The first season of the fantasy drama television series Game of Thrones premiered on HBO on 17 April 2011 in the US and concluded on 19 June 19 2011. It consists of ten episodes, each of approximately 55 minutes.
The series is based on A Game of Thrones, the first novel in the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin, adapted for television by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss.
HBO had ordered a television pilot in November 2008; filming began the following year. However, it was deemed unsatisfactory and later reshot with some roles recast. In March 2010, HBO ordered the first season, which began filming in July 2010, primarily in Belfast, Northern Ireland, with additional filming in Malta.
The story takes place in a fantasy world, primarily upon the continent Westeros, with one storyline occurring on another continent to the east, Essos. Like the novel, the season initially focuses on the family of nobleman Eddard “Ned” Stark, the Warden of the North, who is asked to become the King’s Hand (chief advisor) to his longtime friend, King Robert Baratheon. Ned seeks to find out who murdered his predecessor, Jon Arryn. He uncovers dark secrets about the powerful Lannister family, which includes Robert’s queen, Cersei, that his predecessor died trying to expose. This leads, after Robert’s death, to Ned’s arrest for treason. Ned’s eldest son, Robb, begins a rebellion against the Lannisters. Ned is killed at the order of Cersei’s tyrannical teenage son, King Joffrey Baratheon. Meanwhile, in Essos, the exiled Viserys Targaryen, son of the former king, forces his sister Daenerys to marry a Dothraki warlord in exchange for an army to pursue his claim to the Iron Throne. The season ends with Viserys dead and Daenerys becoming the Mother of Dragons.
Game of Thrones features a large ensemble cast, including established actors such as Sean Bean, Mark Addy, Peter Dinklage, Lena Headey, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Michelle Fairley, and Iain Glen. Newer actors were cast as the younger generation of characters, such as Emilia Clarke, Kit Harington, Sophie Turner, and Maisie Williams.
Critics praised the show’s production values and cast; Dinklage’s portrayal of Tyrion Lannister received specific accolades, as did Bean and Clarke, as well as Ramin Djawadi for music.
The first season won two of the thirteen Emmy Awards for which it was nominated: Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series (Dinklage) and Outstanding Main Title Design. It was also nominated for Outstanding Drama Series. US viewership rose by approximately 33% over the course of the season, from 2.2 million to over 3 million by the finale.
- Main Cast:
- Sean Bean as Eddard “Ned” Stark.
- Mark Addy as Robert Baratheon.
- Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Jaime Lannister.
- Michelle Fairley as Catelyn Stark.
- Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister.
- Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen.
- Iain Glen as Jorah Mormont.
- Harry Lloyd as Viserys Targaryen.
- Kit Harington as Jon Snow.
- Sophie Turner as Sansa Stark.
- Maisie Williams as Arya Stark.
- Richard Madden as Robb Stark.
- Alfie Allen as Theon Greyjoy.
- Isaac Hempstead Wright as Bran Stark.
- Jack Gleeson as Joffrey Baratheon.
- Rory McCann as Sandor “The Hound” Clegane.
- Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister.
- Aidan Gillen as Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish.
- Also Starring:
- Jason Momoa as Khal Drogo.
- Guest Cast:
- The recurring actors listed here are those who appeared in season 01.
- They are listed by the region in which they first appear.
- At and Beyond the Wall:
- James Cosmo as Jeor Mormont.
- Peter Vaughan as Maester Aemon.
- Brian Fortune as Othell Yarwyck.
- Joseph Mawle as Benjen Stark.
- Owen Teale as Alliser Thorne.
- Francis Magee as Yoren.
- John Bradley as Samwell Tarly.
- Josef Altin as Pyp.
- Mark Stanley as Grenn.
- Luke McEwan as Rast.
- Rob Ostlere as Waymar Royce.
- Bronson Webb as Will.
- Dermot Keaney as Gared.
- In the North:
- Art Parkinson as Rickon Stark.
- Clive Mantle as Greatjon Umber.
- Steven Blount as Rickard Karstark.
- Donald Sumpter as Maester Luwin.
- Ron Donachie as Rodrik Cassel.
- Jamie Sives as Jory Cassel.
- Susan Brown as Septa Mordane.
- Margaret John as Old Nan.
- Kristian Nairn as Hodor.
- Esmé Bianco as Ros.
- Natalia Tena as Osha.
- In King’s Landing:
- Callum Wharry as Tommen Baratheon.
- Aimee Richardson as Myrcella Baratheon.
- Gethin Anthony as Renly Baratheon.
- Julian Glover as Grand Maester Pycelle.
- Conleth Hill as Varys.
- Ian McElhinney as Barristan Selmy.
- Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant.
- David Michael Scott as Beric Dondarrion.
- Finn Jones as Loras Tyrell.
- Eugene Simon as Lancel Lannister.
- Wilko Johnson as Ilyn Payne.
- Conan Stevens as Gregor Clegane.
- Dominic Carter as Janos Slynt.
- Jefferson Hall as Hugh of the Vale.
- Miltos Yerolemou as Syrio Forel.
- Andrew Wilde as Tobho Mott.
- Joe Dempsie as Gendry.
- Eros Vlahos as Lommy Greenhands.
- Ben Hawkey as Hot Pie.
- In the Riverlands:
- Charles Dance as Tywin Lannister.
- David Bradley as Walder Frey.
- Ian Gelder as Kevan Lannister.
- Jerome Flynn as Bronn.
- Emun Elliott as Marillion.
- Sibel Kekilli as Shae.
- Rhodri Hosking as Mycah.
- In the Vale:
- Lino Facioli as Robin Arryn.
- Kate Dickie as Lysa Arryn.
- Mark Lewis Jones as Shagga.
- In Essos:
- Roger Allam as Illyrio Mopatis.
- Dar Salim as Qotho.
- Elyes Gabel as Rakharo.
- Amrita Acharia as Irri.
- Roxanne McKee as Doreah.
- Mia Soteriou as Mirri Maz Duur.
HBO originally optioned the rights to A Song of Ice and Fire in 2007, at which time David Benioff and D.B. Weiss were identified as the project’s writers and executive producers. The first and second drafts of the pilot script, written by Benioff and Weiss, were submitted in August 2007, and June 2008, respectively. While HBO found both drafts to their liking, a pilot was not ordered until November 2008, with the 2007-2008 Writers Guild of America strike possibly delaying the process.
Benioff and Weiss served as main writers and showrunners for the first season. They contributed eight out of ten episodes, including one co-written 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 as the pilot was reworked into the first episode of the complete season. Van Patten also directed the second episode. McCarthy is still credited as a consulting producer for the series’ first episode. 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 favourite scenes from the first season were the results of the dilemma, including one between Robert and Cersei Baratheon discussing their marriage.
On 05 May 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. On 19 July 2009, a number of further casting decisions were announced, including Sean Bean being given the role of Ned Stark. 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.
At the beginning of August 2009, it was revealed that Catelyn Stark would be portrayed by Jennifer Ehle. On 20 August, 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. On 01 September Lena Headey was announced as Cersei Lannister. On 23 September, Martin confirmed that Rory McCann had been cast as Sandor Clegane. Isaac Hempstead-Wright was confirmed as Bran Stark on 14 October, followed by an announcement of Jason Momoa as Khal Drogo three days later.
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. Later, it was also confirmed that Emilia Clarke would replace Tamzin Merchant as Daenerys. 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.
The pilot episode was initially filmed on location in Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Morocco by Tom McCarthy between October 24 and 19 November 2009. However, the pilot was deemed unsatisfactory and much of it had to be reshot together with the other episodes of the season in Northern Ireland and Malta.
Most scenes were shot in Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland border counties. Principal photography was scheduled to begin on 26 July 2010, with the primary studio location being the Paint Hall Studio in the Titanic Quarter of Belfast, Northern Ireland. Among various locations for the initial shooting of the pilot in 2009, Doune Castle in central Scotland was used as the location for Winterfell, including scenes at its great hall (the great hall was later recreated in a soundstage in Northern Ireland). Additional filming locations included Cairncastle at Larne, Shane’s Castle, and Tollymore Forest Park, all in Northern Ireland. In the 2010 shooting of the series, Castle Ward was used as Winterfell instead of Doune Castle, with Cairncastle for some exterior Winterfell scenes. The set for Castle Black was built at Magheramorne quarry. 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”.
The “King’s Landing” exterior scenes were shot at various locations in Malta, including the city of Mdina and the island of Gozo. The filming in Malta resulted in controversy when a protected ecosystem was damaged by a subcontractor.
The soundtrack to Game of Thrones was originally to be composed by Stephen Warbeck. On 02 February 2011, only ten weeks prior to the show’s premiere, it was reported that Warbeck had left the project and Ramin Djawadi had been commissioned to write the music instead. The music supervisor of Game of Thrones Evyen Klean first suggested Djawadi to Benioff and Weiss as the replacement for Warbeck, and although Djawadi was reluctant as he had other commitments at that time, they managed to persuade Djawadi to accept the project.
To give the series its own distinctive musical identity, according to Djawadi, the producers asked him not to use musical elements such as flutes or solo vocals that had already been successfully used by other major fantasy productions. He mentioned that a challenge in scoring the series was its reliance on dialogue and its sprawling cast: on several occasions already-scored music had to be omitted so as not to get in the way of dialogue.
Djawadi said that he was inspired to write the main title music by an early version of the series’s computer-animated title sequence. The title music is reprised as a global theme in the rest of the soundtrack, initially infrequently and as part of the theme of individual characters, then in full towards the end of season 1 during particularly important scenes.
Anticipation for the series was described by various media outlets as very high, with a dedicated fan base closely following the show’s development. 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.
The majority of reviews for the first season were very positive, with critics noting the high production values, the well-realised world, compelling characters, and giving particular note to the strength of the child actors.
The first episode attracted 2.2 million viewers its initial airing on 17 April in the US, and totaled 5.4 million viewers across multiple Sunday and Monday night airings. It averaged 743,000 and reached a peak 823,000 in UK and Ireland on its 18 April premiere. HBO announced that they would be commissioning a second season on the strength of the reception of the premiere episode. By the final episode of the season, which aired 20 June the ratings had climbed to over 3 million.
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. Dinklage, who plays Tyrion, was also named best supporting actor by the Golden Globes, the Scream Awards and the Satellite Awards.
The first season of Game of Thrones was released on DVD and Blu-ray Disc on 06 March 2012. 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.
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 US and Canada on 20 November 2012. The first season was released on 4K UHD Blu-ray on 05 June 2018.
Game of Thrones Series
You can find an overview of the Game of Thrones franchise here.
You can find a full index of the Game of Thrones TV Series here.
- Episode 01: Winter is Coming.
- Episode 02: The Kingsroad.
- Episode 03: Lord Snow.
- Episode 04: Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things.
- Episode 05: The Wolf and the Lion.
- Episode 06: A Golden Crown.
- Episode 07: You Win or You Die.
- Episode 08: The Pointy End.
- Episode 09: Baelor.
- Episode 10: Fire and Blood.
Production & Filming Details
- Director(s): Tim Van Patten, Brian Kirk, Daniel Minahan, and Alan Taylor.
- Writer(s): David Benioff, D.B. Weiss, Bryan Cogman, Jane Espenson, and George R.R. Martin.
- Release Date: 17 April 2011 to 19 June 2011.
- Running time: 55 minutes (approximate, per episode).
- Rating: 15/18 (depends on season).
- Country: US.
- Language: English.