That’s how David Benioff as soon as described seeing associates test-screen his and co-showrunner Dan Weiss’ unique “Recreation of Thrones” pilot in 2010. After that viewing, greater than 90 p.c of the episode was supposedly reshot earlier than it aired on HBO in April 2011, finally resulting in the phenomenon that the collection is right now.
However that first horrible, horrible, no good, very dangerous pilot ― referred to as a “piece of shit” by the showrunners’ screenwriter good friend Craig Mazin ― by no means noticed the sunshine of day. It turned legend, one thing that might dwell solely in Previous Nan’s tales. Or so we thought.
It’s an oft-forgotten incontrovertible fact that George R.R. Martin, whose A Music of Ice and Fireplace novels function inspiration for “Recreation of Thrones,” has been depositing previous copies of his writing to Texas A&M’s Cushing Memorial Library in Faculty Station for greater than 20 years. He’s mentioned to have fallen in love with Cushing’s sci-fi assortment and its archival system throughout visits to AggieCon way back to the 1970s and determined to make the quiet spot in Texas a house for his huge catalog of unique manuscripts.
The ensuing assortment on the library takes up a number of partitions, the primary of which is correctly referred to as the Wall. It’s a group so huge, it’d make Samwell Tarly’s head spin, staffed by a staff of devoted librarians and professors who function a type of Evening’s Watch. Among the many archive’s many information are manuscripts for the A Music of Ice and Fireplace novels, and ― as I discovered throughout a visit to Texas over the summer season ― a field containing a manufacturing draft of that painful “Recreation of Thrones” pilot.
An early model of the pilot script supposedly surfaced on-line years in the past, however the script’s authenticity was by no means formally verified. Nobody appeared to understand how related it was to the rejected pilot that HBO shot or how a lot it differed; scripts usually undergo varied rewrites, so the mysterious model floating round on-line may have been from any section of revisions.
I had three days to spend in Texas, nevertheless it took solely 5 minutes to appreciate the script on-line and the one at Cushing are totally different. There are causes to imagine that the model in Texas is much like the pilot script that HBO shot: The manufacturing draft at Cushing is dated Oct. 22, 2009, proper across the time the unaired pilot began filming. The Cushing script credit the unaired pilot’s unique director, Tom McCarthy, who was later changed in reshoots by Tim Van Patten. Plus, by way of content material, the Cushing script comprises storylines which have been rumored to be within the unaired pilot script (as we’ll get into under) ― key story departures, dialogue alterations and placement modifications that solid the Seven Kingdoms in a distinct gentle.
Upfront of the season premiere, we exhaustively rummage by the secrets and techniques hidden within the pilot script from Martin’s assortment, involving every little thing from an unreleased Cersei Lannister second to a very drunk Jon Snow making a scene. Right here’s what Westeros might need seemed like if that “piece of shit” pilot had aired:
The Cersei scene that may ruffle some feathers
Let’s start with a defining scene between King Robert Baratheon and Ned Stark within the Winterfell crypts.
The scene that aired on HBO is barely totally different from the scene within the Cushing script, however the gist is similar. Robert asks Ned to be his new Hand of the King, a place left open after Jon Arryn’s dying. That’s when Robert locations one thing small however extremely symbolic on a statue of his onetime betrothed, Lyanna Stark: a feather.
And that just about sums up the sequence you noticed in Season 1:
However within the script discovered within the Cushing library, Queen Cersei performs a pivotal position on this alternate’s aftermath ― a lot in order that her involvement would have modified a Season 5 episode, the latest Season Eight teaser and probably extra.
The next scene is written into the pilot script discovered at Cushing and entails Cersei visiting the crypts proper earlier than the feast at Winterfell:
Cersei exits the crypts, crosses the courtyard and walks into the antechamber between the kitchen and the Winterfell nice corridor. The celebration for the king’s arrival is underway, and servants are dashing previous her with meals. The queen’s handmaidens make changes to her outfit and take away her heavy fur.
Then Cersei reveals one thing she has inside her sleeve:
Why does it matter?
The episode that aired on HBO gave no indication that Cersei was conscious of the feather Robert positioned on Lyanna’s statue, not to mention that she eliminated it to be burned.
With out this intervention, the feather goes on to play an essential position in HBO’s latest Season 8 “Recreation of Thrones” teaser, falling to the bottom as Jon Snow walks by and freezing when a wave of chilly air rolls over it.
Even earlier than that, the feather was featured in Season 5, Episode 4, “Sons of the Harpy,” when Sansa Stark visits the Winterfell crypts and comes throughout the token Robert positioned on the statue years in the past.
The collection’ creators, Benioff and Weiss, acknowledged the feather’s station within the crypts to Making of Recreation of Thrones, explaining that, in any case this time, the feather would absolutely nonetheless be there as a result of there “hasn’t been a janitorial crew happening and vacuuming.”
“We thought it might be type of an amazing factor,” they added, “to have Sansa questioning about it.”
Why Sansa? And why a feather?
When you’ve been residing beneath a Casterly Rock your total life, you would possibly’ve missed the curious position that birds play in “Recreation of Thrones.” There’s Varys’ spy community of “little birds,” there’s the Excessive Sparrow, there’s the Three-Eyed Raven, after which there’s Sansa, who’s also known as a “little fowl” or “little dove.” These characters have just a few issues in widespread: They’re misunderstood, underestimated and infrequently maintain highly effective data.
The feather may trace at how Lyanna, too, was a misunderstood character, one other little fowl. It may additionally function an emblem for her secret, her youngster, Jon Snow.
Now bear in mind, within the Season 5 episode during which the feather reappears, viewers nonetheless suppose Lyanna had been kidnapped and raped by Prince Rhaegar. It hadn’t been revealed that she and Rhaegar have been really in love, married and had a child — a secret that, along with her dying breath, she made her brother Ned promise to maintain.
The connection to Jon is reiterated in that Season Eight teaser when he seems to be again on the feather. May Cersei’s burning the feather within the scrapped pilot script have been a touch at one thing else on the way in which? Will she do the identical to Jon?
With Dany’s dragons flying round and Cersei having blown up a part of King’s Touchdown with wildfire, it’s not a lot of a stretch to think about a fiery run-in between Cersei and Jon sooner or later.
The lower feather scene is probably the primary small trace of Cersei’s penchant for burning her enemies’ “cities to the bottom,” as she likes to say. Contemplating HBO’s “Dragonstone” teaser from late in 2018, which exhibits a hearth engulfing the signature Lannister lion, extra flames are possible within the Lannisters’ future. And, simply probably, Jon Snow’s.
The far more consensual intercourse scene between Dany and Khal Drogo
One of many extra substantial variations between the script at Cushing and the episode that aired on HBO could be noticed within the writing of Daenerys Targaryen’s marriage consummation scene.
Within the Cushing script, Dany has much more management. She smiles when she realizes Drogo can say solely the phrase “no” in her language, she helps him take rings out of his hair and, most essential, she in the end consents to intercourse:
That is removed from the scene that aired on HBO, during which she cries as he undresses her, then has intercourse along with her from behind. The extra consensual framing of the scene is straight out of Martin’s books, which explains why it was included in an earlier model of the script; the pilot script at Cushing tends to hew nearer to Martin’s phrases.
The model of the scene that aired, nevertheless, is traumatic. Daenerys is raped. Her relationship with Drogo finally grows into love, however that doesn’t erase the truth that he raped her — and does so time and time once more.
She addresses these rapes in her first dialog with Jon in Season 7, telling him, “I’ve been shamed and betrayed, raped and defiled. Are you aware what stored me standing by all these years in exile? Religion, not in any gods, not in myths and legends. In myself, in Daenerys Targaryen.”
Why does it matter?
Although a consensual scene would have been much less traumatic to observe, Daenerys actress Emilia Clarke spoke about her character’s rape to Glamour in 2016, explaining some doable reasoning behind the scene:
On the coronary heart of it, we’re telling a narrative; you want that a part of the story to really feel empathy for Daenerys. You see her attacked by her brother, raped by her husband, after which going, “F―okay all of you, I’m gonna rule the world.” That’s the place we are actually.
A rape scene is hardly crucial to construct empathy for Dany’s plight, however as Clarke mentioned, it underscores the terrors Dany overcame and her transformation from a scared, abused youngster into the khaleesi.
Someplace between her rape and her resolution to sleep with Jon, aka King of the Squats, in Season 7, a very totally different Mom of Dragons has emerged.
The far more complicated intercourse scene between Jaime and Cersei
After watching the “Recreation of Thrones” premiere on HBO, followers are effectively conscious that Jaime and Cersei are associated. It’s a fairly pivotal plot level. Curiously, some of the distinguished critiques lodged towards the unaired pilot was that this information wasn’t clear sufficient. Early viewers didn’t know Jaime and Cersei Lannister are brother and sister.
Maybe that’s why a scene that includes the incestuous siblings speaking at King’s Touchdown was added to the episode that aired. In it, the 2 principally chat about how very, very associated they’re and the way if anybody found their secret affair, their heads could be on spikes.
“As your brother, I really feel it’s my obligation to warn you, you are concerned an excessive amount of,” Jaime explicitly states. This scene is just not within the Cushing pilot script or the script beforehand obtainable on-line, as io9 factors out.
Protecting in thoughts that many viewers of the unique pilot didn’t perceive the Lannister twins’ relationship, a scene within the script at Cushing would have made it much more difficult. (Get out of right here, Bran. You don’t need to see this.)
In all variations of the pilot, Bran Stark climbs the outside of a tower at Winterfell and occurs upon a window, by which he peeps a unadorned man and girl (Jaime and Cersei). Within the script at Cushing, nevertheless, the encounter reads barely in a different way, with Cersei telling Jaime to cease:
Why does it matter?
Within the episode that aired, Cersei objects to Jaime solely after she spots Bran inadvertently being a little bit creep within the window.
In distinction, in Martin’s guide and the script at Cushing, she protests a lot sooner. It’s complicated to Bran and probably would’ve been complicated to TV viewers too.
Take into account how this scene would have affected Jaime’s triumphant second in Season 7, when he chooses to stroll away from a power-hungry Cersei. Till that time, audiences are supposed to imagine he has all the time been beneath Cersei’s management; solely then is he capable of break away from her affect. The Cushing model of Jaime and Cersei’s intercourse scene may have made this more durable to swallow.
In a present riddled with fixed backstabbing, infinite subplots and so many characters you bear in mind as What’s His Title and Who’s Her Face, the much less complicated a scene, the higher.
The White Walkers who wouldn’t shut up
The Cushing pilot script opens loads just like the episode that aired: Three males from the Evening’s Watch are monitoring down wildlings when they’re ambushed by White Walkers. Issues don’t go effectively.
Within the early pilot script, a kind of males, Will, realizes the our bodies of the lifeless wildlings have vanished and proceeds to climb a tree to get a greater view. He does this proper earlier than the Walkers arrive, and his resolution is a lifesaving one. In distinction to the aired episode, which exhibits a Walker sparing a member of the Watch from dying for some unknown cause, it’s Will’s place within the tree that forestalls him from being killed together with the others.
The White Walkers descend on the opposite two males, all of the whereas talking a language of ice:
Will stays within the tree. He’s going to let this one simply play out.
Why does it matter?
At this level, White Walker dialogue is effectively documented. It simply has by no means proven up on TV. Nevertheless, it’s within the books, it’s referred to by Self-importance Truthful author Joanna Robinson after she reviewed various “Recreation of Thrones” scripts, it exhibits up within the pilot script floating round on-line and it’s additionally within the one from Martin’s assortment at Cushing.
I requested “Recreation of Thrones” language creator David Peterson in regards to the White Walker dialogue, which he named Skroth, in a beforehand unpublished portion of a 2017 interview.
Reflecting on early plans for the White Walkers to talk, he instructed me he initially put one thing collectively for the opening scene of the present.
“I got here up with principally some dialogue. I recorded it, after which I prompt to them, ‘Right here’s the way you would possibly modify it digitally to provide it a singular sound,’” he mentioned. Peterson wished the language to sound prefer it was described in Martin’s books, like “the cracking of ice on a winter lake.” Although, we think about that might’ve probably seemed like a White Walker whose mouth is full of pop rocks.
“It didn’t get used for the pilot, after which there was dialogue they have been eager about utilizing it in Season 2,” he mentioned. “They mentioned they tried it, and it simply wasn’t understanding, in order that they deserted the concept.”
Peterson despatched me a pre-effects instance of the White Walker dialogue, which he beforehand performed at conventions and gave us permission to incorporate. Right here’s an early model of what a White Walker would’ve gave the impression of:
On the time, he mentioned, “Recreation of Thrones” sound designer Paula Fairfield was nonetheless hopeful they may use it in the future, however that clearly hasn’t occurred.
It’s not the one language casualty. Peterson mentioned he created a full language for the Youngsters of the Forest in Season 6, however for quite a lot of causes (a need to keep away from the necessity for subtitles throughout motion sequences, stunt individuals having problem with their strains), they “have been both lower or shortened, and all of them have been became English.”
“It was an concept. They tried it. It simply didn’t work,” he mentioned.
The time Jon Snow obtained wasted
Within the “Recreation of Thrones” pilot that aired, Jon doesn’t make an look within the memorable nice corridor scene. As a substitute, he stays exterior, heeding Catelyn Stark’s needs that Jon — who she and nearly everybody else believes is Ned’s bastard son — not be current.
However within the pilot script at Cushing, he sits inside. He’s not on the highborn desk, however he manages to have a drunken dialog with Benjen Stark within the nice corridor anyway.
Our man is left alone to drink extra wine and finally causes a scene:
The scene within the Cushing pilot script is sort of precisely the identical because the scene in Martin’s novel A Recreation of Thrones. From the guide:
He should have drunk extra wine than he had realized. His ft obtained tangled beneath him as he tried to go away, and he lurched sideways right into a serving woman and despatched a flagon of spiced wine crashing to the ground. Laughter boomed throughout him.
Past the exclusion of Snow’s drunken escapade, the Cushing model of the sequence was drastically rearranged to kind the scenes that aired on HBO. For instance, within the episode that aired, the confrontation between Ned and Jaime within the nice corridor ends after Ned says, “I don’t combat in tournaments as a result of once I combat a person for actual, I don’t need him to know what I can do.”
Jaime replies, “Properly mentioned.”
However within the Cushing pilot script, in addition to the one which has been on-line, the second continues lengthy sufficient for Jaime to remind Ned of how his brother and father have been killed:
A flashback of Ned’s brother Brandon being killed additionally purportedly existed in an early model of the filmed pilot (a screenshot exists on-line), however this isn’t included within the script at Cushing (although it may have slot in round this dialog).
The Cushing model of the scene goes even additional, with Ned leaving and Tyrion, who overheard every little thing, telling Jaime, “If it got here all the way down to it, Brother, I’d guess on you ― however I wouldn’t guess a lot.” Tyrion then downs one other tankard of wine, realizes he drank an excessive amount of, staggers out of the corridor and finally talks to Jon exterior.
Why does it matter?
Whereas it might’ve been enjoyable to see the long run King within the North get shitfaced (you recognize nothing about holding your alcohol, Jon Snow), it’s a lot additional character interplay to digest that you might be left feeling as dizzy as Tyrion.
There are just a few moments which can be actually essential from the Winterfell feast scenes, and Jon’s conversations with Tyrion and Benjen are on the forefront. The dialog with Tyrion is referred to in Season 7, when Tyrion writes Jon a letter that features “All dwarves are bastards of their father’s eyes.” It’s a line Tyrion says of their first chat, and it seemingly convinces Jon he’ll be secure when he travels to see Daenerys.
In fact, with Benjen he talks about going to serve within the Evening’s Watch on the Wall, which he clearly does after which lives fortunately ever after.
The opposite character interactions, whereas entertaining, may have distracted from the really essential moments, so let’s all pour one out for Jon’s long-lost wasted scene.
The bizarre Catelyn who wished Sansa to be queen
Catelyn and Daenerys have been initially performed by totally different actors — Jennifer Ehle and Tamzin Service provider, respectively. Earlier than Michelle Fairley took on the position of Catelyn, the character’s persona was loads totally different too.
For instance, in a bed room scene within the pilot script, Catelyn urges Ned to just accept Robert’s supply of betrothal between Joffrey and Sansa and to go south with the king.
Maester Luwin then enters with the notice from her sister Lysa, saying that the Lannisters murdered her husband, Jon Arryn. Ned has no alternative however to take up his previous good friend Robert’s request to be the brand new Hand of the King and go to King’s Touchdown to determine what’s happening.
Within the episode that aired, nevertheless, Catelyn urges Ned to remain within the North, claiming that she’ll confront Robert and inform him, “Pay attention, fats man. You aren’t taking my husband anyplace. He belongs to me now.”
You inform ’em, Cat.
Why does it matter?
When it comes to the variations between the pilot script at Cushing and the episode that aired, Catelyn is my decide for many improved character. Benioff and Weiss have been sensible to appreciate that followers have pages and pages to get to know the Catelyn within the books however only some scenes to get to know her on the present. The Cushing script might need made Catelyn appear a bit title obsessed, like Season 1 Sansa, who was, objectively, the worst.
Simply ask Season 1 Arya Stark.
As a substitute, the showrunners selected to lean into the picture of the Stark matriarch as a protecting mom and spouse who would later fend off an murderer in an effort to avoid wasting her injured Bran.
It’s additionally price noting that after studying Lysa’s letter within the Cushing script, Catelyn says to Ned:
Within the episode that aired, Catelyn stops after saying Jon Arryn was murdered by the Lannisters. She doesn’t say, “By the queen.”
John Standing, the actor who performs the dearly departed Jon Arryn, as soon as mentioned the unique pilot included a “lunatic” scene during which Cersei watches his character die. Although this scene isn’t included within the script at Cushing, a line about Jon Arryn being killed by the queen paves the way in which for the bit to have been added later.
The time Joffrey Baratheon, First of his Title, was a jerk from the beginning
When “Recreation of Thrones” begins, you don’t understand Joffrey is sort of as turdish as he’s till Episode 2, when Tyrion slaps him foolish for not going to the Starks to supply sympathies after Bran’s fall. However within the pilot script at Cushing, you get the impression that Joffrey is a strolling, speaking pile of human excrement immediately.
At a coaching session between the Lannisters and Starks, Bran has simply completed pummeling Tommen Baratheon with a picket sword, and Ser Rodrik, Winterfell’s master-at-arms, asks Robb Stark and Joffrey in the event that they’d prefer to go one other spherical. Robb’s in, however Joffrey complains that he’s “uninterested in swatting at Starks with a play sword.” He suggests “dwell metal,” and Rodrik is simply not cool with that.
Whereas the pilot script offers Robb this early interplay with Joffrey, it omits many different scenes that made their method to air — the Winterfell scene the place Bran is studying archery along with his household, the scene during which Sansa and Arya are practising their stitching, the scene during which Sansa begs Catelyn to let her go to King’s Touchdown and the notorious shaving scene during which the Stark boys stand round shirtless and flexing.
Why does it matter?
The Joffrey second may have added pressure later within the collection — for example, throughout the Battle of the 5 Kings skit at Joffrey’s marriage ceremony, which options somebody driving round with a wolf’s head to characterize the decapitated Robb. But it surely appears possible that some minor scenes like this have been lower with the intention to make room for extra important moments, resembling attending to know the Starks. And, frankly, extra Starks and fewer Joffrey feels like a profitable method, bare-chested flexing and all.
The ultimate takeaways
Along with the lower scenes, there have been fairly just a few delicate variations between the script obtainable on-line and the one from Martin’s official assortment in Texas. Within the model on-line, Tyrion pets the Stark direwolf Ghost, his brothel scene takes place at King’s Touchdown (not within the North), and there’s an extended scene meant to explain a now-discarded title sequence.
However none of this occurs within the script on the Cushing library. (In truth, so far as the credit go, the script there describes a gap sequence with simply the phrases “TITLE CARD: GAME OF THRONES.”)
There are some much less important however amusing particulars sandwiched into the script at Cushing too. Ned, who’s in regards to the grimmest dude round, makes a joke within the crypts:
The road was taken out and given to Jaime in Season 1, Episode 3:
Numerous taking pictures places modified as effectively. For example, Dany’s marriage ceremony was initially filmed in Morocco and featured a cameo from Martin himself as a Pentoshi (one thing that might have simply match into the Cushing script, because it mentions “Retailers of Pentos” gathered for the ceremony). Nevertheless, when Clarke was introduced in because the substitute Daenerys, the subplot was altered and reshot in Malta.
The Cushing script alone doesn’t reveal precisely why the unique pilot was such a “huge downside,” as Mazin put it. Equipment Harington, who performs Jon Snow, touched on that model’s “errors,” telling The Guardian, “It didn’t look proper, didn’t really feel proper.” The satan is probably going within the scene execution particulars, which we’d by no means see, though he mentioned the showrunners would threaten to launch the pilot on YouTube when he pissed them off. Maybe the early drunk scenes weren’t the King within the North’s most interesting hour.
Nonetheless, studying the script at Cushing, I obtained a way of how even small modifications would have led to a vastly totally different present. One of the crucial fascinating facets for me ― a second that may’ve modified the way in which some future “Recreation of Thrones” scenes unfold and added some foreshadowing ― was Cersei’s lower scene. Because the adage goes, the place there’s smoke, there’s … Cersei attempting to gentle one thing on hearth.
The scenes illustrated by Lena Vargas Afanasieva should not meant to be precise depictions of the scripted sequences.
Further reporting by Leigh Blickley and Sara Boboltz.
- This text initially appeared on HuffPost.