At this point, it must be pretty exhausting not to be a “Game of Thrones” fan as everyone under the sun seems to be invested in the outcome of the HBO drama. Fortunately, with the Season 6 premiere still a few days away, there’s still some time for the “Game of Thrones” novice to get caught up ahead of their friend’s premiere party.
As previously reported, fans who want to actually watch all 50 previous episodes of “Game of Thrones” before the premiere of episode 51 will need to start Friday at 7 p.m. EDT at the latest and not take a single bathroom, food or shower break for more than two days. Fortunately, there’s a significantly less physically taxing way to catch yourself up over the weekend. While it’s highly recommended that people go back and watch the entire series, in order to not look totally out of your league during Sunday’s premiere, here is a rundown of some of the essential episodes to get you ready for Season 6.
“Winter Is Coming” (S1E1)
Obviously you have to start with the first episode of the series. Not only does it establish the characters, it also explains the stakes and general politics of the realm. Fans will get to understand the history of the world through the death of Jon Arryn (John Standing). He holds a position in the court of King Robert (Mark Addy) who turns to his good friend and war buddy Ned Stark (Sean Bean) to fill the role. Make sure you pay attention through the end of the episode because it is the spark that ignites the rest of the story.
“A Golden Crown” (S1E6)
A mystery is set up in episode 1 of the series that comes to fruition in “A Golden Crown.” Not only do Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) have their true relationship revealed, but viewers get an idea for how Daenerys Targaryen’s (Emilia Clarke) storyline will go for the rest of the series. Additionally, it gives a lot of important insight into the politics of the realm as a king’s death forces power to change hands in a significant way.
“Fire And Blood” (S1E9)
It’s a good rule of thumb to watch the penultimate episode of each season, but it’s especially true in Season 1. It’s hard to discuss the significance of this episode without giving it away, but let’s just say there is a major plot twist that you probably won’t see coming, unless it’s already been spoiled for you. In any case, if you’re looking to understand why people are in constant fear for their favorite characters on the show, this will explain why.
“The North Remembers” (S2E1)
Because you missed the Season 1 finale, it’s highly recommended that you watch the premiere of Season 2, mostly because it does a nice job of catching people up on the events of the first season while laying out the stakes for the new run. With several people claiming their right to the throne, fans are introduced to Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane), the brother of Robert Baratheon, who will loom quite large over the show from here on out.
“The Ghost Of Herrenhal” (S2E5)
Any time magic is showcased on the series, it’s kind of a big deal. Although “Game of Thrones” exists in a world of white walkers and dragons, they’re not really put front and center too often. Without giving too much away, this episode sees Stannis use very dark magical means to advance his cause in the war of five kings. It’s important to see that happen as well as understand exactly how motivated these armies are to seize control of King’s Landing while it and its leader, Joffrey Baratheon (Jack Gleeson), are weak.
“Valar Morghulis” (S2E10)
OK, this entry should be prefaced with the fact that Season 2, episode 9, is perhaps one of the best episodes of “Game of Thrones” ever shot. It takes place entirely in King’s Landing during Stannis Baratheon’s attempted siege. While it’s definitely a must-see, it’s kept off this list as it doesn’t hold a lot of information one functionally needs to know to understand the show better. Stannis tried and failed to take the capital when Tywin Lannister came with reinforcements. In the season finale, fans get to see where things will pick up in Season 3 as well as become introduced to the Braavosi assassin Jaquen H’ghar (Tom Wlaschiha), member of the Faceless Men.
“Dark Wings, Dark Words” (S3E2)
While it’s usually a bad idea to skip any season premiere, this one mostly just recaps the events of Season 2. Instead, fans should jump ahead to episode 2, where they’ll be introduced to vital characters like Mance Rayder (Ciaran Hinds) and his master plan for the Night’s Watch. Additionally, someone named Jojen Reed (Thomas Brodie Sangster) links up with Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) to give him a little more information about his magical powers and the quest he’ll need to take from here on out.
“The Bear and the Maiden Fair” (S3E7)
Admittedly, this is probably the least spectacular episode on this list. While it’s certainly interesting, it’s mostly a way to set up larger plot points that will become relevant toward the season’s end. However, it’s worth watching so that you won’t be left in the dark in later episodes when some pretty wild events stem from what is established in “The Bear and the Maiden Fair.”
Again, the penultimate episode of Season 3 is a doozy. It’s highly recommended that you make time to watch the last 10 minutes of the penultimate episode, dubbed by many as “Red Wedding,” but be warned that it’s some of the most difficult-to-watch television in recent memory. What makes the finale so important is the fact that it starts to merge previously distant characters together. Samwell Tarly (John Bradley) crosses paths with Bran Stark and his crew. By the end of the episode, fans will learn the main plot point that will be addressed in the coming season, which is that the war of the five kings is over and the real war is marching toward them from beyond the wall.
“The Lion And The Rose” (S4E2)
Even if you’ve only watched the foregoing handful of episodes, fans will no doubt find pleasure in this one, as it brings one of the most vile characters' reign of terror to an end. Without spoiling too much, the final moments of this episode are not only some of the most dramatic in the show’s run, but they set the stakes for the remainder of the season perfectly.
Although it carries some heavy plot points, this episode really benefits from introducing audiences to the Mountain (Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson). Although the character was introduced in previous seasons, the producers played with reality a bit and recast the actor twice. The third time they seemed to have gotten it right with the casting of Björnsson, a bodybuilder who has shattered numerous records and is one of the most physically intimidating men on the planet. But what makes this episode special are the events at the Vale, where Lord Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish (Aidan Gillen) revealed that he’s the one responsible for Jon Arryn’s death, which sparked literally every event so far in the show.
“The Children” (S4E10)
Season 4 has some of the most impressive installments in the show, and the penultimate episode is no exception. However, like Season 2's “Blackwater,” it’s not the most plot-heavy episode. Instead, fans should try the finale, where the conflict between the army and the Night’s Watch comes to an end. We learn what Stannis Baratheon is planning with his new sellsword army, and Bran’s storyline hits a major turning point, but fans should know he takes an entire break from appearing in Season 5. As a result, his final moments in Season 4 are extremely significant.
“The House Of Black And White” (S5E2)
The premiere of Season 5 laid out a lot of what fans already knew, and mostly acted as an elaborate recap. However, episode 2 sets the stage for the remainder of Season 5, starting in King’s Landing, where Cersei and Jaime learn that the events of Season 4 have put their daughter in danger in Dorne. In order to rescue her, Jaime agrees to go on a covert mission to Dorne along with Bronn (Jerome Flynn). Meanwhile, Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) makes headway in her hunt for Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner), but the audience learns that her allegiance to Littlefinger may be deeper than it seems. However, what makes this episode most interesting is the reintroduction of Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) now that she’s made her way to Braavos.
This episode really gets all the building blocks in place ahead of the season finale. It explains why Cersei is in jail and what is happening with Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) in Mereen. However, the real important part of this episode takes place beyond the wall. Jon Snow (Kit Harington) has taken a small faction of wildings with him to convince more of them to take refuge beyond the wall. As he’s trying to explain to them the threat they all face from the army of the dead, said army actually attacks. It’s horrific and scary, but also a lot of fun. Additionally, fans learn new information about the white walkers that may prove important later.
“Mother’s Mercy” (S5E10)
At last, we’ve arrived at the season finale that fans have been buzzing about for a year. Not only does it mark the highly uncomfortable end of Cersei’s storyline with the High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce), but it leaves a great many characters on massive cliffhangers. Without spoiling too much, fans everywhere will be waiting to hear about characters like Stannis, Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen), Sansa, Ramsay, Jon Snow and many more by the time the credits roll. Luckily, you won’t be burdened with carrying the cliffhanger through to next year.
“Game of Thrones” Season 6 premieres Sunday at 9 p.m. EDT on HBO.