While it is still unknown just how far into the book this first season of Game of Thrones will take us, these moments span the book’s entire length. That being said, you should be aware that this list is filled with spoilers. Unless you are already familiar with the plot, go grab the book and come back later. You can take our word that this is one well worth the time it takes to read.
#10: Sansa’s Direwolf is Executed
In the early events of Game of Thrones, the direwolves are an extremely important plot device. They are used to establish the culture of House Stark, and each also serves as a proxy for situations affecting their child masters. Sansa Stark in particular loses her direwolf to her father’s sword when it is to blame for an incident between Arya Stark and Joffrey Baratheon. Joffrey won’t stick up for Sansa’s direwolf even though he could save his future bride’s cherished companion, revealing his inner cruelty and serving as a chilling foreshadowing moment for the couple.
#9: Viserys Targaryen Receives His Crown
Across the waters, where the story of the exiled Targaryens is told, Martin uses Viserys to embody all of the inherited negative qualities that ultimately led to the Targaryens’ reign being usurped. In a satisfying moment where Viserys once again oversteps his bounds, but is punished for the transgressions. He poetically receives his crown when tribal leader Khal Drogo ends Viserys’s life with a pot of molten gold.
#8: Arya Stark Trains for Combat
During Arya’s stay with her father in Kings Landing, the youngest Stark daughter trains with a celebrated Braavosi swordsman, Syrio Forel. Earlier in the story, she receives a custom lightweight sword, Needle, and will get to put it to good use in these sparring matches. Expect newcomer Maise Williams to perform in a scene that combines the awesomeness of a Chloe Moretz/Hit Girl-style character with the best combat training we’ve seen since Neo fought Morpheus.
#7: Robb Stark Leads Troops to Victory
The battle of Riverrun, near the end of Game of Thrones, will be the best example of large-scale combat this series has to offer. In what proves to be a rare strategic success for the novice commander Robb Stark, he is able to tactically outwit the imposing Tywin Lannister and lead his troops to victory. From early previews of this show, the effort put into scenery, costume design and combat training is extensive. Hopefully, it will bear some great results in the filming of this key battle.
#6: Bran Stark Falls at Winterfell
A key turning point where the tension in Game of Thrones begins to enter an action-packed spiral, the scandalous nature of the incestuous Lannister twins is revealed. Bran scales the wall of the Lannister’s guest keep, only to become witness to this repulsive act. To solidify the villainous nature of the Lannister clan, Jaime Lannister shockingly pushes the Stark child from a window ledge, resulting in a crippling injury.
#5: Tyrion Lannister Taken Captive
Catelyn Stark finally gets to show her toughness. In a role that typically relegates her to the strong yet soft-spoken woman standing behind her man, her discovery of foul play in the events surrounding Bran Stark’s injury send her on a journey to Kings Landing. During her travels, she encounters and takes captive the imp, Tyrion Lannister. It’s a scene where the deceitful character finally gets his due, and we look forward to seeing Peter Dinklage’s portrayal of Tyrion as he tries to talk his way out of this tight situation.
#4: Jon Snow Arrives at the Wall
While the feuding families of Westeros fight their battles, they ignorantly dismiss a growing common threat in the North. Established generations ago, a towering wall of ice spans the entire continent, cutting civilized Westeros off from the wild monsters and tribes on the other side. The arrival of Jon Snow will likely mark the first time that television viewers will get a full look at the Wall. Expect these visuals to be very impressive.
#3: The Death of Robert Baratheon
When Ned Stark threatens to reveal Queen Cersei Lannister’s incestuous secret to her husband King Robert Baratheon, she sets an evil plot in motion. While sending the king on a hunting excursion, she pays his companions to dose him with an extremely potent wine and allow him to receive a mortal wound from a boar. This death is pivotal as not only does it mark the beginning of the Stark family’s persecution, but the loss of the king with questions surrounding his son’s legitimacy will spark a massive war between five warring factions.
#2: The Hatching of the Dragons
When Daenerys Targaryen is betrayed by a Lhazereen priestess whom promised to heal her husband, Khal Drogo, she orders the priestess burned on her husband’s funeral pyre. In an act of instinct and desperation, she enters the flames holding her three fossilized dragon eggs and emerges unharmed. Demonstrating a rare usage of magic in the series, the spirits of the flames awaken the fossilized eggs and lead to the hatching of three dragons, a creature that this fantasy world has not born witness to in hundreds of years. Suddenly, the last surviving member of the disregarded former royal family has achieved legitimacy.
#1: Execution of Ned Stark
In what should be the most emotionally gripping beheading since William Wallace met his demise at the end of Braveheart, the main character up to this moment in Game of Thrones is executed. This action should completely shock the audience, as it flies in the face of every modern television convention. In one moment, George R. R. Martin is able to show readers that he will show no mercy in this dark and gritty fantasy drama. While it does involve the loss of a beloved actor and viewers will miss the performance of Sean Bean, my expectation is that the audience will applaud the show’s willingness to break the typical formula. Like it or not, the good guys do not always win.