Pilot Review: Game of Thrones

Based on George RR Martin’s Song of Fire and Ice Series, (specifically the eponymous first book), this is an epic fantasy set in a medieval land full of heroes and villains, although the characters disagree who falls into which category, thereby generating plenty of plot.

I’ve never read the books and know very little about them other than the fact that they’ve won lots of awards, I should probably have read them and they’re all pretty long. I can’t make any comment as to the accuracy of the re-creation, but I’d say it’s a good sign that the author has been so closely associated with production. It certainly felt like a book on screen, in the same way that Lord of the Rings did, that there is a lot more going on and many more layers that are just out of sight of the cameras. If you are to believe the New York Times review written by Ginia Bellafante then there is actually too much going on already:

In a sense the series, which will span 10 episodes, ought to come with a warning like, ‘If you can’t count cards, please return to reruns of Sex and the City.’

While Game of Thrones does have a large number of characters and factions to follow, they’re all elegantly introduced and their stories are very focussed. Yes the series was detailed, rich and even complex, but at no point was it overwhelming or confusing. Maybe my lack of befuddlement stems from the fact that I’m used to watching and reading complex inter-weaving storylines, but I’m far from alone in this if the success of Lord of the Rings, Inception and the multitude of successful television shows on cable channels with similar complexity presented in assorted circumstances. This kind of storytelling requires you to immerse yourself into it and accept that there’s going to be things that you don’t understand immediately – this is what it’s like to be thrown into the middle of a world history and into the middle of peoples’ lives/. Game of Thrones gradually reveals a rich history with large scale wars and political changes accompanied by more personal relationships between characters. Yes, you have to pay attention while you watch, but if you do, rather than feeling confused and overwhelmed at the end of the episode, you feel satisfied and intrigued.

Mind you, Ms Bellafante clearly has a number of issues that she must contend with:

The true perversion, though, is the sense you get that all of this illicitness has been tossed in as a little something for the ladies, out of a justifiable fear, perhaps, that no woman alive would watch otherwise. While I do not doubt that there are women in the world who read books like Mr. Martin’s, I can honestly say that I have never met a single woman who has stood up in indignation at her book club and refused to read the latest from Lorrie Moore unless everyone agreed to “The Hobbit” first. “Game of Thrones” is boy fiction patronizingly turned out to reach the population’s other half.

I’m not really sure what show Ms Bellafante was watching, because just about everything she says is wrong and she tops it off by saying it all in such an offensive way. A quick google will turn up a number of responses, far better written than I can manage, but enough to say that Ms Bellafante seems to have a very limited world view and her so called ‘review’ is not only wrong, patronising and downright offensive, but a terrible piece of journalism which says far more about her than it does about the show she is supposed to be writing about.

Back to the show, the only thing that caused me any pause in the pilot episode was that having been described as epic fantasy, I rather wondered where the fantasy was. Unless I missed something, the pilot was pretty much fantasy free – no magic or weird and wonderful creatures except a reference to some fossilised dragon eggs. I didn’t find that a problem for the first episode, and the characters and scenarios are interesting enough that I’m not sure I’d mind long term either, but I will be a bit saddened if ‘mainstream’ audiences are being led to believe this is fantasy just because it’s not set in our history and there is some weird makeup.

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed watching the first episode. There has clearly been a lot of love and money put into the production – it looks absolutely fantastic, more like a movie than a television production. I think it’s going to be one of the shows that people talk about for a very long time and would thoroughly recommend that people get on board even if only for fear of being as ill informed as Ms Bellafante.

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