- This article is about the episode, for the motto see Winter is Coming (motto).
Winter is Coming is the first episode of the first season of Game of Thrones, preceded only by an unaired pilot episode. It first aired on 17 April 2011. A 15-minute preview of the first episode was shown on 3 April 2011. The episode was written by executive producers David Benioff & D.B. Weiss and directed by Tim Van Patten.
On the eastern continent, the exiled Princess Daenerys Targaryen marries Khal Drogo, a warlord of the Dothraki with tens of thousands of warriors at his command. Her brother, Viserys, callously plans to win Drogo's allegiance with the marriage, so that he may return home to Westeros and reclaim the Iron Throne, which was seized by force from his father by Robert.
Beyond the Wall
Three rangers of the Night's Watch: Ser Waymar Royce, Will, and Gared depart from the Wall to investigate reports of wildlings in the Haunted Forest which lies to the north. Will, the best scout in the group, discovers a number of wildling corpses dismembered and arranged in a strange, ritualistic fashion on the ground.
He also finds a dead wildling girl pinned to a tree. He reports back to the others. Ser Waymar overrides the older Gared's advice that they return to Castle Black to report the situation to their superiors and instead insists on seeing the corpses for himself, to determine what killed them. When they reach the site, the bodies have disappeared. Will scouts around for clues, but Gared finds a bloody piece of clothing buried under the snow. Further investigations are curtailed when a tall, humanoid figure with glowing blue eyes, a White Walker, arrives and kills Ser Waymar with ease. Gared attempts to escape but is caught and killed. Will, in extreme horror, sees the dead wildling girl from earlier now walking with blue eyes, and also witnesses Gared's death, with the White Walker tossing his severed head at Will's feet.
In the Seven Kingdoms
Some time later, Will has fled south of the Wall in terror, rather than return to warn Castle Black of the White Walker threat. He is apprehended by a garrison of outriders being lead by Ser Kormed Grayburn that are loyal to House Stark, the wardens of the North, and is taken to Lord Eddard Stark. Lord Eddard, in the courtyard watching his sons at archery training, decrees that as a deserter from the Watch, Will is an oathbreaker and must die. Will accepts his fate, but tells Eddard about the Walkers first and asks that word be sent back to his mother. Eddard carries out the execution himself, using the ancestral Valyrian blade of their house, Ice. Four of Eddard's trueborn sons, 17-year-old Robb, 17-year old Ashter, 15-year old Rodrik, and 10-year-old Bran, accompany him to the execution along with his bastard son Jon Snow and his ward, Theon Greyjoy. Young Bran witnesses an execution for the first time without flinching, earning praise from Jon. Eddard explains to Bran that the reason he was made to execute Will was because the man who passes the sentence should swing the sword. When Bran asks his father about Will's talk of White Walkers, Eddard dismisses it as a madman's ramblings, insisting that the Walkers have been gone for centuries. The party sets out to return to Winterfell.
On the way back to the castle, the party finds a stag dead in the road, partially disemboweled. Looking for what killed it, they find a dead female direwolf, killed with a stag antler piece broken off in her throat. The female died after giving birth, and her seven pups huddle by the corpse for warmth. Theon advocates killing the pups, but Jon Snow convinces his father that this is an omen: the direwolf is the symbol of House Stark, and Eddard has seven trueborn children. With Bran looking on beseechingly, Eddard agrees that his children should have the pups, but only if they raise them themselves with no help from the servants. Ashter, not wanting a direwolf of his own, offers his, the albino runt of the litter, to Jon, who accepts.
In King's Landing, the capital city of the Seven Kingdoms, the bells ring out to commemorate the death of Lord Jon Arryn, the Hand of the King. As the Silent Sisters prepare his body for burial, Queen Cersei Lannister looks on. She is worried that Jon discovered something he shouldn't have, and may have told someone. She confesses her fears to her twin brother, Ser Jaime Lannister of the Kingsguard, but he tells her not to worry, since if the King knew the truth they'd be dead already. She tells him he should be the new Hand of the King, but he doesn't want the job. He considers it too much work. Cersei accuses him of taking nothing seriously.
A raven bears news of Jon Arryn's death to Winterfell, where Lady Catelyn Stark informs Eddard. He is particularly stricken because Arryn served as a father-figure to him, when he was fostered at the Eyrie. She also tells him that King Robert Baratheon and much of the royal court rides for Winterfell. Eddard realizes that King Robert means to name him as the Hand to replace Jon Arryn. He ponders refusing, feeling his place is at Winterfell.
Over the next few weeks the Stark children grow used to their rapidly-growing direwolves: Robb names his Grey Wind, Rodrik names his Winter, Sansa calls hers Lady, and Arya names hers Nymeria after a great warrior-queen. Jon names his Ghost, for his white color and uncanny silence. Bran calls his Summer and six-year-old Rickon names his wolf Shaggydog. Bran's mother catches him climbing on the rooftops of the castle, just as the royal party comes into view. He promises to stop, but his mother knows he is lying. Winterfell prepares for guests. Catelyn Stark wants to make sure that Tyrion Lannister, a great reader, has enough candles, and the young men of the house get groomed, as they gossip about the queen, a reportedly great beauty.
All of Winterfell gathers in the courtyard as the royal party approaches. Arya is late and annoys Sansa by not being silent and respectful when they arrive, and Ashter is absent entirely for reasons unknown, later revealed to be because he was having sex with a woman in Winterfell's godswood. King Robert rides in with his knights, while Queen Cersei is in a large wheelhouse with her other children, Myrcella and Tommen Baratheon, as well as her cousin, Robert Lannister. Riding alongside the king are Lord Garth Dragen, his firstborn son Lucius and his bastard half-brother, Ser Ethan Snow, of House Dragen, who supposedly guided the king's party into the North. Lord Eddard presents his household to King Robert. Eddard and Robert greet each other warmly, and then Robert demands to see the crypts and pay his respects to Eddard's deceased sister, Lyanna, much to Queen Cersei's impatience. After Robert and Eddard depart, Cersei sends Jaime to find their younger brother Tyrion, who is a dwarf. "The Imp" has found his way to the brothel in the town outside Winterfell, where he enjoys the attentions of a prostitute named Ros. Jaime tells Tyrion, a man of limited height but with immense appetites, that he will be needed at the feast that night. Jaime has hired three more prostitutes for Tyrion, to hurry things along.
In the crypts Robert offers up his prayers at the tomb of Lyanna Stark, Eddard's younger sister, whom Robert was betrothed to before she was kidnapped by Prince Rhaegar Targaryen and died shortly after being rescued. He tells Eddard that in his dreams he kills Rhaegar every night anew. Eddard reminds him that House Targaryen was destroyed, but Robert replies: "not all of them."
Robert formally offers Eddard the role of Hand, and Eddard asks for time to consider. Robert agrees, but offers a sweetener: the hand of his son, Joffrey, in marriage to Eddard's daughter, Sansa. A great feast is held and Cersei and Catelyn exchange cordial words. Cersei seems more impressed by Sansa, thinking that she will be a great hit at court. Ashter flirts with several women, then decides to formally meet the Queen himself. Cersei claims that she's heard many stories about Ashter back in King's Landing, particularly his reputation as a future battle commander. Ashter then complains to his mother about her refusal to allow Jon to partake in the feast due to his status as a bastard, but Catelyn refuses to speak about her decision. Before Ashter can press the issue, Cersei snidely tells him to "listen to your mother."
Garth and Ethan approach Eddard in hopes to talk with him. Garth warns Eddard about the Lannisters and how he fears that they are vying for control over the Iron Throne through Cersei, and Ethan reminds Eddard that Jaime Lannister has already killed one king that he swore to protect, and thinks it's possible that he'd do the same to King Robert. Eddard ends the conversation by telling Garth to "keep an eye on his son". Rutherford Quinn, the elderly Lord of Widow's Watch, has also arrived in Winterfell with his son Harold to visit with Eddard and Garth. They swap old war stories, and afterward, Rutherford informs Eddard that was planning to formally step down as Lord of Widow's Watch and pass the title to Harold, but would still take up arms to fight and defend the North should the need arise.
Outside the feast, Jon Snow works at his sword practice, angry that Catelyn thought it would be inappropriate that a bastard should attend. His uncle Benjen Stark, First Ranger of the Night's Watch, arrives to join the feast, and Jon asks him to take him back to the Wall with him. Benjen agrees to consider it. Tyrion Lannister then arrives and talks to Jon, suggesting that he is too pricklish and quick to take offense when his illegitimacy is pointed out. He should take the insult and wear it like armor, so that no one can hurt him with it. When Jon angrily asks Tyrion what he knows about it, Tyrion replies that "all dwarfs are bastards in their father's eyes." Later, Ashter also finds Jon still practicing and still upset, and comforts him regarding his whole situation.
Eddard and Catelyn receive a letter in the night, delivered to Maester Luwin by a messenger from the Eyrie. The letter is from Catelyn's sister, Lady Lysa Arryn, the widow of Jon Arryn. In the letter, Lysa says that Jon Arryn was murdered by the Lannisters and that they plan to conspire against King Robert. Luwin counsels that Eddard should accept Robert's offer to be Hand, so he can investigate the truth of the matter and protect the King. Eddard, while he would prefer to stay at Winterfell, agrees with Luwin and accepts the offer.
The next morning, Eddard speaks with Archsepton Redmond, the supreme spiritual leader of the North, asking him if he's done the right thing in accepting Robert's invitation to leave Winterfell and become Hand of the King. Redmond tells him that he's done what he thinks is right, and that was all that mattered, and the blessings of the Old Gods were with him. Afterwards, Eddard and Robert go hunting, leaving the castle largely empty. Accompaning them on the hunt are Robb, Rodrik, Garth, and Lucius. Lucius briefly speaks with Robb and Rodrik, where it is revealed that Rodrik would be accompanying his father to King's Landing so he could squire for one of the Kingsguard, and warns them about the dangers of King's Landing, only to be run off by Ashter, who admits he doesn't trust him, mostly because of the "strange rumors" surrounding him.
Bran indulges in some climbing but, while climbing a broken tower, he hears someone moaning. He peers through a window and finds the queen and her brother engaged in a sexual act. Cersei spots him and warns Jaime, who grabs Bran. Jaime looks out the window to make sure nobody else is watching and only sees Summer. He turns to Bran and asks how old he is. When Bran replies "ten," Jaime remarks with a sigh, "The things I do for love." With that, he pushes Bran out of the window.
Across the Narrow Sea
In the Free City of Pentos, across the Narrow Sea, Viserys and Daenerys Targaryen enjoy the hospitality of Magister Illyrio Mopatis. Viserys has arranged to wed his sister Daenerys (also called "Dany") to Khal Drogo, the warlord of a Dothraki khalasar of forty thousand warriors. In return, Drogo will give Viserys the army he needs to reclaim the Iron Throne. Viserys prepares Daenerys for meeting the Khal. He tells her what a beautiful young woman she has turned into, and slips off her dress and fondles her breast. She is silent and looks away as if pretending it isn't happening. She steps into a hot bath that has just been poured. This greatly distresses her maid who believes the water will scald her. However, Daenerys seems not to notice it and appears to be unharmed.
Illyrio and Viserys discuss the quest to sail back to Westoros, and Viserys inquirers when the wedding will take place. Daenerys is not pleased with the arrangement and blurts out that she does not want to marry Drogo. Viserys insists that she will, because in return Drogo will give him the army he needs to retake their father's throne from Robert Baratheon. Viserys adds that he would let her be raped by all forty thousand of Drogo's men and their horses if it meant getting his throne back. A short time later, Drogo arrives at Illyrio's estate. After taking a glance at Daenerys, Drogo rides away without having to dismount from his horse. Viserys is concerned, but Illyrio assures him that, if he did not approve of Daenerys, they would have known.
Later, Daenerys marries Khal Drogo and a great celebration is held. Several people die in impromptu duels, which Illyrio says is a good sign: a Dothraki wedding without at least three deaths is considered a dull affair. The bride and groom receive many gifts, but for Dany, two are particularly interesting. The first is a box containing three beautiful stones. According to Illyrio, these are dragon eggs from the Shadow Lands beyond Asshai that have turned to stone with the passing of time. Dany appears to feel some connection with the eggs, but brushes it off for the time being. The second is a selection of books containing stories and songs from the Seven Kingdoms, given by Ser Jorah Mormont, an exiled knight of House Mormont. Ser Jorah swears fealty to Viserys as King, talking about how House Mormont had served the Targaryens for generations, reminding him that that his grandfather, Jasper Mormont, served in Viserys' grandfather's Kingsguard. Jorah offers him his support and advice, which is accepted. For his gift, Drogo gives Daenerys a beautiful white stallion. Viserys asks his sister to make Drogo happy. Drogo and Daenerys ride down to the shore and consummate their marriage on the beach at sunset. Daenerys is visibly upset and terrified.
- Main: Winter is Coming recap
A detailed recap of the episode scene by scene.
- Ser Waymar Royce
- Wildling girl
- White Walker 1
- White Walker 2
- Bran Stark
- Jon Snow
- Robb Stark
- Rodrik Stark
- Lady Catelyn Stark
- Lord Eddard Stark
- Rickon Stark
- Sansa Stark
- Ashter Stark
- Rutherford Quinn
- Harold Quinn
- Septa Mordane
- Arya Stark
- Jeyne Poole
- Ser Rodrik Cassel
- Ser Kormed Grayburn
- Jory Cassel
- Theon Greyjoy
- Ser Jaime Lannister
- Queen Cersei Lannister
- Robert Lannister
- Maester Luwin
- Archsepton Redmond
- Prince Joffrey Baratheon
- Lord Garth Dragen
- Lucius Dragen
- Ser Ethan Snow
- Sandor Clegane
- King Robert Baratheon
- Prince Tommen Baratheon
- Princess Myrcella Baratheon
- Tyrion Lannister
- Princess Daenerys Targaryen
- Prince Viserys Targaryen
- Pentoshi servant
- Magister Illyrio Mopatis
- Khal Drogo
- Benjen Stark
- Ser Jorah Mormont
- Lady Lysa Arryn
- Robin Arryn
- Prince Rhaegar Targaryen
- Lyanna Stark
- Brandon Stark
- Lord Tywin Lannister
- Lord Rickard Stark
- King Rodrik Stark
- King Aerys II Targaryen
- Ser Jasper Mormont
- King Aegon V Targaryen
- Ser Barristan Selmy
- Ser Waymar Royce, slain by White Walkers.
- Gared, beheaded by a White Walker.
- Will, beheaded by Eddard Stark.
- Lord Jon Arryn, cause unknown.
- Sean Bean as Lord Eddard Stark
- Mark Addy as King Robert Baratheon
- Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Ser Jaime Lannister
- Michelle Fairley as Lady Catelyn Stark
- Lena Headey as Queen Cersei Lannister
- Emilia Clarke as Princess Daenerys Targaryen
- Gerard Butler as Lord Garth Dragen
- Travis Fimmel as Lucius Dragen
- Hugh Dancy as Ser Ethan Snow
- Iain Glen as Ser Jorah Mormont
- Harry Lloyd as Prince Viserys Targaryen
- Kit Harington as Jon Snow
- Sophie Turner as Sansa Stark
- Henry Cavill as Ashter Stark
- Maisie Williams as Arya Stark
- Isaac Hempstead-Wright as Bran Stark
- Richard Madden as Robb Stark
- Taron Egerton as Rodrik Stark
- Jack Gleeson as Prince Joffrey Baratheon
- Rory McCann as Sandor Clegane
- Edvin Endre as Robert Lannister
- and Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister
- Donald Sumpter as Maester Luwin
- Toby Jones as Archsepton Redmond
- Jamie Sives as Jory Cassel
- Ron Donachie as Ser Rodrik Cassel
- Peter Mullan as Ser Kormed Grayburn
- Joseph Mawle as Benjen Stark
- Ronald Pickup as Rutherford Quinn
- Richard Coyle as Harold Quinn
- Roger Allam as Illyrio Mopatis
- Dar Salim as Qotho
- Esmé Bianco as Ros
- Susan Brown as Septa Mordane
- Bronson Webb as Will
- Sir John Standing as Lord Jon Arryn
- Rob Ostlere as Ser Waymar Royce
- Dermot Keaney as Gared
- Art Parkinson as Rickon Stark
- Callum Wharry as Prince Tommen Baratheon
- Aimee Richardson as Princess Myrcella Baratheon
- Kristian Nairn as Hodor
- Rania Zouari as a Pentoshi servant
- Ian Whyte as a White Walker
- Spencer Wildling as a White Walker
- Claire Wright as a Wildling girl
- 22 of 24 cast members for the first season appear in this episode.
- Starring cast members Aidan Gillen (Petyr Baelish) and Ben Mendelsohn (Eyron Morvayn) are not credited and do not appear in this episode.
- Jason Momoa (Khal Drogo) is credited as 'also starring' during the closing credits of this episode.
- Behind-the-scenes weaponsmith Tommy Dunne plays Winterfell's resident barber, also called Tommy, in an uncredited cameo.
- The episode title is the house motto of House Stark and has widely been used in the marketing of the TV series, the books, and other spin-offs.
- A real dead stag - not a prop - was used for the scene where the direwolf pups are found. The actors found the smell during the filming of the scene revolting, as it had been dead for two days at that point and was decomposing.
- The scene in which the Starks find the direwolf pups was the very first scene written by George R.R. Martin in the first book of the A Song of Ice and Fire novel series. It is the second chapter that appears in the book, because the "Prologue" scene with the three Night's Watch scouts being attacked by White Walkers was inserted before it, but the Prologue was written later.
- Martin said he didn't even know what kind of book it would be until he wrote that scene. After about three days, he knew it would be fantasy.
- This scene foretells the whole first book. The Direwolf (sigil of House Stark) has come too far south and gotten in a fight with the Stag (sigil of House Baratheon). Just as Eddard Stark goes south with King Robert to be his right hand in the war coming, Robert is disemboweled and dies alone, while Eddard is killed by a blow to the neck and leaves all his young heirs to fend for themselves.
- The Winterfell courtyard is normally a car park and gift shop. The setting had to be extensively redressed to make it look like an actual courtyard.
- Mark Addy's costume was so heavy that he could not get off his horse without steps and the help of three people. So in editing they had to cut away when he starts to dismount and then cut back to see him drop to the ground. In the book, King Robert is a taller man, but Mark Addy's performance made his character seem imposing.
- The crypts under Winterfell are normally a wine cellar and were used in later episodes for a cell under the Red Keep in King's Landing.
- The Winterfell gate was damaged by a collision with Cersei's wheelhouse, upon the royal party's arrival, and had to be repaired.
- The pool in the Winterfell godswood was filled with black paint, to make it more reflective.
- Scenes at Illyrio's manse were shot at the President of Malta's summer residence (later also used for scenes in the Red Keep's garden). The production was not permitted inside the building. In the book Drogo sees Daenerys for the first time at a party inside the manse. The TV series version has Drogo remain on his horse and then leave, but this does not occur in the books.
- Daenerys' interior scenes at her bath were done at a different location, in a different city. The scene with her on the balcony looking outside at beautiful scenery was just a painting. Her Pentoshi bath slave was formerly Miss Malta 2006.
- Some early scenes in Malta were filmed with Emilia Clarke and Harry Lloyd using violet contact lenses, as in the novels the Targaryens have violet-colored eyes. However, the lenses did not look right and were distracting the actors from their performances, so were dropped.
- Filming of the wedding scene on the beach was disrupted by a gale from the sea that partially demolished the set. Maltese authorities were also dubious about the nudity in the scene, but ultimately allowed shooting to continue.
- Actors Kit Harington, Alfie Allen and Richard Madden prepared for the haircutting scene - in which all three were shirtless - by engaging in vigorous exercises and holding their breath to enhance their abs, to the hilarity of producer David Benioff.
- The broken tower, used for the scene where Bran is pushed out of the window, was later redressed, to serve as Bran's bedroom for the rest of the season.
- In the tower sex scene, Lena Headey is replaced by a body double for the nude parts. Lena Headey was pregnant when this episode was shot, so there are a lot of scenes where Cersei is filmed standing or sitting behind a table or wearing a coat with a thick fur trim or dresses with long sleeves that she holds in front of herself.
- An earlier version of the episode was shot as the series pilot episode. While similar, it had several key differences, mostly in casting:
- Jennifer Ehle played Catelyn Stark.
- Tamzin Merchant played Daenerys Targaryen.
- Jamie Campbell Bower played Waymar Royce. (He would later be recast as Arton Lannister.)
- Richard Ridings played Gared.
- Another difference is that the pilot featured scenes shot in Scotland (where Doune Castle stood in for Winterfell) and Morocco (where sets left over from Kingdom of Heaven stood in for Pentos), while the final version of the episode was mostly shot in the studio and on location in Northern Ireland and Malta.
- The photography of Tyrion's scene with Ros and the prostitutes is also slightly different from the rest of the episode. It becomes apparent when comparing the hair color of Tyrion in different scenes.
- The scene with Eddard and Robert in the crypts and later in the courtyard where Robert thanks Eddard are the only complete scenes to survive intact from the pilot shoot. Alfie Allen (Theon) can very briefly be glimpsed with blonde hair in the latter scene. These scenes are shot on film rather than the digital recordings made for the rest of the series, something most notable in the crypt scene.
- Some additional shots from the pilot are used and dropped into otherwise re-shot scenes. Sansa's coverage during her discussion with Cersei and Catelyn at the feast is from the pilot (while Cersei and Catelyn's reactions are from the re-shoot), while a single shot of Jamie Campbell Bower as Waymar Royce is left in the prologue sequence.
- During Daenerys' wedding feast, when one Dothraki disembowels another, Khal Drogo looks on in approval and utters an unsubtitled line. It was not subtitled because it wasn't part of the developed Dothraki language, but an ad-lib by actor Jason Mamoa. The line he said was "i te waka", which is the refrain from a well-known Maori haka (war dance). Mamoa himself performed a Maori haka in his audition tape for the role of Khal Drogo. To make the line fit within the universe, language consultant David J. Peterson later retroactively established that what Drogo said in Dothraki was "itte oakah", meaning "test your might" - an in-joke reference to the line from the infamously violent Mortal Kombat video game.
- To date, this is the only episode to use on-screen titles to establish what a location is, for "Winterfell", "King's Landing: Capital of the Seven Kingdoms", and "Pentos: Across the Narrow Sea."
- There is a mistake in the scene where the direwolf pups are first seen, all of the pups are either light gray and white or solid white. One, however, should be black.
- Lucius Dragen's cannibalism is first implied in this episode (when Ashter says that there are "strange rumors" surrounding him), but it is not outright mentioned.
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