On the series premiere of Game of Thrones, we saw the Starks, and their home of Winterfell invaded by an old friend and the King looking for a new Hand. We also met the Lannisters, who lack an understanding of moral fortitude, even amongst themselves.
We were introduced to the siblings Viserys and Daenerys, as the former plotted to take over the throne, stolen from his father 17 years earlier. There were a multitude of characters, houses, and lands thrown at us in the first hour, which might have made it confusing to follow.
But thank you, HBO, for providing for us a viewers guide that can help make sense of all we encountered.
Game of Thrones is perfectly cast and carries a high production value. Each episode is like watching a movie, full of color, light, and a deluge of scenes to stimulate the senses. So much of what gets conveyed gets done with a gesture or a look. To remove your eyes from the screen for one second could leave you in the dark for the next 15 minutes as you try to catch what was said without words.
"Winter is Coming" opened with men from the Night's Watch on the Wall as they encountered the mystical Wildlings. Although the Wall is an integral position acting as protection from the land of Westeros, it has also become somewhat of a joke.
It has become the place where those who don't fit in the world go to protect those inside the wall from what is outside. Time has melted the fears of those not familiar with what lies beyond the wall, and the possibilities have become more akin to fairy tales than reality. When they say Winter is Coming, it holds connotations for what lies behind the wall. Have the people of Westeros literally let their guard down?
The oath of the wall is sacred, and the punishment of breaking it is death. Our Lord Stark is responsible for the Wall and for what happens to those who break the oath they have taken. His children learned a lesson about that responsibility when Eddard took the life of a deserter. To Eddard Stark, punishment you inflict, you must be willing to carry out yourself. Such is the integrity of the Starks.
The Stark moral code is in complete juxtaposition to the offer he received from King Robert to be the next Hand of King. The title itself requires that the Hand carry out the King's wishes, the direct opposite of how Ned has chosen to live his life and teach his children.
I fear this journey as the Hand of the King will require more of Ned than he is ready to give. While the King is his lifelong friend, there is no love lost between the Starks and the Lannisters, and it's unfortunate that the Lannisters are more present at the side of the King that any of his own family.
The Lannisters were a pretty family, but short on distinction. It was noticeable on young Prince Joffrey, who never spoke a word, but held a look on his face that had me seething with dislike. Sansa was caught up in the idea of a handsome lad that will enable her to one day be queen. I dare say she doesn't even know what that means at the age of 13. Cersei, the Queen, can give the impression of a kind, high bred noblewoman, but we learned her secret, one that threatens the entire dynasty.
The Targaryen siblings are somewhat frightening. Viserys seemed a little off in the head, and it doesn't seem as if his future will be what he believes, even though he has sold his sister to the Dothraki in the hopes of regaining the crown. The Gods help them all if that 'man' ever makes it to the Throne.
Daenerys seemed to be everything her brother is not, loving, kind, and regal. To walk into a marriage with a native people such as the Dothraki must have been (as her tears verified) daunting. Something tells me she will remain strong. Viserys may say she slouches, but to me, her head is held high.
In one episode, the ways of the Starks and Lannisters were forged, and we learned a lot about who we can and cannot trust in the two main houses.
In the end, the episode offered scarcely more than the 15-minute preview HBO showed last weekend, practically teasing all that is to come with the mere hint of what will be. As each character graces the screen, we are viewing the world through their eyes, giving us many different perspectives to learn about Westeros, The Seven Kingdoms, and the free city of Pentos.
Did they hook you with this method of storytelling? What characters stood out for you and left you yearning for more? Discuss below!
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.