Spoilers for all of Game of Thrones follow, but its been 2 years so…that’s on you.
I used to be the biggest Game of Thrones fanatic possible, watching every episode several times a year and if the topic ever came up in conversation you would never be able to shut me up about it. I wasn’t into it from the beginning mind, and started reading the books while season four was airing, and due to my slow reading pace I didn’t start watching season one until season five was close to being on our screens. I caught up very quickly (a perk of being unemployed at the time), and I even went as far as to read the World of Ice and Fire book when that released, which is essentially a factual textbook based entirely on a fictional world.
I haven’t watched Game of Thrones since the finale aired in 2019, but upon returning to it when I recently picked up the 4K boxset I’ve found myself just as enamoured by the show as I used to be. This week I want to talk about the five reasons why I think the first season is possibly the best of them, and let’s jump right in with the point I feel is the most indisputable.
The Shocking Twists
The close of the very first episode where Bran is pushed from the tower by Jaime Lannister, my favourite character (not just for this) immediately cemented himself as an irredeemable villain in the eyes of viewers. Dramatic plot twists mean no character is safe in Game of Thrones, and nobody could have seen coming that both King Robert Baratheon AND clear protagonist Eddard Stark would meet their demise within the very first season.
This habit of allowing the audience to feel their favourites are safe, only for them to be suddenly torn away from us in a moment, is exactly why Game of Thrones built the fanbase it did, gaining traction with each further season as the deaths of characters started making global news headlines as the show progressed. I’ll never forgive or forget that Jon Snow’s death in season five was spoiled for me by a Goddamn news article.
This is a sort of double entry as not only do I want to highlight Jason Momoa’s incredible portrayal of the Dothraki warlord Khal Drogo, I think it’s also necessary to thank him for his creative manner of killing the biggest irritation in the first season, Viserys Targaryen.
From Drogo’s, putting it charitably, less than gracious treatment of Daenerys in the first two episodes following their wedding, their evolution into one of Game of Thrones’ best power couples became clearer with every subsequent episode. From violently dispatching his own bloodrider who insulted Daenerys after the midpoint of the season, the great Khal’s fate became set very quickly after a wound festered and the fatigue caused him to fall from his horse.
Drogo’s speech / rant after Daenerys survives the poisoned wine assassin sent by King Robert, where he promises to give her the Iron Throne, is one of Momoa’s best performances to date in my opinion and is why, even though he didn’t make it out of the first season, he will always be one of the most terrifying Game of Thrones characters.
Ned and Robert’s Friendship
Close friends from childhood, their very first interaction on screen in the opening episode immediately shows audiences how loyal Ned and Robert are to one another. While Robert has used the power afforded to him by the Iron Throne and the Lannister family funding him to become addicted to drinking and whoring, Ned has settled into life as a family man at Winterfell as Warden of the North surrounded by the cold rolling hills of the northern kingdom.
After Robert asks Ned to serve as his Hand of the King, with Ned reluctantly accepting, the chain of events which would change Westeros forever is set into motion. Despite disagreements which test their lifelong friendship, when Robert is killed in a hunting expedition, Ned tries his best to honour his friend’s memory. That is, until the scheming machinations of the others on Robert’s small council come to fruition, but that’s a story for another article.
‘When you play the Game of Thrones’ quote
The famous line of dialogue delivered by eventual front-runner antagonist, Cersei Lannister, to Ned Stark when he threatens to bring the secret of the identify of her children’s real father to their supposed father, King Robert. Confronted with the reality that the Hand of the King will inform Robert his children are not in actual fact his, Cersei coolly stares down Ned and uses the iconic line ‘When you play the Game of Thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground’. Cue chills and the immediate sense of foreboding that something bad is going to happen, which with this being Game of Thrones, it inevitably does..
Everything Tyrion Says
It’s not until you’re watching back through Game of Thrones that you realise the Lannisters seem to get more combined screen time than the Starks do, and for good reason, because they’re usually the funniest and most interesting people in any situation. In season one alone, Tyrion Lannister visits Winterfell, the Wall, the Eyrie, the Riverlands and the Battle of the Green Fork. Almost always seen drinking or in the company of unsavoury individuals, Tyrion can always be relied upon to inject some humour or clever wit into any situation. Just take his response to being asked what the strangest thing he’s ever eaten is when speaking with Yoren and Castle Black.
A frequent prediction to be the next ‘big death’, particularly in later seasons, Tyrion proved himself very early on to be a fan favourite, and his scenes are often the highlight of an episode. In particular, despite not participating in it directly, his trial by combat in the Eyrie is potentially the best sword duel in the entire season.
Thanks for reading why Game of Thrones season one is the best season. I stand by all of these points and cannot be convinced otherwise, not until I’ve at least watched season two which I am off to do now, so will speak to you again next week!