Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Game Of Thrones: Season 1


Game Of Thrones is a phenomenon. The single most popular show on television at the moment, almost everyone seems to be completely addicted to it, especially at Uni. Everyone in my Creative Writing tutorial has seen it and all of my friends have been urging me to watch it. So, finally, I decided to see what all the fuss was about. Surely, this couldn’t be as good as everyone says, can it? Yes, yes it can.
   It’s a brilliant medieval fantasy epic that’s ridiculously addictive, with characters that you can’t help but sympathise with (or really hate) that draw you in. It’s magnificent.
   Let’s start with the Starks shall we. Ned Stark is a noble character who commands our attention. He’s the main character for most of the series who just seems to be trying to cut through all of the deception and power struggles at King’s Landing. Unlike the rest of them, he doesn’t really want to be king. He’s just trying to do the best he can in a difficult situation. This makes his death at the end of episode nine the single most shocking twist in a series full of them. It’s so completely unexpected, made all the more moving as we focus on the reactions of his two daughters, Arya and Sansa. It had me literally screaming at the screen and after the episode finished I sat in a stunned silence. It was breathtaking and brave because it proves that none of these people are safe. Ned has been one of the most important characters so far and to have his death as so sudden is incredible, setting up events for the next season in a very clever way.
   His wife, Lady Catelyn Stark, is one of my favourite characters. She is incredibly family-driven, risking her life to bring the Lannisters to justice for trying to kill her son, Bran. She’s strong, never showing her vulnerability and using it to her advantage. Towards the end of the season, however, she grows darker following the death of her husband. She is determined to get her daughters out of King’s Landing and to get revenge. It will be very interesting to see where she goes from here.
   Robb is the Stark’s oldest child. He is serious with responsibility forced upon him, especially in the wake of his father’s death. To me, Robb doesn’t seem as interesting or as developed as the other characters but this could be as the series goes on we spend less and less time at Winterfell (the Stark’s home). This is one of the casualties of having a series with so many characters and settings, some will have less of an emphasis. The same can be said of Bran who, after playing an important role in the first episode (where he catches the Lannisters having sex and Jaime pushes him out of the window, providing us with the first major shock of the series), really doesn’t have a lot to do with the rest of the series, with his only real plot being the loss of function in his legs. This, however, does allow the introduction of one of my favourite characters, Osha. A Wilding who becomes friends with Bran, she’s just a brilliant character, fun and loveable.
   The two Stark girls in King’s Landing couldn’t be any more different. Sansa is annoying, constantly pining over Joffrey. For most of the season, you really don’t like her because she seems to be completely stupid, blind to the fact that Joffrey is an evil bastard, but then we get the final episode where she is forced to look at her father and maid’s heads on spikes. It’s such a moving and horrific scene and I actually started to like her. This is good because I have a feeling that she’s going to be a very important character down the line. Arya, her younger sister, is a tomboy who I almost immediately loved. She’s a brilliant creation, always brave and not afraid to be who she wants to be, getting her fight instructor (another great character, but I’m not sure whether he lived or he died, it’s not very clear) to teach her how to be good in battle. Her despair at her father’s execution is palpable and it’s what makes the scene so moving. By the conclusion of the season, she has become stronger and now seems to be on her way to the Wall.
   Ah, the Wall. The element of the show that most screams medieval fantasy is where Jon Snow finds his home for most of the series. The bastard of his family, he’s immensely likable and sympathetic and gets some of the best scenes, particularly when he has to fight off the dead and in his interactions with Samwell (who comes across as comic relief, albeit with a sad past). However, the greatest scene at the Wall is when you realise that the old guy is a Targaryen, which is an astonishing twist, ingeniously plated. Again, Jon’s an honourable character, which is a trait that seems to run within the Stark family.
   Much less honourable, in fact downright evil sometimes, is the Lannisters. They are often completely hateful, from the moment Jaime pushes Bran out the window to Joffrey ordering the death of Ned.
   Cersei, wife of King Robert, is a complete bitch, sleeping with family members (first Jaime and then, once he’s been taken by the Starks, Lancel) in order to keep the blood line pure and using her keen political mind to ensure the safety of her family and everyone around her. She’s a manipulator, really, like many of the Lannisters. However, she isn’t completely evil as evidenced by probably the greatest scene of the season when she and Robert discuss how their marriage has come to an end. It’s an intimate character moment that tells us everything about them and their relationship. It’s a scene of beautiful genius.
   The King, Robert Baratheon, is a drunk, whoring his way through life so he can die happy. He has no political mind and just isn’t the right person for the job of holding the Seven Kingdoms together. He’s also completely blind, unable to see that Joffrey clearly isn’t his son and that the Lannisters are controlling his life and are soon to snuff it out. The death of the King is one of the earliest major character deaths and sets up the scene for all that is to come with the rest of the season. It ups the ante and increases the pace wonderfully, making it even more addictive than ever before.
   His squire, Lancel Lannister, is much less scheming than the rest of his family, seemingly just going along with his aunt’s every desire (including sexual as the last episode proves). What to me was most memorable about this character is that he’s played by a person who was in House Of Anubis, a Nickeledon mystery series, which is aimed at teenagers. To see him getting his kit off as he does in the final episode was actually something of a shock. I will never be able to watch HOA the same way again…
   However, he’s not the only actor to have had a role in a kid’s series only to play someone completely different. No, we also have Finn Jones as Loras Tyrell. I knew him as Santiago Jones off The Sarah Jane Adventures so to see him playing a violent gay character was simultaneously rather horrifying and brilliant at the same time. It was also nice to get a change from all the female nudity on display to get some gay characters in the mix. His partner, Renly Baratheon, is a brilliant character who I liked, but I really don’t want him to be king. It would just be wrong for some reason.
   Similarly wrong is the jousting scene in around the fifth episode. The Mountain (played by Brian Blessed which seems a little bit of a waste as he’s known for his enormous booming voice but is completely mute here) loses so he cuts the head of his horse off. To me, this doesn’t look real and I’m sure they killed off a real horse. It’s the most horrifying moment and is completely disgusting. I had to pause for several moments in order to regain my composure. It wasn’t necessary and it really didn’t need to be scene.
   Anyway, after Robert dies (or is killed off by the Lannisters), his son Joffrey takes the throne and he’s an evil little bugger. He’s directly responsible for the death of the Butcher’s boy and Ned Stark. The latter was an incredibly stupid decision tactically (which is probably why Cersei objected to it) and has left them in a place of no return. He’s evil, plain and simple, forcing his future wife Sansa to stare at her father’s head and ordering for the tongue of a minstrel who sang about Robin to have his tongue pulled out. I desperately hope Joffrey is unseated from the throne, but going by what I’ve heard this seems unlikely. Bugger.
   Jaime has a much more brilliant tactical mind and seems to be the Lannister who really puts all of their dark deeds into action, including killing a King, giving him the nickname Kingslayer which he seems to hate. He loves his sister, refusing to tell Lady Stark why he pushed Bran. He’s the most honourable of the Lannisters and for that reason, he’s surprisingly likeable.
   Tyrion, however, is the most likable Lannister. Often referred to as the Imp, he has a cunning mind but also hides a very sad past, particularly in relation to his brother who manipulated him. He’s one of the best characters, especially when imprisoned by Lisa Arryn (she’s so twisted and her son Robert is possibly even more hateful than Joffrey. I wanted to throw him down the moon hole). He must use all of his wits to escape the immensely terrifying cell with no fourth wall, which is simply one of the most cleverly horrifying ideas of all time. By the end of the season, he has a partner who will join him as he becomes Hand of the King to Joffrey, a truly awful position to be in, as both Hands that we have seen were killed (albeit by Lannister hands).
   The two main people of the King’s Court, are actually some of the most likable and layered characters present. Baelish, the whorehouse owner, cannot be trusted and is constantly scheming. He, like so many others, wants to be king but until then, he is happy to just manipulate everyone. He lights up the screen, constantly drawing your attention to him. He makes up half of a double act with Varys, another brilliant character, who only acts in the best interests of the Seven Kingdoms. He doesn’t want to be king. He just wants to keep the peace and for that, he’s one of the most unusual and intriguing characters present.
   In complete opposition to this way of thinking is Vaserys Targaryen. He and his sister are the only ones left and his belief that he is the rightful King is seconded only to the belief that the Dothraki are below him. They mean nothing to him but this is his downfall. Being outplayed by Khal Drogo, he is killed in the most spectacular way as scalding hot gold is poured on his head. Horrible yet deserved in a way.
   His sister, Daenyrs Targaryen, is the single greatest character on this show. Watching her journey from the first episode as a weak naked woman who is used by her brother as a bartering chip to get the Dothraki on side to her part in the cliffhanger is one of the main reasons why this series is so watchable. She’s allowed to grow in a way that very few characters are allowed to. From a reluctant wife to Khal Drogo to the woman who mourns his death because she loves him so completely, from a naïve kind woman who tries to save anyone to realising that this doesn’t always work (as evidenced by the hateful witch who kills Drogo), she is the best character. The moment she walks into the fire after giving Ser Jorah Mormont (another favourite character) a kiss on the cheek, only to rise the next morning, completely naked but with a dragon sitting on her shoulder is awe-inspiringly beautiful and wonderful. I cannot wait to see what happens to her next and how she will grow from here.
   Now, the way I’ve described it makes it seem like there are many characters and you follow every one. This isn’t entirely wrong. Game Of Thrones has numerous characters whom we follow as they try to outwit one another. It gives such a feeling of intrigue which is just wonderful. However, it’s rarely hard to follow or understand because it’s so clear and these characters feel real.
   That’s a key part of this series; that these characters feel like people who are in a real kingdom. This makes it ridiculously addictive as you never know what’s going to happen next. Y0u need to know whether the characters you love are going to make it out alive or if they will be killed by someone else who wants to be king. In these 10 episodes alone, 6 significant characters die (Ned, Jory, Septa, Robert, Viserys and Khal Drogo), leading to a dark, gritty and mature tone.
   As a consequence of a more mature tone, there is also several scenes of content which make this very much an adults only program, particularly in its graphic use of sex and violence. Sometimes it’s necessary (Khal Drogo and Daenyrs early sex scenes, Cersei and Jaime having sex, Tyrion killing the Wildling with a shield, the attack on Cateln, etc.), sometimes it’s really not. The lengthy lesbian sex scene springs to mind as it has no relevance to the plot, but so do many of the scenes involving female (and male) nudity which feels superfluous to the action. When used to advance the narrative, these elements add a sense of realism and maturity but when used in a way that is completely unnecessary, it just makes it look very immature, as though the male audience need to see Roz and another woman getting it on in order to tune in that week. Throughout this season, Game Of Thrones treads this line very carefully, not quite overstepping it, but sometimes coming very, very close.
   However, what is most shocking is that is really my only complaint. This series is a brilliant character driven drama that takes place in a world of murder, betrayal, intrigue, politics and honour. It also contains some of the most well-rounded and layered characters ever to appear in a television series and feels wonderfully filmic. This is television on a grand scale and promises to just keep getting better and better because after all ‘Winter Is Coming’…
Favourite To Be King/Queen: Daenyrs
Favourite Character: Daenyrs
Least Favourite Character: Joffrey
Most Shocking Moment: The death of Ned Stark
Most Emotional Moment: Daenyrs killing Khal
Most Beautiful Character Scene: Robert and Cersei discuss their marriage
Favourite Episode: The Wolf And The Lion
Favourite Moment: The cliffhanger
Overall Rating: 10/10

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