Season 1 of HBO’s Game of Thrones (GoT) is the definition of mesmerizing entertainment. It is a heady mix of attractive actors who can actually act, extravagant costumes that blend perfectly well with jaw dropping and impregnable castles and insurmountable walls, confident writing and themes that have lasting truth values.
GoT is about the unquenchable desire of noble families to occupy the Iron Thone. In their quest to be the ruler of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, they battle, kill, backstab, asslick, moneygrab, sacrifice lives of others, and sleep their way to the chair of power. It is like modern politics, just with good-looking players, better clothes and superior game plans. If politics, military tactics, nobility and the supernatural are not intriguing enough, I am sure the random boobs exposures and “sexposition” will attract some attention.
GoT is a talky show. It uses conversations, banters and whispers in lieu of flashback scenes to establish background and motives of characters and to explain the significance of events in each episode. The first episode was just about this – introduction of characters and their persuasions. I was a little overwhelmed by the number of actors, but as the season progresses, their alliances become clearer and their actions make more sense. More importantly, I was able to differentiate Baelish (Aidan Gillen) from Varys (Conleth Hill). Haha.
I met the Starks of Winterfell, the guardians of the North, led by their patriarch, Lord Eddard “Ned” Stark (Sean Bean). Ned and his wife, the very I-speak-softly-but-I-carry-a-big-stick Catelyn (Michelle Fairley) have five children: the heir Robb (Richard Madden, the “pretty one” Sansa (Sophie Turner), the courageous Arya (Maisie Williams), the cutie patootie Bran, and the almost non-existent Rickon (Art Parkinson). Ned had a child from his extracurricular activities, Jon Snow, known as the bastard with nice hair. The Starks are the heroes and all-around good guys in the show, and as such they get manipulated by evil-minded characters.
There is no family more evil-minded than the Lannisters of Casterly Rock, the richest family in Seven Kingdoms. The Lannisters are helmed by Tywin (Charles Dance), the man I admire for his cunning intellect and financial savvy. Tywin has three children: the beautiful blondes in twin Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Cersei (Lenna Headey) and the imp with gigantic mind and quick wit in Tyrion. In order to have a firmer hold on wealth and power, Cersei is married off to the king of the entire realm, Robert Baratheon. Theirs is a loveless marriage born purely out of political needs. On one hand, Robert is in love with Ned’s already dead sister, Lyanna. On the other hand, Cersei has incestuous relations with the most gorgeous figure in Seven Kingdoms, her own twin brother.
Lustrous golden hair is the trademark of Viserys (Harry Lloyd) and Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) Targaryen, the exiled children of the Mad King, Robert’s predecessor who was dethroned in a treacherous way. While in Essos, across the Narrow Sea from the Starks, the Lannisters and the Baratheons, entitled brat Viserys plots his return to Westeros and uses his sister as a tool to regain his birthright as the ruler of Seven Kingdoms.
The story starts with King Robert and his entourage’s visit to Winterfell to ask Ned to be the King’s Hand (adviser) after the suspicious death of the previous Hand, Jon Arryn. Robert and Ned have a long history of friendship that led to numerous military victories, which culminated in Ned’s role in installing Robert in his present position. Through their colorful and graphic exchanges of words, which started with Robert calling Ned “fat” when Robert was the one who needed “armor stretcher”(I almost choked on the wafer stick I was eating when I heard it, and had to rewind it just to make sure my ears did not deceive me), I can see genuine affection between them.
The brotherly affection between Robert and his could-have-been-brother-in-law is tested several times throughout the season, and the event that put the wheels in motion happens just minutes after their private conversation in the crypt. Bran, the cutest child I have ever seen onscreen, likes climbing walls and walking on steep roofs; he is just unlucky to climb an isolated part of Winterfell and bear witness to the Lannister twin having coitus. A few moments later, Bran falls to the ground and is presumed dead by the perpetrator (things we do for love). Bran’s fall might as well be the figurative fall from power of the Starks and the dramatic crumbling of the entire realm.
Ned consents to be the Hand that wipes the king’s shit; he runs the kingdom while the king eats, drinks and whores himself to an early grave. As he does the shitwiping at King’s Landing, Jon Snow joins his uncle Benjen Stark (Joseph Mawle) at the Wall and meets his fellow society outcasts. The Wall is the barrier between the civilized and the unknown parts of Westeros. Also, Catelyn kidnaps Tyrion to avenge Bran’s fall. Sansa thinks she is in love with the cruel heir to the Iron Throne, Prince Joffrey. Across the Narrow Sea, at the behest of Viserys, Daenerys marries the leader of nomad group Dothraki, Khal Drogo (the very fine specimen of a man Jason Momoa), falls in love with him and bears his child – the Stallion who mounts the world – and gives life to three formidable creatures instead. Meanwhile, Tywin appears on the show as an exacting father and skillful at skinning deer. His least favorite offspring, Tyrion survives the madness of Catelyn’s sister Lysa, briefly enjoys the aerial view of Vale from his skycell, sleeps with a multitude of women and gets “injured” in battle. Lastly, Ned’s own son, Robb rallies their allies to fight the Lannisters and save Ned’s neck on the chopping block. Needless to say, there were hundreds of deaths (at least two thousand in one battle alone).
The game of thrones starts with the death of Arry and reaches its crescendo when King Robert was murdered by a pig. This last bit is humorous and ironic. This last bit also reveals that a dead man’s last wish is unimportant, even if that dead man was the king. It also shows that power is as fleeting as shooting stars.
My Favorite Characters
NED IS LOVE- I rarely like genuinely good protagonists because chances are, they are boring and inept, but Ned is an exception. He was the lone direwolf of justice and righteousness in the midst of corruption and evil. He was not only the moral compass of the show but he was also the enforcer of his word. His ballsy moves to confront Cersei on the illegitimacy of her children and to go up against Tywin are winners in my book. +100000 pogi points. He was not only a good soldier and Hand of the King, he was also a good father to all his children: gift of doll to Sansa and Arya’s dance/sword lessons with Syrio. His demise made me sad, but not terribly. His presence in 9.02 episodes is memorable, and I am sure bards will immortalize his bravery and oft mentioned phrase, “winter is coming” in songs of praise.
Arya – She is not the stereotypical future lady of the house of X. She hits the bull’s eye with bow and arrow, quite adept with sword with a kill to show for it and has a ferocious direwolf. She is the man (I apologize for the cheesiness).
Catelyn – She is the woman worthy of Ned. She is a noble woman who knows how to use firm words and deadly charm to aid her family, but underneath her petticoats lies a fearless woman who gallops her way to the capital to warn her husband of some misdeeds.
King Robert – In many aspects, he was an unfit king, but he seemed like an honest person. He used his position to bed many whores, drink and eat excessively and command people to do his bidding, but he was loyal to a fault. He was loyal to Ned and his sister even after he drunk milk of the poppy.
Tyrion – He is the most fun character. His retorts are gold, he gives away gold and he might as well possess golden heads up north and down south. He knows his strengths and weaknesses enough to survive in perilous situations and maintain a swagger alien to people his size. Also, he is a voracious reader, so that gives him +1000 pogi points.
Cersei – She is the true queen in a game of chess. She has almost unlimited moves with the help of her beauty, unparalleled combat skills of Jaime and the endless coffers of Tywin. Her king fumbles (or fumbled) his way to the throne one move at a time and needs (or needed) her as a crutch to remain there. She has learned the art of political dealing from her father, but he deems her unworthy of his name because she does not have the proper chromosomes to lead. If Tywin only knew the calculating ruthlessness that lies in the heart of his daughter.
My Favorite Moments
Arya and Syrio Forel’s (Miltos Yerolemou) Water Dance. Syrio’s teaching techniques are interesting, and his camaraderie with Arya is a breath of fresh air from all the politicking at King’s Landing. I will remember him with his quote, “and what do we say to the God of death? Not today”.
King Robert and Cersei’s conversation about their marriage. They talk about the dirty politics at King’s Landing and declare that their marriage holds the realm together and keeps it from collapsing. They pause. Then they laugh heartily. I am glad they have a wicked sense of humor about their situation. In the same conversation, King Robert talks about his undying love for Lyanna and how ruling Seven Kingdoms could not fill the gaping hole her death left behind. Cersei informs him that hearing that does not hurt her (anymore). It is obvious that they do not need marriage counselling. 🙂
Ned confronts Cersei about her affair with her brother. This either shows how naïve Ned is about politics or how valiant and honest he is. I will wager on the latter because NED IS LOVE. Cersei admits to the affair and declares that she and Jaime are “more than brother and sister. We shared a womb” while throwing shade at the Targaryens for their own incestuous relationships. She remarks at Ned’s political suicide by saying that, “when you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground”.
Catelyn meets Lord Walder Frey and his many many many many many children. Frey lords over a stone bridge that is vital in Robb’s attack, but the former is reluctant to help the latter and earn the wrath of the Lannisters. Catelyn volunteers to talk some sense to Frey and ends up agreeing to marry Robb and Arya to the Freys and take one of the Freys as Robb’s squire. Frey is 90 but his sexual desire is far from waning and his brood of children (and grandchildren) is a testament to his urges. When he commands them to leave, it takes several seconds for them to empty the room completely. I thought it was a clan reunion.
My Favorite Bromances
Ned and King Robert. Their conversations are insightful, whether they talk about politics, military tactics, family or whores. They remained loyal (in the case of Ned, almost) to each other until their last gasp.
Baelish and Varys. Every Small Council meeting, they arrive early at the Throne Room to admire the Iron Throne (Baelish) and to spy on people (Varys). Then, they insult each other, another method of exposition of the show, until someone else arrives. The rapid fire hurling of barbs is amazing and the content is genius. So both are winners in every encounter.
Tyrion and Bronn. They are an odd couple – physically, mentally and financially, but they are perfect sounding boards for each other. They love to drink and be merry with warm bodies of paid women and they have no qualms about their debaucheries. Bronn must be ecstatic with the perks of his duties.
Yes, you read it correctly. I wrote Season 1. ONE. I am four years too late to this awesome GoT party, and I am kicking myself for that so you do not have to do it. I did not start watching GoT until four days ago because I thought the show would be too complicated for me. I did not want my brain cells to burst and lose whatever mental capacity I have left due to a TV show. Well, I am wrong. I finished the entire first season without discernible brain damage, and I actually understood almost all of it. At least I think I did.
Thank you, Che and Hope for the recommendation and copy of the episodes. 🙂