Game of Thrones takes place in a fantasy world and on two continents which are called Westeros and Essos. In Westeros, Eddard "Ned" Stark (Sean Bean) is the Lord of Winterfell and the Warden of the North. He has faithfully served his friend, King Robert Baratheon of the Seven Kingdoms (Mark Addy), ever since Robert rebelled against the "Mad King" Aerys Targaryen and usurped the Iron Throne. Ned has a wife called Lady Catelyn (Michelle Fairley) and six children. He has an illegitimate son from another relationship called Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and five children from his relationship with his wife: Robb (Richard Madden), Sansa (Sophie Turner), Arya (Maisie Williams), Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) and Rickon (Art Parkinson). However John Arryn, who is King Robert's right-hand man and Ned's brother-in-law, then dies. Ned is asked to take up the now vacant position. Robert even travels to Winterfell so he can make the request in person. Ned is extremely reluctant to take up this position though because he would have to move to the capital city King's Landing in the south. But Ned then receives a troubling message from his widowed sister-in-law Lysa (Kate Dickie). She believes that her husband was murdered on the orders of Queen Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) and that the Queen's powerful family is now plotting against the king. Ned then decides to accept the position so he can protect his friend. As he takes over his new duties he begins to investigate the death of his predecessor. In the process he finds out that both the city and the royal court are full of corruption, conspiracy, and treachery.
Meanwhile, Ned's son Jon Snow decides to leave Winterfell and travel further north so he can join the Night's Watch. This is an ancient, military order designed to protect the people of the Seven Kingdoms from horrifying zombie-like creatures called the White Walkers. These creatures haven't been seen for thousands of years but Jon then discovers that they might be making a return. And finally, across the Narrow Sea and on the continent of Essos, the exiled prince Viserys Targaryen (Harry Lloyd) is seeking out a means of reclaiming his father's kingdom. He decides that his best way of doing this is to marry off his younger sister Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) to a fearsome war lord called Khal Drogo (Jason Momoa). Viserys can then use Khal Drogo's army to invade Westeros and take back the throne. But, much to his alarm, Daenerys quickly adapts to her new role as the Khaleesi. She grows in strength, power and wisdom. Her brother and the Council of Westeros become even more frightened of her when it turns out that she's pregnant - but what they don't realise is that Daenerys's greatest power is actually her secret connection to dragons... These story arcs are the main plot threads of season one. There are a few other subplots in this season but I'm not going to go into them for this review.
Cersei Lannister and her son Joffrey Baratheon
It took me quite a while to start watching Game of Thrones because I'd always intended to read the A Song of Ice and Fire books first. I'm a great believer in reading books before their adaptations. I only ended up watching the show because I found out that my brother really wanted to watch it, so I bought him a boxset of it as a birthday present. My brother usually hates fantasy but he loved Game of Thrones. After he finished watching it I ended up caving in and watching it for myself - and I loved it too! So far I've watched season one twice and am about to rewatch season two. I'm also waiting for season three to be released on DVD and I have the first two books in the A Song of Ice and Fire series sitting on my bookshelf. There are currently five books in that series (A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords, A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons) with another two that are yet to be published. Apparently Game of Thrones is very faithful to the books and I'm really looking forward to reading them.
Before I go into why I enjoyed Game of Thrones I have to say that the show is absolutely nothing like J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. Both the show and the ASoIF books are frequently compared to Tolkien's book and the Peter Jackson film adaptations but I really don't understand where the comparisons come from! Yes, they're both works of high fantasy and the adaptations both star Sean Bean but really they're far more different than they are similar! I really don't think it's fair to compare them (although The Lord of the Rings is better). The Lord of the Rings is an epic quest novel that was heavily influenced by Tolkien's love of Norse mythology and his Catholic beliefs. Game of Thrones is really more of a political thriller that just so happens to be set in a medieval-esque fantasy world. George R.R. Martin was heavily influenced by the War of the Roses and Imperial Rome.
Game of Thrones is probably the most aesthetically beautiful show that I've ever seen. As soon as I started watching the show I was immediately struck by its stunning visuals. The CGI is easily the best that I've ever seen for a TV show. In fact I've seen feature films that have less impressive special effects than Game of Thrones! *cough Twilight cough* The sets and costumes in the show are fantastic and the attention to detail is simply exquisite. The show has very high production values and each episode is believed to have cost about $6 million. It really shows! Even the opening credits are brilliant and show just how much effort and care has gone into the show. It's a stunningly well-made sequence and for a viewer like me, who hasn't yet read the books, it's extremely interesting and helpful to see where all of the different landmarks and locations are. These credits, combined with Ramin Djawadi's beautiful and dramatic music, make for a truly epic start to the show! I can never get tired of watching these opening credits! Only Doctor Who has better opening credits than Game of Thrones!
Another huge factor in the quality of Game of Thrones is its brilliant characters. The Stark family are hugely likeable characters. They're brave and honourable and honest. Also, despite Catelyn's completely unfair hatred of her stepson, they seem like such a close-knit and loving family. Admittedly I did find Sansa quite annoying at first but her story became so heartbreaking that I had nothing but sympathy for her towards the end and completely forgot about how much she annoyed me at the beginning. As a measure of just how much I love the Starks I've even got a House of Stark wallpaper as my computer background :)
As for my thoughts on the other characters... the Lannister family are a hateful bunch. Apart from Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) they're horrible people but they're still quite interesting. I love Daenerys Targayren. She's very moral and compassionate and her character development in the season is great to watch. At the beginning of the season she's very timid because she's been bullied and bossed around by her older brother Viserys all her life, but as the season progresses she grows in self-confidence and becomes a strong and powerful young woman. I really don't understand her love for Khal Drogo though! His character seems to be a big fan favourite but I despise him! His relationship with Daenerys is so creepy and rapey! I'm also very fond of the character Petyr Baelish or "Littlefinger" (Aidan Gillan). He's not likeable but he's such a complex and interesting character that I can't help but love him. I think he's a brilliant character. And the actors who bring the characters to life? They're wonderful. All. Of. Them. Not a single actor in the show is miscast. Every single actor in the show is great whether they've got plenty of acting experience (Sean Bean, Lena Headey, Charles Dance) or not. In fact it was actually the younger, less experienced actors on the show that impressed me the most. Some of the younger actors on Game of Thrones had had barely any acting experience at all before they started doing the show but you'd never know it from watching their performances! I expect big careers for Emilia Clarke, Maisie Williams, Sophie Turner, Kit Harington, Jack Gleeson, Richard Madden and Harry Lloyd.
Really the only thing that lets Game of Thrones down for me is its very adult content. The show shouldn't be watched by anyone under the age of 18. It's got bloody violence, graphic sex scenes and nudity. The show would be just as good if it was to tone down on these things and quite probably better. I found the sex scenes and nudity especially annoying because it felt like the majority of these scenes were only there for titillation. As I haven't read the ASoIF books yet I don't know if this is a genuine part of Martin's world or not but most of these scenes felt very forced and gratuitous to me. They didn't really add anything to the story or characters and almost all of the nude scenes involve the female actors. I mean if this is going to continue for the duration of the show then can they at least balance it out by including more male nudity? Game of Thrones does have female fans! And yet I still love the show. I recognise that it won't be for everyone but I'm personally willing to overlook the very adult content because everything else about it is just so, so, so good. It really is a brilliant show. Its world is fascinating and well-developed, the acting and production values are fantastic, and it's just gripping and suspenseful. I'm a fan :)
Certificate Rating: 18