Have I mentioned I’m absolutely besotted with “Game of Thrones”?
Until this series came along, I was never a fan of the fantasy genre. But about a year and a half ago, a guy I worked with on a contract project beat the drum incessantly for this show. All I heard for four weeks was “Game of Thrones” and “Peter Dinklage.” When the project ended, I finally got the first season on DVD from Netflix, and—you guessed it—the show had me in the very first scene of the very first episode (Thank you, Josh!). Though to be fair, how could anyone not get hooked after seeing that?
Why am I crazy about “Game of Thrones”? In no particular order:
1) If the theme music and opening titles don’t grab you, you must be unconscious. Courtesy of composer Ramin Djawadi and designer Angus Wall, respectively, this is the most inventive, not to mention descriptive, beginning to a TV show I’ve seen in years. I thought the credits of “Six Feet Under” and “Carnivale” (not coincidentally another Angus Wall creation) could not be surpassed, but “Game of Thrones” goes that extra mile with ease.
2) It’s a never-ending saga. The story lines are so full of twists and turns that if you’re not interested in a particular set of characters, just hang on for a bit. For instance: ever since the Night Watch went off to search for Benjen Stark, I was incredibly bored with the Far North. That is, until Jon Snow, Ygritte and their companions scaled the Wall. I have a problem with heights (Season One’s Eyrie freaked me out), but nevertheless I was enthralled. And when Jon and Ygritte reached the top and could see that green valley on the other side, it was a perfect ending to that episode.
3) It’s delicious. I haven’t enjoyed machinations like this since “I, Claudius.” Last season, when Tyrion planted three different stories with Petyr Baelish, Varys and Maester Pycelle as a test to see who was spilling the beans to Cersei, it was hilarious when the plot paid off. And I particularly relished the scene last week at Tyrion and Sansa’s wedding when Lady Olenna Tyrell nimbly reeled off the potential familial relationships should the reluctant Ser Loras marry Queen Regent Cersei.
3) With the exception of King Joffrey, Mr. Twisted personified, the characters are far from black and white. Even Catelyn Stark, one of my favorites, is no saint. Listening to her confess her coldness toward Jon Snow and her inability to extend mothering, let alone kindness, toward him, even as an infant, was startling. And her former prisoner, Jamie Lannister? The incestuous Kingslayer saves Brienne of Tarth from gang rape and is punished with the loss of his right hand. Yet he returns to rescue her from a bear pit at the risk of his own safety and ends up swearing to bring the Stark girls back to their mother. I hated him when he shoved Bran Stark out that window, but now I love to watch him.
4) The female characters on this show are strong women. Exhibit A: Danerys Targaryan, khaleesi and Mother of Dragons. It’s not every day that you see a 14-year-old girl succeed her dead husband, lead an army and earn the loyalty of the multitudes. And, in addition to Brienne of Tarth, there’s Catelyn Stark, who’s a far better strategist than her son, Robb; her daughter Arya Stark, handy with sword and bow and arrow; Ygritte; and yes, Cersei, even though she’s a character you love to hate.
5) People act on an epic scale. “Game of Thrones” is very operatic, and you feel that Newton’s Law is always in play—for every action there will be an opposite and equal reaction. When Joffrey defies the very wise advice of Cersei and Varys by ordering the beheading of Ned Stark, you know we’re in for a very long war. When Robb Stark marries Talisa despite the deal his mother struck with Walder Frey, it’s a head-in-your-hands moment—you know the story will not end there. And when Tyrion Lannister tells his bride Sansa that he won’t sleep with her unless she wants him, it’s a cinch this will happen. Maybe not this season or next, but you know that it will.
6) You see things no one else in his right mind would dream up. I don’t want this to be a “Game of Thrones’ Greatest Hits” post, but Viserys Targaryan’s “crowning”? Danerys’s emergence from her husband’s smoldering funeral pyre with three baby dragonlets perched on her shoulders? Not to mention the blue-eyed White Walkers and Melisandre’s giving birth to the whatever-it-is that murders Renly Baratheon. And oh my, cursing Stannis Baratheon’s rivals with those leeches of revenge, plus the very Wagnerian murder of the White Walker when Samwell Tarly wields the dragonglass dagger. You keep thinking “How can they top this?” but the showrunners, building on George R.R. Martin’s stories, do it every time.
7) It goes without saying that the acting is superb. Not just known quantities like Lena Headey (Cersei) and Charles Dance (Tywin Lannister), but actors less familiar to American viewers like Michelle Fairley (Catelyn) and Nicolaj Coster-Waldau (Jamie), plus a fleet of younger performers: Emilia Clarke (Danerys), Kit Harrington (Jon Snow), Richard Madden (Robb Stark) and Maisie Williams (Arya). And if you’ve followed Peter Dinklage’s career like I have, his emergence as a leading man is no surprise—I saw “The Station Agent” when it was released several years ago, and knew that it was only a matter of time. Bravi!
Only two more episodes to go this season, which should bring us to the middle of “A Storm of Swords,” the third book in George R.R. Martin’s projected seven-volume series. Without spoiling, I can tell you these two episodes should be mind-boggling. Brace yourself. In the meantime, have fun while you can: