Monday, April 18, 2011

Game of Thrones Review

UPDATE: Game of Thrones has already been renewed for a second season. That was quick!

Today's challenge: organize my thoughts on last night's Game of Thrones premiere into a coherent post discussing what went right and what went wrong. The problem here is three-fold; 1) the show aired less than 12 hours ago and I am trying to wrap my head around it, and 2) when you've been waiting for something for so long (in this case a year) it can be hard to decide just how you feel when you finally get it.

But here's the big problem: I think I might have too much prior knowledge (meaning I am a fan of the books). George RR Martin's world building skills are masterful, and he created a land of endless details, not just about the geography, but mostly the people. Just the sheer number of characters in the books are daunting, to say nothing of what houses they are from, the land they control, and who has married who.

The issue is that I don't think I am an accurate judge of how well the show was able to provide this kind of knowledge to the audiencce, because I already know it. I already know that Ned of House Stark and Winterfell married Cat (from Riverrun in the South) and they have 5 children together but Jon Snow is also Ned's son, but from another woman so he is a bastard and that makes Cat really resentful so Jon always feels like an outsider. So when the show tries to elegantly fold this knowledge into their dialogue...I already know it. Did newbies get it? I hope so. I will say that it didn't seem clunky to me, and a lot of info was telegraphed by looks and actions, but I'm not sure if it was confusing to newcomers or if they would have caught all the subtleties.

But you don't really care about all that, do you? You want to know if the show is any good. Well, I liked it. I'll definitely keep watching; HBO for sure went balls out on this one, they must have spent a fortune and you can see it up there on the screen. The costumes, the locations, the huge cast, you can't say they didn't go for it. And they didn't shy away from any of the book material either: you got a full on shot of Jamie and Cersei (twin brother and sister) screwing like bunnies. We definitely met the incest quota of the night.

I only really have one complaint. And I know I am going to get some shit for this because it is such a DUMB complaint. But...I think they might have stuck too close to the book. Since I am familiar with the books, there were no surprises here. The opening of the show was exactly the same as the opening of the book. A lot of the dialogue came from the book. Things progressed almost exactly as they do in the book. To most people, that would be a plus. But I know other HBO shows (*cough True Blood cough*) uses the books as a jumping off point to create their own stories. Game of Thrones just isn't going to be a lot of fun if I know every plot twist before it happens.

So, yes. I am actually complaining that a television adaption is too close to the source material. I am just never happy.

But enough of this kvetching! Let's get to the good stuff: first of all, the cast. Top notch all around. It's no secret that I love (or am obsessed with) Sean Bean, so of course I think he was awesome. Ned Stark is something of a thankless role, he's loyal to a fault (literally), always does what's right, even when it's not smart, but can be tender with his family. I thought Sean Bean really depicted Ned's struggles well. I was also impressed with the guy playing Jamie who had the right combo of dashing rogue and scary badass, and while Lena Headey didn't have a lot to do in the premiere, there were enough hints of Cersei's ruthlessness to make me feel good about all the things to come. I'm not going to go through everyone in the cast of thousands, so let's just leave it at everybody did great and I love Peter Dinklage. I still say he is too handsome for Tyrion though.

Other good stuff: the Wall, the White Walkers, the scene in the Stark crypt, everything about King Robert, the Stark kids, the opening sequence (which was really awesome), also everything about Daenerys and her creepy abusive brother, and the direwolves who were so cute it almost made me want to throw up.

No one can argue that the plot here isn't enormously complicated, and again, it centers around the past of all these characters and how they interact. For my part, I thought the show did a good job of introducing all the different plotlines and hinting about how they come together. The show is called Game of Thrones after all: it seems clear that all these people are jockeying for power. And however far Daenerys might be removed from the action of the other plots, it was clear that her story will have as much an eventual impact on who holds the throne as any of the others.

Overall, I enjoyed it. Other than the "no surprises" thing, I don't really have any complaints. Well, Winterfell seemed less severe than I expected, and Robb's hair wasn't red enough, but whatcha gonna do? There's just no pleasing me. I'm excited for the next episode, and that might be all you really need to know. Feel free to leave a comment, especially discussing how well the show was able to impart the ridiculous amount of backstory.


Scienter said...

I don't remember as much of the book as you do. I really enjoyed it, but I went into it with the suspicion that it would be a "set everything up" episode where we learn the very basics of Westeros and who's who. Since I've forgotten a lot, I think that it provided good background.

I read somewhere that in future seasons, they'll diverge from the books a bit by making some less significant characters into composites and not including less important bits.

Maggie Cats said...

I think that's a good idea; in the later books the characters get more separated and plots splinter off and it might become to untenable for a television series. I look forward to some changes! One of the things I love about a good tv show is being surprised, so I definitely don't mind if the move away from the source material a bit.