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Establishing Character Moment / Game of Thrones

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This is almost a requirement of every character, since their sheer number requires clear and concise introductions:

  • Ned's first scene shows him affectionately watching over his sons receiving combat training, only to be called away to condemn a deserter to death. He personally beheads the man while his sons watch, then explains to them that he can't pass the sentence if he's unwilling to carry it out himself. Almost everything about Ned's character is encapsulated in that scene: his affection for his family, his stern and uncompromising feudal values, and his sense of honor, justice, and personal responsibility.
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  • Catelyn's first scene occurs at the same time as Ned's, and she watches her children with clear love and affection... right until she looks over at Jon Snow.
  • Sansa is introduced as sweetly accepting praise for her well-done embroidery.
  • Arya is introduced as deathly bored by needlework. She sneaks out to the archery range where her brothers Robb and Jon are trying to teach their brother Bran archery. As Bran keeps missing the target, Arya hits it in one try from behind and farther away.
  • Bran, although troubled by the execution, doesn't look away and understands his father's reasons for beheading the man.
  • Theon is eager to kill the direwolf pups and immediately goes to slit one's throat — in stark contrast to Robb, Jon and Bran's impulse to save them.
  • After riding into Winterfell like a stern, proud king, Robert Baratheon immediately shows his boisterous, jovial nature and brotherly affection for Ned in three words and a laugh: "You got fat." Their time together in the crypts cements the first impression. Ned also cements their relationship by responding to Robert's comment with an incredulous "You're calling me fat?" look, which Robert thinks is hilarious.
  • Jon's conversations with Tyrion and his Uncle Benjen establish him being slightly resentful of his illegitimate status but as an aspiring warrior with dreams of joining the Night's Watch for the sake of honor and duty and to become a ranger like his uncle. In an earlier scene, his love for his family is also shown in his willingness to discount himself so each of his siblings can have a direwolf pup (but, being part of the family, Jon ultimately finds his own pup too - an albino pup).
    • In a single scene in "High Sparrow", Jon shows what kind of commander he is: friendly with his troops, fair and honorable, but also firm with those that break their oaths, and when he sentences a man to death, he is the one to swing the sword. Basically, he's just like Ned Stark.
  • Daenerys is introduced as a timid maiden without even the courage to resist to her brother's fondling, yet also shows her intelligence by recognizing that their host must want something from them, even though he hasn't asked. She's also completely unbothered by bathing in scalding hot water, foreshadowing her nature as a Targaryen.
  • Viserys is introduced feeling up his little sister and forcing her into an Arranged Marriage in exchange for an army, even saying he would let all 40,000 of Khal Drogo's Dothraki and their horses fuck her if it won him the Iron Throne.
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  • Tyrion Lannister is introduced while he's indulging in the Winterfell brothel, having headed straight there instead of greeting everyone else, where his conversation with Ros cements him as a witty and affable dwarf. Then when he finally shows up to the feast, it's immediately clear that his nephew and niece adore him, showing the audience that despite being a Lannister, he's one of the good guys.
  • While it's not his first scene, Jaime Lannister is really introduced when he shoves Bran out of a window with only a flippant little comment about "The things I do for love", showing he is dangerous, doesn't mind harming children and will go to any lengths to protect his family.
  • Joffrey doesn't say much and acts like a charmer to Sansa in the first episode, but by the second episode, he reveals his true nature by threatening Arya and her friend Mycah.
  • While Sandor Clegane is in the first episode, he doesn't actually do anything until the end of the second, where he murders Mycah and shows absolutely no remorse. His lack of action in the first episode can be one as well; when Tyrion slaps his royal nephew for being an obnoxious brat, he just stands there and watches with no intervention despite supposedly being Joffrey's bodyguard.
  • Gregor "The Mountain" Clegane kills Ser Hugh in a joust and later beheads his own horse and attempts to murder his opponent Loras in a fit of rage after being unhorsed in a tourney, all in plain view of the audience and the king, then engages in a ferocious duel with his brother Sandor and only reluctantly stops when the king commands it so. After sitting out Season 3 and being fairly inactive in Season 2, when he is re-introduced in the Season 4 episode "Mockingbird", he is shown using lowborn prisoners as practice dummies, swinging an enormous greatsword like it was a stick.
  • Littlefinger gives an Info Dump on his background and raison d'etre framed as a speech to his whores about making their customers forget their true nature.
  • Tywin Lannister's stern, aloof patriarchalism over the Lannister family and Pragmatic Villainy are laid bare in his very first scene, a conversation in his war camp with his son Jaime which produces many of his defining quotes, during which he chides Jaime to Do Wrong, Right with the lovechild of a Breaking Speech and Rousing Speech and makes it clear that his goal of empowering House Lannister won't be hampered by honour or morality, all while butchering his own dinner (a stag) rather than having a servant do it for him.
  • Stannis Baratheon's Establishing Character Moment is grimly accepting his role as The Chosen One in a ceremony hosted by Melisandre, followed by a meeting to redact his claim to the Iron Throne. When he composes the declaration of his claim to the throne, he orders "beloved brother" changed because he and Robert didn't love each other and adds Jaime Lannister's nickname "Kingslayer" but also the title "Ser" because, "Whatever else he is, the man is still a knight." He is established as very dour, Will Not Tell a Lie, a by-the-book man who will not compromise.
    Stannis: Joffrey, Renly, Robb Stark, they're all thieves. They'll bend the knee or I'll destroy them.
  • For three episodes, Bronn is a nondescript mercenary. He reveals his true skills and intelligence when he sees greater profit in defending Tyrion at the Eyrie.
  • Lysa Arryn breastfeeding her much-too-old son Robin establishes her as quite mad and overbearing and Robin as developmentally stunted.
  • Oh, Dolorous Edd. "I was born in a place like this [Craster's ramshackle keep]. Later I fell on hard times."
  • Balon chastising Theon for wearing a gold necklace he bought with money establishes their cultural alienation and that Balon suffers from the ironborn version of Honor Before Reason: he would rather take land and riches than let someone give it to him.
  • Roose Bolton is introduced touring the battlefields with Robb, calmly reporting the massive enemy battle casualties and recommending the torturous interrogation of prisoners in a dispassionate, clinical tone.
  • Margaery Tyrell spent her early appearances playing the part of a perfect princess until we see her enter Renly's tent for the first time. In a matter of moments she makes it clear that she knows about his relationship with her brother Loras, that she's fine with the act so long as she can have the part of a queen, that she is very politically astute and that she's even willing to have Loras involved in any kind of sexual activities if that's what Renly needs to impregnate her.
  • Brienne of Tarth is introduced winning a tourney melee comprised of the best warriors in Renly's army with her size and strength, including the renowned tourney knight Ser Loras Tyrell, by spear-tackling him to the ground. Then she takes off her helmet.
  • Despite not appearing in Season 2, Ramsay's sacking of Winterfell and apparent massacre of its inhabitants after the Ironborn surrendered Theon to him establishes both that he and possibly his father are no friends of the Starks, and also that he has a proclivity to butcher unarmed and innocent people. Also despite remaining offscreen during Theon's torture at the start of Season 3, he almost certainly ordered Theon's pointless torture. Another more Fridge Horror flavored example, but the fact that his men have a policy of gang-raping escaped captives like Theon (or attempting to, in that case) reflects even more nastily on him. Once his true nature is revealed and his first "game" with Theon ends, his nightmarish physical and psychological torture of Theon simply for his own sadistic enjoyment makes clear just what kind of monster he is.
  • Selyse Baratheon's first appearance establishes everything we need to know about her. She's seen praying fervently alone in the dark, instantly forgives her husband's infidelity due to her fundamentalism and pays loving attention to her jars of miscarried children while trying to deny the existence of her daughter.
  • Hoster Tully's funeral provides two: Edmure tries his best to light his father's boat pyre with a fire arrow, but fails repeatedly until his uncle Brynden "Blackfish" shoves him out of the way and dismissively hits the target with ease (not even bothering to watch it to confirm he scored a hit), establishing Edmure as well-meaning but somewhat incompetent and the Blackfish as a badass Old Soldier.
  • Qyburn treating Jaime's wounded stump covers all you need to know: courteous, honest and intelligent, with a fascination over gore as his face lights up when cutting away the rotten tissue.
  • Oberyn Martell is introduced selecting prostitutes of both genders for a foursome with his paramour, only to break off to confront some men he hears singing a pro-Lannister song to start a fight with them. Then promptly goes back to the groping and kissing the instant it's over, ignoring the people that are addressing him by name. His intelligence, Dornish sexuality, hatred of Lannisters, and violent unpredictability are all established immediately.
  • Styr and the other Thenns are established as Obviously Evil by their shaven heads, ritual scars, and eating habits.
  • We've seen Ser Kevan Lannister before, but in "The House of Black and White" he shows his level head and his backbone when he basically calls Cersei and Tommen out for the Puppet King they are. Truly, he is Tywin's brother.
  • Prince Doran Martell makes it rather clear that he is not an impulsive or illogical man, as he refuses to go to war with the Lannisters (too high of a cost) and use Myrcella as petty vengeance. It is also clear that he is of a stoic demeanor, despite mourning for his dear brother, and does not wear his emotions on his sleeve nor does he wish to appear weak to anyone.
  • Randyll's disdain for his first son is palpable even before opening his mouth, with his Kubrick Stare speaking volumes, and the first words to come out of his mouth are calling Sam fat.
  • Even before the viewers get to see her, Lyanna Mormont's blunt nature (for her age) is established in her letter to Stannis, refusing to support him or any other king who isn't a Stark of Winterfell. In her first appearance, she brushes off any attempts at smooth talk and flattery by Jon and Sansa and dominates the scene with her presence, in spite of being a little girl.
  • Euron Greyjoy gets a spectacular one when he meets his brother Balon on a swaying rope bridge during a heavy storm, declares that he "is the first storm and the last" and shoves his brother off the bridge to his death.