Update: The show has been signed on for a second season after just one episode
There is a saying that the Devil is in the details. George R. R. Martin has found that devil’s name and controls it within his books.
The Song of Ice and Fire saga has been a fan favourite for years within the fantasy and literary realms. Each fan has something different they like about the series, some enjoy the politics, others crave the realism, but there is one aspect each fan has in common.
For fans of The Songs of Ice and Fire there is always a wait, be it for the latest book, A Dance With Dragons, the board game or even The Game of Throne: Genesis (the newly announced video game). [I’d add in my Game of Thrones wordsearch to the list but that would be pushing it] Now, after much waiting and excessive teasing, Game of Thrones has aired.
The show aired late today on HBO with much fanfare.
Normally I would write a review based upon my opinions alone, but for this article I will be including the thoughts, reactions and belief of two separate individuals. The first, myself, is someone who has read the book and eagerly anticipated the novel’s release, the second is someone who has no prior experience with the universe of The Song of Ice and Fire (save for the board game.)
Before we can go any future we must examine the elephant in the room. Fantasy is an extremely difficult genre to work with. It has a history of proving unsuccessful due to its limited appeal, expensive location shooting and its vast requirements on CGI. The last truly successful fantasy endeavour for screen was the Lord of the Rings (LOTR) trilogy. Game of Thrones (GOT), despite its differences, will always be compared to LOTR. It’s unavoidable so instead of trying to fight it I will embrace it and make the comparisons as needed.
The filming was a work of art. The scenery chose very carefully and the camerawork focusing on the necessary minute details each time it zoomed it, a cinematic adaptation of author George R. R. Martin’s (GRRM) literary signature, but the shooting is not as clean and crisp as LOTR but that is obviously on purpose. Middle Earth, despite the Great War that grows, is still a bright and cheerful place. It has hope, magic, beauty and adventure, Westeros lacks these positive ideals.
Westeros is not a horrible place or a place with hope or beauty in its own right, but it is a realistic place always on guard from the political strife and the never ending threat of the Wildings. Westeros is a place where winter comes and it does not go away for a very long time. Westeros is a very realist and gritty place and the camera work shows that.
For me, a person who has read A Game of Thrones, and therefore had some knowledge of what to expect, the show was a series of gleeful moments seeing for the first time the characters you had envisioned in your heads; the trouble youth of Jon Snow, the lecherous but wise dwarf Tyrion Lannister, and Eddard Stark. The only difficulty with the show comes from it being an adaptation of pre-existing material (and a close one at that) is that you know what will happen. I watched the screen focus on Brann and couldn’t help but whimper at the fate I knew the future held in store for him.
For one new to the series it can be a little overwhelming at first as the show tries to introduce a cast of dozens in a mere hour, but quickly smoothes out as you begin to realize who is who and what they are important for.
For a newbie the sense that this world contains great detail and an impressive lore is absent. The pilot is not required to teach us a twelve thousand year history in a mere hour, but none of the subtle hints or past mentions was dropped.
An example of such is Star Wars. George Lucas is often credited for his subtle hints of the galaxies’ past with offhand remarks of events everyone knows and accepts (Clone Wars) much like us talking of WWII or the Constitution. The pilot lacked these subtle hints, or mentions of events past. The world based on the pilot seems a tad shallow but I could just be asking too much out of a pilot.
From an acting standpoint a great deal of praise is required for Emila Clark for her portrayal of Daenerys Targaryen, a young woman being forced into a situation and marriage she wants nothing off and being used as a pawn or plaything so that she and her brother may reclaim her kingdom. Praise also go to Mark Addy as a widower King Robert Baratheon, and Jason Momoa as the brutal muscle bound warrior, and silently stoic leader Khal Drogo, but for me the best acting belonged to Peter Dinklage.
All in all the show is a powerful pilot and strong opening for what will be this season’s most talked about show. Despite the obvious, and seemingly required by HBO, cliff hanger concerning Brann Stark’s fate this is an excellent adaptation of a fantasy franchise that is held near and dear by many fans.
The only thing worse then a Wildings invasion would have been the march of the disappointed fan boys if this had turned out poorly. For all your Song of Ice and Fire newbies that exist out there I feel I must leave you with a lesson we have all learned the hard way from George R. R. Martin.
Don’t love. You WILL be punished for it.