As a long-time fan of George R.R. Martin’s work, I have been impatiently waiting for the Game of Thrones television premiere. All of the effusive praise the show received raised my expectations even higher, and the premiere did not disappoint.
The world of Game of Thrones is a complicated place, full of lots of important characters with their own unique voices. I was worried it would be difficult for viewers new to the work to keep up with everyone, but I think the writers have made the wise decision of introducing people in bunches.
In the premiere they made sure to spotlight the Stark, Lannister and Targaryen families and detail how the three are intertwined. Every character in those families got their own brief time in the spotlight (except Robb Stark, who mostly was left with nothing to do).
There are plenty of other characters who were featured early in the books, but did not get the same treatment in the series. Primary among them is Theon Greyjoy, who had one of the best tone-defining moments in the first pages of the book (he kicked the head of the executed Night’s Watch deserter). It was a perfect microcosm of his personality.
In the premiere, I don’t believe he was ever even mentioned by name. He was shown several times and got a few lines, but that was it. And I think that was the right move. He doesn’t become important until later, so it is wise for the TV writers to let their audience get to know the core group of characters first.
I’m sure there are several fans of the books who did not like the changes simply because they were changes, but I do not fall in that category. I understand that when adapting such massive books as Martin’s, it is necessary that some elements be reduced or altered. I think it is best to view the show as its own entity, or else I would go crazy noting all the tiny changes the show made.
Besides, some of the changes were for the better. We got a much better understanding of the Lannisters early in the series than we did in the books. Added scenes provided strong character moments for Cersei, Jaime and Tyrion each.
Speaking of Tyrion, it’s already obvious he will remain the most interesting character. Peter Dinklage looked like he was having a blast playing the part, which could be because it was the biggest no-brainer casting decision of all time.
While Dinklage, Sean Bean (Eddard Stark) and Mark Addy (King Robert Baratheon) all gave solid performances, the ones requiring special commendation were the young and new actors who kept up with the veterans.
Of the actors playing the Stark children, only Richard Madden (Robb) has any previous screen acting experience. And yet they all performed their parts well and encapsulated their characters’ personalities in very few scenes.
But the jewel of the group seems to be Emilia Clarke (Daenerys Targaryen), who had to do a lot of acting with facial expression and body language. She had to sell her fear of both her brother and her new husband without saying much, and she managed to pull it off. Daenerys is among the most interesting characters of the series, so it will be interesting to see how Clarke plays her from this point forward.
It is impressive for so many young actors all to have such a vivid understanding of the parts they’re playing, and credit goes to the Game of Thrones’ casting director for finding all of these skilled neophytes.
The only real weakness I could find in the premiere was one I was expecting. Because of how complicated all of the relationships are between the characters, a lot of exposition was necessary. That is often the case in premiere episodes of large-scale series like this one, but Game of Thrones required even more than usual.
There was very little action to be had in this episode, which undoubtedly turned some people off. But the writers made a very smart decision to end the episode where they did. Bran’s fall happens significantly later in the books, but is the first of many “Holy ****!” moments they deliver.
It was the right note on which to end the episode, because it showed the kind of thing the audience can expect from here on. Not every episode will feature so much talking and background information, so it was the right hook to keep people interested in the series.
Overall, the first episode was exactly what I hoped it would be. It was very well-acted, well-directed, and featured exquisite CGI renderings of the major cities and huge set pieces that established the grand scale of the series. The dark lighting and somber mood also helped establish the proper tone.
This is not your typical fantasy story with frolicking nymphs and happy-go-lucky hobbits. It is a dark story of betrayal and the thirst for power, and this is only the beginning. I only regret I have to wait another week to see it continued.