Because I review a whole tv series rather than individual episodes, there is a chance of spoilers, so if you haven’t watched the whole series yet, stop reading now!
I’m a history geek. Although I’m interested in all sorts of history, medieval is something I find particularly interesting. The wars, the plagues, the scandals and the different royal families, all vying and double-crossing each other. Its one of those times in history that seems like fiction but is brilliantly true.
It’s no surprise then that tv has tried to emulate some of that interest and drama. There have been a couple of shows that have tried to recapture that time but with varying degrees of success. The most successful so far is probably The Tudors, being (almost) historically accurate and decent drama.
Unfortunately, there are also plenty of shows that try to recapture the same spirit but fall short because they are too boring. The best examples so far are Pillars of the Earth, which tried very hard to be historic and dramatic and another look at British history, this time mythology and legend, Camelot. Both were very adult in the way they approached their respective shows but also crept slowly through their stories, with whole episodes going past where very little happens.
Camelot was the more successful of the two because it had some better story telling devices, namely the magic and the legend it could adapt and play with. That is one of the key reasons Game of Thrones is so brilliant. It gets to remove the Arthurian legend part and just use the medieval style backdrop to tell a very interesting story set in a fantastically original world.
From the opening scenes, when watchmen are attacked by the seemingly living dead, Game of Thrones has you hooked. It then plays out like a medieval drama, with servants, lords, titles and sword fighting. Its set in a world with a strict hierarchy, competing families and a nasty air of double-crossing and mistrust. Its brilliant television.
The characters created fit into this world perfectly. The put upon, noble to a fault, Eddard Stark, newly created Hand to the King, is a perfect centre-point for the first few episodes at least. Whoever made the decision to cast Sean Bean deserves an award because he plays medieval knight better than almost anyone.
He is then surrounded by diverse but equally as interesting characters, like the Lannister siblings, played by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and his sister, played by Lena Heady. From the moment they appear you can tell they are nasty and scheming and they don’t disappoint. The Lannister that steals the shows entirely is Tyrion, the Imp, played superbly by Peter Dinklage. A character that is so revolting in the beginning but becomes the character that I think everyone wants to see on-screen, succeeding, by the end of the season.
I could go on and on about the vast array of characters and brilliant actors portraying them. It’s a huge strength of the show that it does have a massive cast and many different, intertwining storylines, resolving themselves in some cases and then becoming something completely different in other situations. It’s what puts this series above others like it, it moves at pace, bringing you something exciting and interesting with every episode.
For something set in a fictional, mythical and fantastical world, it also does a great job of not overdoing the magic and mystical. The season ends with something that fits perfectly in a fantasy series but the build up to that moment, with the blood, sex and mature stories that have gone before it, more than overshadows something that could be seen as quite childish or silly.
The season is so good, particularly at building up the suspense, foreshadowing huge moments and getting the audience invested in what is yet to come. My only complaint is that it very rarely pays-off with the huge moments. A battle scene, which could have been very cool to see, particularly after all the hype surrounding it, is quickly brushed over without actually seeing any blood-shed. The same can be said for the end of the season itself. Huge events are foreshadowed, events that have been built up to for the past two or three episodes at least, but then are left until season 2, leaving the audience, or me at least, feeling slightly dejected.
It’s a small complaint about a series that has me gripped. It delivers that mix of historic, medieval style setting with stories that move with purpose and develop quickly, rather than taking the long, slow and steady route which has killed other similar shows.
Overall, I love Game of Thrones. It has great actors, brilliant stories and fantastic action. I have no idea where it is going next and there is so much to be resolved that it has set itself up for a fantastic start to season 2 at least. I just wish I had some of those answers now, rather than having to wait for the season 2 repeat to be shown!
Best Episode – Baelor: It’s difficult to choose an episode that is best when they all link so intrinsically but the end of this episode is so shocking and brilliant that it goes straight to the top spot.
Best performance – Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister.
Should there have been another season? – Yes, definitely. There is so much to resolve that I can’t wait to see season 2.
Season Rating – 4.5
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)