Yesterday Kish and I decided to take a chance on HBO’s new dramatic series, Game of Thrones. We watched the first episode with some trepidation, because neither of us particularly cares for the sword and sorcery genre. I’m happy to report that our trepidation was totally unwarranted. We have now watched and very much enjoyed the first four episodes of this sprawling, brawling tale.
The series is set in some unknown land in an era like Europe’s Middle Ages. There are lots of plot threads. A whoring king sits somewhat uneasily on his throne, the subject of plotting by his wife and her incestuous brother, the appalling son of his assassinated predecessor, and probably countless others. The king calls upon his trusted friend to wade into the political cesspool of the capital city to act as his closest aide and advisor. The son of the mad former king has arranged for his sister to be given in marriage to the warrior king of a barely civilized tribe, who is to lead the savages in a bid to topple the current king. A gigantic wall lies at the northern edge of the kingdom, built generations ago to keep out the “white walkers” — winter-loving creatures who have become the stuff of fairy tale and bedtime story — and manned by a depleted army of celibate guardians. Winter is coming, and winter apparently can last for years. The families of the leading characters all have back stories that feature death and betrayal.
There is a lot to like in this show. The cast, led by Sean Bean as Ned Stark, the head of the Stark clan and the king’s new right hand man, is excellent top to bottom. Peter Dinklage is especially memorable as the smart, cynical, sharp-tongued, yet apparently decent dwarf brother in the dysfunctional Lannister clan, who regularly clash with the Starks. There is the usual dollop of violence, nudity, and sex scenes found in most HBO series, but also the authentic-feeling costumes, sets, and general production values that also characterize HBO productions. The fantasy element, so far, has been played with a light touch. We’ve particularly liked the role of the wolf cubs adopted by the Stark children and which now, barely tamed, have played an important and mystical role in the unfolding events.