There's an old theory about storytelling that says "Just make up a bunch of stuff and see what happens." The writers of Game of Thrones, namely chief gardener George R. R. Martin, took that to heart when crafting his story. So begins the epic story that is Game of Thrones: The TV Show Based on the Book Series.
In this first episode of the series, all is well in the Seven Kingdoms until Jon Arryn, the Hand of the King, dies. King Robert makes his way to Winterfell in the North to name Eddard Stark, his oldest friend, as Arryn's successor. Little do they know that across the sea, Viserys Targaryen, the last of the old rulers of the Seven Kingdoms, has sold his sister to a horse lord to gain an army.
From the moment the gate on the wall opens to the end when Jamie says "The things I do for love," this pilot episodes shines. It's gorgeous, well-acted, well-written, and perfectly in the spirit of the novel from which it is based. There's not much else to say other than Tyrion didn't do that flip.
Yeah, I read the book just for the hell of it. It's pretty on point.
The first episode sets up most every great conflict in the series. The Starks needing to go to King's Landing despite reservations so Ned can solve the mystery of the Lannister's involvement in the death of Arryn. Jon's wish to go to the Night's Watch. King Robert's failures at being a man that inspires. Tyrion being a bastard in his father's eyes and by extension the rest of his family. Dany selling her body for her family's honor. The Lannister siblings issues, Sansa's belief in tales of chivalry, Arya's less than perfect ladylike behavior, ice zombies… There's so much here.
Hell, the wolf and stag killing each other symbolism in the beginning is just a fun bit of trivia when looking at the full intricacies of what is to come. A packed pilot with everything laid out.