Game of Thrones: Winter is Coming

At the risk of damaging my nerd cred, I had never heard of the book series Game of Thrones until I saw a promo for this show on HBO a while back. But it seemed like the type of show I would drool over and it has already has two notches on my Lord of the Rings scale of cool already – majestic period costumes and Sean Bean! Game of Thrones is a sprawling epic about a vast kingdom, packed to the brim with characters. I’m just going to lay it all out upfront so it’ll be easier to keep track of later on.

The Setting:
A vast kingdom that’s revealed to us in the coolest intro I’ve seen in a long time: an animated map that rises up as the camera swoops over the landscape. And that music?! Put me right in the epic ‘spirit’ as soon as it started. The Capital of the seven kingdoms is “King’s Landing”, ruled by King Robert Bartheon. So far we’ve also seen Winterfell, a Northern part of the kingdom, and Pentos, a Southern land “across the narrow sea” – which may be part of a separate kingdom altogether.

The Players:
Eddard Stark (Sean Bean) – The Lord of Winterfell, who is deeply in love with his Northern land and the ways of the ‘Old Gods’. He seems fair, but doles out swift justice when needed. He severs the head of a night watch deserter because he reneged on his oath. He’s a loving and strict father to 5 Stark children (and a 6th illegitimate ‘bastard’). He encourages his children, but doesn’t coddle them, forcing his 10 year old son Bran to witness the execution of the deserter because “he won’t be a boy forever”. The King of the Seven Kingdoms is an old friend, who offers to give him the title of the King’s Hand if he relocates to the capital to help him rule.

Benjen Stark – The oldest of the Stark children – we don’t really know much about him at this point other than he likes to give his little brother a hard time.

Sansa Stark – Eddard’s 13 year old daughter, who is discovering her feminine wiles. She’s always dreamed of being a princess and when the royal family comes to Winterfell she wastes no time making coy “come hither” faces at the young Prince. Lucky for her the King is eager to arrange a marriage between her and his son to merge their two families.

Arya Stark – the precocious youngest daughter who is bored with sewing and other girlish chores. She prefers playing practical jokes on her oldest sister and humiliating her brother by trouncing him in target practice.

Bran Stark – A curious young child, whose favourite hobby is scrambling up the sides of walls and towers to look out across the land. His mother makes him promise not to climb anymore because she’s worried he’s going to fall and hurt himself. Naturally he ignores her and accidentally stumbles upon a scene he was not supposed to witness during one of his climbs. He’s pushed out of an archway and his condition is unknown at this point.

Jon Snow – the bastard child of Eddard, who suffers from an inferiority complex and harbors feelings of bitterness. He is excluded from a feast with the King because ‘it wouldn’t look good’. He wants to join the night watch, but his father is trying to persuade him not to. It would mean a life without love and family.

Catelyn Stark – Eddard’s wife, who isn’t a native to the North and often feels like an outsider. She wants her husband to stand up to the King rather than do his ‘duty’ and leave the family behind. She worries about her daughter being married off to the Prince.

There must be a 5th Stark child somewhere, other than Jon, because there was mention of 5 children of the house of Stark and Jon has made clear than he is “not a Stark”.

The King – The King of the Seven Kingdoms; a rotund, grimy looking fellow who appears anything but royal. The man is so out of shape he needs a platform to hop down from his horse! He’s more at home in a tavern than a palace and spends his time drinking and flirting with bar maids. He says of his offer to Eddard, “I’m not trying to honour you, I’m trying to get you to run my Kingdom while I eat, drink and whore my way to an early grave.” Before he married the Queen he was in love with Eddard’s sister and still blames the house of Targaryen for her death.

Queen Cersei Lannister – the cold and aloof wife of The King. Unlike her lumbering over-grown frat boy of a husband, she’s the picture of elegance and royalty, but she’s also a terrible snob. She puts a high price on beauty and looks down on those from the North. She tells Catelyn, “Your daughter will do well in the capital. Such a beauty shouldn’t stay hidden up here forever.” She watches her husband cavorting with other women right in front of her and barely flinches. She’s getting her own sugar on the side anyway … FROM HER BROTHER!

Jamie Lannister – Cersei’s dashing twin brother and her closest confidante/incest buddy. When Bran Stark witnesses a tryst between him and his sister, he shoves him off the tower to keep him quiet.

Tyrion Lannister – The Queen’s brother, a drunken dwarf whose reputation has earned him the nickname “The Imp”. Or as one of his whorehouse groupies puts it, “I hear he’s a drunken little lecher, prone to all manner of perversions.”

Viserys Targaryen – A Draco Malfoy look-alike, who considers himself the rightful heir to the throne of the Seven Kingdoms. He’s been exiled to the Southern Land of Pentos (Across the Narrow Seas) and he’s waited 17 years to take his birthright by force. He’s willing to use any means necessary. Whoring out his younger sister in exchange for an army is the plan he’s settled on. “I would let his whole tribe f*ck you, all 40,000 men and their horses too if that’s what it took.” He is indescribably creepy! He barely raises his voice above a whisper as he says the most vile, disturbing, disgusting things.

Daenerys Targaryen – Viserys’ gorgeous sister; an ethereal fragile looking creature. He treats her like a possession and takes disturbing liberties like stripping her down, stroking her breasts and complimenting her on her woman’s body. She’s homesick but terrified to be married off to a savage. Like an abuse victim, she can’t find a way to break free or express how much pain she’s in. She steps into a bathtub full of scalding water and it barely registers as her handmaiden warns her it’s too hot. It’s like she wants to hurt herself.

Khal Drogo – A warrior from the Dothraki tribe with a fierce reputation. “Do you see how long his hair is? When Dothraki are defeated in combat they cut off their braid so the world can see their shame. Khal Drogo has never been defeated.” He seems weirdly gentle for a supposed savage – even if he did buy his new wife and insist she perform her conjugal duties. As a wedding gift he presents her with a beautiful white horse and she’s oddly touched. I’m sure it says something disturbing about me that I find him TOTALLY hot.

Note: I would just to thank GOD for IMDB or I would be massacring the spelling of these people’s names!

The times they are a-changing in the Seven Kingdoms and it all spells trouble! The King’s Hand John Aaron, who was like a father to him and Eddard, fell victim to a fever and passed away. But Catelyn Stark’s sister has fled the capital and sent her a secret message, claiming he was actually murdered by the Lannisters. Knowing the King could be next, Eddard has no choice but to accept the position as the new King’s Hand in order to protect him.

Danger brews in the south as well, where Viserys Targaryen impatiently waits for his new Dothraki army to see the omens of war. In exchange for Khal Drogo’s new bride they have agreed to back him up in his bid to reclaim his throne.

But within the forests of the North something far more sinister than traitors is lurking. Moose are being mysteriously eviscerated and dire wolves, which haven’t been seen in those parts for decades, have suddenly reappeared. The night watch deserter, who was sentenced to death, fled his post because The White Walkers (creepy supernatural beings with glowing blue eyes) attacked and slaughtered his friends. Of course no one wants to believe it. The White Walkers have been gone for thousands of years so it must be the ramblings of a mad man.

First Impressions
There were so many characters and plot threads introduced right off the bat and I’m excited that there is so much to expand on and explore over the course of the season. If just feels like big event-style television which gets me kind of giddy. And because I haven’t read the books it will all be brand new to me! The cast is fantastic, the writing seems decent so far and it’s beautifully shot.

Having said that … I don’t love this show yet. I’m definitely intrigued and compelled to go back for more, but there are things that did irk me. It’s a little violent for my taste. Within the first 10 minutes I counted at least half a dozen graphic severed heads. And with war brewing, I can tell that I’m in for a lot of blood spurting, guts spilling and innards spewing. It’s a personal preference but I enjoy the emotion and the impact of death … minus the gore. If you take Lord of the Rings as the perfect example there was a lot of killing, but not much graphic content.

I also found the Dothraki tribal scenes to be completely stereotypical and way overblown. We get it, they’re supposed to ‘exotic savages’, but was al l the grinding and gang-banging really necessary? Scantily clad tribal women moaning and gyrating – total boob city. Guess it’s all about booty in the land of the savages. The black and white imagery was a little much as well; the dark and light snakes intertwined with each-other as Khal and Daenerys sat side by side; the black stallion for him and the white horse for her.

But I expected as much. Subtlety is a dirty word to HBO. They’re allowed to show sex and violence and so they do … ad nauseum. But if Game of Thrones has the potential to be as great a story as I think it does, I’m sure I’ll forgive it for all manner of graphic sins in no time!

Photo Courtesy of HBO

2 thoughts on “Game of Thrones: Winter is Coming

  1. Good article laying everything out. Ive read the books and must say I am excited to see people who haven’t get into this series. You are truly in for a treat. As to the gore and other explicit parts of the show, its truly part of the books, which are more graphicly detailed than even HBO will do. The story is brutal and gritty, just like the world they live in. Enjoy !!!! ( oh, and the 5th child of Eddard Stark is Rikkon, who is the youngest.)

  2. Great article. Also not read the books but after episode 8 am well and truly hooked. Totally my thing – medieval politics, treachery and intrigue with great scenery, costume and wonderful characters. Love Arya (who wopuldn’t) , love the dwarf !!and the courtly schemers and advisers are top shelf.

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