Welcome to the inaugural entry in “Games of Thrones’ Greatest Hits”. This will be a series looking back at the first five seasons of HBO’s smash hit ‘Game of Thrones’, focusing on what the committee (me) deems to be its most significant moments. Some moments will be chosen due to their importance in regards to the larger scope of the series. Some will be chosen due to the sheer craftsmanship that went into producing them. Some will be chosen because they’re really stupid and/or funny. Essentially, this is all just an excuse for me to type meaningless words into a text box as I gear up for the sixth season premiere in April.
Obviously, there will be spoilers aplenty. Anything up to and including events occurring in the last aired episode is fair game. The point of this is to look back at moments and see how they relate to what transpired after, so discussion of an event in season two could easily turn into discussion of something that goes down in season five. Also, nothing from the books that isn’t in the show will be discussed. Having read the first few books, I prefer GOT as a TV show more and prefer to look at it as such. So if you’re looking for theories on what’s going to unfold based on details in the books, you’ll want to venture elsewhere.
Being about GOT, these posts and some of the images used will include sexual and violent content. So, if you’re twelve, be weary.
Let’s kick things off with the first episode of the first season. The moment that stick out to me comes right at the end, when everyone’s favorite whiny brat-turned cripple-turned Hodor whisperer
walked climbed in on a certain set of royal twins providing each other with a bit of afternoon delight.
The GOT pilot “Winter Is Coming” -which shares a title with the series’ now universally-recognized tagline- was rather dull, right? This was bound to happen, as a story with this many moving parts had numerous stages to set. GOT’s plot really didn’t get all that interesting or kinetic until the third episode when Ned Stark arrived at King’s Landing. But at least the very end of the first episode gave us something to chew on. Bran Stark, climbing the walls of Winterfell with reckless abandon just as his mother Catelyn warned him not to earlier in the hour, accidentally witnessed what could be argued to be the shows inciting incident. This is a neat and unorthodox use of the Chekhovian gun principle every first-year literature student is taught endlessly. Here, the gun doesn’t necessarily go off. It leads to a much larger and louder gun. The second gun then goes off, sparking a chain reaction that fires the first gun. If that makes sense.
Anyone who’s ever watched a television drama before knows that a pilot episode usually builds up to at least a mild cliffhanger meant to draw the audience back next week for the all-important episode two ratings (remember, this is before GOT became the most illegally downloaded show ever and a favorite of binge watchers). So when Bran was climbing the second time, you had to have known something was going to happen. Despite the adventurous music and scenic shots that accompanied his climbing, there was an ominous cloud hovering over the scene. I figured he was going to fall to his death. You probably did too.
As Bran inches his way closer to the keep, we begin to hear it. Moaning. The kind of moaning you hear when you return to your dormitory and notice your roommate left a sock on the door handle. Of course, being just ten, Bran probably assumed this moaning was a cry for help. The moaning slowly gets louder. Bran peers his head through the window.
And there we have it. None other than Cersei and Jaime Lannister hiding the bishop, opening the gates of Mordor, doing the ole’ in and out. A noticeable detail is that the two lovers/siblings are so into each other during the act that they fail to notice the peeping Bran for at least ten full seconds. Then Cersei does notice Bran, and much to her brother’s dismay, they stop. The look on Bran’s face when he notices them noticing him is priceless. It’s one of confusion and fear and prepubescent curiosity. It’s like when you watch your first porno. You’re not sure whether to be apalled or excited, but damnit, you can’t look away.
Another key under-the-radar moment in this scene is when Jaime grabs ahold of Bran but initially plans on letting him free. Cersei, naturally, disagrees with this proposition. As the series goes on Jaime will slowly become a somewhat empathetic and sympathetic character, at least when compared to his sister. We get the first glimpse of that here. We also get the first glimpse of who really wears the pants in this relationship. “He saw us,” Cersei repeats, saying an awful lot without really saying it. She’s basically ordering a hit, but being careful with her word choice just in case there’s a wire somewhere in the room.
“The things I do for love”. Oh, Kingslayer, you beautiful poetic man you. He lets Bran fall and bam!…..the Lannister’s are officially villains, we have conflict. Doling out titles such as hero and villain will prove to be a difficult task on GOT, but here (and for pretty much the entire first season) Lannister = bad, Stark = good, Greyjoy = who the fuck cares.
There is a lot of sex on GOT. But this is certainly one of the more important sex scenes to date, if you can really call it as a “sex scene”. Not only did it spark the conflict that would drive most of the first three seasons (Joffrey’s ancestry), but it also showed us right out the gate that GOT was going to take a very brutal approach to sex. Any HBO series comes with the obligatory nipple or two (some even show dicks, dicks!), but GOT is a different animal. Incest, rape, more incest, more rape. Sexual violence is, for better and worse, part of this shows DNA.
After Bran finishes his fall, the credits roll and we’re left pondering the outcome until next Sunday. Again, this was the first GOT episode. This was before Bran developed into one of the shows least popular characters (it’s not just me, I swear). It remains one of GOT’s most shocking moments, even when held against the more brutal ones of latter seasons. We didn’t know Cersei and, to this point, Jaime, were evil. We just thought they were spoiled elitist royalty. The first episode didn’t go out of the way to make them likable. But until its final scene, it didn’t exactly do the opposite (I would argue that, until her bell-ringing wake-up call at the end of last season, Cersei was always this shows main antagonist).
Also, the development of Jaime Lannister remains perhaps this shows most remarkable achievement. In the first episode he’s pompous, he’s banging his sister, and shoving a kid out a window. We soon learn how he got his nickname. But through his relationship with Tyrion and his own personal redemption, he becomes one of the more likable characters on the show.
Thanks for stopping by.
Next, I’ll fast-forward to episode 3 when Ned Stark is in King’s Landing and look at the first small council meeting, where we meet an interesting group of characters (#TeamVarys).