The year 2019 marked the conclusion of George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones. But in a field that is packed with thrilling shows detailing intense action, brutal violence, and some of the most compelling characters that have yet come to the silver screen, GoT is not the only show worth watching.
The one thing this collection of shows has in common is their fight sequences: moments that pull you to the edge of your seat and draw your jaw down until it hangs open. Among TV shows that are largely becoming cinematic, these scenes are fraught with tension and are often more compelling than some of the quieter, more dramatic moments. Beware of spoilers; here are ten of the hardest hitting fight scenes from 2019 television.
10 The Mandalorian: A Dramatic Entrance
In the very first episode of Disney’s The Mandalorian, the Mando (Pedro Pascal) makes a stunningly dramatic entrance. Seeking a bounty, the Mandalorian silently enters a cantina, where he violently rescues a blue-skinned Mythrol from a handful of assailants. This scene is fantastic in its sudden brutality; it establishes the core of the Mandalorian’s character. He takes on several attackers, and leaves them all dead – the scene lasts no more than thirty seconds and concludes with a door cutting one of his attackers in half.
It is quick, it is lethal, and it is telling: the Mandalorian is a cold-hearted warrior of terrifying skill and little mercy.
9 Jack Ryan: The Convoy Attack
The second season of the Amazon Prime series Jack Ryan, starring John Krasinski, got off to a powerful start. The season begins with Jack following a hunch to Venezuela, when his convoy is bombed in broad daylight.
The attack comes with a level of surprise and finds Jack frantically trying to save the lives of the people bleeding out beside him. But the moment the car door opens, a bullet splits the air, and bodies start to drop. This scene steadily rises in intensity, and the stakes continue to grow. It is a moment marred by shock, horror, and blood.
8 Stranger Things: The Death of Billy
In the third season of Stranger Things, Billy is at times a villain, a victim, a pawn, and a hero. A true product of a horrendous environment, Billy was always characterized as a brash, cruel jock. But when the Mind Flayer took control of him, Billy became nothing more than a pawn in a violent game.
In the final face-off between Eleven, the gang, and the monstrous physical form of the Flayer itself, Billy finally snaps back to reality, taking half-a-dozen barbed tendrils through the chest in order to save Eleven. This moment was emotionally heavy; the figure that you were trained to hate over the course of a season finally found redemption through sacrifice – never has Billy felt more like a victim than when he died, at last, a hero in his sister’s eyes.
7 Knightfall: The Pyre
The second season of this historical drama is even grittier than the first. After surviving torture, King Philip sentences Landry (Tom Cullen) and his fellow knights to burn at the stake before a vicious mob. The flames are rising amid horrific screams when Tallus (Mark Hamill) disrupts the scene, firing from a massive ballista while his men rush the stakes, freeing Landry and his brothers.
The ringing clash of steel, the crackle of flames, and the hoarse grunt of Tallus’ shouts all pale as the fires burn with a steady tenacity. Time is quickly running out – this scene marked the bloody beginning of a long, intense road to freedom.
6 The Punisher: The Gym
While the second season of The Punisher may not have quite lived up to its predecessor, it was still packed with those amazingly brutal moments that Jon Bernthal delivers so expertly. Seeking information, Frank enters a gym filled with Russian mobsters. What comes next is unsurprising: a brawl to-the-death. Frank swings weights and bars effortlessly, caving in faces and sending bodies toppling to the ground.
The toughest part of this scene occurs when a massive mobster pushes Frank against a weight rack and proceeds to beat him ruthlessly. But Frank picks up a weight and makes his sudden counterattack, splitting his attacker’s head open in several spots until the big man drops, his face mutilated beyond recognition. This is one of those reminders that Frank Castle is no hero. He is a raw, guttural killer.
5 Arrow: Emiko’s Death
Season 7 of Arrow boasted grit and gore, unlike any previous season. But none of this was more prevalent than in the final episode of the season, when Oliver’s secret sister switches loyalties (again), and takes a knife to the gut, fighting, at last, on Oliver’s side.
The sequence that leads up to her death was fast-paced, full of slashing knives, creaking leather, and swinging bows. Her death reveals a truly tender side of Oliver, one that we don’t often see. For once, it is possible to believe that he does, after all, have a heart.
4 Game of Throne: Battle For Winterfell
Despite its many criticisms, the eighth season of GoT did have its upsides. One of these was The Long Night, the third episode of the final season. In this final battle between the living and the dead, brutality at a level rarely showcased was seen, with hundreds of soldiers falling to an ocean of undead warriors.
The most haunting part of this extended sequence involves the resurrection of the fallen defenders. This is most poignant with Lyanna Mormont, who was crushed by a Giant before stabbing it in the eye. While her death was sad, the moment when her eyes flicked open, this time, an unnatural, electric blue, was one of a more deep-seated pain.
3 Knightfall: The Death of King Philip
At the conclusion of what was a rollercoaster of a season, Landry opens the door of King Philip’s throne room, bruised and bloody, amid a feeling of tangible excitement. Consumed by rage and an unquenchable desire for vengeance, he throws himself at his one-time friend and king, striking with such fervor and power that it is all Philip can do to avoid the reach of Landry’s sword.
But Phillip was doomed the moment Landry arrived. After knocking his sword to the floor, Landry slashes his stomach twice before slowly pushing his blade through Phillip’s back. Then, with Phillip lying in a pool of his own blood, Landry stabs down once more, finally exacting his revenge. This was a fulfilling scene, filled with action, tension, gore, and, at length, a brutal sense of satisfaction.
2 The Punisher: The Death of Billy
After a lengthy battle that resulted in a bloody victory over John Pilgrim, Frank receives a call that Billy is bleeding out in Curtis’ basement. Frank enters the basement, silent, a gun in his hand, and listens as Billy begins to attempt what might be an apology.
Before he can get the words out, Frank fires twice into Billy’s heart, in a moment of surprisingly shocking violence that maintains who Frank Castle is: a haunted soldier consumed by rage and bloodlust. Any time redemption seems close for Frank, he distances himself from it.
1 Game of Thrones: Dany’s Death
Regardless of how you feel about the final episode, this scene was rife with emotion. This fight was one that occurred more beneath the skin; it was Jon Snow’s fight between love and duty. In the moments leading up to her brutal end, Jon is consumed with pain, begging Dany to be forgiving. But she has become consumed by power. And Jon Snow is nothing if not fiercely loyal to whatever he deems is right.
The moment when he makes the decision to kill her, as the tears pour down his cheeks and the knife pierces her heart, is one of the most painful moments GoT has offered. It tells of a chilling end to someone who had always been good and kind. It shows that some of the most impactful, hard-hitting battles are not those clashes of armies with blade and bullet, but those internal clashes of loyalty versus morality.
Outlander: Claire’s 5 Best Outfits (& 5 Worst)