Game of Thrones returns to our TV screens this week for its eighth and final season. It’s had almost a decade to seep into our collective and cultural consciousness, and its departure will truly be the end of an era. One of its most familiar elements is the beautiful score by composer Ramin Djawadi, from the hummable main titles to themes centered on the houses of Westeros, dragons, and characters.
To celebrate the end of Game of Thrones, we’re looking back at seven seasons worth of music and picking our favorite Djawadi tracks.
We can’t celebrate Game of Thrones music without mentioning the title track, one of the most hummable and instantly recognizable opening themes of the modern TV age. It’s a great way of orienting yourself in the world of Thrones, and of sensing what kind of music will dress this fictional world: plenty of strings, a slightly medieval feel, and epic percussion.
“The King Arrival”
This track from season one is another memorable bit of Thrones music, and is also one of the few purely joyful tracks on the score. King Robert’s arrival in Winterfell may have set off the great tragedy that would be the next seven seasons, but at the time it was a moment that felt full of hope. It oriented us in this world, and this music has a regal, almost nostalgic feel.
“What Is Dead May Never Die”
Theon Greyjoy is one of the most complex and fascinating characters on Game of Thrones, and the Greyjoy theme from the series is as beautiful and layered as his arc. This season two track is the first real introduction to the theme, which is both melancholy and hopeful. The percussion also makes it feel like you’re off on a sea adventure, perfectly in keeping with the island-dwelling Greyjoys.
The Winterfell theme is another instantly recognizable bit of Thrones music, one that has grown in meaning with each passing season. It’s the music of the Stark family, and their many tragedies, but it’s also an ode to Northern honor and unity. It would be impossible to imagine the show without those lovely, heart-tugging strings.
“A Lannister Always Pays His Debts”
“The Rains of Castamere” is a famous tune from George R.R. Martin’s books and was translated beautifully to the show by Djawadi. It lives in various incarnations in the score, but is best utilized in this season three Lannister family track, a chilly foretelling of the carnage the family would cause that season.
Like the Winterfell theme, you don’t have Game of Thrones without Daenerys Targaryen’s dragon theme. “Dracarys” is the Valyrian word for “dragonfire” and also Dany’s cue to her dragons that it’s time to burn something to the ground. This season three track is when we first hear it in full, and it’s both powerful and a little terrifying, much like Dany herself.
“Light of the Seven”
“Light of the Seven” was a big departure from traditional Thrones music. Djawadi used piano here, the first time ever in the show’s score, and the result is a haunting, foreboding tune that plays over Cersei’s destruction of the King’s Landing sept.
This is technically a bonus track on the season six score, but it’s such a profound piece of music, set over such a profound moment, that we couldn’t leave it out. It’s set over the Tower of Joy scene from the season six finale, the moment we get confirmation that Jon Snow is indeed the son of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen. The swell of Winterfell music is its most powerful use on the show yet.
“The Winds of Winter”
This is the third track on this list from the season six finale, “The Winds of Winter,” which just speaks to the tremendous work Djawadi did on that iconic episode. This one might just be the best piece of music in Thrones, period. It signals Dany’s return to Westeros, and also blends some of the show’s biggest motifs, like Dany’s two themes and the Greyjoy house theme. It’s epic, it’s memorable, and it’s tear-inducing—a perfect encapsulation of all that Thrones is.
Dany’s arrival at her ancestral home at the beginning of season seven is a huge moment for the show, and this piece of music is just absolutely gorgeous. It’s majestic and sweeping, and another bit of epic musical storytelling. Season seven has its issues, but Djawadi was in top form all year.