I'm a part time actor and part time writer living in Perth. I love being on stage. I love going out with friends, doesn't matter what we do
Published March 24th 2014
One of the best new tv shows around
It doesn't happen very often, but once in a while a show comes along that is able to mix intelligence, heart, violence and wit in just the proper proportions. The savage brilliance of HBO's Game of Thrones, based on the first novel in George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series, is a revelation that I think most viewers, including die-hard book fans, can get behind. A daring story, filled to the absolute brim with audience contempt, Game of Thrones made us all feel the miseries, ambitions and loves of its entire ensemble while giving us characters that we actually care enough to root for, which, in this day and age, is exceedingly rare.
While the killing of Ned might have been a bold, epic move within the pages of the novel, it was absolutely huge on TV. Reading and watching are two very different ways to experience a story, and while Ned was a grounding force in the first book, he was but one of several "Point of View" characters and therefore slightly easier to let go. With Sean Bean being the biggest name of the actors on the TV series, there was definitely more of a notion that he was the central character – a la Tony Soprano. Especially considering how most of us have experienced TV shows and movies. There are certain storytelling traditions that appear no matter how unique a story is and the concept of a leading man, or a central character, is one of them.
I think even people who read the book wound up experiencing Ned in a much different way than they did in the book. Either way, many first-time "experiencers" had to pick their jaws up off the floor after the end of "Baelor," not being able to believe two things: One, that Ned was gone, and Two, that the villains could triumph so decisively. Some argued that just because it was in the book didn't mean that they had to do it on the show, as many other book to TV adaptations have changed drastically. The trouble is that everything that happens afterwards happens because of Ned's death. Plus, it really was a terrific and haunting scene.
Truth be told however, not everything from the book made it to the screen. But there was an amazing attempt to flesh out some of the characters who, in the books, felt very peripheral. Entire scenes were written so that we could see what a conversation between two schemers like Littlerfinger and Varys would sound like. We got a closer look inside King Robert and Queen Cersei's marriage that we were never given in the book. Even a character as seemingly irredeemable as Viserys got a few moments to shine a little bit, moments when he wasn't merely tormenting his sister. So you can say that the show had great characters because the book had great characters, but writer/producers Dan Weiss and David Benioff worked very hard to flesh them out even more and the scenes that were written for the show itself blended in perfectly. In fact, they even stood out as being even better sometimes, which is a huge compliment since Martin's dialogue is so good in the book that it barely needs altering.
Struggle and agony are the main themes of this show. We root for our valiant heroes because it is so very unlikely that they'll win. Not with the realm being so foul and corrupt. And in that respect, Game of Thrones, with almost an apropos misery of the era it's trying to depict, is filled with bitter realism. even though it's considered to be "fantasy." Who triumphed here? Who won? The closest thing to actual achievement and success would be probably Daenerys' storyline What a harrowing road she had to travel just to wind up probably worse than when she started – as far as safety and prosperity are concerned. Her success was her discovery of inner strength, something that's hard to measure on TV. But she's the character that "arc"'d the most here and because of that she's definitely a fan favourite. Even Tyrion managed to simply break even in his story. People, of course, can argue as to whether being sent off to be Joffrey's "Hand" is a reward or a punishment.
There's so much more to Tyrion though than just being the half-man, comic relief/astute observer. Tyrion has the benefit of great quips and insight, but also of a powerfully scheming heart that, unfortunately, Ned lacked. In my review of "Baelor" I mentioned that it might take a different kind of "honour" to make changes in a land as crooked as Westeros. Ned trusted too much in other's honour. Tyrion is the perfect balance. He's underestimated. He's smart. And he seeks out a larger "social" justice that no one else in the land wishes to address. But, first and foremost, he's a survivor. By the time we actually got to "Baelor," Tyrion had survived an ambush, imprisonment and a bloody battle with a Northern army through a combination of luck and cunning; thus making his story much more of a "ride" than anyone else's. Plus, the friendship he cultivated with Bronn was one of the show's most unexpected joys.
I really could write on and on; touching on the greatness on each character. The indomitable spirit and fire within Arya who knows already, at such a young age, that it's not within her to be a "Lady", Jon Snow's quest for belonging and respect leading to split-loyalties and unnatural terrors, Catelyn's brashness and ferocity when it comes to protecting her family. But I think I'll use the remaining space to touch upon Joffrey. It's a simple role, surely. But it's still no small feat to stand out so drastically on a show filled with child-murderers and traitors. While Cersei and Jaime are reprehensible in their own ways, they're still texturized. We still have a better understanding of them than we do most villains on TV. And Cersei herself does have the wisdom for diplomacy when it's called for. But Joffrey is hollow. We know nothing about him other than the fact that he is cruel. Despite having not even been raised to be cruel. And that is why so many fans call for his head. Or perhaps even a slower death. And to think, he really is just a child. But we're all willing to see him hang above all others.
Also helping set Game of Thrones apart from blending in with other fantasy fare is its restraint when it comes to the supernatural. While it was evident from the very first scene that fierce monsters exist in this world, and from the skulls underneath The Red Keep that dragons also once resided, our main characters don't believe in any of it. And when they come in contact with the hidden horrors, and wonders, of the world, they're in as much shock as we are. And so there's a dramatic irony that runs through the whole series as most of the characters tell us, and each other, that no beasts exist.
If anyone reads the interviews with Dan Weiss and David Benioff at the beginning of the season, you'll undoubtedly have read them talking about how important the casting of the children was for this show. And now, you know why. Now you know it's because they have to carry on the story in Ned's absence. The weight of the series in on these kids now, but fear not, things only get better (or worse, depending on how much you like to suffer) from here on in.
What a great write up of Game of Thrones!!! If you had never heard of it (are you living under a rock?), this explains it so well. I'm a HUGE fan of GOT and hang off every word in the series and in the books. As Molly Meldrum says, "Do yourself a favour" and watch GOT!! Mandy E