My thoughts on GAME OF THRONES

Ahoy, spoilers ahead! If you haven’t watched the show yet, go do so. Otherwise, there are no spoilers for the series outside of those covered in the first two episodes.

So, so, it’s finally here. I’ve been a fan of A Song of Ice and Fire for nearly ten years. I’ve been waiting for the show with bated breath for three or four. And now that it’s aired, I thought I’d gather some rambling thoughts about the show, its characters and why it’s both stronger and weaker than I’d expected and hoped.

I won’t say much about the prologue. I’ve always thought it was a little out of place in the novels and feels even more out of place here. I understand that both Martin and HBO want to establish the Others for, presumably, their invasion in the later volumes of the series, but the prologue always seemed out of place in tone and subject matter compared to the rest of the novel. In any case, it’s creepy, so there’s that.

Winterfell, and all its characters and storylines, is wonderful. Robb is stiff-necked; Jon is brooding; Bran is feisty and Sansa is irritating and awkward. And Arya, oh Arya. Alongside Tyrion Lannister (who we’ll get to shortly) and his brother Jaime, Arya Stark is my favourite character in the series and Maisie Williams captures everything wonderful about the irascible little black sheep. She’s fiery as she shows up Bran with her bow; she’s charming and believable when Jon gifts her Needle; she’s perfectly loyal and determined as she defends Lady, despite Sansa’s betrayal.

I want to punch Joffrey in his stupid face. So, yeah, they nailed him.

Tyrion Lannister with a shield from HBO's GAME OF THRONESAnd Tyrion. Is there a character that puts more pressure on the actor that the diminutive Lannister? I don’t think so. Thankfully, Peter Dinklage is wonderful and buys fully into the character. Given his stature, Tyrion must prove his worth through a combination of his acid wit, keen intelligence and undeniable charisma—Dinklage nails all of these and his interpretation of Tyrion is full of life and steals the scene every time he’s on screen. As much as I love Maisie Williams as Arya, Dinklage is the star of the show here.

The other half of the show, that taking place in the city of Pentos and Vaes Dothrak, is less enchanting. To begin with, the whole production looks a bit like something you’d see on Xena Warriror Princess or Conan… with more tits. There’s a schlock factor to the wedding between Khal Drogo and Dany that I just can’t buy into in the same way as Winterfell. Maybe it’s Drogo’s eye-liner, maybe it’s the bestial dancing and bare-breasted women, I dunno. It just doesn’t resonate with me. Thankfully, this effect is lessened in the second episode, The Kingsroad, which hopefully indicates that the production will become more familiar with how to effectively portray the (very alien) Dothraki people.

So much of the development between Dany and Drogo happens in Dany’s head and I’m afraid that the stilted nature of television may have difficulty portraying these subtleties. Drogo’s inability to speak Dany’s tongue is well handled by Martin and the reader is able to sympathize with Dany as she struggles to communicate with this stranger who is all of a sudden her husband. On the show, Drogo seems to be little more than a brutal, dumb barbarian with no compassion or depth. He rapes Dany by night, looks tough by day. It’s an oversimplification of their relationship and I hope the show can rise above that.

My thoughts on GAME OF THRONES

On the flip-side, however, I’m already impressed by the relationship between Dany and Ser Jorah Mormont (played by Iain Glen). Glen and Clarke share a quiet melancholy that perfectly accentuates the loss the so well defines their characters. In reverse of the novels, I already anticipate this relationship being the deeper and more realistic of the two.

You don’t want to wake the Dragon, do you?

And then there’s Viserys. Woo boy. Harry Lloyd brings a sense of levity and humour to the character that I never envisioned while reading the novels, but fits perfectly. His darker moments, such as the line quote above, don’t hit quite so sinister as I’d’ve liked, but otherwise he’s a very strong character in an already well-defined ensemble. Can’t wait ’til he gets his crown.

In all, I’m impressed. It’s not perfect, and often gets bogged down in too many names, too much heavy-handed world-building, but I’d consider it as good a television adaptation as could be asked for. It adheres faithfully to Martin’s story and seems to already be carving itself a comfortable place alongside the novels. Hell, even my Fantasy-ambivalent fiancé likes the show. How’s that for a testament to its quality, Mrs. Bellafante?

  • D. D. Syrdal April 27, 2011 at 12:04 pm

    Oh it’s just about killing me that I don’t have cable. I was kind of wondering how they were going to handle the Dothraki wedding. I sure hope they convey the growing relationship between Dany and Drogo. And just to see Peter Dinklage delivering some of those lines of Tyrion’s… lol. He’s got some of the best zingers I’ve ever read.

  • Courtney Schafer April 27, 2011 at 3:45 pm

    I’m another poor deprived soul without cable – and arrrgh, HBO usually takes for-freaking-EVER to release shows on DVD! I think I waited a year and a half for Carnivale, back in the day. In the meantime, I shall comfort myself by re-reading the books and poring over posts like yours, so thanks for the rundown! I’m so delighted they got Arya right.

  • Margaret McGriff April 28, 2011 at 7:32 am

    I’m a new fan of this series and I’m actually reading the book as I’m watching the show. I agree that the scenes in Winterfell are awesome and so spot on with the book it’s scary! Tyrion is quickly becoming my favorite as well because Dinklage embodies him sooo well! The scenes with Dany and Drogo I was a tad disappointed with as well. The only character that seems to have the depth I’m looking for is that evil, jerk of a brother. I hope it gets better as the show goes on.

  • Jon Kirsh April 28, 2011 at 11:39 am

    I have to say that I don’t mind the Dothraki scenes as much the rest of the general online community. I think given the restraints inherent in television production they are doing a pretty good job. Dany is only one part of a much larger story after all. It makes sense that less of the budget should go to her story. Jason Mamoa does a decent job of playing the silent brooding barbarian and already by the end of the second episode the Dany story is already becoming more enjoyable.

    And for those of you who don’t have cable. Might I suggest *cough, cough*, learning to download a torrent version of the show?

    Just a suggestion.