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"Game of Thrones," Season 1, Ep. 1

Season 1, Ep. 1

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  • Courtesy of HBO
  • YOU'RE THE ONLY ONE WHO UNDERSTANDS ME, SWORDSY: Sean Bean as Ned Stark

Less than three minutes into “Winter is Coming,” the initial episode of HBO’s fantasy epic “Game of Thrones,” we get our first severed heads. The pilot leaves the impression that decapitations will be “Game of Thrones” signature, like the refrain “That’s what she said” on “The Office” or the word “cocksucker” on “Deadwood.” Lopped noggins make for effective attention-getters, and one of the “Winter is Coming’s” beheadings neatly sums up the moral underpinnings of “Thrones’” make-believe setting.

Created by David Benioff and Dan Weiss and directed by HBO behind-the-camera mainstay Tim Van Patten, “Game of Thrones,” like George R.R. Martin’s original novel series A Song of Ice and Fire, avoids the usual fantasy folderol trappings. Magic spells and supernatural creatures are in short supply, with the continent of Westeros, also known as the Seven Kingdoms, resembling feudal England, only on a larger scale. The 3-D maps of the show’s title sequence reveal the major locations — and would look great on a gamer’s tabletop:



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