10 must-see ‘Game of Thrones’ episodes before the season 8 premiere
WARNING: Lots of spoilers ahead, but you probably guessed that.
We’re days away from the premiere of the “Game of Thrones'” final season. The last six episodes of the HBO series are among TV’s most-talked-about events — many who’ve never even watched before will tune in to see the cultural milestone come to a close.
Binge-watching would be the best way to get up to speed on what’s been happening, but it’ll be tough to squeeze in 70 hours of TV ahead of the April 14 premiere.
Our guide, crafted with the help of some “GoT” experts and die-hards at “GMA,” will abbreviate the plots, characters and episodes you need to know about to make it through spring’s must-watch drama.
Season 1, Episode 1: ‘Winter is Coming’
Here, we meet the Starks, the noble family of the north that rules Winterfell, led by King Ned and Lady Catelyn, and filled out by their kids, Robb, Sansa, Arya, Bran and Rickon, and Ned’s alleged illegitimate child, Jon Snow. We also meet Ned’s pal Robert Baratheon, the then-king of Westeros, and the Lannisters: Robert’s wife, Queen Cersei; her twin brother, Jaime; and their younger brother Tyrion.
Along with glimpses of The Wall and White Walkers (the great barrier where “bastard” Jon Snow gets banished to and deadly mythical creatures, respectively), we also meet Daenerys Targaryen, a member of the royal family that ruled Westeros prior to Robert Baratheon claiming the Iron Throne.
Daenerys is unwillingly married off as a means to build an army. Bran catches Cersei and Jaime in a compromising act, leading Jaime to push him off a ledge and crippling him in an effort to cover their tracks. It seems Robert is right to feel he can’t trust anyone around him.
Season 1, Episode 9: ‘Baelor’
Robert Baratheon is dead and Ned Stark — who was asked to be the deceased king’s right-hand man — discovers and tries to reveal that now-King Joffrey Baratheon is not the true heir to the throne, as he’s not Robert’s son. In fact, Joffrey’s parents are the Lannister twins, Cersei and Jaime.
Ned’s “treason” doesn’t end well, and daughters Sansa and Arya witness his shocking death.
“This one was also a major turning point for fans (who, ahem, hadn’t read the books) because they realized how high the stakes are. Even Ned Stark, who seemed to be one of the main characters of the show, isn’t immune to death,” said Greta Johnsen, host of WBEZ’s “Nerdette” podcast.
“[“Game of Thrones” author] George R.R. Martin and the producers were not playing when they had Cersei say, ‘When you play the game of thrones, you live or you die,'” said Sistah J, Sistah LM, Sistah A, and Sistah K, the hosts of the “Sistah Speak” podcast. “No other show had been bold enough to kill off its main character at the time. The introduction of the characters, houses and the dense political intrigue that were established in the previous episodes turned upside down after ‘Baelor’ and the ride became even more thrilling.”
Also, note Catelyn Stark’s deal this episode with the devious Lord Walder Frey to marry off her son Robb.
Season 1, Episode 10: ‘Fire and Blood’
The North secedes from Westeros after Ned’s beheading as Robb Stark takes Jaime prisoner. Meanwhile, the Lannisters scheme to keep control of the Iron Throne. Outside Westeros, Daenerys says goodbye to Khal Drogo, the forced husband she eventually grew to love, and “gives birth.”
“We gasped when Daenerys placed her dragon eggs in Drogo’s funeral fire and stepped into the flames,” the “Sistah Speak” podcasters said. “We then cheered and fell in love with her three teeny baby dragons when she rose from the flames unscathed.”
Season 3, Episode 9: ‘The Rains of Castamere’
Daenerys builds her own army by liberating the oppressed and decimating their captors. In Westeros, Catelyn and Robb Stark perish in a plot orchestrated by the Lannister, Frey and Bolton houses during the infamous “Red Wedding.” Arya, who hasn’t seen her family since Ned was killed and is in the process of becoming a skilled warrior, nearly reunites with them, but falls short and learns they’ve been murdered.
Season 4, Episode 10: ‘The Children’
Daenerys struggles to control her growing dragons, and Tywin Lannister — father of Cersei, Jaime and Tyrion — struggles to keep control of his brood. Tyrion kills Tywin over deeply rooted daddy issues, including his bedding of Tyrion’s ex.
“It’s crazy to think that ‘The Children’ marks the halfway point of this series,” said Brittany Berkowitz, digital video producer at GoodMorningAmerica.com and a die-hard fan. “While the season finale title refers to the Children of the Forest that were responsible for creating the White Walkers, the episode digs much deeper than that. Daenerys has to lock up her children aka her dragons; Brienne [of Tarth] finds Catelyn Stark’s child, Arya; and Tyrion, a child of the Lannister house, kills his father. The show often has us rooting for individual characters, but at the end of the day, it’s a story about family and this episode hones in on that message.”
Season 5, Episode 8: ‘Hardhome’
Tyrion meets Daenerys, Cersei gets tortured by a nun over her incest and warring houses prepare for battle, but the highlight is Jon Snow’s epic battle with the White Walkers.
“Just when we think the White Walkers can be destroyed, we find out the Night King can just raise an army of the dead whenever he wants,” Berkowitz said.
“You just see the boat drifting away with Jon Snow and the gang. If that’s not a strong warning, I don’t know what is,” said “GMA” producer Elisa Tang, who got a late start on the show but is now hooked. “This was when the White Walkers really started to turn everything upside down.”
“The episode is true ‘GoT’ politics, where we see groups that don’t see eye to eye come together to defeat a common enemy, and that’s ultimately where the series finale is going,” Berkowitz adds.
Season 6, Episode 5: ‘The Door’
An emotional ride, “The Door” details the origins of the White Walkers and Hodor, the Stark servant who transports and protects a crippled Bran, eventually sacrificing himself so Bran can escape the White Walkers. Though it seems he can only speak his own name, we learn the truth of Hodor’s story and the power Bran wields.
“There are those handful of television episodes where you cry so hard while watching,” Tang said. “For me, ‘The Door’ was definitely one of them.”
“It’s a prime example of how ‘GoT’ can pack your screen with action but at the same time, tug on your heartstrings,” Berkowitz added. “This episode was a turning point because we learn the origin of Hodor’s name and it’s brutal. … Just as easily as this show makes you hate characters, it also makes you fall in love with them.”
Season 6, Episode 10: ‘The Winds of Winter’
Hannah Hosking and Zack Luye of the “Game of Owns” podcastcalled the beginning of this episode “a 25-minute nightmare set to beautiful music.” And rightfully so, as things start with a bang.
“We had chills as the music began with a slow haunting tone, then moved into a crescendo as Cersei, King Tommen, the High Sparrow, Loras, and Queen Margaery prepare for the Trial of Morality,” said “Sistah Speak.” “Cersei had a master plan that no one saw coming, and she definitely did not plan for what happened next with her son, the young king.”
Yes, her last living child, King Tommen, kills himself after losing his queen, Margaery, in a huge explosion orchestrated by Cersei to wipe out her enemies. Then, Cersei becomes the queen of Westeros.
Both shows’ podcasters point out we also get the truth about Jon Snow’s lineage: He’s not actually Ned Stark’s son but his sister’s son, and his father was a Targaryen, which makes him the actual rightful heir to the Iron Throne.
Arya Stark also gets revenge on Walder Frey over the death of her mother and brother, and we’re left with a stunning visual.
“Daenerys Targaryen finally sets her sails toward Westeros, something viewers (and book readers) have been anticipating since ‘GoT’ began,” said the “Game of Owns” podcasters.
Season 7, Episode 4: ‘The Spoils of War’
Daenerys, who has met and joined forces with Jon Snow, makes her presence known and, as the “Game of Owns” podcasters note, this marks “the first time in generations [that] dragons are fighting in Westeros.”
“An enormous battle between fan favorites highlights a quintessential question at the root of ‘Game of Thrones’: Whose side am I supposed to be on? Is there such thing as a good and evil? Are things more complicated than that?” the podcasters said.
A good example of this is Jaime, who might not be as evil as we originally thought, nearly kills an Daenerys, who commts evil acts with ultimately good intentions, during her attack on his caravan.
But there’s also a touching moment we’ve waited years to see.
“I love seeing Arya and Sansa reunite at Winterfell, tough and wry,” Johnsen says. “Back in season one, their differences seemed so irreconcilable. But they’re family, after all, and they’ve both become strong women in very different ways.”
Season 7, Episode 7: ‘The Dragon and the Wolf’
Many “GoT” characters don’t interact with each other. But that changed with this episode, when many elements converge to explore the kingdom’s inevitable confrontation with the White Walkers.
“At first glance, this episode seems full of surprises — Dany flying into King’s Landing on a dragon, Jon refusing to lie to Cersei, and the Stark sisters outsmarting Littlefinger are all significant developments,” Johnsen says.
There’s also “that” scene where Jon and Daenerys give in to their attraction, unaware that they’re actually related.
It all sets the stage for things ahead.
“The political drama officially takes a back seat for the real ‘bad guy’: the Night King,” the “Game of Owns” podcasters said.
Indeed, in this season finale, the Night King, riding atop one of Daenerys’ dragons who he killed then resurrected, succeeds in destroying part of The Wall, opening up Westeros for trouble.
“Winter is here and it’s up to the living to either unify or die in the final season,” the “Game of Owns” podcasters said.