Game of Thrones, Season 1, Ep 1 + 2

So, I started watching Game of Thrones. From the beginning. For the first time.

Yes, I’m six years behind the trend. I blame lack of time. It certainly seems like the sort of show that I’d enjoy, but I just haven’t had the time to sit down and watch it at any point in the last six years.

Naturally, I’ve seen and heard snippets of information about the show, but possibly less than you might think. To recap you on what I do know about Game of Thrones, here’s a post I made just over a year ago, which tells you everything that I knew about it. I’ve picked up a few more things in the year since I wrote that post, which I’ll summarise here before we dive into the first episode recap.

Okay, besides the stuff I already knew, I’ve found out that there’s a queen named Cersei and that she has an incestuous relationship with her brother (whose name I think I heard, but I forget). And there are a bunch of different families, which are called “houses”, like the old fashioned “House of Tudor” or “House of Windsor” or British royalty. Cersei is a Lannister, and there’s also House Stark, and House Baratheon, and a few others whose names I forget.

Okay, I think that’s it. That’s all I knew about Game of Thrones until I started watching Season 1, Episode 1 last night. I watched it with my wife (who’s also never seen it), and after watching Episode 1, we decided to continue with Episode 2 straight away. So today’s recap covers Episodes 1 and 2. I’ll try to keep them separate, but I may misplace events from one episode into the other. I’m not looking up character names I didn’t catch yet, but I am looking up ones I definitely heard, to make sure I get the spellings right. Without further ado:

Season 1, Episode 1

It opens with some guys emerging from a tunnel into a snowy landscape. This is immediately confusing, because one of the things I do know about Game of Thrones is that it’s set in a world where the seasons are unusual and notable for lasting a long time. And that “winter is coming”, representing a metaphorical descent into chaos and war, so presumably the story actually starts in an idyllic and relatively peaceful summer.

So why are we immediately treated to scenes of a very cold and harsh looking winter? Theory 1: This is a flashback to the previous winter, to establish how bad winter is before we start the story proper in the next summer. (This will be proved untrue in just a few minutes, but it was a working hypothesis.)

The three dudes wander through the snowy and gloomy boreal forest, and one comes across a scene of wanton carnage. Bisected bodies everywhere! Blood! Gore! And a scare cut to a creepy looking kid spiked to a tree. The guy grabs his buddies, but when they return to the scene there are no bodies anywhere. Cue sense of foreboding.

Which pays off immediately as they are attacked by spooky things, including the apparently not-dead creepy kid, now definitely not spiked to a tree. At this point, it looks like all of the three dudes get killed.

We cut to a town named Winterfell, where it is apparently not winter. Have we jumped forward in time several years? We’re introduced to young ten-year-old Bran, who hasn’t yet mastered the bow, although his sister (barely any older) seems to have done so in between learning how to sew.

There are some intercuts to other places and events, including a man and lady discussing the death of an old man who is lying in state in front of a familiar looking throne. And another guy in a hot looking place across the sea who seems to want to marry his sister off to some barbarian horseman.

But back to Winterfell, where most of the action is happening. It turns out one of the guys in the opening scene did escape, and is tried as a deserter. He tries to warn the local lord Ned Stark that there are “white walkers” on the rampage. Ned dismisses this as ridiculous, since there haven’t been any of those in thousands of years. He chops the guy’s head off, and young Bran (Ned’s son) is forced to watch as part of growing up into a man.

Shortly after, Ned and his party discover a deer that’s been hacked apart in a spooky, should we say “white walkery” fashion. And then a dire wolf nearby as well, also hacked apart. It’s pointed out that dire wolves don’t live in these parts, they only live north of “The Wall”.

So stop just a second. We have a guy who says white walkers are on the loose. We have two spookily dead animals. One of which is a dire wolf, which don’t live on this side of The Wall. In a stunning display of genre un-savviness, Ned ignores all these signs, and dismisses it as nothing to worry about.

Anyway, the wolf left five cubs, and Ned’s about to kill them as unnatural beings, but Bran thinks they’re cute and an older son says there are five cubs and Ned has five kids, so it’s clearly fate that each kid gets a cub as a pet. Another young man, Jon Snow (who we soon learn is a bastard son of Ned), initially doesn’t get one since he “isn’t really a Stark”. But lo!, there’s a sixth cub hiding in the bushes, the runt of the litter, and pure white to boot, so this one goes to Snow.

Snow. A white wolf cub. Yeah. Can you say “significant character hook”? There is no way that Jon Snow and his white wolf are not going to feature strongly in the future.

The King arrives in Winterfell, with his Queen and retinue. We see Bran Stark display his master-level climbing skill, scaling a precipitous castle wall to get a view of the arriving caravan. His mother scolds him and makes him promise not to climb again. Bran looks at his shoes, then promises. His mother points out that he always looks at his shoes before he tells a lie. Again, no doubt this will be an important character point for Bran in the future. I bet he looks at his shoes at least once a season from here on.

The King has a job for Ned Stark. He wants him to be the new King’s Hand. I’m not sure if I got this exactly right, but I think the dead guy we saw lying in state earlier must have been the previous King’s Hand. And there are some overt insinuations that “the Lannisters” had a significant hand (ahem) in the death of the King’s Hand. This would be Queen Cersei and her brother. Yes, it seems the Queen herself is plotting with her brother against her own husband.

Let me count the Stark kids: There’s young Bran, 10 years. His sister Arya, a year or two older, who is good with a bow. There’s also an older sister with long red hair, named Sansa, who tells Queen Cersei that she is 13. And two older brothers, whose names I don’t think I heard. Plus Ned’s bastard son Jon Snow. Sansa has an eye on the King’s blond son, who is about her age. The King and Ned discuss uniting their houses by marrying the pair, which seems to please Sansa at least. Ned agrees to go south with the King to King’s Landing, but his wife doesn’t want him to go.

Then Bran stumbles across the shocking secret incestuous relationship between the Queen and her brother, when he climbs a wall (yep, he was lying) and catches them in flagrante delicto. At first I thought Cersei’s brother (still not sure I heard his name yet) would threaten Bran to within an inch of his life, but no, he pushes him out the window!

Season 1, Episode 2

They thought Bran would simply die, but he is in a comatose state and his mother sits in a grim vigil.

Ned takes his leave, as does Jon Snow. Snow heads north to The Wall, to join the Black Order or something – the group who keep watch at The Wall. One wonders, if the white walkers are old legends and nothing to worry about, why they need a huge Wall and a dedicated force of guards there. What are they watching for?

Meanwhile, Ned heads south with the King and his company. Ned takes Sansa (which makes sense, if she is going to marry the King’s son), but also young Arya as well. Why in blazes does he take Arya?? I think one of the older sons also goes with them, but maybe the second older son stays behind to look after Winterfell and his mother? There was definitely a scene in which someone said they needed a Stark to stay behind – and I don’t believe it was referring to Bran (on the verge of death) or his mother.

In intercuts, we see the barbarian wedding in the land across the Narrow Sea. The blonde brother and sister are Targaryens. I don’t catch his name, but she is Daenerys. He wants to marry his sister off to the barbarian king Drogo, so that Drogo will supply him an army to cross the sea and recapture his family’s kingdom from the people who forced them out of it. It seems this usurper might be the present King who is currently travelling south with Ned Stark. They both seem to have some lingering resentment of the Targaryens, so it’s mutual. Okay, so we’re obviously setting up for a huge war later on.

At the wedding, guests present Drogo and Daenerys with gifts. One significant one that the camera lingers on is a box of three scaly-looking dragon eggs. An aide says the eggs have turned to stone over the centuries (i.e. fossilised). Daenerys is fascinated by them, and keeps them nearby with candles. I’ll bet good money on at least one of these eggs hatching later on.

Daenerys doesn’t seem happy with her marital duties, but she recruits a worldly handmaiden to teach her how to please Drogo. It seems she wants to get his army just as much as her brother does.

Oh, I forgot to mention Tyrion Lannister. He’s a dwarf, and the brother of Cersei and her other (good-looking) brother. Tyrion is an “aesthete”… he likes having a good time with food and wine and women. He also reads a lot – he seems to be the intellectual in this story. He doesn’t seem to be a terribly important character yet – more like the comedy relief – but we shall see how he turns out as the story progresses. Anyway, Tyrion also travels north with Jon Snow to The Wall for some reason which wasn’t fully clear to me.

Back in the caravan wending their way south, we see the blond prince (who looks unpleasantly like Draco Malfoy) walking through the forest with Sansa. It seems they’re getting on nicely. Until they come across Arya having fun in a mock sword fight using sticks with a commoner boy – the butcher’s son. The prince pulls his real sword on the butcher’s son and oozes righteous pretentiousness all over him as he cuts his face. Arya foolhardily intervenes by whacking the prince with her stick, resulting in him slashing his real sword at her! He really is Draco Malfoy.

Arya’s wolf leaps to the rescue, mauling the prince’s sword hand. Arya tosses his sword into the river. Arya realises what she’s done, runs away, and then forces her wolf to flee so he won’t get killed in retribution for attacking the prince. This is clearly another big set-up for something in the future. I have no doubt that Arya’s wolf will return in a future episode to save her from something again.

There is a reckoning. The prince tells his side of the story, which naturally makes everyone else look culpable. Cersei reveals that her son’s name is Joffrey(!). Now, I’d heard a bit about Joffrey before. He’s “the bad guy” who does all sorts of nasty stuff. I had no idea he was just a kid! Holy cow! Wow. The biggest baddest dude in Game of Thrones turns out to be a Draco Malfoy wannabe. Well, I guess I’ll see how he turns out over time.

Arya calls Joffrey a liar (which he is, but he’s also the prince). Sansa is caught between a rock and a hard place, not wanting to ruin her chances of marrying Joffrey by telling the truth, so she says she can’t remember what happened. Arya calls her a liar too. The King dismisses it all as boisterous kids, extracting no direct punishment of Arya other than telling Ned to discipline her. But he does want the wolf who injured his son. However, because Arya’s wolf has fled, he decides to have Sansa’s (innocent) wolf put to the sword. Ned accepts the order and does the deed.

Miles away, at the exact moment that Sansa’s wolf bites the dust, Bran’s eyes flash open. My wife says, “He’s going to be a werewolf or something, isn’t he?” I nod, “Maybe not that exactly, but definitely something wolfy.”

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