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How to get caught up on Game of Thrones — fast

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The best summaries, videos, and key episodes to watch

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Photo by Helen Sloan / HBO

Game of Thrones is nearly back after almost two years off the air. That’s a long time for any TV show, but it’s especially problematic for a series that has become famous for its massive cast of characters, branching storylines, and complicated plot. What else would you expect from a show based on George R.R. Martin’s 4,228 pages (and counting, theoretically) of books?

Fortunately, the internet is full of resources to get caught up for the final season premiere on Sunday. We’ve rounded up the best of them here, for everyone from die-hard Thrones veterans to fresh-faced summer children. (Don’t worry, series newcomers. You’ll get that reference soon enough.)

Photo by Helen Sloan / HBO

I just want a refresher

It’s been a while, and even though Game of Thrones spent the last season or so contracting into just a few main storylines, there’s still a lot going on, and a quick catch-up never hurts.

  • Watch “The Dragon and the Wolf.” To watch select episodes on your own time, you’ll need either the physical media (all previous seasons are available on DVD and Blu-ray) or streaming access through HBO or a partner like Amazon. The season 7 finale is a good place to start if you want to remember where we left off. It’s less of a finale than a prologue for season 8, spending most of the time setting the table for the fireworks (and ice-works, presumably) to come.
  • Season 7 recaps. The internet’s cottage Game of Thrones industry is booming, and YouTube is full of helpful videos to remind you of where everyone is and what they’re doing. This animated series recap from White Animation is one of my favorites, covering most of the main characters and major plot points accurately but with some humor. Plus, it’s only three and a half minutes long. Film Cram’s season 7 recap is 10 times as long, but it offers a much more comprehensive look at what happened last season.
  • Wikis. When in doubt, check Wikipedia or the Game of Thrones Wiki, both of which have extremely in-depth recaps of individual episodes and entire seasons.
  • Just watch season 7 again. This isn’t technically “quick,” but the previous season is only seven episodes long, which means you should be able to make it through pretty quickly before Sunday night’s premiere of season 8. If you want to make sure you don’t miss a single plot point, it’s your best bet.
Photo by Helen Sloan / HBO

I stopped watching a few seasons back

We get it. You gave up on the show, but you hate missing out on the hype. You’re probably familiar with the basics, like who the main characters are, but depending on when you stopped watching, a lot has probably changed in Westeros. Here’s how to get back up to speed.

  • Who’s alive? First things first, you’ll want to figure out who’s still standing going into the final season and roughly what they’re up to. Time’s guide to the current batch of survivors is extremely comprehensive and concise.
  • Wikipedia summaries. Wikipedia has comprehensive summaries of every episode, but the individual episode pages are super long. (If you had that kind of time, you’d just read the books, amirite?) You want the specific pages for each season, which give far more concise paragraph summaries of key events, perfect for skimming through to find out what you missed.
  • Key episodes. If you want to dive a little deeper, there are plenty of online guides that list the key episodes and justify why they’re the ones to watch, including this concise five-episode guide at Polygon, this 10-episode list from Screen Rant, or Vox’s even more comprehensive guide. Just pick up where you left off and catch the important ones from there, or watch them all if you’ve really forgotten everything.
Photo by Helen Sloan / HBO

I have never watched Game of Thrones

So you’ve resisted this far despite all of the hype, or maybe you just awoke from a century of enchanted slumber. Welcome to the present! Apparently, you’re curious about this new Game of Thrones show people keep talking about. I’ll be honest: you’re starting your catch-up pretty late. But here’s your best shot:

  • Full-show summaries. There’s no perfect way to compress more than 67 hours of content in so little time. Your best bet is to watch some of the full series recaps on YouTube, like this nearly hour-long one from Screen Junkies, or ScreenCrush’s shorter 12-minute one.
  • The Game of Thrones wiki. Less useful for a binge catch-up, but chances are that all of these other lists and guides are going to be throwing weird terms, phrases, places, and character names at you. Keep the Game of Thrones wiki handy for quick consultations about which house is which and who that random dude wearing a dog-shaped helmet is.
  • Wiki summaries and key episodes. See the previous section. These zoomed-out views of the series are a good place to catch up. You’ll just have to do even more reading and watching to get back up to speed.
  • Watch the entire show. Depending on when you start, if you take zero breaks between now and the premiere, you can watch almost every episode. I wouldn’t entirely recommend that, but it is at least a conceivably possible strategy. But you might want to get started right now to have any hope of being done in time.