Or at least pretending to. Cause how does one recap the shit out of a TV series anyways? Well, that’s all just petty semantics, so let’s get the fuck on. As you all know Game of Thrones, the first volume of the Song of Ice and Fire fantasy saga by George R.R. Martin, has been adapted to TV. If you didn’t know that, you’re very welcome for the information, may seek it out, watch it and come back here, cause holla, I’ll be spoilering. Just so you know.
The novel has been turned into a series consistent of 10 episodes which all run almost an hour. Some events and/or info from the second novel Clash of Kings (which I reviewed here) have already been taken up or mentioned by the first season. Since this is HBO there is more leeway for all sorts of language, nudity, (gratuitous) sex, and of course the good old violence. In some cases this works, in others, well, not so much. In A Song of Ice and Fire we learn that there is not just good and bad, but an astounding greyscale of everything in between and the same goes for the series. But actually in terms of quality and successful adapting. Let us break it down.
Madonna loathes Hydrangeas, and I loathed this about the TV adaptation:
10 episodes is more than one feature film, but still not enough to convey the whole depth of the novel. Omissions work in some places, but in others they unfortunately don’t, especially where personal growth and change in relationships are concerned. The two major victims are predictably Daenerys and Jon Snow.
With the novel it was hard for me to appreciate Daenerys’ storyline and her character, but eventually, through all the plot twists and turns she had to suffer through I suspended my disbelief in her journey and said: yes please, more of that. With the time constraints on television that does not work so well. How exactly did we go from frightened girl that is virtually raped during her wedding night (which was very different and a hundred leagues better in the novel) to loving husband and wife who like to cuddle and share their eyeliner? Right, makes zero to no sense. While the acting gets better (kudos to Emilia Clark for that) the storyline does not seem any more plausible. Why does she love him? Why does she want the Iron Throne back? Why would any of the Khalasar stay with her after Drogo is dead? While we got answers in the novel, we get none here and I just can’t take her seriously.
Same goes for Jon Snow, though a little better. His strong attachment to the Nightswatch and his friendship with and appreciation of Samwell Tarly are hard to understand in the TV series, while they totally make sense in the novel. And in the novel this is exactly what makes him such an awesome character, but we get to that problem later on.
Let us just hope they get more money for the second season, otherwise we have to suffer through more of studio scenery that has to pass for King’s Landing or the Great Hall in Winterfell. Why does basically everything across the Narrow Sea have to look like a cheaper version of Tuscany?
Problem with money and medievalish fantasy series is that they need extras to create a setting and atmosphere that makes us believe we’re in a world and time like this. And as usual most of the scenes in which extras are used excessively are kinda silly. Just focus on the extras in the background when you have scenes where any of the boys practice with the sword. Those guys there – they have no fucking clue what to do with a sword. And the director just hopes no one will notice. Same goes for market, village, or city scenes where people are just running around and do random stuff. When you look at them you actually see that they do mostly nothing but run around with silly props or do the most random of things in a way that tells that they have no clue what they are actually doing for their ten bucks. Pay them more, get better people. Please.
By watching the show I get the distinct impression that the most intelligent and most sympathetic characters in all of the continents and countries presented are actually whores. They are not only smarter than anyone else, but know more about stuff, are way more practical and I end up wondering: how come they don’t rule the Seven Kingdoms? Per se, that is a good question to ask, but since we’ve read the books, but mostly because we know US television would never allow it those smart super-whores won’t come to wear the crown anytime soon. Which makes it all the more puzzling why all the whores are basically so awesome. The sad thing with Ros in particular is, that she is actually an interesting character but all she is used for in the series is to be tool for storytelling, or rather infodumping on us viewers so we get what everyone else is actually talking about. That’s okayish, but it gets very problematic when producers seem to have thought: they need to talk some exposition, can we have her naked? And seemingly everyone went: Yes! Bringing us to….
The faux-lesbo sex scene in the brothel
What the fuck? Singularly, this scene stands out as bullcrap. Oh granted, the two cocksucking scenes (Ros with Tyrion’s member, Loras with Renly’s) are not only superfluous, but also annoying, because on the one hand the series acts all “ha, we’re totally going there, see, how shocking!” But then they don’t even have the balls to show the back of the head, they just move out and insert some sloppy slurping sounds. Argh. Not to mention that most of the sex in Game of Thrones seems to happen doggie-style, for whatever reason. Same applies to the lesbo-sex-scene between Ros and the other new whore in town, which is, I guess, equivalent to their job interview with Littlefinger. Not that this wouldn’t be awkward enough in itself, the scene actually features some love-professing from Littlefinger for Catelyn. A man of thousand secrets just pouring out one of his most personal stories and sentiments to two newly hired whores (cause who could they possibly talk to? Ermh, customers, maybe?), that is so far out of character that it hurts. So, it is the combination of bad writing, bad sex and on top of that sexism, cause the fuck, they just added the whole “make her come” to hold the attention of their presumed male audience who’d go “bwah, boring, love for women, maybe I should change the channe…. no wait sex”. Offensive, it is, yes.
Speaking about offensiveness and sex, why not add a little racism to it? Oh my. The Dothraki in the novel were mildly offensive already, but the TV version takes it to a whole new level. Bare breasts hit us left and right (counteracted by the occasional peen), but especially so during Daenerys’ wedding and would you believe it they are all up on the guy who kills another one cause he interrupted his, ermh, public fuck. Happens, all the ladies are black. As some of the guys. Some may be latino, others Arabic, but hey, why should producers or directors care? They think of white audiences, white heroes and want the exotic, so everyone non-white can of course be of the same people or in the same tribe, cause they’re all branded as savages anyways. And even though the series tries to make us believe that Daenerys does not think of them as savages, it is pretty obvious that she does and that she as Mrs. White-Elf Teacherwoman has to teach all them people of color how life works. Oh, excuse me, I just puked over my television set.
Moments of Blah included:
Well, Winterfell was nice, as was the Wall, but neither was really breathtaking. TV Bran sits ok with me, but does not blow my mind. I feel like they could have found an even better Samwell Tarly, or have him be a bit more whiny. Same goes for Varys. I see some future problems here, because I found him to be so fascinating because of the super-slimy whininess he exhibits in book 1 and surprised me continually with all sorts of shenanigans and assertions in book 2. Here in the TV series he is already very assertive and supposedly mysterious, but I don’t know.
Also, there wasn’t a lot of wolf-action. If I hadn’t read the novels I wouldn’t know how important the wolves are. I probably wouldn’t even know their names. So far it hasn’t really bothered me, but let’s see what season 2 brings in the wolf-department.
As for the Others and their blue eyes, let’s just judge that later on, after season 3 maybe, ok?
What I absolutely totally love though, is:
Oh my fucking god you guys, how good is the casting? I had very different images of Loras, Hodor and Osha in my mind when reading the novels, but I’ll give them a chance. Littlefinger was one of the characters I hadn’t really pictured but oh my, they nailed it with Aidan Gillen. At first I thought he was a little too handsome for the part, but now I’m sold 100%. This IS Littlefinger.
As for the Stark kids I’m happy they made them a bit older. Bran doesn’t strike me as an awesome choice, Rickon is still highly irrelevant anyways, but I’m good with the Jon Snow choice of Kit Harington. But to my surprise, Richard Madden as Robb Stark really blew my mind cause he is that fucking good. Actually so good that I like TV Robb more than TV Jon, while when it comes to the novels I prefer my Jon to my Robb by factor one thousand. That’s quite a feature, and I guess besides big blue eyes it has a lot to do with the pacing of the show. Jon does not have much time for his needed character growth, while the time for Robb’s growth as a character suffices, since it is – in my eyes – a “lesser” development. Also big rounds of applause to the rest of the Starks, Arya and Sansa, whom I disliked in the novel, have been cast extremely well and they inhabit their roles stunningly, both believable and touching. Sean Bean as Eddard and Michelle Fairley are also both perfect for their parts, especially Fairley adding the much needed balance of gravitas and maternal instinct for her character.
Let’s just say it all together: they deserve a sub-category of their own. The Lannisters have all been cast extremely well. While Tyrion is already an awesome character in the novels Peter Dinklage brings him to life on the screen like he should be brought to life. Just the right amount of vulnerability, arrogance, sexual appetite, and wit to make everything about him work perfectly. Tywin Lannister looked different in my head, but I approve of the choice here, cause dude is one creepy father with too much power in his hands. Same goes for Joffrey, pictured differently, but TV Joffrey is very efficient and believable. Jaime is already more present for me than he was in the first novel, again a handsome actor who finds the perfect emotional balance for his character. But who really blew me away is Cersei, yet again a character I had no clear picture of, but OML, she fucking rocks. The woman is crazy in a gajillion ways, but TV Cersei goes through all sorts of emotions and wicked plans so fucking effortlessly that I buy Lena Headey’s performance from second one. And how great is her scene with Robert, when they discuss their marriage? Acting gold, both of them, right there.
The Opening Credits
Ha, really. I think they are pretty well done and nice to look at, I just wish the music would be a little more memorable. Nice touch with the map though, and the steampunkishness of it all.
They look pretty wicked. TV-proppy, yes, but wicked nonetheless, and I wish to see more of them.
Whoops, turns out the most awesome thing about the series is the casting. Which is good, I guess, when it comes to character based stories. All in all I think Game of Thrones as a TV show is a decent effort, just like I thought the novel was a decent effort. Now that I was so happy about the Clash of Kings novel, I may have expected a little more, but you know what, X-Files season one hasn’t been the best X-Files season either, so there. Let’s give it time (and a bigger budget) and it might blow our collective mind.