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Game of Thrones catch-up: Key episodes to watch before the final season

After eight years, HBO’s Game of Thrones is coming to an end.

The final season premieres 14 April, which means, in a matter of weeks, we’ll know who finally takes the Iron Throne. As a refresher, it’s worth going back now, before digging into season eight, to re-watch everything and remind yourself what’s happened. (After all, the last episode aired nearly two years ago!) But if you don’t have time to watch all 67 episodes, no worries.

We’ll help you catch up. We’ve listed 23 of the most important episodes to watch ahead of season eight. These will jog your memory. We chose this many episodes because we wanted to slash the number of episodes you must watch down to at least a third of them all. The goal here is to get you prepared for the last season of Game of Thrones as quickly and efficiently as possible. 

We, at Pocket-lint, have watched the series several times and have read all the novels from George RR Martin – including his spin-offs like Fire and Blood: 300 Years Before a Game of Thrones. We’re GoT experts and not ashamed to admit it. 

Game of Thrones catch-up: Key episodes to watch

The round-up below works for not only laid-back viewers who need assistance remembering who is who and what happened, but also fans who live and breathe all-things Thrones. We chose action-packed battles as well as episodes that help shaped the main characters and their relationships. There’s even a “bonus” episode included for those of you who want to really torture yourself.

NOTE: THERE ARE SPOILERS BELOW.

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Season 1 Episode 1: Winter Is Coming

The first episode of the series introduces all the characters and their relationships and the houses that will be critical to the final season. We meet Jon Snow, the Starks, Baratheons, Lannisters, the Targaryens, and so on. It also includes our first look at the White Walkers, Jaime and Cersei Lannister’s incestual relationship, and it raises the question of who is Jon Snow’s mother. Aside from all that, King Robert and Ned Stark’s reunion in the first episode is steeped in Game of Thrones canon, which you likely missed if you’ve only watched one time.

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Season 1 Episode 9: Baelor

While this features key plot points for future episodes, like Robb Stark agreeing to marry one of Walder Frey’s daughters, it is mostly remembered for what occurs at the foot of Baelor’s Sept: Ned Stark is brought out for a public trial, where it’s expected a confession will net him a quick trip to the Wall and the Night’s Watch. Instead, the new King Joffrey makes a decision and things turn dark for The Starks. This episode proved Game of Thrones isn’t a typical TV show.

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Season 1 Episode 10: Fire and Blood

The final episode of season one features Tyrion of House Lannister being named Hand of the King, while Robb Stark is named King in the North after capturing Tyrion’s brother, Jaime Lannister. However, the episode is named after the house words of the Targaryens, because it ends with Daenerys “Dany” Targaryen joining Khal Drogo on a funeral pyre and emerging unscathed with three baby dragons, totally changing the game for everyone vying for the throne.

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Season 2 Episode 2: The Night Lands

The second episode of season two features Dany Targaryen struggling through the red waste with her small group of followers, giving us a glimpse of the queen at one of her lowest points. Otherwise, it’s important to rewatch because we get to see: Tyrion Lannister settling into his new position as Hand of the King; and beyond the Wall, Jon Snow witnessing Craster, a wildling, giving his newborn to a White Walker, revealing a little more about the Undead creatures from S1E1.

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Season 2 Episode 8: The Prince of Winterfell

This episode shows Theon Greyjoy’s men betraying him at Winterfell and turning him over to Ramsey (Snow) Bolton, but it’s important for the final season for a number of other reasons. First, we get our first inkling at the importance of dragonglass after Samwell Tarly discovers a cache of it hidden near the Fist of the First Men. Secondly, we see Arya Stark escape from the Lannisters at Harrenhal with the help of Jaqen H’ghar. Finally, we see Dany Targaryen enter the House of the Undying to get her dragons, and she sees them spew fire for the first time.

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Season 2 Episode 9: Blackwater

Blackwater takes place entirely in King’s Landing, as Robert Baratheon’s brother, Stannis, leads his men to attack King’s Landing. This episode shows Cersei Lannister’s commitment to her three children (which could prove critical to the final season, especially with her expecting a fourth child). We also see The Hound and learn about his fear of fire as he abandons the battlefield and the Lannisters. Most importantly, though, we see Tyrion Lannister successfully leading King’s Landing through an attack, which could’ve ended the Lannisters and their reign had he had not been there to face down Stannis’ army.

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Season 3 Episode 4: And Now His Watch has Ended

This episode is named for the death of the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch at the hands of mutineers. It’s key to the final season because we see Dany Targaryen building an army to match her growing dragons. She outsmarts the slave master Kraznys and manages to gain control over an army of 8,000 unsullied soldiers who’ve been technically freed by her.

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Season 3 Episode 5: Kissed by Fire

The fifth episode of season five delivers quite a few memorable moments that could impact the final season, including the first resurrection of Beric Dondarrion. He is revived after The Hound kills him in a trial by combat. There’s also a scene in which Jaime Lannister, fresh off losing his hand, reveals to Brienne of Tarth why he killed the Mad King, Dany’s father. This scene is revealing of Jaime’s actual character, and it builds the relationship between Jaime and Brienne. The episode also shows the unsullied elect Grey Worm as their commander.

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Season 3 Episode 8: Second Sons

Second Sons starts off with Tyrion Lannister’s marriage to Sansa Stark. While neither of the two want to be married, their relationship is filled with small moments of kindness, which will help make their pending reunion at the start of season eight an interesting moment. Also, in this episode, we see the power of the Red Woman Melisandre. She places the names of three kings — who will soon meet their ends — into a fire. Finally, we see Samwell Tarly discover that dragonglass has the power to kill White Walkers.

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(Bonus) Season 3 Episode 9: The Rains of Castamere

The Red Wedding is one of the most famous episodes of the show — and it’s not even called that! It essentially taints every episode from that moment on with the knowledge that no one is safe. However, just about everyone who played a guilty role in this travesty has since got what they had coming. So, there really is no need to watch this episode; we only included it because everyone associates it with the show. We recommend, instead of watching it for the horror at the end, you should enjoy it for Bran Stark’s first trip inside the mind of the simple-brained Hodor. It foreshadows the potential of Bran’s warging ability. There’s also a scene in which Jon Snow chooses his oath to the Night’s Watch over his love for Ygritte of the Free Folk.

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Season 4 Episode 4: Oathkeeper

This episode begins to flesh out Jon Snow as more of a leader. He spearheads a party of Watchmen north to kill the mutineers at Craster’s Keep in order to prevent information about the Night’s Watch from falling into the Wildling army’s hands. The episode also shows Jaime Lannister gift his new Valyrian steel sword to Brienne of Tarth, who sets off to find Sansa Stark. The episode ends with a White Walker taking wildling Craster’s last son to a hideaway far in the north, where the baby is turned into another White Walker.

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Season 4 Episode 9: Watchers on the Wall

Watchers on the Wall is centered entirely on the Wildling’s assault on the Wall. While the episode starts with Jon Snow taking commands, it ends with him being the saving grace of the Night’s Watch as they fend off the Wildlings. His experience here defending the wall will only help in the upcoming Battle for Winterfell against the Undead.

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Season 4 Episode 10: The Children

The final episode of season four features quite a few memorable scenes. Bran Stark makes it to the Three-Eyed Raven and meets the Children of the Forest. Then, after a brutal fight between The Hound and Brienne of Tarth, Arya Stark finally leaves The Hound and embarks for Braavos. Cersei Lannister enlists Qyburn, an unethical former maester,  to save The Mountain at any cost after he’s poisoned during a trial by combat with Oberyn Martell. Jaime Lannister also releases Tyrion Lannister before he is scheduled to be executed. Before leaving, Tyrion ventures to his father’s bedroom, where he finds his former lover Shea. In a scuffle, he murders her, and then he finds his father on the toilet and shoots him.

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Season 5 Episode 2: The House of Black and White

This episode features Stannis Baratheon offering to legitimise Jon Snow and name him Lord of Winterfell – only for Jon to refuse him. Later on, Samwell Tarly nominates Jon to be the next Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. We also see Brienne of Tarth’s commitment to serving Sansa Stark, along with Dany Targaryen having trouble holding the volatile city of Mereen. However, perhaps most importantly, this episode introduces us to the home to the Faceless Men — The House of Black and White — which is where Arya Stark will receive the training she needs in order to get revenge on those who’ve made her list.

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Season 5 Episode 8: Hardhome

Hardhome might be the most critical episode to watch before the final season of Game of Thrones. While it has some important moments, such as Theon Greyjoy revealing to Sansa Stark the truth about Bran and Rickon Stark, it’s on this list for one reason only: What happens at Hardhome. There’s no other moment that perfectly encapsulates the seemingly insurmountable odds Westeros faces than when the Night King raises his hands and a whole bunch of his freshly murdered victims rise to serve him.

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Season 5 Episode 9: The Dance of Dragons

For much of season five, Dany Targaryen is pressured by the residents of Meereen to reopen the city’s fighting pits. At the same time, she’s forced to imprison two of her dragons, while the third, Drogon, has disappeared. It all leads to a scene in which Dany is ambushed during the reopening of the fighting pits and surrounded by her enemies. Thankfully, Drogon returns to her, and we see them fly together for the first time.

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Season 6 Episode 5: The Door

If you needed to remember how this show can rip out your heart watch this, Hodor’s final episode. But the real reason it’s a much-watch ahead of the final season is because it reveals how the Children of the Forest created the Night King many years before the Game of Thrones.

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Season 6 Episode 9: Battle of the Bastards

In an action-packed hour, we see Dany Targaryen use her dragons and her new army, which is now comprised of the Dothraki and the Unsullied, to defeat the slave cities. We then move on to the title-card fight between Jon Snow and Ramsay Bolton. And, in between all, you get to yell at Rickon Stark for not zig-zagging as Ramsay Bolton fires arrows at him.

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Season 6 Episode 10: The Winds of Winter

This features Cersei Lannister settling all the family business – by blowing up a sizable portion of King’s Landing with a cache of Wildfire. This leads her last surviving child, who recently became King, to jump from a tower to kill himself. She proclaims herself Queen and begins to rule King’s Landing. We also finally find out Jon Snow’s true parentage, thanks to a Bran Stark flashback, and we see Jon named King of the North as the conniving Little Finger makes a mopey face.

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Season 7 Episode 3: The Queen’s Justice

After 63 episodes, Jon Snow meets Dany Targaryen for the first time. We also get to see Bran Stark making his return to Winterfell as the Three-Eyed Raven. Jaime and the Lannister army capture the Tyrell seat, Highgarden, and Jaime meets with Lady Olenna. There, she reveals she was behind King Joffrey’s murder and that she wants Cersei Lannister to know it was her.

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Season 7 Episode 4: The Spoils of War

After being outwitted by the Lannister army, resulting in the loss of the Greyjoy fleet and potential allies in Dorne and Highgarden, Dany Targaryen decides to attack the Lannister caravan as it is returning to King’s Landing. But, before all that, we get a glimpse at the budding romance between Jon Snow and Dany Targaryen as he shows her some cave drawings that depict the Long Night.

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Season 7 Episode 6: Beyond The Wall

Jon Snow leads a group of men beyond the Wall to capture a member of the Undead in order to prove to Cersei Lannister that the threat of the White Walkers is real. The mission is successful in capturing a Wight, but Jon’s crew becomes trapped, forcing Jon to send for help from Dany Targaryen. She arrives but loses her dragon Viserion to the Night King. The final scene shows the Night King reanimating the dragon.

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Season 7 Episode 7: The Dragon and The Wolf

The last episode of season seven sets the stage for final season. Jon Snow affirms his commitment to Dany Targaryen during a meeting with Cersei Lannister. The Stark children — Sansa, Arya, and Bran — unite and kill Petyr Baelish. Jon and Dany make love, while Tyrion creepily watches on with a weird face. We even learn that Jon Snow is not a bastard after all, but actually the last trueborn son of Rhaegar Targaryen. And, finally, the Night King uses his newly undead dragon to blow a hole in the Wall. Season eight can’t come fast enough.

The at-a-glance version

This is the exact same list as above, just condensed for you to quickly skim. 

  • Season 1 Episode 1: Winter Is Coming
  • Season 1 Episode 9: Baelor
  • Season 1 Episode 10: Fire and Blood
  • Season 2 Episode 2: The Night Lands
  • Season 2 Episode 8: The Prince of Winterfell
  • Season 2 Episode 9: Blackwater
  • Season 3 Episode 4: And Now His Watch has Ended
  • Season 3 Episode 5: Kissed by Fire
  • Season 3 Episode 8: Second Sons
  • (Bonus) Season 3 Episode 9: The Rains of Castamere
  • Season 4 Episode 4: Oathkeeper
  • Season 4 Episode 9: Watchers on the Wall
  • Season 4 Episode 10: The Children
  • Season 5 Episode 2: The House of Black and White
  • Season 5 Episode 8: Hardhome
  • Season 5 Episode 9: The Dance of Dragons
  • Season 6 Episode 5: The Door
  • Season 6 Episode 9: Battle of the Bastards
  • Season 6 Episode 10: The Winds of Winter
  • Season 7 Episode 3: The Queen’s Justice
  • Season 7 Episode 4: The Spoils of War
  • Season 7 Episode 6: Beyond The Wall
  • Season 7 Episode 7: The Dragon and The Wolf

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