Saturday, 18 January 2014

Game of Thrones (Season One)

Game of Thrones is a fantasy-drama show and the TV adaptation of George R.R. Martin's book series A Song of Ice and Fire. The show was created by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss and is produced by the cable channel HBO. Although Game of Thrones is an American TV show it has a mostly British cast and is filmed in Europe. Season one of the show was filmed in Northern Ireland and Malta. The season consists of 10 episodes and each one is just under an hour long.

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.

The Starks at Winterfell

Cersei Lannister and her son Joffrey Baratheon

Viserys Targayren

Daenerys Targayren

Jon Snow

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 :)

Rating: 5/5
Certificate Rating: 18


Xochitl said...

I wish I could watch Game of Thrones, from what I've heard it's very interesting. Sadly, I'm in the not-18 crowd, so it's pretty off-limits for me.
That is a really gorgeous opening sequence though, I think that can tide me over for now. XD

Hannah said...

From what I've heard the ASoIF books aren't as explicit as GoT and can be read by 15/16 year olds - so I suppose you could read the books first and move onto the TV show when you're older. And yes I NEVER get tired of watching those opening credits :D

Anonymous said...

I LOVE Game of Thrones! To the extent that I have had to ban myself from watching and reading it completely as I was getting obsessed. When I read the synopsis for book/season 3 (haven't seen it yet but couldn't stand the suspense) I ended up accidentally punching my fiancé as my arms flailed around in disbelief and excitement at certain revelations. I LOVE how every character is fascinating whether they're good or bad. One final thought- Joffrey really reminds me of Justin Bieber. Just me?

Hannah said...

Woo hoo! Josh & I have pre-ordered S3. It's out later this month. And I aim to have read at least the first ASoIF book by the time S4 comes around in April. I haven't seen S3 yet but I know all about the Red Wedding sadly. The Metro ran a story about it before I even watched the show :( There were a lot of angry GoT fans in the letter column the next day!

You are very far from the only person who sees the Joffrey/Justin Bieber similarities! Search for Joffrey Bieber in Google Images. You'll love the memes! :D

Mizzie-Me said...

I've read all the books and seen seasons 1 and 2 of the show. I won't watch the later seasons till I've finished re-reading the books :) Anyway, from what I've seen of this show, it's one of the extremely rare cases where the adaptation is at least ALMOST on par with the original! I think they've done a fantastic job here, realizing the difference between books and tv as a medium and adding/omitting scenes to serve the tv format, but still having a deep respect for their source material. The only change they made that I don't see as quite necessary was that they changed the title from "A Song of Ice and Fire" to "Game of Thrones". The title of the book series is the most impressive and beautiful ever, why would it not suit the tv series as well?

As for the casting, that IS fantastic. I read the books before seeing this series, and Charles Dance and Maisie Williams especially are like straight from the pages of the books. The only casting choice I'm not fond of is Kit Harington as Jon Snow. Why does he have his mouth open in every shot, and why is he so wimpy??

Sexual relations are very much there in the books as well, but I agree with you that many of those scenes in the tv series don't serve any particular purpose and are way too graphic.

And lastly, Khal Drogo is handled quite differently in the books, in a way that explains much better why Daenerys comes to love him :) I highly recommend reading the books anyway, there is all kinds of genius in them!

Hannah said...

'A Song of Ice and Fire' is a much more beautiful title I completely agree. I don't know why they felt the need to change it to 'Game of Thrones'. My theory is that they were going to call each season by the name of each corresponding ASoIF book ('A Game of Thrones', A Clash of Kings', etc) but decided that that might be confusing for those viewers who hadn't read the books.

To be honest I really like Kit Harrington's acting as Jon Snow - although I still haven't read the books yet so I suppose that might change - and I've never found Jon wimpy. He's actually one of my favourite characters in the show. I didn't even notice that he has his mouth open in certain shots until I saw an internet meme about it.

I'm aiming to start the first ASoIF book towards the end of this month. I have a few other books that I want to get out the way first.