Your White Walker Refresh for “Game of Thrones”

Winter has been coming for a long time now. With Game of Thrones’ Season 7 currently underway, it’s supposedly arrived.

Now, I confess that the White Walker storyline was not originally one of my favorites. So naturally, I needed to brush up on all those icy details before things got hot and heavy (or, rather, cold and deadly). I didn’t want to completely revisit the previous six GoT seasons, so I scanned episode descriptions for any mention of White Walkers, the Wall, Jon Snow, Sam and Gilly, and Bran. Yes, I probably missed scenes here and there in random episodes, but hey, I was going for Spark Notes not the full read.

[Note: if you’re not up to date on GoT, just stop. This exercise is not for you. Plots will be spoiled.]

Instead of completely watching each selected episode, I fast forwarded through scenes that did not involve the aforementioned. The resulting stream of uninterrupted storyline is pretty fascinating. Condensed viewing also allowed me to cover a shitload of TV in a timely fashion and thus do other things, like work, maintain my spousal relationship, and shower.

For your GoT pre-gaming pleasure, here’s my anecdotal list. Unlike the folks south of the Wall, you’ve still got time to watch before the Night King and his undead minions blow into your living room.

GoT Season 1: Meet the Wall

E1 “Winter is Coming” (the opening scenes — a Night’s Watch party encounters a scene of strange death, the bodies in pieces and arranged in a circle; a White Walker sends a message back via a surviving deserter, who Lord Stark beheads; Bran sees something he shouldn’t and is pushed from the tower), E2 “The Kingsroad” (Bran has been unconscious since his fall; Jon leaves for the wall and Lord Stark promises to tell him about his mother the next time they meet; Bran’s direwolf saves him from an assassin; Bran wakes a cripple), E3 “Lord Snow” (Tyrion gives Jon some straight talk; Benjen tells Jon he’s going to investigate disturbing reports; the Lord Commander and Maester Aemon ask Tyrion for more men on the Wall), E4 “Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things” (Bran dreams of the Three-Eyed Raven; Jon befriends Samwell Tarly, a bookish misfit), E6 “A Golden Crown” (Wildlings attack Bran as he’s riding and the woman, Osha, becomes a prisoner at Winterfell), E7 “You Win or You Die” (Osha came south to escape things that sleep in the day and hunt at night; Benjen’s horse returns without its rider; Jon takes his Night Watch vow at the weirwood), E8 “The Pointy End” (a corpse reanimates in the night; Jon and his direwolf Ghost save the Lord Commander from the wight; Bran prays at the weirwood tree with Osha; Sam explains that only fire stops blue-eyed wights who were touched by White Walkers), E9 “Baelor” (Lord Commander gives Jorah’s sword, Longclaw, to Jon; Sam tells Jon that his brother is heading to war; Jon wants to leave the Night Watch to join Rob; Maester Aemon reveals his Targaryen lineage), E10 “Fire and Blood” (Rickon and Bran see their father in Winterfell’s tombs; Jon rides away from Castle Black but his Night’s Watch brothers bring him back; the Lord Commander speaks of blue-eyed corpses and tells Jon they will ride beyond the wall to find Benjen Stark)

Can’t Miss Episodes: E1 (how it all starts), E8 (Jon battles his first wight), and E10 (Osha and Bran form an important bond)

GoT Season 2: Hello, Wildlings!

E1 “The North Remembers” (Osha talks to Bran about his dreams at the weirwood; a blood-red comet passes overhead, signifying dragons), E2 “The Night Lands” (the Night’s Watch works at Craster’s Keep, where Sam meets Gilly, one of Craster’s daughters/wives; Jon observes a White Walker collecting Craster’s male baby), E3 “What is Dead May Never Die” (Jon confronts the Lord Commander, who already knew Craster’s boys were being sacrificed; the Night’s Watch leaves the Keep; Bran begins to dream of true things, past and future), E6 “The Old Gods and the New” (Theon takes Winterfell; Jon captures a wildling girl, Ygritte, who tells them to burn the dead, and escapes; Osha sneaks Hodor and the boys out of Winterfell), E7 “A Man without Honor” (Theon hangs the burned bodies of two boys he says are Bran and Rickon; Ygritte and Jon spar in the wilderness, then she becomes his captor), E8 “The Prince of Winterfell” (Jon and Qhorin Halfhand are prisoners of the wildlings; Sam discovers dragon glass — obsedian — wrapped in a Night’s Watch cloak, under a stone with markings from the First Men; Osha reveals the little lords are safe in Winterfell’s tombs), E10 “Valar Morghulis” (Osha, Hodor, Bran, and Rickon escape from Winterfell and go toward the Wall to find Jon; Jon kills Qhorin Halfhand, goes undercover as a turncoat, and is taken to the wildling army encampment; the White Walker leads the Army of the Dead past Sam)

Can’t Miss Episodes: E2 and E3 (Craster personifies the border between what the southern lands don’t know and the horrors in the north), E8 (Sam unwittingly makes an important discovery)

GoT Season 3: Nasty Craster

E1 “Valar Dohaeris” (Jon is brought before Mance Rayder, King Beyond the Wall), E2 “Dark Wings Dark Words” (Bran dreams of shooting the Three-Eyed Raven with an arrow and sees a boy; the wildling warg uses an eagle to scout; Jojen Reed, the boy from Bran’s vision, and his sister, Meera, join the group and Jojen explains wargs and the sight), E3 “Walk of Punishment” (the Night’s Watch reaches Craster’s Keep; the Lord Commander strikes a deal for shelter, food), E4 “And Now His Watch is Ended” (Night’s Watch does duty at Craster’s keep; Sam befriends Gilly, who has now borne a baby boy; Bran dreams of the Three-Eyed Crow; mutiny among the Night’s Watch pushes Sam and Gilly to take the baby and run away), E6 “The Climb” (Sam and Gilly work their way toward Castle Black; Jojen has a vision; Jon and the band of wildlings climb over the Wall and go south), E7 “Bear and the Maiden Fair” (Jon and wildlings travel south of the Wall; Osha tells Bran and Jojen about her experience with wights), E8 “Second Sons” (To protect Gilly and the baby, Sam kills a White Walker with dragon glass he’d found), E9 “Rains of Castemere” (Sam and Gilly trek toward Castle Black; Bran, Rickon, and friends seek shelter while Jon and wildlings attack; Bran consciously enters another body (Hodor’s and Summer’s) for the first time; Jon kills the wildling warg and escapes; Osha and Rickon go their separate way from Bran, Jojen, Meera, and Hodor), E10 “Mhysa” (Bran and friends take shelter in the Night Fort, where they run into Sam and Gilly; Ygritte shoots Jon)

Can’t Miss Episodes: E8 (tips on how to fight the White Walkers) and E10 (mysticism and the history behind the White Walkers)

GoT Season 4: Battles Galore

E1 “Two Swords” (Jon stands trial for Qhorin Halfhand’s death and warns of the wildling threat), E2 “Lion and the Rose” (Bran spends a dangerous amount of time in Summer’s body; they find a weirwood tree and the Three-Eyed Raven tells Bran to go north of the Wall), E4 “Oathkeeper” (Jon and volunteers from the Night’s Watch march on mutineers at Craster’s Keep; Craster’s last baby boy is a “gift to the gods,” which the White Walker accepts and presents to the Night King at a frozen altar; Bran and friends are captured by mutineers), E5 “First of His Name” (Jojen reveals his vision of the giant weirwood tree; Bran takes over Hodor’s body to save himself; Bran chooses to find the Three-Eyed Raven instead of connecting with Jon), E7 “Mockingbird” (Jon reports on the wildlings but his advice is ignored at Castle Black), E8 “Mountain and the Viper” (wildlings attack Moles Town but Ygritte spares Gilly), E9 “Watchers on the Wall” (Gilly and baby Sam arrive at Castle Black; battle ensues), E10 “The Children” (Stannis defeats the wildlings; Bran, Meera, Jojen, and Hodor reach the weirwood tree, and all but Jojen are saved from attacking wights by the Children of the Forest; Bran meets the Three-Eyed Raven)

Can’t Miss Episodes: E2 (Bran is the central connection between the living and nether worlds), E4 (we learn much about human/White Walker interaction from Craster’s Keep), and E10 (essential information about the undead’s mystical origins)

GoT Season 5: Alliance Against the Army of the Dead

E1 “The Wars to Come” (Stannis tempts Jon with revenge for Winterfell), E4 “Sons of the Harpy” (Melisandre tempts Jon with sex and power; Mance Rayder is killed), E5 “Kill the Boy” (Jon decides to bring wildlings through Castle Black’s gates to resettle in southern lands, which alienates the Night’s Watch; Stannis tells Sam there’s dragon’s glass at House Targaryen’s castle, Dragonstone), E7 “The Gift” (Sam gives dragon glass to Jon as he and Tormund leave Castle Black; Sam and Gilly fight off attackers and become a family), E8 “Hardhome” (Jon and Tormund address the leaders at the wildling camp about an alliance; Army of the Dead attacks; Jon kills a White Walker with his sword, Longclaw, made of Valyrian steel; the Night King returns the dead to life), E9 “The Dance of Dragons” (Jon and the rescued wildlings arrive at Castle Black)

Can’t Miss Episodes: E8 (the negotiations and Army of the Dead attack at the large fortress, Hardhome, are crucial to the Night Watch/wildling alliance and Jon’s understanding of how to fight the war ahead)

GoT Season 6: The Three-Eyed Raven

E1 “The Red Woman” (Jon is dead), E2 “Home” (Bran trains with the Three-Eyed Raven and sees his aunt, Lyana Stark; wildlings return to Castle Black to stand with Jon’s friends), E3 “Oathbreaker” (Jon lives again and leaves the Night’s Watch; Gilly and Sam sail south to Horn Hill), E5 “The Door” (Bran learns the Children made the Night King by stabbing a man in the heart with dragon glass; in one of Bran’s visions, the Night King sees and touches him; the dead storm the weirwood; Bran becomes the Three-Eyed Raven and grasps the consequences of psychically occupying Hodor), E6 “Blood of My Blood” (Bran and Meera find a new ally in Benjen Stark, who isn’t quite dead yet; Bran has more flashes of the past), E10 “The Winds of Winter” (Sam and Gilly arrive at the Citadel; Bran discovers the identity of Jon’s parents)

Can’t Miss Episodes: As the White Walkers and Army of the Dead march closer, related story lines are more prominent. While each is important, three episodes of season 6 are key: E2 (we discover so much of House Stark’s history), E5 (by the old gods and the new, a heart-breaker combining past and present characters), and E10 (Jon’s dubious bastard status has always been a primary plot point)

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