13 key episodes of Game of Thrones to rewatch before the series finale
After 72 episodes and hundreds of names, characters, and significant events, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the scope of Game of Thrones. But as the show heads into the series finale, it’s worth taking a look back at important moments that continue to shade Daenerys, Jon Snow, Tyrion, and the Stark children.
While we don’t know exactly what the finale of the series will hold, the penultimate episode, “The Bells,” pushes us towards a significant destination. We know the choices the characters will have to confront — a major being who should take the Iron Throne — and in turn, which episodes are probably worth rewatching to understand those choices on a deeper level. If want to catch all of the references creators D.B. Weiss and David Benioff may weave into their final hour-and-20-minute episode, and understand the motivations driving the last grab for power, here are 13 episodes of Game of Thrones to check out before the finale.
Season 1, episode 1, “Winter is Coming”
What happens in the episode: The world of Westeros, and its many families and factions, are introduced.
Key moment for the finale: Ned Stark explaining to his kids, especially Jon, his ruling philosophy: “the man who passes the sentence should swing the sword.”
While Jon Snow may not be the biological son of Eddard Stark he was raised by the former Lord of Winterfell and that means their philosophies on how someone should rule are similar. This episode gives us our clearest picture of who Ned Stark was as a Warden of the North, and the traits of his that Jon inherited. Those traits make him an inevitable pick to lead Westeros into the future.
Season 1, episode 4, “Cripples Bastards and Broken Things”
What happens in the episode: Sam and Jon meet for the first time; Ned investigates Jon Arryn’s death; and Tyrion stops at King’s landing before being arrested by Catelyn Stark for the attempted murder of Bran (which he didn’t attempt).
Key moments for the finale: When Tyrion passes through Winterfell, he gives Bran a design for a saddle to help him ride without the use of his legs.
There’s no more succinct summary of Game of Thrones’ overarching theme than when Tyrion says, “I have a tinder place in my heart for cripples, bastards, and broken things.” Many things in the story have changed since episode 4, but this simple statement has not.
Season 1, episode 10, “Fire and Blood”
What happens in the episode: King’s Landing deals with the fallout of Ned Stark’s execution while Dany sentences the blood sorceress who killed her child to be burned alive.
Key moment for the finale: Mirri Maz Duur’s execution, a first for Daenerys Targaryen.
When Mirri Maz Duur explains to Dany that, thanks to her blood magic, Dany’s child will burn no cities, she irreversibly set the Mother of Dragons on a path towards an end that should have a dramatic, and potentially gruesome, finish in the finale.
Season 2, episode 1, “The North Remembers”
What happens in the episode: Melisandre and Stannis join the show; Robb continues to win his battles against the Lannisters; Bran learns to rule Winterfell in his brother’s stead.
Key moment for the finale: Bran learning to rule.
Bran may be the Three-Eyed Raven now but at one point in this show he was Brandon Stark, Lord of Winterfell. That experience of ruling could prove invaluable as the realm marches toward a new monarch in the show’s finale, a conclusion in which Bran remains a bit of a mystery.
Season 2, episode 10, “Valar Morghulis”
What happens in the episode: Tywin is named Hand after saving King’s Landing from Stannis Baratheon; Robb marries Talisa forsaking his promise to Walder Frey and setting the stage for the Red Wedding; Dany enters the House of the Undying to get her dragons back.
Key moment for the finale: Dany’s vision of the Red Keep.
When she is wandering through the House of the Undying Dany has a vision of the Iron Throne covered in ash. It’s likely we’ll see this vision come true in the final episode.
Season 3, episode 5, “Kissed by Fire”
What happens in the episode: Beric Dondarrion is resurrected for the first time on the show; Qyburn helps Jaime after his hand was cut off; and Robb Stark plans his fateful trip to the Twins.
Key moments for the finale: Jaime explains to Brienne why he killed Aerys II Targaryen, the Mad King.
Jaime’s been called Kingslayer for as long as he’s been on the show, but this is the first time we learn why he killed the man he was supposed to protect. Aerys was planning to unleash wildfire on King’s Landing as a way of killing the rebels and destroying their prize. It would have killed thousands. Now that another Targaryen’s fire has actually killed thousands of innocents, it’s worth looking back at the consequences through the eyes of someone who took action.
Season 4, episode 3, “Breaker of Chains”
What happens in the episode: The kingdom reels from the death of king Joffrey Baratheon and Dany arrives at the gates of Mereen.
Key moment for the finale: When Tywin tells Tommen the qualities that make a good king.
Few people on Game of Thrones have ever been as smart or keen as Tywin Lannister, so when he talks to his grandson about the qualities of good kings, it’s best to listen — especially since we’re likely to see a new monarch rise in the finale.
Season 4, episode 9, “The Watchers on the Wall”
What happens in the episode: Castle Black is attacked by wildlings.
Key moment for the finale: Jon watching Ygritte die.
Jon Snow has only ever loved two women, and the first one died in front of him in this episode. The second woman just torched a chunk of King’s Landing population, and seems poised to either do away with her allies or face repercussions. Being Game of Thrones, we expect things to get bloody in one direction or the other. Whatever the fallout, it’ll be a bit more personal for Jon Snow this time.
Season 5, episode 1, “The Wars to Come”
What happens in the episode: King’s Landing moves on after the murder of Tywin Lannister; Tyrion arrives in Essos; and Stannis sets up camp at Castle Black.
Key moment for the finale: Jon shoots an arrow into Mance Rayder, killing him instantly and saving him the pain of being burned alive.
Jon believes that even those who are found to be acting against the law deserve dignity in death. Burning alive, at least for Jon, isn’t dignity. It’s unclear how Jon will deal with the fallout of Daenerys’ actions in King’s Landing — we don’t seem them meet at the end of the episode or in the trailer for the finale — but if we want to see how Jon’s handled similar situations, this is an episode to look at.
Season 6, episode 2, “Home”
What happens in the episode: Bran and Arya both train on opposite sides of the map; with Dany still gone from Mereen, Tyrion, Missandei, and Grey Worm attempt to keep control of the city; meanwhile, Melisandre brings Jon back from the dead.
Key moments for the finale: The Three-Eyed Raven showing Bran the past but telling him to be careful as it’s possible to become stuck there instead of the present.
We haven’t seen Bran use his powers much this season, but his ability to see into the past is sure to be helpful as Westeros is remade — but he’ll have to be careful if he wants to retain any humanity.
Season 6, episode 3, “Oathbreaker”
What Happens in the episode: Bran sees young Eddard Stark at the Tower of Joy, where he will eventually receive Aegon Targaryen to raise as his own bastard; Dany arrives at Vaes Dothrak; and Jon personally executes the traders that murdered him.
Key moments for the finale: Jon executing Olly, Alliser Thorne, Bowen Marsh, and Othell Yarwyck.
In his final act as Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, Jon Snow orders the execution of the brothers that betrayed him and broke their vows. But ever Eddard Stark’s son, Jon makes a point to cut the gallows rope himself. If Jon feels someone deserves to die for their actions, he’ll be the one to kill them.
Season 6, episode 4, “Book of the Stranger”
What happens in the episode: Sansa and Jon reunite, while Dany runs into resistance at Vaes Dothrak.
Key moment for the finale: Dany burning down the Temple of the Dosh Khaleen.
With another surely disagreeable meeting ahead of her, it’s worth remembering what Dany did last time a group of leaders didn’t see things her way. When Dany confronts the khals in the Temple of the Dosh Khaleen, she seems to do so knowing that they won’t accept her or her authority. So, when the discussion turns south she does what she was always prepared to: burn the entire temple to the ground with them inside. How will Dany retaliate once she’s confronted over her actions in “The Bells”?
Season 7, episode 7, “The Dragon and the Wolf”
What happens in the episode: Jon and Dany meet with Cersei in King’s Landing ahead of the war against the Night King; Arya, Sansa, and Bran finally expose Littlefinger’s plots and kill him.
Key moment for the finale: Arya and Sansa agreeing that House Stark is always strongest together. “When the snows fall and the white winds blow, the lone wolf dies, but the pack survives.”
With all of their combined skills and knowledge, it’s hard to see anyone standing in the way of the united Stark sisters. So, with their conversation here about the importance of sticking together, it will be interesting to see where both wind up in the finale — on the throne or otherwise — and what the position of House Stark is in the end.