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Welcome back to our guide through an epic “Game of Thrones” rewatch. If you’re just joining us, you can catch up on Season 1 or Season 2 first, or pray to the Lord of Light as we resurrect Season 3.

How Should I Rewatch ‘Game of Thrones’ Season 3?

If you want to catch up fast, concentrate on the installments that are central to the famously complicated plot and the ones that provide all the facts and feels. These are four must-watch episodes of Season 3.

Episode 1, “Valar Dohaeris,” for the reset of where most of the characters are on the map and a demonstration of some new, necessary relationships (Tywin and his pen pals, Margaery and the people). Plus: our first giant. (Don’t stare too long; they’re shy.)

Episode 5, “Kissed by Fire,” a rather warm entry with heartwarming moments (Shireen) and romance (Jon and Ygritte), as several folks discover bath time and take the plunge. Also: smirk along with (or at?) Cersei as we sort through the tangled web of Lannister/Tyrell/Stark marriage-alliance plots.

Episode 8, “Second Sons,” to attend a royal wedding where no one dies, although Cersei does drop a death threat on a Tyrell in the Sept of Baelor. Foreshadowing! Bonus: Sam Tarly becomes Sam the Slayer.

Episode 9, “The Rains of Castamere,” because it’s a nice day for a Red Wedding. Scream, cry and say goodbye to some sadly unsuspecting Starks. Also try not to choke up when Bran wargs Hodor for the first time, or Rickon and Osha leave. The heartbreak!

5 Things to Watch for in Season 3

The War of the Five Kings has lost one king but remains in full swing, with three of the seven kingdoms in open rebellion. Plots are in place to remove another king from the board by the end of the season, but there are so many plots, counterplots, and untrustworthy types lurking about, it’s hard to keep track. Focusing on these might help:

Spy vs. Spy

Spies are everywhere. Jon Snow goes undercover with the Free Folk as a defector (and doesn’t fully fool them). Varys convinces Ros to spy on Littlefinger (or perhaps she lured him in, looking to spill some valuable info about her boss’ travel plans). Varys then tries to thwart Littlefinger by plotting with the Tyrells, but Littlefinger’s prostitute Olyvar easily seduces Loras Tyrell and reports back. Key bit of intel: Loras is set to marry … someone. Littlefinger concludes that the someone is Sansa and alerts the Lannisters, leading to Tywin’s strategic matchmaking of Cersei with Loras and Tyrion with Sansa, which none of them are happy about. (Littlefinger gives Ros to Joffrey, which doesn’t end well.)

Even though Jorah Mormont is no longer a spy, he’s clearly worried that new Team Dany member Barristan Selmy knows he was, and could use that fact against him. And the ultimate spymaster in all of Westeros, of course, is the Three-Eyed Raven, who recruits Jojen Reed and Bran Stark for his mysterious purposes. At least Jon, Ros, Olyvar and Jorah know the risks of their espionage: Bran has no idea what’s in store for him. (“The raven is you” does not count.)

Red Wedding RSVPs

When did the plans for the Red Wedding coalesce? The Frey alliance with the Starks was in tatters by the end of Season 2, but they didn’t plan it alone.

When did Tywin Lannister get in on the action? Clues come early in Season 3, when he embarks on a correspondence spree. (Notice that when both Tyrion and Cersei come to visit him, he is preoccupied with writing letters). Tywin’s first missives would most likely be to the Freys, who want revenge on the Starks and an end to the war in the Riverlands.

What about Roose Bolton? The first dodgy sign comes when he doesn’t tell the Starks that Ramsay has captured Theon — with the Stark position weakening, Roose probably decided to start keeping his options open. When his hunters return with Jaime Lannister (and Brienne), those options become clearer: He can alert Robb and help resolve issues with Lord Karstark, or he can alert Tywin and gain a favor from the crown. So for the second time, Roose neglects to inform the Starks about a prisoner they seek.

While Jaime and Brienne are in Bolton’s custody, Tywin starts talking about Sansa being “the key to the North.” It would seem Tywin is more secure with his plans to remove Robb — perhaps because he now knows the whereabouts of his son. Only after this do the Freys bring new terms to the Starks, at which point Roose decides to free Jaime. Coincidence?

Save the Date

Joffrey’s nuptials won’t happen until Season 4, but the conspirators begin their conspiring here in Season 3. It takes a lot to plan a murder at a royal wedding — you have to order the flowers, the cake, the poison. . . .

Early on, Olenna Tyrell questions Sansa about what Joffrey’s really like, possibly to clarify her thoughts about a course of action. And with all the Sansa-swapping schemes being bandied about, it must have also occurred to the Queen of Thorns that a swap would be beneficial for Margaery’s sake as well — her granddaughter would still be able to marry Joff’s gentler brother Tommen, who would ascend to the throne, if say, Joffrey were removed from power before consummating any marriage. That is, if the Tyrell-Lannister alliance remains intact, and if the Lannisters still need the Tyrells more than the Tyrells need the Lannisters. And so Olenna offers a few concessions to Tyrion and Tywin — offering to pay for half the royal wedding (after Tyrion objects to its cost) and agreeing to a Loras-Cersei marriage alliance, for now at least.

We don’t see Olenna interact with Littlefinger at all this season — they’re careful, these two. But Varys does tell her that Littlefinger is “the most dangerous man in Westeros.” Who better to help plan a regicide?

New York Times