Dark and Brutal, Game of Thrones is a Royal Treat

At last, HBO is back.

I’ve been waiting a for a new show to get excited about for a while now, and I think Game of Thrones just might be it. Yes, I’ve recently made my way through Boardwalk Empire, but it wasn’t a terribly captivating experience. But swords, kings and maidens? And drunken debaucherous dwarves? Count me in.

It’s rare that I have this good of a feeling about a show just from knowing its mere concept and watching the pilot. I had a similar experience with The Walking Dead on AMC, and so far that’s proven to be worthwhile, although why they scheduled a six episode first season with an indefinite hiatus following, I’ll never understand.

Thrones is going to be a massively complicated show, that much is clear thanks to the 30 title characters that were all introduced in the pilot, but what I’m most excited about is the fact that a show with some MYSTERY is back on TV.

The new “Others.”

No, I don’t need something as convoluted as Lost, where every time it answers a question, it raises five more. Rather, I just mean that Game of Thrones is an entirely new universe to get lost in. It’s a medieval epic that’s created an entirely new world I know nothing about, and that promise alone is enough to get my attention.

Sunday we were introduced to the entire cast, and I’ll try to be as concise as I can summing this up. There’s a grand kingdom broken up into seven smaller ones. Our focus is on the northernmost one, which protects the kingdom from evil to the north courtesy of a giant wall. The ruler of this area, Winterfall, is Sean Bean, and he has five children (or sons, plus a few more daughters? Not sure) one of whom is a bastard neglected by the rest of the family.

In the capital city down south, and Sean Bean’s old friend, who is now king, travels north to recruit him to be his right hand man as he takes the throne. Meanwhile, across the sea, an Arian prince attempts to assemble an army to take back the throne by offering his sister up to the chief of a barbarian tribe who can give him the forces he needs to take over.

Behold, my newest TV crush.

Two paragraphs? Not bad, but that’s leaving out things like drunken royal dwarves, incest between the queen and her twin brother (ew) and a rumor that the “White Walkers,” vicious and murderous beings thought extinct, have been seen in the north. We catch a glimpse of their glowing blue eyes, and they’ll likely be the show’s greatest mystery for a while. An additional question also arises about who killed the king’s old right hand, as there are whispers he’s been murdered.

So yes, as I said, I’ll start to try and learn the characters names so my analysis is a bit more legible as this show goes on, but that’s the gist of it. It’s brutally violent, chock full of nudity and profanity, like any good HBO show, but I’m hoping it recreates that human element of likeable, deep characters that’s been missing from many of HBO’s recent dramas.

The show is based on a book series, which I believe is another plus. I think it’s often good to have a blueprint out in front of you, as if you’re show all of a sudden becomes popular, you have some indication of where to from there. I expect very little of Lost’s or Battlestar Galactica‘s “making shit up as you go” philosophy employed here.

And finally, a medieval fantasy drama! How great is that? When’s the last time we saw anything even close to this on TV? Hercules and Xena? Only HBO could pull of something like, as it’s able to through a pretty huge chunk of cash behind the show (rumor has it the budget is about $50M), and as a result, it looks fantastic. The sets, the costumes, the CGI fantasy landscapes, it almost looks better than Lord of the Rings.

Sean Bean makes everything better.

That trilogy would probably be the closest thing to compare this show to in look and feel and the capacity to feature Sean Bean, but it’s quite different from that series as well. There would appear to be no sorcery here, and though unspeakable evils lurk in the woods, no one’s throwing around fireballs or creating Orcs out of mudpits.

Rather, this is going to be a character driven drama, and a gorgeous and well produced one at that. It could be foolhardy to have my hopes up after a mere hour, but I guess I’m so starved for good new shows lately, finding this is stumbling into a sauna after a long night trudging around the arctic tundra of the current television landscape.

I have a hunch that with Dexter on hiatus, this will be the new show I review week to week. I’m a bit worried at that prospect, as there are a ton of characters to keep track of, and I’ll be damned if I learn most of their names before this season’s over.

So raise your mug of ale to Game of Thrones, an experiment in high budget TV I desperately hope succeeds.



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  1. You should also check out “The Borgias”(Jeremy Irons, Colm Feore & Holliday Grainger) on Showtime and “Camelot”(Claire Forlani, Joseph Fiennes & Eva Green) on Starz. Both are fledgling dramas that show a lot of promise.
    The Borgias centers around the rule of on of the most corrupt and hated families in Italy. Lots of sex and violence.
    Camelot is ,obviously, a re-telling of the Arthurian legend. I like what they are doing with their interpretation of the story and Fiennes & Green are both awesome.

  2. Just to be geeky, clearing up 1 mistake:

    “An additional question also arises about who killed the king, as there are whisper’s he’s been murdered.”

    That dead guy was John Arryn, who was the King’s Hand , basically the Prime Minister — his wife is the sister of Eddard Stark’s wife. And yes, the mystery of who murdered him leads to awesomeness.

  3. I’ve been looking forward to this for months. The opening credits and The Wall are stunning. Each chapter from the book is written in a different character’s POV, so many chapters have cliffhanger endings. The show looks to continue that cliffhanger style.

    One correction regarding “An additional question also arises about who killed the king, as there are whispers he’s been murdered.”

    Jon Arryn, the deceased man, served as Hand of the King, a sort of royal advisor / prime minister.

  4. “An additional question also arises about who killed the king, as there are whisper’s he’s been murdered.”

    That’s not correct. The question is who killed the last Hand of the King, John Arryn.

    The books are amazing and the show, as of now, is remarkably close to the source material. I’m looking forward to more of the season.

  5. From what I understood, the current (fat) king took the throne from the old king (Arian guy’s father) some 17 years before the show’s beginning. As the pilot starts, the king seeks Sean Bean to replace his recently deceased Right Hand (champion / second in command guy), who was apparently very quietly and cleanly murdered.

  6. I’ll also throw out some information for you concerning the Stark children.(Sean Bean’s kids)

    Rob- Eldest son. Ummmm well the older son not named Jon Snow.
    Bran- Middle son. Kid who was pushed out the window by Jaime Lannister.
    Rickon- Younges son. I don’t believe he was shown or talked about in this episode

    Sansa- Eldest daughter. Girl who really wants to be a princess.
    Arya- Youngest daughter. The tomboy.

    &the best for last

    Jon Snow- Eddark Stark’s bastard son. Kid who wants to be on the wall.

  7. Yea, I agree with lyre, you should definitely check out Camelot. I don’t know about the Borgias, I haven’t seen and I’ve read some reviews that bashed it, but Camelot is amazing. It is filled with great actors giving amazing performances, even Fiennes, you know, the mannequin who starred in Flashforward, is great. Camelot and Game of Thrones are the two best new shows this year.

  8. I need to warn you not to go to the IMDB boards about the show. I’ve read the book (only the first one, and am partway through the second) and it is surprisingly very, very easy to spoil due to the depth and complexity of the story. Already some people are trying to “banish” the people who have read the books from the show boards. It is a great story and looks to be a very good show

  9. I never got started on the books. Time management issues.
    So indeed, I´m also extremely worried about spoilers…

    Anyway, I agree with all of you here this was a great first ep, and from the buzz I heard it only gets better in ep 2.
    Thank you once again HBO.

    I would also enjoy weekly reviews here, makes following the show more fun

  10. As a reader of the series, I am geeking out about the early successes of this show (and the pilot definitely receives my seal of approval). I found the episode to be heaps denser than your average TV episode… you had to hang onto every word of dialogue to maintain a grasp on the relationships and histories of the characters. I hope that doesn’t deter non-readers from sticking with it, and hopefully we’ll get the whole series adapted eventually!

  11. its great to see a new fan get as excited (almost) as i am about the best new show on tv (since archer and sons of anarchy)

    i have read all the books and the first episode is pretty accurate if not missing a few details.

    the biggest gripe i have is the scene when Drogo has his first night with his new wife – it looks forced in the show, whereas in the book it explains how he wins her over.. a very big difference and it irks me to see people complain about her marriage..

    for chrissake there are still countries RIGHT NOW that marry off/sell daughters at the age of 13-14…

    so yelling at a tv show and calling it immoral is just a little silly. why not worry for real woman and children that actually need your help

  12. I read all 4 books which are out (book 5 isn’t still finished) and if the show is half as good as the books, it’s going to be great! “Sean Bean makes everything better.” Word for that!!!

  13. How do you do you write an article about this show and not even mention the author of the series that this is based on? George R Martin’s Ice and Fire series is an excellent piece of Fantasy work. I really like the writing, though I guarantee you will be wondering who he kills off next on every turn of the page.

  14. I’m a big fan of the books and I loved the pilot! I’m glad other people like it alread too, but if you don’t, give it a chance! If you’re not hooked a few episodes in I’ll be shocked. HBO is so damn good and this series just looks great. Great casting and production value.

    I’d like for you to keep reviewing the show, I’d like to hear other people’s opinions on it and would like somewhere to talk about it.

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