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Game Of Thrones Watch: Winter Is Coming

Winter is here! Wait, no, that’s not right. Game of Thrones is here. Winter’s still coming and after watching tonight’s premiere of HBO’s adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones, so is a drama storm of epic proportions.

While those of us who have read the book likely spent the hour comparing HBO’s version of the characters, scenery and costumes to Martin’s version, those who haven’t were left to figure out who was who and what was going on.

Winter is Coming

The episode opens like a horror film with a group of guards, known as the Night’s Watch, coming across a bunch of dead (torn to pieces) bodies in the woods beyond the giant wall that is their guard-station. They’re attacked by people we later learn are known as the White Walkers, but we don’t know who or what these hooded figures are.

The one surviving man among them runs back to Winterfell where he’s promptly beheaded for deserting his post. There are lessons to be learned here. The first: There are bad things in the woods beyond the wall and sometimes people you think are dead turn into creepy porcelain-doll-looking people with bright blue eyes. Second lesson: If you’re on the Nights Watch and you try to run away, you’ll get your head cut off.

The deserter’s beheading introduced us to Eddard Stark, the lord of Winterfell, and his family. “The man who passes the sentence should swing the sword,” Stark tells his young son Bran. These are words that help establish who Ned Stark is as a man and a ruler. He appreciates the importance of rules as much as he does the value of human life.

The Starks consist of Eddard and his wife Catelyn, their kids Robb (the oldest male), Sansa (the oldest female), Bran, Arya and Rickon, who might not have actually been mentioned by name, but I’m pretty sure he was shown when all of the Starks were lined up to meet the king. Arya's probably my favorite Stark. Her moments tonight were slim and demonstrated that she's somewhat of a tomboy, who prefers to run around and occasionally chuck food at her sister Sansa's face.

Then there’s Jon Snow, Eddard’s bastard son. There’s a lot shown about the relationship Jon has with the Stark family during the scene when they find the direwolves. They come across the remains of a deer (or something huge with antlers) and a direwolf, along with a litter of still living direwolf pups. Ned’s first impulse is to kill the puppies, but Jon suggests that because there are five, and the direwolf is the Stark family symbol, the direwolves were meant for the Stark kids. Jon refers to his father as Lord Stark, excludes himself when referring to the Stark children, and later states outright that he is not a Stark. There are five Stark kids and then there’s Jon Snow, son of Eddard but technically not a Stark. It isn’t until the runt of the litter is spotted that Jon ends up with his own wolf.

After being excluded from the feast with the Lannisters, Jon expresses to his uncle, an interest in “taking the black” and joining the Nights Watch. As his uncle says, “no bastard was ever refused a seat there.”

Baratheons and Lannisters

King Robert and the Lannisters are the opposite of the Starks in most respects. There’s one major exception there and we’ll get to that in a minute. Robert and Eddard have plenty of history but it’s clear from the first time we see Robert that he and Eddard are different kinds of people now. Robert jokes about eating, drinking and whoring himself to an early grave, while we know Eddard well enough already to know he wouldn’t be making out with some random woman right in front of his wife, as we see Robert do at one point.

Robert’s wife Cersei is no saint either. We learn from the start that she and her brother Jaime are keeping something secret and that the recently deceased King’s Hand Jon Arryn may have known about it and told people. Sure enough, by the end of the episode, we discover what dear sweet Bran accidentally witnesses; Cersei and Jaime having a bit of incesty sex up in a tower somewhere. Jaime demonstrates his character by pushing Bran out the window and letting him fall from the tower to the ground far below, stating, “The things they do for love.” with a laugh.

I need to say that I absolutely love how Jaime Lannister is portrayed here. He looks like a storybook prince with his wavy hair and dreamy smile but underneath, he’s the kind of guy who would murder a child in an effort to protect himself and his sister for being found out for their sordid affair. The things they do for love, indeed.

"All dwarves are bastards in their fathers’ eyes."

The best thing about the Lannisters is Tyrion or, as he’s often referred to, The Imp. Tyrion Lannister and Jon Snow’s brief conversation during the festivities was a great way to point out that they are what the Lannisters and the Starks have in common. Each family has their own outsider and that’s Tyrion for the Lannisters. Tyrion advises Jon not to forget what he is and to wear his bastard status like armor so it can’t be used against him.

Amusingly enough, Tyrion is introduced to us with a silly grin on his face as he’s being pleasured by a prostitute. We also see that he’s on good terms with his brother Jaime when the man bursts into his room, reminds him to keep him company while being dined by the Starks and then sends in a few more girls for Tyrion to enjoy.

Much like the direwolf scene was for Jon, I think the brothel scene and the conversation with Jon later were crucial to who Tyrion is as a man. He has the same desires as any other man, but he’s smart enough to know his place in the world, regardless of his family name.

Who but you can protect the King?

Catelyn’s sister Lyssa sent a letter telling her that she thinks the Lannisters were responsible for Jon Arryn’s death. Whether or not that’s true remains to be seen, but it does give Eddard Stark reason to consider taking the position as King’s Hand, if only to learn the truth of Jon’s death.

Meanwhile, out East…

While all of the above is happening up north, there’s someone else vying for the Iron throne. Viserys Targaryen, a constantly irritated platinum blonde guy, is trying to get the throne back after it was taken from his family years ago by Robert. His strategy is to sell his sister Daenerys to a Dothraki warlord named Kahl Drogo. In exchange, Drogo will presumably help Viserys get the throne back.

Dany and Viserys’ relationship isn’t quite as twisted as Cersei and Jaime but things do get a bit awkward when Viserys undresses his sister to get her ready for her bath. There’s also a bit of groping but, unlike how Cersei is with Jaime, Dany’s not into it. For her, it seems she’s just intimidated by her brother and trying not to make him angry. It can’t be easy to love a brother who admits he’d let all 40,000 of Drogo’s men and their horses use her if it meant getting his crown back.

Kahl agrees to marry Dany and a wedding, complete with dance floor sex and murder ensues, followed by the presentation of gifts, which included a box of dragon eggs that I’m pretty sure Dany didn’t register for. Still, it's the thought...

While Viseryis is itching to get to the discussion about how and when he’s going to get his crown, Khal takes Dany off to consummate the marriage. He whispers sweet nothings of the word “No.” in her ear while undressing her. Daenerys is practically a child in the book and while they’ve aged her up a bit for the show, she had the face of a scared girl when Drogo was about to take her. She went from being at her brother’s mercy to being at the mercy of the man that’s now her husband.

The big cliffhanger for the episode was Jaime tossing Bran out the window. It’ll be interesting to see what the aftermath of that is next week when things pick up. All in all though, the first episode does well to introduce all of the characters and set the stage for where there stories are going to go as the series progresses.

As I said earlier, I’ve read the book and in some ways, it’s making talking about the show even harder as I’m going to go out of my way not to give anything away for those who haven’t read it. There’s so many exciting things to come as we move forward. That’s about all I’ll give away, and I’ll kindly ask commenters to refrain from spoiling anything from future parts of the book/series if you decide to weigh in below.