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"Winter is Coming"
Season 1, Episode 1
Air date April 17, 2011
Written by David Benioff
D.B Weiss
Directed by Tim Van Patten
Episode Guide
"The Kingsroad"
"Winter is Coming" is the first episode of the HBO medieval fantasy series Game of Thrones. Running 63 minutes, it premiered on April 17, 2011 on HBO.

It was written by the show creators David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, in a faithful adaptation of the first chapters of George R. R. Martin's book A Game of Thrones. The episode was directed by Tim Van Patten, redoing the work done by director Thomas McCarthy in an unaired pilot.

As the first episode of the series, it introduces the setting and the main characters of the show. The episode centers on the Stark family, and how its lord, Eddard Stark, gets involved in the court politics after the king chooses Eddard to replace his recently deceased chief administrator ("Hand of the King"). The episode received largely positive reviews, and was seen initially by 2.2 million viewers. A week before the episode first aired, HBO made the first 15 minutes available as an Internet preview.

Plot Edit

This pilot episode begins the process of interweaving action happening in multiple separate locations within and around the fictional continent of Westeros. Most of the action takes place in and around Winterfell where Lord Eddard Stark (Sean Bean) is the feudal overlord of the northern reaches of the kingdom. Outside of Westeros is a land across the Narrow Sea where the two surviving members of House Targaryen, previous rulers of Westeros, live in exile.

Beyond the WallEdit

The episode opens with three rangers of the Night's Watch scouting beyond the Wall, a massive barrier of ice at the north end of the kingdom. After finding the mutilated corpses of some wildlings, tribal humans who live north of the Wall, the rangers are surprised by supernatural creatures and the undead wildlings. Two of the rangers are killed by the monsters, while the third, Will (Bronson Webb) is for some reason left alive.

At King's LandingEdit

n King’s Landing, Queen Cersei (Lena Headey), and her twin brother, Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), are watching as the dead body of Jon Arryn, The Hand of the King is tended to by the Silent Sisters. They discuss whether or not he revealed any dangerous information to anyone before his death.

In the NorthEdit

After the opening sequence, the Starks of Winterfell are introduced, including Lord Eddard "Ned" Stark, his wife, Lady Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley) and his five children: their heir Robb (Richard Madden), their elder daughter Sansa (Sophie Turner), younger daughter Arya (Maisie Williams), ten-year-old son Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) and youngest son, Rickon (Art Parkinson). Also introduced is Ned's illegitimate son Jon Snow (Kit Harington), who, like Robb, is an older teenager.

Ned is informed that a deserter of the Night's Watch, the young ranger Will from the prologue, has been captured. Members of the Night's Watch are sworn never to desert their posts, upon penalty of death. Ned takes his sons Robb, Jon and Bran to witness the execution of the deserter Will. Will faces death bravely, admitting that he deserted the Wall after being attacked, but stands by his statement that he saw White Walkers. Ned himself passes sentence and beheads him. He tells his young son Bran that he who passes sentence "should swing the sword." When Bran asks his father about the ranger's talk of White Walkers (the demonic creatures that ambushed the rangers), Ned dismisses it as a madman's ravings, insisting that the Walkers have been considered extinct for a thousand years.

Upon their return, the Starks find a dead direwolf and her surviving pups. Noting that the direwolf is the sigil (seal) of the Stark family and there are as many pups as the Stark children (even an albino runt for Jon), they take the pups in as companions.

Back at Winterfell, Catelyn informs her husband of a letter announcing the death of Lord Arryn, Eddard's old mentor. The message also reports that the king himself is coming to Winterfell. Winterfell receives the royal court, including King Robert Baratheon (Mark Addy), his wife Queen Cersei, their three children; the heir Prince Joffrey (Jack Gleeson), Princess Myrcella (Aimee Richardson) and the youngest Prince Tommen (Callum Wharry), as well as Cersei's brother, Jaime Lannister, a member of the Kingsguard, and their younger brother, Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage), a dwarf known as "The Imp". As Robert pays his respects to Lyanna Stark, his late fiancée and Ned's sister, Robert confides to his old friend that he doesn't trust anyone around him. He decides to name Ned as the new Hand of the King, and to solidify the alliance between the two families, he suggests that Ned's daughter, Sansa, be betrothed to his son, Joffrey.

At night, Catelyn receives a troubling message from her sister, Lord Arryn's widow. She suspects her husband Jon was murdered by the king's in-laws, the powerful Lannisters. Ned, who at first was reluctant to accept the position of Hand of the King, does so in order to protect his old friend. Bran, who enjoys climbing on the walls of Winterfell, climbs an abandoned tower where he stumbles on Queen Cersei and her brother Jaime having sex. In order to keep the incestuous relationship a secret, Jaime shoves Bran out of the high window.

Across the Narrow SeaEdit

Exiled prince Viserys Targaryen (Harry Lloyd) plots to overthrow King Robert and reclaim his father's throne. To this end, he brokers a marriage between his sister Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) and a powerful warlord Khal Drogo (Jason Momoa), leader of a nomadic horde of Dothraki.

Daenerys voices her fear of the barbarian lord, but her brother tells her to marry him. During the wedding ceremony, Daenerys is given two wedding gifts. The first is a collection of books from the Seven Kingdoms, given by Ser Jorah Mormont, an exiled knight loyal to the Targaryens. The second gift is a chest containing three petrified dragon eggs, given by Magister Illyrio Mopatis, the man who helped arrange the marriage.


The original pilotEdit

The series began development in January 2007. HBO, after acquiring the rights to the novels with the intent of turning them into an international cable television series, hired David Benioff and D. B. Weiss to write and executive produce the series, which would cover one novel's worth of material per season. The first and second drafts of the pilot script, written by Benioff and Weiss, were submitted in August 2007 and June 2008 respectively. While HBO found both drafts to their liking, a pilot was not ordered until November 2008.

Tom McCarthy was chosen to direct the pilot episode, that was shot between 24 October and 19 November 2009 on location in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Morocco. On September 2010 it was announced HBO's decision to greenlight the series. However, due to artistic and casting reasons, it was decided that the pilot would not serve as the first episode and a reshoot was in order.

Several actors appearing in the original pilot did not return for the series. Tamzin Merchant was replaced as Daenerys Targaryen by Emilia Clarke, and Jennifer Ehle was replaced as Catelyn Stark by Michelle Fairley. Additionally, Ian McNeice was replaced as Magister Illyrio by Roger Allam,[10] Richard Ridings as Gared by Dermot Keaney, and Jamie Campbell Bower as Ser Waymar Royce by Rob Ostlere.

Another difference is that the pilot featured scenes shot in Scotland (where Doune Castle was used to recreate Winterfell) and Morocco (reusing the sets of Kingdom of Heaven to stand in for Pentos, the site of Drogo and Daenerys' wedding).[8][13] In the series as aired, Winterfell was filmed in a combination of locations in Northern Ireland, while all the scenes from Pentos were re-shot in Malta.

The original pilot remained unaired and the first episode was filmed by new director Tim Van Patten, although some footage from the original pilot was used in the first aired episode. This includes Sansa's parts of her conversation with Cersei and Catelyn (played by another actress in the pilot), Will's ride through the woods (retained though also portrayed by a different actor) and Ned and Robert's scene in the crypt. That scene is one of a few to be filmed on 35 mm film, and consequently slight film grain can be seen in the HD version of the episode.


Scripted by the show creators David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, the first episode includes the plot of the book's chapters 1-7, 9 and 12 (Prologue, Bran I, Catelyn I, Daenerys I, Eddard I, Jon I, Catelyn II, Bran II, Daenerys II). Changes in the adaptation include the sequence of events in the prologue (in the books it is Gared and not Will who survives and is beheaded by Eddard afterwards), new scenes showing the Lannister twins' perspective, and Daenerys' wedding night showing Drogo not waiting for her to consent to sex.


The exterior scenes at Illyrio's mansion were shot at Verdala Palace, the 16th century summer palace of the president of Malta. At Winterfell, a car park stood in for the castle's courtyard and a wine cellar for the Stark family crypt.

In the scene in which the Starks encounter a stag killed by a direwolf as they return from the execution, an actual animal was used rather than a prop. As the stag had been dead for two days, it stank so much that the actors had to take much care not to let it show on their faces.