Game of Thrones has a number of celebrated and iconic episodes, but one of its most important is also oft-forgotten about: season 3's "Kissed By Fire". The installment is the fifth of Game of Thrones' third season, a run that includes the beloved "The Rains of Castamere". Its mid-season placement means it's usually overlooked when considering Game of Thrones' best episodes, but "Kissed By Fire" actually puts in place a huge amount of story and character points, including the Red Wedding.
Directed by Alex Graves and written by Bryan Cogman, "Kissed By Fire" splits its time between seven different locations: Dragonstone, Riverrun, the Riverlands, beyond the Wall, Slaver's Bay, Harrenhal, and King's Landing. With so many plot threads in play, and coming halfway through the season, it has the appearance of being a typical Game of Thrones setup episode, rather than one of extreme importance (or indeed greatness). But that belies the incredible work this episode is doing, especially through Cogman's writing (his "A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms", season 8's best episode, is effectively a sequel to this).
Starting with "Kissed By Fire's" most well-remembered beat, we have Jaime Lannister joining Brienne of Tarth in a bath, and telling her the true story behind his Kingslayer moniker. Beautifully acted by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, it remains one of Game of Thrones' greatest ever scenes, but it's also crucial to both of their arcs. It's here where the bond between them is really forged, which goes on to play out across all subsequent seasons, and where Jaime truly begins his redemption by allowing viewers to finally understand him. Again, it's something that goes on to span the entirety of the show, and it's rooted in "Kissed By Fire".
This is the kind of thing "Kissed By Fire" does a lot of. In the Riverlands, Beric Dondarrion fights the Hound in a trial by combat. It's a thrilling action sequence, but it also accomplishes a number of points that will reoccur later in Game of Thrones. It's the formation of the Hound and Arya's strange relationship; it builds the connection between both of them and Beric, which pays off in seasons 7 & 8; and most importantly it's the first time we see someone come back from the dead, laying the groundwork for Jon Snow's return (and the Hound's too, even if he didn't technically die), as well as the basis for Beric's ultimate sacrifice.
Speaking of Jon, this is an important Game of Thrones episode for him too. This is where he and Ygritte make love in the cave, which is less notable for him losing his virginity, but more for how it sets up his fate. It's Jon breaking an oath, which comes into play not just when he leaves the Night's Watch (his death got him out of that one), but also when he kills the Queen he'd knelt to. Even more crucially, it's here that he really becomes one with the far North, establishing Ygritte as his true love (and not Daenerys), and thus we can find the genesis of his ending, where he goes back beyond the Wall.
At Riverrun, Robb Stark beheads Rickard Karstark, and then hatches a plan to attack Casterly Rock. His battle was already in trouble, but this is a crucial turning point: Robb loses the Karstarks, which then leads him to ask the Freys for their support. There are a number of moments that lead to the Red Wedding, but his turning back to the Twins is one of the most direct, without which Game of Thrones' biggest shock wouldn't have happened.
There are many more examples as well: Tywin Lannister plans to marry Tyrion and Cersei to Sansa Stark and Loras Tyrell respectively; Stannis Baratheon is pushed further into the arms of the Lord of Light; Davos bonds more with Shireen. All of these individual moments in "Kissed By Fire" are important to Game of Thrones in the long-run, but it's also the whole installment.
It's a microcosm of everything Thrones did well: stunning character work that also drives the plot, surprising twists, stirring action, political machinations, and bound by themes of honor and love. Episodes like "Hardhome" and "Battle of the Bastards" get more praise and attention, but it's hours like "Kissed By Fire" that make them possible. This is a pivot not just for season 3, but for so many of Game of Thrones' biggest character arcs and storylines across the entire series, and deserves to be remembered as one of Game of Thrones' most important - and greatest - episodes.