Monday, August 27, 2012

Game of Thrones (HBO): Season One

July 17, 2011

I have not seen a complete HBO series before. A colleague convinced me to try "Game of Thrones." I did watch the first episode and never looked back. Over the past days, I watched one episode a day until I completed all 10 episodes of the first season. It was that good. You'd never want to be kept hanging.


The series brings us back to a medieval time with kings and queens, lords and ladies. It showed things as they probably were back then, grimy, rough and violent. There was very little of the glitz and glamor that mark modern royalty nowadays. It shows the political intrigues of the aristocracy, as well as their advisers, whores and knights behind them. 

It is also about family. The central family were the Starks. Eddard Stark (a no-nonsense Sean Bean) was picked by his good friend King Robert of  the family Baratheon (a hearty Mark Addy) to be his Hand (or executive officer). This threw the Stark family (his wife, three sons, two daughters and one bastard son) into the political fray after after their long quiet existence in the North. There is also the Lannister family of Robert's Queen Cersei (a nebulously sinister Lena Headey), constantly waiting for an opportunity to grab power. And finally, the very blond Targaryen family who ruled the realm before Robert, now down to their last two members, the crazy Viserys (Harry Lloyd) and his meek sister Daenerys (Emilia Clarke).

As you can envision, the violent action scenes in the battlefields, sword fights, and jousting area were very graphic and bloody. We were not spared the sight of gushing severed arteries, festering wounds, impaled heads and animal attacks. This is definitely not for the faint of heart! You can just look away and the sound effects do just as well to convey the gore on screen. On the other end of the Rated MA spectrum are the occasional sex scenes with both female and male members on display. These may be called gratuitous for TV, but I do gather these are also part of the books. Nevertheless, the sight of a 10-year old boy breastfeeding from his queen mother was still very disturbing, even in these days.

For someone who had not yet read the books, the way the story was written for TV and the directorial execution were very good. The ending scene of the first episode alone will make you want to be back for more. Love those endings for most episodes, aside from Episode 1, those of 7 and 9 will really shock you! There are things that happen that you would never predict. The fates of the characters were very unpredictable up to the very last episode. The ending of the last episode gives the series another dimension, whetting our appetite for the next season.

The writing style may be archaic in vocabulary and construction, but yet they remain crisp and witty, especially those lines uttered by the intrepid dwarf Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage in his Emmy-nominated role). The set design of the the throne room, the dungeons that open into cliffs, the war camps, all were excellent. The cinematography was sweeping when it needs to be majestic, and intimate where it was necessary to be claustrophobic. I did not know most of the actors here, but they will affect you as they portray their characters very well, be it hero, villain or double-agent. Aside from Bean, Headey and Dinklage, special mention go to Michelle Fairley (as Eddard's willful wife Catelyn), Nikolaj Coaster- Waldau (as the rogue Jamie Lannister) and Jason Momoa (as the imposing Khal Drogo).

This show deserves its Emmy nomination for Best Drama Series. Definitely, I will be back to watch the second season. I will also be reading the series of novels "A Song of Ice and Fire" by George RR Martin that inspired this sweeping epic series.  Excellent series that challenges the boundaries for cable television.  Well-recommended!

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