Game of Thrones Achieves the Unachievable


I'm a horrible reader. Simply awful. In the Reading Olympics I would get the old-gum-wrapper medal. My lack of attention forces me to reread passages, I can't keep track of characters, and staring at letters that form words that form sentences that form too much reading puts me to sleep in an instant.

That all changed when I plowed through George R.R. Martin's A Game of Thrones, the first book in his fantasy novel series, A Song of Ice and Fire. I began reading the tome upon hearing that HBO was adapting it for television, and one thought stuck in my mind as I navigated the complex tale of royalty and power struggles: There's no way they can put this awesomeness on-screen. No way.

Snap! I owe producers David Benioff and Dan Weiss a sincere apology. What they have done with Game of Thrones is more than just respect the source material and Martin's vision; they've brought the impossible to life and changed the fantasy genre—in both television and film—forever. A new bar has been set. Good luck to the next guy who tries to make a swords-and-sorcery show for people who aren't fans of swords-and-sorcery shows.

I'm assuming that most of you haven't read the books and are just breaching the world of Game of Thrones for the first time, so I'll approach these recap-analysis articles with that in mind. Okay, let's do this.

Game of Thrones does a fantastic job of not insulting our intelligence, a rare feat in television these days. There's no heavy-handed exposition. The characters' traits (i.e. Arya being a tomboy) are delivered in quick, easy-to-swallow doses—yet the the characters are developed appropriately with each carefully chosen line of dialogue (much of it lifted or at least paraphrased directly from the book). The first main question, "Who killed Jon Arryn?" isn't presented along with a pre-established lineup of suspects who are then shot down like targets at a carnival shooting range. This is rich, intelligent fantasy that your children definitely should not be watching.

Casting has long been one of the faithful fan's biggest questions, and there isn't a weak link in the bunch. If there's a character in the show you don't like (*cough* Sansa *cough*) it's probably because you aren't supposed to like said character. In fact, some members of this immense cast are meant to be downright despised—does anyone out there NOT want to put a dagger through Viserys' eye? Likewise, our feelings of love for mischievous Arya (Maisie Williams), of respect for honorable Eddard (Sean Bean), and of loathing for bitchy Cersei (Lena Headey) are products of fine acting all around. Special recognition goes to the children, many of whom are performing in something other than a community theater production for the first time. Bravo to Williams and Isaac Hempstead-Wright (Arya and Bran, respectively) especially.

The show is not without its cheesy factor, but all fantasy stories have a stench of Limburger to them. It's inherent to the genre. Did Jon, Robb, and Theon have to stand around shirtless while being primped for King Robert's arrival? Probably not. But in this world, that's how it happens, and there's a certain sense that all of the show's sexuality is necessary. Some viewers may consider the sex gratuitous, but it's really not; sex is important to the series because it's used as a weapon by the female characters and it's a weakness of the horny male characters.

In Sunday's premiere, Daenerys' scenes were probably the most shocking. It was uncomfortable to watch her horrible brother Viserys undress her and run his greedy finger across her nipple—and that's exactly how the producers wanted us to feel. it was cringe-inducing to see Khal Drogo undressing her near the sea (a very romantic move, in Dothraki terms), and that uncomfortable feeling is what's consuming Dany. She was walking around Pentos in a sheer dress to emphasize the fact that that she is merely an object of Viserys' disgusting plan. This is not gratuitous. This is effective.

The same should be said for the show's violence. It's not thrown out there like a music video (as it is in Starz's Spartacus: Blood and Sand), and it's not hidden as it is in family-friendly fantasy. People are getting their heads cut off by the White Walkers or whatever those things are are because that's what the White Walkers do. This show isn't joking around; if it wants us to be scared, it's going to scare us. Violence is a part of that, and Game of Thrones has found a perfect balance between giving us what we need to see and what we want to see.

HBO has thankfully taken the time to get the details correct. The story's four major locations are done splendidly: The snow-blanketed North, the bleak grounds of Winterfell, the lavish interiors of King's Landing, and the barren and beautiful landscapes of the continent across the Narrow Sea really transport us from our humdrum surroundings. It's not quite as good as a tropical vacation, but as an escape, Game of Thrones offers a close second. The costumes are appropriately simple except where armor and weapons are concerned. Did you see Eddard's gorgeous sword? Or Jaime's platemail and scabbard? Details, details, details. Beautiful details.

As for the end-of-episode revelation and cliffhanger, your eyes did not deceive you: That was Jaime Lannister (a deliciously arrogant Nicolaj Coster-Waldau) banging his twin sister Cersei, Queen of Westeros and wife to King Robert. Disgusting! And scintillating! And poor Bran! Mom told you not to go climbing, but you did—and now you're falling several stories and about to hit the ground.


How badly do you want the next episode to start? Did this year's most-anticipated new series meet your expectations?


Also: Those of you who've read the books, please do not post spoilers in the comments section!!!

Comments (113)
Submit
Sort: Latest | Popular
Hi.
I would like to make a proper comment, but my grammer isn't that good :) (i'm from Israel)
In a few words, the show has captivated me.
One of the best Book to TV remakes i've ever seen.
2
Reply
Flag
My first impression that its like Lords of the rings, since I have not read the books, but there is a more realistic thing to the plot and film was very well made for a TV series. The sex was needed in the story but it did not overshadow the main plot. Indeed I was hooked and I can't wait for the next episode.
1
Reply
Flag
I haven't read these books, but have read MANY fantasy, sci-fi and cyberpunk novels in my time. I must say . . . I'm sold! This is really great TV and an unexpected and welcome surprise when fantasy is usually given a too family-friendly treatment. Bravo and I for one can't wait 'til tonight. Bring it on!
Reply
Flag
It was ok but there was to much sex !! not as good as lord of the rings and that was the first show
1
Reply
Flag
tim, nice well written article but please , storeys not stories
Reply
Flag
Waaaay better than Audiobooks.
Reply
Flag
Wow, for once in a long while I am on the same page as the editorial writer here, in regards to how I feel about reading anyway.

This article actually makes me want to watch the show in the end (as even though I had a feeling it would be good, I had so much on my plate recently that I had opted not to). This has kind of changed my mind now.
Reply
Flag
I didn't liked it has much as I was expecting, considering all the buzz here on TV.com, but it was a good first episode.
And yes, I can't wait for the next episode, as I am at least curious about what happens next!
Reply
Flag
HBO strikes again!

Whoever read the books will probably agree with me that this first episode was wicked awesome and knowing what is yet to come - in this way more than average fantasy book series - I can't hardly wait!

For people who haven't read the book, the first episode was maybe not as amazing, but i'd suggest to keep on watching.
Reply
Flag
Now I get many of your articles and why it always has to be kicking and shooting. Reading makes u go beyond and think and want more.
Reply
Flag
I'm really angry with author George R.R. Martin. It has been 4 years since the last book in the series was released. Yet, I'm excited about this HBO production. So much so, that I'm considering subscribing to HBO. They seem to have done a good job in casting, so I hope they will do as good a job in scripting and direction.
Reply
Flag
Come back Legend Of The Seeker - a far better show.
Reply
Flag
Have you read the Seeker books? I have and I was disappointed by the characters, except maybe Zeddicus and Cara, and also found it very different from the books, most things I do not remember at all.
Reply
Flag
Well I love the books (read them like 6 times now and have to say that I actually kind of like Sansa! She's a rather sweet girl whose a dreamer. :)
Reply
Flag
Besides confusing selling sex with cheesiness, it was a nice article. Glad you enjoyed the first book.
Reply
Flag
Now I really must go out and buy the books! Wonderfully presented opening and I can hardly wait for the next episode. The characters are already seared onto my consciousness!
Reply
Flag
Im, very much looking forward to this weeks episoode and all the resat. Were there some scenes and certain plots within that I would have done differantly, ya! Overall though I give this a very solid B+. It was really good that could have easily and still might be great
Reply
Flag
Haven't read the books so didn't really know what to expect. Actually tuned in just to look at Jason Momoa and I admit that without remorse or embarrassment. Discovered him on Stargate and saw him/met him at Dragon*Con-yum. Anyway, the show itself underwhelmed me. I am an adult and prefer to be intellectually challenged by characters and plots and can fill in the blanks about sex, implication is enough for me, I can draw my own conclusions without it being shoved in my face. Granted the creep factor of that brother groping his sister had an ick ick iky ewwww factor that exceeded most things I have seen, made me really want to shove a dagger in to his eye. Oh and the brother/sister thing at the end.....ye gads another major ick factor there. I did hate to see the little boy go after just one episode, I wondered who will take care of his wolf now? I will continue to watch either on demand or when it comes on depending on my mood at the time and will reserve total judgment until the very end. I may have to put the books on my "to read" list and get to them when I have the time.
More+
Reply
Flag
The 1st episode was great. I look forward to the rest of the season. HBO's downfall is that it's going to be too short of a season (10 epis.). Same thing with True Blood, too short :-(
Reply
Flag
i LIKE .I DO NOT HAVE HBO.
Reply
Flag
The show looks good so far...has made me want to read the books now. :)
Reply
Flag
@ susanbanitt and ekim726. Ok, so there's going to be a lot of bickering between the people who adores the book/s and the ones who "just" watches the show. A lot of things will be edited out. Or just shown in passing as in the first episode. I. e Daenerys stepping down into the scalding hot water without Martin's passages about the Taergyns' dragon blood and soforth. And the sex between her and Kahl Drogo. Explained in the book with Kahl Drogo being of a horsenomad and therefore ritually mounting Daenerys like a Stallion mounts a mare. In the book this actually ends with Daenerys taking control and mounting Kahl Drogo as a rider a horse. (yeah, yeah you all get the picture). THAT would have been an overlong sexscene. It will keep on like this throughout and you just have to go with it. (Apologies about the excessive use of the verb mount)
Reply
Flag
Great !!! cant wait til next Ep.
Reply
Flag
Omg it was an amazeing series so far the first episode i can not wait for the next one and i never read the booksbut so far its really good
Reply
Flag
LOVED GOTs so much so that I bought the first three books of the series. Cannot wait for part two.
Reply
Flag
Awesome Sauce, I didn't know the books, though I might give the first one a read once this season is over to avoid spoilers for the show. Ditto for the second season. Though I didn't like the dig aimed at Spartacus Blood & Sand/Gods of The Arena in this article, there's a really great show hidden behind all the OTT violence, swearing & naked lady action.
Reply
Flag
I loved the first episode!!!!!! I hate having to wait for the second episode!!!
Reply
Flag
Absolutely brilliant! When I heard that there will be such a show, I started reading the books. However, I could not find them as a paperback copy in my country. Therefore, I had to please myself with the PDF copy of these brilliant books.
Reply
Flag
@SusanBanitt Everything you described was done because the show can not be done any other way. This is not a family show, This is not 2011, it is a Fantasy world and if they lost you because of these scenes then you shouldn't have been watching HBO in the first place. This is not Fox Prime-time, this is the Big Leagues HBO, ShowTime and now even Starz. Drop you cable package to basic and enjoy your afternoon Soaps but I doubt your husband will allow HBO to be removed that easily because I'll bet he really enjoyed the show but went along with your take on it to stay away from a minor tiff. Also if your an avid fan of Fantasy then what in Gods name were you expecting? Did you read the books? If you didn't know what was going to be shown then you could not have been too "Avid" of a fan because it was talked about how they were going to not only cross the line with this show but they were going to March over it like it wasn't even there. Frankly there is always a few people that use the word offended like it is your God given right to dictate what people view and read about. The whole point of most of the first show was to show that Degrading Women is "Alright" in these lands and I don't think The Missionary position would have gone over well in the sex scenes since most people of power in Fantasy don't want to see the face of who they are "Bending Over", everything in the first show was perfect in my eyes and also when I spoke to many of my friends of my parish they agreed that there was no other way to bring these wonderful books to life. Tell your Husband he is welcome to come watch the show on my television if you won't allow it in your house, but I am sure he will be watching it on DVR at one of his buddies houses when you think he is out shopping every Monday evening.
Just my honest opinion!
More+
Reply
Flag
Let\'s get this straight first. I am an avid fan of the fantasy genre. I am no prude. But I was really disappointed and turned off by HBO\'s rendering of Game of Thrones. Do we really need so much breast and bend over sex? I found the way the program was portrayed degrading to women in the extreme. You don\'t need graphic sex scenes to get your point across. We all knew what was going to happen to Daenery. I felt like you violated the actress as well as the character. When you need to go beyond suggestion to soft porn, then you have created another animal all together. You just lost my husband and I as viewers.
Yuck.
Reply
Flag
Never read the books so was a bit lost, but basically I was intrigued enough so to go online and learn more about the story. Love the dire wolves. I even looked them up on Wikipedia.
Reply
Flag
I was supposed to love "The Borgias" and "The Kennedy's". Unfortunately, I did not. However, I do

love "Game of Thrones". I have not read the series even though I am an avid reader. I find it compelling television. Bravo.
Reply
Flag
Excellent start. Best fantasy show for adults ever. Thanks HBO. And it already has a second season so please keep up the great work and show them all how it's done.
Reply
Flag
I was really looking forward to the show ,I was afraid i would be disappointed like i was with Spartacus(zzz), But it was great, i loved all the different and Taboo storylines . It reminds me of the first Episodes of Sex and the City .I was like OMG!! Great start!!
Reply
Flag
I read all the books so far , the next one coming in July and I absolutely love the book series. When I found out that it was coming to HBO I was excited but also worried because the books are so expansive and TV and Movie versions always chop books to pieces. But from what I saw in the first episode the cuts are small and I enjoyed every second of it . For those of you who haven't read the books, this show will make you run to the book store or library and start consuming every page of every book of the series.......... so enjoy.
Reply
Flag
Started off slow I almost turned it off but by the end left me wanting more
Reply
Flag
It certainly helps to have read the books, or even just the first, the series namesake. So if you have the time and want to be more informed about a certain aspect of the series I would definitely recommend it. As for the so called gratutitous sex and or incest, well, like I say read the book(s) It does make sense and have relevance to the story and the world we are being introduced to and does not come as a 'shock' or surprise to those who do. As far as the first episode goes, I am in two minds, I loved what we were given (opening scene with the Rangers and the Others was perfect, Winterfell and the Starks, the wolves etc), and I actually love the cast! .....on the other hand there was so much we werent given. I think the books have spoilt me, and yes, I know you cant possibly get that much detail into the first episode of a series, but a more gradual introduction to the characters and their reasons, (and histories) for doing certain things would have helped the 'unread' to understand what was going on. A double first epsiode, ending with Brans fall, would have been wonderful and given the writers time to fill us in more effectively. Unfortunately with only 10 episodes planned for the first series this would have been pretty much impossible. Still, it is heartening to hear that the episodes only get better, (with, I'm sure, much more character development to look forward to), and very exciting to hear that a second series has already been given the go ahead!

I AM really looking forward to next weeks episode, I'm just glad that I've read the books so I know that little bit more about the characters.....although it may have been fun NOT to know where different storylines are heading...... in other words if you havent read the books, dont give up on the series, you are in for a wild ride! :-)
More+
Reply
Flag
Oh yes i realy enjoyed the first episode.Ive already set the box to record the future instalments .i can see even at this early stage that people will be on a roller coaster feelings from love and hate .not since jr has there been a character that one would love to land an uppercut on and ye all know which character i have in mind ha ha .i havent heard of the book the series is based on .Hell ive never read Fantacy before .So ring out the bells and blow those trumpets .for iam converted
Reply
Flag
Very good adaption. For those of you who have not read the books I advise you to stick around and you will definately be rewarded. At times you will feel your mind clapping and your jaw hitting the floor...It is that good. I have read hundreds of books in my life and amongst them a few fantasy and I have to say G.R.R.M's writing is not only not south of average but right up at the very top. When I read the books I caught myself laughing outloud, swearing outloud, crying and at one point (those who have read book 3 know which part that is) I threw the book on the wall. The only word I have for the books is AWE.I am confident that HBO will make a worthy adaption and blow our minds away (again). Excelent job!!!!! This show will write history...

headclub : oh God I am laughing for 10 minutes... :-)
Reply
Flag
I haven't read the books. (My best friend has.) I've read fantasy...it's not a favorite genre but it's one I'm familiar with and I love my daytime soaps. Overall, I'll tune in for episode two but, while people who read the books have been praising the writers for their faithfulness to the books I think the writers could have done a little bit better job of grounding viewers who haven't read the books.

The biggest problem I had is...I came away from the first episode knowing only three names. A couple of characters made an impression (Lord Stark, his 10 year old son, Snow, and of course the twins for that last scene) but overall it was a mass of people. I'd watched one of the podcasts of a crew member discussing the idea of making the different places distinct from each other. For me, they didn't succeed. Everyone, basically looked the same with the exception of hair color. I was beginning to loose track of who was who...and then the Dothraki road in. Suddenly, there was a unique element that immediately piqued my interest. I woke up and was intensely watching what as going on.

While the soapy elements were working for me...the fact that I walked away from this episode not being able to name most of the characters is a ding against.
More+
Reply
Flag
it met my exoectations!especially the ending.I am thinking of reading the book
Reply
Flag
I'm gonna have to say I really enjoyed this episode as it stands alone. I'm not entirely hooked so I will give it another week or two to see how the plot thickens and how the characters progress. It wasn't too shabby for an opening episode to a new series to say the least.
Reply
Flag
It was "entertaining", but to short +- 38mins - probably butchered by my TV provider (Sky U.K) for advertising space also the ages of the children seemed slightly out of whack I thought. All in all will keep watching it just to see how it goes but not overly excited as yet. Cant wait for July for A Dance with Dragons to be released in the U.K even if its hardcover hehe
Reply
Flag
Best show on tv right now, and it's only starting :)
Reply
Flag
it was Perfections!. this year best new series along side The Walking Dead.
Reply
Flag
Staff
errr, recognize YOU without... i mean
Reply
Flag
Staff
Headclub, you just won "Comment of the Week." I almost didn't recognize without Butters there.
Reply
Flag
Too badly indeed, I'm absolutely hooked from minute 1! :D Nice review, by the way.
Reply
Flag
@immergavia> Come on Lindelof man, we all know it's you!
Reply
Flag
Just saw on Facebook that it's been renewed already for season 2! Yay!
Reply
Flag
I've read Book 1 to 3 and I absolutely loved the 1st episode! I was only surprised they were able to include everything up to Bran's fall in just one episode. The book does give you much more details that are not mentioned in the tv series. But I cannot see a better way to film this. Very, very promising. I will be eagerly awaiting every following episode and hope that we can see a 2nd, 3rd and why not even 4th season.
Reply
Flag
Load More Comments

Like TV.com on Facebook