Leading up to April 14 and the release of the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones, I will be revisiting the whole series so that you don’t have to—pointing out highlights, remembering some of the best (and very, very worst) of the show, and providing a general refresher on the series as we prepare for the winter that has already come.
2019 is a year of many huge releases. The end of the MCU as we know it is coming to an end with Avengers: Endgame, Disney’s Star Wars saga concludes with the as-yet-untitled Star Wars: Episode IX and Toy Story 4 will likely be the last in the series for quite some time. Another gargantuan franchise that is coming to a close is HBO’s Game of Thrones—eight years after season 1 first premiered. It was brash and it was wild; its scale, scope, and risk were unlike anything TV had ever seen before. Telling the story of Westeros and Essos, A Song of Ice and Fire is both impressive and intimidating—but having revisited the first season of the show, it’s clear they had a vision. The daunting task of adapting George R.R. Martin’s book series began with this first season. Let’s see how it was pulled off.
This article contains HEAVY spoilers for all Game of Thrones seasons.
The point Game of Thrones has reached by season 7 is ridiculous, almost absurd. For anyone to jump straight into the latest season seems nearly impossible, and you would think season 1 would be just as wild and confusing. In ways it is, but in many other ways, it is simply told and sufficiently well-written that as a viewer, you never get lost in the wild world that exists under the layer of Westeros. Sharp, simple, and to the point, season 1 is crafted in a way much like The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring was in order to introduce us to the world of Middle-Earth.
With so many characters at play, constantly moving around and interacting, from the first viewing of the show, there may be several that seem inconsequential or insignificant. However, the writers—knowing what is important now, while still paying attention and caring about what is going to happen later—did careful work in writing the first season: they paid attention to the characters that mattered most.
This causes people watching the show to not care about a tiny line or someone’s name being said, meanwhile veterans will squirm and shout, “Oh! I know that!” or “I get why they do that thing there!” It is all for a dizzying, but overall fun experience – especially if you have seen the show already, while your roommate hasn’t (but has heard there are dragons and zombies).
Game of Thrones is what it is today because of the craft, artistry, and care of season 1. This first season did things and worked as a TV show in ways that audiences had never seen before. It’s chock-full of events and happenings, yet it all seems to sweep by and move in slowness and with a steady hand. The show has to balance giving us tonnes of information whilst being brief enough to fit into 10 hours of content. They execute this perfectly: the first season takes place over a year (quite a lot of time in TV show terms) and yet it all feels like a slow unraveling and discovery of people, places, and story threads that grow and thicken as the episodes roll by.
Notable characters are being established, and important plot seeds are being sown to ready the audience for what will come years down the road. What was notable about the opening segment was the establishment of three different characters, all with their own viewpoints and ideas. It was symbolic of the show’s nature, and the eventual end result: three people in disagreement, and only one way to come out of it all.
There is a lot of playing around with the classic rule of three, even this early on in the series. From the three Night’s Watch rangers in the show’s famous opening to three Lannisters and three dragons, the rule of three really played a key role in the show from the get-go, and it is a fascinating re-watch for, ironically, my third time.
It is in the simple conversation of the three rangers that the themes of the rule of three is first seen, and with the knowledge of where the show ends up, this conversation is symbolic. It is three rangers all trying to decide what to do about an eerie finding in the woods: one ranger wants to investigate, another wants to run away, while the other one is unsure and wants to get more information. These three positions, all exhibiting a particular point-of-view, demonstrate a thematic that has continued throughout the show.
This idea of three ways to rule and three ways to live—through fear, through wealth, or through love—is heavily explored in their own ways. As the show progressed, we have narrowed down these three ideas into the three characters who have become the main players for the Iron Throne in season 8: Danny, Jon, and Cersei.
The first season of Game of Thrones is memorable and historic. It kicked off one of the most successful television series ever to air. It did so with extreme attention to detail, a careful examination of character, and smart, precise writing. The first season may seem small or dwarf in comparison to the rest of the show, but without this season we could never carry the emotions and feelings that we still have for the same characters and people almost ten years later.
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