Keeping track of who died, who killed whom, and who’s sleeping with whom — not always mutually exclusive with who is related to whom — in Games of Thrones can be harder to follow than D.C. politics. If you’re new to HBO’s stellar adaptation of George R. R. Martin’s bestselling series, our list can give you some episodes to look forward to. If you want to refresh your memory before season six hits the air on April 24, these episodes can also help you skip over the less important bits and hone in on the good stuff. Recaps, decaps, dragons, and deceit — our top 10 contain the biggest surprises and the best back-door deals. This means, of course, that spoilers run rampant throughout the list. Seriously, lots of spoilers. Proceed at your own risk. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
10) The Mountain and the Viper (Season 4, Episode 8)
Of all the horrific death scenes in Game of Thrones, this one might have made us the most physically ill. Oberyn of Dorne fights against Ser Gregor Clegane (aka The Mountain) in a battle to determine whether Tyrion will live or die. Why? Because that’s just how justice is determined, okay? Oberyn believes The Mountain killed and raped his sister and also killed her children, so he’s pretty mad and hops around with his poisoned spear like an angry frog. Ser Gregor frankly couldn’t care less. Oberyn gets a hit! A very palpable hit! Then another. Then he gets cocky. And as he struts around Ser Gregor’s prostate body on the ground demanding a confession, Ser Gregor gives him one — whilst gouging out his eyes and caving in his skull with his bare hands. Poor Tyrion.
9) Hardhome (Season 5, Episode 8)
Remember this guy? Like The Mountain and the Viper, there’s one really great scene in Hardhome that, despite not much else happening in the episode, garners it a spot on this list. Jon, some wildlings, and some of the Night’s Watch brothers have sailed North to convince more of the wildlings to join forces with them. When they arrive, wights and White Walkers attack. It’s an all out massacre and as Jon retreats on a small boat the Night’s King raises his arms, and thus, the dead. Replay that scene in your head while listening to Thriller — or, better yet, just actually watch it.
8) Fire and Blood (Season 1, Episode 10)
In season one’s finale, Robb is declared King in the North, Cersei takes a new lover — her cousin, this time — and Arya escapes King’s Landing with a troupe bound for the Night’s Watch. But the best part of Fire and Blood is when Daenerys, after discovering her child was born dead and mutated and her husband, Drogo, is a vegetable, emerges from Drogo’s funeral pyre with three baby dragons. Daenerys’s character sorely needs those dragons, both in the context of the plot and also because she’s kind of boring compared to other characters. When they finally arrived, we thanked the old gods and the new for finally giving her story a boost.
7) Kissed by Fire Season (Season 3, Episode 5)
Things get steamy up in the North. Oh, Jon Snow, you puppy-eyed boy, you really do “know nothing.” But that’s okay, Ygritte likes you anyway. Lured into a cave with a natural hot springs, Jon and Ygritte shed their furs and make Jon a man — if you catch our drift. Things get steamy further south, too, in a weird and wonderful scene involving Jaime Lannister, Brienne of Tarth, and a Harrenhal bath. Cersei and Tyrion both get new beaus, whether they like it or not, making it an all around love-struck episode.
6) The Dance of Dragons (Season 5, Episode 9)
Game of Thrones is infamous for killing off the best-loved, most-perceived-as-righteous characters. However, when Stannis sacrificed his own daughter, Shireen, to the Lord of Light by burning her at the stake while she cried out for him and her mother, even inured to the carnage of our favorite characters as we were, we were still indignant! Which is why, later in the episode, when Daenerys is ambushed in the fighting pit by Sons of the Harpy, we really thought it was the end for her too. Luckily, her bad-ass dragon swooped in to save her.
5) Mother’s Mercy (Season 5, Episode 10)
Watching Cersei Lannister get a come-uppance was exquisitely gratifying. Less gratifying but still fun to watch was Sansa — finally, finally fed up enough to bust out of her wooden helplessness and take action — make a run for it. Ramsay is so horrible, she chooses to jump off the walls of Winterfell and hope for the best rather than return to him when her flight is discovered. But of course, to make up for those moments, someone trying to do the right thing had to go. Jon Snow, we loved your pretty hair. You didn’t deserve to be stabbed, Caesar-style, by all your own men and left to die. We can only hope that you somehow miraculously survive to bat your pretty lashes in season six. That said, we’re not holding our breath.
4) The Lion and the Rose (Season 4, Episode 2)
God, was there anything better than watching Joffrey choke to death? Seriously. If there was one main character in Game of Thrones who truly had absolutely nothing redeeming about him, it was Joffrey. At his and Margaery’s wedding feast he is at his repulsive best. While the camera worked hard to insinuate who the poisoner might be, we were too busy waiting for him to finally just drink the damn wine and die. Sansa escapes with the help of once-knight-now-fool Dontos in the ensuing hubbub, which proves to be a very wise decision given she and Tyrion are quickly accused of the murder.
3) Baelor (Season 1, Episode 9)
The death that tipped us off to the way Game of Thrones would roll. Eddard Stark is great at telling the truth and being honorable but, sadly, is less effective when it comes to denouncing a king. Accused of treason, he stands before all of King’s Landing and, thinking of his family and clemency, abandons his principles and declares he lied about Joffrey’s incestuous parentage. For once, he does what everyone — family and foes, alike — want him to do and he still gets his head lobbed off.
2) The Rains of Castamere (Season 3, Episode 9)
Those wily Freys. No, Robb did not learn anything from his father’s demise and has always been more honorable than brilliant, but still, he didn’t deserve to be double crossed just because he followed his, ahem, heart and married a political nonentity who brought nothing to the table. This is also when we get a glimpse at how ruthless Roose Bolton can be. Old Walder Frey, don’t you think for one second that we didn’t know you were up to no good! Once a Filch, always a Filch.
1) The Children (Season 4, Episode 10)
We couldn’t help but root for Tyrion when he had that crossbow pointed at his dad. After finding Shae, his one-time mistress, in his father’s bed, Tyrion murders her and looses a bolt into Tywin. We didn’t think Tyrion had it in him, and neither, to his demise, did his dad. But Tyrion, not for the first time, manages to tap some inner reserve of courage he keeps well hidden under layers of wit and wine. After killing his dad, he escapes with the help of Varys for even bigger adventures.