the Little Red Reviewer

HBO’s Game of Thrones

Posted on: April 18, 2011

 Looking through my readers, feeds and tagsurfers, I suddenly feel just plain obligated to post about GAME OF THRONES, HBO’s new epic fantasy series.

For those of you who have been living under a rock, Game of Thrones is the first book in George R R Martin’s epic fantasy series called A Song of Ice and Fire. Frantic and obsessive fans are eagerly awaiting book five, which is scheduled to hit bookstores this summer. In this series, noble families fight for the throne, younger siblings come to understand they are nothing more than bargaining chips and wedding fodder, old magics are brewing in the frozen north, and good men and women take empire destroying secrets to their graves. Oh, and there is tons and tons of sex. And after the sex, there is tons and tons of violence, kidnapping, brutal murder, betrayal, more sex, and more betrayal.

(And just for kicks, these are all images from the board-game, cuz I totally dig the game. It looks all complicated, but you can learn the rules in about 2 minutes, and it’s a ball to play.)

And now, on to HBO’s version.

First, the good.

Peter Dinklage, Sean Bean, Harry Lloyd, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau. They were excellent. Harry Lloyd absolutely made Viserys, and I knew I recognized that wonderfully crooked smile from Doctor Who! Peter Dinklage and Sean Bean are always a pleasure to watch, and Coster-Waldau had Jaime down.

I really liked the credits/intro as well. Great way to cram a lot of important geographical info into a small amount of time, especially for viewers who aren’t familiar with the books. They immediately know we’ve got two (for now) important cities on one continent, and across a narrow sea there is another city where some action will be taking place. Animation came off as a little cartoony and higher tech than this world warrants, but I can forgive it.

Now, the OK.

I really expected Cercei to be prettier, and a little sluttier. She’s supposed to be this super awesome babe? Yes, she’s had three kids, but I really was expecting more eye candy there.

I didn’t care for Winterfell. Yes, I know, it’s cold, I get it. But I felt like I was in a Viking movie. Hey look, there’s a guy in furs! And another guy in furs! And someone else in furs! And from the back, everyone looks exactly the same! I can completely understand why the costume designers did what they did, and it makes sense. It just didn’t work for me.

And now, the not so good.

They just plain crammed way too much into the pilot. I can see this as being a MAJOR turn off to casual viewers who are not familiar with the books. Who is this mysterious 5th Stark child? The youngest, Rickon, was never even mentioned, let alone referred to. Was it ever overtly mentioned that Catelyn’s sister IS Lyssa WHO IS married to Jon Arryn (I’ve been told there is a spoiler ridden family tree on the HBO website, but still)? That scene at the end when she gets the letter from Lyssa is so rushed as to be nearly useless. For those of us who have read the books multiple times, everything makes perfect sense. But make believe this is your first exposure to this series. Would you be confused? I would. I almost wish they hadn’t even introduced Daenerys until the 2nd episode, it would have allowed for much more Winterfell character development in the pilot. Oh but wait, without Daenerys, the show wouldn’t have had any boobies. And you can’t have an HBO pilot without buckets of boobies.

My husband did ask me very politely afterwards if I was offended by the nudity, and I said not at all. It’s not like I watch True Blood for the story.

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22 Responses to "HBO’s Game of Thrones"

I agree with you on Cersei, but I wasn’t thrilled with Jaime. He looked like Dennis Leary’s younger brother and I kept getting thrown every time I saw him. I wasn’t too worried about not showing Rickon because they barely spent any time on the kids this week.

As for Lyssa, the only time the relationship was mentioned (that I heard) was when she destroyed the letter. In my review (http://whatmarkread.blogspot.com/2011/04/game-of-thrones-tv-show-review.html), I wondered if I would have enjoyed it more or less if I hadn’t read the book.

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I so agree.. I also felt that people who haven’t read the books, might not follow it so easily.. But then again, HBO might just surprise us. However For us fans of Song of Fire and Ice, series is good way to reconnect before 5th book comes out..
And why introduce Daenerys so early? I would’ve liked to see some more time spent on all stark children..

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I don’t think the big exposition went too far. My wife followed it easily enough, and she’s never read the books.

My concern was there wasn’t much action to hook people in. But then, it was an exposition episode, so whatever. Though now that I think about it, the introduction of some of the characters was a little disjointed, sometimes. For instance, we didn’t learn John Snow’s name until near the end, despite his being in several scenes earlier. I recall being a bit annoyed by that. At the same time, it’s not like people who know each other go around introducing themselves to each other all the time, right?

In all, it rocked, IMHO. And not just because of the boobs. :)

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…Yeah you suck, no HBO here. Though Aaron DVR’d it so hopefully I can catch it at his place when his other friend comes by to watch it.

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when husband called Charter to bitch about the price increases, they said “You want 6 months HBO for free?”

after the 6 months are up, no more HBO for us. Until we call again to bitch about the prices, a few weeks before GoT season 2.

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….Yeah, we dropped cable entirely back in January and got netflix. Game of Thrones is the only show I knew I would miss having. Everything else I can always wait for it to come out on DVD.

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As someone who hasn’t read the books–there were indeed a lot of plots and families to keep track of. Not unmanageable, but a lot.

I didn’t keep up with most of their names, frankly, but I’d heard of Jamie Lannister and Jon Snow from those Suvudu cage matches, so their names & faces stayed with me. The exiled brother & sister with the white blond hair? I get who they are in relation to the sitting king, but never caught their names.

So…even though I missed a few names this episode, and it was indeed packed, I didn’t find it a huge turn off. I’m sure I missed a little here and there, but the major families and plot movements were made obvious.

Who’s the skeevy older brother with the white blonde hair? Who wants to reclaim the throne? THAT guy, I wanted to stab him almost immediately, and I really, really hope his little sister manages to kill him thoroughly and painfully for his “I’d let all 40,000 of them have you if that’s what it took” statement. Is he that skeevy in the books? Blech.

So even though the casual murder of a little boy and what amounts to a rape scene between Jason Momoa’s character (Drogo?) and his new terrified bride both made my skin crawl I think it was a good starting episode to set up all the plotting and scheming that’s sure to follow. I liked the teaser at the beginning with the dangers that lurk outside the barely-seen Wall, too. Looking forward to learning more about that.

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Mark – just to be confusing, I responded on your blog.

Soan – I’m sure as the season progresses, scenes will get more focused, instead of the pilot that was kinda all over the place.

Michael – you’re right, people don’t introduce themselves in casual conversation, but there’s a way to do it right, like in Jaime’s scene with Cersei, where he starts the conversations with “As your brother. . . “.

Jessica – lol! your comments are cracking me up! Viserys (the white blonde deposed prince) and his sister Daenerys (who gets married off), are they EVER referred to by their first names? and yes, Viserys is just that skeevy in the book, and while Daenerys’s wedding night isn’t quite as horrifying as HBO’s version, it’s still incredibly harrowing and not at all an easy scene to read. That whole Horse Lord barbarian thing is explained so much better in the books.

more a teaser than a spoiler, Viserys gets EXACTLY what he deserves, and I can’t wait till that episode.

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And as an aside–I hadn’t realized Momoa was in the show, so when they showed him riding up, I was all “Ronan. Wait. Conan! Conan is in the show!”

…talk about typecasting…

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I thought it was extremely well done and was pleased with the tone and balance of activity and exposition — though I wondered if it would be hard for non-readers to get up to speed. Clearly, they weren’t dumbing it down for people, which in the end is good, I think…

I thought the casting was done pretty well — though I agree that both Jaime and Cersei were less “pretty” than I’d imagined. Also, I had a hard time distinguishing Robb from Jon Snow, though maybe that wasn’t an accident. The only misstep was Khal Drogo who reminded me too much of the stupid one of the three from Superman-II…

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Reading the comments from people who haven’t read the books is interesting and I’m waiting for their shocked reactions to events later on if they stick with the show.
Also be interesting if anyone can’t wait and immediately rushes out to buy and read the book to find out what happens next ahead of time.

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Hi Redhead. I tend to agree with your comments about too much information and plot in the first episode, but I may just be nostalgic for the pace of reading. You know, when you read about The Hound for the first time, you say to yourself “WOW! Majorly scary dude!!” But here, he promenades across the screen just like everyone else, and seems relatively small. That’s because a writer can focus your attention on a telling detail, and then return to the larger scene. That’s much harder to do in film; timeline is not as flexible as in a book. The scene is unfolding NOW — we can’t take the time to give you a bit of backstory without breaking the drama. I found Bran & Arya’s sotto voce observations to be stagey — “Oh, that’s so-and-so,” but evidently they were necessary. It’s difficult to make a film from a book. One might stage a film completely differently to introduce characters, establish motive, create setting, and supply backstory.

I have no quibbles with the casting, I love all of it, and I’m looking forward to the next episode!

If people aren’t looking as beautiful as they should, it’s because they aren’t being filmed correctly. I think film makers have forgotten how to make movies and reveal the character and glamor of people; they’re focused on effects, whether computer-generated or not, and they’ve forgotten the poetry of the camera and the actors. The TV-trained film makers are the worst: they’re all about unambiguously hitting the plot points, and NOT about the magic of story-telling. ASOIAF is a purely character-driven story, and we should be spending more time with the characters. Well, that’s my rant for A Game of Thrones!

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Jaime reminded me of Prince Charming from the Shrek films.

As someone who hasn’t read the books, I thought the pacing of this opening episode was about right. Without spoon-feeding me, it challenged me enough to make me savour every moment and line of dialogue, filling in just enough of the blanks to keep me from getting lost. It didn’t turn me off at all, and my experience of the fantasy genre is largely limited to Tolkein.

I will definitely be back for more, not least because the wonderful Peter Dinklage steals every scene he is in. A heavy-drinking, whoremongering dwarf. What’s not to like?

http://slouchingtowardsthatcham.com/2011/04/20/game-of-thrones-season-1-episode-1-review/

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Great post. I think you narrowed down pretty much everything that was good and what was bad.

There were a lot details that were sort of crammed in the episode, and I’m pretty sure that people who have not read the books missed a lot of details.

There were hints to tell us that Catelyn’s sister was married to Jon Arryn, or that there is a fifth Stark child, but viewers needed to listen very carefully to notice them.

I don’t think it was possible to introduce every possible story detail in the first episode, and I guess there will be more time allowed in subsequent episodes to explain all of this. If they don’t… people will get confused very quickly.

However, I think it’s good that there were a lot of hints and details in the pilot. It felt as though the episode was directed with two layers of content; one aimed at readers and one aimed at newcomers. And I think both of them could enjoy the show.

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I agree with the ‘too much of a good thing’ assessment! My viewing partner was totally lost. But it was fun because I got to keep pausing the show to fill him in (although I basically ruined the next 6 episodes for him…). http://literarytype.wordpress.com/2011/04/25/page-to-screenmixed-feelings/

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We don’t have a TV, but I have been inspired by all the huha to buy the first book, and am looking forward to it!

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can’t wait to hear what you think of the book! and book 5 is supposed to come out this summer, I can’t wait!

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Book 5 is delivered – my editor has been editing the first 95% of it for a couple of months now. She’s threatening to drop by my house on Tuesday so I’ll grill her on the quality & content!

As to the TV show, I’m having to miss it for child-care reasons (my wife want to watch it and one of us has to watch over my daughter) – but I plan to get whole thing on DVD and watch it advert-free.

I did hear that they changed the wildlings vs others bit at the start, and had them cut up, which seemed a pointless and illogical change, but I’ll have to hold off on nit-picking :)

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Mark – AWESOME!! I will say I’ve been waffling back and forth between excitement for book 5 and intense skepticism that it’s actually going to come out. i guess i better make a plan to re-read books 3 and 4 pretty soon then. I expect some juicy gossip from your editor! ;)

regarding changing some things around, yes, they did change some things, but so far I’m not minding the changes. What I’m minding is the skipping of background details. Good call on waiting for the whole things to be avail on DVD, that way you won’t have to wait a week between eps!! i expect the show would actually be more enjoyable that way anyways.

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Anecdotally, I get the impression that it seems to be mostly the readers who are concerned about the volume of material crammed in ep1 — the non-readers seem to have been able to keep track of it all. However, this is just the opinion of one person who hasn’t even seen the show yet!

P.S. Red, you play boardgames? Any chance we could lure you to the video game side of the Force? ;)

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Peter, I’m getting the same impression. as a reader, I’m wondering if I’m so focusing on details that I’m waiting for that I’m making it more complicated than it needs to be?

I’m slowly becoming a board gamer (GoT, Ticket to Ride, Chicago Express, St Petersburg, Lost Cities, stuff like that) but I never really got into video games. my joints can’t handle sitting in front of a computer for long, and my eyes can’t handle sitting in front of the tv for long.

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WOW!
That was very well put. I’m debating if I should read the books. It’s very hard not to. I’ve loved the series, and I thought they (the creators) have done an awesome job in pulling me into this new world. Actors are very good and I’m sticking to the series for now…

Mel

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