TV Series Review: Game of Thrones

by Steve Lancaster7/2/18
Season One  •  The Game of Thrones series has been a great success for HBO in the last ten years. I won’t attempt to analyze the series episode by episode but cover it with the broader themes of season by season. So, this will take several updates to complete, or until we are all bored of it, whichever comes first.

The series is based on the books written by George R. R. Martin and generally referred to as a Song of Ice and Fire. If you are looking for details on the main characters the books are available on Amazon.  It is fantasy, there is magic and dragons. The series is set in a mythical location of Westeros, a map of which looks suspiciously like England. Most of the actors are English and Scots.

The first season introduces the major characters and the general history of Westeros. The land is currently ruled by three competing families and several second level families that seek to replace any one of the main families. The current king is Robert Baratheon. who in partnership with Eddard Stark overthrew the reigning family, Targaryen, and seized power. The two remaining members of the Targaryen family have fled the land. The richest most powerful family are the Lannister who are plotting to grab the throne.  In general, the land of Westeros is medieval and seems to have remained so for thousands of years.  The most advanced technology are the ships, which are very 17th century in style. Knights are heavily armored, and the sword and the bow are the main hand weapons, magic is mostly secretive, but is accepted as a real element in everyday life.

The king’s primary counselor has died, due to poison we learn later. The king turns to his friend Eddard Stark, (Sean Bean) warden of the north, to take the place as hand of the king. The equivalent of a Prime Minister.  The king travels to Winterfell in the north to persuade Stark to take the position.

In Winterfell the characters that will journey the entire series are introduced. Tyrion Lannister (the imp) played by Peter Dinklage, IMHO one of the most accomplished actors around. Lena Headey, (The wife of Leonidas in the 300) plays the evil queen, Cersei Lannister. The bastard son of Eddard Stark Jon Snow, (Kit Harington), Sansa Stark and Arya Stark (Sophie Turner and Maisie Williams). Jaime Lannister, (Nikolaj Costar-Waldau) is the handsome, but conflicted oldest son of the Lannister family and lover of his sister Cersei. They have three children two boys and a girl. Cersei and the rest of the Lannister’s pretend that her children by Jaime are the legitimate children of her husband the king, but it is an open secret that they are not. A secret not spoken for fear of the wrath of the Lannister’s.

Cersei and Jaime are observed by the son of Eddard Stark, Brandon (Isaac Hempstead Wright) having sex in a tower of Winterfell castle. Jaime catches him and throws him out of a window of the tower. Bran is not killed but is in coma and paralyzed from the waist down. Bran’s fall and his disability play and important part in the overall story later on.

The wall, was constructed several thousand years earlier. It is 700 feet high made from ice and magic, guarded by the men of the Black Watch.  The Black Watch is composed of nobles who have displeased the king, murders, rapists, and thieves. As an illegitimate son Jon Snow joins the Black Watch, he is idealistic and unexperienced.  All offences and family history are put aside when a man joins the Black Watch. They must swear allegiance to the code of the watch for the rest of their life and their single purpose is to defend the realm from the night walkers and the army of the dead. More on those in season two.

Also, in season one are the last of the Targaryen clan, Daenerys (Emilia Clark) and her brother Viserys (Harry Lloyd). The Targaryen’s are in exile on the mainland. Viserys is attempting to seal a marriage deal with the Dothraki. His sister, Daenerys to marry the Kaul of the Dothraki in exchange for an army to travel to Westeros and take back the throne. There will be no army for Viserys. Not only is he a poor leader but he manages to piss off his Dothraki brother-in-law. Who, growing tired of Viserys whining pours molten gold down his throat. Daenerys is saddened by the death of her brother, but not too much, she is also glad to see him gone, this makes her the legitimate Queen of Westeros.

In King’s Landing, the capital of Westeros, the major players have gathered. We are introduced to Lord Petyr “little finger” Baelish. A man with no moral compass and no morals. He sees himself as a power broker as long as he gets the power. He sits on the King’s small council as the master of coin. He also owns and operates the most exclusive brothels in Kings Landing, so he is also a pimp. He gives Eddard Stark one piece of advice, “trust no one, including me”.

Also sitting on the small council is Lord Varys, (Conleth Hill) the master of spies. He is a eunuch and plays the part of schemer to the max. However, he is loyal to the realm, so his loyalties shift with the changes in power.  Cersei’s plot to take power involvers the seemingly accidental death of her husband with the secession going to her son, Joffrey (Jack Gleason) who is a monster. Think Suetonius, Caligula, with even fewer moral restrictions.

Stark opposes the ascension of Joffrey and is quickly designated a traitor, betrayed by Littlefinger and beheaded in front of his daughter Sansa, who is betrothed to Joffrey to secure the loyalty of the North, and Arya in the crowd.

This ignites the War of the Five Kings. With Starks son Robb (Richard Madden) raising an army of the North. The two Baratheon brothers each claiming rights of inheritance and of course, Daenerys after her brothers unkinglike death.  More in the season two update.

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Brad Nelson

About Brad Nelson

I like books, nature, politics, old movies, Ronald Reagan (you get sort of a three-fer with that one), and the founding ideals of this country. We are the Shining City on the Hill — or ought to be. However, our land has been poisoned by Utopian aspirations and feel-good bromides. Both have replaced wisdom and facts.
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18 Responses to TV Series Review: Game of Thrones

  1. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    I watched the first 3 seasons of this. The Lannisters are great. The Starks suck and suck big-time with the exception of Sean Bean.

    I believe the dragon-lady story line becomes more prominent (or at least bursts into dragons) in the following seasons. Forget the Starks. Please forget the Starks, although they tend to make it easy. The ones to watch are the Lannisters and the dragon-lady. Her second-in-command, Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen) adds gravitas to what otherwise would be frivolous opposition to the Lannisters. He balances-out the dragon lady’s excesses as well.

    Petyr “Littlefinger’ Baelish is another good character although he often seems self-consciously a caricature.

    And without a doubt, Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister is the cream of the crop. Nearly all of the Lannisters are populated by good characters/actors.

    But I got bored with the series. The characters basically played themselves out in the first two seasons (if not before than) and then it was just a cycling and recycling of scenarios.

    The highpoint of the series (that I watched) is the next-to-last episode of season two, Blackwater. Whether you should go onto season 3 and beyond depends upon whether you consider escalating violence a good substitute for story. And, good god, I couldn’t stand the head Stark matriarch. She’s just awful. Bastard Jon Snow may be the only one from the Stark clan worth saving or worth watching.

    • Steve Lancaster says:

      Jon Snow is central to the story as it develops in seasons 4-7. In season 2 we begin to suspect there is more to his birth than just being as bastard. Spoiler, he is not a Stark and not a bastard.

      Sansa is not overly interesting until she escapes Kings landing and the clutches of the Lannisters. Although, Littlefinger is with her and assisted her escape. Kind of the same for Arya, she begins to emerge as a real character once she leaves Westeros. I think the lack. of depth to both of these characters is the young age of the actresses, both are in their early teens. The development of their characters is parallel to their developing skills as actors.

      HBO is famous for sex and violence especially in the first season of any series, and Game of Thrones is not an exception. Watching these productions is very much like reading a book, some chapters are exceptional, others not so much. The production values are very good, especially when they bring the fully grown dragons into the mix. You find yourself asking how they trained the dragons, not that they are CG. I suppose we owe the Jurassic Park movies for the quality of the special effects.

      In most respects Game of Thrones is a 70 hour movie, parts are very, very good and some kind of boring. On the whole the story is interesting.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        Well, I don’t recall Jon Snow’s birth turning out to be a fiction. He did play an increasingly important role. Perhaps this means the series has gone past what I read, or maybe they’ve made major changes from the books.

        • Steve Lancaster says:

          I believe it is in book 3, Storm of Swords, that the true parentage of Jon Snow is hinted. His mother is a Stark, Eddard’s sister and his father is, well– not who you expect and they were married.

          • Timothy Lane says:

            I checked it out in wikipedia, and it seems that the book series (so far) has lightly hinted the notion, but the TV series did so much more strongly. Even now, no one officially knows for sure. (Since both of Jon Snow’s parents are dead according to the story, and the putative father is as well, this is no doubt true even in terms of the characters.)

            • Steve Lancaster says:

              Ah spoiler, Wiki is wrong where the series is concerned and Martin is waiting to publish the final book in time to make a mint when the season 8 is shown early next year.

              Jon Snow is a Targaryen the product of the legal marriage between Rhaegar Targaryen Eddard Starks sister, and the rightful heir to the throne-Season 7 final.

              This makes Jon and Deny first cousins and since Jon is older and male the rightful king. The record of the marriage was confirmed by Sam in the records of the citadel.

              Deny and Jon are lovers, neither of them know his true birth although when they return to the north to fight the Ice king they are sure to find out. The ice king has broken the wall and invaded.

              • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

                FYI, I ran into my geek friend tonight who has the entire series of GOT on DVD. He’s going to lend it to me. I might pick it up and try to find where I left off.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        I think that’s an apt description/analysis, Steve. But I simply got bored and put off with the bloodshed. Plus, Game of Thrones is no longer available for free from either Netflix or Amazon Prime.

  2. Timothy Lane says:

    I’ve never seen any of the episodes (it’s hard to see what isn’t available to you), but I did read the first several volumes in the series. If you don’t like the Starks, you won’t have many to complain about soon (I’m assuming you didn’t watch far enough to find out what happened to Robb and his mother.) It’s unclear who would lead them after that, with the best choice (Jon) having forsworn his past. (Sounds like the French Foreign Legion — and probably the Spanish version, which José Millan Astray based on the French model — but without the deserters.)

    Incidentally, if you want a really unpleasant work by George R. R. Martin, try his horror short story “Remembering Melody”.

  3. Steve Lancaster says:

    Season 7, episode 4. Danny and Jon strike a deal for mutual assistance. Dany takes her dragons to war. The last 20 minutes has the best battle ever filmed for television, with a Dothraki charge that rivals the charge of Rohan in the Return of the King, with a fire breathing dragon. Jamie decides that the Lannisters are going to lose and in episode 8 he leaves Kings Landing as the first snow of winter arrives.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      I can’t remember exactly how it came off on screen, but the Battle of the Pelennor Fields in the book is one of the best battle stories I’ve read, especially the way the good guys are repeatedly on the edge of defeat only to be rescued — by the arrival of the Rohirrim, the death of the witch-king (“no man can hinder me”) at the hands of a woman and a hobbit, and the arrival of Aragorn with reinforcements on the Haradrim ships.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        While the screen version was very good, Tolkien’s description of the battle in the book was even better. I liked to re-read it and let the words sink it.

  4. Steve Lancaster says:

    In the first five seasons all of the actors have much the same upper-middle class English accents. As season 6 and 7 progress the actors of the North have taken on a decidedly Scots accent. I wonder if we will be able to understand a word they say in season 8?

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Kinda like this guy?

      • Timothy Lane says:

        It took me a bit to get the hang of it, especially since my current nursing home roommate was having a loud conversation with his invisible friend at times. (This can be especially unpleasant during the wee hours of the morning. If he’s loud enough, it can be very hard to sleep.)

      • Steve Lancaster says:

        Not quite but decidedly Scots. I wonder, it has been 6/7 years since the effort to separate Scotland from the UK. Is the introduction of a more pronounced accent tied to a political objective, or just tweaking the story line?

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Good question. Here is The Language of Game of Thrones: How Different Accents Tell a Story. Anderson writes:

          Putting on accents: Ned Stark’s sons Jon Snow and Robb Stark both grew up in the North, so it makes sense that the characters would have the same accent as their father. But Richard Madden and Kit Harrington, the actors who play these roles, are actually changing their accent onscreen. Richard has a noticeable Scottish accent in real life, and Kit Harrington has the Southern accent of his native London.

          Is Madden, in particular, letting more of his accent through in the Robb Stark character?

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Well, I would think only the invaders from north of the wall would sound Scottish. The defenders would more logically have accents from northern English. Perhaps Yorkish (“Hear a Yorkshireman, or worse, hear a Cornish man converse”), since that’s where Northumbria began in Anglo-Saxon times. The island raiders could then be Manx, and we could have some other interesting English accents.

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