Ian's Movie Reviews
Short Reviews of Movies, Board Games, and Other Stuff

Game of Thrones

HBO’s latest hit series is currently my favourite show on television.  A big reason for this is because I am a huge fan of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice series which this is based on.  A Game of Thrones and its following novels are some of the best fantasy books I have ever read.  In fact, they are the best if Lord of the Rings is taken out of the equation.  These books have incredible characters, an intricately woven plot, and a very full and detailed world complete with individual cultures and personalities.

When it was announced that there was to be a TV series based on one of my favourite series, I received the news with skepticism.  After all, another fantasy series I read, Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth, was also adapted into a TV show called Legend of the Seeker with horrendous results.  The pilot started off following the books faithfully, but then it completely deviated in order to make absurdly mediocre stand alone episodes with cheesy action and acting.  But hope still remained, since part of the announcement was that HBO planned to film Game of Thrones, so the chance of the series being done justice still remained.  Casting rumours of Sean Bean as Ned and Peter Dinklage as Tyrion only further emboldened this hope.

When the TV series finally debuted last year, all of fears were put to rest.  The creators of this show knew exactly what they were doing and paid full respect to the characters and the world of the novels.  It felt real and it was taken seriously by cast and crew alike.  And as a result, audiences flocked to it.  Ratings overwhelmed HBO executives and people couldn’t stop talking about it.  I must say, its been fascinating as a fan of the books to watch my friends relish in this series and to hear their reactions to some of the prime moments.

Game of Thrones is important because it shows that fantasy on television can succeed, both with quality and popularity.  Its hard to tell what the future will hold for this series, since the source material is unfinished and has a lot to cover, but I guess we’ll just see what happens.  Let’s take a closer look.

Here’s a look at the two seasons thus far.

Season Recap

Season 1 – Game of Thrones started off with one of the best debut seasons for a television series ever.I already knew the story had an interesting plot and was full of great characters, but I was immensely satisfied with how well they pulled everything off.  not only was the adaptation very true to the books, but they managed to capture the tone and atmosphere wonderfully as well.  Right from the get-go where we see the three Night’s Watch brothers hunting in the north I knew that this was going to be a solid show.

We follow the story of the Starks, one of the most noble families in Westeros, after the lord of the house Ned is asked by the king to be his hand.  He starts unraveling certain conspiracies involving the queen which leads to a lot of trouble for the whole realm.  But aside from this central story we also have the story of the exiled princess across the sea learning to become a ruler, Ned`s bastard son Jon battling supernatural entities in the North as part of a military force known as the Night`s Watch, and we collow the exploits of Ned`s other children as well.

Sean Bean is damn near perfect casting as Ned Stark, who really holds this first season together.  He`s such a great actor and was crucial in getting the audience to care about him and his family.  And with Peter Dinklage as Tyrion at the opposite end of the spectrum, they certain have a strong cast to carry this material.

The pacing throughout the season was excellent, and they did a great job of establishing the political situation without being boring, establishing the many characters without dragging, and pulling off key moments such as Tyrion being captured at the inn and the famous scene at Baelor`s Sept.  I am ecstatic with how well they pulled this story off.  The highlight episodes are the pilot called Winter is Coming (mostly because it left me amazed that they actually brought Westeros to life), and Baelor.

Season 2– As pleasantly surprised I was with season 1, I must confess myself disappointed with season 2.  Now, that`s not to say its bad;  it has a lot going for it.  But the pacing is slower, and they begin to take many more deviations from the book.  Now, I am not one of those people who demands that the book be adapted straight up.  I understand the need for changes when there is a reason for it.  And some changes here made sense to me, but there were also an equal amount which did not.  But I`ll get into that later.

Season 2 sees the real war for the throne beginning.  The former king`s two brothers are now claiming the throne and fighting the Lannisters and each other, Robb Stark is fighting for the freedom of the north, and now even the pirate-like Greyjoys are trying to expand their territory also.  Meanwhile, Daenerys is now in the possession of three dragons and must figure out what to do from there.

With the show losing three very popular characters in Ned Stark, King Robert, and Khal Drogo, and especially with the absence of Sean Bean in particular, most of the weight falls upon Peter Dinklage to carry this show.  And carry it he does, thankfully, since without such a strong center to hold fans with the show, HBO could have been in a lot of trouble here. Especially since the new characters like Stannis, Melisandre, and Davos don`t match the charisma of the characters that have been lost.

This season certainly had its ups and downs.  First, the Battle of Blackwater Bay in the penultimate episode was incredible.  What an amazing hour of television.  That was the moment that the season was building to and which fans were waiting for, and it did not disappoint in the least.  They also did a great job of actually making Melisandra`s shadow baby filmable ( I was wondering how they would pull that off), and Tyrion playing the game of thrones as Hand of the King was great stuff.  Not to mention the scenes between Arya and Twyin who played off of each other surprisingly well.

But like I said, there were a lot of disappointments as well.  As a book fan, the omission of some characters saddened me, in particular the Reeds and the Tullys.  However, I’ve just heard that they are going to be in the third season, so I’m okay with it now.  The Theon storyline was brought down by the poor performance of Alfie Allen as Theon.  The pacing was also a problem, mostly because Jon and Dany don’t really do much this season and their storylines were stretched far too thin.

But what really disappointed me was the season finale, mostly because they completely dropped the ball on two major storylines.  The first was Jon’s capture and confrontation with Quorin to become a wildling.  I don’t feel like they were clear on Jon’s motives and what he was ordered to do.  The other was the burning of Winterfell, a major moment and major climax in the book…. and they didn’t show it.  They gave no indication of what happened, and it seemed sapped of its emotional impact.  They really botched that one.

With all that said, the strengths of the season are still enough to outweigh the disappointments.  Hell, the Blackwater episode alone is almost enough.  They did lose their footing slightly, but the performances and overall writing is still top notch.

Ranking of the seasons:

Season 1

Season 2

Favourite character – I’m sure that my choice for favourite character would be most peoples choice: Tyrion Lannister.  In a show with so many great characters, like Ned Stark, Jaime Lannister, Twyin Lannister, Ary Stark, Daenerys, etc., Tyrion’s wit and likability shine through.  This is thanks to both the writing of the character, since Tyrion is also one of the greatest characters in the book series, but also to the award-winning performance of Peter Dinkalge who really captures what the characters all about.

Final Thoughts – I was both anticipating and dreading the release of this series.  But once I was it, that dread faded away.  The book series really does seem like a good fit for an HBO series; a complexly woven plot with a large ensemble cast, much like The Wire or Rome.  And as a book fan, I’m pretty happy with how everything has been brought to life so far, with only a few exceptions, most of which occur in the latest season.

So what about the future of the series?  Apparently they are splitting book 3 into two seasons, a move I dislike.  I think they will be stretching the story too thin.  Making the season longer by two or three more episodes would probably have been the better move to me, but we shall see.  Regardless, there will certainly be more action and overall craziness next year.  As for the years after that, its hard to see whats going to happen.  Book 4 and 5 will probably be blended together somehow, since the books actually split the characters up and the events are concurrent, and the final two books haven;t even been written.  With a series this expensive and complicated, its hard to tell if they will see it to the end.

But hopefully they do.

4 Responses to “Game of Thrones”

  1. It’s making them a bomb so I reckon they will keep it going unless they screw something up and loose ratings. Love me some Game of Thrones 😀

  2. I have a question. I definitely want to read the books, so i plan on going through the first 2 books over the summer.

    My question with regards to the rest of the books is it better to read them before watching the HBO version or after? I don’t want my reading to ruin the series.

    • I really can’t answer that for you. its kind of your decision. Would you rather watch the story unfold or read the story as it unfolds? If you’d rather watch fresh and not know what happens throughout the series, then don’t read it. You can still read later on and fill in the gaps and learn more about the world in richer detail.
      I first read the books about 5 years ago, so there was no hope of me going in fresh, so I cant say whats better.

  3. new season starts soon can’t wait

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