**Note: I wrote my review of Game of Thrones yesterday from the viewpoint of someone who has read the books. Now today, guest writer Blake Dilliner – who is new to the series – shares his opinion on the premiere**
Winter is coming… So, what does that mean? I had never heard of A Song of Ice and Fire, not until I started to see articles pop up online previewing the upcoming HBO series. As a big fan of HBO period pieces – mainly Rome and Deadwood – I was intrigued.
And yeah, I realize this is a fantasy story and not a period piece, but that just opens up the story and intrigues me more. Usually when I know a television series is based on a book or series of books, like Dexter, I will go to Wikipedia and read about the plot and characters.
I made a conscious effort to go into this new series cold, hoping to like it for exactly what it is and to be able to judge it on its own merits. I have been waiting for a new, high-quality epic series to come to TV. The Tudors is over, Camelot on Starz has been a bust so far, and Spartacus is on an extended hiatus.
My expectations are obviously going to be a lot lower than those of fans of the books, but they are still high. I know when the Dark Tower movies and TV series comes out, I will be hyper critical and disappointed at anything less than greatness, so I hope Game of Thrones lives up to the hopes of its fans. So far, I have been pretty impressed.
When I watched the Lord of the Rings movies, I had also never read the books. And while they were great movies, I felt like I didn’t quite know what was going on most of the time. Within about three minutes of this episode I began to feel the same way. After the initial scene, my fears started to abate.
The intro and opening credits incorporate a map of the world that is Game of Thrones. I paid close attention. I thought this was a clever way to give the viewer some knowledge of the world without lengthy dialogue or prior knowledge of the story.
While I am bad with names, and without going to IMDB I can only remember a few, I felt almost every character introduced was fleshed out very well for a pilot episode. While most series rarely hold true to their initial characterizations, Game of Thrones has the advantage of being a developed story, so I expect most the characters are already rather robust.
It seemed like the writers, with this existing wealth of information, have already begun to write some complex characters. For example, the king is a whoring glutton, but we find out the woman to whom he was originally betrothed – the sister of Lord Stark (Sean Bean) – is dead. This little bit of information makes him a three-dimensional character and someone I can both pity and root for. This also explains Stark’s loyalty to him.
While meeting a large number of characters, we are also introduced to several distinct settings and, kingdoms? I bet they are called kingdoms (see I don’t know yet). Each kingdom has its own distinct environment and landscape. The set and costume designs are immaculate. Thank God this show has access to an HBO-size budget (I imagine the cost of all the hair bleaching is staggering).
From what I can tell, most scenes are shot on location, and I for one am happy for a lack of CGI. The different settings of the kingdoms make the story more manageable and easier for the viewer to follow the shifting subplots.
I have to applaud the pilot episode for introducing a clear picture of the show’s premise despite such coarse subject matter. There are the obvious heroes (the Starks) and two groups of villains (The Lannisters and the Targaryens); both are families looking to claim the king’s crown as their own.
There was only one scene I had trouble following: The first scene at the capital city overlooking a funeral and consisting of a conversation between the Lannister siblings, but by the end of the episode I got the point.
All of the roles seemed to be cast well (unlike King Arthur on Camelot). I’ve been a fan of Sean Bean since he played 006 in Goldeneye and have often wondered why he doesn’t get more leading roles. Lena Headey has been on my crush list since 300 and The Sarah Connor Chronicles (it’s on Netflix, go watch it) and I think she will make an excellent villainess.
The actress who plays Princess Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) is beautiful and a great little actress. These three are the standout characters in my mind. Also, the Stark children are especially likeable and I want to play with their puppies.
I’m already getting attached to some of these people…which makes the end of the episode even more sad (but I won’t spoil it for you). I do have one complaint, though. The Imp is played by what I can assume is the only dwarf actor in Hollywood. This guy is in everything! His name is Peter Dinklage (there’s a “dinky” joke in there somewhere). However, I guess I will reserve judgment until he has a bit more screen time.
Overall, I thought this was a strong pilot episode. There were no throw-away scenes or missed steps. It fits a good amount of exposition into a single episode while setting up a season, or series worth of plotlines. Two or three in particular look to be addressed immediately, while others seem to be left for the future. Most of all, it did what any pilot should do. It made me want to watch next week.
So, now I have been introduced into the world of A Song of Ice and Fire, and while I’m sure I don’t really know what’s going on, I feel like I have an idea. It appears to be a story of medieval politics and intrigue, but I’m guessing it is much more.
I can only assume the wolves end up fighting some dragons, and Stark’s bastard son ends up being an important soldier or future leader, and the youngest Stark girl becomes a warrior, and the hot blond betrays the bad guys because they mistreat her… I’m right aren’t I? Wait, don’t tell me!
But anyway, George R.R. Martin fans, don’t pity me, because I have something you don’t: No idea what happens next.