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GAME OF THRONES: A Robwrite TV review
The House of Stark
Sean Bean as Eddard Stark
Tyrian Lannister (Peter Dinklage)
What creatures lurk beyond the "Wall"?
"When you play the Game of Thrones, you win or you die!"
Based on the series of popular novels by George R. R. Martin (who is also a writer for the TV series) Game of Thrones is a rare excursion into medieval drama/fantasy on television. The show works on a surprisingly epic scale and the budget must be costing HBO an arm and a leg (perhaps one of the arms or legs that get hacked off during the series) but it seems to be paying off because the show-runners promise an even more grandiose sophomore season. The ratings are good and Game of Thrones has made a successful transition from the page to the small screen, no doubt with help from Martin who is adapting the series himself.
Game of Thrones is a cross between King Arthur and the Lord of the Rings. It's a character-oriented period drama but with elements of fantasy, such as dragons. The fantasy elements are kept to a minimum, in favor of plot and characterization. The action was sporadic at first but the pace has picked up as the war storyline comes to the forefront. Every season of Game of Thrones is based on a a different book in Martin's literary series.
The plot: Several powerful clans vie for the "Iron Throne" of the mythical Kingdom of Westeros. (I'm not sure exactly where Westeros is supposed to be, except that it's in the northern hemisphere and prone to devastating winters.) Their political machinations and physical battles are referred to as 'the Game of Thrones'. The players in the game of thrones is as follows...
The Starks: A noble family, known for their honor and loyalty. They are good warriors who have always guarded the northern borders of Westeros. Eddard "Ned" Stark is the Patriarch of the clan when the series begins.
The Baratheons: A formidable warrior clan, known for strength over smarts. Lord Robert is the Patriarch when the series begins.
The Targaryens: The former rulers of Westeros; there was a long line of Targaryen kings, going back centuries until the coup that deposed them. Insanity also seems to run in the family. Viserys Targaryen is the eldest surviving member as the series starts.
The Lannisters: The oldest, richest and most influential family in Westeros. They control the kingdom behind the scenes by controlling the purse-strings. Tywin Lannister is the patriarch as the series starts.
The Dothraki: A fierce barbarian tribe, similar to the Hun. They are led by the never-defeated warrior Drago, known as "the Khal".
The Night Watch of The Wall: A collossal wall has been built to the north of Westeros to cut it off from the ancient forests where the bestial "Wildings" and "White Walkers" stalk menacingly, waiting to strike. (Sort of the way the natives in King Kong built the wall to cut themselves off from Kong's side of the Island.) The Wall is guarded by the Night Watch.
The back-story: The Targaryens conquered Westeros centuries ago because they controlled the Dragons. They ruled with an iron fist for generations but then the Dragons went almost completely extinct, and the Targayens became vulnerable for the first time. 17 years before the series begins, the last of theTargaryen kings, AKA "the Mad King", kills a woman who is the fiancee to Baratheon patriarch Lord Robert (Mark Addy) and sister to Stark patriarch Eddard (Sean Bean). The two men join forces and overthrow the Targaryens. The whole Targaryen family is killed except the children Viserys and his sister Daenerys, who escape to exile across the Narrow Sea. Lord Robert assumes the 'Iron Throne' as king, backed by the loyalty of the Starks.
The first season of Game of Thrones begins 17 years after the coup. A marriage of convenience has joined the Baratheons and the Lannisters, making Tywin Lannister's (Charles Dance) daughter Cersi (Lena Headley) the Queen. They have an arrogannt teenage son named Joeffery (Jack Gleeson) who is Robert's heir. Cersi is having an incestuous affair with her brother Jamie (Nikolai Coster Waldau). To cover this up, they kill the king's last advisor--known as 'the Hand of the King'--who discovered their secret. King Robert needs a new 'hand' and recruits his old friend Eddard Stark to be his new 'Hand'. Eddard starts to realize that the Lannister's have many dirty little secrets, which causes sneaky Cersi to start plotting against Eddard. Also, Eddard's daughter Sansa (Sophie Turner) is supposed to marry Prince Joeffery, which will make her princess and eventually Queen, thus her loyalties are torn between the two houses.
Meanwhile, Viserys (Harry Lloyd) and Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) have grown up in exile, and Viseryes has formed a deal with savage Dothraki warrior Drago (Jason Momoa) to get Drago's help in reconquering Westeros, in exchange for Viseryes' sister, who he gives to Drago as his bride. Daenerys initially fears the brutal Drago but she soon comes to respect his prowess as warriors and his lack of pretense. She starts to enjoy being the 'Khalessi' of the Dothraki, much to the chagrin of her older brother who realizes he is losing control of his once-subservient sister.
The series has a large cast and there are many subplots splintering off from the main story, such as Stark's illegitimate son Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) joining the Night Watch, or the travels of the diminutive youngest Lannister brother Tyrian (Peter Dinklage) known as "the Imp". Dinklage is a scene-stealer here and Tyrian is one of the most interesting and entertaining characters. As a dwarf amid big, brawny knights, he has to use his wits to get by. Tyrian is the cleverest of the characters, although he is a total hedonist. He loves prostitutes and getting drunk. However,despite his lack of tact, he is bluntly honest. Dinklage won an Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Drama for his wonderful performance as Tyrian.
The second season premier aired on April 1st. Much has changed since the series started.
Many major characters have been killed off, including Eddard, Viserys, King Robert and Khal Drago. Daenrys is ruling the remains of the Dothraki, and has found some Dragon Cubs who will grow to help her retake Westeros one day. Stark's eldest son Rob (Richard Madden) is leading the Stark clan now and has declared war on the Lannister's after new King Joeffery had Eddard beheaded, and Jamie Lannister tossed Rob's little brother Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright) out a window, crippling him. The Stark/Lannister war is the main plot of year two.
The series made a daring move by killing off the main character Eddard Stark, played by Sean Bean (Boromir from Lord of the Rings) in the first year, but writer Martin wanted to stick to the books continuity and the show-runners agreed. New characters are being introduced in the sophomore season to fill the void. It's yet to be seen whether they will be worthy replacements for Stark, King Robert, Drago and the rest of the deceased characters.
Game of Thrones is a good HBO series, although often rather violent. There is a question about whether the frequent nudity and sex scenes are necessary or simply gratuitous. I personally think there are too many of them but it's a small complaint in an otherwise well-written and well-acted show.
Recommended for mature viewers. (Be warned of frequent violence, nudity and sex.)