A Stunning Achievement
It’s not too long off now, the new season of “Game of Thrones”. Ever since the end of the last season, where we left one of our favorite characters (won’t say who) possibly dead in the snow, I have been going through some serious Game of Thrones withdrawal. This drove me to finally going through the books I haven’t read yet. Still that wasn’t enough. I decided to start the series all over again from episode 1, and even got my mom interested and hooked on the show (that’s right…of all people, my mother).
I found quickly that the show only gets better upon your second viewing. Knowing what lies ahead next makes you savor those little details that you thought were at first meaningless but really have major ramifications. It’s a challenging show but it never falls prey to being convoluted instead it’s busy and very dense with enough mythology to make Harry Potter weep with jealousy. The show may turn off first time viewers but for those whom stick around will reap the benefits of watching the start of the greatest television series epic of all time.
The series is set in the mythical lands of Westeros and Essos. Where the seasons last for years and winter is coming. Just as dangerous as the seasons is the political arena where Westeros is ruled by a king and the great lords of the land. In the North at the kingdom of Winterfell the family of Starks live peacefully. The head of family and warden of the North, Ned Stark is an honorable man. The family is visited by the King Baratheon after the death of his Hand of the King. Worried that this is a conspiracy to kill the king, Ned becomes the new hand of the king in order to investigate. In the shadows the noble family, the Lannisters, plot and scheme their next move while across the narrow sea in Essos a young girl has a claim to the Iron Throne of Westeros by birthright and will do whatever it takes to seize it back.
That’s the best summary of the first season that I could come up with. Scary enough there is far more going on than I just described. There are numinous subplots, world building, and tiny details that may not seem important but become important later on. This is a show that demands your attention and won’t wait for you to catch up.
You could always make the argument that the reason this series is so well plotted is because it had the books come before from the brilliant mind of George R.R. Martin. That sort of statement is such a disservice to the task of adapting these massive tomes that it makes this series look like no sort of accomplishment at all. The books are massive and creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss had their work cut out for them when they wanted to take on this project. There is so much material that it’s hard to pack this type of story in a cohesive manner. As far and adaptation goes this is a pretty faithful telling of the story of the first book. Some liberties are taken but for the most part this follows it well (it’s only later in the series when it diverts a bit).
Being able to bring that world to life that Martin first envisioned back in 1991 is astonishing especially on TV. Had this been a feature film with a Hollywood sized budget the task would prove less daunting (but that would run into more adaptation issues) but HBO (who is no stranger to epic TV series with “Rome”) gave their full commitment this show investing millions of dollars. This results in one of the most complete and unique looking worlds in both movie and TV history. This doesn’t look like every other fantasy world, this isn’t Middle Earth, or Nanina. This has its own feel and is massive in scope while also feeling like a place you can visit.
What draws you in past the spectacle is the cast of characters. Each one feels well rounded and only becomes more and more developed with each passing episode. Boring conversations or the graphic sex scenes will tell you more about the character than you might realize. There aren’t many noble heroes that do the “right thing”. Many of these characters are broken and dangerous people in the world of Westeros. The clan of Starks are the most honorable but even still there is always a complexity at play.
Playing these characters are a collection of highly talented actors and actress of just about all ages. Headlining the show is veteran film actor (and Lord of the Rings alumni) Sean Bean. Bean carries the fantasy series with poise and a commanding presence. The honorable father and leader is surrounded by his family. Michelle Fairley plays his wife, Catelyn Stark. She compliments him greatly, the pair have terrific chemistry. Playing their children is Richard Madden as Robb Stark (he gets much more screen time as the series progresses); the budding young actress Sophie Turner (as Sansa Stark), the terrific Maisie Williams, the overlooked Isaac Hempstead Wright, and Kit Harrington as the bastard son, Jon Snow (one of my personal favorite characters).
Rounding out some of the other cast members is the revelation of Emilia Clarke, Lena Headey, Jack Gleeson (as the terrible Prince Joffrey), Jason Momoa, Iain Glen, Charles Dance, Mark Addy, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and the fan favorite Peter Dinklage as “the imp” Tyrion Lannister. I could spend another 2000 words going over the whole cast but unfortunately I don’t have that type of time. Just know the acting is top grade (this isn’t even the whole cast).
There isn’t a whole lot of fantasy elements until near the end of the first season. For fans of fantasy you’ll see the trappings of the genre and get invested. If you don’t like fantasy ,the series has such a grounded and historical feel that if you try it, you’ll be hooked by the time the Dragons arrive. That grounded nature is so well felt that some viewers may be wondering what time period “Game of Thrones” takes place in. The violence is disturbingly real, and no character is safe. That’s a cliché by now but some things are cliché for a reason.
“Game of Thrones” quickly fell into my top spot for favorite television series of all time (with “Breaking Bad” not too far behind). This is the definition of cinematic TV. Nearly every episode ends and you’ll want to see the next one. It’s addicting and the lore will have you spending hours watching theory videos from other fans. (and maybe even eventually get around to the books). It’s is ten episodes best taken in at a binge worthy rate.