?When HBO debuted Game of Thrones last April, the network wasn’t sure if the series would achieve True Blood-sized success or John from Cincinnati-esque failure. Fortunately, the former was the case and each week the series’ attracted new viewers, most of whom never even cracked open the George R.R. Martin books on which it was based. Hooked by a program that mixed fantasy elements with plenty of sex, violence and political intrigue, audiences transformed Game of Thrones from a word-of-mouth sensation to a ratings success. In the process, they made catchphrases like “Winter is Coming” a part of the pop culture landscape while the show continued to pick up steam as the weeks progressed. The recent DVD and Blu-ray release of the first season has only brought more viewers into the fold… and increased anticipation for the next batch of episodes.
When the second season debuts on this Sunday, April 1st, it promises to explore even more of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros and their inhabitants, along with the visceral drama and action that has become Game of Thrones‘ calling card. In order to prepare you for the next songs of ice and fire that will be coming your way shortly, today’s Daily List takes a look back at what we think are the 10 most awesome moments from the show’s first season. Since awesomeness is subjective, please feel free to discuss your favorites in the comments. Because if there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that GoT had a lot of awesomeness in it.
10) Tyrion Confesses His Crimes
In a series so bleak that even the wolves are dire, any moments of humor are appreciated. Enter Tyrion. Most of the levity in Game of Thrones comes courtesy of Peter Dinklage’s lovable Lannister. His funniest bit of business to date occurred after he was wrongly arrested by Catelyn Stark for his involvement in the crippling of her son Bran. Gathered in front of the court of the Vale, he proceeds to tell the Lady Stark, her demented sister, creepy nephew and others who have gathered about his crimes…which add up to nothing more than some childish mischief and a serious masturbation habit. His overwrought “confession” doesn’t exactly get him off the hook, but it does succeed in bringing some much needed laughter to the program.
9) Khal’s Got Your Tongue
Does Mago come from the Realm of Bad Ideas? That’s the only reasonable explanation for why he thought calling his Khaleesi a “foreign whore” would be a good idea. Ever the gentleman, Khal Drogo defends his lady’s honor in an incredibly violent fight in which he removes Mago’s tongue… through his throat. Ouch. A ballet of barbarism, this sequence is another of the series’ frequent reminders of the consequences that come from messing with Daenerys. More on that topic later in this list.
8) Joffrey Gets Slapped
It would be easy to just populate this list entirely with awesome things that Tyrion did in the first season. So when Tyrion repeatedly slaps Prince Joffrey while teaching him the finer points of royal etiquette you can bet it is awesome indeed. As a viewer, each of these smacks is pure wish fulfillment given how the Joffrey character serves as a stand-in for every shitty rich kid you’ve ever had the misfortune of encountering. These slaps that were heard throughout Westeros resonated with audiences so much that they inspired remix videos that drag out the brutality ad nauseum:
That is glorious. Dinklage obviously shines here, but let’s not overlook Jack Gleeson either. His performance as the shittiest youth of privilege whose name isn’t Richie Rich gives Game of Thrones much of its menace. As for that sound Joffrey makes after getting struck? It would make the greatest ringtone ever.
7) Have a Heart
In one of the Dothraki’s more… colorful traditions, the pregnant Daenerys must eat an entire horse’s heart, and if she doesn’t vomit everywhere, her unborn son will be strong. Think of it like the world’s messiest baby shower. Watching the tiny, dainty Dany tear into a bloody heart that is nearly the size of her own head is equal parts crazy, disgusting and stupendous. According to the Game of Thrones DVD extras, the heart was made of gummi material, uncooked pasta for veins, and a lot of sugar syrup — and Emilia Clarke’s near-vomit drop at the end is totally real. The only who isn’t impressed by this feat is her brother Viserys, which leads directly to…
6) Viserys Gets His Crown
Who knew that Khal Drogo had such a flair for the theatrical? His dispatching of Viserys in the episode “A Golden Crown” plays out like an exceptionally demented Aesop Fable about the perils of greed. In a performance that is best described as restrained glee, Jason Mamoa finally swats the fly that has been buzzing around him since the series began by pouring boiling gold — and a decent amount of irony — over Viserys’ head. (Insert “meltdown” joke here). The only thing that could possibly make the scene any better would be if David Caruso turned up and declared that Viserys “always was a hot head” while a medieval version of “Won’t Get Fooled Again” played.
5) Jon Snow Meets the Walking Dead
As we saw in the very first scene of the series, there are supernatural things afoot in Westeros. So when Jon Snow had a run-in with an undead wight (Game of Thrones‘ resident zombies) it wasn’t completely unexpected. It was however a huge dose of holy fucking shit. Seriously, this scene came out of nowhere. If these mysterious beings were getting closer to the Wall, that means that action would have to be taken. Fortunately, the Night’s Watch is always on the case.
4) The Night’s Watch Assembles
“Are you a brother of the Night’s Watch or a bastard boy who wants to play at war?”
With that simple question, Lord Commander Mormont helps Jon Snow set aside his ambiguous feelings about duty and embrace his true destiny. His moment of clarity serves as a reminder that the men of the Night’s Watch are very much the quiet heroes of Game of Thrones‘ first season. These are characters who are fugitives and refugees who have taken an oath to protect the realm… regardless of the great personal cost. Following the attack on Jon Snow and Mormont by a wight, the decision is made to journey beyond the Wall to deal with the increasing threat posed by the White Walkers, the Wildings and “whatever else is out there.” In a rousing speech, Mormont puts things in perspective by stating that with the undead and other creatures existing in the world, the political struggle for the Iron Throne is ultimately pretty inconsequential. What they find beyond the Wall will provide much of the narrative thrust for the second season. Hopefully it’s not more creepy bald dead dudes. Those freak me out.
3) Tyrion Gets Busted
Catelyn Stark gets a chance to shine in the above scene that ends the episode “Cripples. Bastards and Broken Things.” While on the way back to Winterfell, she is staying incognito at an inn when Tyrion unexpectedly arrives and blows her cover. Utilizing quick thinking and making the most of the serendipitous event she has found herself thrust into, she calls on her father’s friends who are in attendance to seize Tyrion so that he can be placed on trial for the attempted murder of her son Bran. She’s entirely wrong about Tyrion, of course, but hey, it’s an amazing scene. Besides, if she didn’t make such a grandstanding speech here we wouldn’t have gotten to travel to the Vale and see the horror show that is the Lysa/Robin relationship. It’s called parental boundaries people. Sheesh.
2) The Dragon Age Begins
After miraculously surviving a fiery death, we witness Daenerys Targaryen emerging from the embers of Khal Drago’s funeral pyre. Naked, covered and ash but otherwise unharmed, it is revealed that this baptism of fire has resulted in Daenerys being reborn. And remember those dragon eggs she was carrying around all season? They hatched. Under the guidance of less skilled producers than D.B. Weiss (whose videogame-themed novel Lucky Wander Boy should be required reading for any self-respecting nerd) and David Benioff, the introduction of dragons could have been a shark-jumping affair. Not so here. Throughout the season, the pair subtly telegraphed the arrival of the dragons. So when the creatures finally made their debuts, the moment was one of elegance instead of goofiness. The season’s final image – Daenerys facing an uncertain future with a dragon perched on her shoulder – is unforgettable. Not having read the books as of yet, I don’t have a clue how this Dragon Queen storyline will play out. But man, I can’t wait to find out.
1) Ned Loses His Head
In the season’s penultimate episode “Baelor,” the Machiavellian saga of Ned Stark came to a, er, head when King Joffrey demanded that the Lord of Winterfell be executed for his crimes. This shocking turn of events came as a complete surprise to his inner circle as well as viewers who didn’t read A Game of Thrones. Which isn’t to say that audience members who knew about the plot twist couldn’t enjoy the drama as well. In fact, the anticipation of seeing Ned’s death unfurl only heightened the enjoyment of this episode for many. Not since Jack told Kate they had to return to the island has a scene so completely altered a show’s trajectory. The season finale showed us a Stark family gearing up for vengeance and war. It won’t be long now until we see what will surely be another blood-soaked chapter in the lives of all of these characters. Clich? though it may be to say, if the first season proved anything it’s that the real winners of the Game of Thrones are anyone who has the pleasure of being swept up by the show. So what do you say, see you Sunday at 9?
Chris Cummins is a pop culture writer and Archie comics historian who has contributed to The Robot's Voice, Den of Geek US, Philebrity, Geekadelphia, Uproxx, and Unicorn Booty. He is the co-producer and co-host of Nerd Nite Philadelphia, and is regularly involved in producing and hosting New York Super Week events. In 2014, Chris began Sci-Fi Explosion, a mix of live performance, trivia and funny clips celebrating the weirdest in science fiction that regularly travels around the United States. He wrote the introductions to the compilations Archie's Favorite Comics From The Vault and (with Paul Castiglia) Archie's Favorite High School Stories. You can find Chris on Twitter at @bionicbigfoot and @scifiexplosion.