Game of Thrones Showrunners Say the One Thing They Got Right About the Pilot Was Admitting It Sucked

Game of Thrones Showrunners Say the One Thing They Got Right About the Pilot Was Admitting It Sucked
The Stark family, who almost apparently met some people with very unfortunate haircuts, in Game of Thrones' first episode. (Image: HBO)

Game of Thrones’ original pilot is infamous — one of the most secretive pilots in recent TV history, spoken of in hushed whispers. Apparently, it was far, far from the quality of the first episode of Thrones we actually saw, thanks to a radical reshoot overhaul and some big cast changes. But the only reason that turnaround happened was the show’s co-creators admitted they’d messed up.

This was revealed in Entertainment Weekly’s excerpt from James Hibberd’s upcoming tell-all story about the making of Thrones, titled Fire Cannot Kill a Dragon, in which the cast and crew look back on the show’s earliest, still unseen origins.

There’s a lot of fun little anecdotes — quite a few about various states of hairstyles in the pilot, and George R.R. Martin himself has a killer one about some unfortunate horse parts in the original scenes between Dany and Khal Drogo. But the most interesting tidbit of all is the moment HBO, D.B. Weiss, and David Benioff had their, as former HBO programming president Michael Lombardo puts it, “come to Jesus” moment to take a step back and reflect that the pilot as it existed was not working.

What saved it, seemingly, was Weiss and Benioff admitting that as much as HBO’s executives knew it. “We’d done a lot of soul searching. The one thing I think we did right is we owned all the mistakes,” Weiss says in the excerpt. “We didn’t point fingers. We said: ‘We know this isn’t good, and here is what went wrong and how we would do it differently the next time.’ We just went down the line. I think they got the sense, which was honest, that we weren’t coming in trying to explain why the bugs were features. We were all on the same page that where we want to be is many levels up from this.”

It’s mostly interesting because, while the reflection was rewarded with a series order and, after reshooting, an opening episode that turned Game of Thrones into an almost-overnight cultural sensation, it’s…a lesson that seems to have been increasingly forgotten as the show progressed.

It’ll be fascinating to see if Weiss, Benioff, and Hibberd’s other interviews continue that level of frankness when Fire Cannot Kill a Dragon hits shelves on October 6.

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