Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Game of Thrones: Fire and Blood

Any season should end with a spectacle. Something big that gets watchers talking, and those who aren’t fans interested in the show. If you’re not a fan after this episode, then it’s not going to click with you. Because this was one the best endings to a season –and in many ways series finale – that I’ve seen in a long, long time.

Yes, there were a lot of characters to follow; the episode definitely jumps around, but it needs to be done. Setting up things for the next season – the second book in the series, “A Clash of Kings”– is unavoidable. Still, it was no less entertaining.

From the opening shot where globs of Ned Stark’s blood drip from the sword that just severed his head; to the fantastic end sequence that made my heart race. This episode was the way you set things in motion, without boring people to death.

“Clash of Kings” is about the individual journeys that singular characters embark on. The war for the throne is still a major backdrop, but Daenerys, Arya, and Jon Snow’s individual tales are what set the second book apart from “Game of Thrones.” In a good way, trust me.

I love how there’s this build up for who shall claim the crown as the rightful ruler of Westeros and it’s not even relevant to the rest of the world. What lies beyond the Wall is the true danger, not who should be king. Even so Daenerys is the rightful Queen, and proves that she has claim that goes far deeper than blood.

The inner workings of what led to Ned Stark’s death are fascinating. Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish, Varys “ The Spider”, and even Maester Pycelle seemed to have had a hand in some form or another leading to Ned’s demise. Not necessarily directly, but they’re schemers and I love how even minor players have such big roles. Or how side characters really have to be watched, it’s intricacies, the little things that make A Song of Ice and Fire so compelling. 

I’m still astounded in one aspect of the entire series: the child actors aren’t terrible. They are a huge part of this story and they are able to carry scenes so well. I have to attribute that to directing, they are fine young actors I’m sure. Still it’s difficult to direct kids, it can turn out disastrous. It can be Phantom Menace or it can be E.T. Game of Thrones is the latter for sure; it receives great performances from actors I’ve never seen before, but will see in some capacity for years to come I believe. 

The small troubles I once had with the show are all but gone. The scope doesn’t matter so much. I was so caught up in the jarring transition from the wide establishing shot’s then the quick move to a small room or corridor. It felt so small. You establish these grandiose places yet we’re never outside, and if we are it’s a small courtyard or a barn or something.
Those feelings flew away from me as I was entrenched in each sequence. It’s very political, and the second book is similar, but it’s more then just talking. People are fighting tooth and nail, not with swords, but with words.

Jaime Lannister lost to Robb Stark in the field. But when confronted by Catelyn Stark, completely blooded and bruised he was still fighting back, with his tongue not his hands. Catelyn and he had a verbal sparring match, and Jamie came out the victor. He actually made Catelyn misjudge what she was doing at the moment, thinking what was the point of beating a man that just doesn’t care. Ah, but Jaime does care, he just uses his wit and a tongue sharper then any blade to avoid anymore physical abuse.

There are plenty of action scenes in Game of Thrones, it’s a clash of words though, not steel.

Being drawn to each story that’s being thrown at you – and there are many – is tough, especially when you realize that not all the individual tales may converge together and become one. Arya is on here own. Jon isn’t coming to his brother’s rescue. Bran is alone at Winterfell. Sansa is being humiliated and punished by King Joffrey, and Daenerys tries to establish her rule. All are separate stories. Some, like Arya’s story don’t affect the others in the least. You have to take that for what it’s worth.

Evil does win more often then not in George R.R. Martin’s world. Making the little triumphs of good – or who we believe to be good – much more special, little things like someone standing up for Arya right after she loses her father, or Sansa not playing the naive girl and spitting venom at Joffrey. It’s the little things in life that are just. 

Game of Thrones had a mixed start for me. I complained about the special effects, or lack of them; the small scale, despite the budget being undoubtedly high. And other issues like the diminished roles of the Stark’s Dire Wolves. All that took a back seat to the acting and great writing. I enjoyed the novel; I may have liked the series better. I know I did.

I can’t wait to see what’s in store for next season. Hopefully HBO goes even grander in scale and scope and really spends time and money on the sets to make them really pop. If the final scene is any indication we will be seeing a bigger emphasis on CG, which will be necessary in some key areas, since each book becomes far more un-earthly or should I say magical, in time.

While Game of Thrones isn’t for everybody – trying to describe it to someone who may be interested is a chore, “uhm, there’s a lot of talking…I hope you like that?” For those that aren’t scared off by the sheer political-ness of it will find enjoyment. And fans, like me, couldn’t have expected – even with a theatrical adaptation – a more faithful telling of George R.R. Martin’s epic fantasy series.

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