Recurring Cast: Sean Bean, Emilia Clarke, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Lena Headey, Mark Addy, Iain Glen, Michelle Fairley, Kit Harrington, Aidan Gillian, Jason Momoa and Peter Dinklage
It has taken me a while to bring myself into the mood for diving into the classic tale of warring factions in the fictional land of Westeros. While critics have praised it for being a successful and well-told tale of political intrigue and bloody back-stabbing, the content has always seemed to heavy for me to throw myself into. However, as a fourth season and a game companion appear in the horizon for fans to enjoy, it seemed that now was the time for me to hang up my grievances and give the Game of Thrones a fair chance.
Westeros has been spilt into several factions. We start the story with Sean Bean’s Ned Stark, lord of the North. His old friend, Robert Barrister, King of the Realm, asks him to replace the deceased Jon Arryn as Hand of the King. Ned reluctantly agrees, not particularly wanting to get involved in the political life in the South. As he arrives in King’s Landing, home of the King, he begins to suspect that he has too many enemies in this side of the world. The King has married into another family, the Lannisters, well known for their cold, calculating ambition. Ned’s wife seems to believe that they had something to do with the crippling of their youngest son. Ned investigates, while the Queen ruthlessly watches over him, not wanting Ned’s meddling to get in the way of her son taking the throne, when the King passes away. Meanwhile, the King, himself, is worried about rumours coming from across the Sea. An old enemy, the Targaryens, who have married themselves in with the Dothraki, a vicious tribe that, while primitive, have enough numbers to pose a serious threat to his rule. And what’s worse, unknown to the Kingdom, supernatural forces converge in the North, past the great Wall. Tales of the White Walkers are surfacing, mysterious beings with the power to bring bodies back from the dead to carry out their bidding…
This is the kind of show that takes a while to pull yourself into. My main problem with starting a new series is that it can be really exhausting going through the opening exposition. You need to familiarise yourself with all of the characters and their relationships. Most series only really get going a few seasons in. This goes double with Game of Thrones. That brief outline of the plot above was fairly chunky, suggesting just how much story there is to get through, and I really only scratched the surface of the first season’s plot. The first few episodes didn’t really do much for me, as the writers tried to get us to like the characters. I imagine that fans of the book would have loved this slow approach, really letting these great actors portray their favourite characters. However, I was struggling to keep myself tuning into the next episode. The first five episodes took me two weeks to get through, simply because there was nothing keeping me invested in the show and there were much better things for me to watch. This show was slow and just not my cup of tea.
But then, eventually, I began to understand the hype. When the first season peaks, you realise that the slow start actually really helps. This is a show with several twists and turns and by the end, there isn’t really a firm lead character. However, no matter where the story goes, there is always a strong character to keep the scene together. There is not a weak character in the show, even the King’s servants becoming enjoyable to spend time with. You begin to enjoy the slower monologues of the show, because they let you figure out just where the loyalties of that interesting background character lie. Everyone gets their fair share of screen-time, something that most shows are unable to do. I also like how you kind of pick your own favourite side, as the show remains fairly distant from telling you who is good and who is bad. Sure, the Starks are clearly the protagonists and the Lannisters are meant to be the villains of the show. But at the same time, the Stark family is a little too stubborn to rule. The Lannisters are looking after their family and you begin to realise that if they were slaughtered, you would end up losing some of your favourite characters in the show, like Tyrion, who is one of the fairest and kind-hearted characters in the series, the easiest to like, in my books. You end up watching events unfold and being unsure of who you want to emerge on top. That is three-dimensional writing and I loved this aspect of the Game of Thrones. So no, this show doesn’t really ever speed up, but by the time you are invested into the story, you won’t necessarily want it to.
I still think it could do with more fighting. There are some cool battle scenes, especially Snow taking on a foot-soldier of the White Walkers and Tyrion Lannister’s champion fighting for his freedom. These moments, while brief, had some spark to the show that really keeps you invested. I am not even particularly bothered that the show jumped right over the war that was being hyped up for the finale. Spartacus would have gone with the idea of finally jumping into the action, but I don’t think it was necessary for the show. Besides, this series is not about the soldiers; it is about the commanders pulling the strings, who wouldn’t even be in the battles, making the whole affair a pretty hollow experience. Maybe in a later series, but for now, I am happy with the way it all plays out.
The best thing about the show are the character arcs. I can see why people like Emilia Clarke’s character. She starts off as a whimpering princess, pretty much sold into marriage, so her brother gets to use her husband’s tribe of warriors. In the first and second episode, you cannot be bothered with the character, because she is annoying and her story is basically ‘how can I please my husband?’ The feminist in me wanted her gone. But slowly, she gets more powerful and dominating. By the end of the series, and I am talking the final, few magnificent frames, she is a force to be reckoned with and I am sure she will become one of my favourite characters in the coming series. For the moment, that honour lies with Tyrion Lannister. I also enjoy Jon Snow’s character, the bastard son of the Starks, who has been sent to the North Wall, unable to help his family, only receiving news of the political backlash from the South. There is also the youngest daughter of the Starks, who slowly becomes one of the feistiest characters in the show and despite being the youngest cast member can easily keep you entertained, when a scene asks her to hold it together.
No, I am not totally won over yet. I still struggle to muster up the frame of mind to watch this show. Yes, I enjoy it, but it is a heavier form of entertainment and there are much more light-hearted shows that grab my attention more readily. However, I can now see why Game of Thrones is celebrated as much as it is. I will now call myself a fan.
Final Verdict: Game of Thrones demands your attention with a solid cast behind well-written characters and a story full of shocks and plot twists.