If you are not watching Game of Thrones right now, you are missing out!
I know what you think: it’s a fantasy series, and you know how I feel about fantasy. But you know what? This is a good one!
The series is based on “A Song of Ice and Fire” – a critically acclaimed book series by George R. R. Martin. Like many fantasy series, this one is quite long, counting five voluminous tomes with a few more in the pipeline. As you may imagine, I’m not very familiar with these books, but if they are as good as the series (and books in general tend to be better than their adaptations), I may actually be tempted to read them.
Game of thrones is set in a fictional, fantasy universe – but it is a subtle one. What do you usually think when someone mentions fantasy? Me? I usually imagine a Tolkienesqe setting with magic, fictional races (elves and dwarfs at the very least) and mythical creatures such as dragons. Game of Thrones has none of that. While dragons are rumored to have existed in the past, they have been long extinct by the time the story takes place. The character pay them no more heed than we do to dinosaurs. They are just background and folklore. I’m by no means an expert on Fantasy, but this struck me as fairly unique approach to the subject. At least as far as the books are concerned. It does make a perfect sense for a TV series though, because it makes it much, much easier to sell to mainstream viewers.
When I try to convince non-geeks to give it a try, I don’t tell them that it’s Fantasy. That makes them instantly lose interest. I just tell them that it is set in a fictional setting, but without any magic, elves or dragons, and that it is realistic, gritty and awesome. That is usually enough to get even the least imaginative, and anti-fun people to give it a glance.
What makes the series exceptional however is not the setting but it’s characters. They are interesting, dynamic and memorable. It’s an ensemble show without a clear protagonist but you quickly get attached to number of interesting characters, both good and bad. You can’t help but sympathize with Ned Stark (Sean Bean) – a brave, honorable, upstanding Lord of Winterfel who gets implicated into insidious court intrigue against his will. He only tries to serve his king, and save him from the secret plots of his close ones and attendants. You can’t help but hate the Joffrey Baratheon (Jack Gleeson) – a young prince and a heir to the throne, and genuine asshole and conniving vengeful, spiteful snake or his mother the Queen (played by Lena Headey) who is just as bad, but more refined and more cunning. You can’t help but fall in love and root for Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) – a young princes and one of the last members of a deposed dynasty, as she tries to find her way in exile among savage hose tribes. You watch her grow from quiet, passive girl almost completely controlled by her older brother into a fierce queen, both loved and admired by the local tribes.
And you can’t help to sympathize with Tyrion Lanister, whose magnetic, jovial personality and wit more than makes up diminutive size. In fact, I will say that Peter Dinklage pretty much steals the show every time he shows up on the screen. Most people I have talked to agree that Tyrion is one of the best characters on the series (if not one of the best characters on TV right now).
I guess the part of the charm of this series is that there are no bland characters. You always feel something for them – you hate them, you love them, you respect them. But none of them leaves you indifferent or bored. That says something about the writing, don’t you think? It is excellent character design.
Every one of them has his own plans hopes and dream and own agenda. These agendas do not always align with each other. In fact, many of them are posed on collision courses, and bound to butt heads or cross swords at one time or another. The story is entirely character driven – nothing happens by authors fiat. Every plot twist or upheaval can be traced back to individual character’s ambitions and agenda. This doesn’t make them predictable, but no one really does anything out of character just to move the plot along.
Game of Thrones has everything you would want in a good TV show: great writing, great characters, great acting and interesting settings. It’s the best thing on TV right now, and if you are not watching it, you are missing out. Actually, by the time this post goes live, the first season is probably going to be over. But you should still be able to catch up. If you subscribe to HBO, you should be able to watch all the episodes online after authenticating via your cable provider. If not… Well, then there are torrents I guess.