Game of Thrones

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.

HBO Promo Poster

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.

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9 Responses to Game of Thrones

  1. Chris UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux Terminalist says:

    I was wondering when you were going to make a post on GoT. It was inevitable.

    The only bad part about watching it is having to wait a whole year, or more, for the next season to premiere.

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  2. Gothmog UNITED STATES Google Chrome Windows Terminalist says:

    I’ve been a Song of Ice and Fire fan from WAY back. Love GRRMs work. I’m very enthused about the next coming out (July 15th!).

    I’m happy to hear you’ve enjoyed the show, Luke. I’m quite happy with how HBO pulled it off, with only minor quibbles. I heartily recommend the books. They are more of the same awesome.

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  3. Victoria Netscape Navigator Mac OS says:

    Song is my favorite book. I’m really happy with the way the show turned out – I followed it from the very first announcement and casting. The book is still more interesting for me (thankfully, I started reading it kinda late – with 3 books out and only one year to fourth, but I did have to wait 5 years for the 5th one :) ), more complex and subtle and full, but the show is really awesome – the casting is splendid. Tyrion is 100% book, and Arja, and Jaime with his smirk. I loved how the Wall looked too.

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  4. Adrian BELGIUM Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    I loved the series enormously. They’re just so great in depicting real situations in a “fake” world.

    But I’m pondering whether I should read the books.
    Should I read them all and know what the show’s going to be about, or should I watch the show and know what the books are about?

    Anyone an idea?

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  5. xWittaker UNITED STATES Google Chrome Windows says:

    I actually haven’t watched the show yet but have read all the books. Now my family members keep asking me questions about what’s going on and I have to bite my tongue to keep from spouting spoilers. If you want to avoid using the term “fantasy” to describe Game of Thrones, I’ve found that the term “War of the Roses with a supernatural element” piques people’s interest.

    Also, if you haven’t read the books, but are a bit confused about locations when watching the show, print out the map of westeros located here.

    From the brief snippets of what I’ve seen of the show, it looks like they did a very good book to tv adaptation, though not quiet as good as something like Fight Club (where the movie was better than the book). I’ll have to go through an archive binge now that the first season is finished.

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  6. I see the draw of the series. However, I have been trying to get into it (first three episodes)… The only thing I am really getting into is their choice of women who take their cloths off… and thats not enough to get me into a series.

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  7. Sameer NETHERLANDS Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Game of Thrones had me hooked this past tv-season. Very well written, great characters, excellent pacing. I think they did a great job. Especially the later episodes really hit home. It’s going to be a very, very long wait for season 2!

    @ Adrian: I haven’t read the books either and I live in constant fear that I’ll stumble on spoilers. I heard season 1 more or less comprises the first book so now that it’s finished I’ll read the first book.

    Careful to those who have yet to see season 1, but there are some laughs to be had here.

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  8. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    @ Chris:

    I know. It’s too long!

    @ Gothmog:

    Yeah, I have been hearing that the show follows to books fairly close. I might pick up the first one at some point before Season 2, though I’m not sure if I’ll continue beyond that. It is fun to watch the show going in cold without knowing what will happen. :)

    @ Victoria:

    Yeah, the wall is cool. I really like their set design in general – how Winterfel is very spartan and Viking like, King’s Landing being all mediterranean, etc… Set and costume design ate great.

    @ Adrian:

    Heh, I’m in the same boat. I sort of don’t want to know what will happen because so far I have been loving the show, and being thoroughly spoiled by the books will probably diminish the enjoyment.

    Plus, if I do read them I will get annoyed when they miss an important detail, or diverge from the source for some reason. :P

    @ xWittaker:

    Oooh, thanks for the map. I was never confused though, because the opening credits feature a flyover above a map just like this (more stylized though) and zooming in on all the important places, as they lift themselves up into 3d using some funky clockwork mechanisms. It’s very nicely done, and it does give you a good idea of where say Winterfel is with regards to King’s Landing or the Wall. Whenever the series visits a new castle or location it usually gets added to the opening credits, which is a really nice touch.

    @ Travis McCrea:

    Well, it’s an HBO show – it is sort of a given that there will be tits involved. But I got hooked because of the characters and the story. I guess it’s not for everyone.

    @ Sameer:

    Heh! Thanks for that link. I lol’d a few times. :)

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  9. Ron NEW ZEALAND Mozilla Firefox Linux says:

    Quite emjoyed it to, Ned was brilliant and had me almost litterally fearing for his character at various points (havnt read the books). Lenas character keeps me guessing to her next move, her motive is clear but murky at the same time.

    I wanna read the books just to see more of Dayneres intergrating with Dothraki culture.

    Out or curiosity have you tried Camelot (this years tv seires), its got similar elements but based on funny enough Arthurian legend (with as far as I know, quite intersting subtle differences).

    When I think fantasy the few keywords that come to mind are Tolkein, King Arthur/Camelot/Knigths of the round table, Epic, and swords and sourcery

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