It’s been a year and a half since the Game of Thrones season 7 finale aired, so it’s totally understandable if you’ve forgotten a few key details. And honestly, it’s also totally understandable if you’ve forgotten everything. Some of the character names and places and events are so hard to remember even while watching an episode. We’ve been guilty of having to pause and google multiple times during the same scene! Even diehard Game of Thrones fans are justifiably a little rusty since it’s been so long since this series graced our TV screens. So to get back in the spirit, here are all the Game of Thrones episodes you need to watch before Season 8 premieres on April 14. If, however, you are even more strapped for time than this guide allows, you can also go for the cheat mode, which selects the essential, cannot miss, even if you have no time at all episodes.
Fire up that HBO Go, make some Westerosi-inspired snacks and prepare for nostalgia, excitement and of course tears for all your favourite deceased Game of Thrones characters, because valar morghulis!
The Most Important Season 1 Episodes
Cheat Mode: Just watch "The King's Road," "Baelor" and the final scene of "Fire & Blood."
Season 1, Episode 1: “Winter Is Coming”
Take it back to where it all began, as we meet the Stark children (they’re such babies!), all alive and together with no idea about the misery and heartbreak that lies ahead for them. Plus, it’s got the first sex scene between Jaime & Cersei (Nicholaj Coster Waldau and Lena Headey) — the birth of the twincest — which proved Thrones is a show unlike anything we’d seen before.
Season 1, Episode 2: “The King’s Road”
Most of the problems on this show can be traced to this episode, in which Arya (Maisie Williams) and Sansa (Sophie Turner) first splinter as sisters, the Lannisters and the Starks begin their war against each other and Jon Snow (Kit Harington) leaves his family for the Night’s Watch. The Starks have never been in the same place since this episode, and man, that hurts to think about.
Season 1, Episode 6: “A Golden Crown”
Direwolf murder aside, this episode featured one of the first major deaths of Game of Thrones: Khal Drogo (Jason Momoa) kills Viserys (Harry Lloyd) by giving him a crown of molten gold. It was brutal, violent, and totally unexpected, but it felt pretty deserved. That trend ended pretty quickly though.
Season 1, Episode 9: “Baelor”
Ah, who could ever forget this fateful early episode that proved we couldn't get attached to any character? Even a main character like Ned Stark (Sean Bean) isn’t safe from death! Also, screw you Joffrey (Jack Gleason), who only gets worse after cheering on the death of his fiance's father in front of her.
Season 1, Episode 10: “Fire And Blood”
There’s a lot of fallout from the previous episode and set up for the new season in this episode, but the final scene is the most important as Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) becomes the Mother of Dragons for the first time.
The Most Important Season 2 Episodes
Cheat Mode: Skip ahead to "The Ghosts of Harrenhal" and "Blackwater"
Season 2, Episode 2: “The Night Lands”
Our first glimpse at how the White Walkers grow their army comes care of Jon Snow north of The Wall at Craster’s Keep. Ugh, Craster. He was the worst.
Season 2, Episode 5: “The Ghost of Harrenhal”
Melisandre’s (Carice van Houten) shadow baby; Renly’s (Gethin Anthony) death; the introduction of Jaqen H’ghar (Tom Wlaschiha); Brienne’s (Gwendoline Christie) oath of loyalty to Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley); Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) learning about Cersei’s wildfire — man, this episode is jam-packed with so much foreshadowing and so many game-changing moments! How could we not include it on this list?
Season 2, Episode 6: “The Old Gods and the New”
Jon meets Ygritte (Rose Leslie) for the first time! It’s definitely not love at first sight but it sure is something. And you have to stay until the very end when Dany says her now-iconic line: “Where are my dragons?!”
Season 2, Episode 9: “Blackwater”
Continuing the tradition of an epic penultimate episode, the Battle of the Blackwater features one of Game of Thrones’ first and biggest battle scenes yet. The action was top notch, the fates of many main characters hung in the balance, and the last minute save couldn't have been timed any better. The fate of Westeros hinged on this battle and it lived up to the hype.
The Most Important Season 3 Episodes
Cheat Mode: Watch "Kissed by Fire" and "The Rains of Castamere"
Season 3, Episode 2: “Dark Wings, Dark Words”
The debut of Olenna Tyrell (Diana Rigg), the Queen of Thorns, is enough to make this episode essential for a rewatch. But this hour also begins Theon’s (Alfie Allen) descent into becoming Reek as well as Bran’s (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) journey to becoming the Three-Eyed Raven.
Season 3, Episode 3: “Walk of Punishment”
Jaime and Brienne have been together for quite some time at this point, but this is the first moment where you can see their unlikely friendship blooming. Jaime selflessly saves Brienne from getting raped by their captors, and it costs him dearly. But this is a turning point for the previously selfish and dishonourable character. Plus, Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel) arrives!
Season 3, Episode 5: “Kissed By Fire”
Jon Snow and Ygritte’s steamy cave sex aside, this episode is key to revealing why the Starks lose so brutally in the war for the Iron Throne and the North’s independence. King in the North Robb (Richard Madden) is getting desperate and making big plays he can’t back up. It’s going to cost him everything, and quite soon.
Season 3, Episode 9: “The Rains of Castamere”
As much as it hurts to watch all over again, no Game of Thrones marathon is complete without the Red Wedding. The turning point for the Starks and the war is filled with so much bloodshed, but finally the houses show their true colours and battle lines are drawn. Plus, Bran’s warging reaches new heights as he enters Hodor’s (Kristian Nairn) mind, and it actually isn’t the first (or the last) time that happens.
The Most Important Season 4 Episodes
Cheat Mode: Just watch "The Lion And The Rose" and "Oathkeeper"
Season 4, Episode 2: “The Lion and the Rose”
Less traumatizing than the Red Wedding, the Purple Wedding is just as important for the fate of Westeros. Plus, Joffrey finally gets what was coming to him.
Season 4, Episode 4: “Oathkeeper”
Jaime and Cersei’s first major splintering happens as he makes his own decisions and sends Brienne off to save Sansa instead of killing her. Plus, we finally learn how White Walkers are made in a scene that’s both literally and figuratively bone-chilling.
Season 4, Episode 8: “The Mountain and the Viper”
Sweet, sweet Oberyn (Pedro Pascal). The trial-by-combat for Tyrion’s life (after he was falsely found guilty of killing Joffrey) ends in true heartbreak as Oberyn gets cocky and The Mountain (Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson) literally crushes his skull. This was one of the most violent deaths on Game of Thrones ever and it couldn’t have happened to a less deserving person.
Season 4, Episode 10: “The Children”
Another finale that mostly sets up the new season, this episode is important for Arya’s journey as she escapes the Hound (Rory McCann) after his epic and brutal fight with Brienne and finally makes her way to Jaqen H’ghar in Braavos. And Tyrion finally gets his revenge on his father, Tywin (Charles Dance), and everyone else who lied during his trial.
The Most Important Season 5 Episodes
Cheat Mode: Go straight to the end and watch "Hardhome" and "Mother's Mercy"
Season 5, Episode 5: “Kill the Boy”
Honestly, this whole season is pretty hard to watch but there are some important scenes to remember, like Sansa and Theon’s first encounter since he became Reek; Sansa thinking she could trust Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon) because of Littlefinger’s (Aiden Gillen) advice; Tyrion seeing his first dragon; and Jorah (Iain Glen) getting greyscale.
Season 5, Episode 6: “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken”
Yikes is all I have to say about this episode. It’s one of the hardest to watch, but again, the episode is, overall, essential for the story. Poor Sansa. This episode also shows the growing threat of the High Sparrow’s Faith Militant and Cersei’s biggest mistake by giving the religious group too much power.
Season 5, Episode 8: “Hardhome”
The big battle comes early this season, but it’s not just action for action’s sake. Jon Snow sees the Night King for the first time and the threat of the White Walkers finally gets a face. They witness the Night King reanimating all the wildlings who just died, making them into wights. “Winter is coming” takes on a whole new meaning.
Season 5, Episode 10: “Mother’s Mercy”
So much happens in this hour, but it’s really the last scene that is the most important as Jon Snow pays for his betrayal of the Night’s Watch and is stabbed to death. Plus, Cersei finally faces the music for all her crimes in a scene that actually makes you feel real empathy for her.
The Most Important Season 6 Episodes
Cheat Mode: Sorry, you need pretty much all of these ones, but you can skip Hodor's death if you can't take seeing it once more.
Season 6, Episode 2: “Home”
The long international nightmare of wondering whether Jon Snow would come back to life finally ends with this episode. No episode could not be more important than this. Plus, Ramsay shows his true colours and Sansa finally gets a break. And Bran’s visions of the past provide some key intel.
Season 6, Episode 3: “Oathbreaker”
The Tower of Joy flashback! R+L=J! It’s all happening!
Season 6, Episode 5: “The Door”
“Hold the door” will never sound the same after we learn how Hodor became Hodor at the same exact time that we lose Hodor forever. This might be one of the saddest deaths of Game of Thrones ever.
Season 6, Episode 9: “Battle of the Bastards”
Jon Snow vs. Ramsay Bolton is a showdown worth the wait. Poor Rickon doesn’t make it out alive but his legacy lives on to remind us all to run in a zig-zag while escaping an armed captor. At least Sansa finally gets her revenge in the most Ramsay Bolton-esque way possible. Plus, Dany’s shoring up her alliances to finally becoming the threat we always knew she could be.
Season 6, Episode 10: “The Winds of Winter”
This finale might be the most jam-packed episode yet, kicking off with Cersei’s massive revenge against the Faith Militant. Her plan has quite the body count and unintended consequences as poor Tommen finds that he isn’t cut out for the Lannister way of life and dies by suicide. Plus Jon Snow becomes the King of the North; Arya gets her revenge on Walder Frey in her own version of the Red Wedding; Dany sets sail for Westeros; Cersei is crowned the new leader of the Seven Kingdoms; and Bran finally, finally, finally confirms that Jon is actually a Targaryen, not a bastard, and has an actual claim to the Iron Throne.
The Most Important Season 7 Episodes
Cheat Mode: Skip to "The Spoils of War," "Beyond The Wall," and "The Dragon and The Wolf"
Season 7, Episode 2: “Stormborn”
A lot of pieces are in motion but perhaps the biggest is Arya learning of Jon Snow’s return to Winterfell as King of the North. She halts her plans to go to King’s Landing, instead returns home to finally reunite with her brother. We have yet to see that actually happen, but good things come to those who wait, right?
Season 7, Episode 3: “The Queen’s Justice”
Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen’s first meeting is everything we could have hoped it would be. Okay, it could have been better but it has to start somewhere. Plus we get a Stark family reunion as Bran finally returns to Winterfell, but his creepy transformation into the Three-Eyed Raven is more than a little off-putting. And while this is Olenna’s last episode, she goes out with the most badass death scene.
Season 7, Episode 4: “The Spoils of War”
Jaime and the Lannisters finally learn just how big of a threat Dany is when she rides her dragon into a battle against them. And Arya’s grand return to Winterfell is just as epic as we’d imagined it would be.
Season 7, Episode 6: “Beyond the Wall”
Arya vs. Sansa is not the kind of Stark reunion we wanted, but it’s the one we’re getting thanks to Littlefinger. And Jon Snow’s journey north of The Wall to capture a wight to prove to Westeros that they need to band together instead of killing each other goes pretty terribly. Thanks to Gendry’s awesome running skills and Dany’s dragons, they’re able to save everyone... except Viserion, who is killed and reanimated as a wight dragon by the Night King, proving that the undead army is a lot smarter than anyone realized.
Season 7, Episode 7: “The Dragon and the Wolf”
The last new episode we’ve gotten is definitely the most important to remember going into the. final season. The reunions in this episode were off the charts as everyone came together in King’s Landing to see a wight with their own eyes. Plus, the character dynamics shifted like crazy. Jaime deserts Cersei. Jon and Dany sleep together (ew). Arya and Sansa reveal they’ve been working together this whole time and Arya kills Littlefinger. Sam and Bran prove Jon’s true parentage. And the Night King destroys the Wall with his army of the undead and wight dragon.
Congratulations, we made it to the end! Cue up the Game of Thrones theme song once more and get ready for the epic conclusion when Season 8 starts on April 14.