As you’ve probably noticed, I’m pretty late to the party when it comes to Game of Thrones. But having got the first two seasons on Blu-Ray for Christmas (thanks mum), I’m finally getting involved. You may have also noticed that I was previously attempting to review each individual episode, but I’ve decided to forgo that in favour of a complete series review. I’ll stick something up in place of those now-missing articles, but for now, here are my thoughts on the first season of Game of Thrones!
RELEASED: April 17th 2011 – June 19th 2011
SHOWRUNNER: David Benioff & D. B. Weiss
WRITTEN BY: David Benioff, D. B. Weiss, Bryan Cogman, Jane Espenson & George R. R. Martin
DIRECTED BY: Tim Van Patten, Brian Kirk, Daniel Minahan & Alan Taylor
MUSIC BY: Ramin Djawadi
STARRING: Sean Bean, Mark Addy, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Michelle Fairley, Lena Headey, Emilia Clarke, Iain Glen, Harry Lloyd, Kit Harrington, Sophie Turner, Maisie Williams, Richard Madden, Alfie Allen, Isaac Hempstead Wright, Jack Gleeson, Rory McCann, Peter Dinklage & Aiden Gillen
I have tried to watch Game of Thrones before, managing the first two episodes, both viewed some months apart. Obviously, with a viewing pattern like that, it didn’t hook me.
Now, however, ploughing through a few more episodes, I found myself enthralled by what was before me, despite having seen parts of it and having had a fair chunk of things spoiled for me beforehand.
Straight out of the gate, the music is the first thing you notice. It’s bold and powerful; a lot more captivating than the theme tunes of a lot of other things on television.
After the opening credits wrap, Game of Thrones introduces audiences to Westeros; a land made of seven kingdoms, with the crass King Robert Baratheon sitting on the Iron Throne in King’s Landing. When Robert’s right-hand man (known as the Hand of the King) passes away, Robert enlists his good friend Lord Eddard Stark, Warden of the North, to serve as his new hand. Travelling to King’s Landing, ‘Ned’ becomes embroiled in a web of treachery and deceit, as he must contend with the ruthless Lannister family (whose number include Robert’s wife, Queen Cersei, the handsome and valiant knight Sir Jaime, their cunning dwarf brother Tyrion and Cersei’s vile son Prince Joffrey) while uncovering a conspiracy that could rock the whole kingdom.
Meanwhile, Ned’s bastard son, Jon Snow, heads to The Wall to join the Night’s Watch; a band of soldiers who protect the Kingdoms from supposed monsters north of The Wall, while across the Narrow Sea, in the Land of Essos, the Targaryen siblings Viscerys and Daenerys – children of the former ruler of Westeros – align with the barbaric Dothraki tribe led by Khal Drogo in the hopes of reclaiming their Kingdom.
As you can see, the epic score is matched by an epic cast of actors and characters, with so many stories to follow and get invested in.
Highlights are, of course, the likes of Eddard (Bean) and Tyrion (Dinklage), who manage to stand out amongst a sea of vile and scheming characters. They make some bad choices themselves, sure, but their inherent nobility and kind hearts make them much more likeable than, say, Viscerys Targaryen (Lloyd). But just because characters like Viscerys and Joffrey Lannister (Gleeson) aren’t all that likeable, doesn’t mean they don’t contribute to the interesting viewing experience. Alongside noble heroes, Game of Thrones also expertly weaves in a slew of characters you love to hate and characters whose allegiance is in question and keep you guessing. The writing on this show is top notch, and so even when watching episodes where not all that much is happening, it still screams ‘quality television’.
If there are any issues with this season though, it’s that without that quality writing, it could be at risk of getting stale quite quickly. While there are twists and turns throughout, it takes a few episodes to get to the main plot of the story, and the titular ‘Game of Thrones’ doesn’t really begin until episode seven, when we get one of the best lines of the series from Cersei (Headey):
“When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.”
It’s after this point that things really kick into high gear, and you can see what the purpose of this show is, but before that, it’s mostly character development (which, of course, isn’t a bad thing) and not a lot of forward motion.
As a consequence, when the season wraps up in episode ten, you are left feeling like we could have seen a bit more from some characters. I understand that this series focuses on drama over action, but I feel like there are certain characters who are ever-present but rarely getting involved – and unfortunately for some of those characters, this season is the last we’ll be seeing of them.
Furthermore, other characters, like Emilia Clarke’s Daenerys Targaryen, have an interesting story of empowerment that is more intertwined with the fantasy aspects of the show than most others, but a lot of her story is spent being stripped naked, and its in these scenes that the camera will pan to shots of her chest or arse and linger perhaps a little too long, and unnecessarily so. In short, at the moment, the show seems more concerned with sex and the female form than it does with dragons or swords and sorcery.
But in spite of that, due to the solid writing, acting and character work (for the most part), I give it:
Now that the first season is out of the way, and every character seems in place for their proper story arcs, I very much look forward to seeing where this all goes!