Game of Thrones on HBO
I finally managed to find some time to sit down and watch the first two episodes of Game of Thrones. As it has already been renewed for a second season, my hopes were pretty high. Full disclosure: I have never read any of George R. R. Martin's books, upon which this series is based, so I have zero familiarity with the story. Let me say, right off the bat, that I absolutely am enjoying the show thus far. As with my previous review, I am going to avoid spoilers to the best of my ability. My intent with these reviews is to get people interested enough to want to check out the show or avoid it at all costs. Once again, I will begin with a show summary, this time from Wikipedia:
Game of Thrones chronicles the violent dynastic struggles among the kingdom's seven noble families for control of the Iron Throne; as the series opens, additional threats from the snow and ice covered region north of Westeros and from the eastern continent across a narrow sea are simultaneously beginning to rise.
Once again, the network chose to simply begin the show before running through the opening credits. As I stated in my Camelot review, I do like this. I must admit that the intro did enlighten me to the lay of the land and some interesting architecture at each kingdom, which I have no doubt will play a role as the story progresses. Additionally, I have to say that Game of Thrones has one of the most elaborate and utterly cool sequences I have ever seen. I watched it before both episodes because there was just so much going on.
Considering it took significant convincing from my peers to watch Spartacus, due to the nudity and violence, I was not quite as hesitant when I checked out Camelot and I can say the same about Game of Thrones. This show is definitely more along the lines of Camelot, but with a very different story. Going into the first episode, I had to remind myself that I was going to watch at least the first three episodes, in order to give it a fair chance. That seemed to be a good thing, since the story starts out a little confusing and trying to piece everything together is difficult. I had previously read about the series of books, so I was aware of the seven different kingdoms and how entwined they each were, so I was prepared for an involved story with a wealth of characters. This knowledge absolutely helped!
This appears to be a truly epic story with all the required ingredients in place. We have royals with checkered pasts and extremely power hungry individuals who will do whatever it takes to obtain, retain, or regain control. There are a variety of relationships to help get the viewer invested in the characters and actually begin to care what happens to them... be that good or bad. We have families with internal struggles and their own problems, all being impacted by things completely outside of their control. I was also glad to get some comedic relief, considering the very intense story provided, but the comedy is light enough to stick to the very nature of what is going on throughout the land and what is happening to various people.
However, I (as well as my wife) was quite unprepared for one aspect of the show: incest. Sadly, that does seem to have a prominent place already, so I suspect it will be an ongoing theme. As I "got used to" the violence in Spartacus, I feel confident I will do the same with the incest (as disgusting as that sounds). There is also quite a bit of "less creepy" sex, so I suppose that sort of balances things out. (Yeah, that sounds weird to me, too.)
The writers have done a pretty admirable job of introducing the key players, but are definitely leaving the viewer with a ton of questions. Not only are they dropping a number of possible minor plots to explore, but also slight hints about everyone's own history and past events. I am extremely happy that I have an HTPC, so that we could rewind back to much earlier scenes to ensure we understood what happened later and who it happened to, as well as to replay low volume dialog. Regrettably, that dialog issue has been an issue several times. Getting back to just how big this story seems to be, I have to say that the seven kingdoms immediately reminded me of Ultima 7's Serpent Isle, with each kingdom being vastly different from the others, both in appearance and locale. This is both good and bad, since I thoroughly enjoyed playing Serpent Isle, but I fear I will be drawing comparisons throughout the whole damn show! Come on, even the frakking wolves are in Game of Thrones! But, I digress.
One thing that has confused me throughout these two episodes is that the passage of time seems to be an afterthought by the writers. They aren't clearly conveying how much time has passed between episodes or scenes. While this isn't normally a big deal, these stories (apparently) encompass a large period of time. If they were attempting to do that with the growth of the wolves, it failed miserably, since animals grow at different rates, to different sizes. Besides, these wolves grew extremely fast. The fact that the coming winter is mentioned as a pretty big deal makes the passage of time all the more important.
Going along with the passage of time issue, I also had difficulty following who had gone where and with whom. It seemed as though people would magically appear in different locations, then return to where they had previously been. Perhaps I simply missed the exchanges which explained this and others won't notice it at all. We do have two dogs in the house, so a fifty minute show takes over an hour to watch, which makes it difficult to pay close attention and keep track of everything. As you can tell, there are a lot of things going on and so many people involved that it really does require you to do just that. This might turn some people off, if they prefer "non-thinking" shows like Two and a Half Men (which I actually like, mind you), but I find it a refreshing break to be watching such an involved story. In fact, I think this is going to be better than Camelot!
My suggestion: Watch it!
If you haven't checked it out already, any reason? If you have, what did you think of it so far?
As a reminder, episode 3 is on this Sunday at 9pm and again at 11pm (Eastern).