The first pilot for Game of Thrones was so bad HBO almost passed on the entire series

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Apr 16, 2015, 5:41 PM EDT

As fans kick back to enjoy the latest season of Game of Thrones, it’s fascinating to look back and realize HBO nearly passed on the series as a whole — all because the producers made one heck of a bad pilot.

Producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss chatted with Variety about the genesis of the series, as well as where it’s going next, but one of the more fascinating tidbits was the process of getting the series off the ground. We already knew most of the pilot had to be reshot, but Weiss was very candid on exactly why they had to redo the entire thing.

Basically, it sucked. Hard. The writer said they “got everything wrong” that first time around, and admitted it's a miracle HBO stuck it out for the reshoot and actually picked the show up for a season. From plotting at the speed of molasses to not making critical plot points clear, Weiss said the entire thing was a train wreck:

“After you do this for a while, you get used to things not working the way you want them to. There’s a job you want, and you don’t get it. There’s a movie you’d like to get made, and it doesn’t get made. You become inured to it. With this, there was a fresh kind of terror that came with the idea that we might get so close to getting this done, and have it snatched away at the last possible minute.

HBO was really on the fence about whether or not they were going to let this go to series, and those were four of the longest months of both of our lives — sitting there thinking every day that this thing that was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that’s never going to come by again, and we f—ed it up. It would be one of those big fish stories, those one-that-got-away stories, you’d be telling for the rest of your life.

…God, we got everything wrong on a very basic level with the writing of it. We brought three of our friends over just to get a reaction from them. Watching them watch the pilot was a deeply humiliating, painful experience, because these are very smart individuals, and it just clearly wasn’t working for any of them on a very basic level.

At the very end of the pilot, Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) pushes Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) out the window. Jaime is lying with his sister, Cersei (Lena Headey), and none of (our friends) realized that Jaime and Cersei were brother and sister, which is a major, major plot point that we had somehow failed to establish.”

So yeah, Thrones fans, thank your lucky stars these two finally worked out the kinks and figured out how to tell George R.R. Martin’s saga in a compelling way. It’s amazing just how close Game of Thrones was to just being a footnote in TV trivia, as opposed to a monster hit.

(Via Variety)