Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Game of Thrones – Post-Season Recap of HBO's Epic Fantasy Series

Long before the show actually premiered, I wrote about my excitement concerning HBO's Game of Thrones, considering how big a fan of the novels I am. Now that it is all said and done, season one aired and picked up for a second go, how did it all pan out? In a word, fabulous. I was particularly impressed by the delicate balance struck between a wide variety of factors that, if ignored, might well have prepared this series for an entry in a future sequel to my “worst adaptations” article.

The producers of the series had challenges. George R.R. Martin's Westeros is a complex and dark world with a detailed history and subtleties that affect the plot in sometimes unexpected ways. However, a book has the freedom to meander about and plumb the depths of a fantasy world's history that a television show or film cannot. Without some of these details, however, the world loses its unique character, and certain players of the great game act in ways that make no sense, due to lack of proper context. Setting the stage without leaving the important stuff out while not boring the audience with a long history lesson is tricky, and they nailed it. I was amused when I noticed that the appearance of a nude prostitute nearly always signaled a scene featuring a history lesson, a process I've seen referred to as “sexposition.”

Then King Robert proclaimed that all History Lessons must be taught
in the presence of whores. Nude whores. He was probably drunk.

The producers also had to effectively manage the time they were allotted for the first season in order to tell the story contained originally in an 835 page book, and to best use the budget they had for the season as well. Cuts on details in the books were merciful, and the essence of the story and every key scene was retained. I'd have liked to see more of the direwolves, but I understand that shooting with animals costs time and money that adds to a budget very, very quickly. The lack of large battle sequences on-screen was regrettable, but most of the action in terms of large-scale military conflict was told “off camera” in the first book, as well. The decision to be careful how often Rickon Stark was shown was also in the service to logistics, as the youngest child actor is likely to change the most in the filming of a long-term production.

Casting was handled particularly adeptly, given the large number of people in the ensemble, and my early excitement for the casting of Peter Dinklage as Tyrion turned out to be spot-on. Also of particular note is Maisie Williams, the young actress playing Arya Stark. Arya is a great character, a favorite of many who love the books, and they found a shockingly brilliant young actress to fill the role. Arya isn't an easy character to play, fan expectation is high, and the youth of the actress makes her performance incredible. Lord Varys, the Spider, is one of my personal favorite characters, and the more I saw of Conleth Hill, the more I liked the casting. I can't think of a single casting decision that I don't applaud, as most characters looked as I had pictured them, or were so well acted that they changed my mental picture for their roles.

Lord Varys. Fear his gash.

The big moments, the shockers and iconic images were handled adeptly, and one of the great pleasures of a fan of the novels is watching Twitter and reading recaps posted by people experiencing the story for the first time.  I've read each book at least three times now, and have been proud to see a story that has meant so much to me reach a whole new audience in a new way.  Now, a little less than a month to wait for the new book, a Dance With Dragons.
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Alpha said...

I've heard some mixed reviews on this, but I think I'll give it a look now.

Monty said...

Loved it from start to finish and can't wait for the next series!

Astronomy Pirate said...

I haven't read the books (though I did read the wiki on them), but the TV show has done a fantastic job. It keeps a perfect pacing that never leaves you bored and always wanting more. Next season should be exciting.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

An awesome adaptation so far. Even if you know what's going to happen, it is still riveting and even emotional watching the events unfold.

Also I didn't care much for Varys when I first read the books. But after watching this first season, he's now one of my favorite characters. His scenes with Littlefinger are just perfect.

Zombie Ad said...

Sounds great. I'll probably wait for the box set.

The Angry Lurker said...

Currently on the second book and enjoying both books and the TV series which just ended on Monday.

Mcuzino said...

A good critique of HBO's job. I just came across your blog and have become a follower. Seeing that you are a avid reader of fantasy novels I have a favor to ask you. I am a self published author of a fantasy novel and am looking for authentic reviews from fantasy fans. If you would be willing I would like to send you a copy of the book for your review here on your blog. If you are not ok with this I understand and will continue to follow you.
Here is a link to the book

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