Game of Thrones - Season 1 Review and background information.
Game of Thrones is an absolute revelation. Sure, there have been countless TV series based in similar circumstances and contexts. Vikings, Deadwood, Spartacus and Rome are a few examples that managed to transport the viewer from their dorito-crusted couch in to an alternate reality that is so disturbing and harsh that daily life at times seems like more of an inconvenience than a triple bypass. Thankfully, once the credits roll, we're whipped straight back to our heated car seats and $2 frozen pizza rolls, yet there is this hungry urge, this addiction like state that Game of Thrones induces in people. It awakens that inner addict and thrusts them in to a helpless cycle of missed days of uni, rushed toilet breaks and rude interruptions from the pizza guy. I know people who, no joke, avoided watching an entire series, spoilers to boot, just so they could sit down with the DVDs in their system and watch the entire thing, start to finish. Some kind of bottom-torturing marathon.
Why? Well, for one it's a bloody good story. George R.R. Martin could be one of the more, let's say 'unique' individuals in your local green grocer, but if you were the teller you'd be hanging off his every deluded word as he sought that fleeting spec of human contact. The funny thing about Game of Thrones is you can't go and buy the final book to find out how the story ends. It hasn't even been written yet! However, if you are a fiction lover, there are few better tomes to immerse yourself in.
This will be purely based on the television series, however. I have never read the books, having spontaneously lost the ability to read when I digested Pitchfork's review of Recovery by Eminem. Unfortunate, but thankfully the TV paints a vivid enough picture to contend with my stunted imagination.
We must begin at the beginning, as it is, by definition, the start. Season 1. A quick catch up will now ensue for anyone who has yet to take in the series.
We are presented with a conundrum. In the beginning, there is a king on the Iron Throne by the name of Robert Baratheon. His hand is murdered, in shady circumstances, and so he enlists the help of his good friend Eddard Stark, who presides over Winterfell, a large kingdom in the north of the land. The Starks are a curious bunch. There are 3 boys and 2 girls, however one of the boys, Jon Snow, is a bastard, and another (not a son, more of a hanger-on), Theon Greyjoy, was taken in as ward by Eddard Stark after he crushed a rebellion led by Greyjoy's father. The Stark's are rounded out by the delightful and fierce Lady Catelyn Stark, Eddard's wife and voice of reason. This is one POV story.
The next involves the enchanting Daenerys Targaryen. Hmm.. Enchanting seems like the wrong word. TANTALISING. Yes. She is the daughter of 'The Mad King', Aerys II, who was ousted by King Robert, and has thus been cast in to exile on the eastern continent. She is forced in to the marriage of Khal Drogo, who is the leader of the Dothraki, a strong fighting force. Her brother is the major instigator in this, and we will learn not only to loathe him but to relish in his defeat.
There is another, much more sinister story line that develops over the first season. You see Westeros is like a (giant) gated community. Not quite like the one Justin Beiber is constantly harrassing with his chrome LFA, a little bit more like if you were to build a giant wall between East and Western Europe, and then concentrated the effects of a nuclear winter entirely on Russia, Ukraine, Romania and Bulgaria. It's not that much of a stretch. This constant, aggressive warning that 'winter is coming' is threat-laden. It's not a referral to the ski season, where the Stark's can jet up the French Alps for some downhill skiing and a spot of local cuisine. As yet we aren't treated to the secret behind the true meaning of winter, and it builds wonderful tension within the storyline.
As season 1 progresses, the major characters begin to make their plays and come forth for our viewing pleasure (Daenerys..). Eddard Stark, despite fathering a bastard son, is seen as fiercely loyal and incredibly tough, yet he lacks the insight in to the inner workings of the throne to take advantage of the opportunities that come his way. He takes up residence at Kings Landing (Where the Iron Throne is located), and brings his 2 daughters with him. Jon Snow, the bastard, seeks a career as part of the Night's Watch; a force that patrols The Wall in order to keep the 'Wildings' (those living outside of the wall) out of the kingdom, and also to keep at bay the darker supernatural beings that may be at play.
We are also introduced to the most enigmatic family involved in this story, the Lannisters. They consist of brother and sister Jaime and Cersei (who is Queen, being married to Robert), the dwarf Tyrion, the elder statesman Tywin, and a name you will learn to absolutely LOATHE, Joffrey. Although at first he is not presented to us as a Lannister. Let me explain.
When King Robert dies, whilst hunting, a political scuffle ensues, and thus begins the true Game of Thrones. Joffrey is believed to be the heir to the throne, as it is assumed that he was born to Cersei in wedlock with King Robert. The truth is that Joffrey is the result of an incestuous relationship between Cersei and Jaime, and therefore has no right to the throne at all. The question then becomes who's is the rightful bottom?
Robert had two brothers. Stannis Baratheon, who fled to Dragonstone after helping to discover with the previous hand of the King that Joffrey was a dirty little secret. Stannis and Robert never got along anyway. Renly, the other brother, presides over his own slice of Westeros. He prefers the company of men, and as such never had a son, although it is doubtful even if he had that that son would be able to claim the throne over Joffrey. Stannis is of the belief that he should be sitting upon the Iron Throne, as a Baratheon. Renly doesn't appear perturbed by it, more intent on keeping his secret secret.
The entire season is flipped on it's ear, however, when Eddard Stark attempts to go public with his discovery that Joffrey is the result of some Tasmanian style sex. The Lannisters kept it in the family (although with two genetic gods like Jaime and Cersei it is difficult to fault them). What is worse, the youngest Stark boy, Bran, is rendered paraplegic upon falling from the window of a tower after witnessing this lewd act between these two very attractive characters (I'm not agreeing with what they did, I am just saying). Needless to say, despite the protestations of Sansa Stark, who is engaged to be wed to Joffrey, Eddard Stark loses his head, and all hell breaks loose.
Ok. My fingers are more fatigued than the time I attended that International Guild of Knot Tyers convention. You get the picture, it is an exhausting and involved process watching this show. It's no wonder it took me a good month before I learnt all the characters names. But this is the beauty of it, now that all those events have taken place, each story comes to attention and creates a stunning vista of fertile soil for individuals stories and characters to grow. Daenarys, so marginalised by her brother and treated like a bush animal by her husband, casts the oppression off in a truly dominant display, murdering her brother and turning her man in to her husband, and the Dothraki in to her people.
Upon news of Eddard's death, Rob Stark amasses a unit with designs upon taking Kings Landing by force and making the Lannisters pay for their actions. He is proclaimed the King In The North, and Catelyn comes along for the ride, leaving Theon in charge of proceedings back in Winterfell.
Jon Snow's arc is an interesting side. Seeking acceptance as his own man after feeling as though he is less than his siblings in Winterfell, he trots out to The Wall. A noble pursuit, yet life is not what he expects. He is treated as the lowest common denominator, finding it just as difficult to fit in as he did back home. His curiousity as to what or who is outside the wall fuels his desire to succeed though. The Wall and The Night's Watch is such a delicious indulgence for the viewers. It is, in essence, a prison camp, at least by modern definitions. Trouble makers are rounded up in towns and cities and shipped off to the edge of the earth, given a weapon and told to protect the kingdom by whatever means necessary. Once there, you do not leave. Not at all. You are killed if you do. You may not lay with a woman, and you are subjected to despair and loneliness. Stepping out of your comfy living room cocoon is a little scary at first, but as you become more confident you start to really identify with the journey that Jon Snow makes as a character. Beginning as a slightly depressing, less than dynamic personality, he grows in to a quick witted, intelligent and assured man who earns the respect of his peers and superiors.
The true gem of season 1 is Tyrion. His diminutive stature is the most off-kilter piece of the entire story, because it houses the most dynamic and down right hilarious personality in the entire show. He steals it. He is the lifeblood. An outsider amongst his wealthy and powerful family, his plod through the kingdom comes under constant attack. He is treated poorly at Winterfell despite being a gentleman, he is laughed at by his family when announcing he wishes to view The Wall, he is called a murderer by Catelyn Stark and then even has him arrested. He ends up in a sky cell in the Eyrie, before using his charm and intelligence to secure his release. His season comes to an end when he is knocked out leading a rag tag bunch of tribesmen in his fathers failed battle against Rob Stark's men.
Tyrion is the most straight up and down character in the entire first season. His enigmatic personality clashes beautifully with his shrewd observations and effortless intelligence. He is who we are invited to identify most with, a loveable underdog with a penchant for good food, crap booze and great women. He provides a grounding in sanity when all around him descends in to madness. The scenes of him in his sky cell are stunning, not only for the visual vista's but that someone as likeable and affable should find himself in such a situation. His loyalty to the Lannister name is perplexing given how he is treated, but this only serves to deepen his bond with his audience.
There are 3 other major story arcs at play. First, the true Game of Thrones is going on at Kings Landing, and involves Little Finger (Petyr Baelish), Cersei Lannister, Joffrey, and Varys. Each has their own role to play. Joffrey is the original Dolores Umbridge. Everytime you see his smirking face you need a new TV, because you've just lunged at it and smashed it to pieces. The way he treats Sansa is bad enough, but when he chops the hero Eddard's head off all hell breaks loose. Arya is forced to flea, Sansa is committed to a live of servitude, and Rob Stark amasses an army to take Joffrey's head. His refusal to listen to those around him only complicate matters more, and attempts to gain influence through Joffrey are thwarted by his arrogance and stern mind.
The other 2 arcs. Daenarys and her Dothraki are on a mission to take the throne for their queen, and Rob Stark's army in the North marching to King's Landing to take Joffrey's head.
That should have caught you all up somewhat. Apologies for the length, but once you get in to this series it is a truly bewitching mind state. You are addicted, completely hooked, on the characters and the interplay between them. Each story can be as intricate or as ham-fisted as you so wish. You can view each character in its plain synopsis, or you can explore their minute details, their decisions, they intelligence and wit and how this has helped or hindered them. Tyrion would surely be king if it weren't for his stature and his weakness for gluttony. Joffrey would surely be killed if it were not for his mother's unashamed chase of power. Jaime would be the hero if it weren't for his devotion to killing all and sundry. This is just season one..