‘Game of Thrones’ season 1 recap: And now our watch begins…

The whole Westeros thing is a bit hazy after an 18-month hiatus, isn’t it?

But with T-minus six days and counting until April 14 (April 15 in SA), when the most obsessively tracked TV show in history returns for its final run, it is time to start getting back into a “Game of Thrones” mindset.

This is all about Season 1.

How Should I Rewatch ‘Game of Thrones’?

If you want to catch up fast, there’s no need to binge the whole first season to refresh your memory. Concentrate on the installments that are central to the famously complicated plot and provide all the feels. Here are four must-watch episodes.

Episode 1, “Winter Is Coming”: Because it’s the last time you’ll see all the Starks as one big (mostly) happy family. Try not to choke up when you spot Hodor, or when Rickon runs up to Jon to hand him arrows. Also: baby direwolves.

Episode 3, “Lord Snow”: For a reminder of how Jaime Lannister has been trying to tell everyone about that business with the Mad King ALL ALONG. Extra fun: Tyrion goes to the top of the Wall and crosses something off his bucket list.

Episode 7, “You Win or You Die”: Delves into the touchy question of succession and sets into play the War of the Five Kings. Also: Dany goes wine tasting.

Episode 9, “Baelor”: For the excellent opportunity it offers to scream at the screen. Bonus: Tyrion bonds with Bronn and Shae during a drinking game.

— 5 Things to Watch For in Season 1

The most striking part of going back through “Game of Thrones” from the beginning is all the foreshadowing: So many things that might have felt unremarkable the first time around have since taken on new importance. (Especially from Episode 1. Pay close attention to Episode 1!)

But if you were ever confused by all the court intrigue or the murder plots, focusing on a few characters and situations might help. (Otherwise, just enjoy all the baby direwolves and dragons — they’re so cute when they’re little!)

R + L = J

It was right there the whole time: Bran’s recounting of his family history in the Winterfell crypt; the origins of Robert’s Rebellion, which started because Rhaegar Targaryen ran off with Lyanna Stark; Cersei’s bitterness at her husband’s continuing love for the long-gone Lyanna; and Robert’s insistence on killing all the remaining Targaryens.

And there were so many clues even if you focused only on the doomed Ned Stark. There was his refusal to aid Robert in his murderous quest; his purposeful references to Jon as “my blood,” not “my son”; and his pained expression whenever the subject of Jon’s mother came up.

Ned was a man of honour who lied only to protect his family. He knew that his friend Robert would hunt down and kill even children because of their bloodlines. Amid the show’s other sly exposition dumps — hiding history lessons in the sex scenes or in what might seem like idle chatter — these half-hidden nuggets are particularly revealing. The show was practically screaming the story of Jon Snow’s not-so-illegitimate heritage: Rhaegar + Lyanna = Jon.

Additional reading:

In Westeros, as anywhere else, it pays to get things in writing. And be sure to read the fine print (and keep it away from any paper-shredding queens). So many characters have a hard time understanding the provisions of the promises they make and that mistreating the other party might come back to haunt them.

Viserys sells his sister Daenerys to Khal Drogo, assuming he’ll get the use of the Dothraki army on his timetable. Wrong. The Starks promise betrothals to the Freys in exchange for a crossing, but then underestimate how touchy Walder Frey will be when they fail to honour the terms of the agreement. Bad idea. Even Joffrey’s decision to execute Ned Stark, after he “confessed” to treason, violates a plea agreement and leads to war. Jaime Lannister is reviled as the Kingslayer not because he killed a king, but because he killed a king he was sworn to protect. Time and again, “Game of Thrones” shows us that oath-breaking has very serious consequences.

Littlefinger Lies

Question everything that comes out of the mouth of Lord Petyr Baelish. He even tells Ned Stark: “Distrusting me was the wisest thing you’ve done since you climbed off your horse.”

Most of the events in Season 1 that lead to war — beginning with the murder of Jon Arryn, the Hand of the King, which was used to stoke Stark-Lannister tensions — stemmed from his schemes. Even when it seems he’s being helpful (identifying the dagger used in the attempt on Bran’s life, directing Ned Stark to question Ser Hugh of the Vale or to find Robert’s bastards), he’s actually playing a game of sly misdirection. (He’s not about to help Ned solve the mystery of a murder he helped commit, right?)

Maybe the only time we should believe Littlefinger is when he confesses to Ros that his plan is to “(expletive) them” all. She should have believed him, too. This won’t be the last we’ll see of that fateful dagger …

Variable Varys

Such a slippery Spider. While Littlefinger is slightly more overt with his manipulations, Varys prefers to keep people in the dark. His eventual enthusiastic support for Team Dany is a little surprising considering he tried to assassinate the pregnant Khaleesi in Season 1. (Remember that? She certainly does.) For all the spymaster’s insistence to Ned that he serves the realm and wants peace, Varys was actually scheming with Illyrio Mopatis to give Westeros a Targaryen restoration via Dothraki invasion. Mopatis, you’ll recall, is his Pentos buddy, the man who brokered Daenery’s marriage to Khal Drogo. Arya overheard the two of them plotting.

But they really wanted Viserys on the Iron Throne, not Dany — she was expendable. Jorah Mormont was able to thwart the assassination attempt only because he had been spying on Dany for Varys in the hopes of earning a royal pardon. Watch when Jorah gets the news of Dany’s pregnancy, how he slips away from the Dothraki caravan, only to rejoin it later. Listen to what Varys says and doesn’t say. The Master of Whisperers always knows much more than he reveals.

Lancel Lannister

It’s easy to overlook this future member of the Faith Militant as a youth. He is quiet, fumbling, and he often gets things wrong. And King Robert bullies him unmercifully.

But there’s more to this squire than initially meets the eye. Beneath his unremarkable exterior is someone eager to get in bed with his Lannister cousins — sometimes literally. We might not have thought much of Cersei’s seduction of Lancel in Season 1, but it’s clear now the two plotted together to speed along the king’s demise. Cersei is good at deflecting the blame (see her dismissal of Ser Barristan), but it was Lancel’s purposeful escalation of Robert’s inebriation that put him in harm’s way. More wine?

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Lancel Lannister (right). Picture: HBO

New York Times

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