The Game Of Thrones season premiere is just around the corner and with it comes a sure-to-be-devastating couple of months. It’s only a matter of time before George R.R. Martin and the folks over at HBO come to collect what is left of your soul, leaving you a broken, empty husk of your former self. Before the tax man comes to collect let's go over some of the most essential episodes of the story so far.
If you haven’t watched Game Of Thrones at all then you can still scroll down the list and grab the episode details from the title for each entry without getting any real spoilers. We’ll go in chronological order for anyone planning to follow along later. It’d be impossible to give you all the key plot points among the many different characters in only ten episodes, but this list should give you a solid understanding of what’s happened in the past seven seasons.
10. “Winter Is Coming” - S1E1
You wouldn’t start a book on chapter two and you wouldn’t want to walk into a theatre half an hour late for the show time, so don’t do it with Game Of Thrones. With the series finale lurking ominously in the distance it’s good to have a chance to look back on simpler, happier times. Back when a naive and idealistic audience still had hope for the future of the honorable Stark family. Remember when Jaime was just a never-ending buffet of awful? Ahhh, good times. The pilot may not be as exciting and gory as some of the other entries on this list but it kicks off the entire series and really only hints at some of the horrific and amazing things that will take place over the next eight years.
9. “You Win Or You Die” - S1E7
Where to begin? A lot of important stuff happened in this episode. For starters, this is the episode where Robert Baratheon meets his end in a truly tragic fashion -- death by pig. Ned Stark also makes the greatest mistake anyone can make in this episode by confronting Cersei. This is the episode where Ned proves everything Littlefinger has been saying about him all along. He’s too damn honorable to play the game on this level. The biggest lesson in this episode is that mercy isn’t always a good thing. A lesson Ned will end up taking to the grave.
8. “Baelor” - S1E9
Welp. That certainly didn’t last long. Ned’s dead, baby. Ned’s Dead. Taking with him everything we thought we knew about this series and where it was meant to go. One doesn’t simply kill the Sean Bean. Especially when he’s taken out by such a truly disgusting example of a human being. If you didn’t absolutely despise Joffrey by this episode, this is the one that pushed you over the edge. The series may have started eight episodes ago, but this is where the audience is truly introduced to the world of Westeros and all that composes it. This is the beginning of the end of innocence.
7. “Blackwater” - S2E9
This episode is important for several reasons, not the least of which being that it’s the first time we really see what wildfire is capable of. The battle for the Red Keep is on and seems like it should be an easy win for the battle-hardened Stannis Baratheon. Joffrey, the tyrannical boy king all but crumbles under the pressure while Tyrion really seems to rise to the occasion. On top of that, we learn even more about what Cersei is willing to do for her family - and to them. Things don’t go quite as expected for Stannis’ forces though, thanks to that wildfire we mentioned earlier. We also get see a completely different side of The Hound during the Battle of the Blackwater.
6. “Rains Of Castamere” - S3E9
That haunting cello accompanying the most brutal wholesale slaughter of everything good and right in the world of Westeros. Just when you thought you could open yourself up again. Love another honorable Stark man. Just when you thought there was really a good chance Robb could bring home a W for the north. BAM! Right in the back. “Rains Of Castamere” has an ending so incredibly dissatisfying that it leaves a bad taste in your mouth for months-- years, even. We’re also introduced to the truly monstrous Bolton family, the new wardens of the north. Right when things were starting to look up…
5. “The Lion And The Rose” - S4E2
Karma finally catches up with Joffrey in this one and it couldn’t have happened sooner for Margaery Tyrell. Coincidence? I think not. (You can check that out in “The Queen’s Justice” S7E3) Margaery isn’t the only lucky one, as it appears Tommen is about to find out what it’s like to be king. If you know anything about Cersei, you know that she is not pleased with Joffrey's death. Like many things in their life, Cersei blames Tyrion for the assassination and Tyrion is left to fend for himself. Up in the north, we get to see what Ramsay’s father thinks of his new pet, Reek.
4. “Hardhome” - S5E8
It’s maybe a little hard to remember just how incredible this episode was with all the amazing things that have come since. We get to see Tyrion finally have a face to face with Daenerys and show her exactly why she needs someone like him by her side. We should probably talk about the fact that we watch the White Walkers completely and utterly destroy the wildling camp and proceed to raise them from the dead to fight against their allies. Jon barely escapes with his life but he’s left with a realization that the game has changed. He’s going to need help. And a lot of it.
3. “Battle Of The Bastards” - S6E9
The “Battle Of The Bastards” is probably one of the most incredible things to have ever been shot on film. The utter sense of chaos and hopelessness that comes along with the battle Jon enters to save Rickon and his home is conveyed beautifully on screen. It all culminates perfectly with Jon giving Ramsay the savage and well-earned beatdown of a lifetime during that one on one fight he’d been so eager for earlier in the episode. With all that going on it can be easy to forget that the episode begins with Daenerys riding Drogon into battle against dozens of slaver’s ships with her only her Viserion and Rhaegal as back-up.
2. “The Winds Of Winter” - S6E10
From the second the episode starts and that ominous music plays alongside images of the church and the royal family you just know that Cersei is about to pull off something truly gruesome for the sake of her own power. There have been plenty of times throughout the series where we’ve seen exactly what Cersei is capable of, but somehow, in one of the most grisly openings of the series, she truly outdoes herself. Jamie returns to King’s Landing and discovers what Cersei has done, what her actions have cost them, and suddenly the veil has lifted. Jamie may stick around for a while after this but it’s mostly due to familial duty rather than the love he once held for Cersei. She’s lost all of her children and now there’s nothing left for her to lose.
1. “The Dragon And The Wolf” - S7E7
Having just narrowly escaped the white walkers, Jon Snow and the others head south to make a plea to Queen Cersei. As you can probably expect by now, Cersei has never been one to play ball and she really only cares about keeping and hoarding her power and not so much about the legion of undead coming to destroy Westeros. Enemy of my enemy and all that. All of Littlefinger’s plotting goes to waste before him when he meets the business end of Arya’s vengeance. Meanwhile, on the road White Harbor, Daenerys ends up sleeping with literally the only person in all of Westeros that she shouldn’t be sleeping with. All in all, it seems like all the pieces are lined up for what is sure to be an amazing and heartbreaking final season that will leave us all speechless. I didn’t even get to the part with the undead ice dragon destroying the wall for the Night King. Knew that I forgot something...