Ok so it’s easy to make the connection between Games of Thrones and LOTR’s as it stars the brilliant Sean Bean. Sean Bean is no stranger to period set shows and this seems like such a natural progression for Boromir and I can’t think of anyone else to star in GOT as Ed Stark. The show is based on novels by author George R. R. Martin’s. Set in the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, where “summers span decades and winters can last a lifetime,” Game of Thrones chronicles the violent dynastic struggles among the kingdom’s noble families for control of the Iron Throne; as the series opens, additional threats from the snow and ice covered region north of Westeros and from the eastern continent across a narrow sea are simultaneously beginning to rise. This series is a brilliant medieval fantasy series that is epic and personal at the same time. It is up there with the likes of Spartacus not quite as aesthetically violent and it uses its special effects in a different way but it has that intense storytelling and beauty.
The story is rather complex with many characters and stories being woven together to create the bigger picture. The world is a complex and interesting place, the opening sequence along shows this diverse and growing land of great cities. I can’t even begin to tell you everything about these characters as I know the series is based on a much larger wealth of information from books yet to be adapted but there are a few key stories in this first series. We have Ed Stark’s family their trials and tribulations as they get mixed up in a plot of corruption that they never wanted to be a part of but seem to be the only ones with the strength of duty and morals to learn the truth. Sean Bean leads the first season cast as Lord Eddard “Ned” Stark, patriarch of the protagonist family of the series, the Starks. His wife, Catelyn Stark née Tully, is played by Michelle Fairley. Their children are Robb (Richard Madden), Sansa (Sophie Turner), Arya (Maisie Williams), Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright) and Rickon (Art Parkinson). Kit Harington plays Ned’s bastard, Jon Snow, and Alfie Allen plays Theon Greyjoy, political hostage and ward of Lord Stark. King Robert Baratheon is played by Mark Addy, and his wife, Queen Cersei Lannister, is played by Lena Headey. Cersei has two brothers; her twin, Ser Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), and the clever dwarf Tyrion (Peter Dinklage). Cersei’s oldest child is Prince Joffrey Baratheon (Jack Gleeson), and his bodyguard is Sandor “The Hound” Clegane (Rory McCann). Aidan Gillen plays Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish, Master of Coin for King Robert’s Small Council. Across the Narrow Sea are Viserys (Harry Lloyd) and Daenerys “Dany” Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), exiled children of the previous king that King Robert overthrew, on the run for their lives and trying to win back the throne. Dany is married to Khal Drogo (Jason Momoa), the leader of the Dothraki, for the promise of an army for Viserys. Iain Glen plays exiled knight Ser Jorah Mormont, who is sworn to help and protect the siblings.
This is only the briefest summary of our main characters, the manipulative and highly corrupt Lannister’s are at the heart of much of the corruption and assignations in this series, so desperate to secure the power of the kingdom they use their fortune to win favours while sitting themselves high above those they seek to lead. They also hold much darkness about their own desires from the fact that the twins are in a sexual relationship and it’s their inbred son (which the King Baratheon believes is his own heir) they wish to seat as the next king.
Their son himself may act with dignity in front of his subjects but like his manipulative parents he knows how to play people and is in fact a weak and cowardly young man who has the capacity to be very cruel and hide behind the strength and brutality of those that protect him.
The only member of this family that isn’t as ugly and cruel is in fact the dwarf brother of the Lannister twins, Tyrion. He is a brilliant character who knows who he is and is confident with the decisions he makes and the lifestyle he has chosen, knowing he will never have the adoration and respect of the people he chooses to use his wealth to drink and whore his time away but at his heart he is actually a decent man who does care for those he gets close to and has far more morals and honour than his siblings. It’s unfortunate that because he is not beautiful like his brother people only see the outside appearance rather than good man inside, which is an ironic twist as his handsome brother, is cruel and incestuous with a thirst for blood and by far more the ugly sibling. Tyrion is also the most amusing character with his great sense of wit and brilliant intelligence that is lost to people for they are unable to see past his stature, but it’s his brain and charms that has allowed him to live to the fullest and gain respect.
Across the seas plays out a very different drama from a rival bloodline to the throne in the brilliant story of the Targaryen family. Here is the brilliant story of a young woman sold by her brother to the leader of a powerful but rather savage tribe in the promise of gaining an army to fulfil his own selfish ambitions. Daenerys goes on one of the biggest journeys of the series from being nothing but an object to trade and essentially a sex slave to the tribe leader to being the most powerful women in this tribe’s history. She learns how to survive, how to be a true queen, how to use her sexuality to find love and respect, she learns to lead and most importantly how much strength and maturity she has, how the blood inside her grants her true nobility and you really feel that she has the right to be a queen and is far more deserving of the iron throne over the Lannister’s, if only she could cross the narrow sea and bring this strength and dignity to a country about to fall into war and infighting.
But the infighting between noble families and the literal game for the iron throne is only part of the threat to this world. Amongst betrayal and corrupt politics is also the creation of true heroes with honour and their futures being sculpted so that they can rise to the challenges that are about to rip the world apart. One of these challenges that the people are yet to be aware of is from beyond the wall, an area to the north separated from the rest, which contained ancient and almost supernatural threats. And in this frozen world an ancient horror is awaking and getting ready for its own invasion. It is said that creatures and monsters are coming back from hibernation and are ready to concur the wall and invade bringing un-told and unknown power. Only a few are beginning to see this threat but their voices are not reaching those in power, so while a war is being played out a possibly larger and more dangerous threat is being ignored.
The world these characters inhabit is amazing with scenery that rivals that in LOTR, from grand city’s and castles on pedestals of rock towering above the lands to the great site of the frozen wall and the beautiful architecture of the throne room there is a lot to admire. They really made an exquisite world the misc-en scen is divine with so much attention to detail. The weather, clothing, homes and peoples are all well-crafted and full of true feeling. You can identify the affiliations of the characters and the settings, which I can’t stress enough how beautiful these locations are, my favourite being an impregnable castle that sits high on a tower of rock with sheer drops all around and epic views of the mountain scape that surrounds it. The camera sweeps over the scenery offering the kinds of views you wish you could see of a vast and magnificent world.
Another aspect I like about this series is the gritty reality of it even though it’s based in fantasy. You feel the perils of this world and the toll it takes on the characters, from how cold the north is and the bitter fight against it to the green and lustrous fields of the tribes across the narrow seas and how it provides for the people that rely on it. The fact that this world can be unforgiving, that characters and families can go through trauma such as injury and death and that it doesn’t matter what role you play in the world any one can die and no one is safe including title characters. The violence whether it’s from punishing a criminal in accordance with the honour and respect of the law or the brutality of war is all shown equally. This world understand that violent acts exist if you break certain laws it’s a beheading for you and that is how peace is maintains. In war there is death and violence and GOT doesn’t shy away from bloodshed but doesn’t glamourize it, getting your head cut off is brutal and violent and death is never pretty. Also this show is very sexual and very erotic, it has such an attractive cast and it likes to sexualize its characters equally, it is comfortable to show all kinds of sex from glamorous encounters between lovers to the unfairty of rape. It treats each sexual encounter with respect never glamourizing rape but showing that it is a brutal truth of this world. It also represents all kinds of couples from mixed race, to incest to even a gay couple which is something I respect in a show.
I loved this series and now very much want to read the books and see how this huge and turbulent world grows and develops. How are these characters going to grow, who will survive and who will inherit the iron throne. I can’t wait for another series and to continue to be surprised by the trials of these characters and their quests both personal and epic.