Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Game of Thrones: 3 in 1 Review

I hadn’t had much of a chance to watch Game of Thrones, missing the last 3 episodes. Since I’m so invested in the show that I wasn’t going to stop watching – I instead just watched them all together. While it may not have been the best way to view each (some of the episodes bleed together so I’ve had to refresh my memory of each one individually) but it had to be done. I’ll give a brief thought on each: episode 7, 8, and 9. When episode 10 comes out this week I’ll give an overview of the entire season.

Episode 7: You Win or You Die

Seeing Tywin Lannister (who plays a much larger role in the latter books) talking to his son Jaime and demand that he become the man he always wanted him to be was a griping scene. Tywin is known for having words that cut like steel, and a stare as cold as ice. I couldn’t have chosen a better actor…well maybe Bill Nighy, but that’s because he should be in every movie!

Jaime Lannister’s relationship with his father is a contentious one. Jaime never seeks the approval of the people of Westeros, yet inside being called “Kingslayer” eats away at him. Jaime wears armor – not the kind you fight with – he wears armor of arrogance and confidence; which is just a mask to hide doubts he has about himself.

Where the episode really shines is Ned Stark confronting Cersei about her infidelity. Not a single one of Robert’s sons are actually his own blood. Cersei is a manipulative bitch, yet you almost feel for her when she see speaks about how Robert treated her on their wedding night. Arrogance runs through Lannister veins like blood though, and Cersei doesn’t flinch when told by Ned to flee King’s Landing.

It’s around this part in the book (and it carries over into the show as one would expect) seemingly everybody on the King’s council knew about Cersei and Jaime. Everybody except Robert and Ned. Ned seems out of the loop on all things. And doesn’t realize that he’s been playing the so called “Game of Thrones” since he entered King’s Landing, and that he’s already lost.

This is the beginning of a “Clash of Kings” as far as plot set-up for season 2 (or rather book 2) is concerned. As Robert lay dying for a hunting trip gone awry, Joffrey takes the crown. Renly, Robert’s brother declares he should be King; the Dothraki prepare to cross the sea to Westeros, and Jon Snow becomes squire to Lord Commander Mormont of the Wall.

Betrayal, and bending the knee to a false King are the themes of the next few episodes – Ned Stark will have none of it though. His pride is admirable. Yet it’s his undoing ultimately. It’s really these last 3 episodes that separate A Song of Ice and Fire from the rest of Fantasy stories out there; it’s not a story of happy endings and righteousness. It’s a sad, sometimes depressing story, where anyone and everyone can be killed.

Episode 8: The Pointy End

Why trust anybody in George R.R. Martin’s Fantasy series? They just betray you in the end. Still there is a sense of satisfaction when a little good happens. Namely Arya Stark’s dancing/ sword fighting/ really hammy actor Syrio Forel defends her so she can escape capture. Or the Northern Bannermen responding to the call of war to free Ned Star and his daughters. Still there are some frustrating parts…

Sansa, oh Sansa so gullible Cersei plays her like a frickin fiddle it’s really sad. What is Ned to do really? He’s no superhero; nobody is going to rescue him. It’s a sad state of affairs. And Robb Stark, Ned’s son, marches to help his family. There’s always that feeling of, “What good is that going to do” in George R.R. Martins world, nothing ever seems to go the way one would initially think. That’s what makes it fun, no? A writer keeping you on your toes is certainly better them an entire chapter dedicated to talking about how awesome Hobbits are.

The three stories: the events in King’s Landing, Daenerys life across the sea, and Jon Snow on the Wall are really no closer to converging. Sad to say that to someone expecting that all stories would lead to a culmination. That’s just not the case.

War is starting. It’s easy to feel for Lady Catelyn as she witnesses her eldest son take command and ride to war. It has to be hard for a mother to see such a thing. Catelyn isn’t helpless though as she represents the audience in some ways; a person just caught in the moment, but a person that still has some influence and power. People are still very human in George R. R Martin’s books, and they do make mistakes, be it Robb, Sansa, Arya, or Jon Snow it’s easy to attach yourself to characters when you see how flawed they can be. That’s really what Game of Thrones is about, humanity in it’s many flawed states.

Episode 9: Baelor

It’s hard not to cry at the end of this one – wait since I’m a man lets say, “I got a little emotional” yeah, that sounds better! Oh who am I kidding? Me eyes were really watering up near the end. My glasses were foggier than the windows in a fat man’s car.

I can’t not talk about SPOILERS so…that’s what I’m going to do. Talk about them; or write about them to be more precise.

Surprise is the general reaction at the end -- aside from utter sadness – following Ned Stark for so long only to have him getting the Thanksgiving turkey treatment is more than most stories are willing to do. Really I was told before I read A Song of Ice and Fire to not get too attached to anybody. What? Then why read it?

You see, despite Martin’s penchant for killing prominent people in his novels you can’t help but get emotionally invested in their lives. That makes it all the more impactful when you see that person’s head roll down a staircase.

A Game of Thrones is like the anti-Star Wars prequels; they are both centered around politics, but we are supposed to care about the lives of the people involved. The Star Wars prequels failed because we never got to see relationships build, or the progression of a character – we were just told that Obi-Wan and Anakin were friends and you just have to take their word for it. It’s bad writing, and bad character development that led to people not giving a rat’s ass about Star Wars by the end of the prequels.

Game of Thrones avoids this. George R.R. Martin doesn’t gloss over an arc in someone’s story or even mundane things that may seem trivial to other writers that know they’re going to kill that character in the end. Martin is an architect that is going to build the most fantastical skyscraper you’ve ever seen, only to have it blown up before completion. As an observer you say, why? But building something only to have it destroyed is the easiest way to tell a story that sticks in a person’s mind.

Episode 9, “Baelor”, is the best in the season for the aforementioned reasons. It takes your heart and twists it. From life to death, the land of Westeros is harsher than anything you’d find in most Fantasy books. I literally got chills when watching Daenerys being carried into the tent were Khal Drogo was dying and a blood mage was supposedly curing him. I know the outcome. That doesn’t make it any easier to watch.

You really can’t pick sides in A Game of Thrones. As Tyrion Lannister (who is considered an attempted murderer by the Starks) is just as easy to take pity upon as those who are considered so called “good-guys”. Ah, but that’s it, there are no “good-guys” really, just people. Varys is a good example of a person who falls into the moral grey area. He’s neither good nor bad, he just is.

The tone is dark already. Anybody who has read the novels knows that it becomes far darker, and I wonder how that is going to be handled in the next season. 

I thought some of Robb’s battles were going to be shown, as there’s been a surprising lack of action. Not surprising because that’s not what A Song of Ice and Fire is about. I’m surprised that obligatory action scenes weren’t just thrown in to spice things up to bring in the casual audience. Kudos to HBO for not turning Game of Thrones into a linier action show, which they easily could have done.

While it’s not over – there’s one more episode to go – I have to say this is one of the best adaptations of anything I’ve ever seen. It’s an incredibly faithful recreation. It didn’t start out as such. I thought it seemed very renaissance fair in the first few episodes, and Westeros seemed so small and claustrophobic. Now the little grievances don’t matter, since the acting is so phenomenal. A truly great show, even if the novels didn’t exist as reference, it would still be amazing – such a win.

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