Game of Thrones, S1 Ep1 – Winter is Coming

Game of Thrones

First of all, I have read and love the Song of Ice & Fire books. But I purposefully lent out my copy of Game of Thrones to a friend, partly because it’s an awesome book and I know she’ll love it, and partly so that I wouldn’t be physically able to check the book for accuracy, quotes and the like as I watched the first episode. I knew they wouldn’t be able to cover every detail and subplot on a TV series; it’s just not possible to condense books this richly embroidered into a 10 episode television series.

Which goes some way to explaining why my jaw dropped when it became apparent that the opening scene — three fairly dour looking men dressed all in black and on horseback, two carrying flaming torches, walk through a tunnel and appear out of a gate in, to those not well versed in the ways of these books, a bloody great glacier stretching as far as the eye can see — is the prologue from the book. Now that is some serious loyalty to the book, opening with the prologue. I’m impressed.  The prologue, with the snowy forest and the White Walkers, the creepy dead girl and the dismembered corpses laid out in some kind of shamanistic circle, is about as much fantasy as this first episode has to offer. I’ve read reports of this series being fantasy for people who don’t like fantasy and another review of the books as being a blood-soaked historical epic that just happens to be set in a history that didn’t happen. Sword and sorcery, yes, but very much heavy on the swords.

The credits are beautiful, sweeping across a map familiar to anyone who has read the books and flipped back and forth following where the action is happening. Another marvelous touch is that the actors’ names are prefaced with the House sigils of the characters they play. This means bob all to anyone who hasn’t read the books, but tickled me greatly. I’m not entirely sure about the clockwork motif, beyond perhaps the whole wheels with wheels dynastic skulduggery thang. Still, very pretty.

There’s a lot to cram into the opening episode and, a few moments of rather heavy expositionitis aside, they did rather well. Of course, I know who everyone is and how they relate to one another, but they seemed to hit the right notes with the characterizations and just enough back story to get newbies interested, without it being too cheesy.

They’ve done really, really well with the cast. I must admit I was half expecting to see Boromir in a different cloak, but Sean Bean carried Ned Stark off beautifully. So to speak. Mark Addy — King Robert Baratheon – is a much better actor than a series of god awful Tesco adverts would have you believe, and I was seriously impressed by pretty much all the child actors. I loved Arya in the books, and it looks like her TV version will be just as awesome. Harry Lloyd has a slightly dodgy wig, but in all other respects makes a marvelous Viserys: creepy as all get out, but also twitchily shrill and needy in the face of Khal Drogo.

1 2