The Game Of Thrones pilot had the unenviable process of introducing audiences to the fictional world of Westeros, a minimum of three of its main households — the Starks, Lannisters and Targaryens — and the collection’ large dangerous, the White Walkers in a cohesive, clear method. Somehow, it pulled it off.

…on the second try. 

Rough beginnings

It’s well-known that the unique Game of Thrones pilot, shot over two months in 2009, was so abysmal that it by no means aired. Private screenings left audiences confused as relationships between the quite a few characters weren’t explicitly spelled out and there weren’t sufficient extensive pictures establishing the shifting areas. There have been a number of technical errors too. “Since the wedding was shot at night, quite a lot of money had been spent on seeing absolutely fuck-all,” mentioned actor Iain Glen, who performed Jorah Mormont, including that the episode was “ill-conceived” and lacked conviction. 

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Showrunners Dan Weiss and David Benioff, who had no prior expertise in tv, had spent 4 years adapting the textual content of George RR Martin’s A Song Of Ice And Fire to a screenplay for this episode. Still, they rewrote and reshot 90% of it on the recommendation of director Craig Mazin, who later referred to as it “the biggest rescue in Hollywood history”. They changed Tamzin Merchant with Emilia Clarke within the position of Daenerys Targaryen and employed Michelle Fairley to play Lady Catelyn Stark after actress Jennifer Ehle dropped out. They additionally made positive to ascertain the sibling relationship between Jaime and Cersei Lannister, an vital plot level, by having him say strains like, “As your brother…” Even the wardrobe was reworked. Queen Cersei went from trying like, in actress Lena Headey’s phrases, “a Vegas showgirl…a medieval Dolly Parton” to a regal monarch.

Not pictured: Medieval Dolly Parton.

A recent begin

The pilot that lastly aired on HBO in 2011 is a fragile balancing act, cross-cutting between a number of storylines with talent and establishing themes of political intrigue inside its bigger worldbuilding. In the episode, King Robert Baratheon (Mark Addy) arrives at Winterfell to ask his longtime pal, Lord Ned Stark (Sean Bean), to serve at his aspect. Ned is initially reluctant to go away his residence and household however on studying that Robert’s final right-hand man was poisoned, takes the job to unravel the conspiracy. Across the ocean, an exiled Viserys Targaryen (Harry Lloyd) plots to usurp the throne by marrying off his sister, Daenerys, to a warlord in trade for a military to assist his trigger.

The 51-minute-long pilot, titled ‘Winter is Coming’, does its greatest work when it’s growing the characters, introducing us to the very traits that may ultimately seal their destiny. Military deserters face the loss of life penalty by legislation however Ned’s insistence on being the one to behead them himself — “He who passes the sentence, swings the sword” — sows the seeds of his capability to do what’s proper, even when it’s arduous. It’s this noble, however in the end foolhardy trait that will get him killed. A wordless scene of Daenerys getting into a scalding bathtub with out flinching lays the inspiration of her capability to emerge from hearth unscathed, a nod to her Targaryen heritage. Another shot of Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) hitting the bullseye together with her crossbow when her brother, Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright), fails to, is a strong indicator of the fight expertise that in the end help her on the trail to changing into an murderer. 

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The inherent worth of those particulars turns into obvious solely in hindsight, as does the wealthy symbolism of a scene through which the Starks discover the corpse of a direwolf (their home sigil) gored to loss of life by a stag (the sigil of home Baratheon), indicative of how Ned accepting a place at Robert’s court docket units his household on a course that tears them aside. Over the years, the shot of the Stark household greeting Robert and his household would go on to accrue web tears owing to its significance as a snapshot of the final time the household was protected, sound and all in the identical place.


So good is the pilot at establishing arcs that the dearth of payoff in season 8 turns into much more irritating on repeat viewing. The spooky spiral image of the White Walkers, made up of the dismembered limbs of their victims, is a picture that first seems within the pilot and recurs all through the collection however is rarely defined.

“We’re not sure exactly what they signify, but spiral patterns are important in a lot of different cultures in our world, and it makes sense that they would be in this world as well,” was Benioff’s unconvincing clarification in 2017. 

The spooky White Walker image.

The present additionally squanders the prospect to make Robert’s phrases prophetic. “I have a son, you have a daughter,” he tells Ned on this episode. “We’ll join our houses.” His sadistic son, Joffrey (Jack Gleeson), does marry Ned’s naive daughter, Sansa (Sophie Turner), an abusive union that ultimately ends in cold-blooded homicide. But when Arya shares a romantic second together with her pal Gendry (Joe Dempsie) in season 8, the reveal that he’s truly an illegitimate Baratheon sparked hope that Robert’s phrases would come true, simply not in a approach followers initially anticipated. Sadly, they didn’t.

Also within the pilot are two components that Game Of Thrones would develop into synonymous with in later years — intercourse and dragons. (Though the choice to vary Daenery’s wedding ceremony evening from a consensual act to rape continues to be a poor one.) The episode additionally ends on a beat so surprising that these watching it again in 2011 would little question have wished to know what occurs subsequent with livid urgency. Even understanding what I do know now, all these years later, I nearly hit the ‘next episode’ button on reflex. Job nicely performed.

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