“Winter is Coming” Revisited: First Game of Thrones Impressions in the Twitterverse

Ned Stark

April 17, 2011. It marks the date Game of Thrones premiered on HBO, and it also marks the day a beloved fandom tradition began: the Game of Thrones collective livetweet.

Two weeks in advance of the premiere, HBO released a 15-minute preview of the first episode “Winter is Coming,” with the show’s cold open beyond the Wall and the execution of deserter Will. Between the preview, a well-crafted promo campaign (featuring Westerosi food trucks and The Maester’s Path) and organic excitement from longtime book fans, there was major hype for GoT leading up to April 17th. Early reviews were mostly positive, a few meh, and the rare clunker, such as the notorious New York Times review that dove into offensive territory. The most hardcore fans spent years following production of the show, from development to pilot filming, and premiere night was a fantastic party. We watched, we laughed, we cheered, and we united on Twitter as a fandom en masse for the first time in what became a weekly tradition, every season until the end.

(This is a whole lotta tweets, so give this baby a minute to load!)

So, what were people thinking at the very beginning?

I agree! I have fond memories of the fandom tearing it to shreds.

Just so.

Apparently this sort of dude existed from day one.

Yeah! Sorta- yeah that’s close enough.

Gentle Heart

Cool it on the spoilers, Calvin!

…right.

Time to start the show! Starting with a gutsy cold open, Game of Thrones begins in the frozen North beyond the Wall…

Jumping into the gorgeous opening credits, flawless from the start obv-

Oops. A few kinks to work out! (The Series Premiere rendition is still up on YouTube, errors and all.)

The lone ranger who survived the cold open gets the chop mercilessly in our introduction to House Stark and their honor:

The finding of the Stark children’s direwolves brought a lot of awwwws and specific expectations:

GoT fans love the idea of owning a direwolf- and in fact this led to loads of people adopting direwolf-like dogs and abandoning them when the reality of owning a big dog set in. Skip that, and just enjoy the cuteness onscreen instead!

Meanwhile in King’s Landing, we meet Jaime and Cersei for the first time…

Lots of split opinions on the Lannister twins back in the day! All the show’s wigs were savaged by the fandom. People were more in agreement on the vitally important shaving scene.

#secretspoilers

As a hint of things to come, Bran shows off his taste for climbing and the King of Westeros arrives in Winterfell with his complicated family in tow.

It’s not just you. The memes will not end for…actually they haven’t stopped.

We’re introduced now to the Targaryen siblings, across the Narrow Sea.

At the Winterfell feast, our new faves mingle with varying degrees of success, and a letter arrives from Cat’s sister Lysa Arryn:

Daenerys and Drogo’s wedding and problematic wedding night occur, but not before we meet…

She was 13 in the book. But it’s a 10-25 year old debate (depending on book vs. show) and it still rages on in some corners of the internet.

At Winterfell, Tyrion crosses paths with the Hound….

And Bran goes on a fateful climbing jaunt. It was the scene that would make or break the show for most first-time viewers, deciding for them whether they’d return for more or turn away enraged and disgusted. “The things I do for love.”

To sum it all up, fan reactions were as varied then as they were every season thereafter. Though fans tend to look back on the early seasons with rose-colored lenses, we’ve always been a nitpicking and opinionated lot. Reactions after the premiere were just as passionate and diverse as you would expect.

I mean it’s not not what they did.

I have good news for you!

And that wraps up our Twitter flashback on this Iron Anniversary. I hope you’ve enjoyed turning back the clock for a bit of fun. It’s good for a smile and for the always helpful reminder that the more things change, the more they remain the same in some ways.

I have to say, I enjoyed seeing the 2011 mentions of people hoping for more fantasy series (more than I included), shows that have since come to fruition, probably in part due to the seismic influence that Game of Thrones has had on the TV landscape. Fantasy was “boy fiction” (thanks, Ginia) and treated largely as a joke in TV before, by people who didn’t understand our world and were condescending toward it.

Ten years on, and the entertainment world has changed. GoT is not the sole factor but it is undoubtedly a major influence. Amazon is dropping $465 million on one season of the new Lord of the Rings show, something that was unthinkable before. We have feasted on fantasy since the arrival of Game of Thrones. We can turn on Netflix now and find more than a dozen different fantasy shows at any time, blessed with variety to choose from. We are so unbelievably lucky to have all this. To have had this show, and this fandom, and ten years to enjoy it all.

To the Iron Anniversary and the future of Ice and Fire!

dany

Special love and credit to the legendary Axechucker aka Fire and Blood aka FaBio aka Axey Fabulous for being the original maestro of the GoT Twitter Recap, going all the way back to our WiCNet days. All other Twitter recaps pale in comparison to his magnificence.

9 responses

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    1. ….the albino girl marrying that Klingon.

      I’m dead.

      Any chance of you having the tweets from the “Baelor” episode? Would love to see how folks reacted to that.

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    2. This was fun looking at the instant reactions from the opening episode of 2011.
      I loved Saladin Ahmed’s: @saladinahmed Kid playing Arya is great. “F**k this needlepoint s**t. I hear people SHOOTING ARROWS!” #GAMEOFTHRONES

      Comments about Tyrion/Peter were right on the money.

      I also thought Emilia’s poster was gorgeous. I’ve never seen that one.
      https://watchersonthewall.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/Gentle-Heart.jpg

      And there were folks already mad that GRRM didn’t finish the books back in 2011.

      One person didn’t think Kit was good looking enough!

      Time travel can be enlightening. Memory has a way of tweaking the past.

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    3. Erica,

      It’s incredibly time-consuming to look for tweets so far in the past (because Twitter Advanced Search is a clunky beast) so I’m not sure I’ll be able to do another one! But I’m happy you enjoyed this one so much. 🙂

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    4. OMG THE MAESTER’S PATH

      That brings me back.

      I’ve been re-watching, and every frame I have to stop and scrutinize some piece of furniture to figure out if it’s the one from chair-gate or gate-gate and then also explain the significance of this to my very bored partner.

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    5. Steve Westenra,

      Maester’s Path is still one of my favorite things ever from a fandom, and I would be thrilled if they did something like it for HOTD. I love puzzles and games, it just makes it all that much more sweeter. Plus we worked together, so there was community-building in it.

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    6. I didn’t watch GoT from the very beginning but binge watched the first two series at the end of 2012/beginning of 2013. I didn’t expect to like it but it did draw me in.

      I didn’t have a twitter account but tended to avoid twitter in case I was “spoiled”. The show and books were not vastly different in those days.

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    7. I didn’t even have twitter back in 2011! Thinking back though I do recall seeing the show being advertised on Sky and Sean Bean was an obvious pull. The genre itself probably wouldn’t have been enough alone to pull me in but the advertising with Sean and not long on the coat tails of Lord of the Rings caught my interest. From there within 2-3 episodes I was absolutely hooked.

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    8. So tweets were as dumb back then as they are now. Good to know.

      The dude bitching that Catelyn wasn’t naked when she received a letter might’ve been the dumbest thing I read, but I admit I haven’t had time to read all these tweets.

      And for the posts oogling the shirtless men scene. I don’t know. That’s pretty sexist! Men are more than their bodies don’t you know! So toxic and problematic!

      I can only hope they treat the men as human beings and not sexual objects in HOTD!

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