Monday, January 30, 2012

Game of Thrones: Season 1

If I hadn't already read (and reread) the original series of novels by George R. R. Martin on which this series was based, may have just gone ahead and called this the best TV show of all time. However, I have read -- and loved -- those novels, so I've already experienced this story, remembered most of the dialogue, and knew where the plots were going and the eventual fates of main characters. I also knew that as brilliant as this first season was, the novels are even better and have a depth and richness to them that even the most wonderful adaptation could never match.

However, if you've never read the books -- and maybe even if you have -- you've never seen anything like this before on television. While I may not be calling it the best TV series of all time, it's pretty damn close.

The series is called Game of Thrones, even though that's just the title of the first novel in an overall series known as "A Song of Ice and Fire." All things considered, Game of Thrones probably works better as the title of a TV series. The series is an epic fantasy that is very loosely based on the real life War of the Roses, with various houses and families all vying for control of the kingdom. What makes the series so great, however, isn't just the overall plot, but all of the characters as well. There are no real heroes or villains in these novels, just authentic characters who could be labeled either way depending on every other character's point of view. There's no Gandalf the Grey here, striding around on a pure white horse as he battles against angry orcs. Some of the people in these stories border on the supernatural, sure, but even then they are still layered in shades of grey that keep them grounded and feeling real. And don't get too attached to anybody, since as the series goes on nobody is safe, but then again once somebody is dead there's no guarantee they'll stay that way either.

Basically what I'm saying is that you've never experience fantasy that feels as real as this series, either in novel or television form. This is high fantasy on a grand scale that will please fans of the genre, but so original and gritty that even people who don't like fantasy will also be won over by the characters and epic plots.

As adaptations go, I've maybe never seen one as faithful to the original source material as this was. Some things were changed, of course, and other stuff deleted, but nothing felt wrong and the heart and soul of the story stayed pure. I'm the kind of guy who gets annoyed at things that are changed either for no reason, or seemingly because the original work was misunderstood by the people making the adaptation. (Peter Jackson, I'm looking at you.) But this was wonderful, and perfectly matched the scenes and locations envisioned in my imagination. This was clearly made as a labor of love by people who respected the novels and wanted to bring them to the screen, not by people who either wanted to fix things that weren't broken or place their own stamp on the work of another writer. This was Game of Thrones, albeit in a slightly truncated, slimmed down form.

Live action adaptations are able to shine brighter than novels in one main area, however: Casting. My mind can conjure up special effects better than a million ILM artists and envision locations better than even the most detailed matte painting, but watching a cast of truly great actors reciting dialogue is something a novel can't always match, and the cast in this series is pretty damn good. Sean Bean is probably the most well known of the lot, cast in what I guess is the closest thing to the starring role the series has, the well intentioned but misguided hero Eddard Stark. Other notable and well known actors also appear, like Mark Addy as the king, Lena Heady as his queen, Julian Glover, Charles Dance, Iain Glen, and Peter Dinklage, who won an Emmy for best supporting actor on this series.

Just as good are the newcomers, whose names I don't know now, but at least of few of whom are sure to become stars after this series wraps. It's just a great cast doing great work as some great characters.

Anyway, that's Game of Thrones. Watch the series, or just read the books, since it's one of the best stories you'll ever experience. It's epic fantasy that is grounded in a history that feels real with characters that are rich and authentic, but be warned: This is a very violent show full of graphic imagery and lots of nudity and sex. But the action is great and everybody is really good looking so I'm not complaining, I just letting you know. Oh, and if you do watch the show and marvel at the sets and branching plot lines and epic cast of characters, just make sure you remember that everything you're seeing was dreamt up by one man, George R. R. Martin, and it took a team of actors and writers and directors and crew members to bring to life what he already wrote. And maybe someday he'll actually finish his frickin' series.

Check it out.


Justin Garrett Blum said...

I watched the first episode. Or at least, I tried to. I fell asleep. Found it to be really, really boring.

Donald said...

Fair enough, I'll say, even though I don't understand. I thought it was awesome.

Justin Garrett Blum said...

I dunno...maybe I was just tired. But it didn't do a lot for me. I did read the first book in this series, and I liked it okay. I actually remembered some of the stuff from the book.

Oh, and I liked the midget guy from The Station Agent. That dude is a really good actor.

Anna Adams said...

I just finished it last night. And damn.