IMDB: Game of Thrones
Side Note: I have not read the books, so anything mentioned is based on my knowledge from the show and the show only.
Lord Eddard “Ned” Stark
(40) …his long brown hair stirring in the wind. His closely-trimmed beard is shot with white. He has spent half his life training for war and the other half waging it, and his face conveys both authority and a haunted sadness.
Lady Catelyn Stark
(35), Ned’s auburn-haired, blue-eyed wife.
(17)…Robb is big and broad, with fair skin and reddish-brown hair.
(13), traditionally beautiful, with high cheekbones and thick red hair.
(11), a skinny tomboy.
(17)… Jon is slender, darker than his half-brothers, his eyes black and watchful.
(30’s) the Queen’s twin brother…Considered by many the best-looking man in the Seven Kingdoms, there is a hint of savagery behind his eyes.
A dwarf with mismatched eyes: one green, one black.
Queen Cersei Lannister
(30s) Green-eyed and golden-haired, the queen’s beauty has already become legend.
(18)… Daenerys is a beautiful girl but nobody has bothered to tell her. She is awkward in her own skin, unaware of how rare her violet eyes and lush silver hair really are.
(20)… a gaunt young man with nervous hands and a feverish look in his pale eyes.
King Robert Baratheon
(Character name used: Robert)
A huge man approaches…A black beard covers his double chin, but nothing can hide the belly that threatens to burst his doublet’s buttons…(40’s)
(Character name used: Does not speak in script)
(13), the crown prince, tall for his age, and haughty.
(Character name used: Khal Drogo)
(30) is the tallest man in the courtyard, but despite his size and musculature, he has the grace of a panther. His black hair is woven into a single braid, hung with small silver bells, that swings below his belt.
(Character name used: Theon)
(Character name used: Jorah)
Ser Jorah is past forty and balding, but still strong and fit.
(Character name used: no speaking role)
…their little brother…(3).
In the screenplay, the unknown enemy at the beginning is referred to as the Others.
In the pilot, the unknown enemy is changed to White Walkers.
Everyone’s age has been increased by two to three years in the pilot.
Tyrion does not have two different colored eyes.
Measter Pycelle is cut from the pilot.
The Screenplay had no acts, so I will break the screenplay down into 3 Acts to analyze it.
The Targaryen storyline is spread out evenly throughout the screenplay, however in the pilot, the Targaryen’s do not appear until halfway through.
My breakdown will focus on the pilot structure, but the Script Notes will go by the screenplay structure.
Below I have attached a link to the pilot screenplay:
|Game of Thrones
A scene of the Rangers leaving the gates of the wall is added.
A scene of the wights (reanimated dead) chasing the rangers is added.
Rangers check out area and find dead bodies.
Rangers are attacked by White Walkers.
The teaser introduces us to the Nights Watch and the White Walkers. It immediately shows us what kind of world this will be with magic and a medieval setting as we see dead bodies come back to life. White Walkers are the antagonists of the series so it makes sense that the first sign of trouble we see is with the White Walkers, as it not only teases the pilot episode, but the entire series.
The Nights Watch is also an important part of Game of Thrones, however not much information about it is learned from the teaser.
End of Teaser:
Screenplay: Gared gets away as Ser Mareyn and Will are attacked by White Walkers.
Pilot: Gared is killed in front of Will, who’s fate remains to be seen.
In the screenplay, the dead bodies are just lying around.
In the pilot, the dead bodies are bloody and there are decapitated heads on spikes.
Dialogue is added foreshadowing Will’s beheading.
In the screenplay, the White Walkers appear and then attack the Rangers.
In the pilot, Ser Waymar is killed instantly and then there is a chase scene before Gared is killed.
In the screenplay, Gared gets away on horseback.
In the pilot, Will survives.
The Credit Sequence is likely considering realistic options of filming an opening sequence.
The Pilot sequence is fully animated, but the same concept of flying over Westeros is applied.
A scene is added of Stark’s men capturing the deserter from the teaser.
A scene of Jon and Robb racing on horses after the beheading is cut.
A scene of the Stark boys practicing archery is added.
A scene of men carrying a palanquin with Daenerys, Viserys and Ilyrio inside is cut.
A scene of Viserys and Illyrio discussing Khal Drogo in the palanquin is cut.
All scenes involving Dany and Viserys are cut and moved to the second act. This act focuses on King’s Landing and the Starks in Winterfell.
A scene of drunks singing outside the brothel in King’s Landing is cut.
The Brothel scene with Jamie and Tyrion is cut and added during the second act in Winterfell instead of King’s Landing.
A scene of Master Luwin receiving a raven message from King’s Landing is cut.
The scene of Cersei and Master Pycelle talking over Jon Arryn’s body is replaced with a scene of Jamie and Cersei talking over Jon Arryn’s body.
A scene of Robb, Jon and Theon getting shaved and groomed for the King’s visit is added.
A scene of the Stark’s cooks preparing for the feast is added.
Ned Stark beheads Will for deserting the Night’s Watch.
The Starks find Direwolfs.
Dany is given to Khal Drogo as a bride for an army.
Jonn Arryn, Hand of the King, is dead.
Ned Stark finds out the King is coming to Winterfell.
Game of Thrones boasts a large cast, so it is important to balance the screen time and at the same time give the audience something to remember about the characters.
Here we are introduced to the Stark family, the the main protagonists that the audience will root for. Initially the only scene with the Stark boys is the beheading and the subsequent scene of finding the Dire wolves.
Before the beheading, the pilot adds a scene that showcases the Stark boys and girls and their relations to each other. Robb is the older brother and well respected. Jon is the half brother but still close to his younger siblings. Sansa is a young woman learning how to sow, while Arja is a younger woman yearning more for adventure. Bran is a kid trying to follow in the big footsteps of his older brothers and father. Rickon is a young kid with not much focus given on him. It’s a quick scene and it gives a small glimpse into the everyday life of the Starks before the King’s visit disrupts it.
We are also introduced to the Lannisters who discuss the death of the Hand of the King. This scene seems random, but it is immediately tied into the Starks with the raven delivering the message that the King will be visiting.
So right off the bat we have a peaceful Stark family and a murder which sparks the King to disrupt the Stark’s lives.
End of Act 1:
Screenplay: Catelyn tells Ned that the King is coming to Winterfell.
Pilot: Catelyn tells Ned that the King is coming to Winterfell.
In the screenplay, Ned and Will are just seen talking from Bran’s perspective.
In the pilot, Will says out loud that he saw the White Walkers.
In the screenplay, Bran and Ned talk on horseback after Jon and Robb take off racing.
In the pilot, Bran and Ned talk right after the beheading and the race between Jon and Robb is cut.
In the screenplay, they immediately find the dead Direwolf.
In the pilot, they find a dead elk and then the Direwolf.
In the screenplay, there is no mention of nudity as Viserys inspects his sister’s body.
In the pilot, Viserys takes off Daenerys’s clothes to inspect her body.
In the screenplay, the scene ends after Viserys leaves.
In the Pilot, Daenerys walks into the scolding hot bath, foreshadowing her ability to be unaffected by fire and heat.
In the screenplay, Viserys, Illyio and Daenerys travel to meet Khal Drogo.
In the pilot, Khal Drogo travels to meet them.
In the screenplay, Cersei talks with Maester Pacelle over Jon Arryn’s dead body.
In the pilot, Cersei and Jamie chat about Jon Arryn knowing their secret.
In the pilot, the dialogue in the brothel between Jamie and Tyrion is different as it is moved to later on when they are in Winterfell. Jamie ends the scene in the pilot by bringing Tyrion 3 more girls for his entertainment.
In the screenplay, Catelyn and Ned talk about the beheading and Jon being a bastard when she tells him the King is coming to Winterfell.
In the pilot, Catelyn only tells him the king is coming and their conversation remains focused on that.
A scene of Arya watching the King’s Party enter Winterfell is added.
A scene of Robert and Ned walking down the Crypt stairs is cut.
The brothel scene of Jamie and Tyrion is added.
A scene introducing Viserys and Daenerys is added.
A scene of meeting Khal Drogo is added.
A scene of Sansa having her hair combed by Catelyn is added as Sansa ponders if Joffrey will like her.
A scene of Benjen showing up while Jon practicing his sword fighting outside during the feast is added.
The King arrives in Winterfell and asks Ned to be hand of the king.
Ned and Catelyn learn that Jon Arryn was murdered by the Lannisters.
The King arrives in Winterfell and reunites with his old friend. The audience already knows Robert’s intentions and the show wastes know time popping the question to Ned. Ned can’t say no to his oldest friend, so the decision although never actually stated is generally understood as a forgone conclusion.
A twist is thrown in when Ned and Catelyn find out the Lannisters killed the last Hand of the King. This now brings a whole new conflict to the decision to join Robert. Now Ned has to choose his friends wisely in a place he is unfamiliar with.
We are also introduced to Daenerys and Viserys, two Targerans that are a long way from home, but plotting their return. Viserys is set on being king after having to flee his country for reasons unknown (based on the pilot.), but it is shown that King Robert wants them dead.
End of Act 2:
Screenplay: Joffrey and Robb challenge each other to a sword fight.
Pilot: Ned and Catelyn learn that Jon Arryn was killed by the Lannisters.
In the screenplay, the entire Stark family is patiently waiting for the King’s arrival.
In the pilot, Arya shows up late, but makes it in time for the King’s arrival.
In the screenplay, Joffrey just rides in.
In the pilot, Joffrey and Sansa make eye contact, with Robb noticing.
In the screenplay, King Robert just talks with Ned.
In the pilot, King Robert interacts with all the Starks.
In the screenplay, the Starks remain quiet aside from Ned and Caitlyn.
In the pilot, Arya is used to provide exposition of some of the characters including asking where the Imp is.
In the screenplay, the Crypt scene is long with lots of dialogue.
In the pilot, the crypt scene is short with Robert immediately asking Ned to be hand of king. The scene is split in two by the Tyrion brothel scene, and the second scene focuses on Robert visiting Lyanna Stark’s grave and King Robert’s desire to have their family joined through their children.
In the screenplay, Jon is eating at the feast and has his conversation with Benjen inside.
In the pilot, Jon is not allowed to eat at the feast and has his conversation with Benjen outside.
In the screenplay, Ghost is with Jon when he meets Tyrion.
In the pilot, Ghost is absent.
In the screenplay, Catelyn talks with Jamie and Cersei.
In the pilot, Catelyn only talks with Cersei. Sansa also introduces herself to the Cersei.
In the screenplay, Benjen and Ned do not talk.
In the pilot, Benjen and Ned discuss the White Walkers and the deserter.
In the screenplay, Arya starts a food fight with Bran. Catelyn sees this and tries to take care of it, but Ned stops her and handles it.
In the pilot, Arya flings food at Sansa and embarrasses her. Catelyn motions to Robb, who takes a reluctant Arya to bed.
A scene of Sansa and Arja knitting is cut.
A scene of the Starks and Joffrey sword fighting is cut.
A scene of Dany and Khal Drogo riding through fields is cut.
Khal Drogo and Dany get married.
Bran is pushed out off of a keep after he sees Cersei and Jamie having sex.
Daenerys is given to Khal by her brother so that Viserys can have an army to take back Westeros. We end off seeing Daenerys deeply troubled by how she has been treated probably dating back to when the Targaryens first had to flee Westeros. The show does a good job of casting Viserys as a dis-likable character as there is nothing remotely redeeming about him except the fact that he and his sister both want to go home. You end up cheering for them to succeed, but at the same time you hope he gets what’s coming.
Khal Drogo is also an interesting character as his culture’s actions are barbaric in nature, but the way he carries himself and his lack of common tongue, make his intentions unclear.
We finally find out the Lannisters big secret as Cersei and Jamie are discovered having sex in an old keep. We can put two and two together and figure out that Jon Arryn must have discovered this which is why he had to be killed. Jamie keeps the streak going by attempting to kill Bran by pushing him out the window.
End of Act 3:
Screenplay: Bran is pushed out of a keep window after discovering Cersei and Jamie having sex.
Pilot: Bran is pushed out of a keep window after discovering Cersei and Jamie having sex.
In the screenplay, Ser Jorah is first introduced back in Act 2 when Khal Drogo is first introduced.
In the pilot, Ser Jorah is first introduced when he presents a gift to Daenerys at her wedding.
In the screenplay, Viserys gives Daenerys servants to teach her how to be a better lover.
In the pilot, Viersys doesn’t give Daenerys any gifts and the servants are cut completely.
In the screenplay, Daenerys is initially hesitant, but accepts Khal’s sexual advances on her.
In the pilot, Daenerys is scared and hesitant the whole time. In the end, she reluctantly let’s Khal have his way with her.
In the screenplay, Jon is moping around because he is left out of the hunting party.
In the pilot, Jon is not in the scene. Interaction between the Hound and Tyrion is added.
In the screenplay, Bran overhears Jamie and Cersei talking.
In the pilot, Bran doesn’t hear Jamie or Cersei talking at all, he just catches them in the act.
In the screenplay, Bran initially falls and is saved by Jamie before he pushes him out of the window.
In the pilot, Bran doesn’t fall and Jamie just pushes him out of the window.
Game of Thrones is one of the best shows on television because of its rich developed characters, fascinating world, and thoroughly planned story.
Before re-watching the pilot, I couldn’t remember where it ended. I thought they would be on the road with the King already because of the way the story fits together so flawlessly. The whole series is one long story, and if you try to think back, it’s hard to pin point a specific episode (minus the big events and battles).
The Game of Thrones pilot is an interesting study because of the well documented failure behind the initial pilot. From what I have read, the screenplay may be closer to the unaired pilot than the aired pilot and you can see the glaring differences. Although the screenplay has the same material, there’s a lot of loose ends and jumbled scenes.
The dialogue doesn’t change much from pilot to script, but what scene it is placed in does. A few examples include:
In the screenplay, Jamie and Cersei talk about Jamie becoming hand of the king and Jon Arryn discovering their secret while they are having sex in the Keep.
In the pilot, Jamie and Cersei have the same conversation while watching Jon Arryn’s dead body being prepared for burial. At the end scene in the keep, they don’t say anything.
In the screenplay, Viserys and Daenerys have many scenes together.
In the pilot, some scenes of Viserys and Daenerys are cut. The important dialogue from those scenes are then placed in the remaining scenes.
In the screenplay, Jamie finds Tyrion in a brothel and talks about taking a trip to Winterfell.
In the pilot, Jamie finds Tyrion in a brothel in Winterfell, which changes the dialogue to Jamie telling Tyrion to come to the feast.
There are plenty of scenes tied together with more meaning in the pilot. In the screenplay, some scenes are just there to establish a plot point.
In the screenplay Bran is caught climbing by his mother and scolded. Obviously the climbing is important because it comes back in the final scene with Bran climbing the keep and discovering the Lannister secret.
In the pilot, it is changed so that the initial scene of Bran climbing is to see the King’s party coming down the road to Winterfall. Small change, but it ties it to the bigger plot and it gives it more meaning than Bran likes to climb.
In the screenplay, Benjen is at the feast and has a chat with Jon Snow about the Night’s Watch.
In the pilot, we actually see Benjen arrive by horse from the Night’s Watch. After he talks with Jon, he then discusses the deserter and the White Walkers with Ned. Again, small change, but it makes sense that Benjen would inquire about that as he is apart of the Night’s Watch. It also gives us a glimpse of what they think about the White Walkers.
The pilot also adds tension to scenes whereas the screenplay kind of just brushes the conflict aside and ends the scene on a positive note.
In the screenplay, it is Ned who is trying to convince Catelyn why he shouldn’t go to King’s Landing.
In the pilot, Catelyn uses Ned’s screenplay dialogue to try and convince him to stay. Master Luwin argues the opposite and encourages Ned to go. We know Ned is an honorable man, and it makes more sense that he would be more willing to go than not, especially considering his friend could be in danger.
In the screenplay, Daenerys gets so turned on, she accepts Khal Drogo’s sexual advances.
In the pilot, Daenerys is nowhere near ready for the commitment and reluctantly allows Khal Drogo to have his way.
These conflicted endings provide more empathy for the character and it emphasizes their problem at hand instead of brushing it aside at the last second.
The arrangement of scenes is also important to note as Daenerys’s storyline isn’t introduced until halfway through the pilot episode. Take what you want from that as Game of Thrones has a unique way of arranging its scene given the large cast and various story lines at any given time. It makes sense to stay with one family long enough until your at least familiar with the important people before jumping to another story. The transition from Winterfell to the Targaryens is better as King Robert says the Targarens aren’t all dead and we immediately see them.
A lot of the conversational dialogue is cut to shorten the scenes.
I’ve made it a point to list most of the character descriptions at the top. It gives a great example of a few sentences to describe a character and its format of separating it into its own paragraph.
The writers do a great job with scene descriptions and setting the scenes up by describing the unique places throughout Westeros. It is important in any screenplay to describe the various places throughout the story and this is evident in Game of Thrones as Winterfell, King’s Landing, Pentos and the Dothraki encampment all have unique descriptions to give the reader a clear mental image of the place.
Game of Thrones is set in a fictional world, so it is important to educate the audience on new elements, but at the same time keep the focus on the story. There are plenty of elements woven in such as the Night’s Watch, White Walkers, and King’s Hand, that are important to the plot, but also something unique to the world. If you are writing a screenplay that takes place in a fantasy or unique world, Game of Thrones has great examples of how to weave in unknown elements without on the nose exposition dialogue.
Handling Multiple Characters and Story lines
Game of Thrones has a lot of material to work from and the writers had to choose carefully what was important to show in the pilot. There are plenty of characters and storylines and it is important to find the right balance between them or you risk the chance of losing your audience with confusion.
Which leads to my last point. It has been thoroughly documented that the first Game of Thrones pilot had major issues due to characters, pacing and balancing the story lines correctly. However the writers listened to the feedback, went back the drawing board and here we are 6 seasons later anxiously awaiting the 7th season. Failure is inevitable as a writer, but it is your job to take the feedback and criticism and utilize it to make you a better writer. Game of Thrones was an initial failure, but the writers believed in the story ( which already had a large fan base), found out what did and didn’t work and in the end succeeded.
Feel free to make suggestions and thanks for reading.
Next Screenplays: Scrubs (July) and The Shield (July)