Game of Thrones - Season One
Authors note: I've tried to avoid specific spoilers in this retrospective review, the twists and turns are key to the plot and to discuss them would be to irrevocably damage Game of Thrones for a new viewer.
For a book series as detailed and epic as George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire, it would have taken a really talented team to translate it to the big screen; so it's without any regret that this never happened. The first book in the series, A Game of Thrones was epic in all senses of the word; it's medieval fantasy setting was reminscent of Middle Earth, but Martin managed to create a far more believable world than Tolkien could have ever hoped to achieve.
When HBO announced their plans to adapt the book into a big-budget TV series, many fans approached the idea with trepidation. How could the tale be adapted to a series that would not only be appropriate to a television audience, but also what would have to be dropped to fit everything in? Even with the ten hours the writers had to play with, there would inevitably be material that wouldn't make it to the television...
The story of the Stark, Tully, Lannister, Baratheon and Targaryen (amongst countless other) families is one of honour and betrayal and the twists and turns almost lend themselves to an episodic format. The opening series contains almost everything that was crammed into the first book, with just minor changes - most characters have aged about a decade in the journey from print to screen, which was inevitable given the risque nature of some of the material involving what are quite young characters on the page. It would be hard for any network, even HBO, to sell a series to the viewers that saw early teens having quite sexual relationships and this aging of key characters does nothing to detract from the tale. The truth is, the series actually pushes the boundaries by being a little more graphic than the book, which more often than not was quite matter-of-fact about the acts carried out.
Author, George R. R. Martin was involved in the development of the series and his guiding touch ensured that what we end up with is as faithful as possible to the original text; there are no major plot points lost in the translation.
Over the years, fans of the series have often discussed the casting if there ever was to be a film developed from the books; all sorts of genre-favourite names cropped up from the likes of Viggo Mortensen in the role of Eddard Stark and Warwick Davies as Tyrion Lannister. The final casting choices; whilst not quite there with fan wishes were remarkably perfect - Sean Bean makes for a brilliant Lord Stark and Lena Headley is a superbly treacherous Cersei Lannister. However major plaudits have to go to Emilia Clarke who is not only stunning in her portrayal of the initially delicate, but later much more authoritative Danaerys Targaryen, Peter Dinklage who brings a wonderfully sardonic edge that is perfect rendition of the character and Maisie Williams as the plucky little Arya. Suffice to say, that we don't see a wrong step in the casting department!
Shot mainly in Ireland, the land of Winterfell may not have the stunning visual impact that New Zealand brought to Middle Earth, but the grey skies and harsh features make it a far more suitable location for the dark, twisted tale that Game of Thrones leads us through. HBO's production values have managed to take the impossibility of creating a believable world out of Martin's words; and it's a world that is as real on screen as it was in our minds when reading - this is an achievement that can't be underestimated.
The first season is very much one of growing tension; the ten episodes not only introduce us to the main players but cram in so much action and intrigue that it's hard to believe that later series are only going to get even more intense. What we lose from the internal monologues in the book we gain in amazing pacing - the cliffhangers are perfectly judged with each episode building to a satisfying climax that demands that the viewer watches the next as soon as possible. By the end of the season it is a testament to the story that we still aren't entirely sure who can be trusted and the massive shift in power that we see in the closing episodes is similar to that that is seen in the rise of the 'Empire' in Star Wars.
Game of Thrones accepts that it will always have to conform to genre staples; but it does it in a way that is totally original. The TV series is a perfectly realised interpretation of the book; to the point that we can't see any way it could be improved and be more faithful. It's as definitive as is possible to get and our anticipation for season two is at fever-pitch. Given the fantasy genre has often struggled to gain acceptance, the recent Emmy award nominations are hopefully more than just expected nods and materialise into real and deserved plaudits; best new American series of 2011? This writer certainly thinks so...
Last updated: 21/06/2018 00:38:58