Complex, Brutal, Smart And Sophisticated–A Fantasy Epic Geared Toward Adults Proves HBO Does It Best Few shows have been more eagerly awaited than the arrival of HBO’s adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s masterful and massive epic “Game of Thrones” (the first in a series). As the books have progressed, however, faithful followers have cried foul as promises have yet to be delivered. But no matter where you stand in that controversy, there is little debate to the majesty and quality of the novel “Thrones”–an almost instant classic in the adult fantasy genre. Multi-layered and ambitious, this sprawling tale charts a powerful story of intrigue, political machinations, and violence amidst the brutal landscape of a nation divided. It is not a production you could approach half-heartedly. To do justice to the novel’s intricacies required a massive cast, extensive period sets and costumes, lavish effects and a focused and intelligent screenplay. Well, creators David Benioff (a top notch novelist himself–check out City of Thieves) and D.B. Weiss were up to the challenge and the astute HBO has once again backed a winner. Make no mistake, this is no cheesy kid’s story–this is dark and relentless entertainment for people who enjoy quality programming.At the heart of “Game of Thrones” is the Stark family. Living in relative isolation, patriarch Sean Bean is called to assist the King when a vacancy opens up due to suspect causes. Suspicions have fallen on the King’s wife (Lena Headley) and her twin brother (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), and there may be further nefarious acts in store for His Royal Highness. When the Stark’s young son witnesses something he should not have, a violent act that will have long range repercussions occurs. This, however, is just the jumping off point for a tale with numerous dimensions. There are the exiled Targaryen siblings, a brother and sister who have a claim to the throne and hope to retake the power seat by aligning with a barbaric and powerful tribe of warriors. Bean’s illegitimate son figures prominently as well, as a guardian on The Wall preparing for imminent danger. There are so many other peripheral characters and story lines, it would be impossible to delineate them all concisely. There are assassination plots, vigilante justice, court intrigue, various sexual escapades, vicious barbarism, unseen monstrosities, plenty of wolves, family drama, and a dragon egg or two.Through it all, there is a recurrent theme that “Winter is Coming”–a threat that poses a menace and a danger that may be unavoidable. This show is not for the faint of heart, and should only be considered for age appropriate audiences. As an HBO production, the screenplay doesn’t shy away from the gritty violence that this time period and life style would necessitate. I, for one, appreciate the authentic feel to the drama. This show is also not for the casual viewer. It unfolds at its own pace, much like a good novel. It requires both patience and attention to really appreciate just how sophisticated and complex this tale is. It is a grown-up and smart piece!The show looks absolutely fantastic. Technical aspects of the production are as good, or better, than any comparable feature film. The cast is also uniformly excellent. It would be impossible, again, to highlight everyone in the cast that deserves a special mention–so I’ll limit my accolades to Peter Dinklage. As Tyrion Lannister (the black sheep brother of Headley and Coster-Waldau), Dinklage steals just about every scene that he is in. Funny, sardonic, and wise–this Imp (as he’s called) has a terrific knack of putting things into perspective. Dinklage has had many great roles in his life–but this is a performance of true star wattage. Don’t be surprised to see him invited to the Emmy race for Best Supporting Actor! He is one of the best things in this great presentation. I truly admire and recommend “Game of Thrones” because it never panders. It requires your active participation in the narrative to fully appreciate how well constructed it is–and any show that treats me as an intelligent human being deserves recognition in this age of formulaic TV. Watch it–and read the books (Game of Thrones and A Clash of Kings especially are monumental)! KGHarris, 5/11.
A brilliant transition from book to TV series There’s no need to rehash the plot of GRR Martin’s fabulous “A Song of Ice and Fire” series; everyone remotely interested in this extraordinary piece of fantasy/adventure is familiar with its medieval story-line.Things I liked in this HBO series…1.) it’s not often a movie-series turns out to be the perfect visual compliment to what many consider to be the gold standard for epic fantasy writing…but this does. It captures the atmosphere, the subtle edginess, those brutal, unexpected moments; it really does grasp the mood and essence of the book.2.) in addition to presenting a riveting tale, the production gives us acting that brings the books’ characters to life in realistic settings.3.) a computer enhanced animated map is shown as a short cut scene at the start of each episode. Giving those of us familiar with the books a brief refresher and those new to the series a sense of the geography, direction and distances.4.) a pulsating, musical score to start each episode that perfectly fits the heraldic spirit of this story.Conclusion:HBO has done a wonderful job making this first book (Game of Thrones), into a first rate TV series. 5 Stars.Ray Nicholson
A throne in turmoil The mass media tends to ignore fantasy stories, especially high fantasy stories. So it came as a pleasant surprise to me that George R.R. Martin’s fantasy epic A Song Of Ice And Fire was being adapted for television — and HBO crafts it with all the dignity it deserves, with plenty of grime, blood and a tangle of convoluted storylines.The castle of Winterfell is thrown on its ear when King Robert (Mark Addy) of Westeros arrives to ask Eddard “Ned” Stark (Sean Bean) to be his Hand. But soon after Ned agrees, he receives a message from his mentor’s widow, informing him that Queen Cersei’s (Lena Headey) family, the Lannisters, are secretly plotting against the king — and that they are killing off anyone who might be a threat to them.One of Ned’s younger sons is gravely wounded when he sees something shocking, and the acid-tongued dwarf Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) is framed for the crime. Ned’s bastard son Jon (Kit Harington) joins the Watch near the Wall — but has little idea of the horrors that are approaching with the White Walkers.And across the Narrow Sea, exiled princess Daenerys Targaryen is wed to the barbarian lord Khal Drogo (Jason Momoa), so that her brother can invade Westeros and take back the throne. But Daenerys quickly grows in strength and wisdom, and the Small Council of Westeros has reason to fear her when it’s found that she’s pregnant — but her greatest power is that of the dragon’s daughter.As Ned takes to his new duties, he begins investigating the death of his predecessor, and begins to uncover a shocking secret about the queen and her children. Treachery, death and war will be brought to Westeros, and a war will begin with the blood of the good-hearted.”A Game of Thrones” is truly an epic story — it took a whole ten episodes to encapsulate a single book, and the story is far from over. There are countless plot threads woven into one enormous, bloodsoaked tapestry, linked together even if they are technically separate. And since this is only based on the first of Martin’s books, it ends on a note both depressing and uplifting. Lots of plot threads are left dangling, but in such a way that you end up wanting to know what happens next.The entire series is draped in cold stone walls, grimy medieval atmosphere, windswept steppes, splatters of dark blood and the occasional sunny day. They don’t skimp on explicit violence (including the death of a beloved character) or sex, but the focus here is always on the clashing families, battles and seedy plots of the queen. And despite that focus, there is still a hint of the magical in this fantasy — talk of dragons, the White Walkers and their undead wights.As for the cast, it is BRILLIANT — Sean Bean is perfection as the world-weary, good-hearted Eddard, and he’s got a brilliant backing cast in Lena Headey, Emilia Clarke, the amazing Peter Dinklage, Jason Momoa, Michelle Fairley, and countless others. Even the child actors like Maisie Williams and Jack Gleeson are absolute perfection.And best of all, their characters are all so REAL. They have good points and bad points, strengths and failings, and they often change drastically over the course of the season (Daenerys turns from a pallid little wallflower to a powerful and icy queen).”A Game of Thrones” is a truly spellbinding experience, if not one that you want to see all together. Bloody, complicated and full of richly-developed characters, this is a future classic.