The first episode of Game of Thrones premiered seven years ago today


Seven years ago, on April 17, 2011, the first episode of Game of Thrones — “Winter is Coming” — premiered on HBO. First-time viewers tuned in to the first scene and found themselves watching a party of warmly dressed English people, none of whom would ever appear on the show again, venture into a snowy forest and be killed by a mysterious blue-eyed frost monster. It was moody, it was grim, and it was enough to hold their interest while they waited to see where this all went.

Now, in April of 2018, everything has changed. Not only did Game of Thrones achieve meteoric success, becoming one of the few shows people make sure to watch as it airs even in an era when DVRs and subscription services make it easy to view TV whenever, it led to a renaissance in high-quality fantasy and sci-fi on television. Game of Thrones didn’t inspire the source material on which shows like OutlanderWestworld, and Amazon’s upcoming Lord of the Rings show are based, but networks would never have put those shows on the air had Thrones not been a success.

In very real ways, Game of Thrones has changed television. All in all, it’s done pretty well for a seven-year-old.

It didn’t always look that way. When Game of Thrones first came on the scene, some people doubted it had legs, including Ginia Bellafante, who wrote an infamous review in the The New York Times. “Game of Thrones serves up a lot of confusion in the name of no larger or really relevant idea beyond sketchily fleshed-out notions that war is ugly, families are insidious, and power is hot,” she wrote.

But negative reviews were the exception. Most critics were on board from the start, with James Peniewozik of TIME writing that watching the show was like “falling into a gorgeous, stained tapestry”; Linda Stasi of The New York Post saying that “[t]he art direction, acting, and incredible sets are as breathtaking as the massive scope of the series”; and Mary McNamara of the Los Angeles Times calling the show “a great and thundering series of political and psychological intrigue bristling with vivid characters, cross-hatched with tantalizing plotlines and seasoned with a splash of fantasy.”

Happy birthday, Game of Thrones. You may not be scheduled to live past the age of eight, but what you’ve created will last a long, long time.

Next: Season 8 filming: The Dragonpit takes shape

To stay up to date on everything Game of Thrones, follow our all-encompassing Facebook page and sign up for our exclusive newsletter.

Watch Game of Thrones for FREE with a no-risk, 7-day free trial of Amazon Channels