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The 10 Game of Thrones episodes you need to watch before the Season 8 premiere
Winter has finally come, even if Game of Thrones took a year off before the upcoming eighth and final season. That’s plenty of time for fans of the sprawling HBO series to have forgotten what happened in Seasons 1 through 7. The premiere is only a few weeks away at this point, and if you don’t have the time or the will to binge re-watch all 67 episodes, here are 10 you can revisit that should bring you back up to speed.
These 10 episodes are, importantly, not the 10 best episodes of Game of Thrones (though there are some classics in here). There are also some very important episodes missing from this list. “Baelor,” the first season episode where Ned Stark dies, is not included, nor is “The Rains of Castamere,” aka The Red Wedding episode. There’s a reason for that: Those characters are all dead.
Because of Game of Thrones’ high body count, and George R. R. Martin’s willingness to kill characters you thought were untouchable, there are major characters and entire plotlines that, while important at the time, were killed-off well before the endgame. At this point, Robb and Catelyn Stark have been out of the Game of Thrones for longer than they were in it. For the purposes of this selective rewatch, one that’s intended to remind you about what you need to know for Season 8, their stories are largely irrelevant.
So, here are the 10 episodes of Game of Thrones you should rewatch before Season 8 premieres. Together, they’ll give you a pretty good idea of what you need to know about all the characters who are still alive as of the Season 7 finale, and they will lay the groundwork for the major storylines going into the final stretch.
01. 'Winter Is Coming' (Season 1, Episode 1)
While there are a lot of people in the series premiere who aren’t around anymore (RIP to most of the Starks, Khal Drogo, Viserys Targaryen, Robert Baratheon, and Joffrey Baratheon), the first episode is a good place to start with the rewatch because it effectively lays out the world of Game of Thrones.
We get the gist of the way the Seven Kingdoms are supposed to work (thanks in part to some unsubtle expository dialogue). We start the whole series with a glimpse of the supernatural threat of the White Walkers. And, we meet many of the big players for Season 8 as they first appeared. Rewatch “Winter Is Coming” for the first time in a while, and it’s shocking to see how far Jon, Arya, Bran, Sansa, Cersei, Tyrion, and Daenerys have all come.
02. 'Kissed By Fire' (Season 3, Episode 5)
Season 2 largely focuses on the War Between the Five Kings, and every king in that conflict is dead well before Season 8 starts. Because of that, we’re skipping ahead to the middle of Season 3, to “Kissed By Fire,” an important episode for two main reasons. The first is when Thoros of Myr resurrects Beric Dondarrion using the Lord of Light’s power. It’s a game-changing display of magical power, and it emphasizes the important roles that the Brotherhood Without Banners, the Hound, and the Red God himself, R’hllor, will play going forward.
The other reason "Kissed By Fire" is essential to this rewatch is for the bathhouse scene between Jaime and Brienne. In addition to establishing who Brienne is as a person, it’s also the crucial scene in understanding Jaime Lannister. It’s this scene that marks his gradual change from antagonist to protagonist, and his eventual abandonment of Cersei to do the right thing in Season 7 wouldn’t make sense without this. Plus, this is a hall of fame scene, indisputably one of the best in the show’s history.
03. 'The Children' (Season 4, Episode 10)
We’re also skipping most of Season 4, moving past Joffrey’s death during the Purple Wedding and the heartbreaking/skull-bursting Mountain versus the Viper fight. There’s plenty of good stuff, but for Season 8, what’s really important in Season 4 all happens in this episode. Arya goes to Bravos to learn the ways of the Faceless Men, and Tyrion flees to Esso with Varys help after killing his father, Tywin. With “The Children,” Tyrion is now on the other side of the Narrow Sea, well on his way to becoming Daenerys’ Hand of the Queen, and the Lannisters no longer have Tywin’s shrewd calculating to guide them, paving the way for Cersei’s rise to power
04. 'The Door' (Season 6, Episode 5)
Hodor’s death is one of the most shocking and affecting moments in the entire series, but it’s not the only reason why “The Door” should be on your Season 8 refresher rewatch. Beyond establishing Bran Stark’s ability to influence the past in some sort of closed time-loop, his visions also reveal the origin of the White Walkers. We learn that the Children of the Forest created them, from men, as a means to defeat their human enemies before losing control. (This is also the episode that the “Bran is the Night King” theory revolves around, and even though I will eat my computer if it turns out to be true, the episode is worth rewatching, just in case).
“The Door” is also notable for the proper introduction of Euron Greyjoy, a late-entry villain who becomes an important ally to Cersei. His haircut gets better in Season 7, don’t worry.
05. 'Hardhome' (Season 5, Episode 8)
“Hardhome” finishes what “The Children” started, formally allying Tyrion and Daenerys. It’s important to remember what a big deal this was, because with the exception of Ser Barristan the Bold, Daenerys’ storyline didn’t have her interact with any Westerosi character. For four and a half seasons, Dany’s plot was it’s own little thing, and by having Tyrion join forces with her, Thrones began setting up Dany’s invasion of Westeros in earnest, bringing her into the larger fold of the story.
The other huge part of “Hardhome” is, of course, the epic battle against the Night King's army in the titular Wildling city north of the Wall. In addition to being one of the best battles on the show, Hardhome also makes the Night King’s threat very real. When he faces down with Jon Snow at the end, taunting him with a legion of freshly revived corpses, that’s the show right there. It’s Jon Snow, fighting for the living, against the Night King, fighting for the dead. Based on the trailer, this is the narrative that’s going to drive Season 8 more than anything else.
06. 'Mother's Mercy' (Season 5, Episode 10)
There’s a lot in the jam-packed Season 5 finale that’s not directly important for Season 8. Stannis doomed fight against Ramsay Bolton at Winterfell doesn’t really matter because both characters are dead by Season 7, and “Mother’s Mercy” brings Arya and Cersei to their lowest points before Season 6 brings them back. Still, the finale is included in this rewatch mostly because of Jon Snow’s death. Even if it’s temporary, the moment is not something to gloss over, because Jon’s death and subsequent resurrection change the world — and how Jon sees the world.
07. 'The Winds of Winter' (Season 6, Episode 10)
“The Winds of Winter” begins with Cersei blowing up (almost) all her enemies and establishing herself as queen. It ends with Daenerys, now allied with three of Westeros’ great houses and boasting dragons, a Dothraki horde, and legions of Unsullied, finally setting sail for Westeros. (She also tells her mercenary lover Daario Naharis not to come with her. Don’t be surprised if he reappears in Season 8).
Between those two huge events, though, the show confirms a theory that book-readers have pondered for two decades: Jon Snow is actually the son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark. It’s quite possibly the most important episode of the entire series, and widely considered one of the best.
08. 'The Queen's Justice' (Season 7, Episode 3)
Season 7 is not the best season of Game of Thrones, in large part thanks to some contrived pacing issues, but it’s naturally the most important season to refresh on before going into Season 8. “The Queen’s Justice” sees Daenerys and Jon Snow meet for the first time, sowing the seeds for their eventual partnership and romance, while also letting Daenerys know about the true threat of the Night King and his undead.
The episode’s other big development is the reunion of the surviving Stark children, as with Bran’s return to Winterfell, Sansa, Arya, and Bran are together for the first time since the second episode of the series
09. 'The Spoils of War' (Season 7, Episode 4)
The Loot Train battle is awesome, showcasing both the violent power of Daenerys’ dragons and their limitations. After losing her Greyjoy, Tyrell, and Dornish allies, Dany’s fight against Cersei isn’t as one-sided as it seemed like it would be. With a quick, less-violent victory off the table and the threat of the undead looming up north, “The Spoils of War” helps establish the need for the season finale’s peace summit.
But, the most important part of “The Spoils of War” is also probably the least exciting: A discussion about banking and finance. It’s in this episode that, despite Dany’s attack, Cersei gets all of the Tyrell’s gold to King’s Landing, allowing her to bay back the crown’s massive debt to the Iron Bank of Braavos. This allows Cersei to obtain a loan she’ll need to hire the Golden Company, a renown mercenary army from Esso that’s confirmed to play a big role in her Season 8 plans.
10. 'The Dragon and the Wolf' (Season 7, Episode 7)
If you only have time to rewatch one episode before the Season 8 premiere, watch the Season 7 finale. It’s a no-brainer. Pretty much everything that happens in “The Dragon and the Wolf” looks like it will play some sort of important role in Season 8. Following the very tense peace summit, here’s what happens in the episode that sets up the final season:
Cersei plans on betraying Jon and Daenerys, prompting Jaime to finally break ties with her and head north to join the fight against the dead. Meanwhile, Euron Greyjoy is sailing to Esso to pick up the Golden Company, Cersei’s new sellsword army.
Up in Winterfell Sansa and Arya are united again, having executed Littlefinger for his numerous betrayals. Samwell Tarly has traveled to Winterfell, where he and Bran piece together that Jon Snow is not actually a bastard, but Rhaegar Targaryen’s trueborn heir.
On a boat back to Winterfell, Jon and Daenerys passionately have sex, only neither of them know that Daenerys is sleeping with 1) the rightful heir to the Iron Throne 2) her nephew. So, that will be fun for them to learn in Season 8. Tyrion looks unnervingly worried about them hooking up, leading some fans people to wonder if he made a secret deal with Cersei.
And, finally, the Night King uses the zombie dragon he created in the previous episode to bring down the Wall. The army of the dead is coming, and so is the Season 8 premiere on April 14.