Re-seeing Game of Thrones 1.01

Arya’s early “flapper” look in Game of Thrones, Episode 1.01. (HBO)

The last episode of Game of Thrones will be broadcast in a few hours, so I decided to rewatch the first episode this afternoon. I’m glad I didn’t rewatch it early because it would have set up some expectations that would have been dashed by now. Still, it was interesting to revisit the episode.

  • It begins at the wall, or just outside it. something has attacked Wildlings, mutilating their bodies and arranging them in some kind of premeditated pattern. It’s possible that there will be a bookending scene among the Wildings (Tormund and Ghost, please!), but the mutilation scene was already been mirrored in episode 8.01.
  • Serendipitously, Sean Bean’s name turns up first in the alphabetic cast listing. I wonder if this contributed to show-only viewers’ impression that the series was about his character.
  • Almost every line about Bran is about sight. Ned wants to take Bran along to see a deserter of the Night Watch beheaded. Catelyn says: “Bran is too young to see such things.” Ironically, Bran would later be able to see just about everything.
  • When Ned tries to explain the execution to Bran, Bran asks if the deserter lied about seeing Night Walkers, beings that were thought to be long extinct. Ned says: “A madman see what he sees,” a reference to the other definition seeing: not just visual observance, but perception and interpretation.
  • Jon is a leader from the beginning, coaching the Stark heirs in archery, noting that there is a direwolf pup for each Stark child. The latter comment persuaded Ned against killing the pups. He ignored Bran’s more sentimental reasons, which were basically, “But they’re puppies!” Ned eschews personal gain, but will do anything to fulfill a duty.
  • Cersei and Jaime looked so young and carefree!
  • When the Baratheon clan come to Winterfell, Arya is fascinated by the soldiers. She fixates on the soldier who wears a hound’s head-shaped helmet; that soldier is The Hound, or Sandor Clegane, the person with whom she develops the strongest bond outside of her family. She also fanboys Jaime Lannister, more for his military rank than anything else. It’s unlike Sansa’s girlish thoughts about Prince Joffrey.
  • Since Ayra and Gendry got together in Season 8, a lot of people have brought up Robert’s line to Ned: “I have a son, you have a daughter. We’ll join our houses.” Either this will come to pass (fate!) or it won’t (irony!).
  • Just about every aspect of Danaerys’s scenes in Pentos gave me the heebeejeebies. But among all of that, there is the small detail of Dany walking into a too-hot bath completely unbothered, foreshadowing her later walk through fire.
  • The last two scenarios in the first episode culminate in cruelty and violence to children: Dany is raped on her wedding night, and Bran is pushed out of a window. This society is built on child abuse, run by a violent patriarchy that acts as a succubus to its young, and no one is willing to change that. Should it be saved? Maybe Season 8 Dany has the right idea.
  • .

So after all of that, do I have any predictions for tonight? The showrunners haven’t made great cases for most things that have transpired in the last few episodes, so it feels a little futile. Maybe children inherit the world. Maybe it’s left to rot. It depends on what kind of story they decide this all was.

If they go the Tolkien route, then maybe Samwell and Gilly end up leading the Shire, I mean Westeros. Perhaps the Night King pops up again, Sauruman-style. Jon’s old injuries (i.e., fatal stab wounds!) could flare up. Arya might sail off into the sunset.

To be honest, I’m not expecting or hoping for any specific thing to happen. The showrunners seem to be taking Tolkien’s lead in frustrating allegorical readings of their adapted text, so maybe perception is the major theme of the series, and that Game of Thrones has been just about all the friends we made along the way. As much as I’ve enjoyed co-hosting Game of Thrones watch parties and talking to friends about the show on social media, I think I’ll just be happy when this vision of Game of Thrones is over.


Riverdale Season 3 was BONKERS. I loved it.

OG Gryphons and Gargoyles players in Riverdale, Season 3. (CW)

I just saw the Season 3 finale of Riverdale. You know what happened this season?

  • Archie was sent to juvie, where he was forced into a prison fight club;
  • Veronica ran an illegal speakeasy;
  • Jughead’s dad became the town sheriff while his secretly drug-dealing mom moved in with them;
  • Betty tried to bust her mom out of a cult (a bold move, considering that during the season, a former CW star was on trial for her role in a similarly personality-annihilating cult); and
  • the whole gang got caught up in a deadly, multigenerational Dungeons & Dragons-type role-playing game.

Those are just a few of the absolutely BONKERS shenanigans of the season. And you know what? I bought it all.

I did not guess the resolution of the season’s biggest mysteries (which I will leave unspoiled), but they made sense in hindsight. That’s because the show set forth a strong idea of what its version of Archie and the gang would be, and have developed and tested those ideas by placing the characters in ludicrous situations that allow the characters to be themselves, just more so.

Other shows could take a lesson from Riverdale. As Daniel Silvermint writes about another current show (that features dungeons and dragons): “No amount of spectacle or fan service is satisfying if we don’t buy how the characters got there.”