My Summer in TV Part 2: Game of Thrones

The summer is nearly over and the last couple of big name movies are rolling out. Over this summer I actually spent quite a bit of my free time watching various TV shows. In this little mini-series of posts I will be talking about the shows I spent the most time watching this summer. This will be 4-5 posts long and each post will cover a specific TV show.

Warning: There will be mild spoilers involved in each post. If you wish to remain clueless as to what the show is about then do not read.

“When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground”

-Cersei Lannister

A Game of Thrones has quickly become HBO’s shining gem in terms of critical reception, Emmy nominations, and viewer popularity. The show is based on the critically acclaimed fantasy book series ” A Song of Ice and Fire” by author George R. R. Martin. Game of Thrones has been praised for its writing, acting, and high production value which demands an incredibly steep budget for each of the two seasons that have aired. Luckily HBO has managed to capture lightning in bottle with this fantasy that is quickly growing in popularity. The show is set in the world of Westeros where there is one king who rules of 7 other kingdoms and magic has fallen into myth(much like the real world). The show centers on the character Ned Stark who is asked by the King Robert Baratheon to move away from his home in Winterfell to the capitol of Westeros, King’s Landing. Ned is asked because the former hand of the king died mysteriously and King Robert wants to have a friend who he can count on. The first season centers on Ned’s story in King’s Landing as he tries to maintain the kingdom and discover the truth about the death of the former Hand Jon Arryn.

I actually had heard about Game of Thrones when it first aired in spring 2011 and gave it a shot the following summer. At the time I had a hard time getting into it as the show does start off a bit slow, but what I discovered when I began watching it this past summer is that the slow pacing is incredibly important as it is actually setting up all the dominoes that will eventually begin falling somewhere in the middle of season 1. I wasn’t completely sucked in until episode 5, but from that point forward the show had me completely sold. I watched the first 2 seasons which are ten full hour episodes  a piece in less than a week. I was hooked. After finishing the show I found myself still wanting more which lead me to buying the first season on blu-ray right before I began reading the first book in the series. The show is fantastic.

The writing is brilliant with subplots that are incredibly rich and filled with characters that are all equally interesting in their own way. Game of Thrones is a show filled with characters who all have their own story and their own motivations which means none of these characters are portrayed as “good” or “evil”, but they all have shades of grey(other than Joffrey; that kid is pure evil). The characters are the heart of the show with the writing being the soul. These subplots are all very fleshed out and intertwined with the various other subplots that are going on which does the world that this story is taking place in that much more deep. While much of the history is left out; the show does explore multiple of the characters’ backstories which leads to learning some of the bloody events that set up the events that are transpiring. The center of this story is the Iron Throne that rules over the seven kingdoms. Each character has a role in taking the iron throne that they are playing whether they want the throne or not and this story of lies, backstabbing, and conspiracy is incredibly deep complex, and flat out entertaining.

The scope of  Game of Thrones dwarfs anything else on television with no other show feeling half as big or cinematic. The plot may center on the throne, but the song of ice and fire that the series it titled after is much bigger than the iron throne with external forces  such as white walkers and dragons constantly looming over everything that any king accomplishes. The story is huge, but the show also thrives in the little things like costume and set design, CGI effects, and some excellent cinematography; all of which add the to the incredibly real and immersive feel of the show.

There is an endless amount to talk about in terms of depth of story telling, but I want to hit on what really makes this show work which is the characters. The cast of this show is absolutely massive with the first season billing at least 19 actors as main cast members with season 2 only adding to those numbers. Aside from these main characters there is also a very sizable number of supporting characters that are just as important as the main. The show somehow manages to balance this excellent cast so that every character feels well rounded even those who who have minimum screen time. The acting is terriffic with (Emmy winning) Peter Dinklage stealing the show as the dwarf Tyrion Lannister who eats up every scene he is in even ones with excellent actors like Sean Bean. Other standouts include Lena Headey,Kit HaringtonAidan GillenNikolaj Coster-Waldau, and Jack Gleeson. Each of the characters tells their own story and it is very interesting to see the dynamics between each one of the different characters as they “play the game”.

While I do find the show absolutely fantastic I do have to note one notable flaw which does in fact fall to HBO and not the great creative headed by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss. The show has lots of sexually graphic material for no reason other than shock value, and sometimes it doesn’t even have that excuse to hide behind. I have a pretty strong tolerance for graphic material in TV and movies, but this show goes out of its way(particularly in the first season when HBO was unsure of the popularity) to have sex in it. While the source material does contain some graphic content, it is nowhere in the same ballpark of what this show is portraying. Luckily a lot of this is cut back in the second season after the show earned enough respect to have more creative credibility, but that that does not help those who want to watch the show without the content. Game of Thrones is very clever in tying many of the sex scenes into integral conversations which makes most of the sexual exploitation almost unskippable due to the valuable information in the scenes. This show is fantastic, but you’ll need a high tolerance for such material to be able to make it through.

There are so many great things I could continue to say about the show, but I probably wouldn’t be doing it justice which is why I recommend that people who think this sounds interesting just watch it. The show plays like one giant movie as the productions values are pretty much the best you’ll see on TV and the story the show is telling is as big as any epic movie. This is one show that genre fans should try not to miss.

Game of Thrones is a show I would definitely recommend to people who like serialized cable TV because of its deep and complex storytelling. I would also recommend this to anyone who is a fan of fantasy as the show certainly creates a very deep and layered universe that fans of the genre have come to expect. This is not a show I would recommend to anyone who is just getting into edgier TV because of its graphic content, but for people who are acquainted with a more sophisticated and adult form of entertainment I would say this is a must watch if for nothing but the great writing/acting. I would also suggest watching at least 4 or 5 episodes before passing judgement on the show because as I mentioned the first batch of episodes seems slow, but it is only setting up fr the chaos that will ensue.  A Game of Thrones can be found on blu-ray/DVD and will begin airing its third season on HBO on March 31, 2013.

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