So, you’re a Game of Thrones fan, excited for the final season to begin Sunday, April 14. Have you — or your friends — done a full-series rewatch yet? Unless you take off several days of work, it’s likely too late now.
Fear not, though: We’ve managed to narrow down the episodes you need to see before the final season premieres.
Now, this list is NOT meant for people who haven’t seen Thrones before — if you’re one of those, you should call out sick and start at the very beginning immediately. This list is designed for people who’ve watched most of the episodes at least once.
And these aren’t necessarily the 10 best episodes — although most are right up there. This is the highlight real, the moments of consequence for our heroes you need to have fresh in your mind.
Episode 101: Winter is Coming
The series premiere skillfully introduces viewers to the expansive world of Westerosi society; we see the roots of the conflict between the Lannisters, Starks, Targaryens — even the White Walkers. Rewatching also lets us visit the Starks (Ned! Catelyn! Robb!) in happier times. It’s good to revisit “Winter is Coming” for that alone, but Daenerys’ arrival to Winterfell in this final season will purposefully resemble that of the late King Robert Baratheon and his court. Expect plenty callbacks and Easter eggs.
Episode 110: Fire and Blood
Now be warned: This is the episode after Ned Stark bites the dust. Be sure to watch the “previously on” recaps that play before each episode, if possible. While Ned’s death is pivotal, “Fire and Blood” is where Game of Thrones comes into its own, where it rises from the flames with Daenerys’ dragons. Aside from Dany’s fiery rebirth, Robb Stark is named king in the North, Jon goes beyond the Wall and Tyrion becomes acting hand of the king. Ned’s death affects all, but here we see where the pieces of this game are going for years to come.
Episode 309: The Rains of Castamere
After a season full of setbacks and questionable decisions by the king in the North, things finally seem headed in the right direction with a plan to defeat the Lannisters, a new deal with the Freys and one baby Stark on the way. Such innocent summer children, we were. Directed by David Nutter, who’s handling three of the final Thrones episodes, the Red Wedding slaughter sees the war effectively end with the Lannisters on top and viewers sobbing on the floor. But that sweet taste of victory would soon turn to ashes in Lannister mouths.
Episode 402: The Lion and the Rose
Case in point: Awful King Joffrey is poisoned at his own wedding not three episodes later. The ramifications here aren’t just huge for Cersei, Jaime and Tyrion — the latter of whom is blamed for Joffrey’s death — but for Sansa Stark, who escapes into the clutches of Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish. This episode, written by George R.R. Martin himself, also features some of the best dialogue in the series, so it’s an all-around treat.
Episode 410: The Children
Hardly a second goes to waste here, with many pivotal choices made for better or worse. Jon’s heroism after the Wilding assault on the Wall and the arrival of Stannis’ forces sets him up as a major leader. Bran at last meets the mystical Three-Eyed Raven, whom he will one day replace. Brienne and the Hound beat each other senseless over Arya, who takes the opportunity to escape Westeros entirely. And while Dany chains two of her dragons, Tyrion leaves his family vulnerable by murdering his father, Lannister patriarch Tywin.
Episode 508: Hardhome
As Thrones has gone on, it’s come to focus on three primary characters, and all three get to flex in “Hardhome.” Perhaps the first sign of the series contracting is Tyrion meeting Daenerys in Meereen, where they become unexpected allies. But the real gem here is the attack by the Army of the Dead against Jon and the Wildlings. It’s a spectacular feat of television that serves to show Jon — and viewers — the full threat of Thrones’ ultimate Big Bad, the Night King. It’s also directed by Miguel Sapochnik; keep that in mind.
Episode 510: Mother’s Mercy
Another Nutter-directed episode with major implications. Stannis Baratheon falls to the Boltons while inadvertently giving Sansa and Theon an opening to escape Winterfell. Arya crosses a name of her list — and gets blinded for it. Cersei, meanwhile, reaches her lowest point as she's publicly humiliated by the Sparrows, but she'll learn from her shame. Oh, and Jon dies (temporarily).
Episode 609: The Battle of the Bastards
And Jon’s back (yay!) and free from the Night’s Watch, but he leads a ragtag army of Wildlings and Northerners against superior Bolton forces. The fight is predictable but amazing, culminating in the Stark direwolf reigning over Winterfell for the first time in years. Daenerys also gets to flex her muscles, defeating the slavers in Meereen and making an alliance with Theon and Yara Greyjoy. This episode is also helmed by Sapochnik.
Episode 610: The Winds of Winter
Thrones’ best episode opens with arguably the show’s best sequence, as Cersei single-handedly clears the board of her foes in King’s Landing. Her son’s suicide is a setback, but she takes that opening to claim the Iron Throne. Elsewhere, Arya avenges the Red Wedding and Daenerys finally sails to Westeros. But most importantly, we learn (a bit of) the truth about new King in the North Jon Snow: He’s not Ned Stark’s son, but the son of Ned’s sister Lyanna. And yes, it’s directed by Sapochnik, Thrones’ master of spectacle — and who’s helming season eight’s massive battle episode.
Episode 707: The Dragon and the Wolf
This episode capably caps an uneven season as well as one could hope, in no small part thanks to some delicious conversations from the largest meeting of characters in show history. The King’s Landing summit lays bare to all the threat beyond the Wall, not that Cersei truly cares; she keeps plotting with Euron Greyjoy but drives Jaime away. Meanwhile Sansa and Arya put aside their awful(ly dumb) conflict to end Littlefinger for good. Jon and Dany, new allies/lovers, sail for Winterfell as viewers learn that Jon is the true heir to the Iron Throne. Not that that’s the biggest news, as the Night King uses his newly undead dragon to breach the Wall and unleash his horde on Westeros. #WinterIsHere
If you have time and can squeeze these in as well, you should.
Episode 209: Blackwater: Thrones’ first true battle episode remains a series high.
Episode 305: Kissed by Fire: One of the best episodes for many reasons, also includes a series-best Jaime scene (in a tub).
Episode 509: The Dance of Dragons: Stannis horrifically seals his fate; Daenerys takes flight.
Episode 704: The Spoils of War: Three words: Loot! Train! Attack!