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'Game of Thrones' sneak preview: Heads will roll!

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Game Of Thrones Bean
Helen Sloan/HBO

Viewers got an intriguing sneak peek at HBO’s highly-anticipated fantasy show Game of Thrones tonight, as the network debuted the first 15 minutes of the series premiere. There was one eye-popping image in the footage we saw: The first sight of the Wall, a massive block of ice that resembles a giant glacier and separates the civilization of Thrones from the wild wastelands to the north. To judge by these first fifteen minutes, though, Thrones will be less about Peter Jackson-esque visual kinetics and more about slow-building dread. The first scene was practically wordless — three men rode into the forest, found some horrifically mutilated bodies, and were attacked by strange creatures with glowing blue eyes. The scene ended with one man getting his head sliced off by the creature, while another man looked on in terror. Fade to black.

The second scene introduced some of the series’ most important characters — the various members of the Family Stark — but it did so quietly, in the context of some jaunty afternoon archery practice. The third scene was the real kicker, though. The man who survived the massacre in the first scene was a member of the Night’s Watch, and he had fled his post, an action punishable by death. Carrying out the punishment was Lord Eddard Stark, played by Sean Bean (Boromir!) who was positively dripping with battle-weary gravitas. Stark brought along his sons, including ten-year-old Bran, to witness the execution. (“Don’t look away,” advised Bran’s half-brother Jon, “father will know if you do.”) And slash! There went another head. (That has to be some sort of record, right?)

Tough to judge a show on just a few minutes of footage, but as a fan of George R. R. Martin’s series, I really enjoyed the pacing of this sneak preview. Considering that the books comprise hundreds of pages and thousands of characters, I was worried the show would zip along hurriedly from one plot point to the next. But these first fifteen minutes were slow and thoughtful, lacking any soundtrack besides the wind. It seems like the show’s creators haven’t been overwhelmed by the material. (Which is good, because boy, is there a lot of material.)

But I’m interested to hear what you thought, PopWatchers. Thrones fans, did the look of this sneak preview match your expectations for the show? Newbies, did it get you more or less interested to check out the series?

Follow Darren on Twitter: @EWDarrenFranich

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