Game of Thrones: Season 1
Typically, fantast based series do not do very well on standard broadcast television networks. Their paradigm for success is almost exclusively based on the ratings which translate directly into what they can charge their sponsors for commercials. While on occasion this system has produced some memorable shows over the years the current state of affairs is such that many people look to cable networks, particularly those in the well financed premium tier for examples of the best that the medium has to offer. The greater latitude in explicit and mature themes combined with the ability to target a specific, generally smaller viewership permits the show runners employed by channels such as Showtime and HBO to creatively explore far different types of series than could ever be shown on the regular channels. One if the latest offering from the originator of this king of cutting edge programming, HBO is a series intriguingly titled ‘Game of Thrones’. The series is based on a popular series of sword and sorcery novels which may sound like it would have to be something with a rather narrowly targeted demographic. Under most circumstances this type of observation would be true but it also has to be considered that the network presenting this series, HBO, has built a reputation on exceptional quality and compelling stories. If you are not particularly as fan of this type of magically drive, medieval fantasy it might help to view it as the Sopranos with swords and horses in lieu of cars and guns. The same underlying elements are present in ‘Game of Thrones’ with pretty much the same motivations; power and wealth. The major difference is the Capo is likely to be an actual King and the consigliere is apt to be a wizard. You are still going to be pulled into plots, backstabbing, deception and lust just without the scenes involving pasta of some sort. It should be noted at this point that ‘Thrones’ is not the best HBO has ever produced and it is not up to the innovative standards of the aforementioned organized crime based series. Where ‘Thrones’ does readily secede is in placing a new spin on a consideration of human nature, one never quite presented on television in quite this fashion. It is also just going into its sophomore year so there is time for them to carve out their own niche and establish its own narrative voice.
One of the greatest aspects of this series is the incredibly rich, fully elaborated world that was created in the novels is faithfully executed in the series. Naturally, some modifications in details and pacing are necessary in order translate the story from a literary, novels by George R. R. Martin, to a visual format. In doing this some of the supernatural elements were made less overt in order to give the audience time to gain their footing in this environment and become familiar with the characters and the geo-political foundation crucial to understanding the story. The world that this story takes place has two continents; Westeros where the main characters of this season reside and Essos, roughly their version of Eurasia. Westeros is divided into seven regions each ruled by a hereditary monarchy. The North is ruled by the House Stark overseeing as large by sparsely populated terrain. The Iron Islands are a grouping of seven islands under the rule of House Greyjoy. The Riverland is a lush region ruled by House Tully. Then there is the mountainous area of the Vale dominated by the House Arryn. To the western side of the continent lies the Wastelands ruled by House Lannister, The Reach is the fertile ground ruled by House Tyrell and The Stormlands is the province under the House Baratheon. Finally there is the last to be incorporated into the seven Kingdoms, Dorne, and the ancestral lands of House Martell. Overseeing all seven is the Crownlands, ruled by the King of the Iron Throne. This seat of ultimate power and authority is the object of desire by all seven of the subjected kings; the viding for that position is the titular "Game of Thrones.
In the first season the head of House Stark us Lord Ned Stark played by an actor well versed in this type of role, Sean Bean. Is wife Catelyn (Michelle Fairley) is from the House of Tully in a marriage intended to unite the two kingdoms thus solidifying their power and scope. Their rival King Robert Baratheon (Mark Addy) and his wife, Queen Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) have their own Machiavellian schemes in play, as you can see by the Queen’s name the is a significant amount of interbreeding among the royal families of Westeros which greatly obscures motifs and alliances, Fortunately, there is already a ‘Game of Throne wiki site to help map out the ever shifting associations. The cast here is impeccable and the staging epic. At this point the only drawback is a natural one intrinsic to any high concept fantasy driven project; the is an unusual amount of back story and exposition that has to be established before the audience can be expected to comprehend what is going on. This first season achieved its goal of laying the ground work and, most importantly pulling the audience in.
Even within the confines of expository mode the series wastes no time in getting to what has become HBO’s trademark, good sized portions of lust and violence. The main theme that supports everything going on here is one of the primal drives of humanity; power. Politics has been called the art of the possible and the players in this game have been born and raised to it. Intrigue, deception, seduction and murder are all accepted and expected ploys in this game and the players are quite expert in their manipulations. The best is yet to come but this first season is one of the best crafted political dramas in quite a long time. if possible get it in high definition. It is the only way to fully appreciate the effort and detail provided by the set and costume designers.