Ahead of the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones, here’s our guide to the essential episodes to get up to speed or refresh your memory. (Check out our full season guides down below.)

Season 1, episode 1: “Winter Is Coming”

Writers: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss

Director: Tim Van Patten

Plot: After the death of his right-hand man, King Robert Baratheon travels north to Winterfell to ask his old friend Lord Eddard “Ned” Stark to assume the role. The queen, Cersei; her twin brother, Jaime Lannister; and their brother Tyrion Lannister arrive with the king. The two families intermingle to devastating result: Bran (the second youngest of the Stark children) interrupts Jaime and Cersei having incestuous sex, so Jaime pushes him from a tower window to silence him. Across the Narrow Sea in Pentos, exiled prince Viserys Targaryen forces his sister, Daenerys, to wed Khal Drogo, the leader of a Dothraki tribe, in exchange for an army so he can return to Westeros and reclaim his father’s Iron Throne.

Introduces: Everyone, plus White Walkers (the undead entities that live Beyond the Wall), the Starks’ pet direwolves, their ward Theon Greyjoy, and the treacherous prince Joffrey.

Historic moment: Dany receives three petrified dragon eggs as a wedding gift.

Grade: A–

Season 1, episode 9: “Baelor”

Writers: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss

Director: Alan Taylor

Plot: Robb is granted permission by the gross Lord Walder Frey to cross his fortified bridge if he marries one of Frey’s daughters. Commander Mormont gifts Jon a Valyrian steel sword. Jon’s loyalty to the Watch is tested when he learns Robb is marching south. Tywin’s army (including Tyrion) defeats the northern men with ease, but elsewhere Robb crushes Jaime’s men, taking the Kingslayer captive. Drogo is close to death from his infected wound and the Dothraki are restless, ready to claim his position as Khal. Desperate, Dany asks the “maegi” (witch) to use bloodmagic to save him and goes into premature labor.

Introduces: A prostitute named Shae, for whom Tyrion falls.

Historic moment: In a bid to save his daughters’ lives, Ned confesses to his “sins” and acknowledges Joffrey as king. Joffrey has him beheaded nonetheless.

Grade: A

Season 2, episode 9: “Blackwater”

Writer: George R.R. Martin

Director: Neil Marshall

Plot: The Battle of Blackwater is now upon King’s Landing. Tyrion’s many strategies, including the deployment of wildfire to fend off approaching ships, turn out to be (gruesome) winners. A cowardly Joffrey scuttles away when the tides begin to turn, leaving Tyrion to rally the troops to hold the line: “Those are brave men knocking at our door, let’s go kill them.” All hope seems like it might be lost, and just as Tyrion is injured — by one of his own men — he sees Tywin leading a fresh army to the rescue. Sitting on the Iron Throne, Cersei is poised to poison her youngest son, Tommen, should the keep be breached, but is relieved when a triumphant Tywin strides into the throne room.

Introduces/Historic moment: Wildfire in action. A+

Season 3, episode 9: “The Rains of Castamere”

  • Writers: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss
  • Director: David Nutter
  • Plot: Jon and Bran almost reunite when the Wildlings attempt to kill Jon, but he’s saved when Bran wargs (projects his consciousness) into his direwolf, Summer. Jon escapes, leaving Ygritte behind. Rickon leaves too, as Osha takes him to safety.
  • Historic moment: This episode is known as the “Red Wedding,” in reference to the end of Edmure and Roslin Frey’s wedding reception, which goes from cheery to bloody when a pregnant Talisa is stabbed in the stomach, followed by the Stark bannermen being slaughtered and Robb getting shot with arrows. Catelyn tries to bargain for her son’s life by threatening Walder Frey’s wife, but the old man is unmoved, and Roose stabs Robb. Crying, Catelyn slits Mrs. Frey’s throat right before her own is cut.
  • Grade: A

Season 4, episode 2: “The Lion and the Rose”

Writer: George R.R. Martin

Director: Alex Graves

Plot: Joffrey weds Margaery, with one big complication. (More on that in a moment.) Roose scolds Ramsay for carving the humanity — and a lot more — out of Theon; Melisandre sacrifices three people as an offering to the Lord of Light before joining Stannis and his wife for a tense meal; and Jaime begins the arduous task of training himself to sword fight with one hand.

Introduces: The Night King, leader of the White Walkers, who appears in a vision that Bran has while communing with a Weirwood Heart tree.

Historic Moment: Joffrey finally gets his just deserts and is poisoned at his wedding, dying in supremely gruesome fashion. Further complicating the Lannister family dynamic, Cersei accuses Tyrion of murdering her son. In an attempt to protect Shae from Tywin’s revenge plot against him, Tyrion breaks things off with his lover.

Grade: A

Season 4, episode 10: “The Children”

Writers: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss

Director: Alex Graves

Plot: Jon heads to the Wildling camp with plans to kill Mance, but is interrupted by Stannis, who takes the Wildlings captive and sets up camp with the Night’s Watch. Brienne finds Arya and severely wounds the Hound. He begs Arya for mercy, but she leaves him to die slowly. After a Meereen child is killed by Drogon, Dany realizes she has to lock her babies up. Fighting her father’s order to marry Loras, Cersei plays her trump card: She reveals to Tywin that the rumors of incest are true and threatens to take it public. Triumphant, she reunites with Jaime, and the two further solidify the truth behind her threat.

Introduces: The Children of the Forest, the original beings to inhabit Westeros, one of whom rescues Bran, Meera, and Hodor (sadly, not Jojen) from wights just before they meet the Three-Eyed Raven; as well as the knowledge that Oberyn poisoned the spear that pierced the Mountain, ensuring his death.

Historic moment: After Jaime helps him escape, Tyrion finds Shae in Tywin’s room and strangles her for her betrayal; he then shoots Tywin (on the toilet!) with Joffrey’s crossbow before escaping.

Season 5, episode 10: “Mother’s Mercy”

Writers: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss

Director: David Nutter

Plot: Drogon drops Dany off in the middle of nowhere and she ends up getting captured by a horde of Dothraki riders, which can’t be good news. Oberyn’s lover, Ellaria Sand, murders Doran and poisons young Myrcella, who dies in her uncle/father’s arms on their ship bound for King’s Landing. And Sansa and Theon use the cover of Ramsay and Stannis’ battle to jump off the ramparts and escape Winterfell.

Introduces: Blind Arya, who loses her sight because she violated the Faceless Men’s rules by killing Trant.

Historic moment: Where to begin? First off, Cersei endures her shameful and humiliating walk through the streets of King’s Landing after confessing to her sins. Then Brienne fulfills her oath to Renly and kills Stannis, whose army was demolished by the Bolton forces. Finally, the Night’s Watch turn on Jon and murder him for allowing the Wildlings to cross south of the Wall.

Grade: B+

Season 6, episode 9: “Battle of the Bastards”

Writers: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss

Director: Miguel Sapochnik

Plot: The season comes into much tighter focus, with “Battle” splitting its time between Meereen and the fight for Winterfell. Jon and Ramsay face off in an anticipated confrontation that lives up to the hype; just when it seems the battle against the encroaching Masters’ fleet is lost. In a thrilling reunion, Dany rides Drogon and — assisted by Rhaegal and Viserion — burns the fleet, sparing only one master. Ramsay is beaten and taken prisoner by Jon, where he meets his fate — to fans’ deep satisfaction.

Historic moment: Sansa watching her abuser, Ramsay, eaten alive by his starving hounds.

Grade: A–

Season 6, episode 10: “The Winds of Winter”

Writers: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss

Director: Miguel Sapochnik

Plot: Cersei’s great revenge. Everyone in King’s Landing gathers for her demise at her and Loras’ trial at the Sept of Baelor in this spectacular season finale. But Cersei remains in her keep a little too long; her cousin Lancel is sent to retrieve her. Her great plan unfolds: Lancel finds a wildfire cache on the verge of exploding and is stabbed before he’s able to put it out. Margaery is the first to realize something’s wrong — that a trap has been set — but she’s too late. The High Sparrow doesn’t let anyone leave. The wildfire is ignited, and the Sept (and everyone inside) is annihilated. Jaime reunites with Cersei, who — utterly gleeful over her perfectly executed scheme and unaware that it prompted Tommen to commit suicide — is crowned Queen of the Seven Kingdoms.

Historic moment: Bran learns Jon is the child of Lyanna (more to come on that…); the burning of the Sept; and the last we see of Dany in season 6: setting sail for Westeros with her army, prepared for the grand battle.

Grade: A

Season 7, episode 7: “The Dragon and the Wolf”

Writers: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss

Director: Jeremy Podeswa

Plot: Almost every major player in Westeros unites in King’s Landing to discuss the Night King. Not even Cersei can deny the threat, yet she refuses to cease hostilities after Jon admits his allegiance to Dany. But Cersei is expecting (or at least wants people to think she is); Tyrion plays on her pregnancy to get her to join the alliance, though she secretly still plans betrayal. That’s one scheme too many for Jaime, who finally leaves his sister behind just as winter begins. Winter comes for Littlefinger when the Stark kids unite to unveil his lies. Arya kills him with a dagger — the same one used to attack Bran in season 1, which Littlefinger had falsely claimed belonged to Tyrion.

Introduces: The Hound’s awareness that his brother, the Mountain, is still alive (well, reanimated by Cersei’s Hand of the Queen, Qyburn).

Historic moment: The Wall falls. Riding the undead dragon, the Night King destroys the magical barrier, and the dead pour into Westeros.

Grade: B+

Get your copy of Entertainment Weekly’s biggest Game of Thrones issue ever: 78 pages of exclusive stories and photos on the past, present, and future of the HBO hit. Buy your choice of 16 different covers, and don’t forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.

Read all our Game of Thrones episode guides:

Episode Recaps


Game of Thrones

HBO's epic fantasy drama based on George R.R. Martin's novel series 'A Song of Ice and Fire.'

  • TV Show
  • 8
  • 73
  • TV-MA
  • David Benioff
  • D.B. Weiss
  • HBO
stream service