Game of Thrones rewatch: Season 1 episode 1, Winter is Coming

Starting my rewatch of the series one episode a day til the premiere on April 6th today. There will be spoilers, as I have told many friends the show can be quite far reaching into the books and a lot of things are foreshadowed or alluded to or referenced that have deep meanings or reveal details in the past that greatly affected the “present” day westeros. I will insert a read more break that you must click so unwitting people can avoid the real spoilers.

Winter is Coming

I remember immediately after watching this episode I went online and ordered the first 3 books: A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords. And then before the third episode started I was already finished reading A Storm of Swords. That is how compelling the series was to me. By then end of the first season I finished what was available in the series at that point, A Feast for Crows and obsessing over what could happen in A Dance with Dragons.

Beware: Spoilers below

It may be confirmation bias here, but I thought that this episode focused a lot on Jon Snow. He is a pivotal character in the story, he has “Stark blood” but is not a Stark. The question of Jon Snow’s mother is heavily theorized by a lot of people on the interwebz, the one I believe personally is R+L=J. R being Rhaegar Targaryen, L being Lyanna Stark, and J being Jon Snow. I’ll let that sink in if you haven’t heard of it or just now realizing the implications of it.

Robert’s Rebellion was started because Rhaegar “kidnapped” Lyanna Stark, so Ned’s brother Brandon Stark rode south to have Rhaegar answer for his actions. Instead, The Mad King had him seized and imprisoned, then called for his father, Rickard Stark, to answer for his son’s “crime.” As was his right, Rickard Demanded a Trial by Combat, and according to Jaime Lannister, the Mad King agreed but named fire as his champion and burned Rickard Stark alive while the entire court and most of the kingsguard watched and said nothing. Brandon Stark had a noose around his neck and strangled himself trying to get a sword put just out his reach that he could use to save his father. After this, the mad king demanded the wards of Jon Arryn, Robert Baratheon and Ned Stark, to be his hostages to ensure no one would rise up in rebellion. Jon Arryn refused and with his wards, rallied the North and the Stormlands into rebellion against the Iron Throne.

As Ned said in the series, if Robert had his way they would be still fighting in a damned rebellion. When Ned rode south to war with his bannermen, forging allies and creating allies with marriage, they started to win battles and began defeating the royalists in the field and having the defeated swear new oaths of fealty towards Robert. The real battle that decided everything was on the Trident, when Robert slew Rhaegar in single combat and broke the royal army and sent them fleeing from the field. Robert was injured, therefore Ned had to rally his troops to take Kingslanding before the Lannisters, who had an army but not officially declared for either side but was assumed to be part of the Royal army still. Instead, the Lannisters sacked Kingslanding, Jaime Lannister slew the Mad King, and the Lannister’s were to present the Iron Throne to Robert to show their loyalty, as well has murdering the royal family and presenting the bodies to Robert. Angered by this, Ned left Kingslanding to go to the stormlands to lift the siege of Stom’s End that Robert’s brother Stannis was holding in his name. After lifting the siege and having the Tyrells dip their banners for Robert, Ned headed further south to Dorne to rescue his sister.

I relish every opportunity to reread the tower of joy in “A Game of Thrones” so I will copy and paste it here.

“I looked for you on the Trident,” Ned said to them.
“We were not there,” Ser Gerold answered.
“Woe to the Usurper if we had been,” said Ser Oswell.
“When King’s Landing fell, Ser Jaime slew your king with a golden sword, and I wondered where you were.”
“Far away,” Ser Gerold said, “or Aerys would yet sit the Iron Throne, and our false brother would burn in seven hells.”
“I came down on Storm’s End to lift the siege,” Ned told them, and the Lords Tyrell and Redwyne dipped their banners, and all their knights bent the knee to pledge us fealty. I was certain you would be among them.”
“Our knees do not bend easily,” said Ser Arthur Dayne.
“Ser Willem Darry is fled to Dragonstone, with your queen and Prince Viserys. I thought you might have sailed with him.”
“Ser Willem is a good man and true,” said Ser Oswell.
“But not of the Kingsguard,” Ser Gerold pointed out. “The Kingsguard does not flee.”
“Then or now,” said Ser Arthur. He donned his helm.
“We swore a vow,” explained old Ser Gerold.
Ned’s wraiths moved up beside him, with shadow swords in hand. They were seven against three.
“And now it begins,” said Ser Arthur Dayne, the Sword of the Morning. He unsheathed Dawn and held it with both hands. The blade was pale as milkglass, alive with light.
“No,” Ned said with sadness in his voice. “Now it ends.”

After the battle, of which only Ned and Howland Reed survive, Ned finds Lyanna on a “bed of blood” and the room smelling of “blood and roses” where she dies in Ned’s arm’s after making him give his word to obey a promise to her. Her final words “Promise me, Ned” haunt Ned for the rest of his life and bring him secret shame. Howland Reed is the only person left who has any idea of what really happened at the tower of joy because Ned himself loses his memory of what happened there from grief.

Where Jon Snow supposedly fits into all of this is that Rhaegar never kidnapped Lyanna, instead she fled with him south to Dorne and were secretly married. Rhaegar had her “held” at the Tower of Joy by his 3 of the kingsguard: Ser Gerold Hightower known as the “White Bull,” Ser Arthur Dayne known as the “Sword of the Morning,” and Ser Oswell Whent. Rhaegar and Lyanna unwittingly starting the entire conflict. Lyanna was said to have not shared the same “love” for Robert as he claimed for her. As Lyanna knew about Mya Stone, Robert’s bastard daughter and claimed he could never love just one women.

Now why would 3 kingsguard be protecting a supposedly kidnapped women from the north?  The Kingsguard are sworn to protect the king and the royal family with their own lives, and to keep his secrets. Ned even asks them repeatedly: I thought you’d be at trident defending the prince Rhaegar, I thought you’d be at Kinglanding defending the king, I thought you would be defending the prince Viserys and the Queen Rhaella, yet finds them in Dorne guarding a tower in Dorne that holds a supposedly kidnapped women. Their answer, they swore a vow. They are sworn to protect the king and the royal family with their lives. Now why would they fear to hand over Ned’s own sister? perhaps its due to Robert and his view of killing the royal family because he doesn’t see children, he see’s “dragonspawn.” So they fight and die trying to protect Lyanna whose screams start at the beginning of the battle of the tower of joy.

In the same book, Mirri Maz Duur refer’s to child birth as “bed of blood.” It’s very easy to think that Lyanna could have died due to childbirth, and her promise she made Ned swear to was protecting her child from Robert and other’s who would do her child harm.

Jon Snow is supposedly Ned Stark’s bastard, many people in westeros think his mother is Ashara Dayne or the wet Nurse Wylla. Jon Snow supposedly born at the end of Robert’s Rebellion, so it rules out the theory that it was the fishermans daughter who ferried Ned north to rally his bannerman. In “A Storm of Swords” Arya is told by a Edric Dayne, that he and Jon Snow share something in common, the wet nurse Wylla, and they are “milk brothers.” That leads me to believe that Jon Snow was brought with Ned to Starfall and not picked up there. Else, why wouldn’t Edric claim to more then just having the same wet nurse?

There is another thing that hint’s at Jon Snow being the son of Lyanna and not anyone else, the blue rose. It is somewhat of a symbol of Lyanna, in a nightmare of Ned’s he witnesses Lyanna’s statue adorned with a garland of pale blue roses weeping while whispering “Promise me, Ned.” In another nightmare or vision, Theon Greyjoy witnesses a feast at winterfell attended by dead Starks, there he sees Lyanna with a a crown of pale blue roses and a white gown splattered with blood with her brother Brandon and her father Rickard behind her.

Daenerys, in a vision from the House of the Undying, see’s the Wall with a pale blue rose growing from a crack of the wall. At the time of the Vision, Jon Snow is already a brother of the night’s watch and sworn to man the wall and guard the realms of men. I think that winter rose she see’s is a symbol for Jon Snow. The winter rose is something that is often used to describe Lyanna Stark.

That is why I think Jon Snow is the son of Lyanna and Rhaegar, what it has to do with the first episode is, at least to me, a focus on Jon Snow. “For his is the song of Ice and Fire” or the Prince that was promised. Is it Ned’s shame that he can never reveal the true parentage of Jon Snow and let Jon claim his destiny and rights? I think it is.

The entire series, books and show, is about the repercussions of Rhaegar’s supposed kidnapping of Lyanna and it is well established in the first episode.

In my dreams I kill him every night

Robert says that after placing a feather in the stone hands of Lyanna. Which I am still not sure of the significance of, I am told it is explained in the producer commentary on the bluray/dvd which I do not have.

At the feast, Benjen Stark tries to warn Jon Snow of what he might lose if he takes the black. Jon Snow believing he has nothing, because he is  bastard, is willing to do it anyways.

This is why the show is so great, in just a few scenes all of this can be conveyed without it being out right said. And if you read the books, you know the significance. And if you were like me who read the books after seeing the show, you can glean some of the history of westeros and wonder about the significance of Jon Snow’s mother.

I think future posts may be way shorter, but I thought it important to make a case for R+L=J as well as the backstory on Robert’s Rebellion. I will be doing a recap after watching 1 episode a day until the premiere of the fourth season on April 6th.

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