On April 17, 2011, HBO premiered Game of Thrones, based on George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire book series about the neo-medieval political intrigue from the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. The series racked up a record 59 Emmy Awards over its eight seasons, including four wins for Outstanding Drama Series.
This clip from Season 1, Episode 1, introduces us to House Stark in Winterfell, the seat of power in the North of Westeros, and its patriarch, Ned Stark (Sean Bean), his wife Catelyn (Michelle Fairley), and their five children, Robb (Richard Madden), Sansa (Sophie Turner), Arya (Maisie Williams), Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright), and Rickon (Art Parkinson), as well as Jon Snow (Kit Harington), believed at the time to be Ned's illegitimate son. It's a relatively placid scene from a series not known for its idyllic nature, featuring Arya showing up Bran with her archery skills. This clip ends with harsh reality intruding on the lives of one of the few legitimately noble families in Westeros, as a deserter from the Night Watch, which protects the realm from invasion from the White Walkers, has been captured and must be executed, and Ned delivers the series' signature line: "Winter is coming."
It's somewhat strange to look back at this clip and see how these characters began, knowing how they eventually evolved through the unimaginable hardship and cruelty that was the hallmark of the series. Ned's shocking execution in Season 1 was the catalyst that let viewers know that nobody was safe and any character could be the next to die, no matter how central to the plot they may seem. Catelyn and Robb being betrayed and slain at the infamous "Red Wedding" in Season 3 plumbed the depths of human brutality, and Rickon's death in Season 6 came only as a heartless ploy to get to Jon. That immense tragedy forms the crushing burden that steels Arya into an unmatched warrior who ends the threat of the White Walkers, hardens Sansa into a leader who wins independence for the North, pushes Jon to put the Stark legacy over his Targaryen blood, and eventually puts Bran on the Iron Throne as the elected king of the Six Kingdoms at the end of the series.
Game of Thrones had to forge its own way and deviate from the source material with Seasons 6-8, because Martin has still not finished the sixth book, The Winds of Winter, or the planned seventh book, A Dream of Spring. The choices made by creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss will likely not be the same ones made by Martin, especially since the final season was not very well received — particularly the sudden descent into murderous madness of the dragon queen Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke).
However, the massive ensemble cast has brought a great many memorable characters into the popular consciousness, such as the incestuous twins Jamie and Cersei Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Lena Headey), their insufferable son and brief king Joffrey (Jack Gleeson), and their brilliant black sheep brother Tyrion (Peter Dinklage), and so the lasting impact of Game of Thrones will remain undeniable. Besides, there's no way this series won't be remade whenever Martin finally publishes the rest of the story and establishes the one true canon.
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Andy Hunsaker has a head full of sitcom gags and nerd-genre lore, and can be followed @AndyHunsaker if you're into that sort of thing.
TOPICS: Game of Thrones, HBO, David Benioff, D.B. Weiss, Emilia Clarke, Isaac Hempstead Wright, Jack Gleeson, Kit Harington, Lena Headey, Maisie Williams, Michelle Fairley, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Peter Dinklage, Richard Madden, Sean Bean, Sophie Turner