Dec 29, 2011

[TV] Game of Thrones: Season 1

So here's series that changed the playing field for us geeks. In a period when science fiction and fantasy shows or even just geeky shows (Save Community!)  are dropping like flies on network television, HBO blows everyone away with  an epic fantasy series the likes of which has never been seen before. Game of Thrones is not your run-of-the-mill sword and sorcery type of tropey television. This is a serious drama that not only does well in trying to remain faithful to the source material but it comes with the same degree of quality and expertise that we've seen in the production of other hit HBO shows.

And it's helped start a conversation of a completely different sort - getting more people to want to read the books and discuss them and see what will happen next. The kind of people who had never even considered trying out a fantasy series are now proud owners of the box set of the first 4 books and probably have the hardbound of the latest installment in the series. And that's a major achievement that we all have to be thankful and appreciative for.

I'm not guaranteeing this is a show that will work for pretty much everyone. That would be reaching a wee bit. However this is a great way to get more people interested in the Song of Ice and Fire series and it should still get more people to appreciate the genre, just like what the Lord of the Rings movies did at the box office.

Game of Thrones is a fantasy drama series as based on the Song of Ice and Fire novels by George R. R. Martin. The show was created by David Bernioff and D. B. Weiss for HBO. This first season was nominated for 13 Emmy Awards and won Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama series for Peter Dinklage.

The TV series does a rather stellar job of following the many story lines of the first book, A Game of Thrones. That means we meet the major houses involved in the eventual conflict and of course the key players. I think in terms of a story synopsis, you can still go back to my review of the book (as linked in this paragraph). So let's talk about the actors involved - and I'll concede some spoilers will be involved for anyone who has not read the book nor has seen the show.

For many the perception is that Lord Eddard "Ned" Stark, as played by Sean Bean, is pretty much the protagonist of the story. And you can't quite go wrong with Sean Bean involved in this regard, whose resume is full of different science fiction and fantasy roles, including his memorable performance as Boromir in The Fellowship of the Ring. He does a tremendous job of bringing the character to life, which admitted isn't entirely easy given how cold and stoic Ned is characterized in the book.

Another interesting casting choice was getting Lena Headey as Queen Cersei Lannister. I loved the power she brought to her performances in movies like 300 and Imagine Me & You. And clearly she had her A game on in this series. Cersei is a complicated character to be sure - one woorthy of even the most convoluted medieval stories that continually remind us of how crazy reality can be versus popular fiction. And she does well to balance the need to be cold and sometimes almost cruel while at the same time she is able to bring some pretty intense ferocity to the fore when necessary.

In terms of fan favorite characters, the casting folks selected some great talent to fulfill the other characters. Maisie Williams does a tremendous job of the feisty Arya Stark (with a matching Syrio played by Miltos Yerolemou). And of course all the Stark kids are quite good in acting out their roles, with a lot of love headed in the direction of Jon Snow, played by Kit Harrinton, for more obvious reasons.

Peter Dinklage
Peter Dinklage (Image via
And of course that brings us to Emmy Award winning actor Peter Dinklage as Tyrion "The Imp" Lannister. Far too often have we seen people of limited height or with other quirks in their appearance limited to being comic relief  in any story. But here we had him playing the role of a member of the nobility, one who has learned to live with what makes him different and become stronger in spite of it all. And Peter Dinklage does this tremendously well - and I'm personally glad that he found a role for himself that allows him to fully represent his capabilities as an actor. I make no secret of the fact that Tyrion is my favorite character in the series, and this has more to do with how Dinklage portrayed him more than anything else. I'll always think of him when I read the books in the same way that Ron Perlman will always be Hellboy or even how Christopher Reeve will always be Superman.

Beyond the actors, the production value and sensibilities, which is clearly evident in every episode of the series, down to the now iconic opening title sequence and theme. While the pacing of the show may seem a tad slow at times or the number of characters overwhelming, I sincerely believe that the people behind the show did the best job possible to bring the various plot lines under control and presented the, in a manner that remained viable enough to work as a television series.

Game of Thrones is a spectacular show, one that I hope will survive long enough to see the entire series of novels to completion. They're off to a really good start and here's to hoping that the level of quality remains constant as the seasons go on. As it stands, this show more than deserves 5 dire wolves running through the night out of a possible 5.

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