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The penultimate episode of the show’s first season, in which Ned Stark (Sean Bean) famously loses his head, marks the turning point for the HBO series, bringing the simmering conflicts between the Starks, Lannisters and more to a full-on boil. But it wasn’t supposed to go that way, at least not within the context of the story. Ned was supposed to survive his fateful trip to the Sept of Baelor, his confession enough to sentence him to a lifetime of service with the Night’s Watch, his daughters’ lives safe and the war between the North and the crown ended before escalating any further. Instead, the vindictive Joffrey Baratheon (Jack Gleason) opts to spice things up by slicing off Ned’s head (by way of Wilko Johnson’s Ser Ilyn Payne), guaranteeing a full-scale conflict throughout the Seven Kingdoms.
Imagine the scenario in which Joffrey doesn’t act so impulsively. Imagine the alternate universe where Ned makes it all the way back to the North and makes good on his promise to join the watchers on the Wall. Can you also imagine the next possible steps — that Ned, having already tossed aside his precious honor in favor of saving his family’s lives, would break his vows once again by throwing his support behind someone with a tremendous claim to ruling Westeros: Jon Snow (Kit Harington), legitimate (albeit secret) heir of House Targaryen, and therefore a rightful contender for the Iron Throne? And in that divergent path, just how decisively would Jon and the North (as well as any other allies gathered along the way) win against the likes of the Lannisters?
Ah, to dream. It’s a happier road to consider (as much as anything in the world of Thrones can be considered happy), but one that never came to pass, thanks to Joffrey. Truly the worst.
In this week’s episode of “Winter Was Here,” the Game of Thrones rewatch podcast from Post Show Recaps duo Rob Cesternino and Josh Wigler (that’s me!), we’re weighing in on the alternate timeline where Ned didn’t die in season one — as well as the following topics:
• The iconic nature of the Ned Stark death scene, and how people reacted to it in the moment;
• How Ned’s death holds up in terms of Arya’s (Maisie Williams) future anger toward Sansa (Sophie Turner);
• Cersei (Lena Headey) and Varys (Conleth Hill) expressing very telling reactions in light of Joffrey’s command to behead Ned;
• Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) meeting Shae (Sibel Kekilli) for the very first time, and how it sets up his road toward damnation;
• Why “Baelor” is the best episode of season one;
• And more!
Listen to the podcast in the player below.
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