Ink to Film Podcast: Ep-79 Game of Thrones (2011, episodes 1 and 2)
Note: The Ink to Film Podcast is conversational and intended to be heard, not read. We strongly encourage you to listen to the audio, if able, for tone and inflection. Our transcripts are generated using a transcriptionist but may contain errors. Please refer to the corresponding audio before quoting anything written here.
This episode aired on 3/07/19 and was made possible by our generous patrons.
James: Welcome to the Ink to Film podcast, where we read the book…
Luke: …and then see the movie.
James: I’m James.
Luke: And I’m Luke.
James: And this week, we discuss the first two episodes of David Benioff and D.B. Weiss’s 2011 HBO series Game of Thrones. <music plays>
So, here we are in the world of Westeros. We are actually in Winterfell, we’re in Essos, we’re everywhere. I mean, I can’t believe we’re finally at the show. It’s a huge show for me, and I’m excited to get into it.
Luke: Yeah, me too, man. I loved reading this book again—the first part of it in the last episode. We talked about it at length if you wanted to check us out talking about the book only. That was our previous episode, and I shared how important this series is for me. And, yeah, I’m excited for it. The TV show is sort of a different…a whole different thing, and I definitely had a kind of a different experience watching it after reading it so closely together, which I’m interested to talk to you about because it was a little different for me.
James: Which is crazy, because we’ve both seen it multiple times, and you know, read the books a couple times each. So…with all of the hindsight that we have. With all the stuff that we know coming into…at least in the show’s version of this world, and kind of their events…it’s just so interesting to go back to the very beginning and look at tiny baby Daenarys, tiny baby Jon Snow, and just how awesome Ned Stark is, and how he just sets up…because of how great he is and how charismatic of a leader he seems to be…maybe not charismatic, but stoic and honorable. Seeing that and knowing what’s to come at the end of this season, it just sets the tone for this show.
Luke: I wonder if Sean Bean watches the show and feels like sort of parental pride in his kids…surviving and thriving in the most recent season. If you can call it that.
James: I have to think he does. It’s just such a massive phenomenon that…to just completely shut it out would be weird at this point, right?
Luke: Yeah, I don’t know. I mean…either that, or no, not at all. <laughing>
Luke: Because he’s just an actor doing a job. I don’t know.
James: Exactly, yeah. He very clearly anchored the show in the first season. People were tuning in week to week to see Ned Stark going through what he was going through. I think he was, out and out, the main character.
Luke: Yeah, I completely agree with that. And I remember everybody thought Ned Stark was the star…like, the star. And, so that makes the end of the season so shocking, right? But, just in general, I wanted to talk a little bit about how this made me…this gave me an observation about our podcast, in that, when you read something at basically the same time you’re watching the adaptation for it, it’s a different experience than when you watch an adaptation, like, a few years removed from when you read a book. It’s a very different thing. Because I was noticing tons of differences, right? Like, every scene, I’m going, “This scene’s different in X, Y and Z way,” and the original time I watched the show, I remember just going, “Oh, this is really faithful.” There were a couple big differences that hopped out at me, but for the most part I felt like it was a very faithful adaptation. But then, this time, I’m like, “Well, they changed all these scenes to some degree,” you know, and I was picking up all the ways they were different.
James: Yeah. Well, I would say that it’s at least the same scenes. Maybe dialogue has changed, and kind of like, somebody else says a line that’s important for a certain character to say in the book, but they take that importance away. I’m thinking of Theon basically saying, “This is your pup because it’s the runt of the litter,” rather than Jon Snow saying, “This is mine” to Theon.
James: So, something like that kind of changes the context of what’s going to…what you think about certain characters, especially early on in the first episode.
Luke: Well, and we talked about this in our Jesus’ Son coverage. We said that when the characters in that movie were just reciting lines from the book, sometimes it felt a little weird. It was like too specifically referencing the book. And I think they walked that line in the show, because a lot of it is the same subject matter, the same things are being said, but often they’ve sort of remixed it and maybe changed some of the lines. Maybe some…whether one character says it or another, but also just changing what is said exactly, even if the premise is similar. There is a lot of those little remixes in general, but you’re right, it does still feel faithful for the most part. But I do think there were a few times those little remixes don’t land as well as others. But it’s just kind of nitpicky stuff, and like I said, it’s not something I would have noticed if I hadn’t read the book in the week…you know, read that part of the book in the week leading up to watching that part of the show.
Luke: Oh, which we should also talk about. How we’re going to do this coverage. Because you might not have listened to the last episode, and I don’t know if we did a great job of outlining it in the last episode. But this is going to be all about the show only, but maybe doing some comparisons to the book. But, this is our show-focused episode. We’re going to talk about the showrunners, do a little background for them, which I don’t know a lot about them, but I know you’ve done some research, so I’m interested in learning about that. And then, the following two weeks after this, we’re going to do these combination episodes, where we cover show and book simultaneously and move through the next big chunk of season and big chunk of book. So, yeah, hopefully you can join us for all of that and enjoy our Game of Thrones coverage. Definitely let us know what you think of it, because this is sort of an experiment for us. We’re trying to figure out how to cover TV shows. We’re always playing around with it. We did something kind of similar for Sharp Objects, another HBO show. So, definitely give me feedback about, you know, how you felt about this coverage, what you liked, what you didn’t like. It would definitely be useful.
James: Definitely. Please let us know. As far as this specific episode is concerned, what I’m planning on is that we’re going to talk about David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, who are the showrunners, and we’re going to move very quickly and talk about the director of the first two episodes and talk about George R. R. Martin’s involvement. And then, I also…I don’t know…famously, they had to reshoot a lot of the first…the pilot episode. And…do you know about this?
Luke: A little. Vaguely, but I didn’t look anything up. I’d definitely be interested to have a refresher.
James: Cool. Yeah, there’s a lot to talk about there, and there’s some things you can pick up, even on the aired episode, that was, like, hold-overs from that original pilot. And then we’ll move into plot. A quick plot synopsis, and then we’ll kind of react to how we felt about the show compared to the book, and that will be the episode.
Luke: Yeah, and if you want to make sure you catch those next two ones, make sure you subscribe on whatever platform you’re on, because that will be the best way to guarantee you get those episodes.
James: So, obviously, the show is a massive hit. I’m sure everyone’s heard of it. But I want to talk about the people who made it happen. So, David Benioff and D. B. Weiss are collaborating producers and showrunners. They’re also writers on the show. Their history leading up to Game of Thrones and the success of this is interesting because I found something that I did not know. Both are published authors prior to getting the show made. Did you know that?
Luke: I think I had actually heard that. I don’t remember the titles, but yeah, I think I had heard that.
James: So, Benioff wrote three novels. One is called The 25th Hour back in 2001. The next one was When the Nines Roll Over and Other Stories, and it came out in 2004. And then City of Thieves came out in 2008.
Luke: Was The 25th Hour the same as the movie? Isn’t there a movie of that name?
James: Yeah. So, that’s what I was going to get into. Here, I’ll read this little excerpt here. “Benioff spent two years writing his first published novel, The 25th Hour, originally titled Fireman Down, and completed the book as the thesis for his Master’s degree at Irvine. He was asked to adapt the book into a screenplay after Toby Maguire read a preliminary trade copy and became interested in making a film of the book. The film adaptation, titled 25th Hour and starring Edward Norton, was directed by Spike Lee. Benioff then wrote a collection of short stories titled When the Nines Roll Over and Other Stories in 2004.”
Luke: Cool. So, that’s a potential project we could do, then.
James: Yeah. And Spike Lee directed. That’s a big deal to have a published work adapted…
Luke: I think I’ve seen it. I just…I don’t really remember it, but I’m pretty sure I’ve seen the Edward Norton movie called 25th Hour. And that’s about all I remember.
James: 25th Hour. I haven’t seen it, but I’m going to check it out. Well, maybe I’ll wait for the podcast. Maybe we’ll cover it.
Luke: Yeah. If people are interested, let us know.
James: So, Benioff then drafted a screenplay of the mythological epic Troy in 2004, for which Warner Brothers paid him $2.5 million, reportedly.
James: Yeah. Hollywood money is crazy, right?
James: Warner Brothers is like, “Here’s $2.5 million for a draft of a screenplay.”
James: Um, he also wrote the script for the psychological thriller Stay in 2005, which was directed by Marc Forster, and…
Luke: I think I’ve seen that, too.
James: And stars Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts.
Luke: Yeah, I think I have seen that.
James: Yeah. I’ve seen that one, as well.
Luke: God, I didn’t know I was…
James: Such a Benioff fan.
Luke: Seen so much of his stuff.
Luke: Is this just one of them or both of them?
James: This is only Benioff so far.
James: David Benioff. So, this you might have also seen. He did the screenplay for The Kiterunner in 2007, which was adapted from the novel of the same name. It marked his second collaboration with director Marc Forster.
Luke: Wow, I haven’t seen that. Or read the book.
James: Yeah, then in 2004, Benioff was hired to write the screenplay for the X-Men spinoff, X-Men Origins: Wolverine in 2009.
Luke: Uh oh. <laughing>
James: Yeah. Definitely damn right. He based the script on Barry Windsor-Smith’s Weapon X story, Chris Claremont and Frank Miller’s 1982 limited series of the character, as well as the 2001 limited series Origin. Skip Woods was later hired by Fox to revise and rewrite Benioff’s script. Benioff had aimed for a darker and more brutal story, writing it with an R rating in mind, although he acknowledged the film’s final tone would rest with the producer and director.
Luke: Oh, wow. Okay, so maybe not his fault. The movie…
James: No, but not the best credit to have your name attached to. After everything is said and done.
Luke: No, but a more brutal and dark version of that movie…who knows? Maybe it could have been better.
James: I mean, we saw Logan eventually.
Luke: Yeah, exactly. Well, that’s one of the reasons why I tend to think, “Oh, yeah, that could lend itself to…” Because Logan was so good, so…yeah, maybe.
James: So, D. B. Weiss…this is also crazy, because he’s an author, a published author. He wrote Lucky Wander Boy in 2003, which I had never heard of…
Luke: Okay. Never heard of it.
James: But Weiss worked as a personal assistant on films such as the Viking sagas for New Line Cinema. For a brief period, Weiss also worked as a personal assistant for musician Glenn Frey. Weiss went to Dublin in 1995 to study Anglo-Irish literature and met David Benioff, the screenwriter of Troy. Three years later, around 1998, they met again in Santa Monica, California. His career is maybe a little shorter than Benioff’s leading up to this, but they collaborate together, and then I think they’re just kind of thick as thieves from here on. Weiss and Benioff co-wrote a screenplay for a film titled The Headmaster, which I mentioned before, but it was never made. In 2003, they were hired to collaborate on a new script of Orson Scott Card’s book Ender’s Game, in consultation with the then-designated director Wolfgang Petersen. It was not used.
Luke: Yeah, because that movie was made, but it wasn’t made anywhere around 2003, I don’t think.
James: No, I think it came out in like 2013 or so.
Luke: Different screenplay, probably.
James: So, Weiss’s debut novel, Lucky Wander Boy, is themed around video games. In 2006, Weiss said he had a second novel finished that needed a second draft. That same year, Weiss completed a screenplay for a film adaptation of the video game series Halo based on a script written by Alex Garland. Favorite-of-the-podcast Alex Garland.
Luke: Holy cow! How about that? It’s funny how all these intersect in ways that I totally didn’t know. That’s cool.
Luke: And that’s the director of Annihilation. Another favorite project of ours. If you’re interested in that, definitely check it out.
James: Director Neill Blomkamp declared the project dead in late 2007. So, there was a lot of talent on that Halo film.
Luke: Oh, wow.
Luke: Yeah. What could have been…perhaps.
James: And then all this leads us to January of 2006. David Benioff had a phone…I’m sure you’ve heard this story. I’ve read it, like, multiple times. It’s super-famous. But…
James: David Benioff had a phone conversation with George R. R. Martin’s literary agent about the books he represented and became interested in A Song of Ice and Fire, as he had been a fan of fantasy fiction when he was young but had not read the books before. The literary agent then sent Benioff the series’ first four books. Benioff read a few hundred pages of the first novel, A Game of Thrones, and shared his enthusiasm with D. B. Weiss and suggested they adapt Martin’s novels into a television series. Weiss finished the first novel in “maybe 36 hours.” They pitched the series to HBO after a five-hour meeting with Martin, himself a veteran screenwriter, in a restaurant on Santa Monica Boulevard. According to Benioff, they won Martin over with their answer to his question, “Who is Jon Snow’s mother?”
Luke: Oh, yeah. I’ve heard…that I have heard. That’s funny. We did a deep dive into Martin’s history with, you know, working in Hollywood and his publication history, and it’s interesting to think about how that intersects here in 2006, ten years after the publication of the first novel. You know, we talked about he famously said he sat down to write a series that could never be adapted onto the screen. So, I wonder what he was thinking when he heard this?
James: Exactly, yeah. I have a quote here that I think kind of lends itself to that.
James: This is George R. R. Martin. He said, “I’d worked in Hollywood myself for about ten years. From the late eighties to the nineties. I’d been on the staff of The Twilight Zone and Beauty and the Beast. All of my first drafts tended to be too big or too expensive. I always hated the process of having to cut. I said, ‘I’m sick of this. I’m going to write something that’s as big as I want it to be, and it’s going to have a cast of characters that go into the thousands. And I’m going to have huge castles and battles and dragons.’” That’s a pretty funny, like, stream-of-consciousness comment from him.
Luke: Yeah. That supports what we…I had read elsewhere.
Luke: And little did he know he was going to have a budget that dwarfs a lot of feature films by the end of this thing.
James: So, even after Weiss and Benioff said, “Hey, we want to adapt this,” Martin said, like, “Look, they’re unfilmable.” And they brought up Lord of the Rings. But, ultimately, Benioff said it would be impossible to turn the novels into a feature film, as the scale of the novels is too big for a feature film.
James: Dozens of characters would have to be discarded.
Luke: Well, people have pointed out that all of the Lord of the Rings, as far as word count, is equal to like one of the Song of Ice and Fire books.
James: Yeah. So, Benioff added a fantasy movie of this scope financed by a major studio would almost certainly need a PG-13 rating. That means no sex, no blood, no profanity. Fuck that. Martin himself was pleased with the suggestion that they adapt it as an HBO series, saying that he never imagined it anywhere else. “I knew it couldn’t be done as a network television series. It’s too adult. The level of sex and violence would never have gone through.” So, it sounds like they won him over just by the fact that they were like, “Look, this needs to be everything that’s in the books.” Which, when we get to it here, in I think episode two, they kind of took it a little too far in some ways. It kind of got away from…and who knows if it was…I don’t know how much studio input there would have been from HBO and the like, but who knows whose actual decision it was to have such a…such violent rape scenes, but it seems to be recurring for the show.
Luke: I do want to talk about those scenes, but I think let’s take them when we get to the actual episodes themselves. That was something that definitely stood out to me the most in this rewatch. It kind of soured the first two episodes in my mind a little bit, in a way that I…it wasn’t before.
James: I agree. I think we talk about this when we get to the episode there. Back to the development here. The series began development in 2007, January. HBO acquired the TV rights to the novels with Benioff and Weiss as its executive producers and Martin as a co-producer. Co-executive producer. The intention was for each novel to yield a season’s worth of episodes. Initially, Martin would write one episode per season, while Benioff and Weiss would write the rest of the episodes. The first and second drafts of the pilot, scripted by Benioff and Weiss, were submitted in August of 2007 and June of 2008, respectively. Although HBO liked both drafts, the pilot was not ordered until November of 2008. The pilot episode, “Winter is Coming,” was first shot in 2009. After a poor reception in a private viewing, HBO demanded an extensive re-shoot--about 90% of the episode with cast and directorial changes.
Luke: Really? Wow. I didn’t realize that much.
James: The fact that it was even made is a miracle at this point. The pilot reportedly cost HBO $5–10 million to produce. While the first season’s budget was estimated at $50–60 million. So, just the first…the pilot episode being that…which, you have to think about the fact that they’re building sets and, you know, finding locations, and…there’s a lot of money up front. But the fact that they had to…it cost $5–10 million is a lot for one episode. Especially for a pilot.
Luke: So, could you find anything about why they had to do so much re-shooting? Like, what was wrong with it? So, I know there’s different actors for some of the characters. Things like that.
James: Yeah, I actually did. And we’re going to get into that here in a second. Because…
Luke: Okay, cool.
James: The unaired version actually…not until recently did anybody actually know what specifics there were, but George R. R. Martin had a copy of one of the early scripts, I guess he donated somewhere, and it’s been basically put on the Internet as of, I think like, February of this year or last year.
Luke: Okay. Wow.
James: Do you want to jump into that now and come back around to some of the other stuff?
Luke: Yeah, let’s do. We’re talking about it, so…
James: So, a couple of major differences that stuck out to me when I was reading some of the script here were Daenarys and Khal Drogo have a sex scene much more similar to the sex scene in the book.
Luke: Wow, so they changed that.
James: They changed it to make it more raunchy, or whatever they wanted to do. Make it more shocking, or…
James: To know that this was only, you know, eight years ago and to see it on film and know that was a decision that was made, to make it potentially more popular is, like…it’s gross, and…
Luke: That’s so weird. So, it was like a test audience thing, too. They didn’t react well to it.
James: I mean, I don’t know if it was…I don’t know. Who’s to say what the test audience actually felt…
Luke: Or executives, or somebody, watched it and wanted it…yeah, sounds like, um…because one of my observations was how they just clearly added sex. Like, they wanted more sex, more nudity, to make it spicier and to make it, you know…it’s almost like they didn’t trust it to land with audiences on its merit, so they had to include a bunch of nudity so you’d bring an audience just for that reason alone.
James: Well, I mean I can tell you that definitely was probably a decision that was made.
James: Because every show on HBO at that point used the fact that there was nudity to definitely pull in certain audience members and maybe keep other ones around.
Luke: Yeah. That’s unfortunate. I mean, it’s especially unfortunate knowing where the show would go. I feel like it took them a while to sort of evolve beyond that. I would argue that they have. That’s one of the things I do want to give them credit for…is for the most part, they’ve moved beyond that over-sexualization just for the sake of, you know, titillating viewers. They still have some. I mean, it’s an HBO show, but it feels different than the first few seasons, for sure.
James: Yeah. I mean, after seeing these two episodes, the Dothraki wedding and just sexualization of tons of stuff…
Luke: The Tyrion introduction, where they said…
James: Well, Tyrion would go on to have a lot more of these throughout the seasons. A lot more of these gratuitous sex scenes, I feel like, where it was just sex for the sake of sex.
Luke: Yeah, but literally the introduction to his character is a wholly invented scene. Him in a brothel having sex, lots of nudity. And then, one of the things I hated most about that scene is the next scene that follows it. Did you notice? The next scene that follows it cuts immediately to Robert Baratheon thinking about Lyanna Stark and saying, “You shouldn’t have buried her here, Ned.” It’s like a sad scene of him reminiscing about his lost love…
James: I think it was a way of making the Lannisters even more villainized, right? We’re like, even Tyrion at this point, we’re like fuck Tyrion, because he seems like that type of guy. Until we learn more about him.
Luke: I just think there was like a whiplash totally from that scene to the next. That felt weird to me. It felt like something that happened in the edit. Where they didn’t know what was going to be there, then it’s decided to put it that way. And I think it was kind of unfortunate. Well, we’ll get into that as we get into the episode itself. Let’s finish up the background stuff here.
James: Yeah, well, I want to talk about some more of these differences real quick.
James: That I found. The White Walkers may have potentially talked in a language that sounded like ice crackling on a winter lake. In this first episode.
Luke: Hmm. Okay.
James: So, I guess during maybe the first scene with the brothers, where they run into the Wildling bodies and everything? Maybe one of those White Walkers would have talked in, like, some sort of crackling noise. Which, I don’t know how I feel about it. I think that, at some point, they start screaming, right? I remember a White Walker screaming in another season. So, they do make noise, but…
Luke: Yeah, I feel it was smarter to probably pull back and leave them more mysterious, so they could kind of take time to figure out how they wanted to handle it. Because I was thinking about that. Clearly, they hadn’t figured out everything they wanted to do with the White Walkers in that first episode.
James: The first time I saw the show, I thought that the White Walker…the Walker that we saw was black because he was so covered in shadow. Because they still clearly didn’t know, like, really how they wanted the design to go.
Luke: Yeah. But it’s more that he’s just in shadow.
Luke: In retrospect. Yeah.
James: He is, yeah. Another massive change that you were just talking about is, when Robert is leaving the feather in Lyanna’s hand in the crypt with Ned there, apparently in this unaired version, Cersei sees Robert leave this feather, and she goes and grabs the feather and tells one of her handmaidens to burn it. Which would have burned a bridge that they eventually went back to later. I think Sansa picks up the feather.
James: In the crypts.
Luke: That seems like a small thing, but okay.
James: For Cersei to have seen that.
Luke: Yeah, why was she in the crypts is definitely a valid question. How did she…
James: If you were looking for it, it would almost make the reveal a little more obvious to you, maybe? No, I guess not.
Luke: I don’t know.
James: Just the fact that Cersei went to Lyanna’s statue and took the feather. Because she knew that they were betrothed at one point. Maybe…
Luke: Oh, we should also say, before we go any further, in case it’s not clear. We are approaching this…we said it in the last episode, but we’ll say it again. We’re approaching this from the perspective of people who have seen all the way up to the most recent season and have read all the books. So, we are going to be referencing things that would technically be a spoiler. So, if you’ve only seen the first two episodes of Game of Thrones and that’s your only exposure to it, don’t listen because we’re going to spoil things.
James: Right. Come back. Come back after you’ve caught up.
Luke: Yeah, come back after you’ve watched more.
James: Another change from this original pilot is Daenarys and Catelyn were played by different actors. They were recast.
Luke: I knew Dany was. I didn’t know…I think I heard Catelyn, but I had forgotten that.
James: Mmhmm. And I guess one of the major notes was that it wasn’t clear enough in the original pilot that Cersei and Jaimie were siblings.
James: So I guess that was…because it’s like a big deal for them…for you to realize that they’re siblings and for Bran to see them.
Luke: So, that’s why we get some clear, sort of expository telling out of Sansa or Arya or somebody saying, you know, “They’re twins.”
Luke: “Her twin brother, Jaimie Lannister.” Yeah.
James: I did want to mention that, I know they were doing a lot of legwork to introduce these characters to people, but it felt like every time we cut back to another character, they were like, “Oh, you’re Jon Snow the bastard, aren’t you?” And then they’d cut to so-and-so and Jaimie would be like, “You’re my sister, Cersei.” And they’re very specifically laying out, like, this is who you are and this is what your motivation is.
Luke: It’s awkward, man. It’s hard to introduce characters, especially when you’re introducing 40 characters like they do in here. It’s so hard.
James: It’s just kind of funny, like, with our knowledge, going back and seeing how obvious it is. But they did a pretty good job.
Luke: I think some of it’s forgivable, you know, and audiences kind of get it. It’s like, yeah, maybe they wouldn’t really say that, but it’s for our benefit. And as long as it’s not just like obnoxious, most people are willing to put up with it. I don’t want to speak for everybody. Some people really hate that stuff, but…
James: The thing that bothers me the most is you can see what was shot in the original pilot and what was re-shot with Tyrion. Because the first version of his hair was just awful. In his introductory scene, the sex scene?
James: You see his hair. They try to be very, very close to what the book is, and it ended up, for the re-shoots, ended up kind of doing a version of that. But they really went for it in the first…they tried to make him look like Jaimie and give him like a sort of like, I don’t know how to describe his hair, but it was completely different than his eventual Tyrion look.
Luke: You’re right. I couldn’t put my finger on what was different, but you’re right. His hair is different in that scene. That’s so funny.
James: And it’s a weird look for him, too. It just doesn’t fit. So, I’m glad they redid that. I hope it was worth the five million dollars to just reshoot Tyrion’s scene so that his hair would look better.
Luke: Did you read anything about the Dany change and the Catelyn change and what the reasons for those were?
James: I read about the Catelyn change. I didn’t see much about the Dany. I’m sure it’s out there, but I didn’t see any. Apparently Catelyn…I mean, they weren’t happy with the actor for one, and then the other was they weren’t happy with kind of her motivations. I think she was a bit harsher, even though she is somewhat harsh in this version of her. I think they didn’t find the line between her being very motherly to everyone else and being very harsh to Jon and Ned sometimes.
James: And I just think that they weren’t happy with kind of the version of Catelyn that they had originally.
James: So, that’s most of the major stuff that I saw from the unaired version of episode 1, the original pilot. Back to Weiss and Benioff. They, together, directed two episodes of Game of Thrones so far, and they used a coin flip to decide who would get the credit on each episode. Benioff was given the credit for Season 3, Episode 3, “Walk of Punishment,” while Weiss was credited with Season 4, Episode 1, “Two Swords.” Benioff and Weiss will co-direct the series finale. It was also announced on February 6, 2018, that Disney was hiring Weiss and Benioff to write and produce a new series of Star Wars films after the final season of Game of Thrones is completed this year.
Luke: Wow. You know, I think I had heard that, and it’s actually a good reminder. Because I had heard that and forgotten it.
James: Yeah. Star Wars seems to be in a kind of weird, in-between area right now, so I’m not sure what’s actually going to come out ultimately. But I hope that this does come out, because I would love to see them take their Game of Thrones background and give it like an Old Republic sort of series or couple movies. I think they would knock it out of the park.
Luke: Sounds cool to me.
James: So, the last person involved with the development of these two episodes that I did want to talk about is Timothy Van Patten. He was the director who was brought in after the original director was fired. He is kind of this HBO go-to solid option, and they brought him in to start off the show. He’s directed episodes of The Sopranos, The Wire, Deadwood, The Pacific, Rome, Sex and The City, and Boardwalk Empire.
Luke: Okay, yeah. I can see that.
James: In addition to other things…I just think it’s interesting that he’s this HBO staple. It seems like he’s a go-to figure for HBO.
Luke: Especially at this point.
James: In 2011, when they’re trying to get a new show off the ground.
Luke: Yeah, I think he did an admirable job, for sure.
James: So, that’s all I have about development and the creators to this point. There’s some more stuff about George R. R. that we’ll probably talk about in following episodes, and we’ll definitely talk about it when we get to the episode that he wrote for the first season. But I think this is a good time to jump into plot, if you’re ready.
James: Okay, so the first episode is “Winter is Coming.” In the seven kingdoms of Westeros, a soldier of the ancient Night’s Watch order survives an attack by supernatural creatures known as White Walkers, thought until now to be mythical. He rushes to the Castle Winterfell, which is ruled by Eddard...this is kind of a weird…I’m going to read this, but I just want to say this is kind of a weird, outsider’s perspective on something we know really well.
Luke: Yeah, I was like, “I don’t know if that’s true, actually.”
James: Yeah. So, he rushes to the Castle Winterfell, which I would just call Winterfell. Which is ruled by Eddard “Ned” Stark, Warden of the North, who decapitates the soldier for desertion. In King’s Landing, the capital, Jon Arryn, the King’s Hand, dies under mysterious circumstances. King Robert Baratheon, Ned’s long-time friend, travels to Winterfell to offer the position to him and proposes marriage between his first-born son, Joffrey, and Ned’s older daughter, Sansa.
Ned’s wife, Catelyn, receives a letter from her sister, Lysa, Jon Arryn’s widow, saying that she has escaped King’s Landing and that Jon was murdered by the Lannisters, Queen Cersei’s family. Catelyn burns the letter and tells Ned about it, believing that the Lannisters are plotting against Robert. Ned’s ten-year-old son, Brandon, climbs a tower, where he witnesses Cersei having sex with her twin brother, Jaimie, who then pushes him out the window from a presumably fatal height. That’s such a stupid line.
Meanwhile, across the narrow sea in Essos, the exiled prince, Viserys Targaryen, makes a deal with the Dothraki warlord, Kahl Drogo, who marries Viserys’s sister, Daenarys, in exchange for providing Viserys an army to conquer Westeros and reclaim the Iron Throne. And they didn’t mention the scene where they find the direwolf with an antler in its neck, or I guess somewhere in its body. And they divvy out young direwolf pups to each of the Stark children, and Jon Snow gets one as well.
Luke: Yeah. Well, that’s all right. I think it gives us enough to get into it here. We talk about, like, everything that happens in the start of this book more than the last episode, so I think we can kind of jump around a little bit here.
James: Yeah, so let’s start with that first scene. Let’s talk about the Night’s Watch. When they’re out on patrol and they see the Walkers.
Luke: Immediately, just because we talked about it last episode, they changed these characters some. I felt like Royce was more of a shit, and he dies immediately and does nothing redeeming. And I kind of missed the version of Royce we got in the book, where he seems like he’s going to be a shit, but then he does something surprising before he dies.
James: It’s more complex, right? I think it’s cool because there are more layers to it.
Luke: And that’s the thing, you know, like often I feel like you get a little bit more complexity. It’s okay, it’s not a big deal. But, yeah, I just missed it a little bit. And then Will being the one who survives only to get his head cut off. I was fine with that change. I think he’s the more interesting character. I did wonder, and I think this is a mystery on purpose, but…does it mean anything? Why…how did Will survive? Because they quite clearly show…
James: I was going to say the same thing.
Luke: Him…the White Walker is just looming over him, and he’s just standing there, like, helpless.
James: Exactly, so it was a decision on the Walker’s part to let him go.
Luke: Right. Which is the implication.
James: That…yeah, the implication from that, though, is that we can infer that the White Walkers want people to at least have heard rumors or have heard stories of them coming back. So they want to put fear into the hearts of the North already? Is what it seems like we can infer in the show?
Luke: Yeah. I don’t get that impression from Will when he’s talking to Ned later, but maybe? Yeah, maybe he said, like, “Hey, I’ll go down and tell them that you’re coming if you’ll let me go,” or something.
James: Oh, no. I don’t mean like that. I just mean that, like, the Walker made the decision…didn’t even say anything to him, just looked at him and made the decision to be like, “I’m going to let him live so he’ll tell stories of us coming down.”
Luke: Yeah, maybe. And with what we’re seeing in these later seasons…I mean the White Walkers are still very mysterious, and I think we’re going to get more answers in this final season, at least for the show. And, like, what their ultimate goals are. So, I’ll be curious to see, and does it line up with the idea of them letting Will go?
James: I think this is something that we talked about in our coverage way back when we first started the podcast. There’s a dead kid right away. And showing…one of the first major things that you show, having the one Wildling down.
Luke: Oh, the Wildling, yeah.
James: Yeah. So, showing a young Wildling girl dead, and then showing her resurrected…that’s pretty hard-core. That’ll hook some audience members.
Luke: There’s a lot of tone-setting in here. It’s very dark. It’s showing that this is fantasy, yet we have monsters and we have, you know, darkness, and, and…it’s a beautiful opening series of scenes, actually. It was quite impressed with the way the woods looked, and how much it held up, even though it’s eight years old now.
James: You can tell that they were like, “This is the first scene. We have to nail this first scene.”
Luke: Mmm. So, there’s another scene that really stood out to me right after this, and that’s Ned Stark cleaning ice, sitting in front of the Weirwood. And I’m so happy that this scene exists the way that it does, because this is clearly, like, “If we’re going to do anything right, we’re going to get this scene, and we’re going to show it to you, and it’s going to be right out of the book, and you’re going to just be impressed with how detailed it is because you got the little face on the Weirwood that nobody even mentions. It’s kind of like an Easter egg if you know you’re looking for it.” It’s great. It also looks like some of the really famous fan art I’ve seen, and maybe even concept art…it might even be official…of this scene. It looks like they storyboarded that thing to look just like the art.
James: It looks great. The production design is amazing. And, like I said, to spend 5–10 million on one episode and all the setting-up that they’re doing for the season—all the sets and everything. They did such a great job. One of the things about the Weirwood that’s so striking is that red on white. Like, the white…I guess at this point it’s green because there’s no snow there, but the red leaves in the Weirwood just always are so iconic-looking.
Luke: Yeah. Totally agree. Very striking scene. I’m going to just move on quickly here, because there’s another thing I want to talk about right at the start. Have you heard of the Robert Baratheon touch of death…observation or theory or whatever?
James: Yeah. All the Starks that he touches when he first arrives end up dead, basically?
Luke: Yeah, they all die. Do you think that was planned? Was that an intentional thing or just an accident?
James: You know, I don’t know. I’d like to think that they were…it sounds like this whole first episode was a hot mess, but I’d like to think that they had the wherewithal to be, like, in pre-production, they saw that far ahead. I think that would be cool. From what I understand, they’ve been kind of like, as it’s gone on…how could they have really known? You know? As it’s gone on, they’ve changed from…
Luke: I think it’s a happy accident, honestly. I think it’s cool that it’s true. But I feel like they couldn’t have been playing that sort of game this early. It just seems unlikely to me. It’s more likely that it happened, and the Internet noticed that it was true, and therefore we talk about it. If, you know, Robert had walked up and ruffled Arya’s hair, we just wouldn’t be talking about this as a thing. So, it’s kind of like a…because it happened to be true, now it seems like it was always planned.
James: Yeah. I did want to shoot back to the first scene really quickly. The symbol that’s made in the snow…
Luke: Oh, yeah.
James: …with the body parts of the Wildlings? It’s crazy that, up to this point, we still don’t really know the significance of that.
James: Like, we know kind of, maybe? Some stuff with the children of the forest and maybe White Walker stuff…
James: But it’s like so…it’s so far ahead of its time, really, and the fact that it just remained mysterious is kind of nice.
Luke: Yeah, I wonder how many answers we’re going to get for that sort of thing. To me, it always just implied that there’s an intelligence to these things. It’s not just a monster. It’s not just sort of an undead being that’s out for blood and nothing else. If you’re creating symbols, you’re trying to express something in some fashion. You would think. So, maybe that means they have larger motives. Which, there’s tons of theories out there about the motives of The Others and what that all could mean. Which are all very interesting, but we definitely don’t have time to get into it.
James: Hopefully over this coverage, we’ll be able to get into at least some of them. You and I, after our first episode, we talked a little bit. There’s a YouTube channel called Shift X that I’ve just gone on binge journeys, where I’ve just watched, like, all of their videos. And it’s always, like, you know…sometimes very tin-foily, but it’s always well informed enough to kind of like be interesting to listen to.
Luke: Oh yeah. Great, great YouTube series. Definitely highly recommend. A lot of that stuff is often, like, theories that may only be true in the books. Clearly, they decided not to go that route in the show at this point. But, yeah, some of those theories are still out there and can still be confirmed in the final season, so who knows.
James: Clegane Bowl. <laughing>
Luke: Yeah, get hype. Yeah, one of the things I wanted to point out is something that I’ve become more aware of. And that’s male gaze in television and movies, and this is something we’ve talked about a lot. And it’s something that I didn’t notice, you know, as a heterosexual male myself. It’s…you know, I had the privilege of not having to notice it, right? Because that’s what most TV is like. But being aware of it, and also sort of studying these films that we’ve been talking about in this podcast made me notice it in these first few episodes. And specifically the most egregious is the Dany scenes. Because the text of the story is telling us this is a horrible situation. She’s being sold into essentially slavery. She’s going to be raped. This is super-awful. We should feel bad about it. And look at the way that her brother is treating her and sexualizing her. Isn’t that awful? But at the same time, the camera is lingering on her, like, exposed body in a way that is saying, like, “But yeah, it’s kind of hot, isn’t it?” You know? And it’s something that I didn’t notice before, but if you watch these scenes, the camera isn’t telling us this is bad. The camera’s telling us that this is hot. It’s…we just have to look past that and understand that it’s bad. So, people who are sensitive to this sort of thing, I can totally see why you could watch this show and go, “Oh, it’s just over-sexualized and brutal and doesn’t treat its women characters well,” and I think all of that is a valid criticism, especially of these early seasons where that is the sort of thing. They’re talking out of both sides of their mouth. On one side they’re saying, “How bad is this stuff,” and out of the other side, they’re showing it to titillate and to be sexy…
James: …which is just super-weird. Completely agree. Male gaze is…I mean, we studied male gaze in school, and it’s just one of those things that has been around forever, and like you said, it just becomes this subliminal thing to most audiences, but if you do pick up on it, it’s so egregious in shows like this. Yeah, and it’s like…is it an HBO thing? Because it’s like clearly, HBO probably said, “Sex it up,” to an extent.
James: But it’s also…
Luke: Oh, yeah.
James: …like male gaze where this show is being made for…I think they knew their demographic and their audience that they were going to shoot for, and they were like, “You know what that audience probably will like is over-sexualization to the max.”
Luke: Yeah, definitely. And, I mean…I just remember a clear example of this where Dany is watching her brother walk out, and the camera slowly pans down her ass. It just fills up the whole screen. I’m like, “What was that?” It’s just there to be sexy. It’s just there to titillate and make eyes go, “Oh yeah, this is a great show.” And it’s sad because, to me, that is such a…it’s such an underselling of the story. Like, the story is good, and it doesn’t need that. Um, and I’m frustrated with the idea that they may have even re-shot things to lean in that direction. And I get it that there is a marketing component to that. There is, like you said, executives saying, “Sex sells. We need to sex this thing up.” I just think it’s sad, and it’s indicative of a larger culture that is still continuing to grow and change and hopefully get better. All we can do is try and be better and to hold things to a better standard. Yeah, I just wanted to point it out as something I noticed this time that, I think in the eight years since I saw it originally, have grown as a consumer of media, and that is something I’m more aware of now.
James: Yeah. We gotta call bullshit when we see this stuff.
James: So, how different was that, was that wolf scene to you? Because it felt very different to me.
Luke: Yeah, it was definitely different. Little changes here and there, characters saying different things. But, yeah, I’m curious to know. When you say, “Very different,” what do you mean?
James: So, there’s something in the book about…it feels like this…I talked a little bit about this…this hand of fate that’s, like, guiding the story along. And I think it felt like, in the book, this was always meant to happen. This universe coming together and aligning in a certain way. And there’s an importance to everything that’s happening. And, to me, in the scene that we get, it doesn’t feel as weighty or as important…to me.
James: And I think a lot of that has to do with kind of the way they were making Theon a big part of the scene. Because he tried to jump in and kill the pup right away, and then he also had a line later, and even like the master of arms that’s there, he makes a comment. And it just felt very Stark-central in the book. And then in the show, it felt like this is an even that has to happen.
Luke: Yeah, I can see that. I think, also, the weightiness of it, though, is backed up throughout these two episodes in the way they deal with the wolves, and there’s sort of like…they highlight a supernatural connection between them all in a way that you really don’t get in the book. We see them…I mean, we hear about howling and stuff, but we just see…I don’t know. To me, it just seems more like immediately backing up Jon’s prediction that these were meant for them. We immediately see that being the case. And how quickly they bond and how strongly and how they all react to different things. Does that make sense? I agree with you that maybe it was more in the book of a prediction for these being an important part of the story than it was in the show. But just over time, I think they do a good job of sort of catching up to that. Yeah, I think they pay it off. I mean, just showing the kids…how quickly the wolves are growing with the kids, and the stuff with Bran and Lady and Nymeria.
James: I see what you’re saying.
Luke: Yeah, and those dogs grow fast…those wolves grow fast, I should say. Every time they show them, they’ve tripled in size.
James: Yeah. Yeah.
Luke: I think it happens like three times in the first episode.
James: Oh, for sure. Well, it’s got to be believable when the dog jumps on that guy to save Catelyn and Bran.
James: In the second episode.
Luke: Yeah. So, the other thing to talk about here, I think, is also the Drogo and Dany rape that is very different than we talked about in the book. In the book, there is consent. We talked about how it’s a tricky situation, and whether or not consent is even possible is debatable. But, ultimately, their relationship is started in an area of at least…sort of a gray area of consent. Whereas, this is not. This is a full-on rape, and then it’s doubled down in the next episode. And we get the implication that it’s been going on. So, the idea is that their whole relationship is founded on, initially, just sexual assault and rape, and then Dany kind of turns it around and tries to win him over. Which is just a way grosser…
James: Yeah, that part’s also very male gaze, right? Like, that felt like somebody saying, “And then she’s going to, like, like it” and turn it into…
James: You know what I mean? Like, that felt not great also.
Luke: Yeah. Very problematic. I can totally see why a lot of people hated this. And, yeah, I can see it now. It really stands out in a way that it didn’t to me before. I get it. The only thing I can say is that I do think the show gets a little bit better at it over time. It does take it a while, though. It takes it a few seasons, but I think it does start to get a little better, although there are a few things that stand out as not being great in later seasons, as well, but…
James: There’s like this fascination with rape in the show, where they go to rape for some reason, multiple times, when the books don’t. And I know that they…potentially, it’s for shocking reasons, but…
James: Rape is rape. And, like, I don’t know that it needed to go there.
Luke: So, it’s funny because this is a problem in fantasy that has been being discussed, you know, for a while now. And it’s one of those situations where I think the genre…the book genre of fantasy has sort of outpaced the TV and movie genre of fantasy. In some ways, it’s more sophomoric. Whereas I feel we’ve moved past this a little bit in our fiction. But yeah, it’s the same thing. And you’ll see this a lot with a lot of beginning writers. It’s a kind of a…almost a cliché to talk about. Especially white heterosexual men writing fantasy will often have gratuitous rape scenes in their books. And there is a lot of…it’s fascinating to try and figure out why it’s happening. And in a lot of ways it’s a symptom of culture. In my opinion. But, yeah, it’s…I think there is sort of a weird association between fantasy and sort of this male wish fulfillment, sexualization stuff, and just trying to put stuff in there to have it be edgy and extreme but also sexy in a gross way. And, for whatever reason…it was like a big thing in the 70s for fantasy. And it’s interesting to see it being carried through in our films and in our TV shows to some extent. And, yeah. I don’t know. I feel like I’m having a ramble here, but…do you see some of the points I’m trying to make?
James: I think that you can have rape in a story, but to have a character that’s going to be ultimately like a likable character…that you’re going to be rooting for that character…makes it kind of murky. And, again, I’m the kind of person where I think that, if you’re writing a story, and your story calls for it, and you feel like that’s the story you want to tell, you should. But I think that you should be aware of what you’re doing. You’re walking into some deep, deep water, and you kind of…if you’re doing it for the right reasons, I think it can be there. I just think it’s unfortunate that, in this case, it feels like they were not in the show.
Luke: Well, if you want to do it in a way that is respectful of the people who have been victims.
Luke: I mean, I think if you’re writing something in a way that is not respectful for those people, then you’re doing it wrong. Because who are you writing it for, then? Are you writing it for the perpetrators? You know what I mean?
Luke: And these early scenes are not written in a way that’s respectful, in my opinion, because it’s trying to sexualize it. In kind of a gross way. But, I think we should move on. There is a lot of other stuff to talk about here, but I just wanted to make sure we hit on that.
James: Yeah. So, I mean the rest of the stuff that happens here is Robert Baratheon shows up in Winterfell, and he goes to the crypts, like we talked about, with Ned.
James: And Jon and Tyrion share a scene when the feast is happening.
Luke: I wonder if Sean Bean was told R+L=J? So that he could play these scenes with that…
James: I was thinking about this, too. I was wondering if Jon…Kit Harrington knew.
Luke: No, see, I wouldn’t…Oh, actually, you know what? I did read, I think Jon was one of the few actors who actually read the books. Early on. I think he was famous for that. Like, a lot of them deliberately wouldn’t read…like Peter Dinklage has said that he didn’t read the books, um, purposefully.
James: And I can understand that perspective, too. From a performance standpoint, like not wanting to copy exactly what’s going on there or change what you feel in the performance.
Luke: Or know what’s coming, or yeah…change your character to match more closely, like the book version of the character rather than, like, the TV version of the character. Which sometimes are pretty different. I think Sean Bean, it would have been interesting to tell him, just because I like to see…or I imagine that I see some of that going on behind his eyes in these scenes, which I think is kind of cool to think about.
James: And there’s a moment in Episode 2, and I think we’re going to be moving onto Episode 2 in a second, but…
Luke: Yeah, yeah.
James: There’s a moment where Catelyn is basically saying, “Get out of here, fuck you, you don’t need to say goodbye to Bran.” And then, in the book, he leaves and meets up and talks to Rob or something. But Ned walks in on that situation…in this…
James: …in the show. And it’s interesting to think about what he was thinking in that moment. Because you know…
James: He stands there and doesn’t say anything, and Jon leaves the room, and he looks at his wife, and it’s just like…something that really got me this time, and always has, but watching it again makes me think, like, why wouldn’t Ned just trust Catelyn enough to tell her? Because it’s like, how much easier would that make Ned’s life? To just tell her R+L=J?
Luke: Well, you could argue that, as soon as he tells her, he’s making her a complicit traitor against the crown. And…
James: But if you’re going to trust anyone with that, it’s going to be…
Luke: I know what you’re saying. But I think, from Ned’s perspective, he doesn’t want anyone else to know, because anybody he tells he’s putting at risk. And it’s also like…it’s kind of like good secret keeping. Because if you have a secret, and you start sharing it with people that you think are totally trustworthy and they’re not going to spread…you know, share it.
Luke: You’re just introducing more points of failure for that sort of, like…
James: I mean, I guess ultimately, Ned is the honorable…most honorable person, and when it came down to it, he promised his sister on her deathbed that he would keep Jon safe. And who knows what happens…it’s his wife, but who knows what really happens at the end of time. At the end of your life. Like, who knows what events are going to go down? They could be separated, they could, you know, divorce, per se…and like, she could tell the secrets like that, and then he would have gone back on the promise he made to his dying sister.
Luke: Well, I mean, you bring up a good point. And you’re right. You know, we know that Catelyn is a good person and that she would probably have kept the secret, and that maybe she would have felt differently about Jon, and maybe things would have been better for Jon, had she known. But I think the counter-argument to that is that they were basically strangers when they got married. And when he brought that child back, they weren’t yet what they are now. And, so he probably didn’t know if he could trust her. Because she’s a Tully. She has other allegiances. She has other loyalties. Who knows what she would have done. And then, also, if she had treated his bastard son, and that’s the story to everybody else, but if she treated him really well…
James: That’s true.
Luke: That doesn’t sell the fiction they’re trying to sell as much as, “Yeah, she’s always hated him,” like she probably would in the situation were it true.
James: Good point.
Luke: Let’s move to Episode 2, because I want to make sure we get into that. Oh, so why is Tyrion asleep in the kennel with the dogs at the start of this episode?
James: He’s so drunk. He’s so drunk, he…
Luke: So he just passed out with the dogs?
Luke: I love it. I would do that, too, though. I can’t talk shit. I would totally do that. <laughing> I like that they gave him three slaps to Joffrey in the show, versus the two we get in the book.
James: It’s so good. When he’s like, “I will tell my mother,” or something, and bang. It’s so good.
Luke: This version of Joffrey is so much more slappable, too.
James: Oh, yeah. He…this kid kills it as Joffrey.
Luke: Yeah, he does a good job, and it’s definitely unfortunate when I read that he would get death threats and stuff from people just from playing the character.
James: I think he takes it in stride. I don’t think he, like, takes it too serious. From what I was reading, he was like the nicest person on set, also.
Luke: Yeah. Yeah. It’s just unfortunate. People, don’t do that. The actor is not the character. Do not do that. In fact, the reason you hate Joffrey so much is a testament to how well the actor did at portraying that character. How good a job.
James: Absolutely. Yeah. Here, I’m going to read the synopsis real quick just to give us a jumping-off point.
Luke: Okay. Yeah, yeah.
James: So, this episode is called “The King’s Road.” Having accepted his new role as King’s Hand, Ned leaves Winterfell with his daughters, Sansa and Arya, while Catelyn stays behind to tend to Bran. The unconscious Bran is attacked by an assassin, but his direwolf saves him. Catelyn decides to go to King’s Landing to tell Ned about the attempt and suspected Lannister involvement. Jon Snow, Ned’s illegitimate son, heads north to join the Brotherhood of the Knight’s Watch, protectors of the wall that keep the White Walkers and the Wildlings from entering civilized Westeros. Tyrion Lannister, Cersei’s brother, decides to forego the trip south with the family and, instead, accompanies Snow’s entourage to the wall. When Joffrey threatens Arya and her friend, Arya’s direwolf defends her, provoking a conflict between the Starks and the Lannisters. To resolve the conflict, Cersei demands Robert order Ned to execute Arya’s direwolf. But, as Arya has sent it away to save it for retribution, Sansa’s direwolf is killed in its stead.
In Winterfell, Bran awakes from unconsciousness. Meanwhile, Daenarys focuses her attention on learning how to please Drogo. Tacked on there at the end.
Luke: We’ve talked about that a lot. I don’t want to linger on it anymore. It…this episode just doubles down on it. And doesn’t really do a lot to improve it. Definitely. But, yeah, so the rest of the stuff I want to talk about, though. They added some scenes in here that I really liked. And one that stood out in particular to me was, there’s a scene between Jaimie and Jon, where he comes up to him and he’s talking to him about the Night’s Watch, and he says, like, “Oh, what an illustrious brotherhood,” or whatever, that you’re joining.
James: It gives the audience a good perspective on what the Night’s Watch is going to be, too, before we get there.
Luke: Yeah. It does a lot of good stuff. I think we also see how sort of in awe…he’s like…Jon has a really good mix of…he’s brave, he’s standing up to Jaimie, but he’s also sort of in awe of him. Right? And this does a good job of selling the legend of Jaimie Lannister, the…you know, the greatest swordsman in Westeros. Which is a big part of his character that we get in the books, and it’s doing it through a lot of just, you know, showing not telling. In the way that they interact with each other.
James: And I love that Jaimie and Ned, where they kind of talk about…they’re kind of talking shit to each other, too.
James: And they’re talking about a proper swordfight and, like, “Fight me in combat.” I would love to see this fight in a legitimate way. But we’re robbed of that.
Luke: Okay, so who wins? Who wins in a straight-up swordfight between Jaimie Lannister and Ned. At this point in the book, if they were to have a throwdown, have a swordfight, who wins?
James: Who do I want to win, or who actually wins?
Luke: Who actually wins?
James: It’s so tough. Who knows how much of Jaimie’s legend is just that? And, like, Ned has the experience to where maybe he could…he could hold his own. But then we see, later, you know, the Tower of…Tower of Joy, right?
James: The battle that we think he wins. Supposedly he tells Bran he won that battle, but he had to get some backup to run at the last second. So, I’m going to give the edge to Jaimie because he’s supposed to be the best swordsman in the land, so…
Luke: Yeah. I agree. I think the books do a really good job at selling just how talented Jaimie is with a sword. I don’t necessarily think in an all-out war, you know, that he would necessarily win against Ned, you know…you know, everything being kind of like in chaos, because I think Ned is clever, I think he’s a great warrior. But yeah, if it’s a straight-up melee between these two, one-on-one, I gotta give the edge to Jaimie for sure.
James: Yeah. And what sucks is that George R. R. Martin robs us of that in, like, a later scene. It seems like Jaimie…oh, sorry, not a later scene, a later episode. Actually later in the book as well. Where they both draw steel on each other, and then one of the Lannisters runs up and stabs Ned in the back of the leg.
Luke: So, that is a great example of one of the things that I love about Martin. He sort of deconstructs a lot of these expectations and turns things on their head. We expect…like, that sets up like, “Oh, we’re going to get a big fight between Jaimie and Ned,” is what you would be forgiven for thinking here. But we don’t get that. And we are often robbed of the expected outcome and presented with an alternative one. And then we have to deal with how do we handle that. And I love that about Martin, and I wish the showrunners would keep more in line with that vision of this fantasy world. Because, I do feel like, in these later seasons…
James: It’s gotten pretty happy?
Luke: It’s gotten pretty far away. We’re getting a lot more of the expected outcomes. We’re getting a lot more of just kind of filling in the blanks and…with the expected answers.
James: Yeah. But, in order to subvert expectations, you have to also have good things happen. You know, it’s like, had Jon Snow lost the Battle of the Bastards, people would be like, “Okay, well at this point it’s like everything bad is going to happen.” And the expectations are set, so you have to subvert them by something good happening. So, I don’t know, I think the ending of the show is ultimately going to determine how people feel about the show subverting expectations. But I think, clearly, George R. R. Martin does a better job at planning them out and executing.
Luke: Yeah. And it’s not that he doesn’t ever…because, I mean, he does. If you look at some of the things that happen with Dany…there are occasions where the thing you want to happen does happen, and you can just cheer for it. But it feels like those are few and far between, and much more often you get a complete inversion of the thing you wanted to happen actually happening. And often that makes for just interesting storytelling. But, yeah, we’re getting into the weeds here talking a little bit about future seasons and such, but I just wanted to get that in while we’re talking Game of Thrones, you know. That’s kind of my view of it.
James: Yeah. In this second episode, another couple of characters that I do want to talk about were just Jon and Tyrion traveling together, and these are two of my favorite characters. I’m assuming they’re two of your favorite characters, as well.
James: And just having the weight of Tyrion and just kind of the underdog nature of Jon and knowing kind of how important he is, and where he’ll go. I love seeing them together. And then it makes their reuniting much, much later very satisfying. Just knowing that they have this built-in relationship.
Luke: Well, and I love the patience they have with Jon Snow as a character. Because he is naïve here. He has no idea what he’s getting into. And they had to know the journey of this character was going to be really a huge arc, right, and it’s going to be one of…Jon Snow is very much a coming-of-age tale. You know, set into the world of Game of Thrones. But it very much is. And it’s a boy becoming a man. It’s him learning the ways of the world and losing his naivete, and all that stuff. And early on here, we see a lot of him being sort of an idealist and being ignorant of the way the world is, and we see Tyrion giving him some really valuable lessons. I did note that we didn’t get the ghost jumping on Tyrion and, like, biting him a little bit. The scenes that we get in the book. That doesn’t happen. I assume budgetary reasons. It just like maybe would have been too much. You know, I think that scene was fine without it.
James: So, something I didn’t realize until Season 2 or 3 when I was watching through the show for the first time was just the idea that…it’s A Song of Ice and Fire. Clearly, Dany is the fire, but I early on assumed that the White Walkers were the ice. But it’s Jon that’s the ice in my opinion. And I think that…
Luke: Could be.
James: I think that the importance of Jon is there from the beginning if you’re looking for it, and his character is…I think that he’s got the most traditional hero’s journey kind of thing going on. And that’s why I think he’s like an endearing character that a lot of people relate to and like. And, yeah, just having Tyrion as this wise sage in this moment that’s gone through some shit is great. Like I said, it’s fun to see their built-in relationship for later.
Luke: Yeah. There’s a lot of interpretations of the ice and fire thing, and you could say that Jon is ice and fire in himself, because he’s a Targaryen.
James: That’s true.
Luke: Huge spoiler! He’s a Targaryen and a Stark. Yeah, we said spoilers early on in this episode, right? So, hopefully I didn’t just spoil the show for somebody. Um, and so that could be it. You could look at the dragons and the White Walkers. I think that’s kind of a surface-level reading. You can look at Dany and Jon. There’s a lot of places you could look to for this whole ice and fire stuff, but…
James: Speaking of Dany and fire, how did you feel about her, like, walking into that hot spa and having the handmaid behind her, like, “If the water’s too hot…” and she just kind of sits in it.
James: I know that was partially from the book.
Luke: This is a famous difference in the book and the show, in that Martin has said that her surviving the fire at the end of Season 1, at the end of Book 1…
James: It was a one-off, right?
Luke: And having the dragons was a one-off event, a magical event.
James: But I will say that, in the book, there was something to be said about Dany saying that she liked the water really hot. Like, I remember reading that this most recent…Like, I like the water really hot because…
Luke: I could say that, too. It doesn’t mean I’m a Targaryen magic person.
James: Yeah. Doesn’t it, though?
Luke: Yeah. But I think it is interesting to…because the implication of the show, shown repeatedly, is that Dany is immune to fire. Which is kind of a hax superpower. It’s been talked about in other places, but have you ever thought about the idea that she could just, like, walk into a building and, you know, burn it to the ground with her dragons and be fine. Like, that’s a pretty hax, like, ability, right? Like, she could do anything and just walk through the fire herself.
James: The whole thing with the Dothraki much later. She does that. She just tips over fire…
James: …and she survives it again. Which, that was the famous time that George R. R. came out, and he was like, “Yeah, that’s not going to happen in the book.”
Luke: Yeah. Not going to happen in the book. So, it’s interesting. Is it too hax a power? I don’t know. It’s probably fine because they’re probably not going to abuse it in the way that you could maybe abuse it in real life. But, yeah.
James: So, you saw that trailer, right? The new trailer?
Luke: I did see the new trailer.
James: There’s a lot of stuff to talk about in there, but Jon’s definitely jumping on Rhaegal a hundred percent.
Luke: You think?
Luke: Yeah. It seems likely.
James: So, something that I drew from it, and I saw a line, was that…Rhaegar’s his father, right? And Rhaegal is the dragon he’ll be riding, so…
Luke: Yeah. Oh, yeah, that’s a good point. I didn’t think about that. I like it. Man, maybe we could talk about the trailer more in the bonus episode this month or something.
James: Yeah. I’d like to. That would be awesome. So, how about this conflict that goes on with Joffrey and Arya and Sansa and the butcher’s boy. How do you think it plays in the show versus the book?
Luke: I mean, we see Joffrey trying to kill Arya in the show. I totally believe that is the implication of the scene in the book. I mean, we see some swings that clearly are meant to injure and/or kill coming from Joffrey. We see him calling her, I think, more vicious names. It is a scene that makes Joffrey look really fucking bad, and that’s good. Because I think that is right for the character. So, I like…it’s sort of remixed, but essentially the same.
Luke: And I remember cheering…like, I cheered for Nymeria. I had just cheered for Summer. Like, how cool was that moment with Summer attacking and then jumping up on the bed. I was just like, “Oh, good boy.”
James: It hurts my heart so bad knowing, in the show, how Summer goes down.
James: It just does not feel like he got his due.
Luke: I really hope that it’s different in the book, or if it is the same, at least it’s given more weight. Because I did feel like it was kind of a throwaway thing.
James: That was Hodor’s moment in the show. Then it was Summer was just a casualty. It was a huge bummer.
Luke: Which, he deserves…he deserves more than that.
James: Especially his connection to Bran. That’s a death on its own that should have been…
Luke: Well, it’s a much bigger thing in the book. We see a lot more of Bran warping into Summer just like all the time in the book. Like, he’s spending a lot of time together as…as Summer, basically. And I don’t remember that being as big a thing in the show. But yeah, once again we’re getting into the weeds. So, the biggest thing that stood out for me is the following scene, where Ned has to, like, push his way up to stand in front of Robert, and Arya’s being reprimanded. And that’s all right out of the book. The only difference being Renly is not there yet, maybe. I do like…
James: Shoving. Ned shoving guys out of the way, too.
James: Something about that really made that scene for me.
Luke: I love that, too. Yeah. But something that stood out to me, and this is true in the book, too…but in the show I really kind of landed on it. Robert is pretty cowardly here, in my opinion, when he refuses to order the death himself. Right? Because he’s getting ready to walk away, and Ned says, “Is this your order? Is this what you want?” And Robert just looks at him and then storms out.
James: Well, and then in Ned’s eyes, it’s like he doesn’t pass the sentence and doesn’t swing the sword?
Luke: Yeah. Exactly. That’s an inversion of the values of the northern way…you know what I mean? It’s him distancing himself from the death he’s just ordered. You’re right. And I think that is all there, and it’s kind of damning for Robert. And it shows that he has changed. But the other thing I think it also shows is the hold the Lannisters have on him, and what sort of like politics has done to him. And I think Robert is aware of it, right? And maybe a little bit ashamed of it, I don’t know. But then there’s a little bit of, like, “I’m the king, not you, so you’re not going to force me to say something I don’t want to say.”
James: Yeah. He wants to have the easy life at this point. He’s like, “I can have this easy life, so I’m just going to have it until I die.” Like he says multiple times, he just wants to drink and whore his way to an early death. That’s literally what he’s doing.
Luke: Yeah. But, anyway, that was…I was in fiction, I was frustrated with Robert and disappointed with him, really, for not standing up to Cersei here. So, the other big change is we don’t get the moment that I thought hit hardest for me in the book, and that’s Ned having four of his men take the body of Lady to the north, and the whole, like, “The Lannister woman won’t get this pelt” and all that stuff. You don’t get any of that in the show.
James: I did miss that line.
Luke: Yeah, it was a moment that I really…really made me like Ned. And I thought it was a really…it showed, like, the content of his character in a way. I guess. That I really enjoy. That I think is a little bit lacking. Now, we like Ned in the show, too. Obviously, they’re able to do a lot of it without that little bit, but yeah, it’s just one of those things that, as a book reader, that I really loved that part, and I was missing it a little bit in the show.
James: Yeah. I mean, it just adds that little nuance bit to his character, and yeah, I love that.
Luke: They also invert the scenes between the death of Lady and The Hound, showing that he’s run down the butcher’s boy. And that, I think, also highlights the difference…I think there is already a difference between Sandor Clegane in the show and Sandor Clegane in the books. And I think that does carry through.
James: He seems in the show…he just seems more run-down. As opposed to, in the book, he seems like a crazy person.
Luke: Yeah, and I think he’s more likable in the show.
Luke: I think they do a lot to make him a little bit more likable in the show. Now, he still does some terrible things, but…yeah, Sandor Clegane in the books…I don’t know, there’s just a subtle difference in that personality that makes him seem a lot more dangerous, and yeah, maybe less…less likable.
James: Yeah. And there’s a couple…so there’s a couple foreshadowing moments that, in hindsight, are very evident. When The Hound first comes into town, and he has The Hound helmet on, and he’s riding in, the reaction shot they cut to is Arya. Which I found to be…just kind of this moment of foreshadowing that they must have seen, have known was coming. I’m pretty sure they were up to that point in the book when they were filming the first episode.
Luke: Yeah. That’s true.
James: And then another one is just blatantly obvious if you knew where the show was going, but just Dany’s fascination with her dragon eggs. When she’s given the dragon eggs. And how much she lingers over them and how much the fire is around them. Even during that rape scene, she looks at them and smiles. Which, again, super fucked-up.
Luke: Did she smile?
James: She, like, slightly…yeah. She was basically crying and super-sad, and she looks over at the dragon eggs and smiles a little bit.
Luke: Yeah. That’s interesting. What are they trying to say there? I don’t know. Yeah, you’re right. I do think there are signs throughout this, where it’s like they know more of what’s coming. So, they’re doing a lot of groundwork and sort of foreshadowing and linking things symbolically. There’s a lot of those little things in here, for sure. One of the things that I really liked was the…when Lady dies, we get a cut to…
Luke: Well, even when Lady is being threatened, we see Summer reacting and, like, whining and stuff on the bed. Right? So, there’s a really good supernatural connection being established there. Which just highlights the tragedy.
James: Between all the dogs as well, which…all the wolves. I really enjoyed it.
Luke: Yeah, that’s something we get, like, later in Book 1, I think, but it’s doing a good job here of introducing it early.
James: Mmhmm. So, just from a production standpoint, I wanted to talk about one scene that I thought was a little on-the-nose, but what it did was effective, and I did like. There’s the moment when the Maister and Catelyn are basically telling Ned to go south or not to go south. You know, to become the Hand of the king.
Luke: Oh, they’re on either side of his shoulders.
James: It’s like framed up like that. I mean, it’s kind of a cliché shot. It’s angel on the shoulder-type thing. But it works, and I think it’s effective. And what I did like is, like, as Catelyn’s argument was waning, they go to the Maister and like, with the shot, tell you what his decision is rather than him saying, “Okay, I’ll be the Hand.” And then we kind of just get the character with the next dialogue scene saying, like, “Going south is going to be difficult,” and all this stuff. We kind of get his…his decision is made off-screen, even though we get it from a camera movement, which I just kind of thought was fun and clever.
Luke: It was clever, and I liked that framing. You’re right. So, what, for you, because we talked about the scene, of Lady’s execution…did it hit you as hard on the show or in the book. What was the more emotional scene for you?
James: So, there’s something to be said for something happening in live action and actually getting the sound effect of a dog in pain, but ultimately…that was tough. Like it was definitely not easy, but the…like, the build-up and Ned’s honorable line about how Cersei’s never going to have the pelt and all of that, I like the book more for that scene.
Luke: Yeah, me too. And I don’t know, there might be a little of the sort of thing, that’s the thing that I just experienced. You know what I mean? Like, I experienced it after not for a while. So in that sense, it was more fresh at the time. And now it’s like re-living it. Something I had just read about last week. So, that might have an effect. But, yeah, I agree, I think the book did it better, and I think the one thing the show has going for it is seeing how cute that…they really made that direwolf look cute. I think there’s like a pink ribbon hanging on him. Like, Lady has a pink ribbon and stuff. You know, she seems so innocent, and they really highlight that in the show. Which is definitely sad. But I do like…the heart of it is that Ned does it himself, and I think that is the important thing…the really important thing from that scene. That it is a thing he does not want to have done, yet he says, if it’s going to happen, I’m going to do it myself. He’s not going to let Ser Ilyn Payne do it.
Luke: So, that is directly tied to that whole northern way, like you said. So, it kind of bookends these two episodes in a nice way, which I do like. And I know we’ve pointed out our problems with it and gripes and things that, you know, over time have changed, but I do love this show. And I love that this adaptation’s happened. I think it does wonders for the fantasy genre in legitimizing it in the eyes of the public and making it seem like valid adult serious storytelling. Not just seem, but shows off that it is. And I think this show has also, through a lot of its own mistakes, done a good job of highlighting a lot of issues. There’s a lot of articles I’ve read about, like, the male gaze and stuff that came out in response to Game of Thrones. So, I think in a lot of ways, maybe not on purpose, but it has served as an important piece of culture and has brought up a lot of interesting topics, and it has taught me a lot. And then, yeah, I do genuinely enjoy the show, even though I’m always that book-first purist. I do enjoy it, and I hope that I have come off at least somewhat as this is a positive thing that I do enjoy, not just complete negative. Which I worry, I may have sounded like.
James: Yeah. Like, I’ve said before, I think it’s my favorite show, and it’s the scale and the epic nature of it, and the genre that it’s in. It’s so much fun, and yeah, it has issues, and I think most things do have issues. And this one…there clearly is no excusing some of the stuff that goes on, but like you said, I think they have taken strides to get better as time has gone on, and I think it will be remembered really fondly for a long time, and I’m so happy to be diving into more of it in the coming weeks, leading up to the final season.
Luke: Yeah. And the effect that it has on the industry and the shows that we’re going to get based on…you know what I mean? Because there’s going to be an appetite for this sort of thing now, that I think we’re already seeing the effects of it. And I’m just…I don’t think, you know…
James: I mean, this show brought about a huge…like, this show in addition to a few others brought about really the renaissance of TV and the golden age that we live in, and the quality and production value that every show is bringing nowadays, so… This was one of those flagbearers coming in and making really great TV accessible for everybody.
Luke: Yeah, and I think it demonstrated that, really, genre…very heavy genre stuff can have a wide appeal and can do well on TV, and not just in feature films. And that it can be something that the larger culture and population enjoys, and it’s not just for the niche Comic-Con crowd, you know. Which has become itself a large part of our culture, obviously. But I think Game of Thrones is a big part of that. And I don’t want to undersell that.
James: Well, I think that’s a great place to leave it. We are going to be covering the next four episodes in the show and all the chapters that encompass all that, as well, so be looking out for that. If you are reading along, definitely check out those chapters.
Luke: Yeah, I mean I’m really excited this is still…this is like the project I’ve been looking forward to for a long time, so I’m so excited for that. But yeah, I wanted to thank Mary Boland-Doyle for being a Patreon supporter of us. If you want to learn how to become one yourself, go to Patreon.com/InkToFilm, and you can see all the things we’re offering for our patrons.
James: Also, if you want to connect with us on social media, we’re on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. All of those @InkToFilm. And check out our Facebook group Council of Inklings. We post polls and any kind of adaptation news we see coming up in there.
Luke: Absolutely. And I mentioned earlier, but make sure to subscribe. That is, like, the most important metric, apparently, for our rankings in the charts and stuff. I just saw today that we’ve ranked as high as 26, or…no, 19 on Stitcher, apparently. In their Arts and Entertainment section, so that’s cool to know. But apparently those rankings are all based on subscriber numbers. So, make sure to subscribe. That helps us out a ton. Beyond that, leaving a rating and review on whatever you listen to is super-helpful and always helps get the word out.
James: We wanted to thank Jennifer Della’Zanna for providing our transcripts, and thank you to Rameses B for the use of our intro and outro music.
Luke: All right, man. I’m looking forward to it. And until next time…
James: Thanks for listening! <music plays>