For the last eight months or so I have been suffering from a terrible cold as it’s been a really long winter. I’m not entirely sure how long it has lasted but I know I’m still in the middle of winter. Because of this I have barricaded myself in my home away from outside sources and influences. I made sure my house is super cold, like icy cold, I put on my Night’s Watch uniform and I watched the hit HBO TV series Sex in the City, then The Sopranos, then The Wire, then True Blood, then Rome (do any of you remember that show, it only lasted two seasons) and finally Game of Thrones. Then after that I ordered The Song of Ice and Fire books and read them all in one sitting then re-watched the show after reading the books. I repeated this process waiting for the inevitable eighth season to be released. It’s currently the 21st of January 2019, no sign of Game of Thrones Season 8. This has been a really really long winter! When will summer come?
A Passage by The Anti Blog Complainer
The world of A Song of Ice and Fire has been on my mind for the majority of last year as I first watched the TV show and more recently started reading the books. (Breaking News: The Blog Complainer picked up a book!) I’ve fallen in love with this franchise so in honour of Season 8 coming out in a couple of months I thought it would be a great idea to take a look at each season of the show as it would be impossible to review it all in one post. Also there will be spoilers in this review but only up to the end of the first season.
How Did We Get Here: If any of you have read the book A Game of Thrones then you know what a difficult task it is to perfectly adapt a book so massive with multiple locations, tons of characters, each with their own storyline that could take up a whole movie by itself. When the show runners D.B. Weiss and David Benioff met up with author George R.R. Martin they knew that the books could only be properly adapted into a TV show and they knew they had to go to HBO because of the heavy use of sex and violence. (Apparently Martin only agreed to do this if they could answer who Jon Snow’s mother was!!)
Jump forward about five years and they begin to work on the first episode of the show titled Winter is Coming. There is some interesting history here as apparently the original pilot was so awful that they had to re-shoot the whole episode, completely blowing over the original budget. Long story short, the first season was released in April of 2011 and it became a big hit. So in the end the impossible to adapt book series has now proven to have been possible. (That’s my history lesson for today and yes, this will be on the test!)
The Birth of Memes: Let’s talk about the first episode and why it’s so good. This episode pretty much sets up all the big storylines of the show. It starts with three guys going out into the woods and coming across a scary monster. When one of the guys escapes to Winterfell, he is executed by the main character, Ned Stark, and his ramblings of a dangerous monster don’t really concern our heroes.
Here is where we meet the Stark family. All the main traits of these characters are setup in these early scenes before King Robert Baratheon decides to visit his old pal Ned. Ned’s wife Catelyn learns that the old hand of the king, Jon Arryn, was murdered by Robert’s wife’s family, the Lannisters, and Robert wants Ned to be his new hand.
On the other side of the world we’re introduced to brother and sister Viserys and Daenerys Targaryen. They were part of the old dynasty that was wiped out about seventeen years before the show began. Viserys wants to rule Westeros so he sells his sister off to warlord Khal Drogo in exchange for a Dothraki army. On their wedding night Dany is forced to have sex with Drogo and this is probably the point where alot of the female audience turned off this show.
Back at Winterfell this episode also sets up Jon Snow as an outcast within his family because he is a bastard child. When he meets up with his Uncle Benjen he agrees to go back with him to the wall. Jon meets Tyrion Lannister who is also an outcast in his family, simply because he’s a dwarf. That’s pretty much all of the main plot points for this episode. I skipped over the direwolves because they’re not important in the show which is really a shame. So the episode ends with little boy Stark climbing a tower and observing a man and woman passionately wrestling with each other. The shock comes when you remember that they’re brother and sister! Scared that they have been caught, the brother pushes the boy off the tower and, cut to black. There you go, a gripping first episode.
The Many Story Lines and Characters: There is alot to go through so I think I’ll just discuss the standouts of each of the following categories because categories are so much fun.
Let’s start off with the best character on the show – It shouldn’t come as a surprise that it’s Tyrion, it was even Tyrion when I first watched the show. Peter Dinklage as Tyrion is extremely entertaining to watch. He’s smart, witty, charismatic and very likable. Tyrion is my favourite, simply because he gets all of the best lines. (They’re just so quotable.) But he doesn’t really change in this season so that award goes to Daenerys. Daenerys had the best storyline of the season as she starts out as a very meek shy girl and as the season progresses she becomes a strong independent leader which is really satisfying to see play out. I’m a little iffy on how they conclude Drogo’s part in the story as he has this epic speech of conquering Westeros in episode 7. Cut to 2 episodes later his death is caused by a minor flesh wound!!
What can we talk about next? I know, let’s talk about children because I really love kids. The children on this show are a mixed bag but I think Jack Gleeson as fan favourite Joffrey is the best child actor on this show. (Or teen, same thing.) I picked him over any of the Stark kids because honestly they kind of annoyed me most of the time. (I’m looking at you Sansa!) But Joffrey is different as I absolutely despised his character and the actor is so good that it helps me hate his character even more. (Also, I personally think children are naturally better at playing annoying little shits than compelling likable characters.)
Another character I hated was Viserys but the actor Harry Lloyd is so great and charming that I actually forgot that I hated him. Though it was very satisfying to see him get that golden crown he so yearned for. Another character I grew to really like was Robert. Robert is a man who longs for the olden days but all he can do is drink himself to death, which is what he literally does in the end.
Alright let’s move onto the more sucky parts of the show because it’s nowhere near perfect. Let’s start off with my least favourite character – Jaime simply because he won’t go away. There are alot of really despicable characters on the show but Jaime is here because he appears the most out of all them. Unfortunately he appears way more than he does in the book. They do try to make him a more rounded character than his book counterpart but all that does is make it worse because I have to put up with more of his smartass comments. You know in the very last episode when Catelyn was considering smashing his brains in, well hand it here Cat, I’ll finish the job!
Character number 2 is Jon Snow as the show really messed up his character. This is pretty much because of his age as in the books he’s about 14 years old, whereas in the TV show he’s 17 but he looks more like a 23 year old. This is a massive issue as his whiney impatient attitude works perfectly for the teenager in the books. But in the TV show it makes him look like a bit of an ass and some of his actions make him look like a stupid idiot. Before I watched the show I heard people raving about this character and after watching the first season I just don’t understand why. It is such a shame as he was my favourite character in the book!
As for bad storylines, everything at Winterfell was kind of meh and Catelyn’s stubbornness towards the Lannisters was also kind of annoying. That’s about it, Next!
The Episodes: There are 10 episodes in the season and I think it’s the best length they could have gone for. The episodes are about fifty minutes long, excluding ads and I guess the opening credits too but why would you want to skip that? The first three episodes are all pretty much setup for the major plot points of the season including the setup for the Stark and Lannister feud, the world of King’s Landing and Littlefinger’s relationship with Catelyn. Episodes 4 to 6 kind of slow down a bit as they heavily lean on the intrigue of Ned Stark’s detective work and Tyrion’s witty humour at the Eyrie and the introduction of Tyrion’s partner in crime Bronn.
It’s episode 7, You Win or You Die, where things start to really ramp up. Robert dies from a hunting accident. Ned has a chance to arrest Cersei and claim the throne for himself but he doesn’t and that leads to his inevitable downfall, simply because he’s too much of a good guy. Varys visits Ned in jail to tell him to stop being so honorable for the sake of his daughters but it’s ultimately too late. Ned Stark’s death is probably one of the big highlights of the season as it’s very shocking and raised the stakes for the other characters.
The last three episodes really got me interested as Robb Stark raised his banners to head south against the Lannisters. Tyrion getting involved in a major battle sounded awesome. Unfortunately the show robbed us of the chance to watch that, and then again with Robb capturing Jaime. The last big moment that I’ll mention is Drogo’s cremation and the birth of the dragons which is such an unexpected twist. The whole season they told us these creatures are all dead and it’s a complete surprise when Dany comes out of the ashes, naked with three baby dragons clinging to her.
Adaptation Choices: So for a TV show adaptation this is pretty faithful with the only big changes being the character’s ages. The expansion of characters that were not prominent in the book leads to seemingly never ending talky scenes. Some good ones include Cersei and Robert reminiscing on the past, Littlefinger and Varys’s standoffs, Jaime having a nice chat with Ned’s guy which is the episode before he stabs him in the eye (thanks Jaime, still hate you!), Loras convincing Renly to become a king and maybe even Renly on the hunt with his big brother. A bad one would be Littlefinger explaining his backstory while two prostitutes moan really loudly in the background. (It’s a bit distracting.)
To appearances, I’m not a fan of how the Iron Throne looks as in the book it was bloody huge and it looked more of a beast than an actual throne. I’ve already mentioned the direwolves, haven’t I? Last point goes to The Mountain as he’s got the face but not the body. I’ll end this section off with how the show tries to explain it’s backstory as I know trying to wrap your head around it can be frustrating. Things are introduced as if they were already explained three seasons earlier. Once I read the first book I completely understood the backstory which kind of sucks if you haven’t read the book. How they did it is fine but for new people it may be a confusing.
Overall Thoughts: Season one of Game of Thrones is a very solid season of television as it’s got a great story, great acting, great characters, it’s very good at world building (for the most part) and it’s has a really great score. The usage of violence does a good job at enhancing the story – if this was on a normal TV network I would feel cheated. How you feel on the sex and nudity is entirely up to you but I think the show does a good job of using it to add to the grimness of this very rich world. As far as cinematography goes most of this season looked like a cheap TV show with a big budget and it’s more apparent when they tease big battles but can’t show it because they can’t afford it. But the sets look fine, costume design looks okay, a great use of real locations and there is some CG but it’s only used when it has to be which is great because the special effects look kind of bad.
Great first season, a solid 8/10, highly recommend it if you’re reading this. Expect the reviews for the other six seasons to be released fortnightly. Until then I have been the Blog Complainer. Signing Out.