By Megan McCluskey
Updated: June 5, 2019 12:20 PM ET | Originally published: February 6, 2019

Warning: This post contains spoilers for Game of Thrones.

Game of Thrones has officially ended. But if you’re getting ready to dive in for the first time or planning a re-watch, let this be your guide.

Getting through all 73 Game of Thrones episodes may seem like a daunting task, but TIME is here to make your binge-watching journey as smooth as possible. Now that you’ve seen the long-awaited finale and Game of Thrones season 8 is over — here’s everything you need to know about each episode.

From a recap to an analysis of each installment’s most significant scene, here’s a rundown of the essential details from every Game of Thrones episode. Now, that’s not to say that some viewers won’t have different opinions about the episode’s winner or most memorable quote. This is just one lens through which fans can examine everything as we make our way through Game of Thrones season 8.

Here’s how to stream Game of Thrones

Now that Game of Thrones has officially come to an end, some fans may be wondering how they can go back and re-watch the series. Those who already subscribe to HBO through a cable company can use their cable login to watch Game of Thrones on HBO Go while non-cable users can pay $14.99 per month for HBO Now, the network’s stand-alone streaming service. Hulu and Amazon Prime subscribers also have the option of paying an extra $14.99 per month to gain access to HBO’s entire catalog of content.

Here’s TIME’s ultimate guide to binge-watching Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones: Season 1, Episode 1

HBO

Episode name

“Winter Is Coming”

Episode recap

The death of Jon Arryn (John Standing), who serves as the Hand of the King, brings King Robert Baratheon (Mark Addy) and the Lannister clan north to visit the Starks at Winterfell. It doesn’t take long for things to sour once the royal entourage arrives. From the moment Robert demands to pay his respects to Ned Stark’s (Sean Bean) late sister, Lyanna (Aisling Franciosi), in the crypts, it’s clear there are some unresolved issues between the three families — something that becomes even more obvious when Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) pushes Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright) out of a window for walking in on him with his twin sister, Cersei (Lena Headey).

Meanwhile, the White Walkers make their presence known beyond the Wall, while across the Narrow Sea, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) is given three dragon eggs at her wedding to Dothraki warlord Khal Drogo (Jason Momoa).

Episode winner

Robert Baratheon

Most memorable line

Ned Stark to Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley) about Bran Stark: “He won’t be a boy forever. And, winter is coming.”

Most significant scene

The White Walkers terrorize three Night’s Watch rangers on a scouting mission beyond the Wall.

Game of Thrones: Season 1, Episode 2

Episode name

“The Kingsroad”

Episode recap

Although Jon Snow (Kit Harington) — who we currently know as the illegitimate son of Ned and a random, unknown woman — was introduced in the pilot, his storyline doesn’t really pick up until the second episode. After gifting his half-sister Arya (Maisie Williams) with a small sword that she dubs “Needle,” Jon leaves for the Wall — a 700-foot tall, 300-foot thick barrier of ice that spans all 300 miles of Westeros’ northern border — with his Uncle Benjen (Joseph Mawle) and Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage).

Jon intends to join the Night’s Watch, an order of men who guard the Wall and protect the Seven Kingdoms from invaders. But first, he makes one last (unsuccessful) attempt to question Ned about the identity of his mother ahead of Ned’s departure for King’s Landing.

While traveling south with their father, Arya and Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) find themselves in the midst of an altercation with Prince Joffrey Baratheon (Jack Gleeson) that leads to the deaths of both Arya’s friend Mycah (Rhodri Hosking), the butcher’s boy, and Sansa’s direwolf, Lady. Luckily, Arya is able to set her own direwolf, Nymeria, loose in the wild before any harm can come to her. Elsewhere, Daenerys finds a way to connect with her new husband and Bran wakes up from the coma he has been in for over a month.

Episode winner

Bran’s direwolf, Summer

Most memorable line

Ned Stark to Jon Snow: “You may not have my name, but you have my blood.”

Most significant scene

A hired assassin carrying a Valyrian steel dagger attempts to kill a comatose Bran but is thwarted by Catelyn and Summer.

Game of Thrones: Season 1, Episode 3

Episode name

“Lord Snow”

Episode recap

In the early days of her arranged marriage, Daenerys is repeatedly raped by her husband (a storyline that led to much controversy). But as she and Drogo develop mutual respect and admiration for one another, Dany begins to come into her own as Khaleesi — a development that upsets her older brother Viserys (Harry Lloyd) — and discovers that she is pregnant with Drogo’s son.

Following Ned’s first Small Council meeting as Hand of the King, he learns that Catelyn has snuck into King’s Landing to show him the dagger that the catspaw assassin tried to use on Bran — a reveal that leads Master of Coin Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish (Aidan Gillen) to claim he recognizes the blade as one he lost to Tyrion in a bet.

As for the Stark kids, Jon starts to understand the harsh reality of serving in the Night’s Watch when he realizes that, unlike him, most of the recruits are untrained criminals who were forced into service, while Arya, who has no desire to become a “proper” lady, begins training with master Braavosi swordsman Syrio Forel (Miltos Yerolemou) and Bran struggles to come to terms with being paralyzed from the waist down.

Episode winner

Arya Stark

Most memorable line

Cersei Lannister to Joffrey Baratheon: “Everyone who isn’t us, is an enemy.”

Most significant scene

Old Nan (Margaret John) tells Bran about a dark and terrible winter known as the Long Night, foreshadowing the return of the White Walkers.

Game of Thrones: Season 1, Episode 4

Episode name

“Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things”

Episode recap

In King’s Landing, Ned discovers one of Robert’s illegitimate children while he’s investigating the death of Jon Arryn. Separately, Sansa learns that Ser Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane (Conan Stevens) is the one responsible for his brother and Joffrey’s personal bodyguard Sandor “The Hound” Clegane’s (Rory McCann) disfigured face, a detail that foreshadows the horrific cruelties that the Mountain is capable of inflicting on others.

Tensions continue to rise between Daenerys and Viserys upon their arrival in the holy Dothraki city of Vaes Dothrak, leading Dany to stand up to her brother for the first time. Farther north, Jon Snow helps Samwell Tarly (John Bradley) adjust to life at the Wall and Catelyn performs a citizen’s arrest on Tyrion for Bran’s attempted murder.

Episode winner

Daenerys Targaryen

Most memorable line

Daenerys Targaryen to Viserys Targaryen: “The next time you raise a hand to me will be the last time you have hands.”

Most significant scene

Ned discovers that Gendry (Joe Dempsie), the smith’s apprentice that Jon Arryn was seen visiting shortly before his death, is Robert’s illegitimate son.

Game of Thrones: Season 1, Episode 5

Episode name

“The Wolf and the Lion”

Episode recap

After arriving in the Vale with Tyrion as her prisoner, Catelyn is concerned to find that her sister Lysa (Kate Dickie) — the late Jon Arryn’s wife — seems to have lost her grip on reality. Lysa fled to the Vale following Jon’s death and has been hiding out in the Eyrie since with their 6-year-old son Robin, who she obsessively dotes over. Lysa proceeds to lock Tyrion in one of the Eyrie’s menacing “sky cells” after accusing him of conspiring to murder her husband.

But most of the episode’s action really takes place in King’s Landing, where Ned renounces his role as Hand of the King after learning that Robert has ordered a hit on Daenerys and her unborn child. But that’s just the beginning of Ned’s woes. Littlefinger takes him to visit the last person that Jon Arryn spoke to before he died — a prostitute whose baby daughter is another one of Robert’s illegitimate children — and Ned is ambushed by Jaime Lannister and his men. A confrontation ensues over Tyrion’s arrest. It ends with the slaughter of Ned’s guards and Ned himself getting stabbed in the leg with a spear.

Episode winner

Jaime Lannister

Most memorable line

Robert Baratheon to Cersei Lannister about Lyanna Stark: “I only know she was the one thing I ever wanted. Someone took her away from me, and seven kingdoms couldn’t fill the hole she left behind.”

Most significant scene

Robert and Cersei discuss their marriage, a union that has held the realm together but left them both miserable. Cersei asks Robert about Lyanna Stark for the first time in 17 years, leading him to reveal that his feelings for Lyanna prevented him from ever even trying to love Cersei.

Game of Thrones: Season 1, Episode 6

Episode name

“A Golden Crown”

Episode recap

After Bran wakes up from a dream about a three-eyed raven — a recurring figure in his subconscious — he ventures out into the woods with his older brother Robb (Richard Madden) and Stark ward Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) where they’re attacked by four wildlings. Robb and Theon kill the three men in the group and take the woman, Osha (Natalia Tena), as a prisoner.

At the Eyrie, Tyrion demands a trial by combat after realizing he has no chance of being judged fairly. A sellsword named Bronn (Jerome Flynn) agrees to fight for him and defeats Lysa’s champion, allowing Tyrion to walk free.

In King’s Landing, Ned awakens to Robert demanding that he resume his duties as Hand of the King before informing him that he’s leaving for a hunting trip. Later, thanks to Sansa, Ned finally comes to the realization that Joffrey is actually the son of Cersei and Jaime — not Cersei and Robert.

Over in Vaes Dothrak, Daenerys declares her unborn son to be the Stallion Who Mounts the World after completing the sacred task of eating a raw horse heart. When a drunken Viserys shows his true colors by threatening to cut the child out of her womb, she allows Khal Drogo to pour a pot of molten gold on her brother’s head, killing him.

Episode winner

Khal Drogo

Most memorable line

Daenerys Targaryen about Viserys Targaryen: “He was no dragon. Fire cannot kill a dragon.”

Most significant scene

Ned pieces together everything he has learned during his time in King’s Landing to figure out the truth about Joffrey’s parentage.

Game of Thrones: Season 1, Episode 7

Episode name

“You Win or You Die”

Episode recap

Following his introduction at the Lannister army’s camp in the Riverlands, Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance) sends Jaime — who fled King’s Landing after attacking Ned — to lay siege to Riverrun, Catelyn’s childhood home and the seat of House Tully.

At Castle Black, the day begins with Benjen’s horse returning without him from beyond the Wall and only gets worse for Jon when he is assigned to be Lord Commander Mormont’s (James Cosmo) personal steward rather than a ranger like his he has always dreamed. But after Sam suggests that he was given the job so that the Lord Commander can groom him for command, Jon decides to go through with swearing his Night’s Watch vows.

Despite receiving a pardon that would allow him to return to the Seven Kingdoms, Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen), who has clearly come to deeply admire Daenerys, prevents an assassination attempt on the khaleesi that was orchestrated by King Robert. An enraged Khal Drogo then vows to cross the Narrow Sea with his khalasar to conquer Westeros for his unborn son.

The saga in King’s Landing continues with Ned confronting a defiant Cersei with his newly acquired knowledge of her children’s true parentage. But when Robert’s brother Renly (Gethin Anthony) returns to the Red Keep to inform Ned that Robert was gored by a wild boar while hunting, things quickly spin out of control. A dying Robert asks Ned to write a letter declaring himself Lord Protector of the Realm until Joffrey — or as Ned writes, Robert’s “rightful heir” — comes of age. Ned then tries to ensure that Robert’s brother Stannis (Stephen Dillane) will be the one to ascend the Iron Throne by sending him a letter detailing his findings about the Lannisters. However, his attempt to do the honorable thing backfires when Littlefinger betrays him to the Lannisters, allowing Joffrey to lay claim to the throne.

Episode winner

Cersei Lannister

Most memorable line

Cersei Lannister to Ned Stark: “When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.”

Most significant scene

Littlefinger betrays Ned when he is summoned to the throne room following Robert’s death and secures Joffrey’s succession.

Game of Thrones: Season 1, Episode 8

Episode name

“The Pointy End”

Episode recap

After receiving a letter from Sansa urging him to pledge fealty to King Joffrey — a scheme that Cersei orchestrated — Robb calls on the Starks’ bannerman to head south to war with the Lannisters. He later reunites with Catelyn in the Neck and sends a captured Lannister scout to tell Tywin that 20,000 Northern troops are marching on the Lannister army — which has been joined by Tyrion, Bronn and a group of hill tribesman.

Jon and Sam return from the weirwood grove north of the Wall where they took their Night’s Watch vows with the bodies of two men who were members of Benjen’s ranging party. That night, Jon saves Lord Commander Mormont’s life by throwing an oil lamp at the reanimated corpse of one of the dead rangers to set it on fire — an incident that alerts the Lord Commander to the growing threat of the White Walkers.

After Khal Drogo’s khalasar raids a Lhazareen village, Daenerys claims several of the women as her own to protect them and angers many of the Dothraki warriors. When one of the riders confronts Drogo about his wife’s defiance, the Khal kills him but is injured in the process. Daenerys calls upon one of the women she saved, a healer named Mirri Maz Duur (Mia Soteriou), to tend to his chest wound despite the Dothraki’s hesitance to trust a “witch.”

After her father is taken prisoner by the Lannisters, Arya avoids capture with the help of Syrio, who sacrifices his life for her. Joffrey names Tywin as the new Hand of the King and dismisses the long-serving Ser Barristan Selmy (Ian McElhinney) as Lord Commander of the Kingsguard in favor of Jaime. Sansa comes forward to beg for her father’s life and Joffrey tells her he will spare Ned if he confesses to treason.

After receiving a letter from Sansa urging him to pledge fealty to King Joffrey — a scheme the Cersei orchestrated — Robb calls on the Starks’ bannerman to head south to war with the Lannisters. He later reunites with Catelyn in the Neck and sends a captured Lannister scout to tell Tywin that 20,000 Northern troops are marching on the Lannister army — which Tyrion, Bronn and a group of hill tribesman have all joined.

Jon and Sam return from the weirwood grove north of the Wall where they took their Night’s Watch vows with the bodies of two men who were members of Benjen’s ranging party. That night, Jon saves Lord Commander Mormont’s life by throwing an oil lamp at the reanimated corpse of one of the dead rangers to set it on fire — an incident that alerts the Lord Commander to the growing threat of the White Walkers.

After Khal Drogo’s khalasar raids a Lhazareen village, Daenerys claims several of the women as her own to protect them and angers many of the Dothraki warriors. When one of the riders confronts Drogo about Dany’s defiance, the Khal kills him but is injured in the process. Daenerys calls upon one of the women she saved, a healer named Mirri Maz Duur (Mia Soteriou), to tend to his chest wound despite the Dothraki’s hesitance to trust a “witch.”

After her father is taken prisoner by the Lannisters, Arya avoids capture with the help of Syrio, who sacrifices his life for her. Joffrey names Tywin as the new Hand of the King and dismisses the long-serving Ser Barristan Selmy (Ian McElhinney) as Lord Commander of the Kingsguard in favor of Jaime. Sansa comes forward to beg for her father’s life and Joffrey tells her he will spare Ned if he confesses to treason.

Episode winner

Robb Stark

Most memorable line

Syrio Forel and Arya Stark: “What do we say to the god of death?” “Not today.”

Most significant scene

Daenerys asks the witch Mirri Maz Duur to heal Khal Drogo after he is wounded in a fight to the death with one of his riders.

Game of Thrones: Season 1, Episode 9

Episode name

“Baelor”

Episode recap

The hour that established each season’s penultimate episode as something that fans both eagerly await and outright dread culminates with Joffrey executing Ned in spite of his false confession of treason. Things don’t go so well for Daenerys either, who goes into labor just as Mirri Maz Duur begins performing a blood magic ritual that she claims will save Khal Drogo’s life but there’s a catch – it must be paid for with the life of another.

But there are some bright spots leading up to the bad. At the Lannister camp, Tyrion connects on a deeper level with a prostitute named Shae (Sibel Kekilli). Tyrion tells her about the complicated relationship he has with his father and she comforts him before he heads into battle. Tywin has ordered him to fight in the vanguard alongside the hill tribesman, an assignment that Tyrion sees as a suicide mission.

With his army stuck at a crossroads (literally), Robb agrees to marry one of Walder Frey’s (David Bradley) daughters in exchange for passage across the river at the Twins. He then successfully outmaneuvers the Lannisters by sending 2,000 of his troops to divert Tywin while he and the other 18,000 capture Jaime at Riverrun.

At the Wall, Lord Commander Mormont gives Jon a Valyrian steel sword, Longclaw, to thank him for saving his life. But Jon finds himself struggling to reconcile his love for his family with his commitment to the Night’s Watch after news of his father’s imprisonment and Robb’s campaign south reaches Castle Black. His predicament prompts Maester Aemon (Peter Vaughan) to reveal that he is actually Aemon Targaryen, an uncle of Aerys “The Mad King” Targaryen (David Rintoul) who remained at the Wall when the Targaryens were slaughtered during Robert’s rebellion.

Ultimately, this episode served as a warning that, in the world of Game of Thrones, no character — no matter how beloved by fans — is safe.

Episode winner

Joffrey Baratheon

Most memorable line

Joffrey Baratheon about Ned Stark: “Ser Ilyn, bring me his head!”

Most significant scene

King Joffrey orders the executioner Ser Ilyn Payne (Wilko Johnson) to chop off Ned’s head despite promising to show mercy if Ned confessed to treason.

Game of Thrones: Season 1, Episode 10

HBO

Episode name

“Fire and Blood”

Episode recap

Ned is dead and word is spreading across the Seven Kingdoms.

After the tragic news reaches the Stark camp, the Northmen decide to back neither Stannis nor Renly Baratheon’s claim to the throne and instead declare Robb the King in the North. Meanwhile, Tywin orders Tyrion to return to King’s Landing to act as Hand of the King and keep Joffrey in check while Tywin himself regroups with what’s left of the Lannister army at Harrenhal. He orders Tyrion to leave Shae behind — a command that Tyrion defies.

Disguised as a boy, Arya joins up with a group of Night’s Watch recruits, including Robert’s illegitimate son Gendry, who are headed north to the Wall, while Sansa remains in King’s Landing as Cersei and Joffrey’s prisoner.

After learning of his father’s death, Jon attempts to desert the Night’s Watch in order to join Robb’s army but Sam, Grenn (Mark Stanley) and Pyp (Josef Altin) convince him to stay. The next day, Lord Commander Mormont asks Jon to ride out with him on a ranging mission beyond the Wall and prove his loyalty to the Watch.

Daenerys wakes from giving birth to learn that her son was both stillborn and horribly disfigured. She asks to be taken to Khal Drogo to see what she paid for with her son’s life and finds her husband in a vegetative state. She later smothers Drogo with a pillow to put him out of his misery and orders Jorah to tie Mirri Maz Duur to the funeral pyre — on which Dany also places her three dragon eggs — as punishment for her betrayal. Daenerys sets the pyre alight and walks fearlessly into the flames. Hours later, Jorah and the remaining Dothraki watch in awe as an unburnt Daenerys rises from the ashes with three newly-hatched dragons.

The Mother of Dragons has officially arrived.

Episode winner

Daenerys Targaryen

Most memorable line

Mirri Maz Duur to Daenerys Targaryen: “When the sun rises in the west, sets in the east. When the seas go dry, when the mountains blow in the wind like leaves.”

Most significant scene

Daenerys emerges unscathed from a massive inferno with her three newborn dragons.

Game of Thrones: Season 2, Episode 1

Episode name

“The North Remembers”

Episode recap

As the fallout from Ned Stark’s death continues to echo throughout the Seven Kingdoms, the War of the Five Kings, the central conflict of season 2, gets underway.

It quickly becomes clear that Joffrey’s penchant for cruelty is only growing when he sentences the bumbling Ser Dontos Hollard (Tony Way) to die during his own name day tournament. Luckily, Sansa, who is slowly learning how to play the game of court life, is able to convince Joffrey to make Dontos his fool rather than kill him. After arriving in King’s Landing, Tyrion interrupts a small council meeting to throw his promotion to Hand of the King in Cersei’s face, but he’s dismayed to learn that Arya has escaped and left the Lannisters with only Sansa to trade for the still-captive Jaime.

At Winterfell, Osha, who has become Bran’s caretaker of sorts, questions him about the strange and prophetic dreams he has been having before telling him that the mysterious red comet streaking across the sky means that dragons have returned. Cue Daenerys’ first scene of the new season, which sees the Mother of Dragons heading east across the Red Waste with the remaining members of her khalasar.

Beyond the Wall, Jon Snow and the rest of Lord Commander Mormont’s ranging party arrive at Craster’s Keep, where Jon bristles at Craster’s (Robert Pugh) rudeness and abusive habit of marrying his daughters. Craster tells the Lord Commander that the King-Beyond-the-Wall Mance Rayder is assembling an army of wildlings.

On the island of Dragonstone, the Red Priestess Melisandre (Carice van Houten) names Stannis the Lord of Light’s chosen one, a prophesied savior in the religion of R’hllor who is the reincarnation of legendary hero Azor Ahai and is destined to lead mankind against a darkness. Stannis sends out a letter to all the high lords of Westeros announcing his claim to the throne and proclaiming Joffrey — as well as Cersei and Jaime’s younger two children, Myrcella (Aimee Richardson) and Tommen (Callum Wharry) — to be the product of incest. After he gets the letter, Robb sends Theon to Pyke in hopes of forming an alliance with Theon’s father, Balon Greyjoy (Patrick Malahide), and Catelyn south in hopes of forming one with Renly.

Meanwhile, following the letter’s arrival in King’s Landing, the City Watch murders all of King Robert’s illegitimate children. When they can’t find Gendry, who is still en route to the Wall as a Night’s Watch recruit, the Gold Cloaks torture master armorer Tobho Mott (Andrew Wilde) to learn his former apprentice’s whereabouts.

It seems that Joffrey is turning out to be exactly the type of king everyone thought he would be.

Episode winner

Melisandre

Most memorable line

Melisandre: “For the night is dark and full of terrors.”

Most significant scene

Melisandre proclaims Stannis to be the Lord of Light’s chosen warrior, a.k.a. The Prince That Was Promised a.k.a. the reincarnation of Azor Ahai.

Game of Thrones: Season 2, Episode 2

Episode name

“The Night Lands”

Episode recap

It’s decision time for Arya.

After two Gold Cloaks show up looking for Gendry amongst the Night’s Watch recruits, Arya learns that her father visited Gendry in the weeks leading up to his death. He inspires enough trust in her that she chooses to divulge a secret of her own, her real identity.

At a small council meeting, Cersei rejects both Robb’s terms for peace and a warning from Lord Commander Mormont that the dead are rising beyond the Wall — a threat that only Tyrion takes seriously. In the wake of the City Watch’s purge of Robert’s illegitimate children, Tyrion exiles City Watch Commander Lord Janos Slynt (Dominic Carter) to the Wall and replaces him with Bronn. Tyrion learns that it was Joffrey who ordered the massacre, not Cersei, a revelation that does nothing to mitigate the bad blood between the Lannister siblings.

Theon returns to the Iron Islands for the first time in years only to find that his father not only has no intention of allying with Robb, but has been grooming his sister Yara as his heir in Theon’s absence — much to Theon’s outrage. Meanwhile, on the island of Dragonstone, Ser Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham), Stannis’ righthand man, convinces the pirate Salladhor Saan (Lucian Msamati) to join forces with them, but remains wary of the hold Melisandre has on Stannis. Melisandre proceeds to seduce Stannis by promising him a son.

While Daenerys’ desperation in the Red Waste grows, Jon struggles to keep his cool at Craster’s Keep. His unease only increases after one of Craster’s pregnant wives, Gilly (Hannah Murray), enlists Sam to ask Jon to take her with them out of fear for her unborn child. Jon follows Craster into the woods that night and watches in horror as he leaves a newborn son as an offering to the White Walkers.

Episode winner

Yara Greyjoy

Most memorable line

Cersei Lannister to Tyrion Lannister about Joanna Lannister: “Mother gone, for the sake of you. There’s no bigger joke in the world than that.”

Most significant scene

After he returns to the Iron Islands to zero fanfare, Theon learns that his father intends to take the North for himself rather than join forces with the Starks.

Game of Thrones: Season 2, Episode 3

Episode name

“What Is Dead May Never Die”

Episode recap

After taking a vicious beating from Craster for spying on him in the woods, Jon must come to terms with the fact that Lord Commodore Mormont has known about Craster sacrificing his sons all along.

Catelyn arrives at Renly’s camp in the Stormlands, where she meets Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie), a powerful female warrior who Renly has just named to his Kingsguard, as well as Renly’s new wife, Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer). We learn that although Renly is married to Margaery, he has taken her brother, Loras Tyrell (Finn Jones), as a lover. But, ever the pragmatist, Margaery is aware of their relationship and is only interested in getting pregnant in order to strengthen the Baratheon-Tyrell alliance.

In order to test the loyalty of the small council, Tyrion sneakily provides each of its members — Littlefinger, Varys (Conleth Hill) and Grand Maester Pycelle (Julian Glover) — with different information about his plan to marry Myrcella off. He learns that Pycelle is reporting to Cersei and has him thrown in the Red Keep’s dungeon. Tyrion tells Cersei, much to her anguish, that he still intends to go through with sending Myrcella to Dorne to join House Martell. Meanwhile, Shae begins serving as a handmaiden to Sansa.

Theon must decide whether his loyalties lie with his blood, the Greyjoys, or the family who raised him, the Starks. He ultimately sides with his father and doesn’t warn Robb about Balon’s plan to take the North, a choice that sets him on the path to ruin.

When Arya reveals to Yoren (Francis Magee) that she hasn’t been able to sleep since her father’s death, he tells her a story about revenge that inspires her infamous kill list. The group of Night’s Watch recruits is ambushed by a group of Gold Cloaks and Lannister bannerman on the hunt for Gendry. The attack results in the deaths of both Yoren and a boy named Lommy (Eros Vlahos), who Arya cunningly convinces the soldiers was actually Gendry.

Episode winner

Tyrion Lannister

Most memorable line

Varys to Tyrion Lannister: “Power resides where men believe it resides. It’s a trick. A shadow on the wall. And a very small man can cast a very large shadow.”

Most significant scene

Arya saves a prisoner named Jaqen H’ghar (Tom Wlaschiha) from being burned alive during the Lannisters’ attack on the Night’s Watch recruits.

Game of Thrones: Season 2, Episode 4

HBO

Episode name

“Garden of Bones”

Episode recap

As the War of the Five Kings heats up, Robb wins a decisive victory against the Lannisters at the Battle of Oxcross. Unfortunately, his success prompts Joffrey make an example of Sansa by having her publicly beaten and stripped in the Red Keep throne room. Tyrion shows up to save Sansa and decides to try to find a way to temper Joffrey’s sadistic tendencies — an endeavor that goes horribly wrong. Tyrion later learns that his cousin, Lancel Lannister (Eugene Simon), is not only working for Cersei, but also sleeping with her. Tyrion agrees to free Pycelle per Cersei’s request, but blackmails Lancel into reporting back to him on Cersei by threatening to tell Joffrey about their illicit activities.

In a last-ditch attempt to save her people from dying in the desert, Daenerys leads her khalasar to the coastal trading city of Qarth. The city’s leaders, a group known as the Thirteen, try to turn her away when she won’t show them her dragons, but one of their own, a merchant prince named Xaro Xhoan Daxos (Nonso Anozie), decides to vouch for her.

Arya, Gendry and the rest of the surviving Night’s Watch recruits are taken to Harrenhal, where a group of Lannister soldiers commanded by the Mountain are torturing prisoners. Luckily, Tywin’s arrival prevents them from killing Gendry. Tywin recognizes that Arya is a girl and recruits her as his new cupbearer. As Arya lays freezing and soaking wet in a cell, she recites her kill list — Joffrey, Cersei, Ilyn Payne, the Hound, Polliver (Andy Kellegher), the Mountain — for the first time.

Acting on Tyrion’s request, Littlefinger arrives in the Stormlands to negotiate with Catelyn — who he has been in love since they were kids — for Jaime’s release. He tells her that the Lannisters will free both Sansa and Arya (who he knows they do not have) in exchange for Jaime.

Stannis meets with Renly to offer his younger brother the chance to relinquish his claim to the throne and join forces with him in exchange for a spot on Stannis’ small council. Renly refuses. That night, Stannis orders Davos to row Melisandre to a secluded cave near Renly’s camp. Melisandre gives birth to a horrifying shadow creature that quickly flies away.

Looks like the Lord of Light may actually hold some sway in Westeros.

Episode winner

Daenerys Targaryen

Most memorable line

Roose Bolton (Michael McElhatton) to Robb Stark: “A naked man has few secrets. A flayed man none.”

Most significant scene

Melisandre gives birth to the shadow creature that she conceived with Stannis.

Game of Thrones: Season 2, Episode 5

Daenerys Tagaryen in Season 2 of Game of Thrones
Paul Schiraldi—HBO

Episode name

“The Ghost of Harrenhal”

Episode recap

One of the five kings vying for the Iron Throne is killed off as Stannis forsakes his family for power and season 2 begins to kick into overdrive.

“The Ghost of Harrenhal” opens with Melisandre’s shadow monster — which now appears to have Stannis’ face — materializing in Renly’s tent and stabbing him through the heart as Catelyn and Brienne watch on in horror. Knowing that Brienne will be blamed for the assassination, Catelyn quickly spirits her away. Brienne swears an oath of fealty to Catelyn as the two head north to Robb’s camp.

Acting on Littlefinger’s advice, Margaery, Loras and the rest of the Tyrells retreat to Highgarden before Renly’s remaining Baratheon troops join forces with Stannis and turn on them.

In King’s Landing, Tyrion is determined to find a way to protect the city from Stannis’ imminent attack. He learns from his newly recruited spy Lancel that Cersei has ordered the Alchemists’ Guild to build up a supply of the highly flammable substance Wildfire and by exercising his power as Hand of the King, he successfully convinces head pyromancer Hallyne (Roy Dotrice) to begin obeying him rather than Cersei. Meanwhile, at Davos’ urging, Stannis agrees to leave Melisandre behind when his forces sail on Blackwater Bay.

After Bran dreams of the sea — a.k.a. the ironborn — coming to Winterfell, Theon continues to betray the Starks by orchestrating a raid on the Northern town of Torrhen’s Square that successfully draws out Winterfell’s remaining forces.

As Tywin’s new cupbearer, Arya is able to listen in on a war council he holds to plot against her brother Robb. She manages to hold her own when Tywin grills her on her background. Later, Arya reunites with Jaqen H’ghar, who is now posing as a Lannister guard. He offers to kill three people for her as repayment for saving the lives of him and his two fellow prisoners and she orders a hit on the head Harrenhal torturer, a man called the Tickler (Anthony Morris).

Beyond the Wall, Lord Commander Mormont and his ranging party rendezvous with experienced ranger Qhorin Halfhand (Simon Armstrong), who takes Jon ahead on a mission to take out Mance Rayder’s wildling lookouts.

On the other side of the world in Qarth, Xaro Xhoan Daxos plies Daenerys with promises of the money for ships and an army in exchange for making him her husband. Jorah is quick to object to Xaro’s proposal, insisting that Dany should not expect to win the Seven Kingdoms with foreign soldiers.

Jorah’s true feelings for Daenerys are beginning to surface.

Episode winner

Stannis Baratheon

Most memorable line

Littlefinger and Margaery Tyrell: “Do you want to be a queen?” “No. I want to be the queen.”

Most significant scene

Tyrion discovers that Cersei has been stockpiling Wildfire in the tunnels beneath King’s Landing.

Game of Thrones: Season 2, Episode 6

HBO

Episode name

“The Old Gods and the New”

Episode recap

Another one of Bran’s premonitions comes to pass as Theon and the ironborn sack Winterfell.

Despite claiming that no harm would come to his people if Bran — the acting Lord of Winterfell in Robb’s absence — yielded the castle, Theon begins his reign by sloppily chopping off the head of the Starks’ beloved master-at-arms Ser Rodrik Cassel (Ron Donachie). Later that night, Osha feigns loyalty to Theon by sleeping with him before showing her true colors by smuggling Bran and Rickon (Art Parkinson), their direwolves Summer and Shaggydog, and their gentle giant protector Hodor (Kristian Nairn) out of Winterfell.

Catelyn returns to Robb’s camp to find him bonding with a healer named Talisa (Oona Chaplin) and cautions him against forgetting that he is promised to one of Walder Frey’s daughters. They are interrupted by Roose Bolton, who informs them of Theon’s betrayal and offers to have his bastard son, Ramsay Snow (Iwan Rheon), rally a force to retake Winterfell.

With Tywin already suspicious about her identity, Arya is desperate to hide her face when Littlefinger arrives at Harrenhal to propose a potential Lannister-Tyrell alliance. But that doesn’t stop her from snatching the opportunity to steal a letter about Robb off of Tywin’s table. Unfortunately, when she stops to read the message, Amory Lorch (Fintan McKeown), a knight in the Lannisters’ service, catches her. Guess who quickly becomes the next target that Arya orders Jaqen to take out.

Beyond the Wall, Jon and his fellow Night’s Watch scouts catch a female wildling named Ygritte (Rose Leslie). Qhorin orders Jon to execute Ygritte as the rest of the party continues on, but Jon cannot bring himself to kill her. Jon manages to recapture Ygritte after she takes advantage of his hesitation and runs off, but finds himself hopelessly separated from his brothers in the process — a mistake that changes the trajectory of his life.

Speaking of mistakes, Joffrey’s overreaction to having a cow pie thrown at him while the royal court is returning from seeing Myrcella off to Dorne incites the starving peasants of King’s Landing to start a violent riot. Sansa gets lost in the crowd and is assaulted by a group of men who try to rape her. Luckily, the Hound shows up just in time to rescue her and massacre her attackers. Back at the Red Keep, Tyrion slaps Joffrey for his asinine behavior, further aggravating their already tense relationship.

After Daenerys fails in her attempt to bargain for a fleet of ships with the Spice King (Nicholas Blane) of Qarth, she returns to Xaro Xhoan Daxos’ mansion to find that her guards and handmaidens have been murdered and her dragons stolen in a dramatic — but not entirely unexpected — twist.

The episode ends on an ominous note, with a hooded figure carrying Dany’s caged dragons toward a mysterious tower.

Episode winner

Osha

Most memorable line

Ser Rodrik Cassel to Theon Greyjoy: “Gods help you, Theon Greyjoy. Now you are truly lost.”

Most significant scene

Jon gets lost in the wilderness beyond the Wall with a female wilding named Ygritte.

Game of Thrones: Season 2, Episode 7

Episode name

“A Man Without Honor”

Episode recap

Turns out that people weren’t exaggerating about Tywin’s reputation for ruthlessness.

After the Mountain suggests that the outlaw group known as the Brotherhood Without Banners may have been responsible for Amory Lorch’s assassination — which Tywin thinks was actually an attempt on his own life — Tywin decides to retaliate by dispatching Ser Gregor on a violent raid of the villages surrounding Harrenhal.

When Sansa wakes to find that she has started her first period, she and Shae frantically try to conceal the evidence — with Shae even going so far as to pull a knife on one of her fellow handmaidens — so that Cersei won’t learn that Sansa is now capable of bearing children with Joffrey. Cersei, of course, finds out anyway and in an out-of-character display of vulnerability, advises Sansa to love no one but her own children, a matter in which “a mother has no choice.”

Ygritte, on the other hand, wastes no time gaining the upper hand on Jon. After taunting him about his lack of sexual experience and loyalty to the Night’s Watch, she manages to lure him into a trap set by her fellow Wildlings.

At a meeting of the Thirteen in Qarth, Daenerys also finds herself in the thick of it when the warlock Pyat Pree (Ian Hanmore) admits that he has stolen her dragons and taken them to the House of the Undying — a.k.a. the headquarters of the Warlocks of Qarth. He proceeds to declare Xaro Xhoan Daxos the King of Qarth and, using magic to create 11 duplicates of himself, slits the throats of the other members of the council.

Jaime’s evil side once again rears its ugly head when he kills his own cousin in order to escape the Starks’ clutches, only to be recaptured shortly afterward. Lord Rickard Karstark (John Stahl), one of Robb’s most powerful allies, demands to be allowed to execute Jaime as retribution for the death of his son Torrhen (Tyrone McElhennon), who Jaime killed on his way out of the camp. But Catelyn refuses Lord Karstark his vengeance.

Not to be outdone by any other character’s cruelty, Theon’s descent into power-hungry madness — and fear of appearing weak — leads to his worst act yet: putting what appears to be the burned-beyond-recognition corpses of Bran and Rickon on display at Winterfell.

Episode winner

Ygritte

Most memorable line

Ygritte to Jon Snow: “You know nothing, Jon Snow.”

Most significant scene

With the Karstarks clamoring for Jaime’s death, Catelyn — with Brienne in tow — orders the men guarding him away and confronts Jaime in his makeshift cell.

Game of Thrones: Season 2, Episode 8

Episode name

“The Prince of Winterfell”

Episode recap

With Stannis’ fleet bearing down on King’s Landing, the Lannisters scramble to formulate a battle plan.

Desperate to find a way to keep Joffrey out of danger, Cersei orders the Kingsguard to kidnap Ros (Esmé Bianco) — who she believes is the prostitute Tyrion is in love with — in order to blackmail him into keeping Joffrey off the frontlines. Tyrion is secretly relieved that Cersei has not discovered Shae’s identity, but swears vengeance against his sister anyway.

Tywin must decide whether to ride for King’s Landing or move against Robb. He departs Harrenhal, leaving the Mountain in charge, and Arya realizes that it’s time for her to get out of dodge. She tricks Jaqen by naming him as her third target and only relenting when he agrees to help her, Gendry and Hot Pie (Ben Hawkey) escape. At the stroke of midnight, the trio strolls out of the castle unimpeded by the Lannister guards, who Jaqen has taken out.

Meanwhile, Catelyn still believes Arya is captive in King’s Landing and decides to take action to rescue both her and Sansa. She secretly frees Jaime and enlists her newly sworn sword Brienne to take him south to trade to the Lannisters in exchange for her two daughters. Unfortunately, Robb is none too pleased when he learns of his mother’s betrayal and orders her put under guard. That night, he and Talisa reveal their feelings for each other and sleep together for the first time.

We reconvene with Sam, Grenn and Dolorous Edd (Ben Crompton) at an ancient fort beyond the Wall known as the Fist of the First Men. They happen upon a hidden supply of dragonglass daggers, a weapon that will prove to play a pivotal part in the fight against the White Walkers.

Deeper in wildling territory, Ygritte presents Jon to the Lord of Bones (Edward Dogliani) as a gift. Unfortunately, the infamous wildling raider has already captured Qhorin Halfhand, who he sees as a more valuable prisoner, and has no interest in bringing Jon before Mance Rayder. Ygritte speaks up on behalf on Jon and convinces the Lord of Bones to spare his life. As the group heads to Mance’s camp, Qhorin puts a plan in motion to station Jon as a spy amongst the wildlings.

Following Pyat Pree and Xaro Xhoan Daxos’ coup, Daenerys is running out of options. With her dragons still captive, Dany ignores Jorah’s pleas to flee with him to the slave city of Astapor and orders him to take her to the House of the Undying.

Yara arrives at Winterfell, but not, as Theon expects, to provide reinforcements. Instead, she urges him to relinquish Winterfell and return to the Iron Islands with her before the North’s remaining forces converge on the castle. We learn that the boys who Theon killed and burned were actually two peasant boys, not Bran and Rickon. Osha kept the Stark boys safe by doubling back and hiding them in the crypts of Winterfell.

Brace yourselves, the Battle of the Blackwater is coming.

Episode winner

Arya Stark

Most memorable line

Tyrion Lannister to Cersei Lannister: “I will hurt you for this. A day will come when you think you’re safe and happy, and your joy will turn to ashes in your mouth, and you’ll know the debt is paid.”

Most significant scene

Sam, Grenn and Dolorous Edd discover a secret reserve of dragonglass at the Fist of the First Men.

Game of Thrones: Season 2, Episode 9

HBO

Episode name

“Blackwater”

Episode recap

In its first capsule episode — a.k.a. an installment that focuses on just one location and a select few characters — Game of Thrones demonstrates an unrivaled ability to bring the horrors of medieval-style warfare to life onscreen as the highly-anticipated clash between the Lannisters and Stanis Baratheon comes to a head.

With Joffrey being…well, Joffrey, it falls on Tyrion to lead the defense of King’s Landing and save the city’s people from Stannis’ attempted invasion. As Stannis’ fleet — led by Davos — sails into Blackwater Bay, Tyrion sends a single ship out to meet it. By the time Davos realizes that the ship is not only unmanned, but dumping wildfire into the water as it drifts, it’s too late. Tyrion gives a signal and Bronn fires a flaming arrow that ignites a massive explosion, decimating Stannis’ forces. Davos watches as the blast incinerates his son, Matthos (Kerr Logan), before being blown away himself.

Undeterred, Stannis commands the remainder of his fleet to shore to begin an assault on the city’s weakest point of defense, the Mud Gate. Tyrion orders the Hound to lead a “welcome party” that includes Lancel to meet the Baratheon troops head on. Lancel quickly retreats inside after getting injured and even the Hound balks when a Baratheon soldier engulfed in flames charges at him. Fueled by his lifelong fear of fire, the Hound proceeds to oh-so-eloquently informs Tyrion and Joffrey that he has no intention of continuing to fight, or ever serving them again for that matter.

Throughout the assault, Cersei, Sansa and the rest of the highborn women and children have been holed up in the Red Keep awaiting their fate. Cersei gets drunk and torments Sansa by describing what Stannis’ soldiers will do to her if the city’s defenses fail. Lancel arrives to update Cersei on the battle and she sends him back out to retrieve Joffrey from the battlements, a proposal that Joffrey eagerly accepts.

With Stannis’ forces gaining ground and the Lannister men losing confidence, Tyrion rallies the troops and leads a successful counterattack on the Baratheon forces battering the Mud Gate. Moments later, Ser Mandon Moore (James Doran) of the Kingsguard turns on Tyrion and slashes him across the face with his sword. But before Ser Mandon can finish the job, Tyrion’s squire, Podrick Payne (Daniel Portman), runs him through with a spear.

Shae orders Sansa back to her room for safety, where she find the Hound waiting for her. He offers to take her north to Winterfell, but she refuses.

Believing that the battle is lost, Cersei sits on the Iron Throne with Tommen and prepares to give him a fatal dose of Essence of Nightshade so that he won’t suffer when King’s Landing falls. As she raises the bottle to his mouth, Tywin bursts into the throne room and declares that the Lannisters — along with the Tyrells, with whom Tywin formed an alliance — have won.

Episode winner

Tywin Lannister

Most memorable line

The Hound to Tyrion Lannister: “F—k the Kingsguard. F—k the city. F—k the king.”

Most significant scene

Tyrion successfully orchestrates a surprise attack on Stannis’ fleet using the city’s secret supply of wildfire.

Game of Thrones: Season 2, Episode 10

HBO

Episode name

“Valar Morghulis”

Episode recap

The Battle of the Blackwater may be over, but there are still some loose ends to tie up in King’s Landing before season 2 is through.

A bandaged Tyrion wakes to find that — despite being the reason the city is still standing — he is no longer the acting Hand of the King. To add insult to injury, he has also been relocated to a small, dumpy room in the Red Keep. Shae pleads with him to pack up and flee to the free city of Pentos with her, but Tyrion explains that he still feels a strange draw to his life in Westeros and refuses. The two reaffirm their love for one another.

With Tyrion out of the way, Joffrey officially proclaims Tywin the Hand of the King. Joffrey then proceeds to grant Harrenhal to Littlefinger to thank him for cultivating the Lannister-Tyrell alliance and ask Loras if there’s any way he can repay him for House Tyrell’s service. Loras requests that Jofffrey break off his engagement with Sansa in favor of marrying Margaery, and Joffrey obliges. Sansa is secretly delighted. That is, until Littlefinger reminds her that she will still be at Joffrey’s mercy. Littlefinger tells her that he will help get her home for Catelyn’s sake.

Meanwhile, Varys decides to nip his apprehension over Littlefinger’s growing power in the bud by recruiting Ros, who works as a prostitute in Littlefinger’s brothel, into his own service as a spy.

In the wake of his defeat, Stannis has returned to Dragonstone to lick his wounds and contemplate his next move. He erupts at Melisandre for leading him astray — even going so far as to choke her — before she is able to convince him that he is still on the Lord of Light’s path. She warns him that he will have to betray his men, his family and everything he holds dear in order to fulfill his fate as the Lord’s chosen one.

But while Melisandre did not foresee Stannis’ defeat, Yara did correctly predict Theon’s downfall. With Winterfell under siege by Ramsay Bolton’s army of 500 Northmen, Maester Luwin (Donald Sumpter) beseeches Theon to flee to the Wall and join the Night’s Watch so that he can start over with all his crimes forgiven. But Theon believes he is already in too deep and refuses to yield. He attempts to rally the 20 ironborn to go out in a blaze of glory, but his men turn on him and prepare to hand him over to the Boltons. When Maester Luwin attempts to intervene, an ironborn runs him through with a spear.

Soon after, Bran, Rickon, Osha, Hodor and the direwolves sneak out of the Winterfell crypts and happen upon a dying Maester Luwin in the Godswood. He urges Osha to take the boys north to Jon at the Wall and asks her to end his suffering.

Arya is also on the move as she, Gendry and Hot Pie hurry to put as much distance as possible between themselves and Harrenhal. They reunite with Jaqen H’ghar and he offers to take Arya to the free city of Braavos and train her in the ways of the Faceless Men. She’s tempted by his proposal but is unwilling to forsake her family in Westeros. He gives her an iron coin and tells her to present it to any man from Braavos and say the words “Valar Morghulis” if she ever changes her mind. Then, for his final trick, Jaqen swaps his own face for that of a different man entirely.

As for the eldest Stark sibling, Robb makes the unwise decision to forego his promise to marry one of Walder Frey’s daughters and instead weds Talisa in a private ceremony. Uh-oh.

On the road to King’s Landing, Brienne proves to Jaime that she’s no pushover when they stumble upon a trio of rogue Stark soldiers who recognize the Kingslayer and she easily takes out all three.

Once inside the House of the Undying, Daenerys experiences a series of mysterious visions. She sees a snowy Iron Throne in the remains of the Red Keep’s ruined throne room before turning at the sound of her dragons’ cries and ending up on the far side of the Wall. Dany enters a tent, where she finds Khal Drogo holding a living, breathing version of their stillborn son, Rhaego. She is tempted to stay with her family, but ultimately walks away and is reunited with her dragons, who are chained to a pedestal back in the House of the Undying. Pyat Pree appears and chains Daenerys up as well, but her dragons respond to her command to breathe fire for the first time and set Pyat Pree aflame.

Back at Xaro Xhoan Daxos’ mansion, Daenerys locks both Xaro and her handmaiden Doreah (Roxanne McKee) inside Xaro’s empty vault as punishment for betraying her and plunders the remnants of Xaro’s treasures to pay for a ship.

As the trek to Mance Rayder’s camp continues, Qhorin Halfand initiates a fight with Jon that ends with Qhorin sacrificing himself in order to convince the wildlings that Jon has come over to their side.

But the most foreboding scene of the episode — and even perhaps, the season — doesn’t come until its final minutes. While on duty at the Fist of the First Men, Sam, Grenn and Edd hear three horn blasts, the Night’s Watch signal for approaching White Walkers. A terrified Sam hides behind a boulder and watches in horror as a White Walker leading an army of wights bears down on the encampment of Night’s Watch brothers.

The Walkers are officially making moves.

Episode winner

Daenerys Targaryen

Most memorable line

Qhorin Halfhand to Jon Snow: “We are the watchers on the Wall.”

Most significant scene

Daenerys experiences a series of cryptic — and seemingly prophetic — visions in the House of the Undying.

Game of Thrones: Season 3, Episode 1

Episode name

“Valar Dohaeris”

Episode recap

Game of Thrones season 3 wastes no time jumping right back into the action with a demonstration of just how formidable the White Walkers and their army of dead are.

After the majority of his men are massacred during the White Walkers’ assault on the Fist of the First Men, Lord Commander Mormont rounds up the few remaining Night’s Watch survivors, including Sam, and turns tail for the Wall to warn the people of Westeros of the threat.

In the heart of the wildling camp, Ygritte and the Lord of Bones bring Jon to Mance Rayder’s tent. Jon initially mistakes Tormund Giantsbane (Kristofer Hivju) for Mance and kneels before him, making the wildlings to break into laughter. Mance eventually reveals himself and, having once been a brother in the Night’s Watch himself, questions Jon about his loyalties. Jon is able to convince him that he turned his back on the Night’s Watch because he wants “to fight for the side that fights for the living.”

Time to head south to check back in on the good (and bad) people of King’s Landing.

Tyrion meets with Tywin for the first time since Tywin returned to the capital in a blaze of glory. Tywin informs him, in no uncertain terms, that he will never be heir to the ancestral Lannister seat of Casterly Rock — despite the fact that Jaime cannot inherit land or titles as a member of the Kingsguard. Tywin refuses to give Tyrion any credit for the defense of King’s Landing, warns him again about his relationship with Shae and lambastes him as “an ill-made, spiteful little creature full of envy, lust and low cunning.”

During a royal procession through Flea Bottom, Margaery gets out of her litter in order to spend some time with the impoverished children of King’s Landing. By establishing herself as a queen of the people, Margaery quickly puts herself at odds with Cersei, who only knows how to rule with an iron fist.

Littlefinger comes to call on Sansa with Ros in tow. While he tells Sansa of his plan to stow her away on a ship leaving King’s Landing, Ros warns Shae to watch out for Sansa when it comes to Littlefinger.

Surprise! Davos is alive. After being rescued by Salladhor Saan from the rock in Blackwater Bay that he ended up on after being blown off his ship by the wildfire explosion, Davos returns to Dragonstone to find that Stannis has fallen even deeper under Melisandre’s influence. Stannis throws Davos in the dungeon after he speaks out against Melisandre and tries to pull a knife on her.

With his men losing heart, Robb orchestrates an assault on Harrenhal only to find that the Lannisters have deserted the castle and left hundreds of slaughtered Northern prisoners in their wake. Robb and Talisa discover only one survivor, a maester named Qyburn (Anton Lesser).

Across the Narrow Sea, Daenerys has used the ship she purchased with Xaro Xhoan Daxos’ riches to make her way to the city of Astapor in Slaver’s Bay. She begins negotiations to purchase an army of elite eunuch slave soldiers known as the Unsullied with their owner, Kraznys mo Nakloz (Dan Hildebrand), who speaks to Dany via his translator Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel).

While discussing her options with Jorah on the way back to the ship, Daenerys spots a young girl who hands her a wooden ball as a gift. A hooded figure suddenly rushes up and knocks the ball to the ground, where it opens to reveal a poisonous manticore. The man stabs the manticore and chases off the child, who is actually an assassin sent by the Warlocks of Qarth, before revealing himself as Ser Barristan Selmy — the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard who was dismissed by the Lannisters back in season 1. Ser Barristan kneels and swears fealty to Daenerys before requesting permission to join her Queensguard.

And just like that, Dany has gained her most prominent Westerosi supporter yet.

Episode winner

Jon Snow

Most memorable line

Lord Commander Mormont to the men of the Night’s Watch: “We need to get back to the wall. It’s a long march, and we know what’s out there. But we have to make it, have to warn them. Or, before winter’s done, everyone you’ve ever known will be dead.”

Most significant scene

Jon Snow convinces King-Beyond-the-Wall Mance Rayder to allow him to join his army of wildlings.

Game of Thrones: Season 3, Episode 2

Episode name

“Dark Wings, Dark Words”

Episode recap

Is the King-Beyond-the-Wall on to something? It’s time for Jon to find out.

As the wildlings continue their march on the Wall, Mance Rayder makes no secret of the fact that he still doesn’t fully trust Jon. However, he does reveal how he managed to band all the different factions of Free Folk together: by convincing them that they will all die if they don’t manage to get south of the Wall. Jon also meets his first warg, someone who is able to control an animal’s actions by taking over its mind.

Speaking of wargs, Bran is still dreaming about that mysterious three-eyed raven. After a boy appears to him in one such dream and tells Bran that he himself is the raven, Bran and co. discover that same boy, Jojen Reed (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), and his sister, Meera Reed (Ellie Kendrick), have been following them north. Jojen explains to Bran that he is not only a warg, but also — like Jojen himself — has the Sight, the ability to perceive past, present and future events through prophetic dreams and visions.

Unfortunately, his older sister Sansa doesn’t seem to have as much foresight. When Shae warns Sansa to be wary of Littlefinger and suggests that he is interested in her sexually, Sansa is quick to brush her off. She then attends a meeting with Margaery and her grandmother, Olenna Tyrell (Diana Rigg), where, with little to no prodding, she confirms that the rumors that Joffrey is a horribly cruel “monster” are undeniably true.

Acting on Sansa’s tip, Margaery further endears herself to Joffrey by feigning an interest in killing.

At Harrenhal, Robb receives two ravens. One informs him that his grandfather, Hoster Tully, has died at Riverrun. And the other, a letter from Ramsay Bolton, deals the double blow of Winterfell’s destruction and Bran and Rickon’s disappearance. Robb leaves Roose Bolton in charge of Harrenhal so he can travel to Riverrun for his grandfather’s funeral, a decision that further provokes Rickard Karstark. Rickard bashes Robb for forsaking any possible marriage alliances by marrying Talisa.

After learning that her two youngest sons may be dead, a grieving Catelyn confides in Talisa that she believes that the root of all her family’s misfortune comes down to her inability to love Jon and raise him as one of her own.

Theon wakes after being knocked out by the ironborn to find himself in an unknown location being tortured by unknown men. After a gruesome questioning session, a boy who says he was sent by Yara promises to help him escape.

In the Riverlands, Arya, Gendry and Hot Pie are spotted by a Brotherhood Without Banners scouting party led by the Red Priest Thoros of Myr (Paul Kaye). The men take them to an inn to feed them and are about to let them continue on their way when a few other Brotherhood members bring in a captive Hound. Arya attempts to stay out of sight, but the Hound quickly identifies her as a Stark, much to the surprise of the group.

Meanwhile, Brienne and Jaime continue to verbally spar as they make their way towards King’s Landing. When they are forced to cross a bridge, Jaime swipes Brienne’s spare sword and the verbal sparring turns physical. Brienne manages to get the best of Jaime but not before a unit of patrolling Bolton soldiers shows up to take them prisoner.

Episode winner

Margaery Tyrell

Most memorable line

Catelyn Stark to Talisa about Jon Snow: “I couldn’t keep my promise. And everything that’s happened since then, all this horror that’s come to my family, it’s all because I couldn’t love a motherless child.”

Most significant scene

Jojen appears to Bran in a prophetic dream and tells Bran that he is the three-eyed raven.

Game of Thrones: Season 3, Episode 3

HBO

Episode name

“Walk of Punishment”

Episode recap

Thanks to its gruesome final scene, “Walk of Punishment” is an episode that will forever live in Game of Thrones infamy. But before we get to that, let’s go over everything that leads up to the shocking conclusion.

After attending his grandfather’s funeral at Riverrun, Robb meets with his great-uncle, Brynden “The Blackfish” Tully (Clive Russell), and uncle, Edmure Tully (Tobias Menzies), to talk strategy. Robb berates Edmure for failing to follow orders to lure Tywin and Ser Gregor Clegane’s armies west in order to leave King’s Landing vulnerable to Stannis’ attack, thus ruining any chance the Starks’ had at gaining the upper hand in the war. Edmure points out that he took Tywin’s youngest nephews, Willem (Timothy Gibbons) and Martyn Lannister (Dean-Charles Chapman), hostage during the Battle of Stone Mill, but Robb doesn’t want to hear it.

Stannis is also still struggling in the wake of his defeat at Blackwater Bay. After Melisandre informs him that he is too weak to create another shadow creature, she leaves Dragonstone in search of another source of king’s blood to power her magic.

Meanwhile, Tywin is working to strengthen the Lannisters’ position even further. At the first Small Council meeting he holds as Hand of the King, Tywin reveals his plan to have Littlefinger marry Lysa Arryn in order to ensure the Vale won’t ally with the Starks. He then announces that Tyrion will take over as Master of Coin in Littlefinger’s absence. But with Tyrion’s financial inexperience and the crown’s massive debt to the Iron Bank of Braavos, this promotion is clearly only intended to set Tyrion up for failure.

In Astapor, Daenerys is getting a firsthand look at the horrors of slavery. During a second meeting with Kraznys mo Nakloz, the owner of the Unsullied repeatedly insults her in High Valyrian — with Missandei softening the translation of his words — as they negotiate over the price of his army. Despite Jorah and Barristan Selmy’s objections, Daenerys eventually offers to trade him her biggest dragon in exchange for all 8,000 Unsullied soldiers as well as Missandei.

As Daenerys struggles with the culture of Slaver’s Bay, Jon is learning to navigate life among the Free Folk. At the Fist of the First Men, the wildlings find the Night’s Watch’s horses butchered and arranged in a strange spiral, but the bodies of the Night’s Watch brothers are nowhere in sight. Mance Rayder explains to Jon that his brothers have been turned into wights. He then orders Tormund to take 20 men, including Jon, to climb the Wall and prepare to ambush Castle Black from the south while the rest of the wildling army attacks from the north.

But what about Sam and the rest of the Night’s Watch survivors? With Lord Commander Mormont leading them, the remaining brothers manage to make it back to Craster’s Keep, where Craster continues to mock and harass them. Sam wanders outside and witnesses Gilly giving birth to the baby she was pregnant with when the ranging party stopped at the keep on their way north. To both Gilly and Sam’s horror, the baby is a boy, meaning Craster will soon offer him up as a sacrifice to the White Walkers.

With the help of the young man who promised him aid in the previous episode, Theon is able to escape from the dungeon where he was being tortured. Unfortunately, his captors quickly catch up with him. As the torturers prepare to rape Theon, the young man intercedes once again and kills them.

At the Inn at the Crossroads, the Brotherhood Without Banners decides to take Arya and Gendry with them as they transport the Hound to their hideout. However, they make a deal with the innkeeper to leave Hot Pie behind to work as a baker.

Elsewhere in the Riverlands, Locke (Noah Taylor) and his unit of Bolton soldiers are transporting the captive Brienne and Jaime to Harrenhal. When they stop to make camp for the night, some of the men drag Brienne into the woods to rape her. Jaime is able to save her by convincing Locke that Brienne’s father, Lord Selwyn of Tarth, will pay them a hefty ransom for her, but only if she remains unharmed. However, he then pushes his luck by promising Locke that Tywin will also handsomely reward him if Jaime is safely returned to King’s Landing. Unimpressed by his repeated attempts at persuasion, Locke responds by chopping off Jaime’s right hand.

Episode winner

Missandei

Most memorable line

Daenerys Targaryen to Missandei: “All men must die. But we are not men.”

Most significant scene

Locke chops off Jaime’s sword hand to teach him a lesson.

Game of Thrones: Season 3, Episode 4

HBO

Episode name

“And Now His Watch Is Ended”

Episode recap

Dubbed “one of the big ones” by showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, “And Now His Watch Is Ended” marks a major turning point for Daenerys.

In the wake of Locke’s violent amputation of Jaime’s sword hand, the Bolton soldiers continue to torment the Kingslayer by tying his severed limb around his neck and denying him water. That night, Jaime refuses to eat and admits that he wants to die, but Brienne manages to snap him out of his “woe is me” attitude by accusing him of being a coward.

In King’s Landing, Tyrion asks Varys for proof that it was Cersei who tried to have him killed during the Battle of the Blackwater. Varys has no proof, only rumors, but uses the opportunity to teach Tyrion that the best revenge takes time and patience. After telling Tyrion the story of how he was castrated, Varys reveals that he has finally tracked down the sorcerer who cut him when he was just a young boy. “I have no doubt the revenge you want will be yours in time, if you have the stomach for it,” he concludes menacingly.

And Varys isn’t done yet. After learning from his newly acquired spy Ros that Littlefinger is planning to spirit Sansa away from King’s Landing, Varys conspires with Olenna Tyrell to quell Littlefinger’s attempts to control Sansa, who is poised to become the heir to the North. Shortly afterward, Margaery takes a stroll with Sansa and plants the idea in her mind that she would be best served by marrying Loras and living at Highgarden, the seat of House Tyrell.

Meanwhile, Cersei, who has grown wary of the Tyrells’ influence at court, tries to alert Tywin that Margaery has dug her claws into Joffrey and learned how to manipulate him. But Tywin turns her words back on her.

Upon arriving at the Brotherhood Without Banners’ hideout, Arya and Gendry are introduced to the Brotherhood’s leader, Beric Dondarrion (Richard Dormer). The Brotherhood formally charges the Hound with the murder of Arya’s friend Mycah — despite the Hound’s protests that he was only obeying Joffrey’s orders — and Beric challenges him to a trial by combat to decide his guilt or innocence.

In the North, the young man who rescued Theon from his captors tell him that he is taking him to Deepwood Motte, the stronghold of House Glover where Yara is supposedly waiting. Theon confides in him that he knows he made the wrong choice when he picked the Greyjoys over the Starks and that the boys he killed while holding Winterfell were not Bran and Rickon. Unfortunately for Theon, the young man has only been toying with him and eventually leads him back to the same dungeon where he was originally being held. New guards tie him back up while the young man watches on with glee.

Even further north, the tension between Craster and the Night’s Watch finally reaches a breaking point when a brother named Karl (Burn Gorman) stabs Craster in the throat, killing him. When Lord Commander Mormont steps in to intervene, another rogue brother, Rast (Luke Barnes), stabs him in the back. All hell breaks loose as Sam flees the keep with Gilly and her newborn baby.

And last but certainly not least, there’s Daenerys. After Dany relinquishes her biggest dragon, Drogon, to Kraznys mo Nakloz, he hands over a whip that gives her total control of the 8,000 Unsullied soldiers. In a glorious display of cunning, Dany then orders the Unsullied — in Valyrian, which she has understood the whole time — to kill all of the slave masters and strike the chains off of every slave they see. As for Kraznys, Daenerys makes sure to point out that “a dragon is not a slave” before commanding Drogon to barbecue him.

When the battle is over, Daenerys gives the Unsullied the choice of leaving or staying to fight for her as free men. Each and every soldier stays and the army marches triumphantly away from Astapor.

Daenerys’ seasons-long crusade against slavery has officially begun.

Episode winner

Daenerys Targaryen

Most memorable line

Brienne of Tarth to Jaime Lannister: “You have a taste, one taste of the real world — where people have important things taken from them — and you whine and cry and quit. You sound like a bloody woman.”

Most significant scene

After gaining control of the 8,000 Unsullied, Daenerys commands her new army to take out Astapor’s slave masters, effectively winning their loyalty.

Game of Thrones: Season 3, Episode 5

Helen Sloane/HBO

Episode name

“Kissed by Fire”

Episode recap

We’re halfway through season 3 and its time for Jaime to deliver one of the most memorable monologues in Game of Thrones history.

When Locke and his men finally deliver their hostages to Harrenhal, Roose Bolton is displeased to learn that Locke has butchered Jaime, a valuable political prisoner. He orders Qyburn, a former maester who was kicked out of the Citadel’s order for performing “experiments” to finally give Jaime the medical care he so desperately needs. Later, Jaime joins Brienne in the bathhouse and tells her his side of the story behind his nickname, Kingslayer. He claims that when Robert Baratheon marched on King’s Landing during Robert’s Rebellion, Tywin and the Lannister army arrived at the capital first and promised to defend the city if they were allowed inside. However, Jaime knew his father was bluffing and, as Kingsguard to Aerys “The Mad King” Targaryen, advised his king to surrender the city while he still could. The Mad King didn’t listen and the Lannisters sacked the city. Jaime once again pleaded with the Mad King to surrender, but living up to his nickname, he instead ordered his pyromancer to ignite the caches of wildfire he had hidden under King’s Landing and burn the city down with everyone inside it. Desperate to prevent the impending massacre, Jaime killed the pyromancer and then stabbed the Mad King in the back as he tried to run. As soon as Ned Stark entered the throne room, Jaime knew that he had already judged him guilty. Jaime then faints and Brienne catches him in her arms.

At the hideout of the Brotherhood Without Banners, the Hound’s trial by combat concludes in his favor when he manages to cut deep into Beric’s shoulder, killing him. However, when Thoros kneels over Beric’s dead body and prays to the Lord of Light to resurrect him, Beric comes back to life — much to the surprise of the Hound, Arya and Gendry. Having proved his innocence in the eyes of the Brotherhood, the Hound is released from custody and led away from the hideout. Later, Gendry tells Arya that he has decided to stay with the Brotherhood and work as a smith despite Arya’s tearful promise that he would be part of her family if he came with her to Robb’s camp.

During a discussion with Beric and Thoros, Arya learns that the Lord of Light has enabled Thoros to resurrect Beric on six different occasions. However, Beric reveals that every time he comes back, he’s a “bit less.”

At Riverrun, Rickard Karstark decides to exact his revenge on Jaime by killing his kin, the captive Willem and Martyn Lannister. Robb is livid when he finds out that Rickard has murdered the two defenseless young boys and, despite Catelyn, Talisa and Edmure’s warnings that the Karstarks will abandon his cause if he executes Rickard, Robb does just that. Later, when nearly half of Robb’s army has left Riverrun, Robb and Talisa discuss how to move forward. They ultimately come to the conclusion that Robb will have to make nice with the Freys in order to recruit enough soldiers to have a chance at sacking the Lannister stronghold of Casterly rock.

With Melisandre still off on her search for king’s blood, Stannis decides to pay a visit to his wife Selyse (Tara Fitzgerald), a fanatical believer in the Lord of Light, and his young daughter Shireen (Kerry Ingram), whose face is badly scarred from a disease known as Greyscale. Shireen asks Stannis if Davos came back from the Battle of the Blackwater and Stannis tells her that he is being held in the dungeon for treason. Later, Shireen sneaks past the dungeon’s guard to visit Davos, who she has been close with for most of her life. She offers to continue visiting and promises to teach him how to read when she does.

Beyond the Wall, Tormund and Orell (Mackenzie Crook) grill Jon about the Night’s Watch’s numbers and Wall patrols. Jon lies and tells them that 1,000 men currently guard Castle Black when really it’s closer to 300. Ygritte then leads Jon away to a cave and they sleep together for the first time.

On the road from Astapor to the slave city of Yunkai, Jorah covertly tries to determine if Barristan knows that he was spying on Daenerys for Robert Baratheon when he was first in her service. Luckily for Jorah, Barristan didn’t serve on Robert’s Small Council. Meanwhile, Daenerys asks the Unsullied to select one of their own as their leader. A soldier named Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) steps forward.

After the Lannisters, with the help of Littlefinger, find out about the Tyrells’ plot to wed Sansa to Loras, Tywin meets with Tyrion and Cersei to tell them about his plan to marry them off to Sansa and Loras, respectively. Both siblings are distraught by their father’s orders, but Tywin — knowing that their marriages will strengthen the Lannisters’ control over the North and the Reach — refuses to relent.

It seems no one, not even his own children, are capable of out-scheming Tywin.

Episode winner

Tywin Lannister

Most memorable line

Rickard Karstark to Robb Stark: “Kill me and be cursed! You are no king of mine!”

Most significant scene

Jaime tells Brienne the truth about the night he murdered the Mad King.

Game of Thrones: Season 3, Episode 6

Episode name

“The Climb”

Episode recap

As the key players of King’s Landing continue to fight for footholds on the realm’s metaphorical ladder of power, Littlefinger once again comes out on top — and isn’t afraid to let Varys know it.

Although Olenna initially refuses Tywin’s proposal to marry Loras to Cersei, he is able to outmaneuver the Tyrell matriarch by threatening to name Loras to the Kingsguard, thereby nullifying his right to inherit Highgarden.

While spying on Sansa and Loras discussing their wedding in the gardens, Tyrion finally accuses Cersei of trying to have him killed during the Battle of the Blackwater. However, her silence leads him to the conclusion that it was actually Joffrey who gave the order. Tyrion is then forced to break the marriage news to Sansa in front of Shae, much to the dismay of everyone involved.

And now, for Littlefinger’s final act before leaving for the Vale. When Varys enters the Red Keep’s throne room to find Littlefinger contemplating the Iron Throne, Littlefinger tells him that he knows about Ros double-crossing him. It’s then revealed that Littlefinger gave Ros to Joffrey to torture and kill as punishment for spying on him. As Littlefinger’s ship sails away from King’s Landing, Sansa is shown crying, knowing that she made the wrong decision by staying behind.

When Melisandre shows up at at the Brotherhood Without Banners’ hideout to purchase Gendry — a.k.a. a source of king’s blood — she immediately makes an enemy of Arya. Melisandre looks into Arya’s eyes and seems to experience an ominous vision that some believe foreshadows Melisandre dying at Arya’s hands. “I see a darkness in you,” Melisandre tells her. “And in that darkness, eyes starring back at me. Brown eyes, blue eyes, green eyes. Eyes you’ll shut forever. We will meet again.”

At Riverrun, Robb meets with Walder Frey’s sons, Black Walder Rivers (Tim Plester) and Lothar Frey (Tom Brooke), to discuss a possible alliance. Robb agrees to formally apologize to Walder Frey, gift Harrenhal to him and marry Edmure off to his daughter Roslin (Alexandra Dowling).
At Harrenhal, Roose Bolton tells Jaime that he will send him to King’s Landing if Jaime agrees to tell his father that Roose had nothing to do with his hand. However, Roose says that Brienne must stay behind as his prisoner.

In the North, Theon’s mysterious captor continues to torture him while forcing Theon to try to guess his identity.

As Bran and co. continue their trek to the Wall, Jojen has a seizure that Meera says was brought on by one of his visions. When he wakes, he tells Bran that he saw Jon surrounded by enemies.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Wall, Ygritte tells Jon that she knows he is still loyal to the Night’s Watch, but says they should just be loyal to each other instead. They begin their climb and Jon saves both their lives before they reach the top of the Wall and kiss.

Episode winner

Littlefinger

Most memorable line

Littlefinger to Varys: “Chaos isn’t a pit. Chaos is a ladder.”

Most significant scene

Robb agrees to marry his Uncle Edmure off to Walder Frey’s daughter to make amends for breaking his own marriage promise.

Game of Thrones: Season 3, Episode 7

Episode name

“The Bear and the Maiden Fair”

Episode recap

Joffrey may be king, but it’s time for him to learn that he’s not actually the most powerful man in the realm.

When Joffrey summons Tywin to the throne room to question him about what the Small Council has been up to, Tywin not so subtly makes it clear that he’s the one running the show. Tywin also affirms that he doesn’t see Daenerys as a threat and isn’t planning on doing anything about her.

Daenerys, meanwhile, is focused on freeing the slaves of Yunkai. After sending a messenger to tells Yunkai’s ruling elite that she plans to sack the city if its 200,00 slaves aren’t freed, a slave-master named Razdal mo Eraz (George Georgiou) pays her a visit to attempt to negotiate.

He tells her that the masters are prepared to provide her with as much gold and as many ships as she needs to get her army to Westeros, but she refuses his offer.

Back in King’s Landing, Tyrion confides his betrothal woes to Bronn only to have his fears confirmed when Shae tells him that she will no longer sleep with him once he’s married to Sansa.

As they sail past the wreckage of the Battle of the Blackwater, Melisandre reveals to Gendry that he is the son of King Robert Baratheon. Gendry seems somewhat enamored with Melisandre, but Arya is still enraged that the Brotherhood sold him out for gold. She sneaks out of their hideout and tries to escape into the night, but is intercepted by the Hound, who kidnaps her.

On the road to the Twins, Robb’s army is delayed by a rainstorm, a setback that Catelyn insists Walder Frey will see as a personal slight. That night, Talisa tells Robb she is pregnant.

Jon, Ygritte and the rest of Tormund’s band of wildlings have successfully made it to the southern side of the Wall, but tensions are rising. Orell makes it clear to Ygritte that he doesn’t trust Jon and thinks she should be with him instead. Ygritte rebuffs him but then refuses to listen when Jon tries to convince her that Mance Rayder’s invasion plan is futile. Ygritte reaffirms her feelings for Jon by declaring that she is his and he is hers.

A bit further south, it’s not so smooth sailing for Osha either. After Jojen explains that he and Meera plan to take Bran beyond the Wall to find the Three-Eyed Raven, Osha grows increasingly distressed and reveals that her husband was turned into a wight by the White Walkers and that she refuses to step foot beyond the Wall ever again.

In his dungeon cell, Theon is awakened by two women who begin seducing him. However, it doesn’t take long for his torturer to enter the room and reveal that the women were simply part of a ploy leading up to Theon’s castration.

Before leaving Harrenhal, Jaime promises Brienne that he will repay her for everything she did for him by keeping his promise to return Catelyn’s daughters to her once he reaches King’s Landing. However, on the road, Jaime learns from Qyburn that although Brienne’s father offered a ransom for her, Locke refused it because of Jaime’s lie about Lord Selwyn Tarth’s riches. He races back to Harrenhal to find that Locke and his men are forcing Brienne to fight a bear with just a wooden sword for protection. Jaime rescues her from a near-certain death and triumphantly departs the castle with Brienne at his side.

Jaime’s willingness to put himself on the line for Brienne is the first step on his road to redemption.

Episode winner

Jaime Lannister

Most memorable line

Jaime Lannister to Locke: “Sorry about the sapphires”

Most significant scene

Jaime proves that he has truly come to care about Brienne when, at his own peril, he returns to Harrenhal to rescue her from Locke.

Game of Thrones:: Season 3, Episode 8

HBO

Episode name

“Second Sons”

Episode recap

Turns out the White Walkers aren’t invincible.

When Sam and Gilly stop at an abandoned hut to rest for the night on their way back to the Wall, they see two crows land on a nearby heart tree before going inside. Later that night, as they discuss baby names and their fathers, they suddenly hear a whole murder of crows cawing outside. They go to investigate and see the same White Walker that spared Sam at the Fist of the First Men approaching. Sam tries to fend it off with his sword, but the sword shatters as soon as the White Walker touches it. The Walker then bears down on Gilly, clearly intent on taking her baby, but Sam runs up behind it and stabs it in the back with a dagger made of dragonglass. The Walker shrieks, falls to the ground and disintegrates as Sam and Gilly flee.

Outside the slaver-city of Yunkai, Daenerys decides to meet with the leaders of a mercenary company known as the Second Sons, which Yunkai’s masters have hired to protect the city. When the group’s three leaders, an infamously dangerous Braavosi man named Mero (Mark Killeen), his co-captain Prendahl na Ghezn (Ramon Tikaram) and his lieutenant Daario Naharis (Ed Skrein), come to her tent, she tries to bribe them to fight for her instead. They refuse and later plot to assassinate her. Unfortunately for Mero and Prendahl, Daario has taken a liking to Dany and decides to kill them instead. That night, he swears allegiance to Daenerys and commits the Second Sons soldiers to her cause.

Davos, on the other hand, is still not ready to pledge any sort of fealty to Melisandre. After Mel returns to Dragonstone with Gendry, Stannis questions why she is treating him so kindly when they are just planning on sacrificing him to the Lord of the Light. Stannis then pays a visit to the dungeons to ask Davos for his opinion on her plan to sacrifice Gendry. Davos counters that Stannis knows it would be wrong to kill Gendry, who is technically his nephew, and only came to see Davos because he knew that’s what he would say. Stannis agrees to free Davos as long as he promises never to go after Melisandre again. Meanwhile, Mel has been busy seducing Gendry, tying him to a bed and placing leeches on his stomach. When Stannis and Davos enter the room, she hands Stannis the leeches and he throws them into the fire while speaking the names of the three usurpers to his throne: Robb Stark, Balon Greyjoy and Joffrey Baratheon.

Speaking of captors and their prisoners, Arya decides to have a go at killing the sleeping Hound, but ultimately backs off once he reveals he is actually awake. The Hound then tells her that he’s not taking her back to King’s Landing like she thought, but to the Twins so he can ransom her to Robb and Catelyn at her Uncle Edmure’s wedding.

Wedding bells are also ringing in King’s Landing, where Joffrey makes it his sole purpose to torture both Tyrion and Sansa on their big day. Once the vows are said, Tyrion quickly begins drowning his sorrows in wine, which leads to an extremely tense confrontation with his nephew that Tywin is forced to diffuse. After the bride and groom retire to their chambers, Tyrion tells Sansa that he won’t share her bed until she actually wants him to and the two go to sleep on separate sides of the room. Shae enters the room the next morning and smiles when it becomes clear that the marriage was not consummated.

If you thought this wedding was memorable, just wait until the next episode.

Episode winner

Samwell Tarly

Most memorable line

Cersei Lannister to Margaery Tyrell: “If you ever call me sister again, I’ll have you strangled in your sleep.”

Most significant scene

Sam discovers that White Walkers can be killed with dragonglass.

Game of Thrones: Season 3, Episode 9

HBO

Episode name

“The Rains of Castamere”

Episode recap

In one of the most heartbreaking Game of Thrones episodes to date, Robb’s decision to wed Talisa rather than fulfill his promise to marry one of Walder Frey’s daughters comes back to haunt him in a big way. But first, let’s check in with everyone else.

With her army stationed outside the walls of Yunkai, Daenerys still has to figure out a way to infiltrate the city. After Daario suggests that he and two of Daenerys’ best men sneak in through a back gate, kill the guards and open the main gate for the rest of her soldiers, Jorah and Grey Worm agree to join him on the mission. The trio is at first outnumbered, but ultimately succeeds in sacking Yunkai, giving Daenerys control of yet another slaver-city.

Just south of the Wall, Bran and co. take shelter in an abandoned mill when a thunderstorm descends on the Gift. Nearby, the wildlings decide to kill an elderly horse breeder and steal his horses despite Jon’s protests. Jon hits a rock with his sword to warn the old man of their approach and he flees on horseback. Unfortunately, the wildlings catch up with him just outside the mill. As the storm gets more intense, a frightened Hodor begins shouting and Bran wargs into Hodor’s mind for the first time to quiet him. Outside, Orell insists that Jon should be the one to kill the old man but Jon cannot bring himself to do it. Ygritte is forced to fire an arrow at the old man instead and Tormund orders the wildlings to kill Jon while holding Ygritte back from defending him. Bran wargs into the mind of his direwolf, Summer, and he and Rickon’s direwolf, Shaggydog, attack the wildlings to help Jon. Jon kills Orell and then flees on horseback, leaving Ygritte behind.

When the storm has passed, Bran asks Osha to take Rickon to the Umber stronghold of Last Hearth to keep him safe while he, Hodor, Jojen and Meera go north of the Wall. After an emotional goodbye, Osha, Rickon and Shaggydog set off into the night.

Meanwhile, Sam and Gilly are trying to figure out how to get south of the Wall. Sam tells her that he plans on getting them to the other side by using a secret entrance that leads into the Nightfort, one of the Night’s Watch’s abandoned castles.

Brace yourselves. It’s time to dive into one what will undoubtedly be one of the most painful trials of your Game of Thrones viewing experience: the Red Wedding.

After arriving at the Twins, Robb fulfills his promise to publicly apologize to Walder Frey, but not without Walder getting in some lecherous jabs about Talisa. However, when all is said and done, Walder welcomes the Starks into his home as his guests. At the altar, Edmure is pleasantly surprised to discover that his bride-to-be, Roslin, is much more stereotypically attractive than the rest of the Freys and the wedding ceremony goes off without a hitch. It’s then time for the celebratory feast, near the end of which Arya and the Hound arrive at the castle in disguise.

After Edmure and Roslin are ushered out of the banquet hall for the bedding ceremony, Catelyn grows wary when she sees Black Walder shutting the doors and the band begins playing “The Rains of Castamere,” a song about the Lannisters crushing a house that rebelled against them. Everyone sits as Walder Frey rises to make a toast to Robb, but Catelyn is focused on Roose Bolton, who holds his arm out to her to reveal that he is wearing chain mail under his clothes. Catelyn jumps up, slaps Roose and screams out Robb’s name, but it’s too late. Before Robb can wrap his mind around what’s happening, Lothar Frey rushes forward and repeatedly stabs Talisa in her pregnant belly as the Frey men stationed around the room begin slaughtering the Starks. Both Catelyn and Robb are hit with arrows and fall to the floor.

Outside, Arya has given the Hound the slip and is waiting to sneak into the banquet hall when she realizes something is amiss. She hears Robb’s direwolf, Grey Wind, howling and watches in horror as Frey soldiers surround his pen and execute him. The Hound then finds her, knocks her out and carries her away from the massacre.

Back inside, Walder motions for his men to stop the attack as Robb crawls across the floor to a dead Talisa. An injured Catelyn spots Walder Frey’s young wife hiding under a table, yanks her out and holds a knife to her throat. Catelyn threatens to kill Walder’s wife if he doesn’t let Robb go, but the heartless Walder simply responds, “I’ll find another.”

Roose Bolton then strides up to Robb and stabs him in the heart to finish the job. As her last act, Catelyn slits Walder’s wife’s throat before Black Walder does the same to her.

You’ve officially survived the Red Wedding, but we bet you don’t feel too good about it.

Episode winner

Walder Frey

Most memorable line

Roose Bolton to Robb Stark: “The Lannisters send their regards.”

Most significant scene

Having made a deal with the Lannisters, Walder Frey violates the sacred Westerosi tradition of guest right and massacres the Starks after welcoming them into his home.

Game of Thrones: Season 3, Episode 10

Episode name

“Mhysa”

Episode recap

The immediate fallout from the Red Wedding reverberates across the Seven Kingdoms as season 3 comes to a close.

As the Freys continue to massacre the Stark army camped outside the Twins, the Hound flees the scene with an unconscious Arya. Unfortunately, she wakes up at exactly the wrong moment and sees a decapitated Robb being paraded through the castle gates with the head of his direwolf sewn to his body in place of his own.

Later, the Hound and Arya happen upon a group of Frey men and overhear one of them claiming that he was the one who attached Grey Wind’s head to Robb’s body. Arya surprises the Hound by dismounting, wandering over to the man and brutally and repeatedly stabbing him. The Hound quickly kills the others before they can react and tells her to give him a head’s up the next time she decides to pull a stunt like that.

The morning after the Red Wedding, Walder Frey and Roose Bolton celebrate their promotions to Lord of Riverrun and Warden of the North, respectively. Roose smartly expresses concern over the Blackfish — who inadvertently escaped the massacre by leaving the banquet hall to pee — but Walder brushes him off. Walder then asks him about the sack of Winterfell and Roose reveals that it was his bastard, Ramsay Snow (Iwan Rheon), who actually destroyed the castle, not the ironborn. So that’s who has been torturing Theon this whole time.

Speaking of Theon and his tormentor, at the Dreadfort, Ramsay refuses to kill Theon despite Theon’s pleas for death. Instead, he gives Theon a new nickname, Reek. Ramsay has made the Greyjoys aware of Theon’s current situation by sending a box containing his severed penis to Pyke. His letter also reveals that he flayed and killed all 20 of the ironborn men who held Winterfell — despite the fact that they met his terms by surrendering Theon — and plans to do the same with any ironborn who are left in the North. Balon is unmoved and tells Yara that they should forget about Theon since he can no longer bear children to continue the Greyjoy line, but Yara resolves to sail for the Dreadfort and rescue her brother from Ramsay’s clutches.

In King’s Landing, just as Sansa and Tyrion begin to feel a bit at ease with each other, Tyrion is called to a Small Council meeting where he learns of the deaths of Sansa’s mother and brother. Joffrey is overjoyed at the news and threatens to serve Robb’s severed head to Sansa at his wedding feast, an idea that enrages Tyrion and appalls everyone else in the room. The growing tension between Joffrey and Tywin then comes to a head when Tywin gives Joffrey a verbal spanking and Joffrey accuses him of being a coward during Robert’s Rebellion. However, Tywin remains calm and simply sends Joffrey to bed to diffuse the situation.

Tywin then sits Tyrion down and orders him to consummate his marriage with Sansa in order to produce a son who can become Warden of the North. Tywin also cruelly reveals that he wanted to kill Tyrion on the day he was born by throwing him into the sea, but chose not to because Tyrion is a Lannister. As showrunner David Benioff puts it in the post-episode breakdown, “Tyrion certainly always knew that his father was disgusted by him in some ways, but I don’t think he ever realized quite how far it went. It’s one thing to have a distant relationship with your father, it’s another to know that your father wanted you dead from your very first day on this earth.”

When Tyrion returns to his chambers, he finds a despondent Sansa crying over the news of the Red Wedding.

Later, Varys seeks out Shae and tries to bribe her into leaving King’s Landing in order to eliminate Tyrion’s greatest weakness, his love for her. Shae tells him that she’ll only leave if Tyrion asks her himself.

After a long and arduous journey, Jaime, Brienne and Qyburn arrive in the capital. Jaime immediately seeks out Cersei, who is shocked at his appearance.

At the Nightfort, Bran and Gilly happen upon Bran, Jojen, Meera and Hodor. After seeing Summer, Sam realizes that Bran is Jon’s brother and reluctantly agrees to show them the passage that leads beyond the Wall. He also gives them the rest of the dragonglass weapons that the Night’s Watch found at the Fist of the First Men and tells them about the White Walkers.

After arriving at Castle Black, Sam and Gilly immediately tell Master Aemon about what they’ve seen beyond the Wall. He orders all of the Night’s Watch ravens to be sent out across the Seven Kingdoms with letters warning of the White Walkers’ return. Gilly reveals that she has decided to name her baby Sam.

When Jon stops to wash out his wounds en route to Castle Black, he looks up to see that Ygritte has tracked him down and has her bow drawn on him. Jon tells her that he loves her but that she’s always known he was loyal to the Night’s Watch. Ygritte is visibly distraught and fires three arrows into him as he rides away. Despite his injuries, Jon is still able to make it back to Castle Black, much to the delight of Sam and Pyp.

At Dragonstone, Davos decides to set Gendry free before Melisandre can sacrifice him to the Lord of Light and helps him escape in a rowboat. Stannis sentences Davos to die for his treason, but Davos has a plan. Thanks to Shireen, Davos is able to read Maester Aemon’s letter and convinces Stannis that when he goes north to fight the true war against the White Walkers, he will need Davos’ help. Surprisingly, Melisandre agrees and Davos is spared.

Outside of Yunkai, Daenerys prepares to greet the slaves she has freed. After exiting the city’s gates, the crowd begins to chant “mhysa,” the Ghiscari word for “mother,” and lifts Daenerys into the air.

Despite all of its horrors, season 3 ends on a triumphant note.

Episode winner

Daenerys Targaryen

Most memorable line

Tywin Lannister to Joffrey Baratheon: “Any man who must say, ‘I am the king,’ is no true king.”

Most significant scene

Bran tells Jojen, Meera and Hodor the story of the Rat Cook, a legend in which a cook in the Night’s Watch killed the son of a visiting king, cooked him into a pie and served him to the king. As punishment for murdering a guest beneath his roof, the gods cursed the cook and turned him into a rat who could only eat his own young.

Game of Thrones: Season 4, Episode 1

HBO

Episode name

“Two Swords”

Episode recap

Although three of the kings battling for the throne in the War of the Five Kings are still alive, the Lannisters have pretty much got the Seven Kingdoms on lock. For now, that is.

In King’s Landing, Tywin puts the icing on the Red Wedding cake by melting down the Stark family’s ancestral Valyrian steel sword, Ice, and reforging it into two new swords. He gives one of the new swords to Jaime in hopes that Jaime will finally return to Casterly Rock and rule in Tywin’s stead, but Jaime refuses and reiterates that he intends to remain in the Kingsguard.

After learning that Prince Oberyn Martell (Pedro Pascal) of Dorne has arrived in the capital in place of his older brother, Prince Doran Martell (Alexander Siddig), who was invited to Joffrey and Margaery’s royal wedding, Tyrion heads to Littlefinger’s brothel to rendez-vous with Oberyn and his lover, Ellaria Sand (Indira Varma). Oberyn wastes no time telling Tyrion that he has come to King’s Landing to avenge the deaths of his sister, Elia Martell, and her children, Rhaenys and Aegon Targaryen, who were brutalized and murdered by the Mountain during the sack of King’s Landing at the end of Robert’s Rebellion. Oberyn believes that it was Tywin who ordered the Mountain to kill them.

In the gardens, Tyrion attempts to convince an openly grieving Sansa to eat, but she tells him that all she can think about is the gruesome details of her mother and brother’s deaths. She then abruptly excuses herself to go to the godswood, which, according to her, is the only place she can go where people won’t talk to her. However, this time, Ser Dontos Hollard — the knight that Sansa prevented Joffrey from killing back in the season 2 premiere — shows up to give her a necklace that he says belonged to his mother as a token of his gratitude.

When Tyrion returns to his chambers, Shae is waiting to seduce him, but he rebuffs her. Shae accuses him of being in love with Sansa and of sending Varys to try to bribe her to leave, but he denies both claims. Shae then storms out of the room. Unfortunately, one of Cersei’s handmaidens was hiding around the corner and overheard their conversation.

Elsewhere in the castle, Cersei watches as Qyburn fits Jaime with a golden prosthetic hand. When Qyburn leaves, Jaime tries to kiss Cersei but she pulls away and tells him that he took too long to come back and that things have changed. Before Jaime can get a straight answer out of her, their conversation, the eavesdropping handmaiden interrupts them.

But Jaime’s bad day is just getting started. Later, Joffrey mocks him for his lack of accomplishments as a member of the Kingsguard and questions his ability to continue to serve with only one hand. He then meets with Brienne, who chastises him for failing to deliver on his promise to help Sansa. Jaime argues that Catelyn’s death and Sansa’s marriage to Tyrion have complicated matters.

Brienne also calls on Margaery to tell her the truth about Renly’s death.

At Castle Black, Jon is summoned to testify before a panel of sworn brothers that includes Maester Aemon, acting Lord Commander Alliser Thorne (Owen Teale), First Builder Othell Yarwyck (Brian Fortune), and the exiled former Lord Commander of the City Watch, Janos Slynt. Jon admits to killing Qhorin Halfhand, at his own behest, and breaking his vows by sleeping with Ygritte, but also offers up valuable information about Mance Rayder’s plan to attack the Wall. Thorne and Slynt both argue in favor of Jon’s execution, but thanks to Maester Aemon, he is allowed to live.

Meanwhile, Ygritte and Tormund are still awaiting orders from Mance Rayder when a group of Thenns, a wildling clan that engages in cannibalism, shows up to join them.

On the road to the third and final slaver-city of Meereen, Daenerys begins to realize that her three dragons are getting too big for her to control. However, she quickly becomes preoccupied with other matters when she discovers that Meereen’s masters have crucified a slave child to mark each and every one of the 163 miles that remain between her army and the city. Daenerys is horrified but resolves to look upon the face of every child that was killed.

In the Riverlands, Arya’s bloodlust only intensifies when she spots Polliver — the Lannister soldier who killed her friend Lommy, stole her sword Needle, and took her to Harrenhal — outside of a tavern. Polliver doesn’t recognize Arya, but does invite the Hound to join them as they rape and pillage their way back to King’s Landing. When the Hound responds with his new go-to line of, “F—k the king,” it doesn’t take long for a fight to break out. The Hound savagely takes out most of the other soldiers, but leaves Polliver for Arya, who kills him with Needle in the exact same way that he killed Lommy.

And just like that, Arya has crossed the first name off of her kill list.

Episode winner

Arya Stark

Most memorable line

The Hound to Polliver: “I understand that if any more words come pouring out of your c—t mouth, I’m gonna have to eat every f—king chicken in this room.”

Most significant scene

Ser Dontos Hollard finds Sansa in the Red Keep’s godswood and gives her a necklace that he claims belonged to his mother.

Game of Thrones: Season 4, Episode 2

HBO

Episode name

“The Lion and the Rose”

Episode recap

Another wedding, another horrific death scene. The shocking ending of “The Lion and the Rose” sets up the Lannister family breakdown that plays out over the rest of season 4.

In the woods surrounding the Dreadfort, Ramsay forces Theon, who he now exclusively refers to as Reek, to accompany him and his lover, Myranda (Charlotte Hope), on a hunt with his dogs. However, much to Theon’s horror, the prey is not an animal, but rather a servant girl that Ramsay and Myranda have grown tired of playing with.

Later, Roose Bolton arrives at the Dreadfort with his new wife Walda (Elizabeth Webster), a granddaughter of Walder Frey, and Locke. At first, Roose is infuriated that Ramsay has both physically and psychologically tortured Theon, who Roose sees as a valuable hostage. But when Ramsay proves that he has completely broken Theon by revealing to him that Robb was murdered at the Red Wedding while allowing Theon to shave him with a sharp razor, Roose seems to come around to Ramsay’s methods. Ramsay also coaxes Theon into telling Roose that Bran and Rickon are still alive and that Jon may know where they are, prompting Roose to send Locke to Castle Black to suss out the boys’ location and kill them. Roose then orders Ramsay to take Theon and an army and reclaim Moat Cailin, an ironborn-controlled fortress on the border between the North and the Riverlands. He tells Ramsay that he will consider legitimizing him as a Bolton if he is successful.

Meanwhile, Bran is struggling with the increasingly blurred lines between his own mind and that of his direwolf, Summer, as he continues to test out his warging abilities. Jojen and Meera caution him that if he spends too long in Summer’s mind, he will get lost and not be able to find his way back to himself. When the group happens upon a weirwood tree, Bran places his hand on its trunk and experiences a series of rapid-fire visions — including glimpses of the three-eyed raven, his father, a snowy Iron Throne in the remains of the Red Keep’s ruined throne room, the fall that paralyzed him, the shadow of a dragon flying over King’s Landing, and a giant weirwood tree — and hears a male voice say, “Look for me, beneath the tree. North.”

When Bran comes out of his trance, he tells the rest of the group that he knows where they have to go.

At Dragonstone, Davos looks away but remains silent as Melisandre burns three people — including Selyse’s own brother — to death as sacrifices to the Lord of Light. At a dinner following the ceremony, Stannis and Selyse argue over their daughter, Shireen, and Stannis prohibits Selyse from beating her. Selyse suggests that Melisandre should talk to Shireen instead and Melisandre agrees. When Melisandre goes to Shireen’s room that night, Shireen makes it clear that she doesn’t approve of Melisandre’s human sacrifices while Melisandre continues to wax poetic about the Lord of Light.

In King’s Landing, Jaime confides in Tyrion that his missing sword hand has made him feel useless as Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, so Tyrion recruits Bronn to begin secretly training Jaime to fight with his left.

On the day of Joffrey and Margaery’s wedding, Varys warns Tyrion that Cersei has learned Shae’s identity and that he can no longer do anything to protect her. Fearing his sister and father’s wrath, Tyrion resorts to convincing a distraught Shae that he could never love a whore in order to ensure that she boards a ship that is bound for the free city of Pentos.

At a breakfast leading up to the wedding, Tywin gifts Joffrey with the second Valyrian steel sword that he forged from Ice. Unable to resist an opportunity to torment his uncle, Joffrey promptly uses it to slash apart the rare book that Tyrion presented to him moments before. Joffrey dubs the sword “Widow’s Wail.”

After the wedding ceremony, all of King’s Landing’s main players — including Tywin, Cersei, Jaime, Tyrion, Sansa, Oberyn, Ellaria, Olenna, Loras, Margaery and Joffrey — head outside to the gardens for a feast, where they trade barbs with each other throughout the day. But it’s Joffrey, of course, who takes things too far by putting on a crude and offensive reenactment of the War of the Five Kings that stars five dwarves. The tension between Joffrey and Tyrion continues to build when Joffrey orders Tyrion to be his cupbearer and to kneel before him, a command that Tyrion refuses. However, the wedding pie is brought out just in time to diffuse the situation. That is, until Joffrey takes another sip of wine to wash down his food and begins horrifically choking.

As Joffrey lies on the ground dying, Ser Dontos Hollard appears out of nowhere and tells Sansa to come with him if she wants to live. Thankfully, Sansa doesn’t hesitate and flees the scene unnoticed. Cersei is hysterical as her son gasps his last breaths and becomes even more so when he raises a hand to point to Tyrion, who is examining Joffrey’s wine glass. She orders the Kingsguard to seize Tyrion for poisoning Joffrey and the Purple Wedding comes to a close.

Finally, a Game of Thrones death that’s a crowd-pleaser.

Episode winner

Ramsay Snow

Most memorable line

Oberyn Martell to Tywin and Cersei Lannister: “People everywhere have their differences. In some places, the highborn frown upon those of low birth. In other places, the rape and murder of women and children is considered distasteful. What a fortunate thing for you, former Queen Regent, that your daughter Myrcella has been sent to live in a latter sort of place.”

Most significant scene

Cersei accuses Tyrion of murdering Joffrey after he is poisoned at his wedding to Margaery Tyrell.

Game of Thrones: Season 4, Episode 3

Helen Sloane / HBO

Episode name

“Breaker of Chains”

Episode recap

In the immediate aftermath of Joffrey’s death, the new power dynamics of King’s Landing begin to shake out.

As chaos reigns in the moments after Sansa flees the Purple Wedding, Ser Dontos ferries her to a ship in Blackwater Bay where Littlefinger is waiting. After welcoming Sansa onboard, Littlefinger immediately orders his men to kill Dontos to ensure his silence. Sansa is horrified, but Littlefinger explains that Dontos only helped her for money and that he would just as soon turn on her if someone else offered him more. He then reveals that the necklace that supposedly belonged to Dontos’ mother, which Sansa was wearing at the wedding, was actually only made a few weeks prior.

In the Great Sept of Baelor, a grieving Cersei keeps vigil over Joffrey’s dead body alongside her younger son and the future king, Tommen (now played by Dean-Charles Chapman). Tywin wastes no time trying to assert his influence over Tommen by giving him a lesson in kingly qualities. As Tywin escorts Tommen from the room, Jaime enters. Cersei and Jaime argue over Tyrion’s guilt and eventually begin kissing, but Cersei pulls away. Despite Cersei’s protests that their son’s funeral is not the right place for them to rekindle their romance, Jaime continues to force himself on her in a scene that has become the subject of much controversy. The episode aired at a time when conversation around the meaning of consent was becoming increasingly common and even George R.R. Martin, the author of the A Song of Ice and Fire book series upon which the show is based, apologized to his fans for the portrayal. Although Lena Headey and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, who play Cersei and Jaime, both said that the sex scene was not intended to look like rape, critics and viewers alike widely objected to the controversial sequence.

In the gardens, Olenna assures Margaery that even though she isn’t yet queen — as her marriage with Joffrey was never consummated — she is better off with Joffrey dead.

Later, Tywin seeks out Oberyn at Littlefinger’s brothel to question him about the conversation he had with Tyrion on the first day he arrived in the capital. Oberyn openly accuses Tywin of giving the Mountain the order to rape and kill his sister, which Tywin “categorically” denies. Tywin then offers to arrange a meeting between Oberyn and the Mountain if Oberyn will agree to be the third judge — alongside himself and Mace Tyrell (Roger Ashton-Griffiths) — to render a verdict in Tyrion’s trial. He also invites him to sit on Tommen’s Small Council in hopes of bringing Dorne back into the fold of the Seven Kingdoms.

Meanwhile, Tyrion’s squire, Pod, visits him in his cell in the Red Keep to tell him that his trial will take place in a fortnight and that Sansa has vanished. Pod also tells him that he was asked to testify against Tyrion in exchange for a knighthood, but refused. Tyrion asks Pod to bring Jaime to see him and then orders him to flee King’s Landing before anything bad happens to him.

On the road to the Eyrie — where the Hound plans to ransom Arya to her Aunt Lysa — the Hound and Arya take shelter at the home of a poor farmer and his daughter. Unfortunately, the Hound betrays Arya’s trust by assaulting the farmer and stealing his silver rather than working for the money as he promised.

After learning of Joffrey’s death, Davos again finds himself at odds with Stannis, who has still not forgiven Davos for releasing Gendry. Davos suggests that they hire a mercenary company called the Golden Company to increase their chances of taking the throne, but Stannis points out that they have no gold. Later, during a reading lesson with Shireen, Davos is suddenly struck with inspiration and asks her to compose a letter to the Iron Bank of Braavos for him.

At Castle Black, Sam is worried for Gilly’s safety among the men of the Night’s Watch and decides to move her to a nearby village called Mole’s Town.

Unfortunately with the wildlings on the loose, the area just south of the wall is getting more and more dangerous. When the Free Folk, including the Thenns, raid a small northern village, they spare the life of one young boy, Olly (Brenock O’Connor), and send him to Castle Black to tell the Night’s Watch what they’ve done.

When word of the wildlings’ attack reaches Castle Black, Ser Alliser is insistent that they prioritize the defense of the Wall over that of the surrounding villages. However, when Grenn and Dolorous Edd return and break the news of the mutiny at Craster’s Keep, Jon argues that they must send a party to take out their traitorous brothers before Mance Rayder can reach them and learn the truth of the Night’s Watch’s dwindling numbers.

In Slaver’s Bay, Daenerys must choose one of her advisors — all of whom are eager to serve — to go head-to-head with the champion of Meereen in a fight to the death. She selects Daario Naharis (now played by Michiel Huisman) and he easily takes out his opponent. Daenerys speaks to the slaves watching from behind Meereen’s walls and promises to free them before catapulting the broken slave collars that she collected in Astapor and Yunkai into the city as a message to the masters.

Daenerys definitely hasn’t forgotten about all those children that the masters crucified.

Episode winner

Daenerys Targaryen

Most memorable line

Littlefinger to Sansa Stark: “Money buys a man’s silence for a time. A bolt in the heart buys it forever.”

Most significant scene

Littlefinger reveals that the necklace that Ser Dontos gave Sansa was all part of his own ruse to smuggle Sansa out of King’s Landing.

Game of Thrones: Season 4, Episode 4

Helen Sloan / HBO

Episode name

“Oathkeeper”

Episode recap

Still wondering who actually killed Joffrey? Get ready to find out.

With Meereen standing as the final obstacle between Daenerys and total control of Slaver’s Bay, the Mother of Dragons orders Grey Worm to sneak into the city with a contingent of disguised Unsullied and convince the slaves to revolt against the masters. Grey Worm’s team successfully arms the slaves and inciting an uprising, and Dany takes over. Despite Ser Barristan’s advice to answer the injustice of the masters with mercy, she then orders the Unsullied to crucify 163 of the remaining masters as retribution for the 163 slave children who were crucified on the road to Meereen.

In King’s Landing, Olenna urges Margaery to get close to Tommen before Cersei has time to turn him against her. She also strongly implies that she was involved in Joffrey’s murder when she tells Margaery that she would never have actually let her marry someone like him. Later, with her grandmother on the road back to Highgarden, Margaery pays Tommen a visit to begin getting acquainted with him.

During a training session, Bronn appeals to Jaime to visit Tyrion in the Red Keep’s dungeon. When Jaime does go to see his little brother, Tyrion convinces him that he had nothing to do with Joffrey’s murder and says that he doesn’t believe Sansa was involved either. Tyrion also tells Jaime that he’s aware that Cersei will stop at nothing to have him convicted and killed. Jaime then goes to see Cersei, who makes it clear that she doesn’t approve of his recent change of heart.

But despite Cersei’s protests, it seems like honorable Jaime may be here to stay. With his promise to Catelyn Stark still weighing on him, Jaime charges Brienne with finding Sansa and keeping her safe from anyone who would hand her over to Cersei. He gifts her with a new suit of armor and the Valyrian steel sword that was given to him by Tywin, which Brienne befittingly dubs “Oathkeeper.” As a favor to Tyrion, Jaime also enlists Podrick to go with Brienne as her new squire in order to keep him out of harm’s way.

On the way to the Vale, Sansa accuses Littlefinger of killing Joffrey only to have him reveal that while he orchestrated the murder plot, it was the stones on the necklace that Ser Dontos gave her that contained the poison. He then explains that while the Lannisters have helped him move up in the world, Joffrey’s death was something that his “new friends” — a.k.a. the Tyrells — wanted very much.

At Castle Black, Jon and Ser Alliser Thorne continue to butt heads when Jon takes the lead on training a group of new recruits, including Locke, who have recently arrived at the Wall. Janos Slynt suggests to Ser Alliser that he should allow Jon to go after the mutineers at Craster’s Keep in hopes that Jon will get himself killed. Jon is well-liked and has a shot of beating Ser Alliser when Maester Aemon insists on holding a vote to elect a new Lord Commander. When Jon asks for volunteers to march on Craster’s with him, Grenn, Dolorous Edd, Locke and several other brothers all volunteer.

Meanwhile at Craster’s, the mutinous Night’s Watch brothers are busy eating and drinking their way through Craster’s stores and raping his daughter-wives. When the last wife that Craster impregnated before dying gives birth to a son, the women all insist that the boy must be left outside as a sacrifice to the White Walkers — a job that Karl tasks Rast with completing.

While camping nearby, Bran, Jojen, Meera and Hodor overhear the baby crying and Bran wargs into Summer to assess the situation. However, before he can find the baby, he spots Ghost caged up outside the keep and falls into a trap himself. Bran awakens back in his own mind but insists on freeing Summer and Ghost before they leave. Unfortunately, the group is spotted by the mutineers, captured and forced to reveal Bran’s identity.

Even further north, the White Walker who retrieved Craster’s last son arrives back at a fortress in the Lands of Always Winter. The Night King (Richard Brake), the leader of the White Walkers, appears for the first time, places his finger on the baby’s cheek and transforms him into a White Walker.

If that’s what’s been happening to them, we sure hope Craster didn’t have too many sons over the years.

Episode winner

Daenerys Targaryen

Most memorable line

Olenna Tyrell to Margaery Tyrell about Joffrey Baratheon: “You don’t think I’d let you marry that beast, do you?”

Most significant scene

Littlefinger reveals to Sansa that he, along with his “new friends,” orchestrated Joffrey’s murder.

Game of Thrones: Season 4, Episode 5

HBO

Episode name

“First of His Name”

Episode recap

Daenerys may have conquered the three great cities of Slaver’s Bay, but the masters aren’t giving up that easy.

After Daario and the Second Sons take over Meereen’s navy, Daenerys considers sailing for Westeros. However, Jorah warns that while she could probably manage to conquer King’s Landing with her current forces, the rest of the Seven Kingdoms would be a different story. He also tells her that the masters are rising back up in both Yunkai and Astapor. Dany decides to delay her return to Westeros and attempt to bring Yunkai, Astapor and Meereen to heel as the queen of Slaver’s Bay.

At a more formal coronation in King’s Landing, Tommen is crowned king of the Seven Kingdoms. In a move that surprises everyone involved, Cersei appears to extend an olive branch to Margaery by expressing support for her betrothal to Tommen. Later, Cersei and Tywin discuss the massive debt that the crown owes to the Iron Bank of Braavos — hence the need for an alliance with the rich Tyrells.

Cersei also has a chat with Oberyn, who assures her that despite what he believes about Tywin’s involvement in Elia’s death, Myrcella is safe and happy in Dorne.

In the Riverlands, Brienne and Podrick struggle to get on the same wavelength due to Pod’s lack of experience performing the actual duties of a squire. But she does soften to him some after learning that he killed Ser Mandon Moore to save Tyrion’s life during the Battle of the Blackwater.

When Sansa and Littlefinger arrive at the Eyrie, Lysa Arryn gives her niece a warm welcome. However, it becomes clear that Lysa is still mentally troubled and suffering from delusions after she sends her son Robin to show Sansa to her room. Get ready for two major reveals.

After she is left alone with Littlefinger, Lysa pleads for him to marry her that night by citing her willingness to poison her late husband, Jon Arryn, and then frame the Lannisters for his murder in a letter that she wrote to Catelyn as evidence of her longtime devotion to him. Littlefinger is unable to come up with a reason to delay the ceremony and they’re wed on the spot.

Later, Lysa and Sansa discuss Catelyn and Littlefinger’s love for her. Lysa at first plays nice with her niece but suddenly goes mad with jealousy and accuses Sansa of sleeping with Littlefinger. Sansa is able to convince Lysa that Littlefinger only thinks of her as a stupid, naive girl, but her aunt has revealed her true colors. Lysa tells Sansa that she will be married to Robin once Tyrion has been executed for murdering Joffrey.

Meanwhile, tensions are rising between Arya and the Hound as they also make their way to the Eyrie. After Arya adds the Hound’s name to the end of her kill list when she recites it aloud one night, the Hound gets back at her by taunting the style of swordplay that she learned from Syrio Forel and the fact that he was killed by Ser Meryn Trant (Ian Beattie).

At Craster’s Keep, Locke scouts ahead and discovers that Bran is being held hostage. When he returns to the woods, he lies to convince Jon and the rest of the brothers to avoid that area of the keep when they attack so that he can swoop in and kidnap Bran for himself to bring back to Roose Bolton.

When Karl tries to rape Meera, Jojen delays him by revealing that he has the Sight and saying that he had a vision of Karl dying that night. It’s at that moment that Rast runs in to announce the arrival of the Night’s Watch. With no one watching the prisoners, Locke enters the hut and tries to carry Bran off into the night but Bran wargs into Hodor and uses him to kill Locke and save himself. Bran spots Jon and tries to call out to him, but Jojen warns him that Jon won’t let them continue on their journey if he sees them. Bran reluctantly tells Hodor to free Summer and the the group leaves without Jon ever knowing they were there. Another missed connection for the Starks.

After Jon and his volunteers dispatch with the mutineers — with Jon getting an assist from one of Craster’s abused wives to take out Karl — Jon is overjoyed to reunite with Ghost, who emerges from the woods after getting revenge on Rast for taunting him during his time in the cage. Jon urges Craster’s wives to return to Castle Black with them, but the women are justifiably distrustful of all men and set off on their own as Jon and his brothers burn Craster’s Keep to the ground.

Episode winner

Jon Snow

Most memorable line

Arya Stark to the Hound: “I’m almost done, only one name left…The Hound.”

Most significant scene

Lysa Arryn reveals that it was she who poisoned Jon Arryn and framed the Lannisters in order to provoke a conflict between the Lannisters and the Starks. Although it was Littlefinger, of course, who was the mastermind behind this devious plot.

Game of Thrones: Season 4, Episode 6

Helen Sloan—HBO

Episode name

“The Laws of Gods and Men”

Episode recap

The second half of “The Laws of Gods and Men” features some of Game of Thrones‘ best work, the culmination of Tyrion’s storyline over the past four seasons.

At the Dreadfort, Yara leads her crew of ironborn on a raid to rescue Theon. She finds him locked in the kennels with the dogs, but when she tries to free him, he physically fights her off and refuses to acknowledge that he is Theon, not Reek, out of fear of Ramsay. When Ramsay appears and threatens to set his hounds loose on Yara while Theon cowers in the corner of his cage, she realizes that her brother has been broken beyond repair and leaves without him. Back in the boat, she tells her fellow ironborn that Theon is dead.

The next day, Ramsay rewards Theon for his loyalty by giving him a bath. He then tells “Reek” that he needs him to help reclaim Moat Cailin by pretending to be someone that he’s not, Theon Greyjoy.

Meanwhile, Stannis and Davos have arrived in Braavos, where they meet with Tycho Nestoris (Mark Gatiss), a representative of the Iron Bank, to try to persuade the bank to back Stannis’ claim to the crown. Tycho initially refuses, but when Davos chimes in with a convincing argument as to why Stannis is the bank’s best chance to get back the money that it has sunk into Westeros, Tycho comes around. Davos then pays a visit to the pirate Salladhor Saan to recruit him to Stannis’ service with some of their newly acquired gold.

In Meereen, Daenerys holds court in the throne room of the Great Pyramid. When a goat herder comes before her to explain that Drogon set his flock aflame, Daenerys promises to compensate him with three times his goats’ worth. Hizdahr zo Loraq (Joel Fry), the son of one of the masters that Daenerys crucified, then shows up to confront her about his father’s death. He claims that his father spoke out against crucifiying the slave children and that she crucified him anyway. He asks to be allowed to bury his father’s remains in the Temple of the Graces and Daenerys ultimately relents. Missandei then reveals that, much to Dany’s distress, there are over 200 more supplicants waiting to speak to her.

At a meeting of the Small Council in King’s Landing, Tywin finally decides that it’s time to do something about Daenerys after Varys informs him that she has conquered Meereen. But the biggest item on the day’s agenda is Tyrion’s trial, which Tommen recuses himself from in favor of allowing Tywin, Oberyn and Mace Tyrell to render a verdict.

From the moment the trial starts, it’s pretty clear that it’s going to be a kangaroo court. The crown calls witness after witness — including Ser Meryn Trant, Grand Maester Pycelle, Cersei and Varys — who testifies against Tyrion while he is unable to defend himself.

When Tywin announces a recess, a desperate Jaime visits his father in private and offers to leave the Kingsguard and take his place as Tywin’s son and heir at Casterly Rock if Tywin will allow Tyrion to live. Tywin agrees shockingly quickly to this deal — so quickly that it seems he was counting on it all along — and says that if Tyrion pleads for mercy after he is found guilty then he will permit him to live out his life as a brother in the Night’s Watch.

Jaime tells Tyrion about Twyin’s offer, but things swiftly go downhill when Tywin brings out the crown’s next witness, Shae. Not only does Shae lie about the nature of her and Tyrion’s relationship, but she even goes so far as to say that she knows that both Tyrion and Sansa conspired to murder Joffrey. A clearly distraught Tyrion is then unable to control himself and announces that he wishes to confess. However, he doesn’t confess to Jofrey’s murder, but to being a dwarf, which he tells Tywin he has been on trial for his entire life.

What follows is one of the most iconic speeches in Game of Thrones history. With nothing left to lose, Tyrion berates the people of King’s Landing for hating him despite the fact that he saved them from Stannis during the Battle of the Blackwater. He then demands a trial by combat to decide his fate, a move that shocks everyone in the room and deeply angers Tywin.

In the post-episode breakdown, showrunner D.B. Weiss explains how forcing a trial by combat allows Tyrion to finally get one over on his father: “He threatens Tywin with the one ace up his sleeve: If Tyrion dies and Jaime is a Kingsguard, then Tywin’s direct family line disappears, especially because he knows that the trial by combat is going to be an unlikely thing for him to survive.”

Episode winner

Tyrion Lannister

Most memorable line

Tyrion to the people of King’s Landing: “I wish I was the monster you think I am. I wish I had enough poison for the whole pack of you, I would gladly give my life to watch you all swallow it!”

Most significant scene

Tyrion demands a trial by combat in lieu of the rigged bench trial he is being subjected to by his father.

Game of Thrones: Season 4, Episode 7

HBO

Episode name

“Mockingbird”

Episode recap

Leading up to his trial by combat, Tyrion campaigns for a champion to fight in his stead only to have one fall into his lap.

While visiting Tyrion in his cell, Jaime reveals that Cersei has named the Mountain (now played by Hafþór Björnsson) — who has returned to the capital and is busy ruthlessly executing prisoners in preparation for the contest — as her champion. Tyrion asks Jaime if he will fight for him, but Jaime admits that he’s useless without his right hand. The two joke about how Jaime’s death would be worth seeing the look on Tywin’s face when his heir was cut down.

Later, Bronn also refuses Tyrion’s plea for help not only out of fear of the Mountain, but because Cersei has arranged for him to marry a highborn woman named Lollys Stokeworth (Elizabeth Cadwallader).

Things are looking pretty grim for Tyrion until Oberyn makes an unexpected appearance in the dungeons. Oberyn recounts his memory of meeting Tyrion when he was just a baby who people referred to as the “Lannister monster.” He recalls that Cersei despised Tyrion even then and wished him dead for killing their mother in childbirth. Determined to avenge the murder of his sister Elia and her children, Oberyn then offers to take on the Mountain as Tyrion’s champion.

In Meereen, Daenerys and Daario sleep together for the first time after he urges her to make better use of his two talents, war and women. Jorah crosses paths with Daario when he is leaving Daenerys’ room the next morning and is visibly dismayed. Jorah warns Dany not to trust a sellsword who so easily betrayed his former captains. He then convinces her that her plan to send Daario and the Second Sons to retake Yunkai and execute all the remaining masters is misguided. Daenerys instead decides to send Hizdahr zo Loraq to explain to the masters of Yunkai that they can either play by her rules or die. She gives Jorah full credit for changing her mind.

At Dragonstone, Selyse visits Melisandre in her chambers and finds her mid-bath. This is the first time we see Melisandre without her signature necklace, a detail that will prove important in the seasons to come. Melisandre praises Selyse’s devotion to the Lord of Light and convinces her that Shireen must accompany them when they sail north.

Speaking of the North, Jon is back at Castle Black and leading the charge to seal the tunnel through the Wall in order to prevent Mance Rayder’s army from attacking the Night’s Watch through it. Ser Alliser, of course, denies him.

In the Riverlands, Brienne and Pod spend a night at the Inn at the Crossroads, where they learn from Hot Pie that Arya is alive and traveling with the Hound. After Pod reasons that the Hound is probably planning to ransom Arya off to her Aunt Lysa, they decide to make their way to the Eyrie.

Meanwhile, on the road to the Eyrie, the Hound and Arya are ambushed by Biter and Rorge, the two other prisoners who were being transported to the Wall with Jaqen when Arya was traveling with Yoren’s band of Night’s Watch recruits in season 2. The Hound kills Biter after he (surprise) bites him on the neck and Arya stabs Rorge in the heart after making him reveal his name so she can officially add it to her kill list. Later, the Hound confirms that his disfigurement was caused by his brother, the Mountain, holding his face to a fire when they were little boys.

When it begins to snow at the Eyrie, Sansa delights in building a snow replica of Winterfell. But when her cousin Robin tries to join in the fun, the situation quickly sours to the point that Sansa ends up slapping him. Littlefinger sees the incident and assures her that Robin deserved the punishment before revealing that the real reason he killed Joffrey and rescued her from King’s Landing was to avenge Catelyn’s death at the Red Wedding. He then kisses her as Lysa watches angrily from a balcony overlooking the courtyard. Sansa pulls away, but the damage is clearly done.

Lysa summons Sansa to the Eyrie’s throne room and, in a fit of rage, forces her to the edge of the moon door and threatens to throw her through it. Littlefinger enters the room and convinces Lysa to release Sansa by assuring her that he will send Sansa away. Lysa smiles as Littlefinger reaches for her only for him to admit that he never loved her, only Catelyn, before pushing her out of the moon door to her death.

Littlefinger has officially eliminated yet another complication.

Episode winner

Littlefinger

Most memorable line

Littlefinger to Lysa Arryn: “I have only loved one woman, only one, my entire life…Your sister.”

Most significant scene

Oberyn volunteers to fight as Tyrion Lannister’s champion in his trial by combat against Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane.

Game of Thrones: Season 4, Episode 8

HBO

Episode name

“The Mountain and the Viper”

Episode recap

The wildlings are closing in on Castle Black and the Night’s Watch are powerless to stop them.

After Tormund’s band of wildlings raids Mole’s Town, Sam is beside himself with worry that Gilly and her baby are dead. Unlike us, he doesn’t know that Ygritte spared Gilly and little Sam’s lives after finding them hiding in a tavern. Grenn argues that the Night’s Watch should retaliate against the wildlings, but Jon insists that leaving Castle Black even less armed than it is already is exactly what Mance Rayder wants them to do.

Outside of Moat Cailin, Ramsay hypes Reek up for his forthcoming performance as Theon. When Theon makes it inside the fortress, it becomes clear that the ironborn holding it are sick, dying and at the end of their rope. Theon offers Ramsay’s terms of surrender to the garrison’s leader, Ralf Kenning (Grahame Fox), but he is suspicious of Theon, who begins to panic. Just when it seems like Theon may be found out, one of Ralf’s own men kills him. Ramsay then flays and kills all of the remaining ironborn despite promising those who surrendered safe passage back to the Iron Islands. When Ramsay presents Moat Cailin to his father, Roose rewards him by legitimizing him as a true Bolton.

In Meereen, love is in the air for Grey Worm and Missandei, who make eyes at each other while bathing in the same stream. Later, after Missandei and Daenerys discuss whether both the “pillar” and the “stones” are taken when an Unsullied soldier is castrated, Grey Worm tells Missandei that he isn’t sorry that he suffered at the hands of the masters, because otherwise he never would have met her. What a line.

Now time for the bad news. After Ser Barristan receives a copy of the pardon that Robert Baratheon issued to Jorah as a reward for spying on Daenerys, the Mother of Dragons learns the truth about why her most trusted advisor originally came into her service — just as Tywin planned. Jorah begs for forgiveness, but Daenerys is unmoved and exiles him from Meereen. She also resolves to have him killed if he ever returns.

At the Eyrie, Littlefinger is forced to testify in front of a tribunal investigating the death of Lysa. It’s clear that the judges, Lord Yohn Royce (Rupert Vansittart), Lady Anya Waynwood (Paola Dionisotti) and Ser Vance Corbray (Richard Doubleday), don’t believe Littlefinger’s claim that Lysa threw herself through the Moon Door to commit suicide. That is, until Sansa steps in, reveals her real identity and lies on Littlefinger’s behalf. When Littlefinger asks her why she helped him, she explains that while she knows what he wants, she has no idea what the nobility of the Vale would do with her. Later, as Littlefinger and Robin prepare to set out on a tour of the Vale, Sansa emerges to accompany them with newly dyed dark hair, a change that signals the beginning of a new phase in her life.

Meanwhile, at the Bloody Gate, the entrance to the Eyrie, the Hound and Arya are stopped by a knight of the Vale who tells them that Lysa is dead. Arya breaks out in laughter at the absurdity of her family’s string of bad luck.

And now, for the main event. In what Rotten Tomatoes described as one of Game of Thrones‘ “most gruesome scenes to date,” Oberyn goes head to head with the Mountain in a fight to the death that will render the verdict in Tyrion’s trial by combat. Armed with a spear, Oberyn dances his way around the Mountain’s attacks while repeatedly insisting that the Mountain confess to raping and murdering Elia and killing her children. After an exhilarating fight sequence, Oberyn manages to impale the Mountain in the stomach, a blow that seems almost certainly fatal.

Unfortunately, Oberyn is so caught up in getting the Mountain to not only confess, but also name Tywin as the one who gave him the order, that he gets too close to his massive opponent. The Mountain swipes Oberyn’s feet out from under him, punches him so hard in the face that he knocks his teeth out, and then gouges out his eyes and crushes his skull while confessing to the crimes.

As the horrified crowd looks on, Cersei smirks while Tywin pronounces Tyrion guilty and sentences him to die.

Episode winner

Cersei Lannister

Most memorable line

Oberyn Martell to the Mountain: “I am the brother of Elia Martell. Do you know why I have come all the way to this stinking, shit-pile of a city? For you. I’m going to hear you confess before you die. You raped my sister. You murdered her. You killed her children. Say it now and we can end this quick.”

Most significant scene

Tywin sentences Tyrion to die after his champion, Oberyn Martell, is horrifically defeated by the Mountain in Tyrion’s trial by combat.

Game of Thrones: Season 4, Episode 9

Helen Sloan—HBO

Episode name

“The Watchers on the Wall”

Episode recap

It’s Jon’s time to shine as the Night’s Watch makes its stand against Mance Rayder’s wildling army in Game of Thrones‘ second capsule episode.

As Tormund’s band of wildlings waits for Mance’s signal to attack Castle Black, Ygritte warns her fellow Free Folk — including Styr (Yuri Kolokolnikov), the leader of the Thenns — that Jon is hers to kill.

Meanwhile, Gilly has made her way back to Castle Black, where Sam hides her away in a storage room to keep her safe during the coming battle. The two kiss for the first time before Sam heads back out to fight.

With his army of 100,000 Free Folk in position at the border of the forest north of the Wall, Mance ignites a massive bonfire to signal that it’s time for the assault to begin. As Jon and Ser Alliser watch the blaze from atop the Wall, Alliser admits that they should have sealed the tunnel like Jon suggested.

As Mance’s forces, including a number of giants riding mammoths, descend on the Wall, Tormund and co. charge Castle Black’s southern gate. When Ser Alliser realizes the castle is being attacked from both sides, he heads down to lead the men on the ground and leaves the all-but-useless Janos Slynt in charge of the Wall. Grenn then tricks Janos into thinking that he is needed below so that Jon can take command. Janos descends the Wall and goes to hide in the same supply closet as Gilly.

A gruesome battle breaks out in Castle Black’s courtyard, with the largely inexperienced Night’s Watch brothers going head to head with the wildlings who have climbed over the front wall. Ser Alliser is injured in a fight with Tormund and Pyp dies in Sam’s arms after Ygritte shoots an arrow through his neck.

Up above, Jon demonstrates a clear knack for command and launches a series of successful counterstrikes against Mance’s offensive maneuvers. When Jon sees two giants and a mammoth headed for the tunnel through the Wall, he orders Grenn to take five men and hold the inner gate at all costs. Sam then finds Jon and tells him that they need more men down below. Jon leaves Edd in charge of the Wall and descends to the keep where he orders Sam to release Ghost from his pen and launches himself into the clash.

After a brutal fight with Styr that Jon only just manages to survive, he turns to find Ygritte pointing an arrow at him. He smiles at her and she hesitates long enough that Olly manages to fire an arrow into her back. Jon rushes to catch her and cradles her in his arms as she utters one last, “You know nothing, Jon Snow.”

Ygritte’s death is the culmination of the inner battle between love and honor that has plagued Jon since he learned of his family’s war with the Lannisters back in season one. As a brother in the Night’s Watch, Jon felt duty-bound to remain faithful to his oath to protect the realm, and it ultimately cost him the woman he loved.

The battle wraps up shortly after Ygritte’s death, with the Night’s Watch coming out on top for the night. They even manage to capture Tormund. However, Jon understands that Mance was only testing their defenses and will continue to attack night after night until they’re defeated. As he and Sam walk through the passage that leads north of the Wall, they discover that Grenn and his men all sacrificed themselves to hold the inner gate.

Despite Sam’s protests, Jon resolves to go beyond the Wall, find Mance and kill him.

Episode winner

Jon Snow

Most memorable line

Ygritte to Jon Snow: “We should’ve stayed in that cave.”

Most significant scene

Jon heads north of the Wall on a mission to assassinate Mance Rayder in hopes that the wildling army will fall apart in the chaos that follows.

Game of Thrones: Season 4, Episode 10

HBO

Episode name

“The Children”

Episode recap

In Game of Thrones‘ season 4 finale, the Lannister family tension boils over in a way that leaves a permanent mark on their legacy.

But before we get to that, in Meereen, Daenerys is still having trouble squaring her own beliefs with the culture of Slaver’s Bay. While holding court in the Great Pyramid, she receives a supplicant who tells her that, before her arrival, he was living comfortably serving as a teacher for his master’s children and wants to sell himself back into slavery. Daenerys is dismayed but ultimately agrees on the condition that he draw up a contract with his master that lasts no longer than one year. Little does she know that she’s about to have an even more upsetting problem on her hands.

The next supplicant to enter the room is a shepherd who presents Dany with the bones of his daughter and claims that Drogon is responsible for her death. Daenerys is beside herself and meets with Missandei and Grey Worm to discuss what to do about the dragons. With Drogon nowhere to be found, she decides to chain Rhaegal and Viserion up in the catacombs under the city so that they can’t hurt anyone else.

After reaching the wildings’ camp, Jon sits down with Mance to discuss terms of surrender. Mance eventually realizes that Jon is actually just waiting for an opportunity to kill him, but before either can make a move, their meeting is interrupted by the blast of a war horn as Stannis and his cavalry come charging in. Mance quickly surrenders after seeing that the wildlings don’t stand a chance against mounted soldiers, but refuses to kneel before Stannis. When Jon reveals that he is the bastard of Ned Stark, a man that Stannis respected, Stannis asks him for his advice on what to do with Mance. Jon convinces Stannis to take Mance prisoner and listen to what he has to say rather than execute him.

Back at Castle Black, Maester Aemon conducts a funeral for the fallen brothers of the Night’s Watch. After the ceremony — during which Jon catches Melisandre starring at him — Jon visits the captive Tormund to ask if he wants to say anything when they burn the bodies of the dead wildlings. Tormund refuses, claiming that the dead can’t hear him, and the conversation turns to Ygritte. Tormund tells Jon that Ygritte truly loved him and urges him to lay her to rest where she belongs, in the true North. Jon builds a funeral pyre beyond the Wall and does just that.

Even further north, Bran, Jojen, Meera, Hodor and Summer finally reach the giant weirwood tree that Bran saw in his vision. But it turns out the area around the tree is being guarded by wights, who begin popping out of the snow and attacking them. Bran wargs into Hodor to help Meera and Jojen fend of the undead, but Jojen is mortally wounded. Thankfully, one of the Children of the Forest emerges from the cave under the tree to rescue the group. A grieving Meera slits Jojen’s throat to give him a quick death and follows Bran, Hodor and Summer inside, where the wights cannot follow.

Bran then finally meets the human embodiment of the three-eyed raven that he has been dreaming about since season 1, an old man entwined with the roots of the giant weirwood tree. The Three-Eyed Raven (Struan Rodger) tells Meera that Jojen knew that he would die on the journey and came anyway, and then provides Bran with a cryptic explanation of his purpose. “Now you’ve come to me at last, Brandon Stark, though the hour is late,” he says. “[Jojen] died so you could find what you have lost…You will never walk again, but you will fly.”

On the road to the Eyrie, Brienne stumbles upon Arya practicing her water dancing. At first, Brienne doesn’t realize who she’s talking to, but after the Hound emerges from behind a rock, she’s able to put two and two together. Brienne tries to explain to Arya that she swore an oath to Catelyn to protect her, but after the Hound sees the Valyrian steel sword that Jaime gave her, he comes to the conclusion that she was sent by the Lannisters. The Hound and Brienne square off and what follows is one of the most brutal and epic fight sequences in Game of Thrones history. After biting off part of the Hound’s ear and repeatedly clobbering him in the head with a rock, Brienne manages to force him off the edge of a cliff. But by the time she gathers herself, Arya is gone.

Later, Arya emerges from her hiding spot for one last conversation with the nearly dead Hound. He begs her to kill him, but she refuses and takes his money before walking away — although it’s unclear whether she simply doesn’t want to give him a quick death or no longer wants him dead. After riding to the harbor, Arya presents a Braavosi captain with the iron coin that Jaqen H’ghar gave her and says the magic words of “Valar Morghulis.” The shocked captain gives her a cabin on his ship and Arya sails triumphantly away from Westeros.

In King’s Landing, Cersei gives Qyburn permission to perform an experiment on the Mountain that he says could save the Mountain’s life, but may “change” him. She then goes to see Tywin to inform him that she has no intention of going through with her marriage to Loras. When Tywin refuses to listen, Cersei threatens to play her ace in the hole: telling everyone the truth about her and Jaime’s incestuous relationship and destroying Tywin’s family legacy. Later, Cersei tells Jaime about what she has done and declares that her relationship with him is more important than anything else. Jaime is seduced by her words and they sleep together.

However, despite Cersei’s protests, Jaime still feels loyal to Tyrion and that night, he frees his brother from his cell. Jaime tells Tyrion that Varys is waiting to sneak him out of King’s Landing, but Tyrion is unable to leave without confronting Tywin one last time. After sneaking up to the chamber of the Hand, Tyrion is horrified to find Shae in Tywin’s bed. She grabs for a knife when she sees him, but he ultimately gets the upper hand and strangles her to death with her necklace.

An even more distraught Tyrion then spots Joffrey’s old crossbow and drags it down the hall to the bathroom, where he finds Tywin. After a tense confrontation in which Tywin repeatedly refers to Shae as a “whore,” Tyrion fires two bolts into his father, killing him.

Tyrion then returns to the door where Jaime originally led him to find Varys waiting. After sneaking Tyrion onboard a ship by hiding him inside a crate, Varys hears the bells of King’s Landing signaling Tywin’s death and decides to stay onboard as well.

The most powerful man in the Seven Kingdoms is dead and the Lannisters are coming apart at the seams.

Episode winner

Arya Stark

Most memorable line

Tyrion Lannister to Tywin Lannister: “I am your son. I have always been your son.”

Most significant scene

After Jaime frees him from his cell, Tyrion kills his father Tywin before sailing away from King’s Landing with Varys at his side.

Game of Thrones: Season 5, Episode 1

Helen Sloan—HBO

Episode name

“The Wars to Come”

Episode recap

In the season 5 premiere, we finally learn about the infamous valonqar prophecy, a series of predictions about Cersei’s life that have been haunting her since she was a child.

In Game of Thrones‘ first flashback sequence, we see a young Cersei visiting the hut of Maggy the Frog (Jodhi May), a fortune teller living in the woods surrounding Casterly Rock. Cersei demands that Maggy predict her future and Maggy asks for a taste of her blood. Once the exchange has been made, Maggy delivers the following prophecy: “You will never wed the prince, you will wed the king…You’ll be queen, for a time. Then comes another — younger, more beautiful — to cast you down and take all you hold dear…The king will have 20 children, and you will have three…Gold will be their crowns, gold their shrouds.”

Those predictions alone are daunting enough, especially since almost all of them have come true. Cersei was promised to Prince Rhaegar Targaryen as a young girl, but ended up marrying King Robert Baratheon following Robert’s Rebellion. He went on to father many illegitimate children while Cersei’s three kids — one of whom is dead — were all a product of her incestuous relationship with Jaime. As for the “younger, more beautiful” queen, the name Margaery Tyrell comes to mind.

But in A Feast For Crows — the fourth novel in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series — there is a final line to the prophecy that the show did not include: “And when your tears have drowned you, the valonqar shall wrap his hands about your pale white throat and choke the life from you.”

Since “valonqar” means “little brother” in High Valyrian, this omitted line could partly explain why Cersei has always abhorred Tyrion. However, it’s important to note that as the second-born twin, Jaime is technically also her little brother.

In the present, Cersei arrives at the Great Sept of Baelor for Tywin’s funeral and proceeds to berate Jaime for indirectly causing their father’s death by freeing Tyrion. Later, Cersei runs into her cousin Lancel, who has become a member of the Sparrows, a religious cult devoted to the Faith of the Seven, and asks for her forgiveness for seducing her into their incestuous relationship and aiding in the death of her husband Robert. Cersei, of course, pretends not to know what he’s talking about.

Elsewhere in the Red Keep, Margaery walks into Loras’ room to find him naked in bed with Olyvar (Will Tudor), the male prostitute from Littlefinger’s brothel who is posing as Loras’ squire. Margaery urges Loras to be more discreet about his sexuality, but he shrugs her off.

Across the Narrow Sea, Tyrion and Varys have arrived in Pentos. Tyrion, who has been locked in a crate drinking and lamenting his fate for two weeks, is in a foul mood. But Varys isn’t having it. After revealing that he and Illyrio Mopatis (Roger Allam) — the merchant who arranged for Daenerys’ marriage to Khal Drogo and gifted her with three dragon eggs — have long been working to ensure a Targaryen ends up back on the Iron Throne, he convinces Tyrion to travel to Meereen and meet Daenerys.

After one of the Unsullied is murdered in a brothel by a member of the Sons of the Harpy, a rebel group resisting Daenerys’ rule in Meereen, Dany sends a message to those who oppose her by having the murdered soldier publicly buried in the Temple of the Graces. Later, Daario and Hizdahr zo Loraq return from Yunkai to report that the masters have agreed to allow a council made up of both former slaves and former masters to rule over the city if Daenerys will allow them to reopen the fighting pits, gladiator-like arenas where slaves fight to the death. At first, Dany refuses to even entertain the request, but she begins to have second thoughts after Daario urges her to reconsider.

Later, Daenerys visits Rhaegal and Viserion in the catacombs under the city where they are chained up and, to her dismay, discovers that they are aggressive even toward her.

In the Vale, Sansa and Littlefinger drop Robin off at the home of Lord Yohn Royce, who has agreed to take Robin in as his ward, before continuing on their way. Sansa notes to Littlefinger that they are traveling west rather than toward the Fingers, where Littlefinger told Lord Yohn they were going. Littlefinger says that he’s taking her somewhere the Lannisters can never find her.

Nearby, despite Pod’s encouragement, Brienne is feeling as though she failed Catelyn by finding Arya and then losing her again. Little does she know how close she is to finding Sansa as well.

At Castle Black, Melisandre finds Jon training Olly and summons him to a meeting with Stannis. Stannis tells him that he aims to take back the North from the Boltons, but in order to do so, he needs the wildlings to fight for him. Stannis tells Jon that if he can’t convince Mance to bend the knee, then he will burn Mance to death at the stake. Jon does his best, but Mance refuses to yield, claiming that doing so would betray everything he believes.

That night, Melisandre presides over Mance’s execution in the courtyard of Castle Black. Mance is chained to the stake and the fire is lit, but before the flames can truly reach him, Jon fires an arrow into his heart to give him a quick death.

Episode winner

Jon Snow

Most memorable line

Maggy the Frog to Cersei Lannister: “Everyone wants to know their future, until they know their future.”

Most significant scene

Maggy the Frog delivers a prophecy to young Cersei that seems to be playing out before our eyes.

Game of Thrones: Season 5, Episode 2

HBO

Episode name

“The House of Black and White”

Episode recap

It’s time to find out what happened to Arya after she sailed away from Westeros in the season 4 finale.

Upon arriving in Braavos, Arya makes her way to the House of Black and White, the headquarters of the Faceless Men, a guild of assassins who worship the Many-Faced God, a.k.a the god of death. But when she knocks on the door and name-drops Jaqen H’ghar, she is turned away by an old man who in no resembles her old mentor. For several days and nights, Arya waits outside the House repeatedly reciting her kill list.

When she finally goes on the hunt for food, she’s cornered by a group of thieves who threaten to steel Needle. That is, until the old man shows up and scares them off. Arya follows him back to the House and the old man peels off his face to reveal the face of Jaqen. However, when Arya questions him, he maintains that he is not Jaqen, but rather “no one,” a requirement of becoming one of the Faceless Men. Arya is confused but follows him inside nonetheless.

In King’s Landing, Cersei shows Jaime the viper statue with Myrcella’s necklace hung from its fangs that she has received from Dorne. They agree that it’s clearly a threat and Jaime promises to go to Dorne and bring Myrcella home. But first he recruits Bronn, who is already growing bored of planning his wedding to Lollys Stokeworth, to come with him by promising to give him a “much better girl and a much better castle” when they return.

Meanwhile in Dorne, Ellaria Sand is not happy with Prince Doran for refusing to go to war with the Lannisters over Oberyn’s death. She asks him to let her to send Myrcella (now played by Nell Tiger Free) back to Cersei piece by piece as vengeance, but he denies her.

Later, Cersei holds court at a meeting of the Small Council by announcing that she will be advising Tommen until he comes of age and chooses a Hand for himself. She proceeds to name Mace Tyrell as the new Master of Coin and Qyburn as the new Master of Whisperers. But when she tries to appoint her uncle, Kevan Lannister (Ian Gelder), to the position of Master of War, he rebukes her by declaring that he returned to the capital to pay his respects to his brother, Tywin, not to serve as one of her flunkies. He goes on to say that he does not recognize her authority and will be waiting for word from the king at Casterly Rock. Cersei silently fumes over his insults.

As for the third Lannister sibling, Tyrion is still drinking himself silly on the road to Meereen despite Varys’ attempts to snap him out of his funk. Varys also warns him to remain hidden, as Cersei has offered a lordship to any man who brings her his head.

In Meereen, Daario helps Grey Worm capture the Son of the Harpy who they believe is responsible for the murdered Unsullied’s death. After Ser Barristan offers Daenerys some insight into how her father, the Mad King, ruled without a fair justice system, Dany decides to give the alleged murderer a trial rather than just execute him. However, this doesn’t sit right with Mossador (Reece Noi), a former slave serving on Daenerys’ Small Council, who kills the Son of the Harpy before the trial can take place. As punishment for his actions, Daenerys has Mossador publicly executed, a decision backfires. It earns the ire of the freed slaves and incites a violent riot. That night, Drogon visits a distraught Daenerys on her balcony before again flying away.

Back at the Inn at the Crossroads, Brienne and Pod happen to run into Sansa and Littlefinger. Brienne pledges her sword to Sansa, but Sansa recalls seeing Brienne bow to Joffrey at the royal wedding and refuses to go with her. Littlefinger attempts to have his guards take Brienne into custody, but Brienne and Pod manage to flee on horseback. Despite Pod’s suggestion that Arya and Sansa’s refusal of her service has freed Brienne from the oath she made to Catelyn, Brienne vows to get Sansa out of Littlefinger’s clutches.

While Shireen begins teaching Gilly how to read at Castle Black, Stannis is busy scolding Jon for showing mercy to Mance Rayder. Stannis shows Jon a letter he received from 10-year-old Lyanna Mormont, the head of House Mormont, declaring that House Mormont “knows no king except the King in the North, whose name is Stark.” Stannis tells Jon that he will legitimize him as a Stark and make him Lord of Winterfell if he pledges to help him take back the North.

Later, as the Night’s Watch prepares to elect a new Lord Commander, Jon tells Sam that he plans to refuse Stannis’ offer, prompting Sam to put Jon forward as a candidate. The votes are counted and it’s a tie between Jon and Ser Alliser. Maester Aemon then casts the deciding vote in Jon’s favor.

Say hello to the 998th Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch.

Episode winner

Jon Snow

Most memorable line

Jaqen H’ghar to Arya Stark: “No one. And that is who a girl must become.”

Most significant scene

Jon is elected Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch.

Game of Thrones: Season 5, Episode 3

Macall B. Polay—HBO

Episode name

“High Sparrow”

Episode recap

Third time’s a charm for Margaery as she marries yet another king in yet another royal wedding.

After they are wed in the Great Sept of Baelor, Margaery and Tommen happily consummate their marriage. Margaery then expertly plants the idea in her new husband’s head that both he and Cersei would be happier if Cersei lived at Casterly Rock. But when Tommen makes this suggestion to Cersei, she immediately suspects Margaery’s involvement. Fearing that Tommen will send her away, Cersei tries to kiss up to Margaery, but is mocked by Margaery for her efforts.

Elsewhere in King’s Landing, Lancel Lannister and a few of his fellow Sparrows find the High Septon (Paul Bentley), the head of the Faith of the Seven, soliciting prostitutes in Littlefinger’s brothel and publicly beat and shame him in the streets. When Cersei hears about the assault, she pays a visit to the Sparrows’ leader, the High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce), and tells him that instead of executing him as the High Septon demanded, she has thrown the High Septon in the dungeons and decided to ally the crown with the Sparrows.

Cersei then pays a visit to Qyburn and requests that he send a letter to Littlefinger — the contents of which we don’t yet know. After she leaves, the body of the Mountain violently shakes on Qyburn’s operating table.

In the North, Sansa finally realizes where Littlefinger is taking her when they pass Moat Cailin. She is at first horrified at the prospect of returning to Winterfell and being married off to a Bolton — which she realizes was Littlefinger’s plan all along — but Littlefinger is able to convince her that living amongst those who betrayed her family will give her the opportunity to avenge them. The camera then pans up to a ridge overlooking Moat Cailin to reveal that Brienne and Pod are following close behind Littlefinger’s entourage.

Upon arriving at Winterfell, Sansa and Littlefinger are received by Roose, his wife Walda, and Ramsay. Theon hides his face from Sansa when she passes, but the servant who shows Sansa to her room makes it known that many who live in the North are still devoted to the Stark family. Later, Ramsay promises Littlefinger that he will never hurt Sansa before Roose interrupts their conversation to question Littlefinger’s motives for betraying the Lannisters. Littlefinger insists that without Tywin, the Lannisters are no longer a threat, but Roose is uneasy that Littlefinger has received a message from Cersei in the night. Roose is wary about trusting Littlefinger, just as everyone in the Seven Kingdoms should be.

Farther north at Castle Black, Jon formally turns down Stannis’ offer to legitimize him. Stannis announces that he plans to leave Castle Black and march on Winterfell and leaves Jon in charge of the wildlings’ fate.

Later, Jon presides over his first meeting of the Night’s Watch as Lord Commander. He entrusts Sam with caring for Maester Aemon, whose health is failing, before promoting Ser Alliser to First Ranger as a show of respect. But when he orders Janos Slynt to take command of restoring the ruined castle Greyguard, Janos refuses and completely disrespects Jon in the process. After giving Janos several chances to back down, Jon orders his men to take him outside and beheads him for treason. When he looks up, Stannis, who was watching from across the courtyard, nods in approval.

Across the Narrow Sea, Arya is struggling to leave her Stark identity behind as she begins serving at the House of Black and White. When she is confronted by the Waif (Faye Marsay), another servant of the Faceless Men, the two get in a physical altercation that is only broken up when Jaqen intervenes. Acting on Jaqen’s advice, Arya tries to rid herself of everything holding her back from becoming “no one” by throwing her clothes and silver in the sea. However, she is unable to part with Needle and instead hides her sword among some rocks. When she returns to the House, Jaqen allows her into the back rooms, where she and the Waif are tasked with washing a dead body.

In Volantis, Tyrion insists that Varys let him out of the carriage they are traveling in before he goes mad. While walking the city’s streets, they happen upon a Red Priestess preaching to a crowd of slaves that Daenerys is their prophesied savior. Tyrion initially pokes fun at her sermon, but is clearly disconcerted when she turns and stares directly into his eyes.

That night, at a brothel, Tyrion finds that he can no longer bring himself to sleep with a prostitute. Unfortunately the moment he disappears from Varys’ sight, he is kidnapped by none other than Jorah, who ties him up and ambiguously tells him that he’s taking him to the queen.

Uh-oh.

Episode winner

Margaery Tyrell

Most memorable line

Littlefinger to Sansa Stark: “There’s no justice in the world, not unless we make it. You loved your family. Avenge them.”

Most significant scene

Cersei meets with the High Sparrow and sows the seeds for an alliance between the Sparrows and the crown.

Game of Thrones: Season 5, Episode 4

HBO

Episode name

“Sons of the Harpy”

Episode recap

As Cersei attempts to consolidate power, things start to get out of hand in King’s Landing.

At another meeting of the Small Council, Mace Tyrell announces that the Iron Bank has called in 10 percent of the crown’s debt, a sum that they can still only afford to pay half of. Mace offers to front the crown the money, but Cersei is unwilling to give the Tyrells any more power and instead decides to send Mace to Braavos, along with Ser Meryn Trant, to ask the Bank for more time. For Cersei, this also serves the purpose of getting another Tyrell out of King’s Landing.

Thinking that she can use the Sparrows to force the Tyrells into a corner, Cersei then meets with the High Sparrow, who has been appointed High Septon, and authorizes him to bring back the Faith Militant, an armed force in service to the Faith of the Seven that the Targaryens disbanded following their conquest of the Seven Kingdoms. She hints to the High Sparrow that there is a”great sinner” in their midst, a comment that is revealed to be a reference to Loras. The Sparrows who join the Faith Militant, including Lancel, carve the Seven-Pointed Star into their foreheads as a symbol of their devotion to the Faith before ransacking Littlefinger’s brothel and arresting Loras for his homosexuality.

Margaery, of course, is none too pleased with her brother’s arrest and immediately confronts Tommen about it. Cersei advises Tommen to speak to the High Sparrow about Loras if he has a problem with the Faith Militant’s actions, but when Tommen shows up at the Great Sept of Baelor, he is barred from entering. Unwilling to escalate the conflict further, Tommen returns to the Red Keep without freeing Loras, prompting an angry Margaery to send a letter to Olenna requesting her help.

En route to Dorne, Bronn deduces that Jaime feels compelled to rescue Myrcella to make up for freeing Tyrion and indirectly causing Tywin’s death. Jaime denies his involvement in Tyrion’s escape and says that if he ever sees Tyrion again, he’ll split him in two for murdering their father. However, it still seems like his feelings about his little brother are conflicted. After rowing ashore just outside the Dornish capital of Sunspear, Jaime and Bronn are accosted by four Dornish guards. They manage to fight them off despite Jaime’s lack of left-handed swordplay skills and are rewarded for their trouble with horses and disguises.

Meanwhile, Ellaria has turned to Oberyn’s three bastard daughters — Obara (Keisha Castle-Hughes), Nymeria (Jessica Henwick), and Ellaria’s own daughter, Tyene (Rosabell Laurenti Sellers) — a trio known as the Sand Snakes, for help avenging his death. They all agree that killing Myrcella as an act of war against the Lannisters is the best course of action, but Nymeria warns that they may have a problem. The Sand Snakes have tortured a ship captain who tried to sell Obara information into revealing that he smuggled Jaime into Dorne, meaning they don’t have much time to carry out their plan to kill Myrcella before he gets to her.

After sailing away from Volantis, Jorah reveals to Tyrion that he is taking him to Daenerys, not Cersei. By piecing together everything he knows about his captor, Tyrion is able to not only figure out Jorah’s identity, but also that Jorah has kidnapped him in hopes of regaining Daenerys’ favor. Jorah knocks him out before he can say anything else.

As Stannis and Selyse watch Jon train Night’s Watch recruits in the courtyard of Castle Black, Selyse lambastes herself once again for giving Stannis a disfigured daughter, but not any sons. However, Melisandre arrives at that moment and steps in to say that the only thing the Lord of Light cares about is that Stannis’ blood runs through Shireen’s veins. Selyse takes her leave and Melisandre questions Stannis about whether he plans to leave her behind when he marches on Winterfell like he did during the Battle of the Blackwater. He assures her he does not.

Later, Sam presents Jon with several letters for him to sign requesting more men from the Northern lords. Jon initially refuses to sign the letter for Roose Bolton, protesting that Roose killed his brother Robb. But after Sam reminds him of his vows, Jon begrudgingly does his duty. Melisandre enters the room as Sam leaves and attempts to seduce Jon to convince him to take up Stannis’ cause, but Jon denies her and insists that he’s still in love with Ygritte. Melisandre prepares to leave, but turns back at the last second to offer Ygritte’s signature line, “You know nothing, Jon Snow,” as her parting words, a power move that clearly freaks Jon out.

When Shireen visits Stannis in his chambers at Castle Black, she asks him if he is ashamed of her, as Selyse cleary is. He responds by telling her the story of how she contracted Greyscale on her face as a baby and how he vowed to go to any lengths to stop the disease from spreading, which he did. A teary Shireen rushes forward to hug Stannis and, after a moment’s hesitation, he hugs her back.

A bit further south, Sansa pays a visit to the Winterfell crypts, where she finds the feather that Robert Baratheon placed on the effigy of her Aunt Lyanna in Game of Thrones‘ very first episode. Littlefinger comes looking for her and begins telling her about the Great Tourney at Harrenhal that took place when he was a young boy. As Littlefinger tells it, Prince Rhaegar Targaryen beat Ser Barristan Selmy to win the tourney, but then rode past his own wife, Princess Elia Martell, to lay his winner’s crown of blue winter roses in Lyanna’s lap. It wasn’t long after the tourney that Lyanna disappeared with Rhaegar and Robert’s Rebellion against the Targaryen throne began. Sansa insists that Lyanna was kidnapped and raped by Rhaeghar, as Robert Baratheon claimed, but Littlefinger makes a face that suggests he thinks otherwise.

Littlefinger then tells Sansa that he’s leaving for King’s Landing, as the letter Cersei sent demanded that he come to the capital at once and he doesn’t want her to suspect any foul play. Sansa is justifiably wary about being left alone, but Littlefinger is confident that Stannis will soon defeat the Boltons and, as a show of respect for Ned, name Sansa Wardeness of the North. If nothing else, Littlefinger says that Sansa can begin sabotaging the Boltons from within before again kissing her on the lips.

In Meereen, Rhaegar also comes up in conversation between Daenerys and Ser Barristan when Barristan begins recounting all the time he spent wandering the streets of King’s Landing with the prince, who liked to be among the common people. Daenerys, who was never told about that side of her older brother’s personality, is surprised. “Rhaegar never liked killing,” Barristan insists. “He loved singing.”

Unfortunately, Dany and Barristan are then interrupted by Daario, who reports that Hizdahr zo Loraq is waiting to see her. Hizdahr once again urges Daenerys to reopen the fighting pits, but she refuses.

Meanwhile, in the city streets, a patrol of Unsullied led by Grey Worm are ambushed by a faction of the Sons of the Harpy. As his men fall around him, a severely injured Grey Worm manages to keep fighting against all odds. Just when it seems like he is doomed, Ser Barristan swoops in and manages to take out nearly all of the remaining Sons of the Harpy before one stabs him in the stomach. The last Son of the Harpy standing goes to slit Barristan’s throat, but Grey Worm stabs in the back before passing out next to Barristan’s body.

The fate of both the commander of the Unsullied and the Lord Commander of Daenerys’ Queensguard are left hanging in the balance as the episode cuts to black.

Episode winner

The High Sparrow

Most memorable line

Littlefinger to Sansa Stark: “When Rhaegar won, everyone cheered for their prince. I remember the girls laughing when he took off his helmet and they saw that silver hair, how handsome he was. Until he rode right past his wife, Elia Martell, and all the smiles died.”

Most significant scene

Cersei authorizes the High Sparrow to bring back the Faith Militant as a ploy for using them as allies against the Tyrells.

Game of Thrones: Season 5, Episode 5

Helen Sloan—HBO

Episode name

“Kill the Boy”

Episode recap

In the wake of Ser Barristan Selmy’s death, Daenerys is ready to lay the smackdown on the former masters of Meereen.

While Grey Worm survived the Sons of the Harpy’s attack on the Unsullied, Ser Barristan did not, and Daenerys is not happy. She orders Daario to round up the leaders of the great families of Meereen, including Hizdahr zo Loraq, and bring them before her in the catacombs under the city. She allows Rhaegal and Viserion to barbecue and eat one of them as a warning to the others before having them imprisoned. Later, Daenerys visits a terrified Hizdahr in his cell and tells him that she will reopen the fighting pits, but only for freed men. She goes on to say that, in order to forge a lasting bond with the Meereenese people, she has decided to marry the leader of one of the great families, a.k.a. Hizdahr himself.

When Grey Worm wakes up from the coma he has been in since the attack, Missandei is sitting by his bedside. Grey Worm tells her that he is ashamed because he was afraid, but not of dying. When he was stabbed, he was afraid he would never see Missandei again. Missandei tears up and they kiss for the first time. Turns out Grey Worm has some serious game.

At Winterfell, a jealous Myranda seeks out Sansa and leads her to the kennels, where Sansa finds Theon in a cage alongside Ramsay’s hounds. Both she and Theon are shocked at the sight of the other and Sansa rushes away. That night, Theon confesses to Ramsay that Sansa saw him and Ramsay decides to put on a show. At a dinner with Sansa, Roose and Walda, Ramsay torments both Theon and Sansa by forcing Theon to serve the group and, in front of everyone, apologize to Sansa for murdering Bran and Rickon, which she still believes he did. Ramsay then declares that Theon will give Sansa away at their wedding before Roose puts a damper on Ramsay’s mood by announcing that Walda is pregnant and Maester Wolkan (Richard Rycroft) thinks it’s a boy. Although Ramsay has been legitimized, he thinks a natural born son would still be a threat to his status as heir. However, during a post-dinner conversation, Roose reassures Ramsay that he thinks of him as his son before asking for his help defeating Stannis.

Meanwhile, at an inn near the castle, Brienne asks a servant who is still loyal to the Starks to get a message to Sansa. Later, the same old woman who welcomed Sansa to Winterfell tells her that if she’s ever in trouble, all she has to do is light a candle in the highest window of the broken tower and help will come.

At Castle Black, Jon turns to Maester Aemon for advice on what to do about the wildlings. Maester Aemon doesn’t even wait to hear the details of Jon’s dilemma before cutting him off to say that if Jon already knows what needs to be done, he should follow his heart and do it. Jon then meets with Tormund to negotiate an alliance with the wildlings. Jon offers to allow the remaining Free Folk to come south of the Wall if they agree to fight alongside the Night’s Watch when the White Walkers attack. Tormund eventually agrees on the condition that Jon accompanies him to Hardhome, a fishing village beyond the Wall where many of the Free Folk fled after the Battle of Castle Black, to guarantee that the wildlings will be safe.

However, when Jon lays out his plan for the brothers of the Night’s Watch, they are less than enthused. Jon insists that if they abandon the wildlings north of the Wall, the White Walkers will kill them all and reanimate them as wights. The men are still not convinced. Olly, whose entire village was slaughtered by the wildlings, is particularly aggrieved by Jon’s decision to make peace with them.

Later, Stannis pays Sam a visit to ask him about how he killed the White Walker that attacked him and Gilly beyond the Wall. When Sam reveals that he did it with a dagger made of dragonglass, Stannis notes that there is a supply of dragonglass at Dragonstone. The next morning, Stannis, his family, his advisors and his army begin their march on Winterfell.

As they sail through Old Valyria, the ruined capital of a fallen civilization known as the Valyrian Freehold, Tyrion is astonished to see Drogon flying overhead. However, his awe quickly turns to fear when a group of Stone Men, victims of Greyscale who have been exiled to Valyria and have gone mad, begin attacking them. Tyrion dives off the boat to avoid being touched by one of the Stone Men and contracting Greyscale himself as Jorah fights the others off. After Jorah rescues him from the water and brings him ashore, both of them confirm that they weren’t touched by any of the Stone Men during the attack. However, when Tyrion isn’t looking, Jorah lifts up his shirtsleeve to reveal a small patch of Greyscale forming on his arm.

Episode winner

Daenerys Targaryen

Most memorable line

Maester Aemon to Jon Snow: “Kill the boy, Jon Snow. Winter is almost upon us. Kill the boy, and let the man be born.”

Most significant scene

Stannis reveals to Sam that there is a supply of dragonglass, a substance capable of killing the White Walkers, at Dragonstone.

Game of Thrones: Season 5, Episode 6

Helen Sloan—HBO

Episode name

“Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken”

Episode recap

The drama in King’s Landing escalates and Littlefinger reveals the next stage of his master plan as the second half of season 5 gets underway.

After arriving in King’s Landing and being warned by Lancel that his prostitution business won’t be tolerated any longer, Littlefinger meets with Cersei to assure her that he remains loyal to the throne. He then proceeds to reveal that Sansa is alive and set to marry Ramsay at Winterfell — although he doesn’t mention his role in her escape or betrothal. Cersei wants to move against the Boltons to punish them for their treason, but Littlefinger convinces her that it would be better to wait for Stannis to march on Winterfell and then let the Knights of the Vale clean up the mess that is left. All he wants in return is to be named Warden of the North.

Olenna has also returned to the capital and is on a mission to convince Cersei to free Loras by threatening to end the Lannister-Tyrell alliance. Cersei falsely maintains that she had nothing to do with Loras’ arrest and that it’s the Faith Militant who is keeping him in custody. The two then attend a hearing at which the High Sparrow questions Loras and Margaery about Loras’ sexuality to determine whether the charges against Loras have merit. Both siblings deny that Loras is homosexual, but the High Sparrow brings in a surprise witness, Olyvar, who testifies that he has been sleeping with Loras and that Margaery walked in on them once. The Faith Militant takes Loras back into custody and arrests Margaery for lying before the gods.

Disguised as the Dornish guards they killed, Jaime and Bronn spy on Mycrella and her betrothed, Trystane Martell (Toby Sebastian), as they kiss in the Water Gardens. Jaime seems surprised to see that Myrcella and Trystane seem to have genuinely fallen for each other even though their relationship was originally a political arrangement. Jaime tries to convince Myrcella to come with him, but Trystane is suspicious and delays them long enough for the Sand Snakes to get the jump on them. A battle ensues in which Nymeria and Tyene take on Bronn while Obara faces off with Jaime, but before either group can successfully retrieve Myrcella, Prince Doran’s guards show up and place them all under arrest.

As they continue their trek toward Meereen, Tyrion finally gets a chance to tell Jorah that the reason he was in Volantis in the first place was because he killed Tywin and was on the run. Tyrion also reveals to Jorah that his own father, the late Lord Commander Mormont, is dead. Unfortunately, the pair is then spotted and kidnapped by a group of slavers who — after a little convincing by Tyrion — decide to keep them both alive to sell in Meereen.

In Braavos, Arya is getting a little tired of washing all those dead bodies without knowing what they’re used for. When she asks the Waif about what happens to the corpses, the other girl embarrasses her by proving that she can’t tell when someone is lying and is therefore still not ready to be “no one.”

That night, Jaqen himself tests Arya by having her recount the story of how she came to the House of Black and White. Much to Arya’s frustration, he is able to tell each time that she is lying, especially when she insists that she hated the Hound. The next day, Arya takes all she has learned into consideration and manages to spin a tale that convinces a sickly girl who was brought to the House by her desperate father to drink from the House’s poisoned well and end her suffering. Jaqen watches her work and finally allows her into the Hall of Faces, the chamber where the Faceless Men keep the faces of the dead that they wear as disguises. Jaqen tells Arya that while she is still not ready to become no one, she is ready to become someone else.

And now for the storyline that earned “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken,” a spot among Game of Thrones most controversial episodes. In a scene that diverges from George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire books, Ramsay marries Sansa in the sacred Godswood of Winterfell after Myranda makes her most blatant attempt yet to intimidate her. Ramsay then escorts Sansa back to her room and rapes her while forcing Theon to watch.

The scene drew immediate backlash when it aired in 2015 and even prompted some fans to declare that they were done watching Game of Thrones forever. The majority of the criticism focused on director Jeremy Podeswa’s decision to have the camera pan to Theon during the assault rather than focus on Sansa’s pain. Or as Joanna Robinson at Vanity Fair so aptly put it: “As little as any of us wanted to see Sansa physically punished and exploited, was it really important to make that scene about Theon’s pain? If Game of Thrones was going to go there, shouldn’t they at least have had the courage to keep the camera on Turner’s face?”

However, Sophie Turner, who plays Sansa, has spoken out in defense of the controversial sequence. “When I read that scene, I kinda loved it,” she said in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. “I love the way Ramsay had Theon watching. It was all so messed up. It’s also so daunting for me to do it. I’ve been making [producer Bryan Cogman] feel so bad for writing that scene: ‘I can’t believe you’re doing this to me!’ But I secretly loved it.”

Episode winner

Cersei Lannister

Most memorable line

Cersei Lannister and Olenna Tyrell: “Ah yes, the famously tart-tongued Queen of Thorns.” “And the famous tart, Queen Cersei.”

Most significant scene

After they are married in the Godswood of Winterfell, Ramsay rapes Sansa while forcing Theon to watch.

Game of Thrones: Season 5, Episode 7

Episode name

“The Gift”

Episode recap

Just when it seems like things couldn’t get any worse for Sansa, Theon helps her figure out that the exact opposite is true.

When Theon brings her food one day, a desperate Sansa — who has been locked in her room since her wedding and raped by Ramsay on a nightly basis — begs him to help her. Theon tries to persuade her that she should obey Ramsay or else things will only get worse, but Sansa is undeterred. She reminds him that he is Theon Greyjoy, not Reek, and pleads with him to light a candle at the top of the broken tower to signal that she needs help. Theon promises that he will do it, but instead takes the candle straight to Ramsay out of fear that he will be punished. Ramsay proceeds to flay the old woman who delivered Brienne’s message to Sansa and then takes great joy in showing a horrified Sansa her servant’s mutilated dead body.

Before Jon and Tormund leave for Hardhome, Sam gives Jon a bag of dragonglass daggers to defend against the White Walkers. Soon after, Maester Aemon’s condition swiftly deteriorates and he dies with Sam and Gilly at his side. The next night, Gilly is attacked by two Night’s Watch brothers who try to rape her. Sam tries to fight them off but instead takes a hell of a beating. Just when it seems like the brothers might kill Sam, a snarling Ghost appears and frightens them off. As Gilly helps Sam tend to his wounds, one thing leads to another and the two sleep together for the first time. It seems that Gilly is falling for Sam just as hard as he originally fell for her.

As Stannis’ army makes its way toward Winterfell and the snow worsens, soldiers begin to abandon the cause. Davos suggests that it may be better to retreat and wait out the storm at Castle Black, but Stannis refuses, insisting that they would then be stuck at Castle Black for what could very well be a years-long winter. Melisandre reassures Stannis that she has seen his victory in the flames, but that it will require a sacrifice of king’s blood. Knowing that she is referencing Shireen, who is still only a child, Stannis angrily rebuffs her.

In the much more temperate climate of Dorne, Prince Doran sends Myrcella to see Jaime so that he can be assured of her well-being. However, Jaime is taken aback when Myrcella refuses to go back to King’s Landing and insists that she is going to stay in Dorne and marry Trystane. In the dungeons, Bronn and Tyene spar over her beauty before Tyene reveals that when she cut him with her dagger, it was coated with a slow-acting poison called The Long Farewell. As Bronn’s breathing begins to quicken, Tyene tosses him a vial that contains the antidote.

In Meereen, Daario advises Daenerys to round up all the remaining masters and kill them on the day of the fighting pit’s Great Games. Daenerys insists that she is a queen, not a butcher.

Meanwhile, outside the city, the slaving ship captain sells both Jorah and Tyrion to Yezzan zo Qaggaz (Enzo Cilenti), a slaver from Yunkai who trains pit fighters. Yezzan takes Jorah, Tyrion and his other purchases to one of the lower fighting pits to determine who among them will get to compete in the main tournament at the Great Pit of Daznak. Jorah is originally slated to sit the first fight out, but when he realizes Daenerys is there watching, he puts a helmet on to disguise himself and rushes out to join the fray. Jorah easily defeats the other fighters but avoids killing them to impress Daenerys, who is disgusted by the violence. However, when Jorah removes his helmet, Dany, who has clearly still not forgiven him for betraying her, orders the guards to get him out of her sight. That is, until Tyrion steps forward to introduce himself.

With both Margaery and Loras locked away in the dungeons, Olenna visits the High Sparrow to try to bribe him into freeing her two grandchildren. When she realizes he can’t be bought, she threatens to stop shipping House Tyrell’s crops to the capital to feed the people of King’s Landing. The High Sparrow doesn’t give in to her scare tactics and cautions her that the jig will be up once the poor have nothing left to lose and stop fearing the wealthy elite.

On her way out of the Great Sept of Baelor, Olenna receives a letter from Littlefinger summoning her to his brothel. Once there, she reminds him that they both played a part in Joffrey’s murder and that if the Tyrells fall, she will have no problem taking him down with them. Littlefinger admits that he fed Cersei information to ward off her suspicions. But he goes on to say that he will give Olenna the same gift that he gave Cersei, “a handsome young man,” which is revealed to be a reference to Lancel.

With Tommen beside himself over his inability to free Margaery, Cersei tells him that she will talk to the High Sparrow and try to sort matters out — although she really doesn’t intend to help Margaery at all. Cersei instead pays a visit to her daughter-in-law in the dungeons and taunts her about her imprisonment. However, when she then goes to see the High Sparrow, he flips the script on her by implying that Lancel has told him their incestuous relationship as well as the role they played in King Robert’s death. When Cersei tries to leave, she is stopped by Septa Unella (Hannah Waddingham), who throws her into one of the black cells and slams the door.

Episode winner

The High Sparrow

Most memorable line

Cersei Lannister to Septa Unella: “Look at me. Look at my face. It’s the last thing you’ll see before you die.”

Most significant scene

The High Sparrow has Cersei imprisoned by Septa Unella to await a trial before the gods.

Game of Thrones: Season 5, Episode 8

HBO

Episode name

“Hardhome”

Episode recap

Tyrion has finally come face to face with the legendary Dragon Queen, but there are still a few things to sort out.

After returning to the throne room in the Great Pyramid of Meereen, Daenerys asks Tyrion why she should allow him to live, let alone serve her. Tyrion retells her own life story back to her, citing all the impressive feats she has accomplished throughout the course of Game of Thrones, and says that Varys convinced him that she was their “best, last chance to build a better world.” However, he notes that without someone who understands the politics of Westeros to advise her, she won’t be able to accomplish her goals. As a former Hand of the King, Tyrion definitely fits that criteria.

Daenerys decides to test Tyrion’s advisory skills by asking for his opinion on what to do about Jorah. Tyrion muses that Jorah is deeply devoted to and probably even in love with her, but since he did not trust her to be wise enough to forgive his betrayal if he confessed, she cannot allow him to serve her. Daenerys spares Jorah’s life but once again exiles him from Meereen. A crestfallen Jorah then returns to the fighting pits and makes a deal with Yezzan zo Qaggaz: If Yezzan allows him to fight in the Great Games, then he can sell Jorah to whoever he wants afterward.

Later, Daenerys tells Tyrion that she has decided to take him on as an advisor and they chat about her plan to take the Iron Throne. After Tyrion insists that she will need the backing of at least a few of Westeros’ most powerful houses, not just the support of the common people, to rule the Seven Kingdoms, Daenerys tells him that she intends to dismantle Westeros’ political hierarchy entirely.

As part of her first mission for the Faceless Men, Arya poses as a girl selling oysters at the docks in order to spy on a ship insurer called the “thin man” (Oengus MacNamara) who has been scamming the families of sailors lost at sea out of the money he owes them. When Arya tells Jaqen what she has learned, he gives her a vial of poison to give to the thin man after she is done studying him. That way, the Faceless Men will be able to impersonate him when they take his face.

In King’s Landing, Septa Unella tries to get Cersei to admit to her crimes by offering her water in exchange for a confession. Cersei refuses and becomes even more enraged with her jailer. Later, Qyburn visits Cersei in her cell and tells her that she has been charged with fornication, treason, incest and the murder of King Robert, and that Tommen has become despondent since she was imprisoned. He also reveals that Grand Maester Pycelle has summoned her Uncle Kevan to the capital to act as Hand of the King. Qyburn suggests that she should just confess, even if the charges are lies, in order to get out of the dungeons, but Cersei remains defiant. When Septa Unella enters the cell once again, Qyburn leaves with the parting words, “The work continues,” a reference to the experiment he is conducting on the Mountain.

At Winterfell, an enraged Sansa confronts Theon about revealing her escape plan to Ramsay and betraying her family. Theon admits that he deserved to become Reek because of all the terrible things he did, including killing “those boys,” a choice of words that enrages Sansa since she believes the boys in question were her two younger brothers. When she pushes him on the topic, Theon ends up revealing that the boys he killed were actually two peasant boys, not Bran and Rickon, before freaking out and rushing out of the room.

At a war council, Roose and Ramsay discuss strategy for the forthcoming battle with Stannis. Roose is convinced that they will be able to wear Stannis’ army down simply by staying behind Winterfell’s walls, but Ramsay insists that all he needs to put the final nail in Stannis’ coffin is “20 good men.”

At Castle Black, Sam assures Olly that Jon is making the right decision by helping the wildlings, even if it is a difficult one to accept.

The entire second half of “Hardhome” takes place at the episode’s titular location, a setting that allows Game of Thrones to demonstrate the true meaning of “winter is coming.”

At Hardome, Tormund kicks negotiations off by beating the Lord of Bones to death after he insults him for allying with a brother of the Night’s Watch. Jon and Tormund then meet with the Free Folk elders, including a Thenn named Loboda (Zahary Baharov), a giant named Wun Wun (Ian Whyte) and a female clan leader named Karsi (Birgitte Hjort Sørensen). The elders are all hesitant to trust Jon, but with the help of Tormund, he is able to convince some of them, including Karsi and Wun Wun, to follow him back to Castle Black. Jon tries to give Loboda the dragonglass daggers, but he refuses to take them.

As Jon and the Night’s Watch brothers begin ferrying the 5,000 wildlings who are coming with them out to their fleet of ships, things start to go south real quick. When Loboda notices the winds rising and dogs barking, a telltale sign of the White Walkers’ approach, he orders the wildlings to shut the gates, trapping thousands of Free Folk outside of Hardhome’s walls. The army of the dead then descends on the outpost and kills every wildling in their path as they try to break through the gates. A full-on panic ensues as the surviving wildlings desperately try to make their way out to the Night’s Watch’s ships.

Matters only get worse when Jon spots the Night King and his White Walker lieutenants watching the battle from a ridge overlooking Hardhome. Jon and Loboda rush inside the meeting hut, which has caught on fire, to retrieve the dragonglass daggers but are intercepted by one of the lieutenants. Loboda’s ax shatters the moment it connects with the White Walker’s ice blade and Loboda is killed. The White Walker then turns on Jon, who loses his sword when he is thrown to the ground. Jon takes a beating but manages to retrieve Longclaw just in time to ward off a fatal blow. Jon and the White Walker are both shocked that Longclaw didn’t shatter and Jon takes advantage of the opportunity to kill him. Turns out Valryian steel is also capable of taking out White Walkers.

Realizing the battle is hopeless, Jon, his fellow Night’s Watch brothers and the wildlings retreat to the remaining boats as the slaughter continues around them. As the survivors row away, the Night King makes his way down to the docks and reanimates all of the dead wildlings as wights while staring Jon down.

“This isn’t a big action sequence that ends with the hero winning,” showrunner D.B. Weiss explained in the post-episode breakdown “This is a big action sequence that ends with the hero’s almost total failure and the anti has just been upped in a pretty significant way.”

Episode winner

The Night King

Most memorable line

Daenerys Targaryen to Tyrion Lannister: “Lannister, Targaryen, Baratheon, Stark, Tyrell — they’re all just spokes on a wheel. This one’s on top, then that one’s on top, and on and on it spins, crushing those on the ground. I’m not going to stop the wheel. I’m going to break the wheel.”

Most significant scene

Jon witnesses the Night King reanimate the thousands of dead wildlings that his army of undead slaughtered at Hardhome.

Game of Thrones: Season 5, Episode 9

HBO

Episode name

“The Dance of Dragons”

Episode recap

Featuring what has been described by showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss as the first of Game of Thrones‘ three biggest “holy s—t moments,” season 5’s penultimate episode brings the heat.

When Jon and the surviving wildlings arrive at the Wall, there is a stressful moment when it seems as though Ser Alliser may not open the gates. However, he ultimately lets them through and the Free Folk cross to the southern side of the Wall as many in the Night’s Watch watch with disgust.

At the Water Gardens, Jaime reveals to Prince Doran that he came to get Myrcella from Dorne because he and Cersei thought she was in danger after someone sent them her necklace wrapped around a viper statue. Doran realizes that Ellaria is the cause of this whole debacle and decides to make a deal with Jaime. Doran will allow Jaime to return to King’s Landing with Myrcella if Trystane goes with them and takes the seat on the Small Council that Tywin gave to Oberyn. Trystane also agrees to allow Bronn to go free on the condition that he lets Areo Hotah (DeObia Oparei), Doran’s personal bodyguard, strike him in the face as payback for Bronn striking Trystane.

Later, Doran gives Ellaria two choices: she can either swear allegiance to him or be executed. Ellaria reluctantly kneels and kisses his hand.

In Braavos, Arya is back at the docks studying the thin man when she spots Mace Tyrell and Ser Meryn Trant arriving in the city. Although she has vowed to rid herself of her identity as Arya Stark to become one of the Faceless Men, she can’t help but follow Ser Meryn, one of the very first people to earn a spot on her kill list, as he and Mace head to the Iron Bank. That night, Arya trails Ser Meryn to a brothel, where she spies on him as he demands a child prostitute from the brothel’s madam. When she returns to the House of Black and White, she tells Jaqen that the thin man wasn’t hungry that day and says she will try again the next day.

Outside of Winterfell, Ramsay and his 20 good men infiltrate Stannis’ camp in the night and light fires that burn up the army’s food stores, destroy their siege weapons and kill hundreds of their horses. Left with what he sees as no other choice, Stannis decides to send Davos on a bogus mission to Castle Black so that he won’t be there to interfere with his plans. Before Davos leaves, he gives Shireen a wooden stag, the sigil of House Baratheon, that he has carved for her and thanks her for teaching him to read.

Stannis visits Shireen and they have a conversation about choice during which Shireen naively tells him that she wants to do whatever she can to help. Queue the “holy s—t moment” in which Stannis sacrifices his own child to the Lord of Light because he’s convinced that it’s the only way to turn the tide in the battle against the Boltons.

Stannis has some of his men lead Shireen outside to a pyre where Melisandre is waiting. Shireen finally realizes what is happening and screams for her father and mother — who are cowardly standing where she can’t see them — to help her as Melisandre lights the pyre to sacrifice Shireen to the Lord of Light. At first, Selyse assures Stannis that they are doing the right thing, but as the fire starts to spread, she freaks out and rushes forward to try to save her daughter. Of course, it’s too little, too late and Shireen dies a horrific death as Stannis coldly looks on.

We know, we know: horrible. But don’t turn your TV off yet. Apparently sensing that they would probably be on thin ice with viewers at this point, the Game of Thrones‘ showrunners decided to end the episode on a high note.

On the day of the Great Games in Meereen, Daenerys and her entourage show up at Daznak’s Pit to watch the competition as the citizens of Meereen expect of them. Daenerys seems put out when Jorah once again makes a surprise appearance as a fighter, but looks worried every time he appears to be in danger. Jorah comes out on top, but as he and Daenerys contemplate each other, he suddenly grabs a spear and hurls it straight into a Son the Harpy sneaking up behind her. Chaos ensues as Sons of the Harpy reveal themselves throughout the arena and begin slaughtering the spectators.

Hizdahr is killed and Tyrion saves Missandei’s life as Daenerys and co. make their way to the center of the arena. The group is quickly surrounded by the Sons and Daenerys appears ready to accept her death when a dragon’s cries are heard from the sky. In the nick of time, Drogon swoops in and begins roasting the Sons before allowing Daenerys to climb on his back and ride him for the first time as they fly up and away from the city.

Episode winner

Daenerys Targaryen

Most memorable line

Stannis Baratheon to Shireen Baratheon: “Forgive me.”

Most significant scene

Drogon saves Daenerys from the Sons of the Harpy’s ambush in Daznak’s Pit by letting her ride him for the first time.

Game of Thrones: Season 5, Episode 10

HBO

Episode name

“Mother’s Mercy”

Episode recap

With Shireen dead, Stannis gets ready to march on Winterfell as Game of Thrones‘ darkest season to date comes to a close.

When she sees the snow melting, Melisandre is convinced that sacrificing Shireen has turned the tide of war in Stannis’ favor. But after one of his generals comes to report that nearly half of his army deserted in the night with all of the horses, she starts to look a bit worried. Things only go from bad to worse when another one of Stannis’ men shows up with the news that Selyse hanged herself out of grief and guilt over her daughter’s death. Knowing she has failed, Melisandre flees the camp when Stannis goes to retrieve Selyse’s body.

With nothing left to lose, Stannis and his remaining men prepare to lay siege to Winterfell but are instead met in open combat by Ramsay and the mounted Bolton army, who make easy work of defeating them.

Meanwhile, Sansa has managed to bust out of her room at Winterfell and make it to the broken tower. However, just as she is lighting a candle to signal to Brienne that she needs help, Brienne deserts her lookout to go after Stannis and finally exact revenge on him for using blood magic to kill Renly back in season 2. When the battle is over, Brienne finds a defeated Stannis in the forest and dutifully executes him for the crimes he committed against her king.

Sansa witnesses the defeat of the Baratheon army and tries to flee Winterfell but is caught by Myranda, who threatens to torture her while making Theon watch. But just as Myranda is about to fire an arrow at Sansa, Theon finally makes a stand and throws her over the railing to fall to her death in the courtyard. With Ramsay’s return imminent, Theon and Sansa jump from Winterfell’s ramparts in hopes that the deep snow will catch their fall and they can escape.

In Braavos, Ser Meryn Trant returns to the same brothel to solicit another child prostitute. He is given the choice between three little girls and picks the only one who doesn’t cry out when he beats her, who of course is Arya in disguise. When they are left alone, Arya removes the face that she stole from the Hall of Faces and repeatedly stabs Ser Meryn in the eyes and chest and gags him. She then reveals her identity and that she is taking revenge on him for killing Syrio Forel before slitting his throat.

However, when Arya returns to the House of Black and White, she is confronted by Jaqen and the Waif. Jaqen tells her that she has stolen a life from the Many-Faced God and now a debt is owed to pay that life back. He then holds up a vial of poison and drinks it before collapsing to the floor. As Arya screams for him to stay alive, she suddenly hears his voice coming from behind her and turns to see that the person she thought was the Waif is now Jaqen. Arya asks who the person on the floor is and Jaqen replies, “No one at all.” A confused Arya pulls face after face off the dead body until her own face appears in front of her. Jaqen warns her the faces are as good as poison to a person like Arya who is still “someone” — a.k.a. still acting on her own personal motivations — and she is struck blind.

Further east in Meereen, Daenerys’ small council debates what to do now that their queen is missing in action. They ultimately come to conclusion that Daario and Jorah should head north in search of Daenerys while Tyrion, Missandei and Grey Worm stay in Meereen to keep things in order while she’s gone.

Later, as Tyrion watches Jorah and Daario set out on their mission, Varys finally makes an appearance in Meereen. He lets Tyrion know that he and his “little birds” will be there to help him govern the city.

Somewhere further north, Drogon has landed with Daenerys and, despite her pleas, refuses to fly back to Meereen. When Daenerys goes to look for food, she is suddenly surrounded by a Dothraki khalasar. Anticipating that she will probably be kidnapped, Dany drops one of her signature rings on the ground to leave a trail.

In Dorne, Prince Doran, Ellaria and the Sand Snakes see Jaime, Bronn, Myrcella and Trystane off as they prepare to sail for King’s Landing. Ellaria apologizes to Myrcella and then kisses her on the mouth in farewell. Once onboard the ship, Jaime sits Myrcella down to try to tell her the truth about him and Cersei and Myrcella reveals that she knows that Jaime is her real father and has always been happy about it. However, Myrcella’s nose then starts to bleed and she collapses. The scene cuts back to the docks where Ellaria drinks the antidote to The Long Farewell poison that she dosed Myrcella with by kissing her.

In King’s Landing, a defeated Cersei giving in and confessing to the High Sparrow sets the scene for another highly controversial sequence involving violence against women.

After Cersei admits to committing adultery with Lancel — but not to having an incestous relationship with Jaime or conspiring to kill King Robert — the High Sparrow agrees to let her return to the Red Keep after she absolves herself of her sins. He also says that there will still be a trial for the crimes that Cersei has denied. The septas take Cersei into a room where they chop off nearly all of her hair and strip her naked. She is then forced to make a naked walk of atonement through the city as Septa Unella follows behind her ringing a bell and chanting “Shame!” and the people of King’s Landing harass and hurl things at her.

When Cersei finally makes it back to the Red Keep, she is greeted by Qyburn, who introduces her to the newest member of the Kingsguard, a zombie-like Mountain. Qyburn tells her that the new and improved Mountain has taken a vow of silence and sworn not to speak until all of Cersei’s enemies are dead.

At Castle Black, after Jon tells Sam about the White Walkers’ assault on Hardhome, Sam asks to be sent to the Citadel in Old Town to study to become the Night’s Watch’s new maester and hopefully learn something that will help them in the war against the dead. Jon is reluctant to send one of his only remaining friends away, but ultimately, he agrees.

After Davos arrives at Castle Black, he begs Jon to reconsider asking the wildlings to fight for Stannis, but Jon refuses once again. When a dejected Melisandre also shows up, Davos realizes the battle has already been lost.

That may seem like enough misery for just one episode, but there’s still one more heart-rending scene to go.

That night, Jon is working in his chambers when Olly rushes in to tell him that one of the wildlings has information about his long-lost Uncle Benjen, who went on a ranging mission beyond the Wall in season 1 and never returned. Olly leads him outside to the courtyard where Jon sees a sign mounted on a post that reads “Traitor.” A group of Night’s Watch brothers led by Ser Allister proceed to repeatedly stab Jon while repeating the phrase, “For the Watch.”

Jon falls to his knees and Olly delivers the final blow before the group leaves Jon to die alone on the ground.

Talk about a cliffhanger.

Episode winner

Theon Greyjoy

Most memorable line

Septa Unella to Cersei Lannister: “Shame! Shame! Shame!”

Most significant scene

A group of Night’s Watch brothers mutiny and murder Jon Snow in the courtyard of Castle Black.

Game of Thrones: Season 6, Episode 1

HBO

Episode name

“The Red Woman”

Episode recap

After 10 long months of debate over Jon Snow’s fate, the opening scene of Game of Thrones‘ sixth season revealed that he was…still dead.

When Ghost begins howling and clawing at the door of his pen, Davos realizes something is up and goes outside to investigate. After he finds Jon’s dead body in the courtyard of Castle Black, he recruits Dolorous Edd and a few other loyal Night’s Watch brothers to help bring Jon inside. A clearly confused Melisandre comes in and reveals that she had a fire vision of Jon fighting at Winterfell, something that now seems impossible. Melisandre leaves and the group barricades themselves in a room with Ghost as Ser Alliser and the other traitors try to bring the rest of the Night’s Watch over to their side. Edd sneaks out to ask the wildlings for help before Ser Alliser can break down the door.

At Winterfell, Maester Wolkan asks Ramsay what he wants to do with Myranda’s dead body and Ramsay tells him to feed her to the dogs. Roose then chastises Ramsay for allowing Sansa to escape because they’ll need her to rally the Northern houses to their cause if the Lannisters attack. Roose not so subtly hints that his unborn son will take Ramsay’s place as heir if he fails to get Sansa back.

Having survived the fall from Winterfell’s ramparts, Sansa and Theon flee through the woods with Ramsay’s hounds hot on their trail. Theon leads Sansa through a freezing river to try to lose the dogs but it’s no use. He then hides Sansa in the woods and tries to save her by giving himself up to Ramsay’s men, but the hounds find her anyway. Just when it seems like all is lost, Brienne and Podrick come charging in and kill Ramsay’s men. Brienne once again pledges her life to Sansa and this time, Sansa accepts.

Down south in Dorne, Doran learns about Myrcella’s death right before Ellaria and Tyene fatally stab both him and his bodyguard, Areo Hotah, as the mutinous palace guards do nothing. With his dying breath, Doran pleads for his son Trystane’s life, but Ellaria scoffs at him. Meanwhile, Obara and Nymeria board Trystane’s boat and murder him as well.

In King’s Landing, Cersei is overjoyed when a ship from Dorne arrives in the harbor. She rushes down to greet Myrcella but instead sees Jaime sailing toward the shore with a golden shrouded casket and realizes Myrcella is dead. Later, in a rare moment of vulnerability, Cersei tells Jaime that Myrcella’s goodness always made her feel like less of a monster and that she has always known this would happen because of Maggy the Frog’s prophecy. Jaime comforts her by promising that they will get revenge on everyone who has wronged them.

Across the city, Septa Unella and the High Sparrow try to convince Margaery to confess by refusing to give her information about Loras, but she only goes so far to admit that no one is without sin.

In Braavos, a blind Arya is begging for coins on the street when the Waif shows up with two wooden staffs and tries to goad her into a fight. The Waif then mercilessly beats her and promises to return the next day.

Further east, Tyrion and Varys stroll the streets of Meereen and talk strategy for keeping the peace without Daenerys. Varys says that his spies are hard at work trying to find the leader of the Sons of the Harpy. Unfortunately, the two then spot a huge cloud of smoke and discover that someone has set fire to all of Daenerys’ ships in the harbor, meaning she will be unable to sail for Westeros.

In the Great Grass Sea, Daario and Jorah’s search for Daenerys continues. After they find the ring that she dropped surrounded by horse tracks, they correctly conclude that she has been kidnapped by the Dothraki.

Meanwhile, Daenerys is brought before a Dothraki leader named Khal Moro (Joe Naufahu). He originally makes it clear that he intends to rape her, but when she reveals that she is Khal Drogo’s widow, he immediately backs of and promises that no harm will come to her. However, when Dany tries to bribe him into taking her back to Meereen, she is told that she must live out her life in the holy city of Vaes Dothrak as one of the dosh khaleen, widowed khaleesi who serve as seers for the Dothraki people.

Back at Castle Black, Melisandre undresses alone in her room before removing the apparently magical necklace that she has worn in nearly every scene that she has appeared in since her introduction in season 2. The removal of the necklace reveals her true form, a much, much older version of herself, and she dejectedly climbs into bed.

“There have been a few hints before that Melisandre is much older than she appears,” showrunner David Benioff explained in the post-episode breakdown. “Going back to a very early conversation with George [R. R.] Martin about her, she’s supposed to be several centuries old. So we always wanted to show her true age and were waiting for the right moment and this was it for us.”

“Her confronting the reality of her situation, her appearance is a lie just as the Lord of Light’s supposed promises to her and messages to her were lies,” showrunner D.B. Weiss added. “At the end of episode 1, she’s in a place where she really needs to look her real self in the eye and come to terms with where she stands now.”

Episode winner

Ellaria Sand and the Sand Snakes

Most memorable line

Ellaria Sand to Doran Martell: “Weak men will never rule Dorne again.”

Most significant scene

Melisandre reveals the true physical incarnation of her hundreds of years of life for the first time.

Game of Thrones: Season 6, Episode 2

HBO

Episode name

“Home”

Episode recap

Guess who’s back after a season-long absence? That’s right, Bran Stark.

In the cave beneath the giant weirwood tree, the Three-Eyed Raven (now played by Max von Sydow) is teaching Bran how to use his greenseer abilities to freely journey through time. He shows Bran a vision of his father, Ned (Sebastian Croft), and Uncle Benjen (Matteo Elezi) training in the Winterfell courtyard as young boys. His Aunt Lyanna (Cordelia Hill) then rides in on a horse that she passes off to young Hodor, who is revealed to have once been a fully competent stable boy named Wylis (Sam Coleman). Bran is frustrated when the Three-Eyed Raven forces him back to the present before he is ready, but the Three-Eyed Raven calmly warns him about the dangers of getting too engrossed in the past. “It is beautiful beneath the sea,” he says. “But if you stay too long, you’ll drown.”

Bran then has Hodor carry him outside the cave to see Meera, who is clearly still mourning her brother and no longer understands the role she has to play in Bran’s journey. Leaf (Kae Alexander), one of the Children of the Forest, assures her that while it may not seem like Bran needs her now, he will when it’s time for him to leave the cave.

In King’s Landing, the Mountain proves that he is making good on his vow to kill all of Cersei’s enemies when he smashes the skull of a man who he overhears bragging about exposing himself to her during her walk of atonement. But things still aren’t going too well for Cersei, who Tommen bars from attending Myrcella’s funeral because he’s afraid the Faith Militant will re-arrest her if she returns to the Great Sept of Baelor.

Meanwhile, at the funeral, Jaime tries to convince Tommen that he should go see Cersei now that she’s back in the Red Keep, but Tommen explains that he is ashamed that he wasn’t able to protect her or Margaery. When the High Sparrow shows up, Jaime sends Tommen away so that he can freely confront the leader of the Faith Militant over his treatment of Cersei. Jaime not-so-subtly threatens to kill the High Sparrow, but is disconcerted when he suggests that his death would inspire the Faith to “overthrow an empire.”

Later, Tommen finally does go to see Cersei and apologizes for not doing everything in his power to rescue her from the Faith. He asks for her help in becoming a stronger ruler and she tearfully hugs him.

In Braavos, Arya is once again accosted by the Waif while begging on the streets. She takes another beating before Jaqen shows up to question her about her identity. Jaqen promises that he’ll allow Arya to sleep under a roof that night, feed her and even give her sight back if Arya will say her name, but she maintains that “a girl has no name.” Jaqen is satisfied by her answer and allows her to come back to the House of Black and White.

But while things are looking up for Arya, they’re swiftly going downhill for Tyrion. After Daenerys’ fleet is burned in Meereen’s harbor, Varys tells Tyrion, Missandei and Grey Worm that Astapor and Yunkai have fallen back under the control of the masters. Missandei also reveals that Rhaegal and Viserion have refused to eat anything since Daenerys left the city. Knowing that he can’t let the dragons starve in Daenerys’ absence, Tyrion heads down to the crypts to release them from their chains in hopes that more freedom will inspire them to eat. Luckily, his hunch that the dragons would recognize him as a friend and not burn him to a crisp turns out to be correct and they allow him to remove their shackles.

When “Home” first aired, some fans speculated that this moment gave credence to the theory that Tyrion could be one of the prophesied figures known as the three heads of the dragon, i.e., he would eventually be one of three people to ride Daenerys’ three dragons. But with only one season left to go, that has yet to happen.

After Lord Harald Karstark (Paul Rattray), the son of the late Rickard Karstark, arrives at Winterfell with the news that the Bolton men who were supposed to hunt down Sansa were killed, Ramsay proposes that they storm Castle Black and kill Jon in order to get Sansa back, as the Wall is really the only place she could be headed. Roose shoots down the idea of murdering the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch and dubs it a surefire way to unite the rest of the North against them. Unfortunately for Roose, Maester Wolkan arrives at that moment to announce that Walda has given birth to a boy, a revelation that sends Ramsay into a murderous rage. Ramsay stabs his father to death in front of Harald Karstark and Maester Wolkan — who he orders to send ravens carrying the message that Roose was poisoned by the Boltons’ enemies to all of the Northern houses — before forcing Walda to bring her newborn baby down to the kennels and feeding them both to his hounds.

En route to the Wall, Brienne tells Sansa about her encounter with Arya, giving her hope that her sister may still be alive. Sansa wants Theon to accompany her to the Wall so that he can join the Night’s Watch and absolve himself of his crimes, but Theon says that he doesn’t deserve forgiveness for what he did to her family. He tearfully tells her that he would’ve died to get her to the Wall, but now that she has Brienne and Pod to protect her, he will return to the Iron Islands to face his reckoning at home.

Cut to Pyke, where Yara is attempting to convince Balon that their invasion of the Westerosi mainland is hopeless now that the North has retaken all of the ironborn’s strongholds. Yara reminds him about the losses they experienced the last time the ironborn tried to stage a rebellion, but Balon merely threatens to make another heir if she refuses to obey him.

Later, as Balon crosses a swinging rope bridge between two of Pyke’s towers with a storm raging around him, his long-absent brother Euron (Pilou Asbæk) appears on the other side. After a short confrontation, Euron hurls Balon off the bridge to his death. At Balon’s funeral, Yara tells Aeron Greyjoy (Michael Feast), a priest who is also one of Balon’s brothers, that she will avenge Balon’s death as the new Queen of the Iron Islands. Aeron reminds her that she must first be chosen to lead at the Kingsmoot, the ironborn election ceremony.

At Castle Black, a group of wildlings led by Tormund and Dolorous Edd arrive just in time to prevent Ser Alliser and his men from carrying out the final stage of their coup. The traitors are thrown in Castle Black’s dungeon while Davos pays a visit to Melisandre to ask her to try to bring Jon back from the dead. Melisandre has basically lost all faith in her powers, but reveals that she has met a man, a.k.a. Beric Dondarrion, who was brought back and agrees to give it a shot.

With Davos, Tormund and Edd watching, Melisandre performs a ritual over Jon’s body that involves burning his hair and calling on the Lord of Light in High Valyrian. When nothing happens, Tormund dejectedly leaves the room and the others follow.

After several long moments, Ghost, who has been keeping watch over Jon’s body, perks his head up just as Jon opens his eyes and comes gasping back to life.

Jon Snow is back.

Episode winner

Tyrion Lannister

Most memorable line

Tyrion Lannister to Missandei: “That’s what I do. I drink, and I know things.”

Most significant scene

Melisandre calls upon the Lord of Light to bring Jon Snow back to life and successfully resurrects him.

Game of Thrones: Season 6, Episode 3

Macall B. Polay—HBO

Episode name

“Oathbreaker”

Episode recap

“Oathbreaker” picks up right where “Home” left off, with a shocked Jon realizing that he has been brought back to life after being murdered by a group of his sworn brothers.

After hearing Jon’s loud gasps and coming back into the room, Davos seems just as astonished as Jon himself that he is once again breathing. He catches Jon as he stumbles away from the table and Melisandre rushes in to see what the commotion is about. She asks Jon what he saw when he died, but to her disappointment, he says that he only remembers being stabbed, nothing afterward. She admits that she was wrong about Stannis being the Prince That Was Promised, but declares that Jon’s resurrection proves he is the Lord of Light’s chosen one. This prompts Davos to shoo her out of the room before encouraging a confused Jon to keep fighting the good fight for as long as he can.

The wildlings and loyal Night’s Watch brothers welcome Jon back in the courtyard before Jon presides over the hanging of his murderers, including Olly. When all four are dead, Jon hands Edd his Night’s Watch cloak and declares that his watch has ended. After being betrayed by his sworn brothers, Jon clearly no longer feels obligated to keep his oath to serve in the Watch.

On a boat headed south, Sam tells Gilly that since women and children aren’t allowed at the Citadel, he plans to leave her and little Sam with his family at Horn Hill, the seat of House Tarly in the Reach.

In King’s Landing, Qyburn works to endear himself to the children who were Varys’ spies, a.k.a. his “little birds,”by giving them sweets. Cersei, Jaime and the Mountain enter the room and Cersei reveals that she plans to demand a trial by combat and put the Mountain forward as her champion when the Faith officially charges her. She then orders Qyburn to send the little birds all across the Seven Kingdoms to report back on any hints of resistance against the crown.

Later, Cersei and Jaime interrupt a Small Council meeting that was called by their Uncle Kevan, the acting Hand of the King. Both Kevan and Olenna Tyrell, who was invited to the meeting to help deal with Margaery’s imprisonment, object to their presence, but they insist that the council needs to address Myrcella’s death as well as Ellaria and the Sand Snakes’ coup against House Martell. Rather than deal with them, Kevan gets up to leave the room and orders the rest of the Small Council to do the same.

Meanwhile, Tommen attempts to follow through on his promise to be a stronger ruler by paying a visit to the High Sparrow and demanding that Cersei be allowed to see Myrcella’s resting place, but the High Sparrow talks him down by evangelizing about the importance of having faith in the gods.

In the cave under the giant weirwood tree, Bran and the Three-Eyed Raven journey into the past to witness the infamous duel between a young Ned (Robert Aramayo) and Ser Arthur Dayne (Luke Roberts), a renowned knight in the Mad King’s Kingsguard. The fight took place at the end of Robert’s Rebellion when Ned led a group of Northmen to the Tower of Joy, a tower in Dorne’s Red Mountains that Rhaegar Targaryen ordered Ser Arthur and Ser Gerold Hightower (Eddie Eyre) to hold prior his death, in search of his sister Lyanna.

However, while Bran recalls repeatedly hearing the story of how his father defeated the legendary Sword of the Morning, the actual battle was apparently more complicated. After Ser Arthur disarms Ned, Howland Reed (Leo Woodruff) — Meera and Jojen’s father — saves Ned by sneaking up behind Arthur and stabbing him in the back before Ned delivers the killing blow.

Ned then hears Lyanna cry out from the top of the tower and runs towards its steps. Bran can’t resist yelling after him and Ned turns, seemingly having heard Bran’s shout, before continuing up the stairs. The Three-Eyed Raven forces Bran back to the present and refutes his claim that his father heard him. “The past is already written,” the Three-Eyed Raven says. “The ink is dry.”

On the other side of the world in Meereen, Varys bribes a prostitute who has been aiding the Sons of the Harpy into revealing who is funding them by offering her a bag of silver and safe passage to Pentos with her son in return. Varys then reports back to Tyrion, Missandei and Grey Worm on what he has learned: The slave masters of Yunkai, Astapor and Volantis have been secretly financing the Sons. Grey Worm wants to march on the offending cities, but since that would leave Meereen unprotected, Tyrion instead asks Varys to have his “little birds” deliver a message to the masters.

In Vaes Dothrak, Khal Moro’s bloodriders take Daenerys to the temple of the dosh khaleen, where the high priestess of the dosh khaleen (Souad Faress) has her stripped naked and redressed in Dothraki clothing. The high priestess ignores Daenerys’ queenly posturing and tells her that not only did she break the rules by not immediately joining the dosh khaleen after Khal Drogo’s death, but that being allowed to stay with them is now the best-case scenario for her. Her fate will be decided by the current khals, who are all in Vaes Dothrak with their khalasars to discuss which cities to sack and which tribes to enslave.

At the House of Black and White, the Waif continues to force a still blind Arya to train with her. The Waif asks her questions about her life and viciously beats her when she lies, forcing Arya to admit that by the end of their travels together, she had taken the Hound off of her kill list. Arya also names Cersei, the Mountain and Walder Frey as the three people left on the list. When she is finally able to successfully spar with the Waif — much to the Waif’s displeasure — Jaqen takes Arya into the House’s main chamber and tells her to drink from the poison well, claiming that if she is truly “no one,” she will not be harmed. Arya takes a sip, closes and eyes and triumphantly opens them to reveal her sight has been restored.

At Winterfell, Smalljon Umber (Dean Jagger) meets with Ramsay and Harald Karstark to ask for help taking out the army of wildlings that Jon let through the Wall. Smalljon refuses to swear an oath of loyalty to Ramsay as Warden of the North, citing Roose’s betrayal of Robb as proof that oaths don’t matter to the Boltons, but offers him a gift as a gesture of good faith. Smalljon then brings in two prisoners and removes their hoods to reveal — surprise! — Osha and Rickon. When Ramsay asks how he can be sure that the boy in front of him is actually Rickon Stark, Smalljon tosses him the severed head of Rickon’s direwolf, Shaggydog.

Episode winner

Arya Stark

Most memorable line

Ser Arthur Dayne and Ned Stark: “Now it begins.” “No, now it ends.”

Most significant scene

Jon declares that he is leaving the Night’s Watch after he is brought back to life by Melisandre following his murder.

Game of Thrones: Season 6, Episode 4

Episode name

“Book of the Stranger”

Episode recap

Amidst all the misery of Game of Thrones, it’s finally time for a scene that will make you cry happy tears instead of sad ones.

At Castle Black, Edd is trying to convince Jon to continue leading the Night’s Watch when the horn announcing visitors suddenly sounds. Jon goes outside to see Sansa entering the courtyard with Brienne and Pod. The siblings silently stare at each other as Jon walks down the steps before Sansa flings herself into his arms and they emotionally embrace. Finally, a successful Stark reunion.

Later, Jon and Sansa sit alone and reminisce about their childhood at Winterfell. It’s implied that they have already finished discussing the respective horrors that have befallen them throughout the years. Sansa apologizes to Jon for treating him poorly when they were kids, but he insists that she has nothing to be sorry about. He tells her that wherever they decide to go, they’ll go together, and that he’s going to watch over her. Sansa insists that they need to retake Winterfell from the Boltons if they ever want to be safe, but Jon refuses and maintains that he’s done fighting.

However, Jon is swayed when he receives a message from Ramsay revealing that he has Rickon in Winterfell’s dungeon. In the letter, Ramsay states that if Jon doesn’t return Sansa to him, he will march north and force Jon to watch as he slaughters all of the wildlings, lets his men rape Sansa and feeds Rickon to his dogs before he spoons Jon’s eyes from their sockets and lets his dogs finish the job. Jon is concerned that the wildlings only have 2,000 men who can fight while Ramsay has 5,000, but Sansa convinces him that as the son of the last true Warden of the North, he will be able to rally the Northern houses to his cause.

Meanwhile, Davos seeks out Melisandre to ask her what happened with Stannis. She tells him that Stannis was defeated in battle but hesitates when he questions her about Shireen. Brienne then interrupts to triumphantly reveal that she was the one who executed Stannis when the fighting was done.

At Winterfell, Ramsay’s reign of terror continues when he summons Osha to his chambers to decide what to do with her. Osha tries to seduce him by claiming that she has never been loyal to the Starks, but it’s clear she’s really just waiting for an opportunity to kill him. Unfortunately, Osha is unaware that Theon was tortured into revealing the truth about her role in Bran and Rickon’s escape, and Ramsay quickly turns the tables on her by plunging a knife into her throat.

Theon has finally made it back to Pyke, but Yara, believing he is gunning for the Salt Throne in the wake of their father’s death, is none too happy to see him. Theon apologizes for the way he behaved when she tried to rescue him from the Dreadfort and promises that he will support her claim to the crown at the Kingsmoot.

In the Vale, Littlefinger visits Robin at the home of Lord Yohn Royce, who questions him about how Sansa ended up married to Ramsay when Littlefinger had claimed that he was taking her to the Fingers. Littlefinger lies that the Boltons attacked his entourage and kidnapped Sansa, and accuses Royce of giving away their location. He then makes it clear that Royce’s fate rests in his hands by manipulating Robin into suggesting that they execute him before convincing the young Lord of the Vale that they should give him one more chance to prove his loyalty. He then gets Robin to agree to order Royce to lead the Knights of the Vale north and aid Sansa.

In King’s Landing, Septa Unella brings Margaery before the High Sparrow, who tells her about the life of indulgence he led before turning to the Faith. He then finally allows Margaery to see Loras, who is breaking under the Faith’s torture. Margaery urges Loras to stay strong and not give in, but he begs her to just let the Sparrows win.

On the other side of the city in the Red Keep, Tommen warns Cersei that they need to keep things from escalating any further with the High Sparrow so that they don’t put Margaery at risk. Tommen then reveals that the High Sparrow intends to have Margaery make a walk of atonement. Cersei and Jaime take this information to Kevan and Olenna, who forcefully declares that Margaery will not be subjected to that treatment. Jaime proposes that they bypass Tommen’s order to not take action against the Faith by having the Lannister forces stand down when the Tyrell army marches into the city to force the Sparrows to release Margaery and Loras. Everyone agrees.

In Meereen, Tyrion, Varys, Grey Worm and Missandei meet with Yezzan zo Qaggaz, Razdal mo Eraz and Belicho Paenymion (Eddie Jackson), representatives of the masters of Astapor, Yunkai and Volantis. Despite Grey Worm and Missandei’s objections, Tyrion offers to give the masters seven years to fully abolish slavery if they agree to stop funding the Sons of the Harpy. When Tyrion leaves to give the masters time to consider his offer, a group of Meereen’s freedmen immediately confront him for negotiating with slavers. Both Grey Worm and Missandei back Tyrion in front of the crowd, but later warn him that the masters will outsmart him.

The night before the Khalar vezhven, Daario and Jorah sneak into Vaes Dothrak and try to rescue Daenerys when she is allowed outside the temple of the dosh khaleen to relieve herself. But she has a different plan in mind.

The following night, Daenerys is brought before the khals, who have gathered in the temple to decide her fate. Khal Moro initially supports allowing her to join the dosh khaleen, but after she accuses them all of being unfit to lead the Dothraki, he instead threatens to gang-rape her. Daenerys proceeds to grab hold of a flaming brazier and push it over to light the temple on fire. The khals attempt to escape but find that Daario and Jorah have barred the door. Daenerys smiles as the temple and khals burn around her before emerging naked from the inferno to the awe of the Dothraki people, who bow before her.

“The end of episode 6×04 is definitely meant consciously to echo the end of episode 1×10,” showrunner D.B. Weiss explained in the post-episode breakdown. “It’s Dany stepping out of a flame to great effect. This time it was just on a much much larger scale. The act of stepping out of that burning temple in which all the Dothraki power structure had just perished pretty much makes her the queen of the Dothraki in one fell swoop.”

Episode winner

Daenerys Targaryen

Most memorable line

Daenerys Targaryen to the khals: “You are small men. None of you are fit to lead the Dothraki. But I am, so I will.”

Most significant scene

Daenerys proves that she still deserves the title of “the Unburnt” when she walks unscathed from the torched temple of the dosh khaleen.

Game of Thrones: Season 6, Episode 5

HBO

Episode name

“The Door”

Episode recap

Get ready for some more heartbreak in “The Door,” the episode that has become synonymous with Game of Thrones‘ second “holy s—t moment.”

After receiving a message from Littlefinger, Sansa sneaks out of Castle Black with Brienne to meet him in Mole’s Town. Once there, she angrily confronts him about giving her to the Boltons. For once, Littlefinger seems truly distressed and claims that he didn’t know how big of a monster Ramsay was. He says that he led the Knights of the Vale north to help her retake Winterfell, but she basically tells him to get lost.

Before he leaves, Littlefinger reveals that her great-uncle, Brynden “The Blackfish” Tully, has retaken Riverrun with what remains of the Tully forces. He suggests that she seek him out and request his aid. Later, Sansa sends Brienne to rally the Blackfish to their cause while she and Jon set out to do the same with the remaining Northern houses.

Across the Narrow Sea in Braavos, Jaqen gives Arya a chance to prove herself by sending her on a mission to assassinate an actress named Lady Crane (Essie Davis). Arya goes to see the satirical play based on the War of the Five Kings in which Lady Crane is playing the role of Cersei, but is visibly upset by the show’s mocking portrayal of Ned and Sansa. After sneaking backstage and observing the troupe of actors, she reports back to Jaqen that she will poison Lady Crane’s rum, as she is the only one who drinks it. However, Arya notes that Lady Crane “seems like a decent woman” and appears to be a bit hesitant to go through with her assignment.

Outside of Vaes Dothrak, Jorah reveals his Greyscale to Daenerys and finally admits that he is in love with her. He says that he intends to end his life before the Greyscale turns him mad, but Daenerys tearfully orders him to find a cure and return to her side instead.

Meanwhile, in Meereen, Tyrion and Varys summon Kinvara (Ania Bukstein), the High Priestess of the Red Temple of Volantis, to the Great Pyramid. They think that if they can persuade her to spread the good word about Daenerys to the people of Meereen, it will help preserve the tentative peace that has fallen over the city since they made their deal with the masters. But when Kinvara arrives, it turns out she already believes that Daenerys is the One Who Was Promised and needs no convincing.

Varys can’t resist questioning her religious motives and bringing up her fellow Red Priestess Melisandre’s misguided belief that Stannis was the Lord of Light’s chosen one. But Kinvara quickly turns the tables on him by recounting the details of the night he became a eunuch, information that she should have no way of knowing . “Do you remember what you heard that night when the sorcerer tossed your parts in the fire?” she asks him. “You heard a voice call out from the flames, do you remember? Should I tell you what the voice said? Should I tell you the name of the one who spoke?”

Consider the normally unflappable Varys well and truly flapped.

On the Iron Islands, it’s the day of the Kingsmoot and Yara is ready to claim the Salt Throne. Theon backs his sister as promised, but in the middle of the debate, Euron shows up to shrewdly throw his name in the ring. When Yara accuses Euron of killing Balon, he openly admits to the murder before promising that he will conquer Westeros for the ironborn by offering Daenerys the Iron Fleet in exchange for her hand in marriage. The ironborn throw their support behind Euron, and Yara and Theon flee the Iron Islands with all those still loyal to them as their uncle is coronated.

In the cave under the giant weirwood tree, the Three-Eyed Raven takes Bran deep into the past to show him how the first White Walker was created. Bran watches as the Children of the Forest plunge a dragonglass dagger into the heart of a man tied to heart tree and he begins to turn. Back in the present, Bran confronts Leaf about the Children of the Forest’s actions but she protests that they created the White Walkers — from men — in order to defend themselves against the invading First Men.

Later that night, Bran is restless and decides to continue his training on his own. He grabs onto a root of the weirwood tree and enters a vision where he sees the army of the dead for the first time. He walks slowly through the crowd of wights before reaching the Night King and three of his White Walker lieutenants. In a moment of panic, Bran realizes the Night King can see him and screams as he reaches out and grabs his arm. When Bran wakes back in the cave, the Three-Eyed Raven immediately knows that he has been marked and says that he is no longer safe under the giant weirwood tree. He then starts trying to catch Bran up on everything that he needs to know about the past as quickly as possible. “The time has come,” he tells Bran. “For you to become me.”

Unfortunately, the Night King shows up right in the middle of this crash course and sets his army lose on the cave. Meera, Summer and the Children of the Forest try to fight them off —and Meera even manages to kill a White Walker with a dragonglass-tipped spear — but it’s clearly a losing battle. Meera knows that Bran will need to warg into Hodor for them to have any chance of escaping and screams at him to do so while he is experiencing a vision of the Winterfell courtyard in which a young Ned is saying goodbye to his father, Rickard Stark (Wayne Foskett), before being sent to the Vale as a ward. The Three-Eyed Raven tells Bran to listen to Meera and he wargs into Hodor in the present while in the presence of young Hodor in the past.

With Hodor now able to pull Bran’s sledge, the group flees down a back tunnel. Summer and Leaf are both killed by wights while the Night King personally takes out the Three-Eyed Raven, who disintegrates into thin air in Bran’s vision. Hodor just manages to push open the door at the end of the tunnel and slam it closed behind them to keep the wights inside as Meera drags Bran’s sledge into the wilderness. When the wights start to break through, Meera turns back with a horrified look on her face and repeatedly shouts at Hodor to “hold the door!”

Get ready for the “holy s—t moment.” In the past, Bran also hears Meera’s cries as young Hodor seems to become aware of Bran. He stares at him before falling to the ground in a seizure-like fit and repeatedly echoing Meera’s order to “hold the door!” While witnessing his own death at the hands of the wights, young Hodor’s words begin to slur together until all he can say is “Hodor.”

Judging by this scene, it would seem that time in the Game of Thrones universe operates in a closed loop. Just as the Three-Eyed Raven tried to warn him, Bran cannot change the past through time travel, he can only fulfill it — i.e., Bran shattering Hodor’s mind by warging into him from the past was a fate that was always set in stone.

The concept is summed up well by this TV Tropes post explaining self-fulfilling time travel: “You go back in time to set right what once went wrong, only to discover that the ‘changes’ you’re making to the past were what ‘already’ happened anyway. In other words, there was no ‘first time around’ — the past only happened once, there were no different ‘versions’ of it, and the changes you made to the past ultimately created the very past you read about in the history books before leaving on the trip.”

Episode winner

Euron Greyjoy

Most memorable line

Meera Reed to Hodor: “Hold the door!”

Most significant scene

The consequences of Bran’s meddling in the past and the devastating cause of Hodor’s disyllabic condition come to light as Bran’s gentle giant protector meets his end.

Game of Thrones: Season 6, Episode 6

HBO

Episode name

“Blood of My Blood”

Episode recap

With the wights still in hot pursuit, Meera desperately tries to drag Bran to safety as he continues to experience an onslaught of visions. Bran catches rapid-fire glimpses of the Mad King (David Rintoul) ordering his pyromancer to burn the people of King’s Landing, Jaime stabbing the Mad King in the back, a wildfire explosion, the Night King turning Craster’s last son, Ned’s execution, the Red Wedding, the fall that paralyzed him, the shadow of a dragon flying over King’s Landing, young Ned at the Tower of Joy and the Night King raising the dead at Hardhome.

Just when Meera can go no further, Bran comes out of his trance and a mysterious hooded figure shows up to spirit them away on the back of his horse. Later, the man reveals himself to be Bran’s long-lost Uncle Benjen. He explains that he was stabbed by a White Walker north of the Wall but that the Children of the Forest saved him by plunging a shard of dragonglass into his heart before he could fully turn. Benjen tells Bran that he is the Three-Eyed Raven now and that he must learn to control his powers before the Night King finds his way south of the Wall.

In the Reach, Sam and Gilly arrive at Horn Hill with little Sam in tow. Sam’s mother, Melessa (Samantha Spiro), and sister, Talla (Rebecca Benson), are overjoyed to see him and to meet Gilly, but Sam’s father, Randyll (James Faulkner), gives them a frosty reception. After Randyll repeatedly insults Sam at dinner that night, Gilly accidentally reveals that she is a wildling while trying to defend him, sending Randyll into an even worse rage. Randyll tells Sam that he will allow Gilly and little Sam to stay at Horn Hill, but that Sam himself must never return to the castle. Instead, Sam decides to take Gilly and little Sam with him to the Citadel, and nabs House Tarly’s ancestral Valyrian steel sword ,Heartsbane, on the way out.

At the Great Sept of Baelor, the High Sparrow allows Tommen to see Margaery, who is no longer in a cell and is speaking like a newly converted follower of the Faith of the Seven.

Meanwhile, in the streets of King’s Landing, Jaime and Mace Tyrell lead the Tyrell army to the steps of the Sept, where the High Sparrow appears to be preparing for Margaery’s walk of atonement. Jaime orders the High Sparrow to release Margaery and Loras before he has to resort to violence. However, the High Sparrow shocks everyone by declaring that Margaery no longer has to make a walk of atonement, as she has already repented her sins by convincing Tommen to unite the crown and the Faith. Tommen then emerges from the Sept and takes Margaery’s hand to the cheers of the common people as Jaime and Olenna realize they have been outsmarted.

Later, Jaime tells Cersei that Tommen has dismissed him from his position as Lord Commander of the Kingsguard and ordered him to march on Riverrun with the Lannister army to retake the castle from the Blackfish. Jaime expresses concern over missing Cersei’s trial, but she reassures him that the Mountain is virtually impossible to beat in a trial by combat. Cersei encourages Jaime to show the Seven Kingdoms that the Lannisters are still a force to be reckoned with and they passionately kiss.

Speaking of Riverrun, Walder Frey is busy berating his sons, Black Walder and Lothar, for losing the castle to the Blackfish in the first place. He decides to use Edmure Tully, who he has kept in his dungeons since the Red Wedding, to try to force the Blackfish to surrender.

In Braavos, Arya is once again watching Lady Crane perform in “The Bloody Hand.” She sneaks backstage near the end of the play and poisons Lady Crane’s rum, but when the actress catches her leaving, the two end up bonding over their shared talent for pretending to be someone else. Arya finally makes an excuse and leaves, but bursts back in just as Lady Crane is about to drink her rum and knocks the glass out of her hand. Knowing that she has blown her last chance to prove herself to the Faceless Men, Arya then retrieves her sword Needle from the rocks where she stashed it when she first arrived in Braavos and retreats to a hideout to await her punishment.

When the Waif, who witnessed the scene backstage, reports back on Arya’s backsliding, Jaqen gives her permission to kill Arya on the condition that she doesn’t suffer.

On the road from Vaes Dothrak to Meereen, Daario tells Daenerys that she will need at least 1,000 ships to cross the Narrow Sea with the Dothraki, the Unsullied and the Second Sons. Daenerys senses Drogon’s presence and rides ahead to reunite with her dragon before making a grand re-entrance on his back. She then gives a powerful speech that echoes the one that Khal Drogo made when he vowed to cross the Narrow Sea with his khalasar to conquer Westeros for he and Daenerys’ unborn son.

Episode winner

The High Sparrow

Most memorable line

Daenerys Targaryen to the Dothraki: “Will you ride the wooden horses across the black salt sea? Will you kill my enemies in their iron suits and tear down their stone houses? Will you give me the Seven Kingdoms, the gift Khal Drogo promised me, before the Mother of Mountains? Are you with me, now and always?”

Most significant scene

Arya realizes that she will never be “no one” when she can’t bring herself to kill Lady Crane and prepares to cut ties with the Faceless Men.

Game of Thrones: Season 6, Episode 7

Helen Sloan—HBO

Episode name

“The Broken Man”

Episode recap

In a rare pre-opening credits scene, “The Broken Man” reveals that the Hound is not only alive, but living amongst a band of villagers led by a septon named Brother Ray (Ian McShane). As the episode goes on, we learn that Ray found the Hound on the brink of death and nursed him back to health, but that the Hound still feels as though he has not been properly punished for his past sins.

When three men who claim they are members of the Brotherhood Without Banners show up requesting provisions, the Hound warns Brother Ray that they should be ready for the trio to retaliate against them for failing to comply with their demands. But Ray refuses, insisting that violence is not the answer. Later, while the Hound is in the forest chopping wood, the group returns and murders everyone in the village, including Brother Ray. Upon discovering the massacre, the Hound angrily retrieves an ax and sets out to take his vengeance.

After the High Sparrow not-so-subtly hints to Margaery that Olenna is no longer safe in King’s Landing, Margaery meets with her grandmother for the first time since returning to the Red Keep. With Septa Unella present, Margaery masterfully plays the role of a true convert, much to Olenna’s confusion and dismay. However, while kneeling before Olenna and pleading with her to return to Highgarden, Margaery slips a drawing of House Tyrell’s rose sigil into Olenna’s hand. Satisfied that her granddaughter has a plan, Olenna agrees to go home.

Cersei, however, is not quite ready to let Olenna leave the capital. Hoping to convince her to stay and continue the fight against the High Sparrow, Cersei reminds Olenna that Loras is still the Faith’s prisoner. However, Olenna simply takes her to task over her role in the High Sparrow’s rise and maintains that she intends to get out of dodge while she still can.

In the North, Jon, Sansa and Davos visit the wildlings’ camp to ask for their help retaking Winterfell from the Boltons. It takes a little convincing from Tormund and Wun Wun, but the Free Folk eventually agree to take up the Stark cause. The group then travels to Bear Island hoping to secure an alliance with Lyanna Mormont (Bella Ramsey), the same 10-year-old Lyanna who sent a letter to Stannis declaring that House Mormont “knows no king except the King in the North, whose name is Stark.”

But they don’t get the welcome they’re expecting. After making a jab about Sansa’s marital history, Lyanna explains that she is unwilling to sacrifice her people for someone else’s war. Luckily, Davos chimes in to remind her that as long as the Boltons hold Winterfell, the North will be divided and unable to unite against the real danger, the White Walkers. Lyanna agrees to send Bear Island’s remaining 62 men to the front.

Unfortunately, that’s where Sansa and Jon’s luck runs out. At Deepwood Motte, Lord Robett Glover (Tim McInnerny) refuses to ally with the Starks on the grounds that Robb did not come to House Glover’s aid when the ironborn invaded the North. Later, Sansa tries to convince Jon that they should try to rally more forces before making their stand, but Jon insists that they have to attack as soon as possible. Unwilling to accept the possibility of defeat, Sansa secretly writes a letter to Littlefinger accepting his earlier offer of help.

After the Freys’ plan to force the Blackfish to surrender Riverrun by threatening to kill Edmure doesn’t pan out, Jaime — who has arrived in the Riverlands with Bronn and the Lannister army — decides to try to personally meet with the Blackfish. The Blackfish agrees to speak with Jaime, but only to let him know that the Tullys have two years worth of food stockpiled in the castle and are prepared to outlast any siege.

At a brothel in Volantis, Yara tries to convince a still disconsolate Theon that he needs to accept what has happened to him and move on. She tells him that she needs him at her side in the wars to come and reveals that she plans to sail to Meereen and ally with Daenerys in order to take back the Iron Islands. Thanks to his sister’s encouragement, Theon seems to turn a corner and come back to himself a bit.

In Braavos, Arya bribes a Westerosi trader for passage back to the Seven Kingdoms before taking a final stroll through the city. While studying the Titan of Braavos from a bridge, an elderly woman approaches and stabs her multiple times with a shiv before revealing herself as the Waif. Arya just barely manages to fight her off and dives into the river. Arya miraculously manages to pull herself out of the water and, still bleeding profusely, wanders through the city streets terrified that anyone around her could be the Waif in disguise.

Episode winner

The Waif

Most memorable line

Olenna Tyrell to Cersei Lannister: “I wonder if you’re the worst person I’ve ever met. At a certain age, it’s hard to recall. But the truly vile do stand out through the years.”

Most significant scene

After a nearly two-season absence, the Hound makes his long-awaited return.

Game of Thrones: Season 6, Episode 8

Macall B. Polay—HBO

Episode name

“No One”

Episode recap

Looks like the Hound’s time with Brother Ray didn’t change him too much.

After hunting down and brutally killing several of the rogue Brotherhood Without Banners members who took part in the massacre of his village, the Hound finds Beric Dondarrion and Thoros of Myr preparing to hang Lem Lemoncloak (Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson) and the other two men who incited the slaughter. The Hound demands to be allowed to kill the trio as retribution for their crimes, but Beric maintains that it’s the Brotherhood’s good name that they’ve sullied. They compromise by allowing the Hound to kill two of the men, but only by hanging, not with his ax.

Later, Beric and Thoros convince the Hound to join them on their journey north to fight the White Walkers by insisting that it’s not too late for him to do some good in the world.

After Varys leaves Meereen on a covert mission to recruit some Westerosi allies for Daenerys, Tyrion returns to the Great Pyramid to toast to the apparent success of his plan to use the Red Priestesses to unite the Meereenese in support of Dany. Unfortunately, his celebration with Grey Worm and Missandei is cut short by the masters’ fleet of ships arriving to attack and retake the city.

That night, as Grey Worm takes charge of their defense strategy, Daenerys, with the help of Drogon, makes a surprise reappearance in the Great Pyramid, much to everyone’s relief.

When several Faith Militant members led by Lancel show up at the Red Keep demanding that Cersei come with them to the Great Sept of Baelor, Cersei allows the Mountain to demonstrate his full strength by ripping the head of one of the Sparrows clean off his body. The rest of the group wisely decides to leave without trying their luck against him.

However, the High Sparrow ultimately comes out on top when he convinces Tommen to make a royal announcement outlawing trials by combat in the Seven Kingdoms. Cersei’s hopes of using the Mountain to avoid the High Sparrow’s judgement are crushed, but Qyburn swoops in at that moment to tell her that the “old rumor” she wanted his little birds to investigate is “so much more” than just a rumor. As many fans correctly speculated at the time, this is a reference to the cache of wildfire that the Mad King hid underneath King’s Landing.

When Brienne and Pod arrive in the Riverlands to find the Lannisters camped outside Riverrun, Brienne demands to be taken to see Jaime. She then reveals that she has come to recruit the Blackish to Sansa’s cause and proposes a deal: If she can convince the Blackfish to surrender Riverrun, then Jaime will allow him to lead the Tully army north unimpeded. Jaime agrees, but only gives her until nightfall to make it happen. Brienne then tries to give his sword, Oathkeeper, back, claiming that she has achieved the purpose for which he originally gifted it to her, but he maintains that it’s hers forever.

Unfortunately, once Brienne makes it inside Riverrun, the Blackfish refuses to give up the castle despite his compassion for his great-niece’s plight. Brienne sends a raven to Sansa to let her know that she has failed and Jaime decides to play the ace up his sleeve.

That night, Jaime confronts Edmure and offers to let him live out his life at Casterly Rock with his wife, Roslin Frey, and the son that they conceived on their wedding night in exchange for him claiming his place as the rightful heir of Riverrun and surrendering the castle. When Edmure refuses, Jaime explains that the other option is for him to catapult Edmure’s son into Riverrun and slaughter every other Tully that stands in his way.

Left with no other choice, Edmure approaches the castle and demands to be let in as the son of the late Hoster Tully and the rightful Lord of Riverrun. Despite the Blackfish’s protests, the Tully soldiers let Edmure inside and he orders them to stand down. With the Lannisters and Freys infiltrating the castle, the Blackfish helps Brienne and Pod escape before making one last stand in which he is killed. As Pod rows their boat down the river, Brienne turns back to see Jaime watching her from the ramparts and the two share a forlorn wave of farewell.

In Braavos, a still-bleeding Arya somehow makes her way to the theater, where Lady Crane finds her and takes her home to stitch her up. Lady Crane then gives her a sedative to help her sleep, but Arya is awoken by a crash and finds the Waif standing over Lady Crane’s mangled corpse in the other room. The Waif once again chastises Arya for her failures and an epic chase scene through the Braavosi streets ensues.

With the Waif hot on her heels and her wounds reopened, Arya just manages to lead the Waif down to the windowless room where had left Needle. The Waif shuts the door behind her and Arya abruptly slices the only candle in half to to plunge the room into darkness and finally put her weeks of training blind to good use.

Later, Jaqen enters the Hall of Faces to find the Waif’s bloodied face waiting for him. He turns to see Arya leveling Needle at him and tells her that by killing the Waif, she has finally become no one. Arya lets him know in no uncertain terms that she has no intention of ever being no one, and with a nod and barely perceptible smile, he lets her leave.

“Arya is telling Jaqen by putting the face on the wall that this account is settled and we’re good here and now I’m going to walk away. And I think she knows what the answer is going to be,” showrunner D.B. Weiss explained in the post-episode breakdown. “The implication is obviously that Jaqen, on some level, was rooting for the outcome that he got. He may be no one but there’s still enough of a person left in him to respect and admire who this girl is and what she’s become”

Episode winner

Arya Stark

Most memorable line

Arya Stark to Jaqen H’ghar: “A girl is Arya Stark of Winterfell, and I’m going home.”

Most significant scene

Qyburn confirms to Cersei that there is a massive supply of wildfire hidden underneath the streets of King’s Landing.

Game of Thrones: Season 6, Episode 9

HBO

Episode name

“Battle of the Bastards”

Episode recap

In what has been hailed by some as the greatest TV episode of all time, the Starks finally battle the Boltons for control of the North. But first, let’s check in with Meereen.

After Tyrion advises Daenerys to propose terms of surrender to the masters rather than just annihilating them and their cities, Dany meets with Yezzan zo Qaggaz, Razdal mo Eraz and Belicho Paenymion outside of the Great Pyramid. Once the trio lets on that they think it’s her who’s surrendering, Daenerys turns the tables on them by summoning Drogon to her side and riding him out over the bay to rain dragonfire down on the masters’ fleet. Rhaegal and Viserion also bust out of the catacombs and join in the fiery spree. Meanwhile, Daario leads the Dothraki horde to the city gates to slaughter the Sons of the Harpy.

As the masters watch on in terror, Missandei announces that one of them must die as punishment for their betrayal. Razdal and Belicho immediately push Yezzan forward as the most lowborn of their group, but Grey Worm instead slits the throats of the two highborn. Tyrion then tells Yezzan that it’s his job to warn the other masters about the consequences of challenging Daenerys’ rule.

Later, Yara and Theon arrive in Meereen and meet with Daenerys in the Great Pyramid. They offer Daenerys their fleet of 100 manned ships to aid in her conquest of Westeros in exchange for her helping them take out Euron and allowing Yara to rule the Iron Islands as an independent kingdom. Dany agrees on the condition that the ironborn cease all reaving, roving, raiding and raping on the mainland, as has long been their way of life. Yara is a bit taken aback, but ultimately agrees and the two formally shake on their alliance.

And now, for the main event.

At a neutral location outside Winterfell, Jon, Sansa, Davos, Tormund, and Lyanna Mormont parley with Ramsay, Harald Karstark and Smalljon Umber. As one might expect, Ramsay swiftly rejects Jon’s proposal to settle their dispute in one-on-one combat to prevent thousands from dying in their stead. Sansa then asks for proof that Ramsay has Rickon and Smalljon tosses Shaggydog’s head on the ground between them. After seeing the remains of her youngest brother’s direwolf, Sansa coldly tells Ramsay that he is going to die before riding away. Ramsay concludes the meeting by revealing that he hasn’t fed his dogs in seven days in preparation for the meal he will have for them following the battle.

That night, Jon, Sansa, Davos and Tormund convene for a war council in which Davos insists that, since they’re so greatly outnumbered, it’s crucial that they wait for the Bolton army to charge at them to avoid a situation in which they end up flanked on both sides. Once Davos and Tormund are gone, Sansa confronts Jon about not asking for her advice when she’s the one who knows Ramsay best. They argue and Jon promises Sansa that he will protect her from Ramsay. She retorts that no one can protect anyone before walking out on him.

Unable to sleep before the battle, Davos wanders the grounds around the Stark camp, which happens to be in relatively the same area that Stannis’ once was. He discovers the remains of a pyre and spots the wooden stag that he gave to Shireen lying in the snow beside it. While examining the stag, he comes to the horrible realization that Melisandre burned Shireen to death at the stake.

Speaking of Melisandre, Jon pays a visit to the Red Priestess to tell her not to bring him back if he is killed during the battle. She insists that she will have to try as it’s her duty to the Lord of Light, but says that whether or not it works is out of her control.

As the two armies stand facing each in front of Winterfell the next morning, Ramsay brings Rickon forward, cuts his restraints and tells him to run to Jon. Ramsay then pulls out a bow and begins shooting arrows at Rickon as he frantically sprints across the field. Jon leaps on his horse and races toward his brother, but one of Ramsay’s arrows pierces Rickon’s heart just as Jon is about to reach him. Blinded by rage, Jon completely abandons their battle plan and begins charging toward Ramsay himself, forcing his army to follow. Jon is knocked off his horse and readies himself to face the Bolton cavalry alone, but his own soldiers catch up just in time to spare him from certain death.

A brutal and gruesome battle ensues in which a mound of dead bodies piles up behind the Stark army, allowing the Boltons to surround them. As his soldiers desperately try to retreat over the wall of corpses, Jon is knocked down and begins suffocating under the weight of his own men. Proving that he has a renewed will to live, Jon pulls himself to the top of the pile while Tormund viciously takes out Smalljon Umber. It’s at that moment that a horn sounds and the Knights of the Vale come charging in to save the day as Sansa and Littlefinger watch triumphantly from afar.

Realizing the battle is lost, Ramsay retreats to Winterfell with Jon, Tormund and Wun Wun in hot pursuit. He insists that the Boltons will still be able to hold Winterfell, but clearly doesn’t anticipate Wun Wun singlehandedly breaking down the castle’s gate. The giant is hit with dozens of arrows as he batters his way into the courtyard and finally succumbs to his injuries when Ramsay fires one last arrow into his eye. This, of course, enrages Jon even further.

Ramsay proceeds to fire a series of arrows at Jon that Jon blocks with a shield. Jon then knocks Ramsay to the ground and begins beating the everloving crap out of him. For a minute, it seems like Jon may punch Ramsay to death, but he forces himself to stop when he looks up to see Sansa watching and realizes that Ramsay is not his to kill.

Later, Melisandre looks on smugly as the Stark banners are raised in Winterfell once more — only she doesn’t see Davos glaring up at her while clutching Shireen’s stag. When Rickon’s body is retrieved from the battlefield, Jon declares that he will be buried in the crypts next to Ned. But Sansa, while saddened by her brother’s death, only has one thing on her mind.

That night, Ramsay wakes to find himself tied to a chair in the kennels with Sansa standing outside the gate. The two have a conversation in which Ramsay tries to get in a few final taunts but Sansa remains steely. When his hounds begin to emerge from their open cages, Ramsay remains convinced that they’re too obedient to harm him. That is, until Sansa reminds him that he hasn’t fed them in seven days. In the episode’s final moments, Sansa watches as Ramsay’s dogs maul him to death before walking away with a small smile on her face.

Episode winner

Sansa Stark

Most memorable line

Sansa Stark to Ramsay Bolton: “Your words will disappear. Your house will disappear. Your name will disappear. All memory of you will disappear.”

Most significant scene

Ramsay Bolton meets a fittingly horrific end at the hands of none other than Sansa Stark.

Game of Thrones: Season 6, Episode 10

HBO

Episode name

“The Winds of Winter”

Episode recap

By killing off a staggering 11 series-regular and recurring cast members, “The Winds of Winter” sets Game of Thrones on a crash course towards its ultimate endgame.

On the day of her trial, Cersei spends the morning staring out at the Great Sept of Baelor from her balcony in the Red Keep. She then sends the Mountain to keep Tommen from leaving his room during the proceedings.

Meanwhile, at the Sept, a crowd including Margaery, Mace and Kevan has already gathered to watch the High Sparrow decide Loras’ fate. After confessing to his crimes, Loras agrees to renounce his family name, lordship and claim to Highgarden in order to devote his life to the Seven. The Faith Militant then carves the Seven-Pointed Star into Loras’ forehead as a mark of his devotion, much to Margaery and Mace’s dismay.

Back at the Red Keep, Qyburn summons Pycelle to his lab, where he has his “little birds” murder the grand maester.

Meanwhile, with Cersei and Tommen still conspicuously absent, the High Sparrow sends Lancel to retrieve them from the castle. But when Lancel spots one of Qyburn’s little birds outside the Sept, he decides to follow him into the catacombs beneath King’s Landing. The young boy stabs Lancel in the spine and he falls to the ground at the end of a tunnel where three small candles have been set up to burn down and ignite the cache of wildfire hidden underneath the city.

Margaery soon realizes that everyone in the Sept is in grave danger and tries to tell the High Sparrow that they need to leave, but he has the Faith Militant bar the doors instead. As Margaery desperately tries to escape with Loras, one of the catacomb candles burns down and ignites an explosion that incinerates the Sept and everyone inside it. Across the city, Cersei smirks as she watches her enemies, as well as all the common people who just happened to be in the way, burn.

Later, Cersei awakens Septa Unella, who she has tied to a table in the dungeons, by pouring a pitcher of wine on her face. Cersei reminds Unella that she promised her that her face would be the last thing she saw before she died and Unella defiantly insists that she is ready to meet the gods. But her courage fails when Cersei reveals that not only is she not going to die for quite some time, but that she will also be left in the hands of Ser Gregor Clegane. The Mountain menacingly enters the room and Unella begins to scream as Cersei echoes her “shame, shame, shame” chant on the way out.

Unfortunately, while Cersei is busy tormenting Unella, a horrified Tommen jumps to his death from his room in the Red Keep. Cersei’s joy is immediately extinguished by grief when she learns of her son’s suicide, but she also seems to have basically accepted that his death was inevitable. She tells Qyburn to burn Tommen’s body and bury his ashes among the remains of the Sept so that he can be with Joffrey, Myrcella and Tywin.

In the Reach, Sam, Gilly and little Sam arrive in Oldtown and we get our first glimpse of the Citadel. Once Sam explains that he has come to train to become Castle Black’s new maester, the maester on duty allows Sam into the library, where he looks around in wonder at the wealth of books available to him.

At the Twins, Jaime looks on with disdain as Walder Frey toasts to the the Lannister-Frey alliance. When the feast is over, a servant girl who was shown making eyes at Jaime during the celebration serves Walder dinner while he waits for his sons to show up. After Walder comments on Black Walder and Lothar’s absence, the girl calmly explains that they have already arrived, as she chopped them up and baked them into the meat pie that he is eating. She then pulls off her face to reveal herself as Arya and slits his throat. Having killed two birds with one stone by avenging the Red Wedding and crossing another name off her kill list, Arya smiles as Walder Frey bleeds out.

At Winterfell, Davos confronts Melisandre about Shireen’s murder and asks Jon to allow him to execute her. Melisandre says that she has been ready to die for many years, but argues that she must be allowed to live until she has finished playing in her part in the war against the dead. Jon banishes her from the North and tells her that if she ever returns, he’ll have her hanged as a murderer.

As Jon and Sansa watch Melisandre ride south from the castle ramparts, Jon tells Sansa that she’s now the Lady of Winterfell and she apologizes for not telling him about the Knights of the Vale. They agree that they need to trust each other going forward and Sansa tells him that a white raven arrived from the Citadel. Its meaning? Winter is here.

Later, in the Winterfell godswood, Littlefinger approaches Sansa and finally admits that his ultimate goal is to sit on the Iron Throne with her at his side. He tries to kiss her but she rejects him. As she walks away, he not-so-subtly suggests that she should be the one ruling the North, not Jon.

Further north, Benjen drops Bran and Meera off at a heart tree just beyond the Wall. Benjen tells them what the magic the Wall is warded with to protect the people of Westeros from the White Walkers prevents him from crossing it as well before he heads back into the wilderness. Bran then touches the heart tree and travels back to the Tower of Joy to find out what happened after Ned ran up the stairs. He sees Ned comforting Lyanna, who is bleeding out after giving birth to a baby boy. She then makes Ned promise to protect her son from Robert Baratheon, all but confirming that Jon is not Ned’s bastard as he was raised to believe, but rather the child of Lyanna and Rhaegar Targaryen. Basically, R+L=J.

Cut to Jon, who has gathered the lords of the North and the Vale and the wildling leaders to discuss the coming war against the White Walkers. While some of the lords are initially hesitant to commit their forces to his cause, once Lyanna Mormont speaks up in his stead, he is unanimously declared the King in the North. As the crowd chants in support of Jon, Sansa looks across the room to find Littlefinger staring at her.

Speaking of coronations, Jaime returns to King’s Landing — half of which is still smoking from the wildfire explosion — to find Cersei being crowned the queen of the Seven Kingdoms. The two share a foreboding look before she turns away to take her place on the Iron Throne.

In Dorne, a grieving Olenna meets with Ellaria and the Sand Snakes to discuss revenge against Cersei. Ellaria then brings out Varys, who offers them an alliance with Daenerys.

Meanwhile, in Meereen, Daenerys tells Daario that she is leaving him and the Second Sons in Meereen to maintain order while she conquers the Seven Kingdoms. She then names Tyrion her Hand of the Queen.

As the final moments of season 6 play out, Daenerys, her advisors, her allies, her armies and her dragons finally set sail for Westeros.

Episode winner

Cersei Lannister

Most memorable line

Arya Stark to Walder Frey: “The last thing you’re ever going to see is a Stark smiling down at you as you die.”

Most significant scene

R+L=J confirmed!

Game of Thrones: Season 7, Episode 1

Helen Sloan—HBO

Episode name

“Dragonstone”

Episode recap

In another pre-opening credits cold open, Arya poses as Walder Frey to take out every Frey who took part in the Red Wedding by holding a feast and poisoning their wine. She then begins making her way to King’s Landing with the intention of killing Cersei.

On the road north, the Brotherhood decides to take shelter in the home of a farmer who the Hound robbed while traveling with Arya. The group enters the cabin to find that the farmer killed both his daughter and himself to spare them from suffering once winter arrived.

That night, when the Hound begins to question Beric about why the Lord of Light would continue to bring him back from the dead, Thoros tells the Hound to look into the fire for the answers he seeks. The Hound is at first skeptical, but then seems to catch sight of something and describes a foreboding vision: “Ice, a wall of ice. The Wall…It’s where the Wall meets the sea. There’s a castle there. There’s a mountain, looks like an arrowhead. The dead are marching past, thousands of them.”

The Hound seems to be referencing the army of the dead arriving at Eastwatch-by-the-Sea, the easternmost castle along the Wall belonging to the Night’s Watch. It is one of the three remaining Wall castles — along with Castle Black and The Shadow Tower — still manned by the men of the Watch.

Later, Thoros goes outside to find the Hound giving the farmer and his daughter a proper burial.

At Winterfell, Jon calls another meeting in the Great Hall to discuss the North’s defense strategy. He sends Tormund and the wildlings to guard Eastwatch-by-the-Sea and orders all able-bodied men, women and children aged 10 to 60 to begin combat training. Despite Sansa’s protests, Jon then forgives Ned Umber and Alys Karstark, the young sons of Smalljon Umber and Harald Karstark, respectively, for their fathers’ crimes and says that he will allow them to keep their ancestral family homes of Last Hearth and Karhold if they swear a renewed oath of loyalty to House Stark.

In private, Jon tells Sansa that while he’s fine with her questioning his decisions, he really wishes that she wouldn’t do it in public. The two then receive a letter from Cersei ordering Jon to bend the knee. Jon isn’t worried about the Lannister army marching north now that winter has arrived but Sansa is wary of Cersei’s tricks.

Later, after Brienne overhears Littlefinger trying to get in Sansa’s head about her position of power, she questions Sansa about allowing him to stay at Winterfell. Sansa argues that the North still needs the Knights of the Vale and therefore, Littlefinger’s support.

As the White Walkers begin their march on the Wall, Meera and Bran arrive at Castle Black and are allowed south again by Dolorous Edd.

Down south in King’s Landing, Cersei reveals to Jaime that she has decided to ally with Euron now that Daenerys is on the way to Westeros and they’re surrounded by enemies on all sides. Euron then arrives in the capital with the Iron Fleet and proposes that they make their alliance official by marrying. Cersei rejects him because of his reputation for treachery, but he cryptically insists that he’s going to win her over with a “priceless gift.”

At the Citadel, Sam is tasked with a daily regimen of less-than-glamorous chores rather than being allowed to do the research he needs to aid Jon in the war against the dead. So when Archmaester Ebrose (Jim Broadbent) denies him access to the restricted section of the Citadel library, he decides to break in anyway. Later, as he studies the stolen books at home with Gilly, he learns that the dragonglass supply that Stannis said existed at Dragonstone is actually massive. Sam then sends a raven to Jon to share the good news.

The next day, Sam is walking past the Citadel’s hospital ward when an arm covered in Greyscale pops out of one of the doors and Jorah asks Sam if Daenerys has arrived in Westeros yet. Sam tells him he doesn’t know.

Last but certainly not least, Daenerys lands at Dragonstone and finally arrives in Westeros. After finding the tabletop map of the Seven Kingdoms in Dragonstone’s throne room, Daenerys asks Tyrion if he’s ready to begin their conquest and the scene cuts to black.

Episode winner

Daenerys Targaryen

Most memorable line

Arya Stark as Walder Frey: “Leave one wolf alive and the sheep are never safe.”

Most significant scene

After six long seasons of buildup, Daenerys finally sets foot on Westeros.

Game of Thrones: Season 7, Episode 2

Helen Sloan—HBO

Episode name

“Stormborn”

Episode recap

Now that she’s finally made it to Westeros, Daenerys has to figure out how she’s actually going to conquer the Seven Kingdoms.

In the Chamber of the Painted Table, Daenerys grills Varys about his penchant for switching alliances when a new ruler comes into power. He defends himself by maintaining that his ultimate goal is to serve the common people. “You wish to know where my true loyalties lie?” he says. “Not with any king or queen, but with the people. The people who suffer under despots and prosper under just rule, the people whose hearts you aim to win.”

Daenerys finally accepts his loyalty after he promises to tell her if she is doing wrong by the people rather than conspiring against her. In return, she promises to burn him alive if he ever betrays her.

When Melisandre arrives at Dragonstone, she reveals that she believes that both Daenerys and Jon have a role to play in the Prince That Was Promised prophecy. Dany questions her reasoning, stating that she is not a prince. But Missandei steps in to correct Dany’s interpretation of the prophecy. “That noun has no gender in High Valyrian so the proper translation for that prophecy would be the Prince or Princess Who Was Promised,” she says.

With the support of Tyrion, who says he trusts Jon from the time he spent with him at the Wall, Melisandre convinces Daenerys to send a raven to Jon summoning him to Dragonstone to bend the knee to her.

Later, Daenerys and her advisors meet with Olenna, Ellaria and the Greyjoys to discuss an attack plan. While Yara and Ellaria want to strike King’s Landing hard and fast, Daenerys insists that she doesn’t want to be queen of a city of ashes. Tyrion proposes that the Tyrell and Dornish armies lay siege to King’s Landing — with the Greyjoy fleet ferrying the Dornish forces up to the coast to the capital — while the Unsullied take Casterly Rock. When everyone else has left the room, Olenna tells Daenerys that while Tyrion is a clever man, the lords of Westeros are sheep and Daenerys must be a dragon.

Later, when Missandei shows up to say goodbye to Grey Worm before he sets sail for Casterly Rock, the two declare their feelings for each other and finally seal the deal.

Meanwhile, in King’s Landing, Cersei presents her case to the lords of Westeros who haven’t already chosen a side, including Randyll Tarly. As a bannerman of House Tyrell, Randyll is at first reluctant to turn against Olenna, but after Jaime promises that Cersei will make him Warden of the South if he agrees to be his second-in-command, Randyl changes his tune.

After the meeting, Qyburn takes Cersei down to the cellar beneath the Red Keep where the skulls of the Targaryen dragons are kept. He then demonstrates his solution to Daenerys’ dragons, a massive crossbow-like weapon that fires bolts with enough velocity to pierce their skulls.

At Winterfell, Jon, Sansa and Davos discuss the letter from Tyrion inviting Jon to Dragonstone. Jon initially agrees with Sansa that it’s a bad idea for him to go, but he changes his mind after receiving Sam’s message about Dragonstone’s supply of dragonglass. Despite Sansa and the other Northern lords’ protests, Jon defends his decision by insisting that they will need Daenerys’ help in the war against the dead. However, he does name Sansa Regent of the North before he leaves.

Before Jon’s departure, he pays a visit to the Winterfell crypts, where Littlefinger finds him standing in front of Ned’s effigy. Littlefinger attempts to convince Jon that he’s on his side by mentioning his love for Sansa, but this only angers Jon. After slamming him against the wall of the crypt, Jon tells Littlefinger that he will kill him if he ever touches Sansa.

At the Inn at the Crossroads, Arya reunites with Hot Pie, who tells her that Jon has retaken Winterfell from the Boltons. After hearing this news, Arya decides to head north rather than continue on to King’s Landing. However, shortly after leaving the inn, she is surrounded by a pack of wolves. At first it seems as though Arya may be in danger, but it’s then revealed that her long-lost direwolf Nymeria is leading the pack. Arya attempts to convince her to return to Winterfell at her side, but soon realizes that, like her, Nymeria is no longer domesticated.

At the Citadel, Archmaester Ebrose warns Sam that the only treatment that has ever worked on Greyscale as advanced as Jorah’s is forbidden, as the maester who attempted it ended up contracting the disease himself. Undeterred, Sam secretly visits Jorah that night and performs the experimental — and agonizing — procedure on him.

En route to Dorne, Ellaria is in the midst of seducing Yara when their ship is suddenly ambushed by Euron and the Iron Fleet. As Euron and his men begin their violent assault, Yara sends Tyene below deck to protect Ellaria. Euron brutally kills the other two Sand Snakes in one-on-one combat before moving on to Yara, who he takes prisoner. Ellaria and Tyene are also captured by Euron’s men. While holding a knife to Yara’s throat, Euron tries to goad Theon into attacking him. But when Theon sees Euron’s men mutilating and torturing their own, he panics and instead dives overboard.

“We’d maybe fooled ourselves into thinking that Theon was out of the woods on his whole Reek experience, and as we were writing it, we realized that you just don’t get over what happened to him,” showrunner D.B. Weiss explained in the post-episode breakdown. “That’s something that’s going to be a part of him for the rest of his life. And this is a place that triggers the worst of that experience.”

Episode winner

Euron Greyjoy

Most memorable line

Grey Worm to Missandei: “I was never the biggest, never the strongest, but I was bravest, always. Until I meet Missandei from the Isle of Narth. Now, I have fear.”

Most significant scene

Missandei reveals that the noun “prince” has no gender in High Valyrian, so the proper translation of the Prince That Was Promised prophecy would be the Prince or Princess That Was Promised.

Game of Thrones: Season 7, Episode 3

Helen Sloan—HBO

Episode name

“The Queen’s Justice”

Episode recap

Drum roll, please. It’s time for the long-awaited meeting of ice and fire, a.k.a. Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen.

When Jon and Davos come ashore at Dragonstone, they’re greeted by Tyrion and Missandei, who ask that they surrender their weapons. The group then begins their walk up to the castle and Tyrion tries to get any awkwardness out of the way by assuring Jon that his marriage to Sansa was a marriage in name only. Jon and Davos are visibly taken aback when one of the dragons swoops low over their heads.

Meanwhile, Varys makes his way out to the island’s cliffs to confront Melisandre as she watches Jon’s arrival from afar. Melisandre tells him that she plans to sail for Volantis, one of the Free Cities of Essos that is the location of a prominent Red Temple. Varys not so subtly threatens her life if she ever returns to Westeros, but an undaunted Melisandre responds with an ominous declaration concerning both their fates: “I will return, dear Spider, one last time…I have to die in this strange country, just like you.”

In the Dragonstone throne room, Daenerys and Jon come face-to-face for the first time and tensions quickly begin to rise. When Jon reveals that he hasn’t come to bend the knee to her, Daenerys offers to name him Warden of the North if he acquiesces. However, Jon refuses once again and tells her that they don’t have time to bicker amongst themselves as the real threat is the army of the dead. Skeptical of his claims, Daenerys insists that it’s her destiny to rule the Seven Kingdoms and that claiming the Iron Throne is her top priority. Jon counters that she will be ruling over a graveyard if they don’t defeat the Night King.

Davos then steps in to back Jon and nearly divulges the truth about his murder and resurrection before Jon gives him a look that silences him. The meeting is interrupted when Varys enters the room to break the news of Euron Greyjoy’s attack on Yara’s fleet and Daenerys orders one of her Dothraki guards to escort Jon and Davos to their rooms.

Later, Tyrion advises Daenerys to allow Jon to mine the dragonglass on Dragonstone as a show of good faith. She meets with Jon alone and grants his request, but when he asks if she believes what he has said about the White Walkers, she simply tells him to get to work.

When Euron returns to King’s Landing with Yara and his “gift” of Ellaria and Tyene in tow, Cersei accepts his marriage proposal and promises that they will be wed once the war is won. Later, in the dungeons of the Red Keep, Cersei gets revenge for her daughter’s murder by kissing Tyene with the same poison that Ellaria used to kill Myrcella. She tells Ellaria that she will be forced to spend the rest of her life watching her daughter’s body rot and decay before leaving the two gagged and chained to opposite walls in a cell.

Cersei then pays a visit to Jaime and seduces him despite his initial protests. The next morning, Cersei doesn’t even try to hide the fact that she and Jaime have slept together when a servant — who has come to announce the arrival of Iron Bank representative Tycho Nestoris — knocks on the door. During their meeting, Cersei manages to convince Tycho that the Iron Bank should side with the Lannisters rather than Daenerys by promising to repay the crown’s debt within a fortnight.

In the Narrow Sea, Theon is rescued by one of the few remaining ships in Yara’s fleet. However, the men onboard don’t believe him when he falsely claims that he tried to save Yara.

At Winterfell, Sansa is forging ahead with her plans to keep the people of the North fed and warm throughout winter — despite Littlefinger’s best attempt to get in her head with a Machiavellian speech about staying one step ahead of her enemies when a guard rushes over to announce the arrival of Bran and Meera. Sansa emotionally embraces her brother in the Winterfell courtyard, but it’s obvious from the get-go that he’s acting strangely.

The two siblings retreat to the godswood to talk and Sansa begins to realize that Bran has been deeply changed by his experiences beyond the Wall. “I can never be Lord of Winterfell,” he tells her when she insists the position is his. “I can never be Lord of anything. I’m the Three-Eyed Raven…It’s difficult to explain…It means I can see everything, everything that’s ever happened to everyone. Everything that’s happening right now. It’s all pieces now, fragments. I need to learn to see better. When the Long Night comes again, I need to be ready.”

He then callously dredges up memories of her marriage to Ramsay, scaring her with his intimate knowledge of the details of her wedding night and prompting her to make an excuse to walk away.

At the Citadel, Archmaester Ebrose examines Jorah and concludes that he has been cured of Greyscale. Jorah tells Sam that he plans to return to Daenerys’ side and the two share an heartwarming farewell handshake. That night, Archmaester Ebrose chastises Sam for attempting a forbidden treatment, but praises him for doing so successfully. He then tasks Sam with making fresh copies of a number of old scrolls.

When the Unsullied attack Casterly Rock, they successfully take the castle thanks to Tyrion’s intimate knowledge of its sewage system. However, once inside, Grey Worm quickly realizes that the Lannisters left their ancestral seat mostly empty in pursuit of another target. He then looks out to see Euron’s fleet battering their ships.

Cut to Highgarden, where Olenna watches from a tower window as the bulk of the Lannister army bears down on her home. When the battle is over and the Lannisters have won, Jaime makes his way to Olenna’s chambers, where she’s waiting for him. Olenna laments her role in Cersei’s rise to power and, knowing that Jaime has come to kill her, lays down some hard truths about his toxic relationship with his sister.

She asks how Jaime plans to do the deed and he reveals that he talked Cersei out of a few horrific ideas in favor of a painless poison. Olenna then downs her glass of poisoned wine without a second thought and coldly looks up at Jaime before playing her final card: confessing to Joffrey’s murder.

“I’d hate to die like your son,” she says. “Clawing at my neck, foam and bile spilling from my mouth, eyes blood red, skin purple. Must have been horrible for you as a Kingsguard, as a father. It was horrible enough for me. A shocking scene. Not at all what I intended. You see, I had never seen the poison work before.”

Realizing he has no other recourse, a stunned Jaime storms out of the room as Olenna calmly awaits her end.

The Queen of Thorns has gotten her final last word.

Episode winner

Cersei Lannister

Most memorable line

Olenna Tyrell to Jaime Lannister: “Tell Cersei. I want her to know it was me.”

Most significant scene

Jon and Daenerys meet for the very first time after nearly seven seasons of buildup.

Game of Thrones: Season 7, Episode 4

Macall B. Polay—HBO

Episode name

“The Spoils of War”

Episode recap

The surviving Starks are flocking back to Winterfell in full force as season 7 hits its halfway point.

During what appears to be his first conversation with Bran, Littlefinger tries to sink his claws into yet another Stark by gifting him with the Valyrian steel dagger that was used by the catspaw assassin who tried to kill him shortly after he was paralyzed. Littlefinger clearly isn’t aware that, as the Three-Eyed Raven, Bran is no longer concerned with such things. Bran does, however, ask him if he knows who the dagger belonged to, prompting Littlefinger to give a drawn-out response musing over how that question was precisely what started the War of the Five Kings and catapulted the Seven Kingdoms into the chaos that now reigns.

“Chaos is a ladder,” Bran interjects, echoing Littlefinger’s infamous assertion to Varys after he handed Ros over to Joffrey for double-crossing him back in season 3. Littlefinger is clearly taken aback, as there are no normal means by which Bran could know about this conversation. He excuses himself from the room as Meera walks in.

Once Littlefinger is gone, Meera reveals that she has come to say goodbye to Bran now that she has delivered him safely back to Winterfell. Bran is apathetic at best, a response that sends Meera into a rage over how many people, including her own brother, sacrificed their lives for him. Bran tells her that he remembers what it felt like to be Brandon Stark, but that he is too overwhelmed with other memories now to really relate to anyone or anything from his old life. “You died in that cave,” she tearily tells him before leaving to return to the Reeds’ ancestral family home of Greywater Watch.

Later, Arya returns to Winterfell for the first time in years only for the guards to try to deny her entry. She of course manages to give them the slip and sneaks down to the Winterfell crypts, where Sansa comes to find her. The two hug and smile at each other, but it’s clear that things aren’t perfectly comfortable between them. Arya mentions her kill list after asking Sansa if the rumors about her killing Joffrey are true, but Sansa laughs it off.

Sansa then takes Arya out to the godswood to see Bran, who tells her that he saw her at the crossroads and thought she was going to King’s Landing to cross Cersei’s name off of her list. Arya and Sansa are both disconcerted by this revelation. Bran then pulls out the Valyrian steel dagger and Sansa warns that Littlefinger didn’t give him the dagger out of the generosity of his heart, but rather because he thought would get something in return. Bran claims that it doesn’t matter because he doesn’t want it anyway and gives it to Arya.

Back in the Winterfell courtyard, Sansa and Littlefinger watch from above as Arya asks Brienne, someone who has beaten the Hound, to train with her. Brienne at first underestimates Arya’s skill with Needle, but soon discovers that she is an extremely worthy opponent. When Brienne asks Arya who taught her how to fight, Arya simply replies, “no one.” Sansa and Littlefinger both appear to be dismayed by Arya’s newfound talent for killing.

When the news of the Lannisters’ victory over the Tyrells reaches King’s Landing, Cersei lets Tycho know that the Tyrell gold is on its way back to capital and will be used to repay the crown’s debt to the Iron Bank. She also mentions that Qyburn has reached out to negotiate a contract with a mercenary group known as the Golden Company to help rebuild the Lannister army.

At Dragonstone, Jon takes Daenerys on a tour of the dragonglass mine to show her a series of cave drawings depicting the War for the Dawn, a legendary conflict in which the Children of the Forest and the First Men joined forces to defeat the White Walkers. He underscores the importance of the Children of the Forest and the First Men’s unlikely alliance to try to convince her that it’s essential for them to work together to win the war against the dead. Daenerys says that she will fight for the North if Jon bends the knee, but he’s still hesitant.

Back on the beach, Tyrion reveals the utter failure of his military strategy to Daenerys, making her question his loyalties. Daenerys once again contemplates just flying her dragons to King’s Landing, but when she asks for Jon’s opinion, he argues that would make her no different than the tyrannical rulers that came before her.

Later, Jon, Davos and Missandei are chatting on the causeway when they spot Theon and the surviving ironborn coming ashore. Theon is surprised to see Jon but immediately asks if Sansa is alright. A visibly angry Jon roughly grabs Theon and tells him that the only thing stopping him from killing him is what he did for Sansa. Theon then reveals that he has returned to ask Daenerys for help rescuing Yara, but Jon tells him that Daenerys is gone.

In the Reach, Randyll tells Jaime that all of the Tyrell gold has reached King’s Landing, but warns him that they need to hurry up and get the wagons carrying the looted grain supplies over the Blackwater Rush so that they don’t get caught in a vulnerable position.

Suddenly, the sound of charging hoofbeats is heard and Daenerys’ horde of Dothraki comes barreling over the ridge toward the Lannister army. Bronn tries to tell Jaime that he should retreat to King’s Landing to save himself, but he refuses. It’s at that moment that Daenerys soars into battle on Drogon’s back and begins to lay waste to the Lannister ranks. After seeing the damage Dany’s dragon is capable of inflicting, Jaime sends Bronn to try to take out Drogon with Qyburn’s scorpion. Bronn misses his first shot but manages to pierce Drogon’s shoulder with the second, sending him and Daenerys into freefall. Luckily, Drogon manages to pull up at the last moment and incinerates the scorpion as Bronn leaps to safety.

Daenerys then grounds Drogon next to the river and dismounts to try to remove the bolt, giving Jaime what he sees as an opportunity to take out the dragon queen. Clearly conflicted, Tyrion watches from afar as his brother charges at Daenerys, who has her back turned, with a spear. Of course, as soon as Drogon spots Jaime bearing down on them, he doesn’t think twice about protecting his mother. But just as Drogon’s flames are about to torch Jaime, Bronn appears out of nowhere and tackles him into the water.

Jaime begins to sink into the depths of the river and the episode cuts to black.

Episode winner

Daenerys Targaryen

Most memorable line

Jon Snow to Daenerys Targaryen: “The enemy is real. It’s always been real.”

Most significant scene

Littlefinger gives Bran the Valyrian steel dagger that was used in the attempt on his life in season 1.

Game of Thrones: Season 7, Episode 5

HBO

Episode name

“Eastwatch”

Episode recap

After Bronn pulls Jaime ashore on the far side of the Blackwater Rush, the two agree that their army would never stand a chance against Daenerys’ three dragons. Bronn says that he won’t be around for that battle, as dragons are where he draws the line.

Meanwhile, a grim-faced Tyrion walks through the charred remains of the battlefield while Daenerys gives the captive Lannister soldiers an ultimatum: bend the knee or die. When Drogon lets out an angry roar, most of the men cave and bend the knee. But Randyll and Dickon Tarly refuse to yield. Tyrion beseeches Daenerys to show mercy by sending Randyll to the Wall instead, but Randyll maintains that he won’t take orders from someone who isn’t his queen. Daenerys then executes them both with dragonfire.

Back in King’s Landing, Jaime is tasked with trying to convince Cersei that the war against Daenerys is hopeless. She stubbornly insists that their only choices are to fight and die or submit and die, and that she knows her choice. He also tells her about Olenna’s confession, a truth that she only believes once Jaime points out that it was in Olenna’s best interest for Margaery to marry Tommen, not Joffrey.

At Winterfell, Bran wargs into a flock of ravens flying north of the Wall to spy on the Night King and sees that he has begun marching on Eastwatch-by-the-Sea. Bran tells Maester Wolkan to send ravens throughout the Seven Kingdoms warning of the army of the dead’s approach.

Later, Arya watches as Sansa presides over a meeting of the Northern lords, who are upset that the King in the North is no longer in the North. Sansa insists that Jon is only doing what he thinks is best, but afterward, Arya confronts her about not taking more extreme measures to defend him. She goes so far as to imply that anyone who insults Jon should lose their head and accuses Sansa of wanting the North for herself.

Suspicious of what she has seen since arriving home, Arya decides to spend some time spying on Littlefinger. She watches as he hands an unknown servant girl a coin after she appears to whisper to him, “Your time’s up,” before following him to his chambers. Maester Wolkan comes to give him a scroll that he requested from Maester Luwin’s archives and Littlefinger openly asks if he’s sure that it’s the only copy of the message. When Maester Wolkan assures him it is, Littlefinger tells him that Lady Stark thanks him for his service before retreating into his room. Once he’s gone, Arya sneaks in and discovers the the scroll contains a copy of the letter that Sansa wrote to Robb urging him to pledge fealty to King Joffrey. As Arya leaves the room, Littlefinger is shown watching her from the shadows of the hall.

At the Citadel, Sam walks in on the archmaesters discussing Bran’s raven and realizes that they are skeptical at best about the threat of the White Walkers. Later, while transcribing some of the late High Septon Maynard’s old scrolls with Gilly, Sam is so frustrated that he doesn’t even notice when Gilly unknowingly drops one of the biggest Game of Thrones truth bombs to date.”What does ‘annulment’ mean?” she asks him while reading one of the manuscripts. “Maynard says here that he issued an annulment for a Prince ‘Ragger’ and remarried him to someone else at the same time in a secret ceremony in Dorne.”

Since Jon was born at the Tower of Joy in Dorne and Gilly is still perfecting her reading, this is basically just a thinly veiled way to reveal that Lyanna and Rhaegar were married at the time of Jon’s birth, making Jon a trueborn Targaryen.

Fed up with the maesters’ inaction, Sam heads to the restricted section of the library to swipe a few books before leaving the Citadel with Gilly and little Sam at his side.

At Dragonstone, Jon is standing on the island’s cliffs when Daenerys returns on Drogon’s back. Drogon lets out a terrifying roar as he lands, but Jon stands his ground and tentatively reaches out a hand to lay it on Drogon’s face. Daenerys looks on in surprise as her dragon leans into Jon’s touch. She dismounts and the two begin discussing her victory, but are interrupted when a group of Dothraki approaches with Jorah in tow. Daenerys is overjoyed to see that Jorah is alive and well, and accepts him back into her service.

In the Dragonstone throne room, Tyrion and Varys meet to discuss their growing concern over Daenerys’ recent brutality. Varys urges Tyrion to find a way to make Daenerys listen to his counsel before showing him Bran’s message about the White Walkers. They head to the Chamber of the Painted Table to share the news with Jon and Daenerys, and Jon once again asks her to fight with him. Dany is worried that Cersei will gain the advantage if she marches north, so Tyrion suggests that they find a way to capture a wight and bring it to King’s Landing to convince Cersei that the threat of the dead is real and that they all need to work together. When Varys argues that Cersei will never grant them an audience, Tyrion says that he will sneak into the capital and meet with Jaime to ensure Cersei’s cooperation. Jon declares that he will lead the expedition beyond the Wall to capture the wight and Jorah volunteers to join him.

After Davos smuggles Tyrion into King’s Landing, Bronn lures Jaime down to the tunnels beneath the Red Keep to meet with his estranged brother. The two argue over Tywin’s murder before Jaime demands to know why Tyrion has come. Tyrion reveals that Daenerys is willing to call a temporary truce if Cersei agrees to certain terms.

Later, Jaime seeks out Cersei to tell her about his meeting with Tyrion and explain Daenerys’ proposal. She maintains that they will defeat whatever enemy stands in their way, but consents that a ceasefire could work in their favor. To Jaime’s surprise, she then reveals that she is pregnant with their child.

Meanwhile, Davos seeks out Gendry in Flea Bottom, where he has been working as a smith since rowing away from Dragonstone in season 3. Having spent years reluctantly forging weapons for the Lannisters, Gendry doesn’t even need to hear why Davos has come before he agrees to go with him.

When Tyrion, Davos and Gendry arrive back on Dragonstone, Gendry immediately tells Jon who he really is despite Davos’ warning to keep his true identity a secret so that Jon wouldn’t have to worry about “harboring the bastard of a dead king.” He then volunteers to accompany Jon beyond the Wall.

On the beach, Daenerys bids an emotional farewell to both Jorah and Jon and their boat sets sail for Eastwatch-by-the-Sea.

At Eastwatch, Tormund tells Jon that they captured some members of the Brotherhood Without Banners and are holding them in the castle’s cells. After conferring with Beric, Thoros and the Hound, the whole group — minus Davos, who considers himself a liability — decides to set out beyond the Wall together.

Episode winner

Littlefinger

Most memorable line

Samwell Tarly to Gilly: “I’m tired of reading about the achievements of better men.”

Most significant scene

Gilly unknowingly discovers that Rhaegar Targaryen annulled his marriage to Elia Martell and then wed Lyanna Stark in a secret ceremony in Dorne, making Jon a legitimate Targaryen.

Game of Thrones: Season 7, Episode 6

HBO

Episode name

“Beyond the Wall”

Episode recap

Game of Thrones‘ most recent penultimate episode sees Daenerys finally learn the truth about the danger the Night King poses to the people of Westeros. Meanwhile, the Stark sisters have their own issues to sort out.

In the Winterfell courtyard, Arya coldly confronts Sansa about the letter that she wrote urging Robb to pledge fealty to Joffrey. Sansa argues that the Lannisters forced her to write it, but Arya counters that she would have let them kill her before she betrayed her family. Arya reveals that she saw Sansa up on the platform with Joffrey and Cersei the day that Ned was executed at the Great Sept of Baelor, but Sansa contends that Arya didn’t do anything to save Ned either.

Sansa begins to get angry and asserts that they wouldn’t be standing in Winterfell if it weren’t for her. She claims that Arya never would have survived what she survived during the years they were separated, but starts getting nervous when Arya threatens to tell the Northern lords about her discovery.

Unaware that Littlefinger was the one who led Arya to the letter, Sansa asks for his advice on dealing with her sister. He suggests that she talk to Brienne, who is sworn to protect both of them. However, after Sansa receives a letter from Cersei inviting her to the gathering at King’s Landing, she decides to send Brienne in her stead. Brienne is reluctant to leave her alone with Littlefinger, but Sansa insists that she can take care of herself.

Later, Sansa sneaks into Arya’s room and is horrified to discover her collection of faces. Arya catches her and Sansa demands to know what the faces are for. Arya reveals that she got them in Braavos while training to be one of the Faceless Men and that they allow her to become other people. She then menacingly picks up the Valyrian steel dagger and mulls over the idea of becoming Sansa before handing the dagger to her sister and walking out of the room.

At Dragonstone, Daenerys tells Tyrion that she’s glad he’s not a hero because heroes like Drogo, Jorah, Daario and Jon do stupid things that get them killed. Tyrion notes that all of the men she named are ones who have fallen in love with her, but Dany refutes the idea that Jon is in love with her. They then discuss their impending meeting with Cersei in King’s Landing and Tyrion admits that Cersei could be setting a trap for them. However, he thinks that Daenerys’ two armies and three dragons will ensure her safety. He also reveals that in return for Jaime promising to keep a grip on the Lannister forces, he promised that he would keep Daenerys from doing anything impulsive. Tyrion reiterates that he believes she is capable of building a better world before broaching the topic of her succession. Despite the fact that she has told Tyrion that she is infertile, Daenerys says that she refuses to make a plan for who will rule after her until she wears the crown.

Beyond the Wall, Jon, Tormund, Jorah, Gendry, Beric, Thoros and the Hound discuss a variety of topics — including the Brotherhood’s betrayal of Gendry and Tormund’s crush on Brienne — as they continue their trek north. Jon tries to give Longclaw, the ancestral Valyrian steel sword of House Mormont, to Jorah, but Jorah refuses his offer.

Jon then finds himself walking beside Beric, which leads to a conversation about the significance of their respective resurrections. While Beric has always seemed relatively at peace with the idea that his fate is out of his control, Jon has consistently struggled to accept that he is apparently destined to fulfill a higher purpose. After Jon explains that he doesn’t serve the Lord of Light because he doesn’t understand what the Lord wants from him, Beric offers a take on their unique situation that seems to resonate with Jon.

“I don’t think it’s our purpose to understand. Except one thing — we’re soldiers,” Beric says. “We have to know what we’re fighting for. I’m not fighting so some man or woman I barely know can sit on a throne made of swords…[I’m fighting for] life. Death is the enemy. The first enemy and the last…The enemy always wins. And we still need to fight him. That’s all I know. You and I won’t find much joy while we’re here, but we can keep others alive. We can defend those who can’t defend themselves…Maybe we don’t need to understand any more than that. Maybe that’s enough.”

Suddenly, the Hound stops and points to a mountain ahead, claiming it’s the one that he saw in his fire vision. But as they head toward the landmark, the group is set upon by an undead polar bear who mauls Thoros before Jorah manages to kill it with a dragonglass dagger. Beric cauterizes Thoros’ wounds with his flaming sword and they continue on.

After spotting a White Walker leading a scouting party of wights ahead of the Night King’s main army, they decide to try to ambush the smaller group in order to capture one of the undead. The plan is successful and, thanks to Jon, they learn that killing a White Walker also instantly kills all of the wights that Walker reanimated. Unfortunately, the captive wight then begins to shriek, alerting the Night King’s army to their presence and forcing them to flee. Realizing that they’re in trouble, Jon orders Gendry to run back to Eastwatch and send a raven to Daenerys. Gendry takes off and the rest of the group retreats to a rocky outcrop in the center of a frozen lake. The lake’s ice cracks underneath the army of the dead’s weight when they try to follow and the wights are forced to halt their attack as they wait for it to reform, buying Jon and co. some time.

As night falls, an exhausted Gendry manages to make it back to Eastwatch and tells Davos to send the raven. The next morning, Beric and the Hound discover that Thoros has succumbed to his wounds and the Hound notes that Beric is now on his last life. Jon sees that the Night King and his White Walker lieutenants have arrived on the scene and Beric suggests that they focus on killing the Night King since he is the one who reanimated the majority of the wights.

Meanwhile, on Dragonstone, Tyrion pleads with Daenerys not to risk her life as she prepares to fly north with her dragons after receiving Davos’ raven. She tells him that she can’t stand by and do nothing and flies off.

Another night passes and as day dawns, a bored Hound begins chucking rocks at the wights surrounding the lake. But things quickly go from bad to worse when one of the rocks lands short and alerts the dead that the ice has re-solidified. A battle ensues that seems hopeless for our group of heroes until Daenerys arrives in a fiery blaze and her three dragons begin incinerating the wights. Drogon lands on the island at the center of the lake and everyone besides Jon, who continues fighting the wights, climbs on his back.

However, the rescue mission takes a horrifying turn when the Night King launches an ice spear through the air and into Viserion’s heart, killing him. Daenerys watches in horror as Viserion’s lifeless body sinks into the lake and Jon screams for her to leave just as he is tackled through the ice by the attacking wights. Seeing that the Night King is getting ready to throw another spear, Daenerys spurs Drogon on and he flies away with Rhaegal close behind.

Shortly after they’re gone, a freezing Jon emerges from the water and prepares to go out fighting when Benjen appears out of nowhere to rescue him. Benjen helps Jon onto his horse and tells him to ride for the Wall before sacrificing himself to save his nephew.

Back at Eastwatch, Daenerys is staring out from the top of the Wall waiting for any sign that Jon could still be alive. At Jorah’s urging, she turns to leave when suddenly the Night’s Watch horn blows signaling a rider approaching. Once onboard their ship, Daenerys watches as Davos and Gendry strip a severely hypothermic Jon out of his wet clothes and sees the scars Jon still has from his murder.

Later, Jon wakes to find Daenerys sitting at his bedside. He apologizes for the death of Viserion but she insists that she needed to see the army of the dead to realize what they were actually up against. Daenerys reiterates that the dragons are the only children that she will ever have, which is her way of telling him that she’s infertile. She then promises that they will destroy the Night King and his army together and he calls her his queen. She takes his hand and tearfully responds that she hopes she deserves his support as they stare meaningfully at each other. After a few moments, Daenerys pulls her hand away and tells him to get some rest.

But the episode’s biggest twist is still to come.

Back beyond the Wall, the army of the dead uses a giant chain to pull Viserion’s body from the lake’s icy depths. The Night King then lays his hand on Viserion’s snout and reanimates him as a wight dragon.

Uh-oh.

Episode winner

The Night King

Most memorable line

Daenerys Targaryen to Tyrion Lannister: “You told me to do nothing before and I listened to you. I’m not doing nothing again.”

Most significant scene

The Night King reanimates Viserion as an wight dragon after he is killed during Daenerys’ rescue mission beyond the Wall.

Game of Thrones: Season 7, Episode 7

HBO

Episode name

“The Dragon and the Wolf”

Episode recap

With a runtime of nearly 80 minutes, “The Dragon and the Wolf” is Game of Thrones’ longest episode to date. Let’s dive in.

In the wake of the wight hunt beyond the Wall, Jaime and Bronn watch from atop the walls of King’s Landing as Daenerys’ armies and advisors arrive in the city for the Dragonpit summit. As Westeros’ major players make their way to the gathering, Tyrion, Bronn and Pod are reunited and the Hound and Brienne make peace, with both agreeing that they only fought each other to protect Arya.

After Cersei and her entourage of Jaime, Euron, Qyburn and the Mountain make their way down to the Dragonpit, the Hound and the Mountain come face to face for the first time in years. The estranged brothers share a brief, yet ominous, exchange.“You know who’s coming for you,” the Hound tells the Mountain. “You’ve always known.”

Meanwhile, Cersei is annoyed that Daenerys has yet to arrive. Tyrion assures his sister that Daenerys will be there soon just as she makes a dramatic entrance on Drogon’s back. Tyrion attempts to begin negotiations, but is interrupted by Euron, who threatens to kill Yara if Theon doesn’t submit to him. He then turns his taunts to Tyrion but is shut down when Jaime and Cersei order him to sit or leave. Jon makes his pitch that the Night King is the only enemy they should be concerned about, but Cersei refuses to believe him until the Hound brings forward the box containing the captive wight.

Once unleashed, the wight charges at a horrified Cersei before the Hound yanks it away from her in the nick of time. Jon then demonstrates how dragonglass and fire can both be used to stop the undead. Euron chimes in again wondering if the wights can swim, and when Jon says they can’t, Euron declares that he’s taking the Iron Fleet and returning to the Iron Islands to wait out the war in safety. He then walks out of the summit.

Apparently convinced the danger is real, Cersei says that she will consent to a truce on the condition that Jon agrees to remain neutral once the Night King is defeated and the war between the two queens resumes. However, Jon admits that he can’t do that as he has already pledged his allegiance to Daenerys, a development that Tyrion was unaware of. Cersei withdraws her support and storms out.

After Cersei leaves, Tyrion chastises Jon for not just playing it cool when Cersei had already agreed to the truce. Tyrion says that he will go and talk to Cersei to try to bring her around and nervously enters the Red Keep, where he finds himself alone with Cersei and the Mountain. Cersei immediately accuses Tyrion of wanting to destroy their family and brings up Tywin’s murder, which she says led to Tommen and Myrcella’s deaths. Tyrion defends himself by asserting that Tywin sentenced him to death for a crime he didn’t commit, but insists that he loved Tommen and Myrcella and that he has never been more sorry about anything in his life. He says that if she truly blames him for everything that has happened, then she should order the Mountain to kill him, but she doesn’t. Cersei explains that, unlike Daenerys, she doesn’t care about making the world a better place, she only cares about protecting those she loves. She then places a hand on her stomach and Tyrion surmises that she’s pregnant.

Back in the Dragonpit, Daenerys and Jon discuss her supposed infertility and Jon questions why she’s so convinced that she can’t have children when the only person who ever told her that, Mirri Maz Duur, had just murdered her husband. Cersei then abruptly returns to the Dragonpit and announces that she has changed her mind and that the Lannister army will march north to fight alongside the Starks and Targaryens in the Great War.

Later, Jaime is in the midst of readying the Lannister forces for the journey ahead when Cersei reveals that she has no intention of actually keeping her promise. She tells him that Euron isn’t retreating to the Iron Islands, but rather sailing to Essos to retrieve the Golden Company so that they will have enough men to win the war for Westeros. A dumbfounded Jaime insists that he has pledged to fight for the living and that’s what he intends to do. Cersei furiously tells him that she will have him executed for treason if he tries to leave, but ultimately can’t bring herself to give the order. Jaime rides north alone as snow begins to fall on King’s Landing.

After receiving a raven from Jon announcing that he has bent the knee to Daenerys, Sansa rehashes the Arya situation with Littlefinger. Clearly hoping she will turn against her sister, Littlefinger encourages her to consider Arya’s worst possible motivations. Sansa then summons Arya to a gathering of the Northern lords in the Great Hall. At first, it seems as though Littlefinger has succeeded in driving another wedge between the Starks. That is, until Sansa executes a perfect bait and switch and accuses Littlefinger of murder and treason instead of Arya. After realizing the sisters are working together, Littlefinger tries to defend himself but is outmaneuvered when the all-seeing Bran reveals the truth about Littlefinger’s betrayal of Ned. Littlefinger gets on his knees and begs for his life, but on Sansa’s order, Arya slits his throat with the Valyrian steel dagger.

Later, Sansa and Arya look out over the North together from the Winterfell ramparts. They make amends for the things they said to one another and remember one of their father’s favorite sayings: “When the snows fall and the white winds blow, the lone wolf dies, but the pack survives.”

At Dragonstone, Daenerys and Jon decide to travel to Winterfell together in preparation for the coming war. Theon comes to find Jon and they have a conversation about Theon’s past mistakes. Jon tells him that he doesn’t need to choose between his two families because he has always been both a Greyjoy and a Stark. Theon remembers how Yara tried to save him when he was Ramsay’s prisoner and Jon tells him that he already knows what he needs to do.

When Theon tries to convince the remaining ironborn to accompany him on his rescue mission, their leader begins assaulting him. Theon takes a beating but gets up each time he is knocked down and ultimately wins the ironborn’s support.

As snow continues to fall in the North, Sam, Gilly and little Sam arrive at Winterfell. Sam seeks out Bran and the two used their combined knowledge to piece together the truth about Jon’s birth. In a series of flashbacks that nods to the episode title, it’s revealed that Rhaegar Targaryen wed Lyanna Stark after annuling his marriage to Elia Martell. Lyanna then gave birth to Jon — whose real name is Aegon Targaryen — before she died. Bran tells Sam that not only is Jon a trueborn Targaryen, he’s also the heir to the Iron Throne.

Meanwhile, as their ship sails north, Tyrion watches with a troubled look on his face as Jon enters Daenrys’ room. Unaware that they’re related, Jon and Daenerys then sleep together for the first time. Tyrion’s reaction may seem confusing, but according to the episode’s director, Jeremy Podeswa, his concern stemmed from unease over the ramifications that Jon and Daenerys’ union could have on the future of Westeros.

“That moment, for me, was…really about Tyrion having witnessed what he witnessed this year, having a great deal of concern about what the consequences of this might be in the future,” Podeswa told Mashable. “There was a previous understanding of what the alliance between all these parties was about, and now that’s complicated by the fact that there’s a more intimate relationship we see [between] two of the key players in this alliance, one of whom is the person he’s really devoted his life to at this point: Daenerys.”

As the season 7 finale comes to a climactic close, the Night King and his army finally arrive at Eastwatch-by-the-Sea. While Tormund and Beric watch in horror, the army of the dead emerges from the forest just beyond the Wall. They suddenly hear the roar of a dragon and the Night King flies in on the back of Viserion, who blasts blue fire all over the Wall to bring it crashing down.

“The Wall’s kept these things out for 8000 years. There’s no real reason that it can’t keep doing that unless something puts a hole in the Wall,” showrunner D.B. Weiss explained in the post-episode breakdown. “There’s one thing on the board from the beginning that is now big enough to do that, and that’s a dragon…Winter is here and it’s all hitting the fan from all directions.”

On to season 8.

Episode winner

The Night King

Most memorable line

Bran Stark to Samwell Tarly about Jon Snow: “He’s never been a bastard. He’s the heir to the Iron Throne.”

Most significant scene

The Night King brings down the Wall with the help of undead Viserion, allowing the army of the dead to march into Westeros.

Game of Thrones: Season 8, Episode 1

HBO

Episode name

“Winterfell”

Episode recap

Following a nearly 20-month hiatus, Game of Thrones dove right into its eighth and final season with the arrival of Jon and Daenerys’ combined entourage at Winterfell. The northern people are clearly wary of Daenerys’ foreign armies as they make their way through the winter town, but Arya — who, as always, is lurking nearby and stealthily watching the procession — is awed by Dany’s dragons when they fly overhead.

When they reach the castle, Jon is overjoyed to be reunited with Bran, as the last time he saw his little brother he was still in a coma after being pushed from a tower by Jaime in season 1. However, Bran’s response is more subdued than he expects. Jon then introduces Daenerys to Sansa, who greets the dragon queen with the icy proclamation of, “Winterfell is yours, Your Grace.”

But the pleasantries — if you can call them that — come to an end when Bran chimes in to reveal that the Night King has reanimated Viserion as a wight dragon and brought down part of the Wall to allow the army of the dead to march south.

In the Great Hall, Sansa announces that she called all of the North’s banners to retreat to Winterfell as soon as they heard about the Wall. But Lyanna Mormont is more interested in learning why Jon left Winterfell as King in the North but returned having bent the knee to a foreign queen. Jon reiterates that he chose to protect the North rather than keep his crown, but things get even more tense when Tyrion says that the Lannister army is also marching north to join their cause.

After the meeting, Tyrion seeks out Sansa to speak privately and the two reminisce about Joffrey’s death. Sansa then tells Tyrion that he’s a fool for believing that Cersei will make good on her promise to send her armies north.

In the Godswood, Arya and Jon reunite for the first time since Jon gifted Arya with her sword, Needle, and they both left Winterfell in the second episode of the series. Arya reminds Jon that even though he bent the knee to Daenerys, he’s a Stark.

Meanwhile, in King’s Landing, Cersei watches as the Iron Fleet returns to the city’s harbor with the Golden Company in tow. On board his ship, Euron taunts Yara — who is still his prisoner — before meeting with Cersei in the Red Keep’s throne room to not-so-subtly threaten to cut off the support of the Iron Fleet if she doesn’t sleep with him. Cersei reluctantly allows him into her bed and, after the deed is done, Euron tells her that he’s “going to put a prince in [her] belly.” Euron leaves and Cersei, who is already pregnant, is visibly upset.

Elsewhere in the city, Qyburn pays a visit to Bronn to gift him with Joffrey’s old crossbow and, on Cersei’s orders, hire him to kill Jaime and Tyrion if either of them survives the war against the dead.

While Euron is busy with Cersei, Theon and his remaining crew of Ironborn sneak on board his ship and rescue Yara. Later, Yara tells Theon that she intends to retake the Iron Islands but gives him permission to go to Winterfell to fight alongside the Starks. The two share an emotional farewell.

Back in the North, Jon and Daenerys pay a visit to the dragons and Jon rides Rhaegal for the first time. Arya stops by the Winterfell forge for a chat with Gendry, who she hasn’t seen since the Brotherhood Without Banners sold him to Melisandre back in season 3, and asks him to make her a special double-ended dragonglass spear for the battle ahead. While there, she also reunites with the Hound for the first time since she left him for dead in the season 4 finale.

Later that night, Daenerys goes to see Sam in the Winterfell library to thank him for curing Jorah of Greyscale but ends up having to tell him that she executed both his father and his brother when they refused to bend the knee to her. A distraught Sam rushes down to the Winterfell crypts in search of Jon and, at long last, tells him the Seven Kingdoms’ best kept secret: He is the trueborn son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark, and therefore, the rightful heir to the Iron Throne. Jon is upset that Ned, the man he thought was his father, lied to him his entire life. But once Sam points out that Ned did what he did in order to protect Jon, it’s clear that Jon knows what he’s said is true.

Meanwhile, at Last Hearth, Tormund, Beric and Dolorous Edd discover that the Night King has left them a message in the form of Ned Umber’s impaled body surrounded by a spiral of severed limbs.

The next day, after spending the majority of the episode staring at people from across the Winterfell courtyard while “waiting for an old friend,” Bran comes face to face with Jaime for the first time since Jaime pushed him out of a tower window in the series premiere.

Talk about awkward.

Episode winner

Euron Greyjoy

Most memorable line

Tyrion Lannister to Sansa Stark: “Many underestimated you. Most of them are dead now.”

Most significant scene

Sam tells Jon that he is the trueborn son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark, not Ned Stark’s bastard as he was raised to believe.

Game of Thrones: Season 8, Episode 2

Helen Sloan—HBO

Episode name

“A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms”

Episode recap

On the eve of the war against the dead, everyone at Winterfell is preparing for the White Walkers’ impending assault in their own way. “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” is a table-setting episode that gives fans the chance to say goodbye to the beloved characters who will be lost during the forthcoming battle.

But first, those in charge must decide what to do about Jaime. Although Daenerys and Sansa are both wary about trusting Jaime — especially once he reveals that Cersei was lying about sending the Lannister army north — they decide to allow him to fight for them after Brienne loyally speaks up in his stead. Brienne explains that saving her from being raped was what cost him his hand and how he kept his oath to Catelyn Stark by giving her Oathbreaker and sending her to find Sansa and Arya.

All this doesn’t make Daenerys any less upset with Tyrion for making yet another mistake with Cersei though.

In the Godswood, Jaime seeks out Bran to apologize for pushing him out of the tower window and to ask him why he didn’t tell the others. “You wouldn’t be able to help us in this fight if I let them murder you first,” Bran replies, implying that Jaime has an important part to play in the wars to come.

Later, Jaime laments to Tyrion that Cersei fooled him more than she fooled anyone else, but Tyrion checks him. “She never fooled you,” he responds. “You always knew exactly what she was, and you loved her anyway.”

However, Jaime gets distracted when he spots Brienne overseeing sparring practice. He leaves to speak with her and tells her that he came to Winterfell to serve under her command in the war against the dead.

Back inside the castle, Jorah seeks out Daenerys to tell her that making Tyrion her Hand was the right choice and implores her to forgive him. He also advises her to make nice with Sansa, a task that she attempts to make quick work of.

Daenerys and Sansa’s exchange starts out pleasant enough, but things sour when Sansa asks Dany what she plans to do about the North once she takes the Iron Throne since Sansa vowed the Northerners would never bow again after taking Winterfell back from the Boltons. Before the two can really get into it, Maester Wolkan interrupts to tell them Theon has returned.

In the Great Hall, Theon reveals Yara’s plan to retake the Iron Islands in Daenerys’ name before explaining that he returned to fight for Winterfell — if Sansa will have him, that is. Sansa and Theon tearfully embrace.

Outside, Jon and Sam are overjoyed when Tormund, Beric and the remaining Night’s Watch brothers arrive at Winterfell. Tormund tells Jon that the army of the dead will arrive at the castle before the sun rises the next day.

That evening, Jon holds a final war council and insists that they need to focus their efforts on the Night King as the rest of his army will fall if he is killed. Bran explains that the Night King will seek him out because his ultimate goal is to create an “endless night” by erasing the memory of the world, a.k.a. Bran the Three-Eyed Raven. They decide to let Bran sit in the Godswood as bait while Theon and the ironborn stand guard, and Jon and Daenerys wait nearby with the dragons. Arya asks if dragonfire will kill the Night King, but Bran says that he doesn’t know as no one has ever tried. When everyone leaves, Tyrion pulls Bran aside to hear the story of how he became the Three-Eyed Raven.

After the meeting, Grey Worm and Missandei discuss their plans for after Daenerys has won the Iron Throne. They agree that they will travel to Missandei’s homeland of Naath and live out their lives in peace there. Uh-oh.

Meanwhile, Tyrion, Jaime, Brienne, Podrick, Davos, and Tormund gather in front of the fire to drink before the battle. Tormund asks why Brienne is not a knight and Brienne responds that women can’t be knights in the Seven Kingdoms. That’s when Jaime chimes in to say that any knight can make another person a knight and tells Brienne to kneel. Jaime then knights Brienne in one of the most emotionally fulfilling scenes of the series.

Brienne of Tarth gets knighted by Jamie Lannister at last.
Helen Sloan/HBO

On the Winterfell battlements, Arya, the Hound and Beric discuss their shared past before Arya leaves to get in some target practice. Gendry comes to give her the special dragonglass weapon she requested and the two sleep together for the first time.

In the courtyard, Jorah unsuccessfully attempts to convince Lyanna to remain in the crypts during the battle. Sam then finds Jorah and gifts him with House Tarly’s ancestral Valyrian steel sword, Heartsbane.

As Podrick sings a rendition of the Westerosi ballad “Jenny’s Song,” a montage of scenes — including Sam and Gilly laying in bed together, Sansa and Theon dining together, and Missandei and Grey Worm sharing a farewell kiss — plays.

In the episode’s final scene, Daenerys finds Jon studying Lyanna Stark’s effigy in the crypts. Jon tells Dany the truth about who his parents are, and she bristles at the implication that his real identity would give him has a better claim to the Iron Throne than her. But before they can hash things out, they’re interrupted by horns announcing the approach of the Night King’s army.

Get ready for the long-awaited battle between the living and the dead.

Episode winner

Brienne of Tarth

Most memorable line

Arya Stark to Gendry: “I know death. He’s got many faces. I look forward to seeing this one.”

Most significant scene

Jon tells Daenerys the truth about his trueborn Targaryen heritage and she responds angrily, a reaction that hints at what’s to come.

Game of Thrones: Season 8, Episode 3

Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) tries to kill the Night King on Game of Thrones.
Helen Sloan—HBO

Episode name

“The Long Night”

Episode recap

After more than seven seasons of buildup, it’s time for the living to take on the dead in a final showdown that is reportedly the longest battle sequence in cinematic history, according to Entertainment Weekly.

With Bran surrounded by Theon and the Ironborn in the Godswood, and everyone in place both inside and outside the castle walls, the living are ready for the war against the dead to begin.

It’s then that Melisandre emerges from the night armed with a new spell that she uses to set the Dothrakis’ arakh swords aflame. With Jorah and Ghost leading the charge, the Dothraki ride into battle. Everyone at Winterfell then watches in horror as the Dothrakis’ swords are extinguished by the dead, and the survivors of the initial charge — including Jorah and Ghost — retreat in disarray.

Inside the castle’s walls, Davos approaches Melisandre, but she tells him not to bother killing her — as he promised to do if she ever returned north — because she’ll be “dead before the dawn.” She then meaningfully locks eyes with Arya, who she last saw while purchasing Gendry from the Brotherhood Without Banners in season 3. This act, of course, earned Melisandre a spot on Arya’s kill list for a period of time.

On a bluff overlooking the battlefield, Jon and Daenerys are waiting out of sight with Drogon and Rhaegal in hopes that they will be able to kill the Night King with dragonfire when he comes for Bran in the Godswood. But when Daenerys sees her khalasar decimated by the dead, she can’t bring herself to hang back any longer and takes off on Drogon’s back. Jon then follows on Rhaegal.

With the Unsullied stationed in the center and Brienne’s forces on the left flank, the dead begin swarming the living. Jon and Daenerys’ cover fire keeps the living from being totally overpowered by the dead, but they are forced to pull back inside Winterfell’s walls when a massive snowstorm brought on by the White Walkers eclipses Drogon and Rhaegal’s vision to the point where they nearly collide mid-flight. Dolorous Edd is killed after saving Sam from a near-certain death.

The Unsullied form a rearguard to protect the retreat inside the gate but the storm prevents Davos from signaling to Daenerys that it’s time to light the trench as they had planned. Luckily, Melisandre steps forward to light the trench with an incantation as Grey Worm and the Unsullied flank her The dead are temporarily held at bay by the fiery barrier.

In the crypts, Tyrion argues that he should at least be on the battlements in case he’s able to spot something that no one else sees, but Sansa tells him that the bravest thing they can do as non-fighters is look the truth in the face. Tyrion suggests that maybe they should’ve stayed married, but Sansa — despite admitting that he was the best of her suitors — says it would never work between them because of his loyalty to Daenerys.

In the Godswood, Theon tries to apologize to Bran for the horrible things he did when he took Winterfell — like beheading Ser Rodrik Cassel and killing the farm boys — but Bran interrupts him to say that everything he did was a necessary part of the journey that brought him where he is now, “home.” Bran then wargs into a flock of ravens and flies out over the battle before spotting the Night King hovering above the storm on undead Viserion’s back. The Night King seems to recognize that it’s Bran controlling the ravens and commands the wights to begin throwing themselves on top of the flaming trench to create a bridge across it.

Davos and Lyanna Mormont command everyone to man Winterfell’s walls as the dead begin the second phase of their assault. Jon spots the Night King on Viserion and flies after him. Despite the living’s best efforts, the dead are eventually able to breach the castle and begin swarming the ramparts and courtyard. The Hound is shown cowering from the fires raging around him — something he has fearly nearly his entire life — until Beric points out how viciously Arya is fighting and he springs into action.

After a wight giant smashes through Winterfell’s gate and begins savaging the soldiers stationed in the courtyard, a bloodied Lyanna charges him. He picks her up and begins crushing her body, but with her last ounce of strength, she manages to plunge a dragonglass dagger through his eye. Both Lyanna and the giant fall together. Just as Jorah feared, Lyanna refusing to sit out the battle in the crypts ultimately resulted in her death. But Lyanna died how she lived, fiercely fighting to protect her people from harm and fulfilling her role as the show’s youngest badass.

In the skies, the Night King uses Viserion to rain blue fire down on Rhaegal and Drogon as Jon and Daenerys attempt to fly them to safety. Daenerys eventually manages to knock the Night King from Viserion’s back but when she blasts him with dragonfire, he isn’t harmed in the slightest. Jon is knocked from Rhaegal’s back and begins chasing the Night King on foot, but he simply turns and raises all of the fresh dead to reinforce his army’s ranks, making it impossible for Jon to reach him as he heads for the Godswood with his White Walker lieutenants.

Inside the castle, Beric and the Hound are cautiously making their way through the halls when Arya is tackled through a door by an attacking wight. Beric launches his flaming sword at the wight and saves Arya’s life, but is fatally wounded as the three flee into the Great Hall away from the swarming dead. As Arya stares sadly at Beric’s dead body, Melisandre chimes up from where she is standing behind her to reveal that Beric was brought back by the Lord of Light all those times specifically to save Arya. Melisandre then recalls that, when they first met, she told Arya that the eyes she would shut forever would include blue eyes. Melisandre then reminds Arya of Syrio Forel’s favorite lesson — “What do we say to the god of death? Not today” — and Arya runs off.

The dead Starks in the Winterfell crypts also awaken and begin massacring the women, children and other non-fighters while Theon and the Ironborn defend Bran from an onslaught of wights in the Godswood. Daenerys saves Jon from being killed in the field but, after sending him on to the Godswood, makes the mistake of grounding Drogon, allowing the wights to swarm him. She is thrown from Drogon’s back as he tries to fling off the dead, but rescued by Jorah before the wights can get to her.

A dramatic montage of scenes plays in which Sansa and Tyrion share a tender moment in the crypts before resolutely drawing dragonglass daggers and running into the fray, Jon desperately tries to reach Bran but is blocked by Viserion in the castle courtyard, Jorah is repeatedly stabbed defending Daenerys and Theon heroically protects Bran as the Night King draws ever closer.

With all of his fellow ironborn dead around him, Theon looks up to see the Night King and his White Walker lieutenants approaching. Bran returns from his warging session and acknowledges that Theon has fully redeemed himself by telling him that he’s a good man. Theon then charges the Night King, but is cut down. By sacrificing himself to protect one of the Starks, Theon is finally able to make amends for betraying the family who raised him and bring his story full circle.

The Night King slowly makes his way toward Bran, who calmly looks up at him. It seems like all hope is lost as Jon is still trapped in the Winterfell courtyard unable to get past Viserion. But as the Night King draws his sword, Arya stealthily slips past his White Walker guards and launches herself at him from behind. The Night King turns at the last moment and catches her by the throat, but Arya drops her Valyrian steel dagger into her other hand and manages to stab him with it.

The Night King explodes and, with him, the entirety of the army of the dead — including Viserion — falls. Knowing that Daenerys is safe, Jorah finally succumbs to his wounds and dies in Dany’s arms as she sobs over his body and Drogon returns to comfort her.

As the survivors survey the carnage around them, Melisandre emerges from the castle and makes her way out of Winterfell’s gates. Davos follows and watches as she drops her enchanted necklace to reveal the older, true version of herself. She then falls to the ground dead.

The living have officially won the Great War. But someone still has to win the last war.

Episode winner

Arya Stark

Most memorable line

Melisandre to Arya Stark: “Brown eyes, green eyes…and blue eyes.”

Most significant scene

Arya stabs the Night King with her Valyrian steel dagger to end the Great War.

Game of Thrones: Season 8, Episode 4

HBO

Episode name

“The Last of the Starks”

Episode recap

It’s time to say goodbye to those who were lost in the war against the dead because, as Jon says, “They were the shields that guarded the realms of men. And we shall never see their like again.”

After setting up funeral pyres for the thousands who were killed fighting off the Night King’s army, Jon delivers a powerful speech in which he thanks those who died for their sacrifice. Daenerys kisses Jorah’s forehead and whispers a final farewell to her most trusted advisor, and Sansa tucks a Stark direwolf pin into Theon’s armor before the bodies are burned.

That night, while the survivors celebrate their victory with a feast in Winterfell’s Great Hall, Daenerys legitimizes Gendry as a true Baratheon and names him Lord of Storm’s End. But when she sees how enthusiastically Jon’s men revere him as a leader, she grows visibly dismayed and leaves the room — a reaction that doesn’t escape Varys’ notice.

During a drinking game, Tyrion makes Brienne uncomfortable when he asks if she’s a virgin, prompting her to get up and walk away and Jaime to follow. In her room, the two sleep together for the first time. This scene came as a shock to many fans, and apparently also to Gwendoline Christie herself, who told TIME that she was stunned when she learned Brienne and Jaime’s relationship was going to take a physically romantic turn. “I was quite surprised actually because I wasn’t expecting that to ever happen at all so it took me quite a while to digest,” she said.

Back in the Great Hall, Sansa has a controversial conversation with the Hound in which he tells her that she could have avoided most of the bad things that happened to her if she had just left King’s Landing with him during the Battle of the Blackwater. She replies that, without Ramsay and Littlefinger and the rest, she would’ve stayed a “little bird” — as the Hound always called her — all of her life.

“To be sure, Sansa is satisfied with where she is now; she’s assumed a mantle of dignity that impresses and awes the people around her, but she also hasn’t lost her sense of justice,” Vanity Fair‘s Joanna Robinson writes of the scene. “Yet forgiving abusers and not letting them own your narrative is pretty different from expressing, to someone in the midst of grossly insulting you, that being raped made you stronger.

Elsewhere, Gendry finds Arya at target practice and proposes to her. She kisses him but ultimately tells him that being a wife and lady is not for her, putting a damper on fan theories that Arya and Gendry would ultimately fulfill Robert Baratheon’s season 1 prediction that a Baratheon-Stark union would unite the Seven Kingdoms.

Following the feast, Daenerys seeks Jon out in his room to beg him to never reveal his true identity to anyone. She kisses him but he eventually pulls back, clearly hesitant about the relationship between them now that he knows they’re related. He insists that he doesn’t want the Iron Throne and will always support her as queen, but she argues that if people find out he’s the rightful heir, it will spiral out of his control. Jon says that he has to at least tell Sansa and Arya because they deserve to know the truth. The expression on Daenerys’ face hardens and she walks out of the room.

At a war council the next day, Tyrion reiterates that their objective should be to remove Cersei from the throne without destroying King’s Landing. Varys reveals that Yara has retaken the Iron Islands in Daenerys’ name and that the new Prince of Dorne has also pledged his support to her. Daenerys eventually agrees to lay siege to the city to try and force Cersei out. Tyrion then lays out the plan: Jon and Davos will ride down the Kingsroad with the Northern troops and the bulk of the remaining Dothraki and Unsullied while a smaller group sails for Dragonstone with Daenerys and the dragons accompanying them from above.

Following the meeting, Jon speaks with Arya, Sansa and Bran in the Godswood. Sansa and Arya express their distrust of Daenerys and Jon tells Bran to reveal the truth about his birth to their sisters after making them swear to keep it a secret.

That night, Bronn shows up ready to kill both Jaime and Tyrion on Cersei’s orders, but they assuage him by promising him lordship of Highgarden once Daenerys has won the crown.

The next day, Arya joins the Hound as he sets out for King’s Landing. They are both on a mission for vengeance — the Hound on the Mountain and Arya on Cersei — and agree that they have no intentions of returning north. As Sansa watches Daenerys fly away with her dragons, Tyrion approaches and attempts to convince her that it’s in the North’s best interest for her and Daenerys to be allies. Sansa then reveals Jon’s true identity to him.

Before setting out himself, Jon sends Ghost north with Tormund and the remaining wildlings. He also says goodbye to Sam and Gilly, who reveal they’re expecting another child. They tell him that if it’s a boy, they want to name him Jon.

As Daenerys’ fleet sails for Dragonstone, Tyrion and Varys discuss the implications of Jon’s trueborn Targaryen heritage. Varys implies that he believes Jon would be a better ruler than Daenerys and admits that he’s worried about Daenerys’ state of mind. But things are about to get exponentially more complicated for team Targaryen.

With the island in sight, Rhaegal is suddenly hit by three scorpion bolts fired by the Iron Fleet and falls dead into the sea. In a fit of anger, Daenerys flies straight for Euron’s ship but is forced to pull back at the last second to ensure Drogon isn’t killed. Euron’s crew then begins firing at the Targaryen ships, forcing those onboard to jump overboard and swim for shore. Unfortunately, Missandei is captured in the melee that ensues.

At the war council that follows, Varys urges Daenerys not to kill the innocent people of King’s Landing in pursuit of the throne. Daenerys insists that she will free the world from tyrants no matter the cost, but agrees to offer Cersei her life in exchange for the crown so that the people will see that she has made every effort to avoid bloodshed.

Tyrion later meets privately with Varys — who is seemingly convinced that Daenerys is destined to go down the same path as her father, the Mad King — and pleads with him to remain loyal to their queen. “I’ve spoken as honestly I can. Each of us has a choice to make. I pray we choose wisely,” the Spider ominously responds before walking away.

Some fans had long predicted that Varys would end up betraying Daenerys because of a prophecy that Quaithe — the shadowbinder from Asshai who made a brief appearance in season two — shared with Dany in a vision in George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire book series. But for non-book readers, Varys’ change of heart may come as a surprise.

In King’s Landing, Cersei has invited the people of the city to take shelter inside the Red Keep’s walls so that Daenerys’ will be forced to murder thousands if she tries to take the castle by force. Cersei also lies and tells Euron that she is pregnant with his child.

Back at Winterfell, after hearing about Cersei’s latest assault on Daenerys’ forces, Jaime can no longer resist the call of King’s Landing. Despite Brienne’s tearful pleas for him to stay with her, he flees in the night to return to Cersei’s side.

In the episode’s final sequence, Daenerys and her entourage line up outside the walls of King’s Landing in hopes of parlaying with Cersei and saving Missandei. But Tyrion’s attempt to convince Cersei to surrender in order to save her unborn child falls on deaf ears. Cersei tells Missandei that if she has any last words, it’s time and Missandei bravely shouts out, “Dracarys!”

Tyrion, Grey Worm and Daenerys watch in horror as the Mountain beheads Missandei on Cersei’s orders. Daenerys then turns away with a disturbed and furious expression on her face, and walks back through her army’s ranks. If looks could kill, Cersei would already be dead.

Episode winner

Cersei Lannister

Most memorable line

Missandei: “Dracarys!”

Most significant scene

Cersei rejects Tyrion’s terms of surrender and orders the Mountain to behead Missandei as Daenerys watches.

Game of Thrones: Season 8, Episode 5

Helen Sloan—HBO

Episode name

“The Bells”

Episode recap

Leading up to Game of Thrones‘ final penultimate episode, the question on most fans’ minds was whether or not Daenerys would go full Mad Queen. Let’s see how it plays out.

“The Bells” opens with Varys preparing to send outletters revealing Jon’s true identity to every corner of the Seven Kingdoms. There’s a knock on the door and a young girl, one of Varys’ “little birds,” enters the room. Varys has tasked her with poisoning Daenerys’ food, but the girl reports that the plan isn’t working because Daenerys is too upset to eat. He tells her to keep trying: “The greater the risk, the greater the reward.”

Later, Tyrion watches pensively as Varys greets Jon immediately upon his arrival on Dragonstone’s shores. Jon reports that the Northern armies will be at the walls of King’s Landing in two days and asks after Daenerys. Varys tells him that Dany isn’t doing well and then tries to put his plan to sway Jon into motion, much to Jon’s distress. “They say every time a Targaryen is born, the gods toss a coin and the world holds it breath,” Varys tells him, echoing a statement that Cersei made to Tyrion in season 2. “I still don’t know how her coin has landed. But I’m quite certain about yours.”

Jon reiterates that Daenerys is his queen and that he doesn’t want the throne. Tyrion, who has watched this entire exchange from afar, then visits a bedraggled looking Daenerys in the Chamber of the Painted Table. Dany plainly states that she already knows that someone has betrayed her and Tyrion tells her it was Varys.

That night, Varys is brought to Dragonstone’s beach by the Unsullied and Tyrion mournfully tells him that it was he who told Daenerys about his betrayal. Daenerys sentences Varys to death by dragonfire and Drogon steps forward to do the deed. Jon looks at Daenerys with a worried expression as Varys burns.

Back inside the castle, Jon pays Daenerys a visit in her room. Dany tells him that Sansa is just as responsible for Varys’ death as she is because Sansa was the one who spread the truth about Jon. Daenerys is clearly in a bad place mentally and tells him that all she has in Westeros to rule with is fear, not love like he has. Jon replies that he loves her and she again tries to kiss him, but he rebuffs her. Daenerys ends the conversation with an ominous declaration: “All right, then. Let it be fear.”

In the Dragonstone throne room, Tyrion once again pleads with Daenerys to show mercy to the people of King’s Landing. He tells her that if the city surrenders, they will ring the bells and raise the gates, and begs that she call off the attack if that happens. Daenerys then tells Tyrion that her soldiers captured Jaime trying to sneak into King’s Landing.

After joining up with the rest of Daenerys’ forces outside the capital, Tyrion goes to see Jaime in the tent where he is being held prisoner. Tyrion asks Jaime to go to Cersei and convince her to surrender. If he’s able to do that, Tyrion says there will be a boat waiting to smuggle Jaime, Cersei and their unborn baby to safety in Pentos, where they can start a new life. Tyrion unshackles Jaime and tells him that he’s the only reason he survived his childhood. The two share an emotional farewell and Tyrion tearfully leaves the tent.

As the next day dawns, the Battle of King’s Landing looms. The Unsullied, Dothraki and Northern troops are stationed outside the city’s walls facing off with the Golden Company while the Iron Fleet occupies Blackwater Bay. Jaime has made it inside the capital, but is blocked from entering the Red Keep. Arya and the Hound, on the other hand, make it inside before the castle’s gates are shut. Tyrion tells Jon to call off his men if he hears the bells.

Suddenly, as Euron looks up from his boat, Drogon descends from the sky and obliterates the Iron Fleet. Once the ships are taken care of, Daenerys moves on to the scorpions atop the city walls before sending Drogon bursting through the city gate in a fiery blaze to decimate the Golden Company. Daenerys’ army takes this as the signal to attack and begins infiltrating the city, taking out every Lannister soldier in their path.

Qyburn informs Cersei that, basically, she’s in big trouble, but she continues to insist that the Red Keep won’t fall. However, once the Lannister soldiers drop their swords in the face of Daenerys’ advancing army, Cersei is forced to ring the bells of surrender. Daenerys clearly hears the bells, but she is still filled with rage over everything that has happened and unleashes Drogon on the city and all of the innocent people living in it anyway. Despite all of the times she insisted that she isn’t the same person that her father was, Daenerys certainly seems to be following in the Mad King’s footsteps.

As Daenerys begins her assault — and Bran’s vision of a lone dragon flying over King’s Landing is fulfilled — Grey Worm unleashes the army on the Lannister soldiers who have already dropped their weapons despite Jon’s orders to fall back. The soldiers then start massacring innocents as well.

Meanwhile, Jaime has doubled back to try to get into the Red Keep through the tunnels leading into the city from outside of it. But Euron just so happens to be crawling ashore at the exact moment that Jaime rounds the bend. Euron taunts Jaime about Cersei and Jaime lunges at him. It’s a brutal fight during which Euron manages to stab Jaime twice with a dagger before Jaime runs him through with a sword and staggers away into the Red Keep.

Cersei finally realizes it’s time to get out of dodge, and she, Qyburn and the Mountain begin their descent through the castle just as Arya and the Hound make their way into the Red Keep’s map room. The Hound convinces Arya that getting revenge on Cersei isn’t worth getting killed and Arya thanks him before letting him go on without her.

As the Red Keep begins to crumble, the Hound finally comes face to face with the Mountain on the stairs leading down to the map. Qyburn steps forward to order the Mountain to stay by Cersei’s side but the Mountain simply hurls Qyburn’s head into a wall, killing him. Cersei then continues on her way alone, leaving the estranged brothers to hash out their issues alone. After nearly eight full seasons of buildup, it’s finally time for Cleganebowl.

From the time the fight begins, it’s clear the Mountain is absolutely still stronger than the Hound, but the Hound is more determined. Thanks to his zombified state, the Mountain survives both a sword through the stomach and a dagger through the eye. After taking a beating that includes a more mild version of the eye gouging that Oberyn Martell received from the Mountain in season 4, the Hound manages to tackle the Mountain through the crumbling Red Keep wall and the two both fall to their deaths.

Further below, Cersei makes it to the map room and begins crying just as Jaime walks in. Cersei tearfully runs into his arms and they continue the descent into the holdfast. However, once down there, they realize that rubble has blocked their escape route. Cersei exclaims that she doesn’t want to die as the keep continues to crumble around them, but Jaime comforts her by reminding her that “nothing else matters” besides them. The roof then collapses on top of them, killing them both at the same moment.

In the midst of all this, Arya has been trying to make her way out of the city while Daenerys continues her killing spree. The final moments of the episode see a traumatized Arya find herself alone in the ruins of King’s Landing. But after discovering the burned bodies of a mother and daughter who saved her from being trampled to death, she looks up to see a lone white horse seemingly waiting for her. She then mounts the horse and rides off through the destruction.

Daenerys “The Mad Queen” Targaryen’s fiery reign has officially begun.

Episode winner

Daenerys Targaryen

Most memorable line

Tyrion Lannister to Jaime Lannister: “If it weren’t for you, I never would have survived my childhood…You were the only one who didn’t treat me like a monster. You were all I had.”

Most significant scene

Daenerys unleashes Drogon on King’s Landing and its people despite the fact that Cersei rang the city’s bells of surrender.

Game of Thrones: Season 8, Episode 6

Daenerys Targaryen dies in Jon Snow's arms in the Game of Thrones series finale
Helen Sloan—HBO

Episode name

“The Iron Throne”

Episode recap

George R. R. Martin warned fans long ago that the ending of Game of Thrones would be “bittersweet,” but who knew it would also be so controversial. Thrones’ final installment may have left viewers with as many questions as it did answers, but that doesn’t mean it’s not one of the most essential episodes in the series’ nearly decade-long run.

While walking the ruined streets of King’s Landing, Tyrion, Jon and Davos are clearly shaken up by the fiery spree of terror that Daenerys unleashed on the city — especially after coming across the burned bodies of the mother and daughter who saved Arya from being trampled to death in the previous episode. Tyrion continues on to the Red Keep alone despite Jon’s warning that it isn’t safe and makes his way down into Maegor’s Holdfast. He spots Jaime’s golden hand protruding from the rubble and begins moving aside pieces of the crumbled castle. He bursts into sobs when he finds his brother and sister dead in each other’s arms.

Meanwhile, Jon discovers Grey Worm preparing to execute a line of kneeling Lannister soldiers and orders him to stop. When Jon grabs Grey Worm’s arm to keep him from moving forward with his plan, both the Unsullied and Northmen draw their swords. Davos prevents the situation from escalating by telling Jon that he should speak with Daenerys. Jon reluctantly walks away as Grey Worm begins slitting the Lannisters throats.

A bloodied Arya watches as Jon walks between the gathering Dothraki and Unsullied to make his way to the steps leading up to the Red Keep. Daenerys swoops in on Drogon’s back and then dismounts to deliver a speech in which she praises the Dothraki for the ruthlessness they exhibited in winning her the Iron Throne. She then names Grey Worm commander of all of her forces and Master of War, and applauds the Unsullied for “freeing” the people of King’s Landing from a tyrant’s grip. Daenerys concludes with an ominous promise to not stop her conquest until she has “liberated” the entire world. “The war is not over,” she says. “We will not lay down our spears until we have liberated all the people of the world! From Winterfell to Dorne, from Lannisport to Qarth, from the Summer Isles to the Jade Sea! Women, men and children have suffered too long beneath the wheel. Will you break the wheel with me?”

It’s then that Tyrion approaches and Daenerys accuses him of treason for freeing Jaime. He rebukes her for slaughtering a city and throws his Hand of the Queen pin down the steps. Daenerys orders the Unsullied to take him away as a distressed Jon watches on. As Daenerys heads inside the castle, Arya stealthily appears at Jon’s side and warns him that Daenerys will always see him as a threat now that she knows he has the better claim to the Iron Throne.

Jon goes to see Tyrion in the room where he has been locked away and the two dejectedly discuss Daenerys’ actions. Tyrion tries to convince Jon that Daenerys cannot be allowed to rule by imploring him to see that Daenerys truly believes everything she’s doing is good and right, and that she won’t stop until she rules the world. Tyrion’s argument also echoes something that Barristan Selmy told Daenerys about her father in season 5: “The Mad King gave his enemies the justice he thought they deserved, and each time, it made him feel powerful and right, until the very end.”

Their conversation also serves as the show’s version of the “Mad Queen” debate that viewers had been deliberating over for weeks leading up to the finale.

Tyrion tells Jon that he knows that he loves Daenerys, prompting Jon to repeat what Maester Aemon told him when he wanted to desert the Night’s Watch after Ned was killed, “Love is the death of duty.” But Tyrion flips the saying on its head: “Sometimes, duty is the death of love.”

Meanwhile, in the Red Keep throne room, Daenerys lays eyes on the Iron Throne for the first time. She approaches and lays a hand on one of the thousand blades of Aegon’s enemies before getting distracted by Jon and turning away, bringing to life one of the visions that she had in the House of the Undying. Jon confronts Daenerys for slaughtering the people of King’s Landing but she insists that it’s their destiny to “break the wheel” together. Jon tells her that she will always be his queen and they kiss, but while she is distracted, he stabs her in the heart with a dagger, leading some fans to believe that Jon had finally fulfilled the Prince That Was Promised prophecy. Jon catches her as she falls and she dies in his arms.

Sensing Daenerys’ distress, Drogon enters the ruined throne room and discovers his mother’s dead body. He growls at Jon but ultimately unleashes his fury and grief on the Iron Throne, which melts into a puddle. Drogon then picks up Daenerys’ body in his claw and flies away to an unknown location.

Some time later, all of the lords and ladies of Westeros gather in King’s Landing to decide the fates of Tyrion and Jon — who are both prisoners of the Unsullied — and figure out who will rule over the realm. Tyrion is brought to the Dragonpit and the nobles argue over whether Jon should be executed. Grey Worm demands justice for Daenerys’ murder, but Tyrion argues that it’s not up to him, it’s up to the ruler of the Seven Kingdoms.

After Sam proposes that they allow everyone in the realm to vote on their new ruler — an idea that almost everyone laughs at — Tyrion suggests that they narrow the selection committee down to just the lords and ladies. He then presents a compelling argument for why Bran, a.k.a. Bran the Broken, is be the best person to rule over the Seven Kingdoms — well, six, since Sansa insists that the North remain independent.

“What unites people? Armies? Gold? Flags? Stories.” Tyrion muses while campaigning for Bran. “There’s nothing in the world more powerful than a good story. Nothing can stop it. No enemy can defeat it. And who has a better story than Bran the Broken? The boy who fell from a high tower and lived. He knew he’d never walk again, so he learned to fly. He crossed beyond the Wall, a crippled boy, and became the Three-Eyed Raven. He is our memory, the keeper of all our stories. The wars, weddings, births, massacres, famines. Our triumphs. Our defeats. Our past. Who better to lead us into the future?”

When Tyrion asks if he will accept the crown, Bran even lets on that he knew he was destined to become king. “Why do you think I came all this way?” he responds.

Bran being voted in as the new King of the Six Kingdoms marks the first time in Westerosi history that a somewhat democratic system is used to choose a new ruler and, just as Daenerys, promised to do in season 6, it seemingly breaks the wheel of tyranny and oppression that has long crushed the common people of Westeros beneath its spokes.

As his first act as king, Bran proclaims that Tyrion will make amends for his crimes by serving as his Hand of the King. “He’s made many terrible mistakes,” Bran explains. “He’s going to spend the rest of his life fixing them.”

Tyrion then pays Jon a visit in his cell and tells him that he has been sentenced to live out his life at the Wall as a brother in the Night’s Watch. It’s a compromise that nobody is particularly happy with, but Jon is more worried about whether what he did was right. Tyrion tells him to ask him again in 10 years.

As Jon prepares to set sail for the Wall, he walks through the harbor, where Grey Worm is readying to take the Unsullied to Naath in order to keep his promise to Missandei to protect her people. Sansa, Arya and Bran are all waiting to say goodbye to Jon before he boards his ship, and each sibling shares an emotional final conversation with him. Jon tells Sansa that she is the best ruler the people of the North could hope for, Arya tells Jon that she is planning to discover what is “west of Westeros.” rather than return home, and Bran reassures Jon that he has always been exactly where he was supposed to be.

Meanwhile, Brienne sits down to complete Jaime’s entry in the White Book, the book that has kept track of the deeds of every member of the Kingsguard for over 300 years. She stoically ends his story with the simple yet powerful statement, “Died protecting his Queen.”

Later, Tyrion presides over the first meeting of the new Small Council: Master of Coin Bronn, Lord Commander of the Kingsguard Brienne, Grand Maester Sam and Master of Ships Davos. King Bran leaves most of the business at hand up to Tyrion before he has the newly knighted Podrick wheel him away so he can attempt to find Drogon using his Three-Eyed Raven powers.

In an emotional final montage of scenes, Sansa is crowned Queen in the North, Arya sets sail for the western horizon on a ship bearing the Stark sigil and Jon returns to Castle Black, where Tormund and Ghost are waiting for him. Jon then sets out beyond the Wall with the remaining wildlings in a way that seems to hint he may never return.

The game of thrones has officially come to an end.

Episode winner

Bran Stark, a.k.a. Bran the Broken

Most memorable line

Tyrion Lannister to Jon Snow: “Sometimes, duty is the death of love.”

Most significant scene

Jon kills Daenerys to prevent the Mother of Dragons-turned-Mad Queen from sitting on the Iron Throne.

Write to Megan McCluskey at megan.mccluskey@time.com.

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