Game of Thrones (season 1)

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Game of Thrones (season 1)
The box cover for the season 1 DVD set depicts Sean Bean as Eddard Stark sitting on the iron throne holding a sword and appearing pensive
Region 1 DVD artwork
Country of origin United States
No. of episodes 10
Original channel HBO
Original release April 17, 2011 (2011-04-17) – June 19, 2011 (2011-06-19)
Season chronology
Next →
Season 2
List of Game of Thrones episodes

The first season of the fantasy drama television series Game of Thrones premiered on HBO on April 17, 2011, and concluded on June 19, 2011, airing on Sunday at 9:00 pm in the United States. It consisted of 10 episodes, each running approximately 55 minutes in length. Game of Thrones is based on the novel A Game of Thrones, the first entry in the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin. The story takes place in a fictional world, primarily upon a continent called Westeros (and on another continent to the east known as Essos).[1] The noble House Stark, led by Lord Eddard "Ned" Stark (Sean Bean) is drawn into schemes against King Robert Baratheon when the Hand of the King Jon Arryn (Robert's chief advisor) dies mysteriously.


The cable television series closely follows the multiple story lines of the A Song of Ice and Fire novel series,[2] whose author, George R.R. Martin, said that the show's pilot script was very faithful to his work.[3] The series begins with Ned Stark (Sean Bean) being asked to be the chief advisor (known as the Hand of the King) to lecherous King Robert Baratheon (Mark Addy). Ned and his wife Catelyn (Michelle Fairley) receive a letter from Catelyn's sister, Lysa (Kate Dickie) that gives them reason to believe that rival House Lannister - to which the King's wife Cersei belongs - was the cause of the previous Hand's death. Ned must travel south to help the king and find out who killed the previous Hand of the King, Jon Arryn (John Standing), while trying to protect his family from the Lannisters. As he tries to uncover the reasons behind Jon Arryn's death he uncovers the dark secrets about the Lannisters that Arryn himself died trying to expose.

Meanwhile, across the Narrow Sea in the continent of Essos, the exiled, arrogant Viserys Targaryen (Harry Lloyd), son of the former king whose throne was usurped, believes he still has the rightful claim to the throne. He marries off his younger sister, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), whom he has psychologically and physically abused for years, to the leader of the Dothraki warrior tribe, Khal Drogo (Jason Momoa), in an exchange for an army to return to Westeros and take the throne. However, Daenerys' growing love for Drogo and newfound mental strength as the Khaleesi of the tribe mean Viserys' plans go unexpectedly and powerfully awry.

And at the wall, Ned's bastard son Jon Snow joins the Night's Watch, an ancient brotherhood sworn to watch over the massive Wall that separates the Seven Kingdoms from the dangerous unknown beyond. But an ancient force, long believed dead, threatens the land.


David Benioff and D.B. Weiss serve as main writers and showrunners for the first season. They contributed eight out of ten episodes, including co-writing one episode with Jane Espenson. The two remaining episodes were written by Bryan Cogman and A Song of Ice and Fire author George R.R. Martin.

Tom McCarthy directed the original pilot, but much of this was later re-shot by Tim Van Patten, who also directed the second episode. However, McCarthy is still credited as a consulting producer for the pilot. Brian Kirk and Daniel Minahan directed three episodes each, and Alan Taylor directed the final two.

Before Game of Thrones both Benioff and Weiss worked in film, and were unfamiliar with working on a television show. This resulted in several first-season episodes being about 10 minutes too short for HBO, forcing them to write another 100 pages of scripts in two weeks. Due to lack of budget the new scenes were designed to be inexpensive to film, such as two actors conversing in one room. Benioff and Weiss noted that some of their favorite scenes from the first season were the results of the dilemma, including one between Robert and Cersei Baratheon discussing their marriage.[4]


On May 5, 2009, it was announced that Peter Dinklage had been signed on to star as Tyrion Lannister in the pilot, and that Tom McCarthy was set to direct.[5] On July 19, 2009, a number of further casting decisions were announced, including Sean Bean being given the role of Ned Stark,[6] thus confirming a rumour first reported a couple of days before.[7] Other actors signed on for the pilot were Kit Harington in the role of Jon Snow, Jack Gleeson as Joffrey Baratheon, Harry Lloyd as Viserys Targaryen, and Mark Addy as Robert Baratheon.[6][8]

In the beginning of August 2009, it was revealed that Catelyn Stark would be portrayed by Jennifer Ehle.[9] On August 20, more casting announcements were made, including Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Jaime Lannister and Tamzin Merchant as Daenerys Targaryen, as well as Richard Madden in the role of Robb Stark, Iain Glen as Ser Jorah Mormont, Alfie Allen as Theon Greyjoy, Sophie Turner as Sansa Stark and Maisie Williams as Arya Stark.[10] On September 1 Lena Headey was announced as Cersei Lannister.[11] On September 23, Martin confirmed that Rory McCann had been cast as Sandor Clegane.[12] Isaac Hempstead-Wright was confirmed as Bran Stark on October 14, followed by an announcement of Jason Momoa as Khal Drogo three days later.[13]

After the pilot was shot and the series picked up, it was announced that the role of Catelyn had been recast, with Michelle Fairley replacing Ehle.[14] Later, it was also confirmed that Emilia Clarke would replace Tamzin Merchant as Daenerys.[15][16] The rest of the cast was filled out in the second half of the year, and included Charles Dance as Tywin Lannister, Aidan Gillen as Petyr 'Littlefinger' Baelish, and Conleth Hill as Varys.


Most scenes were shot in Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland border counties. Principal photography was scheduled to begin on July 26, 2010,[17] with the primary locations being the Paint Hall Studio in the Titanic Quarter of Belfast, Northern Ireland,[18] Among other exterior locations, Castle Ward and Doune Castle in central Scotland[19] served as the backdrop for Winterfell. For the initial shooting of the pilot in 2009,[13] additional filming locations included Cairncastle,[20] Shane's Castle,[21] Castle Ward,[22] Magheramorne Quarry,[23] and Tollymore Forest Park,[21] all in Northern Ireland. The show's presence in Northern Ireland and use of Paint Hall created hundreds of jobs for residents, and made the area "a hub for film and television production".[24]

The "King's Landing" exterior scenes were shot at various locations in Malta, including the city of Mdina and the island of Gozo.[25] The filming in Malta resulted in controversy when a protected ecosystem was damaged by a subcontractor.[26]


Sean Bean (Eddard Stark)
Mark Addy (Robert Baratheon)
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister)
Michelle Fairley (Catelyn Stark)
Aidan Gillen (Petyr Baelish)
Alfie Allen (Theon Greyjoy)
Kit Harington (Jon Snow)
Richard Madden (Robb Stark)

Main cast[edit]

Also Starring

Guest cast[edit]

The guest cast is listed in order of rank or social importance by the region of Westeros in which they appear.

At the Wall
In the North
In the South
At King's Landing
  • Callum Wharry as Tommen Baratheon (4 episodes)
  • Aimee Richardson as Myrcella Baratheon (4 episodes)
  • Gethin Anthony as Renly Baratheon (5 episodes)
  • Julian Glover as Pycelle (8 episodes)
  • Conleth Hill as Varys (7 episodes)
  • Ian McElhinney as Barristan Selmy (6 episodes)
  • Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant (2 episodes)
  • Wilko Johnson as Ilyn Payne (3 episodes)
  • Dominic Carter as Janos Slynt (3 episodes)
  • Eugene Simon as Lancel Lannister (4 episodes)
  • Miltos Yerolemou as Syrio Forel (3 episodes)
  • Joe Dempsie as Gendry (2 episodes)
  • Esmé Bianco as Ros (5 episodes)
  • Eros Vlahos as Lommy Greenhands (1 episode)
  • Ben Hawkey as Hot Pie (1 episode)
  • David Scott as Beric Dondarrion (1 episode)
Across the Narrow Sea


No. in
No. in
Title Directed by Written by Original air date U.S. viewers
1 1 "Winter Is Coming" Tim Van Patten David Benioff & D. B. Weiss April 17, 2011 (2011-04-17) 2.22[27]
Robert Baratheon, King of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, and his wife, Cersei Lannister, travel north to make his old friend Eddard "Ned" Stark – Warden of the North and Lord of the castle Winterfell – an offer he cannot refuse. Across the narrow sea in Essos, the exiled Prince Viserys Targaryen forges a new alliance to regain the Iron Throne; he will trade his sister Daenerys in marriage to the savage Dothraki warlord Khal Drogo in exchange for Drogo's army. Back in Winterfell, Ned's 10-year-old son Brandon discovers that Queen Cersei and her brother Jaime are involved in an incestuous relationship, a discovery for which he pays dearly.
2 2 "The Kingsroad" Tim Van Patten David Benioff & D. B. Weiss April 24, 2011 (2011-04-24) 2.20[28]
Brandon lies unconscious, his fate in doubt, while Catelyn tells her family that she believes his fall was an attempt on his life by the Lannisters. Having accepted his new role as the King's Hand (the King's closest confidant and prime minister), Ned leaves his home in Winterfell with his daughters Sansa and Arya, while Catelyn stays behind to tend to Brandon. Jon Snow, Ned's bastard son, heads north to join the brotherhood of the Night's Watch, protectors of the Wall that keeps the vicious White Walkers and the savage wildlings from entering civilized Westeros. Tyrion Lannister, a dwarf and the Queen's brother, decides to forego the trip south with his family, instead joining Jon's entourage heading to the Wall. Viserys bides his time in hopes of winning back the throne, while Daenerys focuses her attention on learning how to please her new husband, Drogo. When Prince Joffrey Baratheon threatens Arya Stark and her friend, one of her family's dire wolves defends her, provoking a conflict between the Starks and the Lannisters. Brandon awakens from unconsciousness.
3 3 "Lord Snow" Brian Kirk David Benioff & D. B. Weiss May 1, 2011 (2011-05-01) 2.44[29]
Ned joins the King's Small Council at King's Landing, capital of the Seven Kingdoms, and learns just how poorly Westeros is being managed. Catelyn decides to go covertly to the south to warn her husband, but is intercepted by an old friend, Councillor Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish. Brandon learns he will never walk again. He does not remember that Jaime Lannister pushed him out of a tower, saying instead that he fell. Jon struggles to adapt to life on the Wall, as he trains with a number of low-born recruits who are not impressed by his bloodline. Tyrion, also visiting the Wall, is beseeched by the Watch Commander Lord Mormont to plead the King and Queen to send more men to join the Night's Watch, for powerful enemies are massing beyond the Wall. Daenerys, now possessing no small measure of control as Drogo's "Khaleesi", begins to stand up to Viserys.
4 4 "Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things" Brian Kirk Bryan Cogman May 8, 2011 (2011-05-08) 2.45[30]
Tyrion reaches out to Bran with a way for the boy to reclaim his mobility. Ned searches for clues to the unexplained death of Jon Arryn (the former King's Hand), and in the process uncovers King Robert's illegitimate son. Robert and his guests witness a tournament honoring Ned. Jon takes measures to protect Samwell Tarly, an awkward and friendless boy, from the abuse of the Night's Watchmen; a frustrated Viserys clashes with his newly empowered sister; Sansa dreams of life as a queen, while Arya envisions a far different future. Catelyn rallies her father's allies and has Tyrion arrested for conspiring to murder her son.
5 5 "The Wolf and the Lion" Brian Kirk David Benioff & D. B. Weiss May 15, 2011 (2011-05-15) 2.58[31]
Ned refuses to participate in Robert's plan to assassinate the pregnant Daenerys Targaryen, and resigns as Robert's Hand as a result, much to Robert's anger. Catelyn and Tyrion (who she has taken as her prisoner) arrive at her sister Lysa's home in the Eyrie. News of Tyrion's capture reaches King's Landing where Jaime Lannister, the Queen's twin brother, demands answers from Ned. A vengeful Jaime fights Ned until his man stabs Ned in the leg from behind. Jaime then goes to the Eyrie to save his brother. Meanwhile, Viserys confronts his sister Daenerys when Viserys gets jealous over his sister's power over the Dothraki.
6 6 "A Golden Crown" Daniel Minahan Story by: David Benioff & D. B. Weiss
Teleplay by: Jane Espenson and David Benioff & D. B. Weiss
May 22, 2011 (2011-05-22) 2.44[32]
While practice riding a horse with his specially designed saddle, Bran is captured by a group of wildlings (humans who live north of the wall), but is rescued by Robb and Theon. Ned is left in guard of the Iron Throne while the King goes to hunt, and learns the secret left by Jon Arryn. Joffrey and Sansa reconcile. Angered by Drogo's disrespect and his failure to uphold his end of their bargain, Viserys threatens Daenerys, and in response, Drogo kills Viserys by pouring molten gold on his head.
7 7 "You Win or You Die" Daniel Minahan David Benioff & D. B. Weiss May 29, 2011 (2011-05-29) 2.40[33]
Ned confronts Queen Cersei over the truth of Jon Arryn's death. Robert, mortally wounded by a wild pig during his hunting, says Ned will rule as regent of the Iron Throne until his oldest son, Joffrey comes of age. Jon Snow takes the vows of the Night's Watch. Khal Drogo summons his army to invade Westeros after an assassin tries to poison Daenerys. Ned asks Baelish to secure the cooperation of the City Watch in removing the Lannisters from the throne revealing that Joffrey is not Robert's son but Jaime's, making Robert's younger brother, Stannis, the true heir. Ned brings Robert's declaration before Cersei, Joffrey, and the Small Council. However, Baelish and the City Watch reveal themselves loyal to the Lannisters, capture Ned and kill his men.
8 8 "The Pointy End" Daniel Minahan George R. R. Martin June 5, 2011 (2011-06-05) 2.72[34]
As the Lannisters press their advantage over the Starks, Ned's eldest son, Robb, rallies his family's allies to war. Sansa pleads with Joffrey to spare her father's life while Ned, still captive in the dungeons, finds an unexpected ally in Councillor Lord Varys. While Arya is able to run during her father's punishment, Sansa is left to ask King Joffrey for mercy over her father. Jon and the Night's Watch confront an ancient evil from beyond the Wall, while across the Narrow Sea, Drogo's army marches west towards the Seven Kingdoms.
9 9 "Baelor" Alan Taylor David Benioff & D. B. Weiss June 12, 2011 (2011-06-12) 2.66[35]
As the Stark and Lannister armies prepare for their first battle against one another, Tyrion leads his barbarian allies into battle while Robb and Catelyn bargain for a renegade Lord's help. With Drogo dying from an infected wound, Daenerys goes to desperate measures to save her husband's life by using a witch's blood magic, much to the horror of the Dothraki. At the Wall, Maester Aemon reveals himself to be a Targaryen – and the price of loyalty – to Jon, who worries about events outside of the Wall. In a final bid to save his daughters' lives, Ned falsely confesses to conspiracy and swears fealty to Joffrey as the rightful heir to the Iron Throne. To the horror of Ned's daughters – and delight of the assembled crowd – Joffrey has him executed.
10 10 "Fire and Blood" Alan Taylor David Benioff & D. B. Weiss June 19, 2011 (2011-06-19) 3.04[36]
The news of Ned's execution quickly spreads to all corners of the Seven Kingdoms, triggering seismic events for each member of the Stark family. The North secedes from the Seven Kingdoms and proclaims Robb as their king. With Jaime captured by the Starks and Robert's brothers challenging Joffrey's claim to the throne, Lord Tywin Lannister appoints his son Tyrion as King's Hand to keep Joffrey and Cersei in check. Jon plans to desert his post at the Wall to avenge his father; his friends convince him to stay, and he joins the Night's Watch in an expedition to find Benjen Stark beyond the Wall. Daenerys learns to her sorrow that her unborn son is dead and her Drogo has been left in a vegetative state due to the witch's treacherous magic. Unable to bear her husband's ruin, Daenerys ends his life and lights a funeral pyre. She burns the witch alive alongside Drogo's body and her three dragon's eggs, and walks into the flames herself as the fire reaches its peak. When the embers die the following morning, Daenerys rises, unharmed, flanked by three newborn dragons.


Critical response[edit]

Anticipation for the series was described by various media outlets as very high, with a dedicated fan base closely following the show's development.[37][38] By April 2011, multiple entertainment news outlets had put it at the top of their lists of television events to look forward to in 2011.[39][40]

The majority of reviews for the first season were very positive, with critics noting the high production values, the well-realized world, compelling characters, and giving particular note to the strength of the child actors.[41][42] Tim Goodman's review for The Hollywood Reporter stated, "a few minutes into HBO's epic Game of Thrones series, it's clear that the hype was right and the wait was worth it".[43] Mary McNamara from the Los Angeles Times called it "...a great and thundering series of political and psychological intrigue bristling with vivid characters, cross-hatched with tantalizing plotlines and seasoned with a splash of fantasy".[44] New York Post's Linda Stasi gave Thrones 3.5/4 stars stating, "The art direction, acting and incredible sets are as breathtaking as the massive scope of the series".[45] Many critics praised Peter Dinklage for his portrayal of Tyrion Lannister, with Ken Tucker from Entertainment Weekly stating, "...if Dinklage doesn't get an Emmy for his clever, rude Tyrion Lannister, I'll be gobsmacked"[42] and Mary McNamara from the Los Angeles Times stating, "If the man doesn't win an Emmy, heads should certainly roll".[44]

The first season of Game of Thrones has a Metacritic average of 80 out of 100 based on 28 critic reviews, categorized as "generally favorable".[46]


The first episode attracted 2.2 million viewers its initial airing on April 17 in the U.S.,[47] and totaled 5.4 million viewers across multiple Sunday and Monday night airings.[48] It averaged 743,000 and reached a peak 823,000 in UK and Ireland on its April 18 premiere.[49][50] HBO announced that they would be commissioning a second season on the strength of the reception of the premiere episode.[51] By the final episode of the season, which aired June 20, the ratings had climbed to over 3 million.[52]

The season's overall Nielsen ratings were:

Game of Thrones: Viewers per episode (in millions)[a]
Game of Thrones ratings histogram.svg
Ep. 1 Ep. 2 Ep. 3 Ep. 4 Ep. 5 Ep. 6 Ep. 7 Ep. 8 Ep. 9 Ep. 10 Average
Season 1 2.22 2.20 2.44 2.45 2.58 2.44 2.40 2.72 2.66 3.04 2.52
Season 2 3.86 3.76 3.77 3.65 3.90 3.88 3.69 3.86 3.38 4.20 3.80
Season 3 4.37 4.27 4.72 4.87 5.35 5.50 4.84 5.13 5.22 5.39 4.97
Season 4 6.64 6.31 6.59 6.95 7.16 6.40 7.20 7.17 6.95 7.09 6.85
Season 5 8.00 6.81 6.71 6.82 6.56 6.24 5.40 7.01 7.14 8.11 6.88
  1. ^ Viewers of the initial airing on HBO in the US on Sundays 9:00 pm

Awards and nominations[edit]

The first season of Game of Thrones was nominated for thirteen Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Drama Series, Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series (Tim Van Patten for "Winter Is Coming"), and Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series (David Benioff and D. B. Weiss for "Baelor"). It won two, Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series (Peter Dinklage) and Outstanding Main Title Design.[53] Dinklage, who plays Tyrion, was also named best supporting actor by the Golden Globes, the Scream Awards and the Satellite Awards.


Game of Thrones premiered on HBO in the United States and Canada on April 17, 2011,[54][55] and on Sky Atlantic in the United Kingdom and Ireland on April 18, 2011.[56]

The series premiered in Australia on Showcase on July 17, 2011.[57] It premiered in Brazil on May 8, 2011, on the local HBO channel.[58]

DVD and Blu-ray release[edit]

The ten episodes of the first season of Game of Thrones was released on DVD and Blu-ray Disc on March 6, 2012.[59] The set includes extra background and behind-the-scenes material, but no deleted scenes, because almost all footage shot for the first season was used in the show.[60]

The box set's extra features are the following:[59]

  • "Making Game of Thrones": A 30-minute feature including new footage from the set and interviews.
  • "Creating the Show Open": Portrays the creation of the opening title sequence.
  • "From the Book to the Screen": Interviews with Benioff, Weiss, and Martin about the adaptation process.
  • "Character Profiles": Fifteen principal characters described by their actors.
  • "The Night’s Watch": An examination of the warrior order that Jon Snow joins.
  • "Creating the Dothraki Language": Covers the creation of the Dothraki language.
  • Seven audio commentaries by, among others, Benioff, Weiss, Martin, Clarke, Dinklage and Harington.

The features exclusive to the Blu-ray release are:[59]

  • "Complete Guide to Westeros", an interactive compendium of the noble houses and lands featured in Season One, and 24 histories of the Seven Kingdoms as told by the series's characters.
  • "Anatomy of an Episode": A detailed feature about the production of episode six, A Golden Crown.
  • "In-Episode Guide": Provides background information about characters, locations, and histories while each episode plays.
  • "Hidden Dragon Eggs", easter eggs.

HBO released a Collector's Edition DVD/Blu-ray combo pack of the first season, which includes a resin-carved Dragon Egg Paperweight. The set was released in the United States and Canada on November 20, 2012.[61]


The first season's soundtrack by Ramin Djawadi, written within about ten weeks of the show's premiere,[62] was released in June 2011.[63]


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