It was the meeting we spent six years imagining. Jon and Daenerys—ice and fire, king and queen, secret relatives, and potential doting parents of inbred Stark-Targaryens—finally shared the screen, meeting in the throne room at Dragonstone. Alliances, loves, and the survival of the species were at stake.
To be honest, it didn’t go great. In fact, the conversation went south more quickly than Jon did. Not only did Dany demand fealty and Jon decline to bend his knee, but the King in the North brought up White Walkers and the Night King without any context or preamble about the Long Night, the Night’s Watch, Hardhome, or a whole host of other relevant background that one would typically include in any disclosure about an undead and previously unintroduced adversary. In general, "The army of the dead is real" is the sort of statement you save for the second date, or at least preface with "Hey I just met you / And this is crazy." Only homespun diplomacy by Davos, Tyrion’s recommendation, and the convenient arrival of Varys prevented the audience from ending in Jon’s second death.
All in all, it was Jon’s most awkward meeting with a wannabe head of state since he mistook Tormund for Mance Rayder and forgot that the Free Folk don’t kneel. By the end of the episode, though, Jon and Dany patched things up: Jon got his dragonglass, and his unsmiling, antisocial intensity intrigued Dany enough that she turned to watch him stalk away.
It wasn’t the way Dale Carnegie would have drawn it up, but no one was killed, which made this meeting a greater success than many first encounters in Westeros. It wasn’t even the worst first impression in the episode. That distinction goes to Cersei, who greets Tyene Sand by chaining her up, poisoning her, and dooming her mother to spend the rest of her days keeping tabs on her moldering remains. With manners like that, it’s no surprise that Cersei’s only visitors are crazed captains, bankers, and lords of the Reach whom fear compelled to come. And while technically not a first meeting, Bran’s return to Winterfell—in which he briefed Sansa on his Three-Eyed-Raven-ness with the same attention to detail that Jon devoted to the undead, before casually letting slip that he’s spied on her most degrading moment—was the most uncomfortable reunion between brother and sister since Theon launched his own invasion of Yara.
I feel like Bran could've more articulately explained his deal to Sansa— Mindy Kaling (@mindykaling) August 1, 2017
In Jon’s defense, he is trying to save the world. In Cersei’s defense, she did have her own daughter poisoned. And in Bran’s defense, seeing fragments of everything that’s ever happened (or is happening now) must make it hard to remember the niceties in the here and now. Life in Westeros has a way of forcing protagonists to dispense with the pleasantries. So in honor of the etiquette that’s so often sacrificed in the rush to claim the Iron Throne or thwart someone else’s pursuit of the same, let’s review 15 of the worst first impressions in Game of Thrones, ranked in ascending order of awfulness.
15. Jorah Meets Sam
Granted, Jorah was a fairly recent greyscale sufferer and may not have been briefed on proper quarantine procedure. But flinging a highly contagious, greyscale-stricken arm toward an unsuspecting bystander is no way to stop the spread of disease. Nor is needlessly endangering a medical professional a considerate way for Jorah to thank the people who opened the Citadel’s doors instead of shipping him straight to Valyria.
To add oblivious icebreaker to almost-injury, Jorah’s opening line—"Has she come yet?"—is the conversational equivalent of a fatal infection. The Stone Men who passed on the illness to Jorah had worse manners than this, but at least they had the excuse of insanity. It’s a wonder that Sam decided to answer, let alone jeopardize his spot at the Citadel to saw off Jorah’s skin. Maybe he did it because he saw in Jorah a fellow former of poor first impressions. Yes, Sam is guilty of that too.
14. Sam Meets the Night’s Watch
The standard TV advice for fictional characters entering prison—and the Night’s Watch is pretty much prison—is to make a display of dominance: punch someone scary-looking and send a signal that says "I won’t be bullied." Getting knocked down almost immediately, refusing to stand, and admitting "I’m a coward" is the opposite of that. No one wants to end their first day at a new job with the nickname "Lady Piggy."
13. Styr and the Thenns Meet Tormund and Ygritte
Both north and south of the Wall, it’s customary to contribute to the communal pot when one partakes of mid-raid refreshments. The Thenns have the right idea here, but they err on the specifics. When rabbit is roasting over an open fire, it’s rude to replace it with human remains (however appetizing) without asking about anyone’s dietary restrictions. It’s also impolite to hit on one’s host and then dismiss her as scrawny.
12. Sansa Meets Ilyn Payne
It never speaks well of one’s social graces when one makes Joffrey’s brutal bodyguard look affable by comparison—and this was before the Hound turned into Sensitive Sandor. In fairness to the tongueless King’s Justice, it’s not Ser Ilyn’s fault that he can’t make small talk, and people probably pre-judge him just because his business is chopping off heads. Still, he could have cracked a smile here. I wish I could say that Payne makes up later for getting off to a rough start with Sansa, but the truth is that the headsman doesn’t make much of a second impression, either.
11. Oberyn Meets Tyrion
Oberyn’s reputation precedes him, so his actions upon entering King’s Landing probably don’t come as a massive surprise. That said, stabbing a Lannister lackey through the wrist at a brothel, releasing the wrist with a spurt of blood, and making out with one’s mistress, all within sight of a Lannister noble, doesn’t scream, "This is a man we can work with."
Oberyn was a pro at rubbing people the wrong way. But I’m omitting his fatal first meeting with the Mountain, on the grounds that while neither combatant made a positive impression, there’s no such thing as a friendly fight to the death.
10. Osha Meets Jojen/Meera Meets Osha
Any encounter that ends with a spear held to one person’s neck and a knife at another’s probably could have gone better. Fortunately, this trio turns out to be the best of friends. Even in Game of Thrones, first impressions aren’t always too terrible to overcome.
9. Jon Meets Craster
There’s a pattern developing here: Jon has his virtues, but he doesn’t play particularly well with others. His first encounter with Craster, the wildling who dwells beyond the Wall with his brood of daughter-wives, starts with Craster calling Jon prettier than half of his daughters and heads downhill from there, ending with Craster threatening to cut off Jon’s hand and gouge out his eyes. Of course, Craster is the kind of guy on whom one wouldn’t want to make a positive impression.
8. Jaime Meets Brienne
The older, humbler, and more mellow Jaime Lannister of Season 7 is very different from the arrogant, bedraggled, and still-two-handed captive who greeted Brienne with an incredibly callous "Is that a woman?" and "Where did you find this beast?" If those lines weren’t enough to preclude a future friendship, there’s hope for every relationship.
7. Euron Meets Jaime
Euron would be a bad Bachelorette contestant to bring on a hometown date. Even while trying to win Cersei’s heart, he’s insulting her twin, making a crack about killing one’s siblings and another about having two hands. Then again, Euron knows that Jaime isn’t just a potential brother-in-law, but also his primary romantic rival. Lannister love is complicated.
6. Lysa and Robin Arryn (and Mord the Gaoler) Meet Tyrion
It takes forever to reach the Eyrie. The ascent is trying enough when there’s a warm bed waiting at the end; now imagine making that ascent only to have your host threaten to send you back to the bottom, this time through the Moon Door. Between the insults about his appearance, the accusations of crimes he didn’t commit, the death threat, the distracting suckling, and the dizzying view from the sky cell, Tyrion’s welcome from the Vale wasn’t warm in any way.
5. Mero Meets Daenerys and Missandei
Mero’s ultra-inappropriate approach puts Jon’s poor first impression into perspective. If you thought saying "I see dead people" and not bending the knee was bad, try extreme sexual harassment and repeated rape threats. Mero did, and his head was soon separated from his shoulders by the much more refined Daario, who took Mero’s place in the Second Sons and became the queen’s consort.
4. Kraznys Meets Daenerys
Owning slaves and slicing off Unsullied nipples were strikes one and two, but the Good Master of Astapor made an even more major miscalculation when he decided it was safe to converse in Valyrian without detection by Dany. He spoke much like Mero and lived roughly as long.
3. Polliver Meets Arya
We’ll let Polliver stand in for all of the enemies who’ve made poor impressions on Arya and ended up paying the price. Using Arya’s own weapon to stab Lommy through the throat was a ticket to the top of her nightly recitation of targets, and ultimately to his own appointment with Needle’s pointy end.
2. Grey Wind Meets Greatjon Umber
Grey Wind wasn’t amused by Umber menacing Robb. Oddly, Umber was amused by losing two of his fingers. The direwolf left an impression in more ways than one.
(For brevity’s sake, we’ll lump all attacks by direwolves and dragons under this heading.)
1. Jaime Meets Bran
Peeping into people’s windows is rude, even if the window looks out of a deserted wing in your ancestral home. Bran isn’t blameless; he heard the sex sounds and kept climbing toward them. Kids can be a nuisance. But as negative greetings go, Jaime (whom Bran may have seen from afar, but whom he hadn’t previously talked to, as far as we know) is an easy no. 1 seed for being caught mid-incest by a 10-year-old whom he then pushed out of a window and permanently paralyzed. And you thought walking in on your parents that time was traumatic.
In the end, it all worked out: There’s no need to walk when you can cast your vision (or warg) wherever you want from your seat on a sled. Here’s hoping that Bran and Jaime meet and make up before the series ends—and that Jojen’s warning about Bran’s death and a burning hand didn’t mean that Jaime could come back to finish the job. If Jaime and Brienne could go from "beast" to besties, there’s hope for these two, too.
Disclosure: HBO is an initial investor in The Ringer.