In 2010 it was The Walking Dead. In 2011 there shouldn’t be a single doubt as to what’s been the most anticipated new show to hit our TV’s. HBO’s adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s beloved fantasy book series Game of Thrones premiered the first episode of its first season this past Sunday night. I have to say, I’m hooked, so hooked in fact that I’ve decided to devote this week’s TVEye to the premiere and nothing more.
In full disclosure, I have not read a single page of any one of Martin’s books, and will be reviewing the series simply from the standpoint of a fan of television and fantasy with no basis for comparison. My lovely (nerdy) wife on the other hand is an AVID fan of the books, and I’ll use her judgment to make mention each week to whether or not, as a fan, she’s impressed or disappointed with the course of the series.
HBO does it time and time again. Last years Boardwalk Empire premiere was epic in scale, and blew my mind with its sheer strength of production value, ensemble, and scope. When it comes to scope and production value thou, I’m not too sure anything has accomplished what Game of Thrones has in TV history. People refer to TV as the lesser little brother to film, but you know, networks like HBO and AMC seem to be outshining the film industry at this moment in time. Game of Thrones might just be the new high watermark for the medium. Medieval Fantasy at its core is a genre of rich detail, massive scale, awe inspired effects and complex story. Peter Jackson delivered it with the Lord of the Rings films, but film is a horse of an entirely different color, with bigger budgets and shorter total run-times. This raised a question with me weeks before seeing the pilot; could Game of Thrones live up to the demands of its genre?
The first scene sets the tone. A slow opening gate allows three men on horseback to pass through a long passage carved within a mountainous wall. The dark and narrow passage leads to the unseen doom of bloodied rituals, snow covered forests, and porcelain looking child zombies. The title of the pilot, Winter is Coming, makes it apparent that this snow covered land of dark and fantastic creatures will soon move beyond that mountainous pass and into the lands of Westeros where men reign. The various houses of men reigning over the lands of Westeros are where the drama and story of Thrones exists. Just south of the wall is Winterfell, the land where the Stark family lord over the North. Eddard Stark, played by the wonderfully somber Sean Bean is the patriarch of the Stark family, one of three families that I foresee playing a pivotal role in the series. The Stark’s are a humble and honest group, both traits I fear will turn them into the pawns of the more ruthless and Machiavellian families of the region.
I’ll avoid going into great detail about the huge cast of characters and the interplay between them, and let those who haven’t check out the show for themselves. I will highlight one other character however, and that’s the Queen’s brother Tyrion played to the most debauched and inspired levels by Peter Dinklage. Tyrion is my wife’s favorite character from the books, and she assures me that he’ll play a pivotal role throughout. On that note, she was very happy with the course of the first episode, which she felt followed nicely along with the first book A Song of Fire and Ice, with only a few minor changes.
The first season of Game of Thrones is set to tell the story of the first book in Martin’s series. It was just announced, less than a week after its premiere that Thrones was picked up for a second season that will follow the second book of the series. So far there are five books written of what is supposed to be a seven book series. Book five, A Dance With Dragons will be released this July. If the television series keeps up the way the pilot has, I don’t doubt that we’ll see most, if not all of these books come to life. Directed by HBO favorite Tim Van Patten, who has directed numerous episodes of The Sopranos, Boardwalk Empire, The Wire, Rome, Deadwood, and The Pacific for the network, did an amazing job with the Thrones pilot. Genre fans were treated to beheadings, hints of werewolf’s and dragons, swordplay, and medieval drama that any fan of good storytelling would enjoy. I like my fantasy stories to come with a map. Westeros is a rich and tangled land, and the opening credits lay out a map of a world (much like Tolkien’s Middle Earth) that is fully created by Martin, and will be fully realized by this great new series.
Stay tuned next week for TVEye’s recap/reviews of the second episode of Game of Thrones, Fringe, AMC’s The Killing and more.