Ok, first off. Huge thanks to HBO for inviting me to this whole press event. I’ve been here less than a day and I already feel very welcome by everyone at HBO. They all know about Winter Is Coming and refer it as a good resource to anyone who asks about the series, which is very flattering and nice to hear.
Fire And Blood: It’s true, they all love Winter. And what’s not to love? Good looking man, tall, lithe, smart, and best of all QUIET—so that FaBio can be heard! (I am neither tall, nor lithe, nor particularly smart, but boy can I talk…)
Winter Is Coming: I know, I can’t even get one paragraph into this post without you butting in… ;)
Now, onto the stuff you all want to know about, the 15-minute sneak peek! HBO had hoped to show the pilot here at the winter TCA press tour, but it isn’t quite ready yet. So they put together 15 minutes of clips from what looks to be the first three episodes. And it is, in a word, amazing. A thorough breakdown of the preview is after the jump (spoilers galore!) with both my and FaB’s thoughts included.
Before the sneak peek they were showing still shots, mostly ones we’ve already seen, but some new ones of Catelyn, one of Bran and a few with the direwolf pups. My favorite being Robb picking up Grey Wind after just finding him. HBO told me these photos will be released soon.
Unfortunately, the sneak peek will not be available to the public due to music licensing issues (the music contained parts of the scores of Gladiator and Lord of the Rings) and some incomplete CGI work (although I didn’t notice anything amiss). So this report will have to do for now.
Fire And Blood: I agree, the music distracted. Not because it was bad music, but because we recognized it so readily: Gladiator, Lord of the Rings… but since it was already iconic in our brains, it did not enhance the production.
The sneak peek starts off much the same as the third teaser, with Ned and his sons at the execution of Will. This clip is slightly longer than the one in the trailer and has Jon saying to Bran, “Don’t look away, father will know if you do.”
Fire And Blood: I have still found no flaw in Kit Harington. I think he’s brilliant. What a great find.
Cut to Ned and Catelyn in the godswood. Catelyn tells of the news of Jon Arryn’s death. Flash to the dead body of Jon Arryn.
Winter Is Coming: We didn’t get a detailed shot of the heart tree, but what I saw looked much better than the version in the original pilot. White trunk, red leaves. Didn’t see the face though.
Fire And Blood: The leaves were much larger. I loved that. I’m almost 100% sure they are redoing the carved face.
Then a new scene between Cersei and Robert. Cersei: “Without a hand, things will fall to pieces.” Robert: “I suppose this is where you tell me to give the job to Jaime.”
Then, another new scene, Jaime consoling Cersei in the throne room of the Red Keep. Tells her not to worry about who the new Hand might be (paraphrasing here). They will come out on top, they are Lannisters. Cut back to Catelyn and Ned discussing in the godswood. Catelyn: “You can always say no, Ned.”
Cut to Bran climbing the tower. Jaime and Cersei having sex (fully clothed I might add, surprisingly enough). Cersei sees Bran. Jaime goes to the window, grabs Bran by the arm.
Jaime (to Bran): “Are you mad?”
Cersei: “He knows about us.”
Jaime: “The things I do for love.”
Winter Is Coming: It was amazing seeing this iconic scene come to life. Very much as I pictured it. My only complaint was, you could kinda tell it was a set. Maybe this was one of those scenes that was still a little rough?
Cut to the next morning. Tyrion at breakfast with his siblings. Tells of Bran’s survival. Jamie and Cersei share a concerned look. Cersei mocks Tyrion for wanting to go see the Wall. Cersei: “I feel you may even take the Black.” Tyrion: “And become celibate? The whores would be mourning from Dorne to Casterly Rock.”
Fire And Blood: This scene seemed the easiest on the eyes. Like it was so natural (the hallmark of really good actors), just a family of Lannisters enjoying breakfast; I no longer have ANY worries about Dinklage’s accent, as he goes through about 3 of them in this single scene, depending on whether he’s playing the prankster uncle, the casually concerned brother, or the smarter-than-thou Imp. Tyrion feels to me like someone who is accustomed to performing. Even Myrcella and Tommen fit seamlessly in. I’m glad Aimee Richardson fought to move up from the “stand in” position she inhabited the first time they shot the pilot. They really do look like a family. But the standout here is Tyrion. Dinklage FTW. (And no one does angry worry quite like Lena Headey. Her facial tics are excellent. I too see why they hired her.)
Winter Is Coming: Yes, this scene was great. One of my few complaints about the preview was, not enough Dinklage! Can’t wait to see him knock this role out of the park, once the series airs.
Cut to a scene, which I believe is not in the books, Ned talking to Jon as he sets out for the Wall with Benjen and company. Tells him to serve with honor or something to that effect. Then to the Wall, we see the Old Bear and Maester Aemon speaking with Tyrion, pleading for more men. Then we get our first glimpse of the Wall.
Winter Is Coming: When we first saw the Wall everyone kind of had a “woah” moment. It’s the freakin’ Wall! It is an impossibly huge sheet of ice, just as described in the books. We all agreed, it was one of the most impressive shots from the preview.
Fire And Blood: The Wall looks …. awesome. And real. It looks real. Maester Aemon looks… well, like he may sprout fangs and hiss at us any moment. Querulous little toothless mouth. The Old Bear was imposing, though was white-haired rather than the black we’re used to. White-haired men on the Wall is a theme, I think.
Back to Winterfell, Luwin delivers Lysa’s note as Ned and Catelyn lie in bed together. Cat reveals its contents, “She’s fled the capital. She says Jon Arryn was murdered by the Lannisters.” Then the scene we saw in the Inside Game of Thrones feature, Cat pleading with Ned to remain in Winterfell.
Catelyn: “Seventeen years ago, you rode off to war with Robert Baratheon. And now you’re leaving me again.”
Ned: “I have no choice.”
Catelyn (in tears): “That’s what men always say when honor calls, that’s what you tell your families, tell yourselves. You do have a choice, and you’ve made it.”
Winter Is Coming: Some good stuff from Fairley here. I’ve always liked her as Catelyn, so I’m glad my original good feelings seem to be warranted. Luwin’s maester’s collar, by the way, is HUGE. The links are like the size of donuts and it goes all the way down below his waist. Not sure why they changed that for the show, even GRRM commented it was much different than he imagined it to be.
Fire And Blood: Have to say—Catelyn looks GREAT. Michelle Fairley really struck a chord with those watching. Will she be modeling next year’s Dior bikinis? Probably not. But her gravitas, her emotional core… Mo Ryan said it best: she brings an “earthy” emotional core. Emotions everyone can readily understand and sympathize with, whereas Cersei, in a few shots, looks to be just about off her rocker.
Cut to King’s Landing. A far away CGI shot of the Red Keep, which looks great. A cluster of tall towers and one huge archway leading to a solitary tower (The Tower of the Hand?). Another new scene, Ned walks into the throne room, finds Jaime seated on the steps beneath the Iron Throne.
Winter Is Coming: The Iron Throne is very impressive. Swords jutting up the back like a huge, metal peacock. It looks similar to Komarck’s version only slightly less fantastical. And this scene played out almost as an homage to Ned’s arrival into King’s Landing 17 years ago, at first we even thought it was a flashback.
Ned: “That’s some handsome armor you’re wearing. Not a scratch on it.”
Jaime: “People have been swinging at me for years, but they always seem to miss.”
Ned: “You’ve chosen your opponents wisely then.”
Jaime: “I have a knack for it.”
Winter Is Coming: There was more to this exchange but I couldn’t transcribe it all. They clearly are playing up the Jaime vs. Ned angle.
Cut back to Winterfell, we see the assassination attempt. Summer arrives just in time. There is a satisfying crunch. Cat reveals the murder attempt to Robb, Theon, Luwin and Rodrik, says she believes the Lannisters are behind it. Another new Jaime and Cersei scene, this one in Cersei’s bedchamber. Jaime: “The boy won’t talk and if he does I will kill him. I will kill everyone, if I have to, until we are the only two people left in the Seven Kingdoms.”
Fire And Blood: My thoughts about the Jaime & Cersei scene, and him perhaps coming off a wee bit … villainous in these early shots. At least that’s what some people said. There’s a scene where Cersei is practically breaking down with worried rage, and he’s holding her, whispering soothingly that he will do whatever it takes to see that their secret is protected… And while one way to see it as ‘Whoa, Jaime’s gone nuts,’ I saw it as him recognizing one of Cersei’s really bad moments, and doing–and saying–whatever he can to calm her. It’s a brand new scene either way, and it sees right to the heart of his fatal flaw (which is her). His words are being used to soothe her.
Winter Is Coming: I did kind of get a Jaime, the super-villain, vibe in some of his scenes. But you might be right about this scene, he definitely seems to be attempting to appease Cersei here. But I still think that David & Dan are trying to set up Jaime as the “bad guy” for the first season. Which should make subsequent seasons very interesting to watch …
Robert and Ned on the way to King’s Landing. Robert talks of Dany’s marriage to Drogo. Cut to Dany meeting Drogo. Cut back to Ned and Robert still discussing the Targaryen threat. Robert worries about Drogo’s army of over 100,000 men, Ned remarks that even if they had a million men it wouldn’t matter, they don’t have any ships. Robert then says his “there’s a war coming Ned” line. Cut to the Cersei and Ned confrontation in the Red Keep. Ned: “I was trained to kill my enemies.” Cersei: “So was I.” Cut to a similar scene, this time Cersei talking to Robert. Robert: “Targaryen’s ruled for centuries, and yet, here I am, King Robert Baratheon.”
Fire And Blood: A fantastic moment of self-realization for Robert Baratheon. He’s almost saying, arms spread, “I’ve done the impossible. What now?”
Cut back to Essos. Viserys and Illyrio are talking at the wedding. Viserys asks when he will get to invade Westeros, Illryio replies when the Dothraki omens say it is time. Viserys: “I piss on Dothraki omens. I’ve waited seventeen years to get my throne back.” Then shots of Dany and Drogo on their wedding night, intercut with Doreah training Dany. Doreah: “Out there he is the mighty Khal, but in this tent, he belongs to you.” Then we see Dany and Jorah’s exchange when she commands the horde to stop.
And then, the best scene of the preview, between Viserys and Dany.
Viserys: “What is this? Dothraki rags? You’re going to dress me now? This stinks of manure. All of it!”
Dany: “It was a gift.”
Viserys: “Next you are going to braid me!”
Dany: “I will never braid you, you haven’t won any victories.”
Viserys: “You are a horselord slut and now you’ve woken the dragon!”
Viserys slaps her and pushes her to the ground. Dany fights back. Grabs a metal belt and slaps Viserys in the face with it. Viserys looks horrified.
Dany: “I am a khaleesi of the Dothraki! And if you raise your hands at me again, you will no longer have hands.”
Fire And Blood: I cannot stress how well this scene just draws you in. Harry Lloyd and Emilia Clarke together are so completely believable. We literally witnessed the evolution of their relationship. (And you know what? When the cameras are rolling and you don’t have ten minutes there to sit and stare at one eyebrow over and over… you really don’t notice the distinction. They may very well pull the rug right out from under Eyebrowgate.)
Winter Is Coming: As I said, best scene of the preview right here. People are going to care about Dany, folks. Both Lloyd and Clarke have an electricity about them. Even taken out of context, this scene was affecting and emotional. Perfect acting. Emilia Clarke is going to blow up once this show airs. And Lloyd, just spot-on as Viserys.
Cut to the scene where Dany speaks with Jorah and finally realizes that Viserys will never win back the Iron Throne. Jorah: “A wise child.” Dany: “I am no child.” Then Dany and Drogo laying in bed together, naked. Dany tells Drogo, in subtitled Dothraki, that she will be having a boy.
Fire And Blood: Can Emilia do regal and commanding? Why yes. Yes she can. Really good hire, that one.
Winter Is Coming: Hearing the Dothraki language being spoken by the characters for the first time was cool. I like the sound of the language, fits the Dothraki people well, I think.
The preview ends with the now familiar Old Nan voiceover and a quick montage of shots. Scenes from the prologue, the dead wilding bodies, shown from above, are arranged in some sort of pattern or symbol. We also see what looked like, to me, a hand of a wight grabbing Gared’s head.
Fire And Blood: Just a hand, alas … no actual Others sightings.
A shot of Joffrey slowly drawing Golden Tooth across Mycah’s cheek, drawing blood.
Fire And Blood: And Joff is sickly fascinated by his handiwork. He enjoys this. Another good hire.
Dinklage being thrown into the sky cell. Robert orders the assassination of Dany and her unborn child. Ned says that assassinating them is without honor, Robert yells back, “You think it’s honor keeping the peace? It’s fear. Fear and blood!” The preview ends with the shot of Ned with Cat and Luwin in the background and Aemon’s voice, “The Stark words are always right eventually, winter is coming. This one will be long… and dark things will come with it.”
Winter Is Coming: People said to be honest about what I saw and I am not BSing you when I say, it looks amazing. Absolutely amazing. The sets, the costumes, the acting, everything is top-notch. The little glimpses of scenes we got before aren’t even just an appetizer for the main course, they were the bread before the meal. The main course is going to be rich and delicious. Trust me, you will not be disappointed once this show hits the air.
Fire And Blood: I hate to say it but … shades of Lord of the Rings… this really looks BETTER than we thought. If I have one complaint it was we didn’t get to see enough of the girls; Sophie and Maisie were in many scenes but they never had a spoken word. And yet all through the show, GRRM and others went out of their way to say how mind-boggling and natural Maisie and Sophie were. So it was a shame not to see any of their scenes. Bran was good of course, but we’ve seen bits of that already.
What a couple of lucky fools we were. What a treat!