After having received much nagging from my dear brother, I have at last given in when it comes to watching Game of Thrones, the critically acclaimed HBO series based on George R.R. Martin‘s still ongoing A Song of Ice And Fire book franchise. Most of you know it, I’m sure, but I will attempt to explain the quite convoluted but equally engaging plot to those of you that may be new. What you basically need to know is that most of the show revolves around the struggle between several parties to claim the Iron Throne, a chair upon which the true ruler of the fictional continent of Westeros sits perched. But as much as they battle amongst themselves the men of Westeros have a common enemy in the coldest regions of the land, one that they cannot hope to face alone and that they thought died centuries ago.
Initially, we’re introduced to two families. The first one is the Stark family from Winterfell – Eddard “Ned” Stark (Sean Bean), Ned’s wife Catelyn (Michelle Fairley), and their children: oldest son Robb (Richard Madden), kindly big sister Sansa (Sophie Turner), brave tomboy Arya (Maisie Williams), adventure seeker Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright), and little Rickon. Also amongst them are Jon Snow (Kit Harington), Ned’s infamous bastard child, Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen), whom the Starks have practically adopted, and lots of pet dire wolves. The second family is the royal Lannister family – Queen Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey), her suave brother Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), her nasty son Joffrey (Jack Gleeson), and of course, hands-down everyone’s favorite character: Tyrion “The Imp” Lannister (Peter Dinklage), who won’t let you get fooled by his not too threatening size.
Then there’s Robert Baratheon (Mark Addy), close friend of Ned’s and the current ruler of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, who’s married to Cersei and believes himself to be Joffrey’s biological father. On top of this, the Lannister family also includes the elderly Tywin (Charles Dance), a fearsomely cunning and ominous presence, who starts pulling the strings once King Robert dies and the fight for power truly begins. However, this fight doesn’t just concern these two families. Of the Targaryen family, a bloodline believed to be long gone, the young queen/”khaleesi” Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) roams in the desert lands across the sea, alongside her army of savage warriors, the Dothraki, her loving bodyguard Jorah (Iain Glen), and several others. Her goal is to reclaim Westeros, which we’re told once belonged to her ancestors.
Is it a spoiler to mention that at one point she adopts three dragon eggs that eventually hatch into three genuinely impressive visual effects?
Throughout the course of the series we’re introduced to several more factions, families and “houses”, each of which gets their own storyline, central character and side-characters. Jon Snow joins the Night’s Watch, men who work at a great wall that keeps humanity safe from what supernatural horrors lurk in the far north, where he befriends the loveable wimp Sam (John Bradley) and even another Targaryen, played by Peter Vaughan. There’s also Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) who thinks that the Iron Throne rightfully belongs to him, being as he’s Robert’s brother; several groups of forest-lurking savages known as Wildlings, one of which is led by Cirian Hinds no less; House Arryn, which is ruled by a woman who still breastfeeds her 8-year-old child; House Tyrell, which blessed us with Natalie Dormer, and don’t get me started on all the exotic places and characters Daenerys visits during her trek.
While perhaps feeling like an overwhelmingly huge cast at first, all characters are memorable and unique enough to leave a lasting impression. We all remember Hodor (Kristian Nairn), the friendly giant who can say nothing but his own name, and recognize Joffrey as a despicable brat whenever we so much as see a still frame of him. Anyone can name a moment of badass displayed by Jaqen the “faceless” assassin (Tom Wlaschiha), a funny line from the devilishly sneaky Lord Petyr Baelish (Aidan Gillen), or a golden moment for whomever their own personal favorite might be. I found it hard to pick a favorite myself, but I’m gonna have to go with Arya Stark. She’s currently the one I care and root for the hardest, along with poor Tyrion. I also very much love Daenerys, the often unpredictable Jaqen, a perplexing red priestess named Melisandre (Carice Van Houten), “The Hound” (Rory McCann), the shady Lord Varys (Conleth Hill), and Tywin, who thanks to a towering performance by Charles Dance has now become one of my all-time favorite villains.
With great talents portraying great characters, Game of Thrones rarely features a storyline that isn’t engaging or interesting. The only one I’ve never been greatly interested in is the one where Jaime Lannister is being escorted from his prison in the Stark camp and back home by an unusually large lady named Brienne (Gwendoline Christie); not sure why. The storyline did however introduce Brienne herself, another of my favorite characters, so there’s that.
Where Game of Thrones truly mops the floor with other modern TV shows is in terms of its production value and effects. From the intricately detailed costumes, to the great sets and the beautiful CGI imagery, there’s plenty of eye candy to go around and back again. The make-up and prosthetics are also a wonder to behold. It is true that certain effects will fall flat every now and then, but really, given the budget, I’d concur it’s quite unfair to complain too much. Also, don’t get me started on Ramin Djawadi‘s score, because I’d write paragraphs worth of praise for one track alone. Let’s just say it’s remarkably brilliant stuff and leave it at that. For now.
Game of Thrones is, simply put, great television. Well-made, well-acted, well-written, effective in its comedic moments, and perhaps even more effective in its sad and dramatic ones. Hardcore Game of Thrones fans, of which we today have plenty, will spend hours on end discussing which death was the most tragic and what the saddest episode is, whenever they’re not busy learning how to speak Dothraki fluently of course.
If not for the maddeningly gorgeous look of the entire series as a whole, then surely you will appreciate it for its grim and intricate story, which expands and evolves in a way that will utterly immerse you in its uniquely fantastical world. It does exactly what good Fantasy is supposed to do and gives us a much welcome bonus in the form of scuick-y graphic violence and some boobs. Much obliged.