BAFTA Screening of Games of Thrones – Episode 1 & 2 Review (Spoiler Free)

Summer span decades. Winters can last a lifetime. And the struggle for the Iron Throne has begun.

In will stretch from the south, where heat breeds plots, lusts and intrigues; to the cast and savage eastern lands; all the way to the frozen north, where an 800-foot wall of ice protects the kingdom from the dark forces that lie beyond. Kings and queens, knghts and renegades, liars, lords and honest men…all will play the ‘Game of Thrones’.

The first thing you will notice about Game of Thrones is how good it looks.  After the first few scenes I pretty much forgot I was watching a TV show as production wise it could easily pass for a film. The sets, landscapes and costumes are all top notch. The fantastic soundtrack by Ramin Djawadi (who also did the soundtrack for Iron Man) is awesome and even the opening credits are spellbiding and I would find it difficult to fast forward through them. Whether you end up liking the show or not you can’t fault  HBO for really throwing their weight behind this which is rare for a fantasy TV show.

I should make it clear that I have not read any of the books up which A Game of Thrones is based upon so it was great chance for me to be exposed to an adaptation of a story I know nothing about. I’ve always meant to read the books but just never got around it.

So how do these first two episodes fare to the untrained eye of a newbie into this gritty fantasy realm of intrigue, politics, murder and honor, created by George R.R Martin? Well I think it fares pretty darn well and hopefully Mr Martin was as pleased with the result as I was.

To get the negatives out of the way it’s clear that with so many characters to deal with there is a lot of scene shifting, back plot exposition and set up in episode one. For the most part this is handled well but there were a few times I got a little confused at what was going on. I have already decided that a rewatch of episode one is in order just to allow some of the more important concepts take root.

I thought the first episode was solid enough but it didn’t really blow me away with the plot. However by the end of the episode two I was found myself hooked as the characters were allowed more room to breathe and you begin to see a little more of what makes them tick.

The world in which Game of Thrones is a brutal one but there is a gritty realism that runs through both the world and the characters who live in it. The acting is solid and unlike other fantasy TV shows that have gone before it you get a sense that the actors are talking their roles seriously. The stand out performance of the two episodes for me was Peter Dinklage who plays Tyrion Lannister, brother to the scheming Cersie and Ser Jaime Lannister. Dinklage turns in an absolutely brilliant performance of both comedy, intelligence as well as a sadness behind his quick wit that speaks volumes about Tyrion. He was pretty much out acting anyone he had a scene with. I also have to give credit  to Sean Bean (Eddard “Ned” Stark) and Mark Addy (King Robert Baratheon) who seem to relish the roles they’ve been given.  Lena Headey as the  Cersie Lannister turns in a solid performance with one scene in episode two, in particular, which allows a glimpse beneath her hard exterior. The only weak link for me at the moment was Harry Lloyd as Viserys Targaryen.  I know don’t know if it was the hair (I kept thinking I was watching Lucius Malfoy out of Harry Potter films) but his was the only performance I found a little hammy and over the top. Hopefully it well settle down as the show goes on and we see more of the character.

The pacing of Game of Thrones is a lot different to the fantasy TV shows I have seen in the past. I was so used to watching fast paced fantasy shows, with paper thin plots existing merely to move the heroes from one big fight scene to the next. In the first two episodes there are probably two, maybe three action scenes. This somewhat slower pace meant I had to adjust my thinking on what to expect. It was a refreshing change. Sure some the scenes and dialogue I had seen and heard in many other fantasy shows but this was different. These episodes showed me that the makers aren’t viewing this as a sprint to the fantasy finishing line but  see it more as marathon. They are taking the time to build it’s characters and the story they want to tell. My guess is that each episode will add new layers to all the characters so it will be difficult to really judge the success of the show until season 1 is done.

I’m interested to hear from anyone who has read the book to see how well it compares. At the Q &A with the cast afterwards there was a fan in the audience who praised the adaptation so hopefully it will go down well with other fans. I’m not sure about the claims made during the Q & A of it reinventing the fantasy genre as the central idea of characters neither been wholly good or evil is one that a lot of fantasy authors have played with over the years. This is just one of the few times TV has decided to take fantasy seriously so perhaps that’s the reinventing they are talking about.

Overall there’s a lot in  Game of Thrones to like, stunning backdrops, great acting and a solid cast and crew who are taking their subject matter seriously. I hope the show does well enough to continue to adapt the rest of the novels as I would be interested to see where the show is in a few seasons time.

GS Reporter: Nuge

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