It's hard to believe that it's already been six years since the Game Of Thrones Season 1 premiere. Remember how young and naive we all were back then? Remember how many Starks there used to be? The first episode, "Winter Is Coming," which aired April 17, 2011, set the stage for what we're dealing with now. In the premiere, we get our first glimpse of the White Walkers who are still lurking around as we get ready for Season 7, which will air July 16. The frozen walkers have certainly gotten a whole lot stronger since then, as has Jon Snow, who, when we first met him, was a shy bastard who was trying to figure out his place in the Stark brood. Now he's the King of the North, whether he wants to be or not.
So, yeah, it's clear that a lot has changed since GOT made its debut. Heck, just look at the opening theme's map to see how much ground we've covered in six years. But something that hasn't is the fact that we still can't stop talking about the show. With all the things we know about the HBO program now, it's worth looking back at what reviewers had to say about Game Of Thrones back then.
1. It Was "An Epic, Mature, Well-Crafted Fantasy Series"
That's what Alan Sepinwall over at UpRoxx said. Pretty high marks, wouldn't you say? Ti Singh of Den Of Geek went as far to say greenlighting Game Of Thrones was "one of the best moves HBO ever made."
2. All Those Names Can Get Pretty Confusing
Sepinwall admitted that the similar sounding names can make understanding what's going on a little hard. Not to mention that these names are hard to spell, which is why he chose to refer to Daenerys only as Dany in his first write-up of the show. No shame in that.
3. Even With So Many Characters, Peter Dinklage Stood Out
James Hibberd of Entertainment Weekly only had good things to say about Dinklage, writing he was "perfectly cast and I suspect many will be talking about him and his character by midway through the season." (Spoiler: they were and still are.)
4. Ned Stark Was An Emotional Favorite From The Get-Go
In James Poniewozik's review for Time, he talked about Ned Stark: "[In his] insistence in carrying out his executions himself, taking no pleasure in it, we see the harsh sense of honor to which he holds himself." A foreshadowing of his tragic and unexpected end, perhaps?
5. Death Consumed The Show Right From The Beginning
As Poniewozik pointed out, even in the first episode, you see more than one beheading, a stag being eaten by maggots, and a wolf impaled by antlers. The message here, he wrote, is "get used to seeing a lot of dead things." Understatement of the year.
6. Maisie Williams Would Be A Household Name & Everyone Knew It
Sepinwall wrote that Maisie Williams "has just the right mischievous expression" when playing Arya. AV Club's Todd VanDerWerff said "Williams is giving a great child performance from the word go, skipping right past any cutesiness and finding the gutsy nature of Arya instantly."
7. Don't Sleep On Emilia Clarke
Sepinwall wrote that the future Khaleesi, Emilia Clarke "makes an immediate impression" from the minute you meet her. Singh agreed stating, "I believe she could be the series' star-in-the-making."
8. The Premiere Was Considered A Weak Episode
The AV Club gave the episode a B rating, explaining it was the "weakest" of the show's first six episodes. "It’s so taken up with making sure everything is set in place," Todd VanDerWerff wrote, "that it largely forgets to do anything other than offer up a long series of stilted introductions." James Hibberd of Entertainment Weekly also admitted that the premiere was "one of the more sluggish-feeling of the first six episodes of Thrones I’ve seen."
9. The Plotting Of The First Episode Was Also A Problem
While the show was clearly beautiful, VanDerWerff thought that the biggest problem with the show was that it didn't take the plot any further. "There’s not a single scene here that lays out exactly what this show is going to be and exactly what it (and its characters’) worldview is," he wrote.
10. The White Walkers Might Have Been Revealed Too Soon
EW's Hibberd also wasn't sold on introducing the White Walkers so early on in the show, because he was concerned that people who haven't read the books would assume it was a supernatural thriller instead of a drama focused on power struggles between families. "The prologue is a tense and atmospheric opener," he wrote at the time. "Yet wasn’t entirely necessary, and in some ways plays a bit like a scene from a different show."
10. Whether Or Not To Read The Books Was A Debate
Reading the books before watching the show seemed to be a point of contention for many initial Game Of Thrones reviews. Sepinwall felt that not reading the books made the exposition the show's creators provide in the premiere entertaining while Poniewozik, who read the George R. R. Martin's book series, thought it was a slog. "For instance," he wrote, "how do we know that Jaime Lannister is the Queen’s twin brother? Arya says, 'That’s Jaime Lannister, the Queen’s twin brother!'" Hibberd, who also read the books, agreed that people seem to address each other by pointing out their relationships, which, yeah, is not the norm.
What's clear from all of the reviews cited here is that, whether the writers liked the premiere or not, it piqued their interest. Singh went as far to write, "Winter may be coming, but Game Of Thrones is here to stay." The reviews also point out some of the things people still love about the show (the way it looks, the phenomenal performances) and what they hate (the excessive amount of characters, exposition problems).
So, it turns out that, even after all these years, as much as things change on Game Of Thrones, the more they may just stay the same.