Can’t tell a Targaryen from a Tyrell but don’t have the time to watch all 50 episodes? Here’s our binge-watching guide to the 13 essential Game of Thrones episodes you need to watch before Sunday night’s season premiere (at 9 p.m. on HBO).
You’ll have to fill in some blanks from the “previously ons” and you’ll be missing out on many of the show’s subtler moments, but this weekend bender will give you the gist of the story.
Friday night: Kick off your weekend with three episodes from season one.
- Season 1 Episode 1 (S1E1): Winter is Coming. Your introduction to Westeros starts with the Stark, Lannister, and Targaryen families. You’ll learn about the battle for the Iron Throne and get a hint of the supernatural threat that looms in The North.
- S1E7: You Win or You Die. See how all of your new favorites are dealing with intrigue and betrayal in King’s Landing, the capital of Westeros.
- S1E10: Fire and Blood. Some characters end the season dealing with the fallout from the upheaval in the capital, while others rise from the ashes.
Saturday: Are you hooked yet? Plan to spend (at least) six hours of your Saturday seeing what happens in seasons two and three.
- S2E5: The Ghost of Harrenhal. Meet the Baratheons, new claimants to the Iron Throne.
- S2E9: Blackwater. Instead of moving from location to location, you’ll spend the entire hour in King’s Landing, as major players fight for the Iron Throne in the spectacular Battle of the Blackwater.
- S2E10: Valar Morghulis. Season two’s final episode resets the playing field following Blackwater and introduces new partnerships that will dominate seasons to come.
(Note: at this point, if your favorite character is Daenerys Targaryen, you should add an additional episode, S3E4: And Now His Watch is Ended, to your schedule.)
- S3E5: Kissed by Fire. Rather than big, showy battles, this episode slows down and reveals the surprising heart and motivations of multiple characters.
- S3E9: The Rains of Castamere. Bring your tissues for this one, and don’t say I didn’t warn you.
- S4E2: The Lion and the Rose. If you’re still watching after the last episode, I can promise that this one will help you end your Saturday viewing on an up note.
Sunday: You’re in the homestretch now! Settle in Sunday morning for these final four episodes and you’ll be all set for season six. You can do it!
(Note: If your favorite character is Tyrion Lannister, I highly recommend that you add another hour to your watch and start the day with S4E6: The Laws of Gods and Men)
- S4E8: The Mountain and the Viper. You won’t want to miss a spectacular duel to the death where a fan favorite’s life hangs in the balance.
- S4E9: The Watchers on the Wall. Another rare single location episode, this hour features the battle between the Night’s Watch and the Wildlings. (ahem, the “Free Folk”).
- S5E8: Hardhome. Far-flung characters finally come together and the threat of the White Walkers turns terrifyingly real in one of the show’s most acclaimed episodes.
- S5E9: The Dance of Dragons. Season five’s penultimate installment is full of the kind of shock, heartbreak, triumph, and vengeance you’ve undoubtedly come to expect during your binge watch.