Game of Thrones
It’s been a long time since a TV series caught my attention in the way that HBO’s Game of Thrones did after the first two episodes. I can’t remember the last time I was as excited and impatient with anticipation of the next episode. Probably not since the first few episodes of Lost back in 2004.
Based on a series of novels by George RR Martin, the show is a medieval fantasy with an ensemble cast of characters. Set in the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, it follows the political turmoil of several different family dynasties who vie for power and the right to rule the land. If you’re male, this is generally aquired through political deal-making and military strength. If you’re female, it’s through manipulating the men to do your bidding.
The first season of Game of Thrones spanned ten episodes and was uniformly excellent throughout. Although there was a range of different directors and writers, there is a consistent quality to the work. What makes Game of Thrones so good is its self-assuredness in telling a good yarn and its respect for its audience. Every scene moves the story forward, teaches you more about the characters and explores the world’s unique mythology. The show doesn’t need to resort to cheap cliffhangers, red herrings or any other gamesmanship to string the viewer along. It’s a credit to the show that is has such an expansive cast and yet they are all well-rounded and interesting characters whose complex relationships are intertwined in an ever changing power struggle. I admire Littlefinger and Varys’ cunning. I want to cheer for the bastard son John Snow and see him succeed. I hate Prince Joffrey and want to punch in his stupid smug face. But the common thread is that I enjoy all these people for their traits and their actors do a wonderful job in their portrayals.
If there was a noble family that could be singled out as the main protagonists in Game of Thrones, it would be the Stark family of the North. Lead by family patriarch Eddard Stark, played by the immensely likable Sean Bean, they are modest in terms of their wealth and political standing but are anchored by their nobility and sense of honour. Which is exactly why it makes for such an excellent dichotomy when they are paid a visit by the wild King Robert Barathian and his rather twisted extended family, the Lannisters. The Lannisters are famously wealthy, power hungry and will go to great lengths to secure power for their own. They are also carry one or two terrible secrets.
One of the most entertaining characters on the show has been Tyrion Lannister, a dwarf played by Peter Dinklage. I’ve been a big fan of Dinklage ever since his performance in The Station Agent in 2004, and its great to see him get the role of a lifetime here. As the son of a wealthy and powerful figure in Westeros, Tyrion compensates for his diminuitive stature by using his wits to talk his way out of tricky situations. Trouble never seems too far away from Tyrion who is exceptionally well travelled by the end of the season and has narrowly escaped certain death on more than one occasion.
When Eddard Stark returns with Robert Barathian to the capital city of King’s Landing in his newly granted position as the King’s Hand, the show really starts to shine as the political gamesmanship between various Lords and rival families start to occur. Over the course of the several episodes there is a looming sense of disaster as a hapless Ned Stark, out of his element and too honest for his own good, tries to uncover a plot to unseat the King. Meanwhile there are two other equally significant developments in the far north and south. In the north at the immense white wall, the Night Watch vigilantly guards their post at the tip of Westeros. They make preparations to battle an unknown enemy – one that appears to return from the dead. And in the south across the Narrow Sea, Daenerys Targaryen, the exiled daughter of the Mad King, marries a warlord and begins preparing her own army to reclaim the throne.
By the end of the first season, very little remains resolved. We feel the journey is only just starting, but what a journey it will be. We’ve been trained to expect that not every character will survive and that anyone could perish. The final scene in the first season offers a tantalizing glimpse of what is to come and what will surely have a significant impact on the fight for control of Westeros – dragons! Then the closing credits appear and the realisation sets in that its going to be a long wait until Season 2 starts in 2012.
Until then, I look forward to the impending Blu Ray release so I can rewatch these ten episodes again. My favourite new show in ages and if it delivers on its potential, it’ll probably be one of the all-time greats.