The final season of Game of Thrones is only days away, and while some fans have spent weeks rewatching the past seven seasons, others aren’t quite so prepared. However, with a gap of almost two years between season 7 and season 8, there’s a lot to try and remember. From court intrigue to house loyalty, big battles to solo deaths, the road to the final season is littered with bodies and broken promises.
For any fan not quite sure what’s going on in Westeros right now, we’ve got the perfect guide for a quick rewatch – the kind that anyone could still manage before the season premiere on Sunday. These are the episodes that will remind viewers of what’s going on, who is on whose side, and how far the war has come since the beginning.
Some major episodes are missing (Ned Stark’s death and the Purple Wedding, for example) because as shocking as they were, they aren’t necessarily the most relevant to the current storyline. Instead, these are the episodes that include vital plot points, major changes, or moments that are likely to come into play as the world watches to see who finally sits atop the Iron Throne.
WINTER IS COMING (SEASON 1, EPISODE 1)
The very first episode of Game of Thrones is a surprisingly vital rewatch, and not just for the plot. From teasers and trailers, it’s clear that the season 8 premiere is going to mirror the very first episode in several ways – although this season, it’s Daenerys coming to Winterfell, not Robert Baratheon. “Winter Is Coming” sets up all kinds of vital plot points, from the ‘kidnapping’ of Lyanna Stark to the death of Jon Arryn and Ned Stark coming to King’s Landing. It covers the war to take the throne from the Targaryens, Cersei and Jaime’s relationship, Tyrion’s place in the family, Jon’s position as a bastard, and the return of the White Walkers. In addition to all the actual plot set-up, this is worth a rewatch to see just how far the show has come – and how the survivors have changed since the very beginning.
FIRE AND BLOOD (SEASON 1, EPISODE 10)
Having spent an episode on the Starks, now it’s time for a very Targaryen episode – and the first appearance of Daenerys’ dragons! “Fire and Blood” takes place immediately after the death of Ned Stark, and while that was a gloriously shocking episode, the fallout is actually a more important thing to rewatch than the actual beheading. This episode sees the War of the Five Kings begin in earnest, after the Starks learn of their father’s death. It also sets up the start of Sansa and Arya’s solo journeys to the final season – Sansa, as the betrothed of a man that she wants to kill, and Arya, hiding her identity and going on the run (with Gendry, who also makes this episode worth rewatching). On top of all of that, though, there’s the absolutely epic moment that Daenerys kills her “sun and stars” and walks into his funeral pyre… re-emerging with baby dragons on her shoulder.
THE RAINS OF CASTAMERE (SEASON 3, EPISODE 9)
We’re not including a lot of episodes here that are all about the shock value, but no Game of Thrones rewatch would be complete without “The Rains of Castamere” – or, as it is better known, The Red Wedding. The episode does also provide a little extra helpful plot for rewatchers, as it shows Tormund, Jon, and Ygritte South of the Wall, as well as Bran learning how to warg into Hodor. Daario Naharis appears, which may end up being important for the final season (if the series isn’t done with him), but this is also a big moment because it continues to chart Daenerys’ growth as she takes Yunkai.
Of course, while new character introductions and keeping tabs on Jon and Daenerys are important reasons to include “The Rains Of Castamere,” let’s not pretend that the main reason isn’t to see one of the most shocking moments of the entire series: the deaths of Robb, Catelyn, and their followers and family. The Red Wedding is brutal, bloody, and perfect for rewatching – even if the deaths of Robb and Catelyn don’t directly impact the final season.
THE CHILDREN (SEASON 4, EPISODE 10)
Jumping forward to the end of another season, “The Children” is a pivotal episode for multiple characters, although it’s definitely more of a plot-heavy one than one for fans of the gory moments. The season 4 finale covers Daenerys attempting to actually rule Meereen – which is an interesting contrast to “The Rains of Castamere,” when she was focusing on conquering cities, not what to do after they have been conquered. “The Children” shows how Daenerys may struggle to rule Westeros, and struggle to control her dragons as they grow.
This episode also checks in with Jon, and shows a different kind of ruling style that may be relevant for the final season, as he risks his life to go negotiate with Mance Rayder. Bran Stark finally reaches the tree where he meets the Three-Eyed Raven, and Qyburn tells Cersei that he can ‘save’ the dying Mountain.
As if all that wasn’t enough (this is Game of Thrones, after all), “The Children” also includes Tyrion’s escape from the dungeons (aided by Jaime) and his murder of Tywin Lannister – giving him the title he uses later of the “greatest Lannister Killer of our time.” Finally, it includes the fight between the Hound and Brienne, one that ends with Arya leaving the Hound to die… something that will definitely come up in the final season, when Arya and the Hound are reunited for the first time since this episode.
THE DOOR (SEASON 6, EPISODE 5)
Skipping straight over the fifth season, the next most important episode to rewatch is “The Door” – and it’s a heartbreaker. It may seem excessive to jump a full season, but “The Door” is actually the perfect episode to serve as catch-up, covering all the most important characters and what they’ve been up to since “The Children.” Sansa, now at the Wall, has been taken from King’s Landing to the Vale, then married to Ramsay Bolton, then escaped to the Night’s Watch – and all of this is covered in a conversation with Petyr Baelish. Jorah reveals that he is in love with Daenerys but has Greyscale (a plot point that should have been far more important than it ended up being), and Yara and Theon make an appearance, in the Iron Islands, attempting to claim the throne.
Meanwhile, Tyrion and Varys are ruling Meereen in Daenerys’ stead, and Arya is training with the Faceless Men. In both cases, this episode sets up a lot of what can be expected in the final season; Arya’s training sets her up as the killer that she becomes, and in Meereen, we’re shown how Tyrion and Varys can become the reason and diplomacy behind Daenerys’ throne.
Of course, there’s one more vital scene in this episode, and it’s the one that gives “The Door” its name. Bran completes his training with the Three-Eyed Raven, but accidentally gives the White Walkers access to the cave under the tree – bringing them in. While he is having visions, the dead attack, and Bran wargs into Hodor to have him hold the door and keep the dead away so he can escape. Heartbreaking, true – but also revealing. This is the moment that Bran stops being Bran and becomes the Three-Eyed Raven. This is the moment that the audience learns that Bran can impact other times, and that his visions can affect the real world. And this is the moment that everyone cried at the death of one of the purest characters on the show.
BATTLE OF THE BASTARDS (SEASON 6, EPISODE 9)
From plot-heavy episode to one that is all about the battle, it’s time for “The Battle of the Bastards”. This episode does include one important scene in terms of plot, as Daenerys shows how she will deal with ‘negotiations’ (burn them all, essentially), and Yara and Theon arrive in Meereen to pledge their allegiance to her. However, this episode is all about the fight scene, as Jon Snow and Ramsay Bolton battle it out.
This episode isn’t just included because it’s a truly epic fight scene, though. It reveals a whole lot about what’s happening with the Starks. Sansa has learned how to play the game and has summoned the Knights of the Vale, Jon Snow is still rushing off to do the right thing even though it will probably get him killed, and Sansa goes full-on Dark Sansa and feeds her abusive husband to his own hounds. In addition, this episode was directed by Miguel Sapochnik, who will be returning in the final season to direct the Battle of Winterfell, when the armies of the living and the dead finally come together.
WINDS OF WINTER (SEASON 6, EPISODE 10)
Two episodes in a row – but for very good reason. After “The Battle of the Bastards” covers what is going on in the North, it’s time to take a look at what’s happening in the South at the end of the sixth season. “Winds of Winter” is another fairly plot-heavy episode, but it also includes the biggest non-battle death scene in the series, and shows just what Cersei is truly capable of.
We’re referring, of course, to the explosion of the Sept of Baelor, which Cersei orchestrates rather than stand trial there. This kills off the Tyrells, the Faith Militant, and indirectly, Tommen, who steps out of a window in a beautifully quiet death scene. This is hugely important for the final season, not just because it wipes out the Tyrell threat to the throne and the last of Cersei’s children, but because it marks the moment that she truly becomes the darkest version of herself – nothing left to live for but to kill her enemies and sit on the throne.
In addition, there are a lot of other major plot points that come up in this episode. Sam arrives at the Citadel, Daenerys leaves Meereen for Westeros, Arya returns to Westeros and murders Walder Frey, Littlefinger reveals he wants the throne, Jon marshalls an army against the White Walkers, Bran gets back to the Wall, and Davos confronts Melisandre about burning a child at the stake.
This is also the episode that revealed the truth about a long-held fan theory; Jon Snow’s true parentage, which makes him the trueborn son of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen, and the heir to the Iron Throne.
DRAGON AND THE WOLF (SEASON 7, EPISODE 7)
Finally, no rewatch would be complete without the season 7 finale – to catch up on where everyone is now. ‘The Dragon And The Wolf’ covers an impressive amount (unsurprising for a Game of Thrones season finale), starting with the meeting at King’s Landing, where all the major players for the Iron Throne come together for the first time. This episode covers the current state of alliances, pregnancies, and relationships. It sees the end of Littlefinger at the hand of the Starks at Winterfell, and Jon and Daenerys finally getting it on (which is a perfect way to follow up ‘Winds of Winter’, when it is revealed that they are actually related).
The most important moment, though? The Wall finally comes down, thanks to Ice Viserion, and the Battle for Westeros is about to begin.