If your gods are real and they are all so just, then why is there so much injustice in the world? — Jaime Lannister
A review for Season 1 of the Game of Thrones may feel a bit five years too late, but I think this first season is key to the entire series, which is why I’m re-watching it. There is so much in this season that provides a key to understanding all the rest, but especially Season 6. And, Season 6 is definitely on a build up to the final season, I think, Season 7. I’ve read online about there may be a follow up Season 8, but I think HBO would do well to ride this horse to the finish line (7) and move on. But, I digress.
Okay, so to Season 1. There are some key players here that set everything in motion and rather than reviewing the events themselves, I’m going to review the characters.
NED STARK: Ned Stark is the kingpin to the entire series. His death sets the war that follows in motion, his death haunts his children, and his death means that many important answers to pivotal questions remain unknown.
Definition of kingpin: king·pin ˈkiNGˌpin/ noun a main or large bolt in a central position.; a vertical bolt used as a pivot.; a person or thing that is essential to the success of an organization or operation.
When I re-watched this first season, I couldn’t watch Ilyn cut off Ned’s head. I watched until the moment the sword fell, then closed my eyes. I think, if I’d been there, I’d have fainted like Sansa did. It’s hard to decide if Ned dies because he trusted Littlefinger, or if it’s because he decided to break his oath and lose his honor. If he hadn’t trusted Littlefinger, he would have never been captured. But, if he hadn’t decided to confess to a crime he didn’t commit, then he would have stayed imprisoned and potentially given time for Rob and Catelyn to arrange for his release, though I don’t think Sansa would have been able to escape and there would have been war nonetheless. Just war with Ned instead of without.
When he died, he took with him the truth about Jon Snow‘s lineage. I am not sure anyone else alive knows, at least until Bran became the three-eyed raven. Perhaps he knows now. It’s also unclear why he allows Robert to be become king, instead of taking the throne himself, though I think it has to do with Jon Snow (see below). Much of Season 7 will be unravelling the mysteries that Ned took to the grave (or in this case, spike) with him when Ilyn Payne took his head.
DAENERYS TARGARYEN: Obviously, Daenerys is one of the key players in this series. What we see though in Season 1 is her backstory. The fact that she is dragon born, sister of Viserys, etc matters very little in comparison to what happens with Khal Drogo. With the Khal, she found her place as a ruler, but she also lost her love and her child. Or did she? Notice that we never see the child — we’re only told that the child is born with dragon skin and wings, full of worms. But the source of this information is the witch, who Daenerys burns at the stake, so the information is not trustworthy. So, is the child or Drogo and Daenerys still alive? Perhaps… And, imagine the fury that the mother of dragons will have if she learns WHO stole her child, the child of her sun and stars, away from her. There are some theories out right now that Daenerys will end up as a villian. To this I say: history is written by the conquerors. If she succeeds in taking the seven kingdoms, she will be seen as the savior — saving the realm from chaos and the Lannisters. Now, if she fails? Then, perhaps she will be seen as the villian. But, either way, she has dragons, and that’s fucking cool.
JON SNOW: Ned Stark is my most loved character, but Jon is my favorite. This first season shows that Jon is fiercely loyal to his family, and that he has many of the characteristics of Ned Stark — loyal, fierce, true — but we see that the Night’s Watch is teaching him more than how to defend a wall. He learns to build alliances and how to be political as well as a good fighter (and he also learns that doing the right thing isn’t always rewarded…). I think John will eventually be an even bigger player in this series as we head into the final season. We already see him aligning forces with Sansa in Season 6, and it’s important to remember the bond with Arya and Bran that we see in this first season. Jon’s the one who gives Arya The Needle, and it’s Jon who argues for Bran and the rest of the Stark children to have a direwolf. Without The Needle, Arya may not have escaped to survive in King’s Landing, and without a direwolf, Bran may not have become the three-eyed raven.
I think it’s important to pay attention to what we learn about Jon Snow’s parents in Season 1. What we learn is NOTHING. Ned does not say that Wylla is Jon’s mother; he merely lets Robert continue to think so. Ned, who loves his sister and his family, very well may be willing to allow the realm to think he was unfaithful to Catelyn in order to protect Jon, even from Robert. Consider: if Jon is the child of Lyanna and Rhaegar, Ned would have to do whatever he could to keep EVERYONE, including Robert, from this knowledge in order to protect Jon, the child of his sister. The only thing we know, for certain, is that Jon has Stark blood running through his veins. We see Robert is willing to kill a pregnant Daenerys, so certainly he would have been willing to kill Jon, a living heir to the Targaryen line. Ned is perhaps sure that through love and a good upbringing he can create a Targaryen who is not mad, a Targaryen who is loyal to the North would certainly be an asset… So, it’s important that Ned encourages Jon to go to the Night’s Watch as things are increasing in chaos in the rest of the realm — he is trying to save Jon, and his sister’s child, from taking part in the game of thrones too early. I don’t think Cersei told Ned something that he didn’t already know when she said that in the game of thrones, you either win or you die. Ned certainly already knows that.
TYRION LANNISTER: The final character that I’ll be discussing from Season 1 who is of utmost importance is Tyrion. It may seem the other Lannisters — Cersei, Jaime, Tywin — would be more important, especially in Season 1, but I think it’s Tyrion. Tyrion is the only dynamic Lannister. The other three are static. We may think, for a while, that Jaime has changed, but by the middle of Season 6, he’s back to exactly where he started in Season 1. Tyrion, though, changes and learns as he encounters new information and events.
Tyrion Lannister: “Let me give you some advice, bastard. Never forget what you are. The rest of the world will not. Wear it like armor, and it can never be used to hurt you.”
Jon Snow: “What the hell do you know about being a bastard?”
There’s a good bit of discussion related to the dragons and the three riders of the dragons. From Season 1, we see that Tyrion may be the most likely character to be one of Daenerys’s dragon riders because he is the one who wants to see the world, who is interested in the history of the realm, instead of just the throne. We even see that he knows that having something to ride, like the horse for Brandon, can overcome physical challenges, like his dwarfism. On a dragon, it won’t matter that he’s considered to be a half-man, will it? One puzzle for me is how much is made of Tyrion’s love life in this first season — we find out about Tysha and see his attraction, which is not just sexual, to Shae. It’s hard to imagine why it’s so important that we know Tyrion’s history with women, but perhaps that will be resolved in Season 6…or 7?
I’ll be re-watching all the seasons of Game of Thrones and reviewing them here, but I already know that Season 1 is the key season to understanding all the rest. George R. R. Martin has read enough fantasy to know that the first book is the most loved book, the one that people will pour over and come back to. This season, which is almost exactly like the first book, is the same. I have forgotten more from Seasons 2-5 that I know, but I remembered almost every episode of Season 1 as I watched. And, I’m still sad that Ned had to die at the hands of such a despicable creature as Joffrey.