Cliffhanger ending

There is an interesting discussion over at the Westeros forums regarding where to end the pilot episode. Obviously this discussion is all spoilers, so click through only if you’ve read the first 200 pages of the first book.

The general train of thought is to end the pilot at the “things I do for love” scene. Bran sees Jaime and Cersei in the tower, Jaime throws him out the window and we fade to black. Hopefully the audience is hooked at that point. A poster at the Westeros forums, The Anti-Targ, has a slightly different idea though. Instead of ending it there, extend it a few more scenes and conclude it at the assassination attempt. He contends that not only does it add another level of excitement but it is a good wrapping up point for the episode.

Winter is Coming: I rather like this idea. It makes for a more complete episode. We’ve seen Eddard make the decision to become Hand and leave for King’s Landing, we’ve seen Jon and Tyrion leave for the Wall, everything seems to be settling down at Winterfell. It also adds another layer of mystery to the whole thing. Yeah, Bran getting thrown from a window is pretty shocking, but we know who did it and we know why. Ending on the assassination attempt is a little more mysterious as we don’t know exactly who ordered the attempt (although one could make a guess). They could also leave it vague as to whether or not Catelyn and Bran survived the attempt.

Another benefit to this idea is it adds a little more action into the pilot episode. Throughout most of the episode not a lot happens. It is mostly establishing the world, establishing the characters, etc. Viewers might get bored after a while. Ending it at the assassination attempt adds another little twist and turn and some more action to the pilot to hook viewers even more.

In the end, the decision has already been made by Benioff and Weiss where to end the pilot. The script has already been written. While they may make minor changes, they most likely won’t be changing the ending point. But it is fun to speculate!


  • Bran’s fall did seem to me to be a good cliffhanger to end on, but I’ve come to think that by that point the story won’t have progressed for a full hour of television. The assassination does make a lot more sense.

  • First of all, I’d like to say that I absolutely love this blog.

    Regarding the first episode, I think that The Anti-Targ has the right idea. Bran falling out of the window is shocking but ending it with the assassination attempt would be better for the advancement of the story. As you point out, viewers would be more likely to be interested in knowing what happens to the key figures who have all gone off in different directions.

    On the opposite side of the spectrum, where would the story begin? Would it begin with the prologue beyond the wall? It’s critical to the story but it could very well confuse people who aren’t familiar with the storyline, especially since we don’t come back to the full meaning of that for a long time. On the other hand, if we begin with Bran’s first POV chapter (which is much more linear to the overall plot) would the execution of Gared carry as much weight?

  • I find it curious in the forums about the comments regarding the end of each episode ending on a Daenerys plotline. Just the last 5-10 minutes or so of each episode. It seems to make a bit of sense since season 1 is really some slower character development in Daenerys (her brother, the courtship, the traveling on horseback) and yet she is such a pivotal character in later novels/seasons.

    It might add a bit of continuity in season 1 and allow for the first 35-45 minutes of the episodes of season 1 to be more Westeros oriented.

  • Thank you for the blog, I appreciate it.

    I figure any pilot that actually aires will probably need to be closer to 90 minutes in length than 50. Theres a lot of backstory to cover.

    However, I think people need to be aware that the “pilot” HBO intends to film might not even necessarily be a full length episode. A pilot literally could be just a 15-20 minute segment, including scenes that may be deep into the series. My guess is that they will film the Prologue as, it includes most the elements necessary for the series (outdoor sets, some cg action, and a little backstory.) The prologue literally could be the pilot.

    Shooting just the prologue would allow HBO to get a good estimate for the total budget in a practical sense. It includes actors we don’t really see again. It tests the production crews ability to create quality product. And it could be done for a reasonable cost.

    Anyways, all I’m saying is that a pilot doesn’t necessarily mean a full length episode. It’s a test for the production crew, really. HBO has bought into the idea of a series. But making that a reality is a whole different game. Hopefully we can trust these guys to get something HBO is willing to trust its brand with.

  • I suppose it is possible that the pilot could just be the prologue and that is it. Based on what we’ve heard from Martin, Benioff, and Weiss though, it seems like it will be a full episode. The script is already written, so I think HBO is planning to film a full episode.

    Also, I’m not sure I agree with ending each episode with Dany. I would rather they try to find ways to work it into the main narrative, try to tie it into what is going on in Westeros. Show people discussing the Targaryens, dragons, etc. then cut to Dany. They need to show that although her story is separate now, it is an important one and something that will affect the main storyline farther down the road. Throwing it at the end of each episode is just going to make it seem more disconnected from the rest of the narrative, in my opinion.

  • One of the notes on Westeros is that getting it to the assassination scene would require covering 14 chapters in the first episode. Then there is further discussion on how to divide book one into 12 episodes; do we know for sure that it will be 12 episodes?

    The networks typically average 20-22 episodes per season for most shows; but HBO does its own thing. Deadwood was 12 per season; Sopranos went 13 each until the final season when they cranked out 21; The Wire has done 12, 13, 13, 12; and Entourage which only did 8 the first season did 14, 20, then 12 in the following seasons.

    Because there is such a large story with all the details already fleshed out (just need to be converted to a screenplay/script), do you think HBO can justify [to itself] shooting 20+ episodes? Instead of trying to cram it into 12?

    I think they can because the content is there already; if they are planning 1 book per season they know when they will run out of existing story. Unlike many TV shows that often only have existing content written for a season or two (and the writers write more if the series does well – and sometimes the writer has run out of ideas to make the story flow well).

    Any-which-way… I’m hoping they go for more episodes. First just to get more content and enjoyment; but mainly so that they don’t have to squeeze so much into each episode that content is lost as a result.