Credit: HBO

Wow,” said the viewer behind us as the lights came up.

The ultra-mysterious first episode of Game of Thrones season 6 screened at the Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, California on Sunday night. “Wow” and its variations (“incredible,” “spectacular”) could be heard in the crowd as the cast and guests made their way over to the afterparty at the Roosevelt Hotel (which sounds suspiciously like House Bolton venue).

“This season was a beast to make,” showrunner David Benioff told the audience at the premiere. “We shot 680 hours of dailies, which translates to 3.7 million feet of film. We shot in five different countries — Northern Ireland, Spain, Croatia, Iceland, and Canada. We employed 900 crewmembers in Belfast; 400 in Spain. We issued 140 script revisions. We two shot units a day for 22 weeks straight, three units a day for 10 weeks straight, four units for two weeks straight. And none of that would be possible without the greatest producing team on the planet.”

The event marked the only screening of the top-secret premiere hour that will happen before Game of Thrones makes its April 24 debut on HBO (the episode is not being sent to critics in advance). HBO and the producers of Thrones asked guests to not reveal any plot points or post official reviews after the premiere event — general impressions only. Here are some admittedly (and maddeningly) vague thoughts on the debut hour, titled “The Red Woman,” that will keep you unsullied:

  • Unlike some years, when Thrones started with a somewhat slower-paced episode that re-established all the various storylines, “The Red Woman” hits the ground at full sprint. This is partly due to the strength of last year’s finale, which included Dany’s capture by the Dothraki, Cersei’s Walk of Shame, Arya being blinded, Jon Snow’s death, and Sansa and Theon fleeing Winterfell. To some extent, all the climactic beats last year felt like cliffhangers, so this intense new hour picks up right where each left off.
  • Once again, not every main character shows up in the first episode, and a couple of series regulars are held back (presumably until the second episode). But don’t worry, the premiere spends a lot of time at Castle Black.
  • There are some scenes that are genuinely shocking. As in: Even hardcore fans full of speculation about the new season won’t see some twists coming.
  • You know those two season 6 trailers that got you so excited? A surprising amount of that footage is either from this first episode or from scenes that will seemingly happen in the next. In other words: There is so much more from this season’s storylines that hasn’t even been hinted in any of the released footage. (That said, a new, action-packed trailer revealing more content from season 6 screened after premiere — and that trailer is now released, watch it here).

Also, here’s a few notes from the event:

  • Most of the stars from the show were in attendance, including Emilia Clarke, Peter Dinklage, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Sophie Turner and Maisie Williams. Nope, Kit Harington wasn’t there (and author George R.R. Martin was also absent).
  • Before the screening, Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister provided a warning not to use cell phones in the theater, noting that any violators will be “boiled alive.”
  • At the afterparty, guests were treated to a Hall of Faces photo booth, Three-Eyed Raven Soothsayer (fortune tellers), GoT-themed Henna tattoos, and a life-sized direwolf diorama.

For more on GoT season 6, get the recent issue of Entertainment Weekly, which goes behind the scenes in Northern Ireland and Spain, plus profiles six of the show’s female stars. Follow @jameshibberd for ongoing GoT coverage, subscribe to our Thrones newsletter, and bookmark this page for our latest GoT stories.

Game of Thrones returns April 24 on HBO.

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Game of Thrones

HBO's epic fantasy drama based on George R.R. Martin's novel series A Song of Ice and Fire.

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