I Watched The Game Of Thrones TV Series Backwards And This Is What I Noticed
I watched Game of Thrones from season 6 back to season 1. It was an accident. I hadn’t seen season 6 and wanted to do so before the much anticipated premier of season 7, then I realised I had missed certain episodes from season 5. Next thing you know I am working my way back through the catalogue. To clarify, I didn’t watch the episodes in reverse order, just the seasons. Also, this was my second time watching a majority of these episodes.
Hindsight always offers different insights. I noticed things that wouldn’t have registered otherwise. Think of when you look at old pictures of yourself, changes that may not have been obvious day to day are suddenly glaring back at you. A similar phenomenon occurs when you watch a television show backwards.
In honour of the premiere of what promises to be Game of Thrones most explosive season yet, I shall list all I noticed. Staring at GOT through my rearview (10 zillion points if you understand that reference, haha).
Warning, spoilers ahead.
There were four characters whose alterations in appearance I noticed most.
Tyrion Lannister has much blonder hair in season 1 compared to later seasons. First thing I noticed, hahaha.
Osha —the wildling who tries to kill Bran Stark but then becomes his (and his brother Rickon’s) loyal protector—has a serious case of wild hair in season 1. I giggled a lot. I found it so amusing to see Osha’s hair go from somewhat tame to purposefully cray cray. You get to see a lot of wildlings in the later seasons. None of their hair stood out to me as much as Osha’s did in season 1. Perhaps by the later seasons the hair department decided that purposeful frizz was just way too hard. See pictures below. RIP Osha.
Osha with wild hair in her first appearance on Game of Thrones (season 1, episode 6).
Osha in later seasons, her face is still dirty but her hair is way less cray.
Crazy hair for a crazy wildling?
Tame hair for a tame lass?
Ygritte was a wildling through and through and her hair was never as crazy as Osha’s in season 1. LOL. Seriously tho, RIP Ygritte.
Arya in season 1, so little and cute.
Arya in season 6, almost a woman grown.
A haircut to affirm Bran is leaving his childhood behind, sigh.
Character development is more obvious when you binge watch (or read) a series. When you binge watch backwards even more comes to the fore, especially if it’s your second rendezvous with the characters. There were a few characters who really stood out to me as I journeyed back in time through Westeros.
Theon Greyjoy has one of the biggest character arcs. It becomes startlingly obvious when you watch the series backwards. To see Theon go from a humbled man with PTSD (season 6) to Reek (Seasons 3-5) to AN ARROGANT SUMBITCH (Seasons 1-2), I came to appreciate the enormity of his transformation. Once you see Theon regress into an asshole you also tend to be a little less sympathetic toward him. Look, I am not saying Theon deserved torture and castration but I am saying that he betrayed Robb, nay the entire Stark clan, in the worst way AND managed the takeover of Winterfell very poorly. When I first watched season 2, I lauded Theon for killing the two farms boys instead of Bran and Rickon (hello, they were essential to the main story). Upon second viewing I realised that Theon actually didn’t need to kill anyone. It didn’t need to be a choice between the farm boys and the younger Starks. Theon put his own back against a wall. And let’s not forget he beheaded Ser Rodrik Cassel. The very man who taught him how to use a sword!
Since Theon’s story is so intense in the later seasons, I paid more attention to what was said about him in earlier seasons. Theon’s loyalty and place in Winterfell are put into question from the very first episodes of the series. In season 1, episode 4, Jaime Lannister remarks seeing Theon at Winterfell was “like seeing a shark on a mountaintop”. Jory Cassel, with whom Jaime is speaking, responds that Theon is a good lad. Jaimie closes the case with, “I doubt it”.
Will Theon continue to redeem himself in season 7 or will he prove Jaime Lannister right? Time will tell my friends, time will tell.
Theon Greyjoy has one of the biggest character arcs on Game of Thrones.
Sansa, Sansa, Sansa. Another victim of Ramsay Bolton (and Joffrey Baratheon—poor Sansa), Sansa is a character that also experiences significant changes. Watching Sansa go from a jaded but strong young woman to an annoying, whinging little girl (it took me awhile to warm up to dear Sansa) really highlighted how much her character has developed. Loving who you are right now Sansa, soz about what it took to get you here. #strongindependentredhead.
Dear Sansa, please don’t betray bae a.k.a Jon Snow in season 7.
Joffrey is still a c-word. You’d think that going backward would cause me to see villains descend in levels of intensity. Nope, not even a comparison with Ramsay Bolton saves Joffrey from being branded the ultimate c-word. A testament to how villainous his character is and how well Jack Gleeson played the role.
Now Viserys Targaryen, Game of Thrones first villain, does come off as less evil. Next to Joffrey, Ramsay and Walder Frey, Viserys presents as a weak and annoying little boy. An irritating fly that Khal Drogo swats away for us. Thanks Drogo, RIP mate.
“Hi my name is Joffrey and I am a c-word”.
The Hound is painted as a villain turned good (well turning good), and yet when you watch the seasons backward you realise he had always been halfway decent—by Westerosi standards. His protective qualities and own sense of justice, or injustice, were always there. The Hound stops his brother The Mountain a.k.a Ser Gregor Clegane from killing Loras Tyrell at The Hand’s tourney in season 1. He protects Sansa from Joffrey as best he can in season 2, even saving her from gang-rape without being ordered to do so. When you watch backward you realise right from the first season The Hound harbours resentment for being misjudged. Why is he painted as a monster when other men are branded as heroes for behaving in the same way (murdering people)?
There is no question The Hound’s story follows a redemptive arc—it’s just not as dramatic as I initially perceived it to be. Note that I am discussing The Hound’s story arc as represented in the television series, not in the books. Now if Joffrey or Ramsay Bolton followed the path of redemption, well that would be another story. They’re both dead so we will never know…pity….NOT.
The Hound has always had redemptive qualities.
After watching Game of Thrones backwards, I like one of the series most beloved and top-ranked characters, Daenerys Targaryen, LESS. When I watched the show linearly I was rooting Dany on, mother those dragons, free those slaves, enjoy sexy time with Daario—you deserve it girl.
I read a few articles about how Daenarys was actually a villain (click here and here) before watching season 6 and this skewed my perception of her actions. Daenary’s wants to rule Westeros simply because her daddy (who was bat shit crazy) did so. Her character shows empathy and kindness (she freed the slaves and all that) and yet in season 6 episode 6, she promises a Dothraki horde they can rape and pillage the very land she wants to rule. Hmm… As I continued to watch backward I realised that while Daenerys undergoes many trials and tribulations, aside from growing some balls in seasons 1 and 2 –her personality is pretty stagnant. All Dany does is seize power and talk about how she is the rightful ruler of Westeros. I’d wager these claims take up at least 75% of Daenerys’s dialogue across the entire six seasons.
I still like Daenerys, I just don’t love her anymore.
Daenerys, Daenarys, Daenarys, what do you have in store for us in season 7?
Ned Stark’s beheading really shocked me upon first viewing. But deaths became more frequent and gruesome as the show progresses. We only have to look at how other members of Ned’s family were killed to see that he got off easy. Robb Stark watched his pregnant wife get stabbed in the stomach several times before being killed himself at the Red Wedding. Catelyn Stark, Robb’s mother and Ned’s wife, had her throat gruesomely slit open at the same event. Rickon Stark, Ned’s youngest son ,was shot in the back with an arrow courtesy of Ramsay Bolton. Loathe, as I am to say it, Joffrey was right when he remarked in season 2 that Ned was lucky to have had a “clean death”.
Cersei commits a jaw dropping mass murder at the end of season 6, and as a result her last surviving child, King Tommen Baratheon (cough: Lannister), commits suicide. You’d think I’d have more to say about Cersei but I don’t. This is just a token mention. Cersei just being Cersei. RIP Tommen.
“Hi I’m Cersei. I make enemies and then I blow them up.”
Characters I noticed only because they become more significant later on
Lancel Lannister is way more obvious in earlier seasons. He is one of those characters that is always around but can easily escape your notice. Well let me tell you he doesn’t escape your notice when you know he turns into a religious fanatic and is murdered by an explosion courtesy of his cousin and ex-bedfellow, Cersei. RIP Lancel.
I also paid way more attention to Robert Baratheon’s only living son, the bastard Gendry. Gendry actually gets quite a bit of screen time. He is a blip on the radar for people new to the story. Watching the show backwards and for the second time, you realise how significant his character is. Gendry is probably the only man in Westeros with a viable claim to the Baratheon throne. I suspect Gendry will reappear and have even more significance in seasons 7 and 8. I also suspect he will be killed off after playing his part.
Lord Beric Dondarrion is another character that gets lost in the shadows of larger storylines the first time round. In season 6 we see he has been resurrected by the Lord of Light more than six times and that he will lead The Brotherhood Without Banners into war against the White Walkers. I therefore paid way more attention in season 1 when Ned Stark sends Lord Beric to deal with a rogue Ser Gregor Clegane, a decision that leads Beric to where he is today—a one-eyed, broken-souled man bound for death and glory in a war against the dreaded white walkers (I am sooo dramatic, lol lol lol, then again so is George R.R. Martin, George call me!).
Game of Thrones has a huge cast of characters and several story lines playing out at the same time. Despite the challenges presented by this style of story telling, the plot is super tight. This is thanks to George R. R Martin—the creator of the book series—but also to the show’s producers and screenwriters.
The nerd in me got really excited when I noticed dialogue that indicated world-building, foreshadowing and general continuity. When you watch a show backwards, things like this are more obvious. Those who wrote the scripts really knew their shiz. THOSE SCRIPTS ARE BULLETPROOF YA’LL.
Here are some examples:
In season 1 King Robert Baratheon tells the story of his first kill, a Tarly boy. This escaped my radar the first time round. The second time I recongnised the name instantly. I knew all about the Tarly family thanks to the lovable character Samwell Tarly, whose family we meet in season 6.
During that same conversation Jaime Lannister tells us that he first killed an outlaw when he was 16 years old and squiring for Ser Barristan Selmy, who is also taking part in the conversation (RIP Ser Barristan).
Jaime retells this story in season 4 when he is a prisoner to the Starks and chatting with a fellow Lannister captive. Fans know that Jaime only tells this story so he can get closer to his fellow prisoner and then kill him (RIP dude) in a botched escape attempt. I didn’t realise Jaime was actually telling a true story until I watched him tell the story for the first time in season 1.
In season 1 episode 4, Viserys Targaryen and the slave girl Doreah share a bath together. While in the bath Doreah tells Viserys she once saw a man who could change his face. Faceless men become an important part of the Game of Thrones storyline. Arya learns how to don the face of another and I suspect we will see more faceless men by the time season 8 is done and dusted.
In this steamy scene Doreah tells Viserys, “I’ve seen a man who could change his face the way that other men change their clothes”.
Each Game of Thrones season is bigger and better than the last so watching backward to season 1 causes the fourth wall to break a little.
By the time you get to seasons 1 and 2, you don’t see Stark dire wolves as you do upon first viewing –you just see big dogs. The wolves are technically pups in these seasons so dogs work, they just don’t look as otherworldly as they did when you had nothing to compare them to (the huge CGI creations used in later seasons). Similarly since nudity is used less gratuitously in later seasons (don’t worry it’s still very much part of the show), you realise how posed scenes with random naked girls are in earlier seasons. You tend to feel like you are watching a stage play where everyone is carefully positioned, which is in fact the case.
Overall you appreciate how much work is put into each season, and realise that cast and crew apply more and more effort as time goes on. The train keeps gaining speed. Thanks guys! We love you for it.