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It is the biggest event on television since the end of Breaking Bad, but you have been putting off catching up on the series. Maybe you are a little hazy on how last season ended. Perhaps you watched the first few seasons and time got away from you. Or you never even started the series and read Wikipedia summaries to relate to your friends that watch it weekly. There is no realistic way to watch all the previous 67 episodes before the premiere so here’s our list of the essential episodes to watch in preparation of the big event.
(WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW)
- Season 1, Episode 1: Pilot
- Season 2, Episode 10: Valar Morghulis
- Season 3, Episode 4: And Now His Watch Is Ended
- Season 5, Episode 10: Mother’s Mercy
- Season 7, Episode 6: Beyond the Wall
Season 1, Episode 9: Baelor
While this means skipping over the expansive world building of most of season one, this brings viewers right into the conflict at the heart of the series. The quest for the Iron Throne takes a major step forward here as one of the show’s prominent characters, Ned Stark, is killed off. This important event puts the wheels in motion for the constant conflict within the Seven Kingdoms. Beyond this, there is an extreme amount of character development for Tyrion and his family, the Starks and Daenerys.
Key Plot Points: The Death of Ned Stark, the alliance of the Starks and Freys, the status of Tyrion Lannister, the sacrifice of Daenerys
Season 2, Episode 9: Blackwater
This self-contained episode avoids the parallel storytelling of Game of Thrones to focus on the first large-scale onscreen battle of the series. The naval conflict between the Lannisters and Baratheons pushes forward the tactical warfare of the crown and the lengths they will go to in order to protect their power. Meanwhile, it continues to flesh out a variety of characters who are pertinent to the main conflict of this series. This includes Stannis Baratheon, Ser Davos Seaworth, Tyrion, Joffrey and the majority of characters loyal to the Lannisters.
Key Plot Points: The cowardice of Joffrey, the impulsiveness of Stannis, the attempted assassination of Tyrion, the alliance of the Lannisters and Tyrells
Season 3, Episode 9: The Rains of Castamere
If anything, this episode is the most iconic of the series due to its infamous Red Wedding scene. It is emotional, tragic and jaw-dropping while managing to outdo the previously shocking moment in Season 1’s Baelor. While this story surrounding the destruction of the North’s strongest house, it also contains a lot of development for other important characters. The Hound travels with Arya towards the Twins, giving depth to both of their characters and showing different sides for both. Jon is tested north of the wall and continues to establish a relationship with the Free Folk and Daenerys plans her first show of power with her new army.
Key Plot Points: The Red Wedding and death of Robb and Catelyn Stark, the humanizing of the Hound, Jon Snow’s relationship with the Free Folk, Daenerys’ growing power in the East
Season 4, Episode 2: The Lion and the Rose
Rather than skipping ahead, it’s best to savor the most satisfying moment in Game of Thrones. The Purple Wedding results in another death, although not as tragic as ones in the past as the horrifying tyrant Joffrey meets his end. This satisfying moment helps to reconcile audiences after the tragedy of Westeros’ previous wedding. Beyond this great sequence, major characters get some development throughout. Bran continues his journey to becoming the three-eyed raven, the Boltons show their disloyalty and desire to destroy the remaining Starks and Jaime deals with losing a limb.
Key Plot Points: The Purple Wedding and death of Joffrey, the unification of the Lannisters and Tyrells, the increased tension between Tyrion and his family, the war for the North and the humanizing of Jaime Lannister
Season 4, Episode 10: The Children
This fourth season finale is a very important plot-heavy story. While many of these moments set up major plot points for the next few seasons, the three most important stories revolve around Jon, Tyrion and Arya. Jon’s attempt to find peace with the Wildlings, despite Stannis’ more violent means, shows his continued connection with the Free Folk. The fallout of Joffrey’s death led to the planned execution of Tyrion. His brother Jaime believes him to be innocent and helps him escape, but this allows Tyrion to seek revenge on those who have wronged him before fleeing to Essos. These two moments show the cracks in the Lannister house as they are ready to crumble beyond repair. Meanwhile, Arya’s journey has been long, but she is about to embark on her biggest challenge yet.
Key Plot Points: The conquest of the Wildlings and death of Ygritte, Bran’s arrival at the Heart Tree, the resurrection of the Mountain, the dangers of Daenerys’ dragons, the escape of Tyrion with Jaime’s help, the death of Shae and Tywin Lannister, the battle of Brienne and the Hound, Arya sails for Braavos
Season 5, Episode 8: Hardhome
Finally, the true villains of this series show their cards and prove that they are a force to be reckoned with. The Wildlings and Night’s Watch are forced to work together to defend themselves against the Night King and his undead army. Beyond this intense and chilling battle, some developments happen throughout the rest of this world. In Westeros, Cersei is tried for her crimes of incest by the High Sparrow being humiliated in front of her people and the Boltons prepare for battle against the remaining Baratheons. In Braavos, Arya continues her assassin training. And finally in Essos, Tyrion proves his worth to Daenerys for the coming conflict.
Key Plot Points: The alliance of the Wildlings and the Night’s Watch, the arrival of the Night King, the alliance of Daenerys and Tyrion, the rising conflict at Winterfell, the dehumanization of Cersei
Season 6, Episode 5: The Door
This is one of the more emotional episodes of the series as it bids farewell to another beloved character, Hodor, in a shocking revelation of their backstory. The demise of Hodor was a tragic end to a soft character who did nothing but help his master on his journey. His sacrifice allowed Bran to complete his transformation into the three-eyed Raven to help in the coming war against the White Walkers. Meanwhile, Jorah must leave Daenerys’ side, Sansa finds herself propositioned by Littlefinger and the throne for the Iron Islands is contested.
Key Plot Points: The transformation of Bran into the three-eyed raven and the death of Hodor, the birth of the Night King, the departure of Jorah, the conflict of Winterfell, the tension between Littlefinger and Sansa and the arrival of Euron Greyjoy
Season 6, Episode 9: Battle of the Bastards
If any episode can be compared to the phenomenal wide-scale battles of cinema, this is it. Not only does it contain the best and most brutal battle seen on the show between Jon Snow and Ramsay Bolton over the fate of Winterfell, but it also shows Daenerys fighting the slavers in Meereen. These parallel storylines show the power of both Fire and Ice as these two prominent leaders prove to be strong contenders for the Iron Throne.
Key Plot Points: The death of Rickon Stark, the fate of Winterfell and death of Ramsay Bolton, the fall of House Bolton, the alliance of Littlefinger and Jon Snow, the dominant force of Daenerys, the alliance of Daenerys and Yara Greyjoy
Season 7, Episode 4: The Spoils of War
This episode midway through the most recent season proves to be pivotal in setting up many characters and the final arcs to their stories. Jon and Daenerys continue their blossoming partnership by mining dragonglass for the war against the dead. The remaining Starks return to Winterfell as each of them show how much they have changed since the last time they were together. Finally, Cersei makes a new ally in the Iron Bank by repaying their debt through the conquest of Highgarden. This all culminates into the first show of force by Daenerys in Westeros as she sends her Dothraki army and Drogon to destroy the Lannister army.
Key Plot Points: Bran and Arya return to Winterfell, the alliance of Jon and Daenerys, the alliance of the Lannisters and the Iron Bank, the fall of House Tyrell, the strained relationship of the Lannister siblings
Season 7, Episode 7: The Dragon and the Wolf
While the penultimate episode of this season, Beyond the Wall, was initially in this spot, it is not as important to the set up of this final season than this final story. Not only does it bring all off the characters, beloved and despised, together for the first time, but it also brings several major developments to the series. With some answers, and a whole lot more questions, this episode proved to be the perfect cliffhanger to each of the characters journeys in setting up an explosive conclusion to the fate of Westeros.
Key Plot Points: The introduction of Cersei and Daenerys, Theon’s loyalty to Yara, the tension between Cersei and Jaime and the potential fall of House Lannister, the betrayal and death of Littlefinger, the destruction of the Wall and the reveal of Jon Snow’s true lineage as Aegon Targaryen, son of Lyanna and Rheagar, true heir to the Iron Throne
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