Game of Thrones – Season 1: A Belated Review

It did take me almost three years after the first season began to first watch Game of Thrones, but I’m glad I did.  With the excitement rising across the internet and my friends around the upcoming season 4, and having no ongoing TV show that I’m watching, my flatmates and I dived into Game of Thrones to see what all the fuss is about.  I’m glad we did.

The show takes place in the fictional lands of the Seven Kingdoms.  There is plenty of background ‘history’ to the show to give it a real depth.  At the beginning of season 1, Robert Baratheon is on the mystical “Iron Throne” and is the King of the land.  Ned Stark, Lord of the northern land of Winterfell is asked to be the King’s Hand, a trusty advisor much like a chief of staff with more decision-making power.

What follows is the pursuit of power between the many houses, families, of the land.  The Starks are perhaps the protagonists of the show, with Ned’s family being generally good-hearted people in a world that is selfish and lusts for power.  The Lannisters are married into power; with Cersei Lannister being Queen to Robert.  They are a rich family with a strong military background, and personal connections that are a little too close at times.  Then there are the Targaryens, living beyond the Narrow Seas and outside of Westeros, whose father was King, before Robert, but was overthrown in a coup; forcing what remained of the Targaryens to flee.  Each have their own little narratives within themselves which makes for a very interesting story, but one that could be a little difficult to follow at times.

There are many fantastic characters in the show, with very few being unnecessary or weak.  The highlight is probably Tyrion Lannister, played by Peter Dinklage, the Queen’s dwarf brother who revels in the excesses of wealth in his time whilst absurdly being the moral paragon of his family at the same time.  Ned Stark (Sean Bean) is also a great character, playing the honourable centre for the show whilst dealing with all of the family conflicts that are going on.  Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) is also very good, going from being the beautiful but meek brother of Viserys, who claims to be the rightful King, to being the Queen or Khaleesi of an army of savages, the Dothraki, who she believes she can take across the Narrow Sea to recapture the throne. Even the many children in the show keep up the superb acting standard – with Arya Stark perhaps being the most interesting character, currently on the run from pursuing Lannisters at the end of season 1. It’s a mark of a good show that you can side with even the supposed villains on occasion; as the lines of good and bad aren’t as clearly defined as you’d imagine at first glance.  In saying that though, I find it hard to believe anyone could harbour anything other than sheer hatred for Joffrey.  In terms of interesting characters and the level of acting, it’s hard to find a show that matches Game of Thrones.

The medieval setting is very well portrayed and is a cut above other shows that have tried to explore the era.  There’s plenty of fights, sex scenes, beheadings, battles etc. to keep the viewer entertained. The world itself is also laid out in a clever way in the opening sequence, explaining the world’s geography and the individual nuances of each location very well.  The writing is also top-notch, with scripts that keep a fine balance between the parlance of the show’s setting and modern dialogue with plenty of emotion and wit when the time calls for it.  The overall feel of Game of Thrones is very high quality and its’ richness added a lot to my opinion of the show.

My overall opinion of Season 1 overall though was that it was enjoyable, but not truly exceptional.  Although I did end up binging the series, watching the final six episodes in one day, I felt as though I could happily wait a week between episodes before finding out what happens next.  The end of episode cliff-hangers that are set up aren’t particularly awe-inspiring and the main plotline has a rather muted progression.  Only a few times did the end of an episode leave any sort of ‘wow’ factor.  The final episode itself was particularly weak in terms of leading the next series, I felt.  The stories themselves are fantastic, for sure, with the Lannisters’ thirst for power and the Starks’ quest to recover their daughters both intriguing plot lines going forward.  The show also deserves credit for not playing its’ hand too early; with the mysteries of the White Walkers beyond the Wall in the North and if the Dothraki will make it across the Narrow Seas still up in the air for future episodes.  There is definitely a lot more action to come I feel, and hopefully a little more in the way of surprises.

So far I’m enjoying Game of Thrones and I’ll wilfully power through the next two seasons in the next few weeks so that I can follow the drama of season 4 along with the rest of the world.  However, as a full-on drama series, it has still a ways to go before it tops House of Cards in my book as the best show I’ve seen this year.

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