In its first-season finale, Game of Thrones tied up its loose ends as well as a sprawling fantasy epic could be expected to. More importantly, it left us wanting more by introducing us to Daenerys Targaryen's little ... friends. We bid our spoiler-filled goodbyes below.
TVGuide.com's Hanh Nguyen is an avid scripted-TV watcher, a horror-avoider and someone who's read George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire book series, on which HBO's Game of Thrones is based. Colleague Rich Juzwiak rarely watches scripted television, is a gorehound and became alerted to Martin's existence just recently, as he started researching this new swords-and-sandals (well, boots) series. He knows nothing of these sorcerers (if that is indeed what they are), while Hanh is something of an expert (read: fantasy/sci-fi nerd). Each week, he'll try to make sense of this crazy new show by enlisting Hanh's expertise. It may turn out to be a test of tolerance: in this case, the Games begin after the TV is off.
Rich: I thought the finale was spectacular.
Hanh: Oh good, so now, looking over the course of the season, did you find it worth it?
Rich: Yeah, I think the finale was the payoff that basically the season spent building up to. Even though from the second I saw Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) receive dragon eggs for her wedding, I knew that payoff would come in the form of them hatching (the payoff of eggs is really predictable), it was still awesome.
Hanh: I'm glad that they started up right where they left off at the Sept of Baelor.
Rich: It helped reinforce the tragedy of Ned's (Sean Bean) death. The real tragedy was not his death, but that it was so undignified.
Hanh: And everyone's reaction to it, yes.
Rich: He was made to lie, cast himself as a traitor and then was killed to rapturous applause. It's almost cruel on Martin's part. I mean, that's life, but he clearly does not feel any obligation to his character!
Hanh: Ha! Well, one of the executive producers said this about Martin: "He's a cruel and savage god." Sounds about right. I think he does feel an obligation. Or at least he said so. He doesn't enjoy writing certain killing scenes either and will avoid them until the last minute. But I think his philosophy is that death is hard.
Rich: Yes, if he's cruel, the upside is that he's unsentimental, which is refreshing.
Hanh: What do you think of Sansa's (Sophie Turner) situation and how she's reacted to it?
Rich: I think that her character has grown considerably. It took awhile (nine episodes!). It's hard not to be compassionate toward her because of her awful situation that she's in through no fault of her own.
Hanh: Right? To be stuck in that living hell with Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) as your lord. Ugh. It's sad in ways to see her innocence gone, but the steel she had in her eyes when she was considering pushing him over the ledge — oh, boy!
Rich: I wish she were a little more courageous, but understand why she didn't go through with it. It would only mean more trouble for her.
Hanh: Right. The Hound (Rory McCann) was looking out for her.
Rich: The Hound of love! Obviously, the rightful heir to the throne at this point is ambiguous. Who do you think it belongs to?
Hanh: I don't think I know because the throne was originally won by violence. So even if I say the Targaryens, well, who did they take it from? In that sense, does the Iron Throne belong to the strong?
Rich: Or the foolish, since it inevitably paints a target on you.
Hanh: I feel that if Daenerys does rule, she'd need to make a political marriage (again) to someone who's actually grown up in Westeros and knows their ways and has their respect. Or she can just sic her dragons on all of them!
Rich: Oh, the dragons. They were so cute. I hope they stay cute for a bit into next season. They grow up so fast, I'm sure, and then their cuteness is singed by their fiery breath.
Hanh: I was happy with their design. I wasn't sure what to expect. Were you touched by the loss of Drogo (Jason Momoa)?
Hanh: Emilia Clarke was particularly affecting, I think.
Rich: I really liked his character and will miss looking at Jason Momoa. I was worried about him staying in that catatonic state and what it would mean for his muscles. Would they start to break down over time? And what would THAT look like? He's in a better place now.
Hanh: Ha, you along with many other people!
Rich: Killing him really was an act of mercy on his character and capacity to be eye candy.
Hanh: Would she have to turn him? Would he get bedsores?
Rich: She'd be lugging him around as she campaigned for the throne or whatever. Weekend at Bernie's III: Weekend in Westeros.
Hanh: This was yet another really important death, and also unsentimental because he was killed in the most insulting way — stripped of his ability to be strong. I'm sure his choice would have been to die in battle. But instead, catatonic ... such a slap to a Khal!
Rich: And his people just walked out on him.
Hanh: Those Dothraki may know how to party but they're cruel too. And respect only power. Daenerys showed them!
Rich: Yeah, like Emilia said in your interview: dragons trump everything. You win or you die or you have dragons. I really hope Daenerys' naiveté doesn't come back to bite her on the ass/dragon. I don't know if I could handle losing her!
Hanh: Now, Arya's (Maisie Williams) fate ... I like how her salvation via Yoren (Francis Magee) was played here. In the books, his meaning is much less clear. I mean, we know that he's helping her, but the tone of Martin's writing when he was calling her "such a stupid boy" was really mean. Yoren is an interesting element. Sansa may be surrounded by vipers, but Arya is now among strangers who don't even know she's a girl!
Rich: The reversal of fortune trope is such an effective one.
Rich: In a way, sticking with the Night Guard is Jon's safest bet. We saw the dead-end road that an allegiance to family can lead to.
Hanh: Yes, and allows him some sort of purpose. On his own, he'd have no power. Part of me hates that all the Stark children are scattered to the wind. What do you make of both Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) and Rickon (Art Parkinson) seeing visions of Ned in their family crypt the night before?
Rich: It reminded me of Bran's seeming connection to the direwolf, as implied in an earlier episode. There's an as-yet-just-hinted-at psychic element going on.
Hanh: Yes, exactly. There's something about his dreaming, when he sees the three-eyed crow that signals something more is going on. I'm curious to see how this plays out on screen.
Rich: Me too. I'm so anal that I hope that all the loose ends are tied up. Speaking of: Did this season span the first book entirely? I mean, obviously plenty had to be left out, but did it end on the same beats?
Hanh: Yes, and even gives a bit from the beginning of Book 2. It was pretty damn faithful on everything that was really important, plot-wise. And even added some stuff. Speaking of that, what did you think of that oddball scene of Grand Maester Pycelle (Julian Glover) and the whore? (I'm going to miss legitimately writing "whore" in our chats on a weekly basis!)
Rich: With the kind of TV I watch, something tells me I'll be writing "whore" plenty even when Thrones is off the air. As far as Pycelle, I didn't know what to make of that. His shirt was punishingly sheer, though.
Hanh: Ha-ha! Yeah, as scenes go, I don't think the content vs. action worked as well as, say, when Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen) was talking about his youth and making the whores do their thing. That shirt! And the deep-knee bends!
Rich: So weird! I love the self-aware Littlefinger/Varys (Conleth Hill) exchange. Talking so explicitly about their roles, they might as well have been speaking on their characters in this story, not their situation, if that makes sense.
Hanh: I like how they're almost like siblings in the way they bicker. And, yes! They seem to be the only ones who are aware of playing roles. The others are just game pieces.
Rich: Speaking of whores, I look forward to more of Shae (Sibel Kekilli), whose official title now is Shae, The Funny Whore.
Hanh: That was awesome. Another departure from the book where she's concerned. In the book, Tywin (Charles Dance) forbids Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) to bring his whore to court, and Tyrion decides to bring her to King's Landing, but not to court. I don't know if this will change or affect plots in the future or what. But Tyrion gets his dad's approval, finally! And gets to be in a position of power
Rich: And all on Father's Day. Things are looking up for him! (You'll miss "whore," I'll miss little Tyrion jokes.)
Hanh: Any favorite lines? I have to say, the whole "gash" exchange between Littlefinger and Varys made me giggle.
Rich: Yes! Agree totally. It was really vivid and harrowing. Varys is not the character I'd go to if I want to think about a genital region.
Hanh: Daenerys' move at the end still impressed me. Although Robb had won over his liegemen (through battle) so that they kneeled to him, Dany got the parallel treatment from the Dothraki. I have to say, I'm glad they made her naked (I'm sure other viewers are glad too!) but that was in the book and I didn't want HBO to take that out. I felt it was important to show how she was impervious to fire, but also that she was reborn.
Rich: Yes. I would have grimaced at the obvious phoenix imagery if I weren't marveling at the dragons. I can't get enough of the dragons!
Hanh: They're exactly how I imagined that firelizards from the Dragonriders of Pern novels by Anne McCaffrey would look. Wonder if that was an influence. I've always wanted my own dragon! They're hard to come by, though.
Rich: I remember coveting so many creatures in the '80s. The '80s were a really good time for depictions of cute fantasy creatures. Gizmo, Gurgi, that thing in The Dark Crystal ...
Hanh: Oh yes! The unicorn-pegasus T-shirts too.
Rich: The dragons definitely appealed to that aspect of my taste. They felt like home!
Hanh: I love The Dark Crystal. Skeksis and the Gelflings. I was wondering if they were going to take the Jim Henson puppet approach to the dragons. But CGI makes more sense.
Rich: Absolutely. And, the dragon love brought it all full circle as Emilia reminded me of The Dark Crystal's Kira from the offset.
Hanh: Ah yes, the white-blond hair! How will you console yourself with no Game of Thrones until next season? Read Book 2? Hang around whores?
Rich: Nah, I think I'll let HBO be the sole provider of my Thrones info. But, I'll be OK. My mind will take a vacation!
Rich: Early on, I never would have guessed that I'd feel anything at the end of this thing, and my actual feeling when the finale credits came up was, "I want more!" It took 10 hours, but I'm finally hooked (I think).
Hanh: Hooked after one season. It's definitely slow-burn storytelling.
Rich: I do worry about forgetting a lot of this in the interim, and having to go back and be confused all over again. This universe could easily take over your life.
Hanh: It's inevitable. That's GRRM's insidious plan! He is the true master games player.
Rich: Yep, that fighting for the throne amongst his characters is all in vain.