Game of Thrones isn’t the sort of show you can have on in the background while you cook dinner. Because if you miss any single minute, you will end up hopelessly lost and confused. You may end up hopelessly lost and confused anyway, if you haven’t read the books (A Song of Ice and Fire, by George RR Martin). Though, to be fair, if you’re not the sort of person who can remember the difference between AeGon Targaryen and AeMon Targaryen (a very crucial distinction) the books may confuse you also.
What I’m trying to say is that with Game of Thrones, you have to go all the way. You have to pay attention, you have to immerse yourself in the world, because holy shit is the world complicated. This is not like the Lord of the Rings, where you have the good guys (human-lloking people) and the bad guys, easily distinguishable by their black outfits, ugly-ass faces, and general aura of creepiness. Game of Thrones is its own separate brand of awesomeness.
What makes it so great is the very complexity that makes it confusing as ****. Almost every character (as in, not Gregor Clegane orJoffrey Baratheon) is nuanced. When it comes to the warring armies, there are no forces of good and evil, only gooder and eviller. Sure, the story mostly focuses around the Starks ( a group of Scottish-like manly-men led by the ever-rugged Sean Bean) so we sort of see things from theri point of view. We see, for example, the queen who may be trying to murder the king as an evil ***** because the king is Sean Bean’s friend. But when you actually stop and think about it, you realzie taht the king is actually a pretty awful, abusive husband who cheats on his wife and beats her. Nuance, folks, that’s what this show (and the book it’s based on) has a lot of. Instead of one protagonists we get whole slew of people we can root for, or not.
Like this blond, Draco Malfoy-looking douche.
It helps that these characters are really well-acted. Peter Dinklage took away the Emmy for his wise-cracking, cynical Tyrion Lannister, but he’s not the only strong performance in the show by any means. Sean Bean is just as good, even though he is playing one of the simplest characters on the show (read: the honorable hero) and so is Nikolaj Coster-Waldeau (I think that’s how you spell his name), who plays a seemingly smarmy and arrogant, but ultimately vulnerable villain. Even the kids are good, which is fortunate, since many of the main characters are kids.
But the news isn’t all good. Whoever wrote the dialogue for these first four episodes seriously needs to be fired, because while there are some great one liners, there’s also an awful lot of, well, awful exposition. I understand that when you’re makin a complex, multi-faceted fantasy show, you need to have exposition so the audience will understand what’s going on, but holy shit do these people love to talk about the past. Often with no prompting at all. It would be like, if in real life, me and my brother spoke like this:
Hey brother, what’s up? How are you enjoying your ice cream?
Ice cream ,yes. I remember that one time we all went to the ice cream store together on that school trip with Mrs. Smith. She was the worst teacher I ever had. Remember how she used to hit her students?
Yes, she was a bad teacher. But she was fired, in the end.
Yes, and all for the good. But her replacement isn’t very competent.
True enough. Maybe we’ll get a new teacher soon.
Replace teacher with king and ice cream with some random battle and you’ve got a GOT conversation on your hands.
Who the f—ahem, who in the seven hells talks like this?
How about this actual conversation from the show:
Theon: Hi, Tyrion. I know a good brothel you could go to if you’re bored.
Tyrion; Hi, Theon. You’re a Greyjoy, remember? Remember when your father, Balon Greyjoy, burned down my father’s fleet? That’s why I don’t like you. Also, your brothers, Balon Greyjoy’s other sons, died in that fight. I am telling you this in case you had forgotten. Also, it’s sort of funny how now you are loyal to the Starks, the people who took you as a prisoner. I am telling you all this because otherwise the audience would be wondering who you are and what you are doing here, so even though you know all this already just bear with me while I monologue about the Greyjoy Rebellion.
Don’t believe me? Here it is. What do you think Balon Greyjoy would say if he could see this stupid scene?
Ok, so it’s not word-for-word, but it pretty much sums up how dumb and out of nowhere some of these conversations are. At no point does any one character stop and say “Why are you telling me about what happened in the battle we were both in? I was there? I don’t have ****ing amnesia.”
This problem is especially pronounced in episodes 3 and 4, which, unfortunately, consist almost entirely of exposition, with very little actual action. You’d think maybe they’d try and squeeze in a swordfight or two. SOMETHING.
To be fair, the book series started slow, and it wasn’t until the last third of the first book that things really started heating up. But a book isn’t quite like a TV show, and you’d think HBO would want to attract viewers by actually moving the plot along in addition to doling out heaping portions of backstory. Luckily, Episode 5 should be about when things start getting good, if my recollection of the book is correct. We’ll have to see…