Here is the other dance partner to my last ranking. As I said in the post before, #16 and #15 are almost legacy rankings here. The HBO juggernaut Game of Thrones followed the premiere of The Walking Dead by a mere 6 months and their shared success has irrevocably changed the landscape of TV since. This started the transition from the traditional male anti-hero relatable theme (Breaking Bad, Sopranos, Mad Men etc.) to a larger scale movie-like production that didn’t necessarily have to adhere to the common rules of television. Shows like TWD and GOT (Game of Thrones) could take more risks because one, they already had the literary foundation already in place and a somewhat established fan base. But more importantly, they were just too big to fail. And it shouldn’t come as any surprise that they are both the most consumed products on TV right now. It is they who sit on the iron throne of television at the moment and they don’t look to be relinquishing that title any time soon.
The current list so far:
#15 – Game of Thrones Season 1 – Score: 27
The oft-mentioned caution when recommending GOT to anyone is the enormity of the characters that are thrown at you in Season 1. Yes, the show does pull you in immediately with one of the better opening scenes you’ll see on TV. But soon you are dragged into a minutia of characters that all belong to one family or another and it gets difficult keeping the names straight, at least the first time that is. I think I’m on re-watch #4 or #5 as I am currently catching up my roommates in time for Season 6. Every time I watch it the show gets better and better. GOT S1 has subtle hints about future events littered throughout, and whether that hint may come to fruition 5 episodes later or 5 seasons later, the second and third time through watching Thrones often brings a superior viewing experience than the first. Season 1 does offer some iconic moments for the series as a whole. Mainly the absolute and unexpected beheading of show favorite Ned Stark in the seasons penultimate episode (which has started a noticeable trend, every episode 9, you know shit is going down). We also had the birth of dragons and the ascension of Daenerys Targaryen from Dothraki queen to the aforementioned Mother of Dragons. Season 1 set the tone for many of things in GOT to follow and it gets on this list because it was the first to do so, and do it very well. Of course that is not to say that it is the only GOT season you may see on the list, guess you’ll have to wait and see.
Acting Performances: 7
Thrones has always been a strong performer in this category. Mainly due to Peter Dinklage and his role of the dwarf imp Tyrion Lannister. In 2011, Dinklage took home the first of his now two Emmy awards for Best Male Supporting Actor in a Drama Series (2011 & 2015). He has been nominated every year since and has been a staple of a talented and well-rounded cast. Lena Headey (Queen Cersei Lannister) and Emilie Clarke (Daenerys Targaryen) showcased strong female leads in Season 1 that now has become commonplace in GOT. I for one was riveted by the performance given by acting veteran Charles Dance (Tywin Lannister). In Season 1, Lady Olenna’s comment about Tywin in Season 5,”it is so rare these days that a man actually lives up to his reputation”, could’ve be used for Charles as much as it was for Tywin. I must mention a few more noteworthy actors before we move on. Aiden Gillen (Lord Petyr Baelish) who some of you remember from his unforgettable role in The Wire, was another vital cog to this show. As far as Season 1 is concerned, Sean Beam puts his own memorable stamp on the honorable Ned Stark. And as it pains me to say it, Jack Gleeson as everyone’s favorite little shit, Joffery Baratheon, has to be mentioned as well. And last but not least, Maisise Williams as little Ayra Stark. I could go on but that might take the rest of the day. Stellar casting as always.
Season Plot Arc: 6
Immediately we are shown the White Walkers in as gruesome of a start to a series as you will see. One of the better teases to start a show because we rarely see them again in Season 1. The somewhat boring story arcs is really base on legends and mythology, and not actual experience. We are taught of Robert’s Rebellion, Ned Stark’s bastard, the dragons of old and that winter is coming. But no flashbacks, no visual memories, just words and even more words. We finally see some action as the cut-throat political game begins to take shape as Ned investigates the death of former Hand of the King Jon Arryn. The Lannisters and Starks are at odds throughout most of Season 1; from Bran’s fall and attempted assignation to Tryion’s capture and the eventual betrayal and beheading of Ned Stark by the vicious Lannister bastard, Joffrey Baratheon. On the other side of the world in Essos, the last two dragons Viserys and Daenerys Targaryen begin their slow journey to take back the iron throne in Westeros. Daenerys becomes a fan favorite early on because we sense that she is meant for bigger and better things (the nudity doesn’t hurt either). Her meteoric rise from Dothraki timid bride to the eventual Mother of Dragons is captivating to say the least. Each step she takes, she asserts her power more and more. But she also begins to show the qualities of a ruler worthy of the name and title.
There are many landmark moments in Thrones S1. I will touch on two in a moment but cannot forget to mention some of the lesser known ones because they too built the framework of what is Season 1. Rob Stark assuming the house leadership once his father is imprisoned is a seminal moment. My favorite moment of Rob is perhaps his first battle against the Lannisters. His anointing of the King of the North is another. Robb Stark ascension to “The Young Wolf” is one of the biggest reasons why I contend Season 1 belongs on this list, that and……..
Again, given the flow of the post I’m going to put the Defining Moment here. It was a tough call between this and the final moments of Season 1 but this generated more WTF and outrage than the birth of dragons.
Season Finale/Cliffhanger: 8
Cliffhanger. The image or scene that leaves you without words and contemplating what the hell just happened. The Thrones Season 1 finale was very good, not epic but very few on this list are. We are left to pick up the remains in the immediate aftermath of Ned Stark’s beheading. Most of us held out hope that because we actually didn’t see his head chopped off, maybe, just maybe he lived or was saved. Yeah…they wasted about 3 seconds in the finale before Ser IIyn Payne carried off his head in a basket. Robb Stark swore revenge, Lady Catlin urged patience before uttering, “kill them all”. But the drop the mic moment was in the East. Khal Drogo was a vegetable after Daenerys black magic attempt the save him backfired and she paid for it with the death of her newborn son. Beaten down and nearly broken, she played her trump card. She marched into the fire burial of Drogo with her three dormant dragon eggs. Most of her followers left and even the most ardent of believers looked on with doubt as their Khaleesi walked into the burning flames. Alas, in the morning Ser Jorah Mormont saw as the smoke and ashes gave way, Daenerys stood naked, unscathed and with three tiny dragons. The mythical and fabled creatures of lore had been born of fire, and their mother stood tall and like a queen to be feared, loved and respected all in one. We were left thinking that while there maybe be White Walkers in the North, there is now dragons in the East and shit will go down.