending, especially due to the fact that Robb broke an oath by choosing to marry Talisa, but having two characters find love is a rare occurrence indeed on this show. While we now know that Robb and Talisa’s story ended with one of the most shockingly brutal displays of violence in Game of Thrones history, at least the doomed couple brought some joy to the proceedings before their lives were savagely cut short.
7. The Night’s Watch’s Triumph Over The Wildlings
Game of Thrones is a show that teaches its viewers to hold little hope of any sort of military encounter ending in a way that favors the show’s heroes, but the season four finale displayed a rare moment of triumph for Jon Snow and the Night’s Watch of Castle Black, as they were able to survive the onslaught of the Wildling hordes and emerge victorious. Sure, the battle itself had its share of melancholy, with characters such as Ygritte and Jon’s loyal friend Grenn perishing in the fray, but it was still a decisive victory for some of the more heroic characters for once. Plus, the timely arrival of Stannis and his army was a spectacular way to cap off some clever story hints from earlier in the season. It’s just a shame that this military victory was essentially negated by the Night Watch’s implosion and the rise of the White Walkers last season, but victory sure tasted sweet while it lasted.
6. Arya’s Sword Training
From the very first episode of Game of Thrones, it was clear that Arya Stark was no fan of gender roles and wanted to be one of they boys. While her sister Sansa at first relished the pomp and ceremony of court life in King’s Landing, Arya wanted nothing to do with it. Luckily, her father recognized her fighting spirit and hired master sword-fighter Syrio Forel to give his daughter “dancing lessons.” While the argument could be made that Arya’s been at her happiest when she gets the chance to take brutal revenge on anyone who’s done her or her family wrong, we like to think of Arya’s brief time learning the Water Dance with Syrio as a rare moment in which a (good) Game of Thrones character was actually allowed to do something they love.
5. “My Sun and Stars”
Daenerys Targaryen had a seriously miserable existence early on in Game of Thrones, being sold off by her insolent brother to Khal Drogo, a warlord who rapes her on their wedding night. Thankfully for everyone involved, Dany makes the best of a bad situation and her and Drogo actually fall in love. It sounds unbelievable, but their relationship is still arguably the most honest and believable one to ever be featured on the show, and was a great way to humanize Drogo and his band of Dothraki warriors. As is the case with every successful romance in Game of Thrones, this one too ended in heartache, but years later, we still get a bit misty-eyed thinking about the bond between Dany and her “Sun and Stars.”
4. Jon and Ygritte’s Love Cave
Jon Snow and Ygritte, yet another pair of star-crossed lovers, had one of those romantic entanglements that you just knew would end badly, but for a brief moment in time, their love represented the coming together of two people from opposite sides of the Westeros culture spectrum. While their relationship generally alternated between fierce lovemaking and trying to kill each other, their infamous romp in a mountain hotspring was something like an oasis away from all the strife and hardship that comes with living in Westeros. The two were keenly aware of this fact, as part of their romantic dialogue referenced their desire to stay in the cave together forever. Sure, the Jon-Ygritte storyline could be kind of annoying at times, but at least it gave us a brief escape from the constant depression that typically comes with watching this show.
3. Finding The Direwolves
It’s hard to remember the more innocent days of the Game of Thrones series premiere, when the Stark family was still whole and we were blissfully ignorant of the tragedy that would soon befall them. We do however remember the scene where the Starks found a deceased direwolf mother and her six orphaned pups, one for each of the Stark children. In retrospect, this scene becomes even more significant because it not only represents one of the few times we’d get to see all the Starks together in relative happiness, but also the first time the show tricked us with its use of symbolism. The family took their discovery as a sign, as it’s remarked that direwolves hadn’t been seen south of the Wall in over 200 years by that point. While a big deal is made over the significance of this occurrence and the fact that there is a direwolf pup for each of the Stark children, we now know that life would turn out poorly for the Starks and their new pets. On the bright side, at least they had the chance to bond with their awesome pets for a brief period of time before everything went horribly wrong.
2. Daenerys Targaryen: Breaker of Chains
It took awhile for Daenerys to have her first true victory as a leader but it was well worth the wait. After spending most of the third season attempting to liberate the people of Slaver’s Bay, she gets a heartwarming surprise in the finale, “Mhysa,” when the people she’s freed embrace her and begin chanting the word “mother” in their native tongue. This moment couldn’t have come at a better time in the show’s run, as it arrived hot on the heels of the infamous Red Wedding, which is easily one of the show’s most harrowing moments. While Dany would go on to have a fair number of problems in trying to upkeep the sweeping changes she makes in Slaver’s Bay, this scene was arguably the best proof offered up so far for Dany being the best person to sit on the Iron Throne and bring peace to Westeros.
1. The Dragons Are Born
In the grand scheme of the show’s arc, it’s hard to think of a moment more hopeful or triumphant then when Dany emerged unscathed from Khal Drogo’s funeral pyre with three baby dragons in tow at the end of the first season. This was a game-changing moment, as it not only confirmed that dragons would be a feature of the story going forward — an exciting prospect in itself — but that magic and prophesy were legitimate components of Game of Thrones‘ world. Dany suffered greatly prior to this moment of triumph, as she had just lost her husband and her unborn son, so seeing her take a leap of faith and come out reborn as the “Mother of Dragons” was probably the first moment that reassured us that while this was a bleak and depressing world, there is light at the end of the tunnel. It may seem harder to believe than ever right now, but there is reason to be hopeful that there will at least be something worth celebrating by the time this story reaches its conclusion.