I’ve been a Song of Ice and Fire book reader for a dozen or so years and have read each of Martin’s tomes at least four times a pop. Actually scratch that, I think I’ve only read A Dance With Dragons twice.
Either way, my point is that while I’ve read and re-read until my paperback copies are in tatters, I’ve never actually rewatched any of the television show episodes. I take part in the Sunday night ritual like clockwork, but I’ve never returned for further viewings. Until now at any rate.
Game of Thrones has become a beast of its own- a diversion from the source novels that has changed around plots, killed the living, spared the dead, and played with situations and locations in totally different ways. This was especially the case as the narrative moved further and further beyond the publications of Lord GRRM.
But what of Season 1, the ten episodes that started the phenomenon that has resulted in a few hundred baby girls being named Khaleesi? Season 1 follows the book so faithfully that scenes created specifically for the show were often noteworthy to excess. The community ranted or raved about additions like the conversation between Robert and Cersei about their marriage, or about the added back and forth between Littlefinger and Varys. Season 1 was a simpler time for a book reader- we knew what was coming, and everything thing else was a total surprise.
I took a bunch of notes while making my way through the season. Obviously spoilers.
- Littlefinger is the the anti-Ned, and the real big bad of the season. The back and forth between Petyr Baelish and Eddard Stark is incredible, and the juxtaposition of the two men sets them up as polar opposites. Ned is honorable to a fault, and Baelish is so goddamn crafty that he tells Lord Stark repeatedly not to trust him… but Ned can’t help himself and does so anyway. The seeds of Littlefinger’s power plays later in the series are already sowed during the first few episodes. Not only is he the embodiment of ambition over honor, but it is his dishonor the leads to Ned’s execution. When I watched this season for the first time I knew about Littlefinger’s role in all of the various upcoming plots, but I also knew about how badly things would go for the Starks and how much the Lannisters or Boltons would eventually play into that. That meta-view of the universe clouded me in a not dissimilar way to how it clouded non-readers seeing these things play out for the first time. Episode to episode Baelish is the one not to be trusted- the shady probably-not-friend in a world of shady characters, but his part is not yet defined for the newbie. By the time heads roll, the Joffrey outrage takes over. When you really think about it though, within the context of the first season Baelish really is the “Big Bad.” It’s fascinating to watch. But maybe I’m just a weirdo Chaos is a ladder. And lots of Sansa foreshadowing going on. Plus this hilarious line from Cat – “Petyr is like a little brother to me, he would never betray my trust.” Whoops.
- Sex Sells. The sexual content in season 1 is comically over the top when compared to later seasons. True, it was a simpler time where there was only one king who could openly whore as much as he wanted, but HBO was clearly trying to pull in some viewers based on T&A alone. Littlefinger’s brothel is a haven for backstory narration… unfortunately half the time it is happening with over the top moaning going down in the background. Was it necessary? Well… maybe the Theon scenes were. Foreshadowing and all.
- Costuming and Details. The costuming has always been fantastic in GoT, but the contrasts between north and south are just especially well done. You really see how far removed the Starks are/were from everything. Rustic and quaint. My one customing qualm? Hair. Specifically Lannister hair. In the Pilot Tyrion is creepy blonde, and Lancel’s wig is just… no. No.
- Jetpacks. People crab about Varys and Littlefinger having magical high speed jetpacks to get from place to place, but Cat also has one up her sleeve. She literally spans Westeros in like three episodes. It was almost jarring how fast she made it down to Kings Landing and back to the Riverlands. Sometimes I wish we could see a timeline for each character arc, because there is no way things are happening concurrently.
- The Forgotten Dead. RIP to the Two Dozen or so named ladies and gents who kicked the bucket during season 1. I forgot some of you existed (Jory) or how creepy you were (Viserys) or how little you actually spoke (Drogo). Also super RIP to Lady and Drogo’s Horse. I probably cried just as hard at Lady the second time around.
- Adjectives. My notes are very hastily taken on the Google Keep app, and some are near unreadable thanks to auto-correct… but I refer to Ned as a “Moron” 5 times, Littlefinger as a “Crafty Motherfucker” 4 times, Joffrey as a “Shit Stain” 3 times, and my favorite superlative “Pycelle you spry little liar.” Actually no, I have this under episode 6 – “Sansa you petulant little bitch. I see that fire you got there. REDIRECT IT.” I have no idea what I was even referring to.
- To the Future. The foreshadowing is intense in season 1. We see Lyanna mentioned almost immediately in the first episode, we get Randall Tarley name drops, the isolationism of the Vale, more Sansa and Littlefinger scheme foreshadowing than you can shake a stick at, Dany being visibly repulsed by slavery and rape, DAKINGINDANORF… and Theon’s man parts.
Alright, this is already read too long, so I’m going to wrap up my notes interpretation. On to Season 2!