GAME OF THRONES 1.1: WINTER IS COMING
I was talking to a friend the other day, and in the course of our conversation, I casually mentioned Game of Thrones and how excited I was about the show. I was ready to give him a little background to the series, but it turns out that I didn’t need to.
“Oh yeah,” he said, right after I mentioned the show. “You were talking about that show four years ago on the day we first hung out.”
So, as you can see, I’ve been waiting for this show for quite a while. It’s kind of hard to explain how I feel about seeing this on my big screen TV. A Song of Ice and Fire (the series of books which A Game of Thrones is a part of) is one of my favorite series of books ever. I’ve loved fantasy as a genre when I was young, but moved away from it as I got older because so much of it was too juvenile; even Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series lost me after a while. Martin’s work brought me back to fantasy by giving me a cast of characters who acted more like real people than any I had seen in the genre before. This little geek obsession with with this series always seemed like such a niche interest to me, so I can hardly believe that it’s been translated into a multi-million dollar lavish TV show on a network that has produced some of my favorite shows ever (Sopranos, Deadwood, Carnivale). I’m still kind of stunned that this even exists, that this story can be shared with such a wider audience than the books were ever able to capture. I really hope the show is successful and continues on through more seasons, but even if it doesn’t, this is all gravy to me.
First, I’ll say something about the credits, which I think are really brilliantly done. The music is suitably epic and memorable. The credits swing across a map of Westeros, passing across the cities that the action will be focused on in the episode. The cities slowly grow up from the map, a mechanical maze of gears and twisting towers. As the credits appear at the bottom of the screen, the House sigil of each actors character appear next to their names. The intro provides a lot of thematic and factual information, plus it’s just cool looking. It’s almost as cool as the Carnivale opening credits.
The pilot episode itself contained a lot of exposition, (particularly in the scene where the King’s retinue arrives at Winterfell; Arya practically announces each character’s appearance and their relationship to the King) but it was necessary. Despite all this talking, though, I don’t think the pace of the show ever suffered. Here are a few points that I really loved:
- Jon and Tyrion’s brief talk in the yard outside of the celebration was a special favorite scene of mine in the books. While it’s a bit different here, its no less great. In just a few lines, we learn so much about the bastard and the dwarf.
- Speaking of Tyrion, Peter Dinklage was brilliant as the diminutive Lannister. I can’t wait to see more of him. I also liked Kit Harrington as Jon Snow; I’ve never heard of the actor, but his character will have to carry a lot in the episodes to come, and based on what we saw in the pilot, I think he can do it.
- Ned and Robert’s scene in the Winterfell crypts was particularly affecting, and almost exactly what I had pictured in my head. During the scene, Robert laments the death of Ned’s sister, whom we are to believe he was once in love with. Lyanna, Ned’s sister, is an important character to the history of the series. If you’re new to the series, pay attention to when she is mentioned.
- One scene I really enjoyed showed the funeral rites for Jon Arryn, the dead hand of the King. The strange costumes, burning incense, and painted rocks placed on his eyes echo similarities to our own world yet reinforce that we’re looking at a strange culture at the same time.
- Dany’s scenes across the Narrow Sea may have been the weakest in the episode. Perhaps the exoticism of Pentos was jarring in contrast to the mud and grime of Winterfell. Maybe it was because the Dothraki were a little silly looking. Despite this, though, Emilia Clarke did a good job with the little she had to work with. Dany’s and interesting character and though she starts out a little boring, she becomes much more interesting as the series moves along. I’m really looking forward to seeing her come into her own.
- Isaac Hempstead-Wright was great as Bran. He had a lot to do in this episode, and he did all of it well. I’m really looking forward to him in future episodes.