Tuesday, June 21, 2011

GAME OF THRONES: SEASON 1 -- A REVIEW

WARNING: This review contains spoilers.







Well, HBO's GAME OF THRONES came to a glorious conclusion in its final episode. All the major storylines if not resolved, came to major turning points, sending them rousingly off on a clear direction for season 2. There were no cliffhangers per se, but even though not everything has been resolved it's pretty clear where the story is headed.


The question is, will the viewers tune in next year? HBO seems to think so and the ratings for season one were impressive. They blew away my predicted numbers by a fair margin and it was enough to keep it going and to give it another year. Despite my pessimistic reading of the situation before the series aired I have been pleasantly surprised that enough viewers have embraced this "Lord of the Rings for adults" in sufficient numbers.


Unfortunately the series will have to continue on without three major leads: Mark Addy, Jason Momoa and Sean Bean. Their departure from the show was no surprise to those who have read the book on which the series was based, but for viewers coming at it fresh those character's fates, (especially Sean Bean's Eddard Stark), would have came as quite a shock. Hopefully interest in the series will survive the loss of three major actors.


On the whole I would have to rate the series as a crowning success as an adaptation of George R. R. Martin's novel. I have a few quibbles with the adaptation. I mean they had ten hours to adapt one book and they still had to throw out a lot of stuff in order to make it all fit. At times it seemed like the story was unfolding at a break-neck pace. However, they did manage to get almost all the major plot points and characters as well as slipping in elements from the subsequent novels to flesh it out.


And speaking of flesh -- there was a lot of that. When the show is re-cut for markets that have stricture standards than HBO, much of that flesh will not be on display, but in just about every episode there were breasts, bums and genitalia on display to offend the more prudish sensibilities. The series is not exactly "family viewing" (although I did watch every episode with my wife and daughter, but we're all adults for all intents and purposes) (Well, my wife and daughter are, anyway. I'm the childish one)


A few sore points for me: Syrio Forel, although a great character (and wonderfully portrayed by Miltos Yeromelou), was not depicted as I imagined him. Sansa (Sophie Turner) seemed under developed as a character. The direwolves were given short shrift. They're very important to the story and to the characters, but their infrequent appearances did little to convey that. Also I was a little diappointed at the way they chose to depict Tyrion's part in the final battle. He gets knocked unconscious (a la Bilbo Baggins) and misses the whole thing. This was obviously done for production reasons -- it's cheaper not to show an all-out pitched battle than it is to stage it in all it's gory confusion, but it is a little unfair. In the book Tyrion participates in the battle and acquits himself rather well.


The other complaint I have with the series is how fast news seems to travel, especially given that messages are carried by ravens. I'm not sure how fast ravens can fly but they seem to rival twitter in the speedy spreading of news. Again, that is a production point. You can't show characters standing around for weeks waiting to get news that would be days old when finally read.


And what was that scene with Grand Maester Pycelle (Julian Glover) pontificating on the nature of kings all about?


Overall, however, I think George RR Martin should be pretty pleased with how his work has been treated. He even wrote one episode (episode 8, I believe) and that was, to my mind, one of their best. It would be a shame if Martin did not receive some sort of award for that.


Other standouts for me: The character of Bronn is far funnier in the series. Actor Jerome Flynn brings him to life in a very droll and understated way. The incredible Charles Dance is suitably chilling as Tywin Lannister and  character actor James Cosmo is wonderful as Lord Mormont. I also liked David Bradley (Harry Potter's Argus Filch) as the lord Walder Frey. He had a very brief scene but it encapsulated that minor character very well.


GAME OF THRONES will likely be repeating on HBO and will probably (hopefully) show up on other networks (albeit likely in cleaned-up forms). Hopefully the audience for this excellent series will grow. If they keep the interest through the second season then we will likely get a third and probably a fourth. That and the release of the fifth and final volume in George RR Martin's series A DANCE WITH DRAGONS will also conspire to sell more copies of the books and (perhaps... fingers crossed... ) translate into sales for other fantasy series (...ahem ...swords of fire at amazon.com... ahem ...dark worlds magazine...).


That would be a glorious thing indeed.





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3 comments:

Pat Tillett said...

I wish I had HBO. I guess I'm going to have to rent the whole season (when it comes out on DVD).
thanks for the info!

M. D. Jackson said...

That's probably the best way to experience it, Pat. You'll be able to enjoy the episodes without having to spend the first ten minutes trying to remember who's who and where they left off the previous week.

John said...

I know the story is a little old, but your words speak the truth. I think that they could have brought the perceived amount of time to us would have been longer if they would have added like a date subtitle when switching scenes perhaps, so that even though it is going at this break neck television speed like you said, we can get that perception of my god it has been a few weeks, or a couple of months while they travelled around Westeros. I was entranced by the first season, having never read the books I figured I would be lost of lose interest in the show, but that never happened, and I made a deal with myself that I would read the books after the series completes so I can enjoy both without the shame of knowing what was left out. I even rented the DVD of season one off of my blockbuster @home plan, so I could refresh my mind before season 2 starts Sunday. Although finding time to watch has been hard because of the odd hours I work at DISH, but I figure I can get the 5 remaining episodes in on Saturday and then get my excitement in check for the premiere.

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