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Things You Never Noticed In Game Of Thrones' First Episode

Even with its controversial eighth season, HBO fantasy TV series Game of Thrones continues to be one of the most talked-about shows in television history. Based on the series of novels A Song of Ice and Fire by author George R. R. Martin, Game of Thrones has a dark and politically-driven storyline that had even non-fantasy fans hooked. Every new episode had viewers trying to guess what would happen next, or speculating which favorite character would soon face the chopping block

The show's pilot episode, Winter is Coming, aired almost ten years ago in April 2011. After so long, fans may have forgotten some of the episode's finer details, what with so many catastrophic and epic moments that happened throughout the series' eight-year stint on HBO. For those who decide to rewatch Game of Thrones from the very beginning, here are some things to look out for in episode one.

The one and only Stark family gathering

Winter is Coming introduced viewers to the world of Westeros, as well as the prominent Stark family, whose lives are irrevocably changed as each member faces their own conflicts and harrowing journeys. From Eddard's struggle to hold fast to his code of morals amidst a nest of vipers, to Arya's path from a head-strong wild child to a deadly assassin, each character from the Stark house has their own unique storyline which takes them to unforeseen destinies.

The episode begins with King Robert Baratheon arriving at Winterfell, the home of house Stark, with all members of the Stark family in attendance to welcome him. Remember that scene, because you won't be seeing anything like it again. The shot of Lord and Lady Stark with all of their children — including Jon Snow — is the only time in the series that we see the entire Stark family together. Of course it meant nothing to viewers at the time, but considering what happens to the Starks after that, this scene takes on a whole new significance.

King Robert's touch of death

Continuing the scene with the King of Westeros' arrival, a solemn moment is brought to ease as Robert Baratheon greets his old friend Eddard Stark. After sharing a laugh about which of them has gotten fatter, Robert then embraces his old friend — followed by a hug for Lady Catelyn — and then he ruffles the hair of young Rickon Stark and shakes Robb Stark's hand.

While these physical actions may seem mere tokens of affection and respect, the show's devoted followers will recognize that each of these Stark family members will go on to suffer horrifically gruesome deaths. Notice how Robert didn't actually touch Sansa, Arya, or Bran, who would go on to survive to the end of the series. It's such a subtle clue that anyone might have missed it — well, anyone except those who have read the books.

Lena Headey had to hide her baby bump

During the scenes that feature Cersei Lannister, viewers may notice that the camera rarely reveals a wide shot of Cersei from the front. That's because while shooting the Game of Thrones pilot episode, actress Lena Headey was pregnant with her first child.

The show's camera crew had to find creative ways to hide Headey's pregnancy, including having her stand behind objects, wearing heavy furs, and reducing many of her shots to close-ups. Headey gave birth to her son, Wylie, in March 2010. Headey was also pregnant in 2015 while filming season 6 of Game of Thrones, and gave birth to a daughter, Teddy. 

Viewers might find it sadly ironic that Cersei's character never got to see her own wish for a new bundle of joy, even after getting pregnant by her twin brother, Jaime, in season 5. While speaking at a convention in 2019, Headey revealed that a deleted scene from season 7 would have shown Cersei suffering from a miscarriage.

The stag in the woods was not a prop

One of the most disturbing shots in episode 1 was not the violent death of any of our main characters, but of an animal. In the scene just before the Starks happen upon a litter of direwolves, they see a dead stag on the road covered in maggots with its guts splayed out on the ground.

According to audio commentary by show writers and executive producers D.B. Weiss and David Benioff, the stag's corpse had been purchased from a Humane Society and then cut open by an animal handler. The deer's body had been sitting for two days before shooting the scene, and the overpowering stench was apparently too much for the show's prop master, who "could not keep his lunch." While it's sad that the animal met such a grisly end, it certainly does add to the realism and grim nature of the series.