Season Two of the hit series Game of Thrones returns to HBO on April 1, promising more sex, violence and backstabbing than ever before, along with a good dose of political intrigue and plenty more appearances by the ever-welcome Peter Dinklage, the man behind fan favorite Tyrion Lannister.
As viewers and fans of the original George R.R. Martin books prepare themselves for Dany's dragons, a clash of several kings and the climatic Battle of Blackwater, however, many are also catching up on the first season of the critical and commercial smash hit.
To refresh your memory, check out the 13 most epic moments in Season One of Game of Thrones, and find out what they might mean for the season ahead.
As opposed to the brilliant wordplay of Varys and Littlefinger or the brilliant supposition created by scenes like
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Want to end the first episode of the first season of a show off on the right foot? Set the tone by hurling a kid out the window to his presumed death.
As in Martin's original series, HBO wastes no time in revealing the full extent of the Lannister clan's epic family dysfunction. This scene not only revealed that twin siblings Cersei and Jaime spend most of their time screwing each other's brains out. It also showed that one of them, at least, was willing to murder an innocent child in order to keep their secret without so much as batting a perfectly blonde eyelash. For setting the plot of Season One in motion and for the sheer shock value of the first episode's closing seconds, this moment deserves to be on the list.
Tyrion Lannister's trial at the Vale could occupy a place of its own on this list. When it comes to the moments that make your fist pump in the air, however, few come as close as Catelyn Tully's move to seize the youngest Lannister sibling when he discovers her identity on the road.
Utilizing a flair for grandstanding that definitely shows she's not from the Stark family, Cat's remarkably quick thinking and masterful use of her father's alliances may have been based on a completely wrong assumption, but it doesn't make the moment when a dozen swords are drawn on the Imp any less dramatic, and certainly makes her failure to succeed thanks to her crazy sister Lysa all the more crushing.
Obviously, the Dothraki warrior Mago wasn't paying attention when Khal Drogo pledged to give Daenerys the Iron Throne for her son, or saw her people's devotion to her when she ate a horse's heart to prove the heir she carried inside her at Vaes Dothrak.
If he had, he would have held his tongue in front of the khaleesi. Instead, Dorgo ended up holding for him in a scene that both proved the khal could literally tear a man apart with his bare hands and foreshadowed Drogo's own death at the hands of a sword wound.
10. The prince is riding!
Nothing like eating the raw heart of a horse to show that you're a true khaleesi. Emilia Clarke and Jason Momoa, as Daenerys and Drogo, have amazing chemistry in this scene, and its easy to believe that eating that bloody heart is the hardest thing for the pregnant khaleesi to do in that moment. But nowhere as hard as it appears to be for Viserys, who at long last realizes his sister has a power that he can never have: her people love her.
Surrounded by Dothraki chanting her son's name, buoyed on their acceptance and the newfound power she's beginning to find within herself, it's easy to believe Ser Jorah when he sums up the situation: She truly is a queen today.
9. “He was no dragon. Fire cannot kill a dragon.”
Who says the Dothraki can't do irony? After a lifetime of suffering under the tyrannical and abusive hold of Viserys, Dany is finally freed from him when her husband Khal Drogo gives her brother the golden crown he demands--by pouring a kettle of molten gold over his head.
What makes this scene particularly amazing, however, is what it reveals about Dany herself, and the transformation she's undergone from princess of Wetseros to a Dothraki khaleesi. She knows exactly what's about to happen to the man who just threatened to murder her unborn child, and its her refusal to look away from her brother's death, and the barely-perceptible nod she gives to Drogo before her husband acts, that reveals her to be the last true dragon, unconquered and unmerciful.
8. I'm telling mother--AUGH!
Considering how much of Season Two of Game of Thrones is expected to revolve around the youngest Lannister sibling, HBO fans could easily make another top ten list devoted purely to the awesome things Tyrion does in the first season.
But as one of our first real introductions to Tyrion's complicated character, or at least the first where he's not needling bastards or sampling Northern cuisine, this moment is priceless. And though Jack Gleeson, who plays Prince Joffrey, may only be serving as an unglorified punching bag in this scene, his squeals of shock and pain have just the right amount of schadenfreude to get us through all the horrible things his character forces us to watch later.
7. I did warn you not to trust me.
Even those who were waiting for Petyr Baelish to betray Ned Stark all season were shocked by the ferocity of his betrayal, and the suddenness with which all of Ned's support, both as the future Regent and the Ward of the North, disappeared the moment Cersei decided to lay her cards on the table, a terrifying illustration of just how little truths and decrees mean in the face of fear and brute force.
In an echo of Catelyn Tully's earlier scene with Tyrion, Ned Stark's own failed attempt to seizing back the throne shows the true tragedy of his character: he, unlike those he fights, will do anything to accomplish what is right...even if it means writing his own epitaph in the process.
6. I, Drogo, will do this!
When it comes to demonstrating the truth of what it means to be a khal, nobody does it better than Jason Momoa after his character Drogo learns that Dany has almost been killed by one of King Robert's assassins.
The power that Momoa conveys as he stalks across the tent, the tenderness he shows to Daenerys, and the thrill of hearing him proclaim, in the guttural Dothraki tongue, that he will take back Dany's birthright even if he has to destroy the Seven Kingdoms to do it, combine to make a scene of great violence without Drogo having spilled a single drop of blood.
Also known as Jon Snow versus the zombies. From the moment where Jon first takes command, to our first real look at the wights about to plague the Nights Watch, to the first hints of just how important Ghost will become in the seasons ahead, this scene from Game of Thrones Season One brings us the horror of the opening scene of the series and combines it with characters we've been rooting for since the beginning.
Beyond the scene itself, however, Snow's battle against a White Walker is ultimately what convinces him, along with a good dose of reality-check by Commander Mormont, that when it comes to the threats facing the realm from beyond the Wall, power struggles about who sits on the Iron Throne really aren't that important.
4. Maybe he'll bring me yours.
Let's be honest here: Nobody likes Sansa Stark in Season One. She's naive, she's flighty, and she can be a whiny little brat when she wants to be...which seemed to be about every other scene in Game of Thrones. By the season's end, however, it's one of Sansa's scenes that make our top ten list, because as quiet and subtle as her rebellion is, it's an incredibly important shift in her character.
No matter how weak she can appear in the first half of the season, this pre-teen girl has been through hell and back, only to see her father die at the hands of the boy she thought she loved. When she faces Joffrey down when he threatens to cut off her brother Robb's head, too, and steels herself to do what only two episodes before would have been unthinkable, the look in her face tells viewers everything they need to know: Sansa has finally become a Stark.
3. Not today.
Debate continues to rage over whether Arya Stark's dancing teacher Syrio Forel survived his stand-off with the Lannister guards, especially since those who've read the rest of Martin's series so far know that a good rule of thumb is that if he doesn't give readers a body, the character is probably still alive.
Even if he never made it out of King's Landing, however, Syrio's calm, gently mocking demeanor as he faces the possibility of death, and his determination to save Arya's life, make his final scenes some of the more beautiful ones shot in Season One. And while Arya is the one Syrio's giving his life to protect, the fact that she wants him to stay with her, even if it means staying there and risking her own life, is one more reason by she's so many viewers' favorite.
2. Bring me his head!
Pity the poor viewers who watched Game of Thrones without having read the books and actually thought Eddard Stark was going to get out of this one. After promising both his naive fiance Sansa and his politically wily mother Cersei that he would spare Ned's life in exchange for a confession, Prince Joffrey decided to take matters into his own hands...or, at least, into Ser Ilyn Payne's.
The shock of Ned's execution, the horror that Sansa and Arya were forced to witness it, and the war in the North sparked by the Stark patriarch's death made his execution one of the most powerful and most important scenes in the entire series.
1. Blood of my blood.
After hinting at the moment all season, Game of Thrones head screenwriters D.B. Weiss and David Benioff had Season One go out in a literal blaze of glory, with Daenerys honoring Drogo, exacting her vengeance on Mirri Maz Duur and channeling her own rebirth in a baptism of fire, remaking herself into the first female khal ever.
Oh, and did we mention the dragons? DRAGONS.
The season's final image, of a naked Daenerys facing an uncertain future, a dragon perched on her shoulder and the others held in her arms, could have been melodramatic or even silly. Instead, it's one of the most powerful and haunting images of the series so far, and a brilliant ending to a beautiful first season.