Thursday, March 29, 2012

Phantom Recap: Game of Thrones Season 1 - Part 1

Warning: There’s a lot of nasty talk in this article and there may even be a couple of pictures of vaginas. Certainly some breasts will show up. And I threw in a dong for the ladies. Or dudes, if that’s your thing.

Preemptive note: I knew this would be long, but I didn’t know how long. If I had, I would’ve started posting Tuesday. As things stand I am breaking it up into four parts and posting the final two on Saturday and Sunday; something I rarely do. There’s just no other way to get it done and I really don’t want to put up a 12,000-plus word post. And I’m pretty sure you don’t want me to.

You can’t go to a nerd website without reading the combination of words in that title.
I’ve been seeing snippets of news about that HBO television show for a very long time now, and until last Thursday didn’t have any idea what all the hype was about. I knew the show was based on a series of books. I remember the reports on i09 about how George RR Martin’s beloved works were being adapted and how protective fans were of them. But I had no idea about the plot, what sort of world it was set in (was it Earth or a Hyperborean sort of thing? Magic and mythical creatures or more reality-based? Gods? Monsters?); and honestly I didn’t care too much. The biggest bits of news to me were the casting of Sean Bean and Lena Headey. Other than that I was in the dark.

We have a tendency to jump around pay cable networks. At any given time we’ll have either STARZ, HBO, or Showtime; depending on which shows are airing. I don’t want to pay to have all the pay cable channels because there’s still not ever anything on. Actually, I could go off on a whole rant about how awful and rapacious the cable providers are, but that’s not what we’re here for.

Today I’m here to give a synopsis of the first season of HBO’s Game of Thrones in my own inimitable fashion. Season 2 starts Sunday night and I want to get you caught up in time.
The first season came out on Blu-Ray a couple of weeks ago and Target had it for a measly $35. I couldn’t help myself. HBO’s home releases are normally ridiculously expensive, so I knew this would be my best opportunity to catch up on the show that everybody is always talking about before the second season started. At the time I had no idea when that was going to be. Now I know that it’s Sunday and I’m more excited for that than I am for WrestleMania. Also, I had managed to remain almost entirely spoiler-free aside from a couple of pictures that I didn’t really understand or have a context for anyway.

Obviously those are both pretty big fucking deals, but I didn’t know whose head that was and I didn’t realize until a few episodes in that dragons were so significant. I was more intrigued by the fact that the chick was naked. Of course, by the time you know that there are not currently any dragons in this world it is patently obvious that Daenerys is going to be hatching some dragons out of those eggs. So neither picture ruined too much. And the show features plenty of naked chicks (though nowhere near Spartacus levels), so you’re good there too.

We sat on that box set for a couple of weeks before we got around to watching it. I wanted to be sure we would have a few hours to spend on it and we don’t often have a few hours to spend on anything. But Lil’ Troublemaker fell asleep early Wednesday night and Mrs. Troublemaker did not, so we put in Disc 1. The missus lost out to exhaustion three episodes in, but I sat there and watched the first eight episodes, not going to bed until 8:30 in the morning. I just couldn’t stop watching. Game of Thrones is the most compelling television I’ve seen in a very long time. I made time Thursday night to watch the final two episodes, knowing I would end up writing about what I saw over the weekend.

I’m going to do my best to provide a sort of synopsis of the first season. When I started writing I wasn’t sure what format I wanted to use, and I’m still not sure.

Side Note: I sat down and ran through the whole season again in about three hours just to get pictures for this. Some are a little blurrier than I’d like and some are a little crooked. This might or might not have something to do with tequila. Also, please excuse the little “pause” icon in the bottom left corner of each one. Nothing I could do about that.

First you need to know that there are monsters. Before anything else happens a group of three men venture into what are clearly wild lands in the frozen North. One of them comes across a strange pattern in the snow. It’s not so much the shape or location of the pattern that make it strange, it’s the fact that it’s made of human body parts:

That guy takes off and the other two are killed by a large, creepy being with glowing blue eyes. The third escapes and runs south, where he is treated as a deserter from whatever the three men were part of (the Night’s Watch, but we’ll get to that). Deserters must be executed, and Ned Stark is the man who is going to do it.

Ned Stark is a Good and Decent Man. He is the ruler/administrator/patriarch of the land of Winterfell, the northernmost region of Westeros. Westeros is a fantasy continent made up of seven kingdoms. There are things that are familiar, but it is not Earth. There are massive swords in Westeros that you can use to cut people’s heads off. Ned Stark uses one of these to decapitate the deserter, even though the man claims to the end that he was fleeing monsters from beyond The Wall.

The Wall is a massive – MASSIVE – boundary between the north and the much farther north that is manned and guarded by the Night’s Watch. It was built thousands of years ago to protect the lands of man from monsters that lived in the frozen region. Now only a few scattered tribes of strange savage humans called “Wildlings” live north of The Wall. Except obviously not.

The Night’s Watch consists of around a thousand men (it used to be a lot more when the purpose of The Wall was fresher in people’s minds and the far north was still perceived as a threat) who have taken oaths of celibacy and left their families behind to guard The Wall. Their only loyalty lies with the brotherhood of the Night’s Watch, as they are the guardians of the realm. The politics and machinations of the Seven Kingdoms do not matter to these men as long as The Wall stands and protects them. The Night’s Watch are beyond the concerns of the realm.

So clearly being part of the Night’s Watch is a big deal and just as clearly Ned Stark had to lop the deserter’s head off. I was impressed that he did it himself rather than have some lackey do it, and that’s the whole point of the scene – Ned Stark is all about Duty. He is also, however, all about family.

The Stark family consists of Ned and his wife Catelyn, and their children (from eldest to youngest), Robb (male – early 20’s?), Jon Snow (Ned’s illegitimate son – 17ish), Sansa (girl – 13), Bran (boy – 10), Arya (girl – 9ish), and Rickon (boy – 7ish). Rob and Jon accompany Ned to behead the deserter and Ned brings Bran as well, to Catelyn’s mild objection (very mild – Ned’s explanation that he’s got to be a man someday pretty much mollifies her). Bran is not a very good archer, but Arya – a tomboy – is. Jon loves his family but is bothered by his illegitimacy. Nobody else in the family cares – he is their brother – but it bothers him terribly at times.

On the way back from the execution the men run across a slaughtered dire wolf (a type of very large wolf) whose litter of pups survived. There is a pup for each Stark child, as well as an albino pup for Jon. This is taken as an omen, though whether good or bad is not specified. But they take the pups home with the stipulation that they will care for them and train them.

Don’t expect me to keep on track with the narrative order. I just remember that stuff clearly because it was the beginning and I was so struck by the excellence of what I was seeing.
While the men were out, word came from King’s Landing (where the king lives – duh) that the King’s Hand has died from a fever. The King’s Hand is basically the top administrator. This one was named Jon Arryn. It soon comes to light that the king and his retinue are en route to Winterfell and it is revealed that he is coming to ask his old friend, Ned, to be the new King’s Hand. If he accepts, this means Ned has to leave his family behind and go to King’s Landing. Obviously Catelyn does not want Ned to accept.

When the king arrives at Winterfell we also meet the Lannisters, who are a bunch of devious shitbags.

Cersei is the queen, Jaime is her brother, and Tyrion is an awesome dwarf and the only Lannister that has any redeeming qualities (but he is still quite the devious shitbag). Cersei and the king – Rob Baratheon – have a son name Joffrey who is a complete fuck. You’ve never met anybody you want to punch in the face so bad.

The king makes Ned the offer they all knew he was going to make and Ned is all about Duty to the Realm so he resignedly accepts. His family is not happy. Except for Sansa, who only ever wanted to be a queen and is promised to Joffrey as part of the deal. Gross. The king also tells Ned that he needs him in King’s Landing because strange things are afoot and nobody is to be trusted. Thanks goodness for that or this might be kind of a dull show.
Over the course of the episode we are shown that the Stark’s second-youngest son Bran loves climbing. He climbs all over the walls and roofs of the Winterfell keep, much to his mother’s dismay. But he’s hella good at climbing. One day he’s climbing up this tower and hears a certain kind of grunting. Sexy grunting. So naturally he has to peek in on things and sees


Jaime and Cersei fucking. He kind of goes, “Ugh!” as one would, and the brother and sister see him and Cersei urges Jaime to shove the kid out the window or he ‘s not getting any more of that sweet twincest action. So he does.

That shit was fucked up. I was hooked.

We also meet another brother and sister in the form of Viserys and Daenerys Targaryen. They are not fucking. Not each other, anyway. They are the offspring of the last king, who was deposed when Jaime Lannister stuck a knife in his back because he was a loony (the king, not Jaime; though Jaime’s not exactly Mr. Reasonable).

Viserys is a fucking prick. He’s basically selling his sister to the king of the horse people so he can use the army of the horse people and get a shot at reclaiming the crown. He straight-up tells Daenerys that he would let all 40,000 horse people and their horses have a turn with her if it meant he could claim the crown. Nice guy. Needless to say, Daenerys is not stoked about this arranged marriage.

Hang in there – women do not fare so well in the world of Game of Thrones.

Back to Winterfell, lots of folks are picking up and moving. Bran is not. He isn’t dead but is suffering from a severe case of unconscious.

Ned is going South to King’s Landing with the king and his entourage. The Stark daughters are going with him. Sansa because of Joffrey and Arya presumably so she can learn to be a bit more of a lady? I dunno. Jon has seemingly out of the blue decided he is going to travel to The Wall with his Uncle Benji and join the Night’s Watch. Tyrion is going with him. Not to join, but to piss off the edge of the world. I like Tyrion. Catelyn is super upset about everybody leaving. She’s been by Bran’s bedside since the fall and is just pretty upset in general, understandably.

Before everybody departs Winterfell, Tyrion confronts Joffrey and tells him he needs to go and offer his condolences to the Starks about their boy. Joffrey is a little shit and refuses, so Tyrion slaps the shit out of him. 

Did I mention I like Tyrion? Also, he tells the evil Lannister twins that Bran is still alive. They are clearly not happy about this.

Jon presents Arya with a small sword he had specially made. He tells her all great swords have names and she calls hers “Needle”. This was an awesome scene and was done in such a way that it was clearly a Big Deal.

On the road to King’s Landing the group stops at some sort of village. Joffrey and Sansa are walking by a river and come across Arya dueling with a butcher’s son (using sticks, not actual swords). Joffrey is a little shit and decides to pick on the butcher’s son, going so far as to cut his face. Arya attacks and disarms him. 

When Joffrey moves to retaliate, Arya’s dire wolf lunges out of the bushes and bites the crap out of Joffrey’s sword hand. 

Arya grabs the little shit’s sword and throws it in the river, then takes off into the woods with her wolf. There she urges it to leave so it won’t be punished for protecting her. This is an extremely sad scene, as all, “Go! Now! Get out of here!” scenes between children and animals tend to be.

When Arya finally returns to the inn, Joffrey has already run and told his parents a twisted version of what happened and the queen – who is a major c-word – is demanding punishment. Sansa refuses to jeopardize her impending queenship by telling the truth about Joffrey being a little shit. The king just wants everybody to take care of their own business, but the queen demands Arya’s dire wolf be put to death. Arya’s is long gone, so the queen says they should just kill Sansa’s instead. Ned says he’ll be the one to do it, and in an even sadder scene he does. Sansa is devastated, but still doesn’t tell the truth. And still wants to wed the little shit. My opinion of Sansa is not favorable.

On the way back from killing Sansa’s dire wolf, Ned runs into a royal servant with a half-burned face called The Hound. The Hound found the butcher’s son in the woods and ran him down with his horse, killing him.

Back up north, Catelyn is still at Bran’s bedside when a fire breaks out near the keep. While everybody is distracted by that, an assassin enters Bran’s room to kill the boy. Catelyn is a total badass and fights him off, actually grabbing the blade of the knife to stop the man. 

Just as her blood slicks it up to the point where the assassin can slip it from her grasp, Bran’s dire wolf enters the room and tears the fucker apart. Catelyn realizes that there must be a reason somebody sent an assassin to kill her son and goes to investigate the tower he fell from. She finds a blonde hair and decides she has to go find her husband in King’s Landing to tell him what happened.

Meanwhile, we find out that the non-fucking brother and sister act, the Targaryens, are actually across the Narrow Sea from the rest of our action. The Narrow Sea is the only thing that separates the horse people (Dothraki) from Westeros and that the horse people will not cross the Narrow Sea because they are afraid of it. Well, not afraid, really - more like mistrustful.

We meet an exiled nobleman named Jorah who is helping the Targaryens get by with the Dothraki. Jorah speaks both languages and has a measure of respect with the horse people. There is a big wedding between Daenerys and the king of the horse people – Khal Drogo. Daenerys receives several gifts, one of which is a chest with three petrified dragon eggs inside. This is a big deal because she and her brother are the last of the dragon people (or something).

Side Note: Each of the families has a sort of patron animal. The dire wolf for the Starks, the lion for the Lannisters, the dragon for the Targaryens, the stag for Baratheon (the king’s family), the fish for Tully (Catelyn’s family), and almost certainly more to come.

After the wedding Drogo rapes Daenerys. Not too long after that he rapes her again. She decides if this is her life she is going to take control of it and asks one of the girls her brother brought along to teach her how to please the horse king. She shows him her new moves and he starts treating her better. 

It’s pretty ugly, but when all is said and done they fall in love.

Back up north, Bran wakes up. 

An old lady is by his bedside and tells him a pretty terrifying story about White Walkers and how those that perish at their hands return as the undead. Just as she’s really getting into it, Robb comes in and tells Bran that he will never walk again. Bran wishes he had simply died. I wish the old lady could have finished her story. It was fucking creepy.

Ned and his daughters arrive at King’s Landing and Ned is immediately summoned to a meeting of the king’s council, which consists of Renly (the king’s younger brother), Varys (a eunuch), Pycelle (Julian Glover – who we all know as Scaroth!), and Baelish (who looks exactly like Cameron from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off).

We learn a lot of Big Things in this meeting. The Mad King killed Ned’s father and brother, Jaime Lannister stabbed The Mad King in the back, and Ned is even more honorable and duty-bound than we knew, as he does not approve of Jaime murdering the king, even after all of that.

We also find out that Baelish was and probably still is in love with Ned’s wife, who just so happens to be arriving in the city and is waylaid by Baeilish’s men and diverted to one of his whorehouses before her presence can be discovered. I didn’t quite catch on to why her visit had to be so secret. I guess because they weren’t sure yet who had tried to kill Bran and they didn’t want to tip anybody off. Varys is also at the whorehouse and they discuss the attempted murder. Catelyn shows them the distinctive dagger the assassin was using and Baelish says it is his, but that he lost it to Tyrion Lannister in a game of chance. Obviously we all know this means somebody set Tyrion up, because no way in heck is that guy dumb enough to give somebody his own weapon to commit a murder. Of course, we all know that it’s those damnable twins anyway. After Ned finds out how much Baelish helped them out, he decides to trust him and take him as an ally. Baelish tells Ned that not trusting him was smart.

Afterwards, Ned has a very sweet talk with Arya where he does his best to explain why Sansa had to lie about Joffrey being a little shit. He then finds out about Arya’s interest in swordsmanship and arranges for a total awesome badass named Syrio to teach her. I liked this part a lot and really like the relationship between Ned and Arya. Actually, I like the relationships between Ned and everyone in his family. Even though we don’t get to spend a lot of time with so many characters, it is established that Ned is a strong patriarch and has special, different relationships with each member of his family. He really is a Good and Decent man.



  1. Your enthusiasm and commentary is the shit haha, I love your writing style. Its presented in pretty much the same way i felt first seeing it- loving every single aspect of their world and its structure, lapping up all the details and imagery, characters..etc.

    I'd read the 1st book ages ago, but after this i hopped up and got the box set & read them all 3 times in a month. Then Dance (..With Dragons, book 5) came out and almost tripled the awesomeness. Don't hold your breath for book 6 anytime soon though..
    you spoke of an interest in reading them, I recommend it for sure. All the intrigue, secrets, mythology, character interactions etc. seem more like homages in the show once you read the books.
    So much more going on behind the scenes, i mean even with such an amazing adaptation, which after season 4 will be 40 hours ( LoTR only got 9) it STILL has to leave out a lot.

    like a major plot point from book 1 they hint at but don't elaborate on in season 1
    Ned saying to Jon "You may not have my name..but you have my blood"
    And the subtle hint that Jon looks a lot like Arya..who is identical to Ned's dead sister Lyanna. The sister King Bob was to marry..who was "captured and raped " by Rhaegar, Dany's brother and Mad Kings heir, who was by all accounts epic and honorable..Bob killed him in revenge, winning his rebellion, and Ned rescued her from Kingsgaurd protection (after both King and Prince died..) she died in a bloody bed..and made Ned promise her something..

    Lead in to honorable Ned returning from Roberts Rebellion with a fresh bastard in tow..and won't explain even to Cat where he came from..

    See where I'm going with this? Dany isn't the only Dragon in play. Jon Snow is a little Fire and Ice baby.
    And that's just the most famous fan theory from the books..theres 1,000's more

    1. I'm glad you enjoyed this! I wish I had the fortitude to do similar recaps for seasons 2 & 3. But writing these was exhausting. I did it basically all from memory while I was at work. This is one of my proudest accomplishments, but man - I don't have more in me.