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Here’s What the Game of Thrones Creators Had to Say About Why the Original Pilot Was a Disaster

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Game of Thrones may be one of the most popular shows on television today, but according to showrunners Dan Weiss and David Benioff, the unaired pilot was a catastrophe. The pair appeared on the latest episode of the podcast Scriptnotes, hosted by John August and Craig Mazin, and spoke about how they turned things around after their original failure.

As it turns out, Mazin, who is a personal friend of the GOT creators, was one of the few people who actually saw the rejected premiere. He and a few others were asked to watch the episode and then give their input on it. “Watching them watch that original pilot was one of the most painful experiences of my life,” Weiss said. “As soon as it finished, Craig [Mazin] said, ‘You guys have a massive problem.'”

The pilot apparently had a slew of problems, but according to Benioff, one issue in particular stood out. “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,” he said.

Read More: Game of Thrones Actor Reveals a Pivotal Death Scene Was Cut From the Pilot

After replacing the actress who played Catelyn Stark, hiring a new director and re-shooting about 90 percent of the footage, a new version of the first episode — the one that fans now know and love — was ready to air.

“I will never forget being invited to the premiere of the first season,” Mazin said. “I went in just thinking (skeptically), ‘Well, I guess we’ll just see how this goes.’ I sat there and this show unfolds and I am stunned. Stunned. And I very specifically remember walking out and I said to [Weiss and Benioff], ‘That is the biggest rescue in Hollywood history.’ Because it wasn’t just that they had saved something bad and turned it really good. You had saved a complete piece of sh*t and turned it into something brilliant. That never happens!”

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Write to Megan McCluskey at megan.mccluskey@time.com