"The 'Game of Thrones' fans are the best," was the phrase most repeated during the "Game of Thrones Epic Fan Experience." On Thursday, at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., 7,000 fans were treated to a night full of surprises, including appearances by series creator George R.R. Martin and the "GoT" cast.
Oh, and the chance to see the much-anticipated premiere episode, "Two Swords," before the public got it.
As fans poured in, the arena got a bit claustrophobia-inducing. Winding lines for food and beer competed with the interactive experiences, including a chance to sit on the Iron Throne. While props and the chance to see the "GoT" Season 4 premiere two weeks early would have been enough to satisfy any fan, HBO spared no expense in giving fans the ultimate "GoT" experience.
To start the night, the 15-minute "Ice and Fire: A Foreshadowing" special was screened before a marching band came out to play the "Game of Thrones" theme song. A performance by Common was the first surprise of the night. He performed a two-song set including "The Ladder" off the "Game of Thrones" mixtape.
To segue into the next portion of the night, Kristian Nairn (Hodor) took the stage as the host for the evening. A standing ovation and shouts of "Hodor" greeted Nairn, who recently came out as gay. He talked a bit about the great fans, the way the show has completely changed his life, and of course had to say "Hodor," much to everyone's delight.
Nairn's hosting duties led to the biggest surprise of the night, an appearance by "A Song of Ice and Fire" creator George R.R. Martin. Before Nairn could get one question out, Martin shouted "Working on it," preemptively answering the question every fan has been asking: "When will 'Winds of Winter' be done?"
The appearance of Martin alone would have satisfied fans, but then he introduced Maisie Williams (Arya Stark), Sibel Kekilli (Shae) and John Bradely (Samwell Tarly) for a panel. To Nairn's questions, Sam stole the show with witty, sharp responses while Kekilli couldn't help but repeat "Holy s--t" in awe of the evening. Asking who Arya would most want to kill on the show, the answer was easy: "Joffrey!"
With one final surprise left, a lucky fan, Mike Ross from Hoboken, won his very own Iron Throne.
Warning: "Game of Thrones" spoilers ahead.
The lights went down and the Season 4 premiere started. Recapping the many events of Season 3, the first scene of Season 4 involves the melting down of Eddard Stark's greatsword, Ice, by Tywin Lannister. The seeds of dissension in the Lannister family are sown as Jaime Lannister goes against his father's wishes, wanting to serve in the Kingsguard instead of returning to Casterly Rock.
Not to give everything away, but the first episode played catch-up as nearly every major character, save for the Greyjoys, Ramsay, Bran and Stannis, had some screen time. If there was one major theme throughout the episode, it was that of change as each character is faced with tough choices that will shape their future.
Many of the scenes featured characters pairing off, including Tyrion and Sansa, Daenerys and Daario Naharis, Brienne of Tarth and Jaime, as well as the Tyrells continuing to scheme. There was a dragon sighting, and the trio are getting much bigger and may soon be too difficult to control.
Perhaps the best moments of the episode came from Oberyn Martell. The Red Viper was quick with words, and to violence, and was an immediate fan favorite. The Red Viper has an amazing presence throughout the episode and brings a true sense of danger to every encounter as he makes his intentions known immediately; he came to King's Landing to avenge the death of his sister, Elia Martell.
Jon Snow and the Night's Watch had a minor role in the premiere, but "GoT" introduced the Thenn and their leader Styr. Last season featured Jaime and Brienne as unlikely allies, and Season 4 will see Arya and the Hound traveling the road together. The end of "Two Swords" saw Arya getting her own sword, Needle, back, after a bloody encounter at an inn.
The night concluded with a look ahead to future events in Season 4, and it looks like it will be the most eventful season yet. Based on the success and surprises, here's hoping the "Game of Thrones Epic Fan Experience" becomes a tradition for each new season.
The "Game of Thrones" Season 4 premiere will air on HBO on April 6.