Thursday, April 21, 2011

And The Game Begins....

This past Sunday, the third in the trinity of period shows aired on HBO, called "Game of Thrones". (The other two being Camelot & The Borgias, which I will discuss in future posts.) For those of you who don't know, this series is based on George R. R. Martin's epic fantasy series, "A Song of Ice and Fire". Despite the earnest recommendations of a plethora of my friends, I have never read this series. This is a key fact to remember throughout this post. I'm coming at this from a unbiased point of view in that I didn't have any preconceived notions of how the show should present the narrative. I was going to read the books prior to the start of the series, but decided against it, figuring that a fresh perspective would be a more ideal point of view.

Let's start with the opening credit sequence. From what little I know of the books, I know that the series is about the endless machinations that people with high ambitions place into motion in order to get to the throne. So, I thought it was perfect seeing the individual locations in this world rise up and change in response to the cogs & gears spinning inside them. The opening also covered a LOT of ground in showing the layout of this world. Thereby freeing up the writers from having to have put in a lot of expository dialogue to convey where everything is and describing the different countries. And there's a lot more in the sequence itself that I didn't even realize I was seeing because I didn't read the books. My friend David has written a post just on the opening sequence alone! Check out his detailed analysis including all the knowledge in the books. I know that the opening sequence has gotten rave reviews, and given how easily they convey SO MUCH information in such a short amount of time, I have to COMPLETELY agree.

As for the episode itself, it did not disappoint at all. The actors that I know from previous roles (Sean Bean, Lena Headey, and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) gave excellent performances infusing their characters with emotional depth, sincerity, and complexity. Each of the characters was introduced with minimal fanfare and pandering to the audience, which is a refreshing change from most shows in this genre, but not entirely unexpected from an HBO production. I do have to admit, they covered a lot of people in a short amount of time, which has the drawback of not allowing the audience time to fully assimilate each of them, but that is a minor thing that will pass as each character gets their moment to shine.

The storyline was engrossing right from the beginning and held my interest all through the episode. There were no slow spots or places where the show dragged on. Again, I feel it's because the writers didn't spend an inordinate amount of time with expository dialogue. They just pretty much GOT TO IT. As I understand from a friend, most of the dialogue was either directly from the books or slightly paraphrased, which a powerful testament to the writing style of George R. R. Martin.

The direction of the show was also fantastic. One of the big things with genre shows like GoT on cable is the capability to use sex & nudity. Shows like Spartacus:Blood & Sand (on Starz) take it to almost obscene levels (kind of like Rome was back in the day, I would imagine) which has the drawback of reducing its effectiveness to nothing and highlighting it for the gimmick it really is. Watching GoT was an exercise in how to use sex effectively in a show. Not as a spectacle, or a gimmick, but as one of many tools needed to tell the story. For example, there is one scene where we see Viserys Targaryen (one of the children of the deposed king of the Seven Kingdoms) disrobes his sister Daenerys and examines her nude body, prior to taking her to a ceremony that will offer her up to the leader of a race of horsemen in exchange for usage of the horsemen as troops.

In the hands of any other team, this scene would play out as a titillating display of incestuous lechery. But in the hands of this particular creative team, that scene plays out as a testament to exactly how far this man will go to regain "his" throne. There isn't a single drop of sexuality in the scene as the brother looks at his nude sister and sees only a thing that will allow him the means to take back power. And yet, the irony is he says he's doing it to restore his family when it's his own flesh & blood he's trading to boost his OWN personal ambitions. Watching that scene was profoundly disturbing and uncomfortable, which was the point. And I have to commend them for making the show that well.

In the end, I found Game of Thrones to be an intriguing show, and I look forward to watching the events play out over the remainder of this season. I also love the fact that after just the FIRST episode aired, HBO picked up the show for a second season. If you're looking for a good show to watch, I would highly recommend "Game Of Thrones".

1 comment:

  1. Awesome! I'm so glad you like it, man. And, hey, thanks for the blog plug!

    Even though I haven't seen it yet, I pretty much know exactly what you're referencing. It sounds to me as if this one episode covers the first 9 or 10 chapters of the first book. That book has 79 chapters in total, so we're off to a pretty good start for what will be a 10-episode season.

    By the way, it's funny what you said about Viserys. While true that he was only seeing his sister in that scene as property to barter . . . the Targaryens uphold the practice from their homeland, Valyria, of the royal family marrying their siblings. Kind of like the Ptolemy Dynasty of ancient Egypt, in fact. So if not for the fact that he needed Khal Drogo's fabled horsemen for his army, Viserys would have been expected to marry his sister Daenerys.

    Ewww! Although, the actress playing Dany--Emilia Clarke--is rather gorgeous, so . . .