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Game of Thrones: Season 1

What She said:

She

People have been telling me to watch Game of Thrones for years. Of course, there was a little issue that was getting in the way of my fulfilling that wish, a lack of HBO. And so, while people raved about how amazing the show was, I just grinned and nodded. Sure, I’ll take your word for it. But the fates of heaven have shined down upon The He and I, as we were recently notified by Verizon Fios that we have been treated to a summer of free HBO, complete with access to the HBO Go app. Of course, no more than two days later, we were already settling in for some speed catch-up on Game of Thrones.

Of course, we’re starting with Season 1, and here is the general plot for our maiden voyage. We’re introduced to a fictional land during what appears to be medieval times. There are seven kingdoms in the world, which are tied together under one rule. The current king is Robert Baratheon, who is a fat, sloppy sort of fella who seems to live for his glory days. Imagine the Al Bundy of the medieval world.

Game of Thrones: Season 1

Anyway, King Robert has summoned Ned Stark, and longtime friend and former colleague in battle, to be his “hand”, after the person previously in the role, a relative of Stark, was murdered. Ned doesn’t want to leave his family in the North, and knows the position is dangerous, but is basically strong-armed into the role. Afterall, serving as the King’s chief advisor and confidant is an extremely powerful role. Ned reluctantly takes on the new job, but brings two of his daughters, Arya and Sansa, with him.

One juicy subplot from Season 1 revolves around suspicions that the Lannister family is responsible for the former Hand of the King’s death. You see, Cersei Lannister is married to the King, but it’s clear that their relationship is strictly for show. She has a much stronger loyalty to her own family, which have been identified as rivals for the throne. She has produced an heir, Joffrey, who is assumed to be the next king. It’s also assumed that Ned’s daughter, Sansa, will eventually marry Joffrey and become queen.

But, of course, nothing works out as it would be hoped. In addition to the fighting between the Baratheons, Starks, and Lannisters, there’s also the threat of invasion from outsiders. Among them are the Dothraki tribe, who have joined up with Viserys Targaryen, the exiled son of a former king who is clearly power hungry. He sells his sister off to Khal Drogo, the leader of the Dothraki, in an effort to maximize his power so that he can make a push back from the throne. Again, things don’t go entirely as planned.

Before the first season is out, lots of people die and the future of the crown is uncertain. Basically, no character on this show is safe from being killed off, so make no assumptions. Ned proclaims he’s done with serving as the Hand, and betrays the Queen. Tensions are high and pretty much everyone hates everyone. That is, except for the local prostitutes, who seem to pretty much LOVE everyone, for a price.

The body count for Season 1 is high. In fact, I stopped keeping track after the second episode. If you like to see blood and guts, then you’ll be grinning from ear to ear for practically every moment of this show. However unrealistic, they’re not afraid to slash some things up. No joke, one dude uses a great sword to cut a horse’s head off in one swoop. Ridiculous, unlikely, and disgusting. Sorry, I’m a sucker for horses, and more than one meets its maker in Season 1.

And just in case you were wondering, there is absolutely nothing that is off limits for this show. They’re not afraid to kill cute animals or cute people. Rape and incest—that’s all in Season 1. There isn’t much about the world of Game of Thrones that’s actually appealing to a viewer. I mean, I certainly wouldn’t want to live in this place. And that’s probably my major gripe about this show. Is it interesting? Yes. But is it enjoyable. I’m not so sure. There are times I basically just feel sickened by what I’m watching. There truly are no limits. Of course, the show’s creators certainly know that this is a good way to get people talking.

Game of Thrones: Season 1

I would be doing an injustice to this review if I did not take a moment to talk about the sex and nudity in Game of Thrones. There’s A LOT of it. You’re not going to get through an episode without seeing some. Heck, you might not get through ten minutes of an episode without seeing some. And it does go both ways—male and female—although I do think this is geared a little more toward the male viewing audience. I’m going to call shenanigans and point out that people in medieval times were not that beautiful or fit, did not have stunning teeth, and certainly did not have Brazilian bikini waxes. Furthermore, in addition to some of the scenes being extremely graphic, they also go on and on for an uncomfortably awkward length of time. And most of these moments do nothing to supplement or advance the main story lines of the show.

Ok, so I’m done with my rant about what peeved me about Game of Thrones. Now I’ll talk about what I liked. It certainly is interesting. I like seeing this genre represented as a television program. It’s hard enough to get fantasy films produced, let alone seeing studios commit to an ongoing TV series in this realm. It's a good setting and the main plot lines are good. Who doesn’t like family betrayal?

I also think that the acting is pretty good on this show. Sean Bean, Mark Addy, Lena Headey, Peter Dinklage, and Maisie Williams are all solid in their respective roles. Dinklage can actually be quite funny, and adds a bright spot to what is otherwise mainly a drama.

Production value on the show is a little hit or miss. The two-minute opening sequence with the credits is absolutely brutal—talk about bad CGI—but I learned very quickly that I could just fast forward through that. The costumes are actually very good and the sets are also pretty solid. Some of the lighting needs work, as it can, at times, cause things to look a little artificial or soap opera-esque.

Overall, this certainly was NOT the best show I’ve ever seen. It wasn’t horrible or anything, and I’ll probably keep watching it, but I think it falls under the category of over-hyped. It certainly doesn’t hold a candle to some of the other modern classics who don’t rely so heavily on shock value to engage their viewers.

Thumbs half up.

Game of Thrones: Season 1

What He said:

He

Westeros is one bat shit crazy place. There is always some kind of drama going on there. Sex, war, and politics are just some of the issues that play a role in the life of the average Westeros citizen on a daily –if not hourly – basis.  
Where should I begin?

Game of Thrones: Season 1

I’m going to start with the Targaryen siblings. Viserys (Harry Lloyd) and his sister Daenerys (Emila Clarke) are the children of the previous king. He was known as the mad king, which is never a good thing. Apparently he went nuts, there was a revolt, and the people who led the revolt killed him and took his throne. Viserys is hell-bent on getting the throne back and will stop at nothing; including pimping his sister out to a king of a warrior tribe in an effort to get his own army. That warrior king is Khal Drogo (Jason Moma) and he and his people are not nice people, which is why Viserys wants them at his side.

The current king is Robert Baratheon (Mark Addy). He is  fat, past his prime, and likes to do little else other than drink, sleep with a variety of women, and occasionally hunt. He hears of the Targaryen’s actions and wants them dead.
Robert is married to Cersei Lannister of the famous – infamous is probably more appropriate – Lannister family. Their marriage is merely political. He needed a wife and the Lannister’s will do anything to be in power. They have a son named Joffrey (Jack Gleeson). He is the definition of an entitled brat. You know you are going to hate him the first time you see his face. She (Lena Heady) and her brother Jamie (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) are lovers – a secret nobody but them is aware of. Both of them are very unlikeable. They also have another brother named Tyrion (Peter Dinklage). He is a dwarf and often dismissed and mocked because of that. Still, he is a Lannister and that carries a certain clout.

Game of Thrones: Season 1

Tyrion lives outside of the capital in a place known as Winterfell. Winterfell is run by a man named Ned Stark (Sean Bean). He is a friend of the king’s, which comes into play later. Ned is generally a likeable guy – one of the few actually – at least for this world.  Ned has a bunch of kids, but the most memorable are Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) and Arya (Maisie Williams). Jon is a bastard; a fact which he is often reminded of by the towns folk. Despite the fact everyone looks down on him for this, he’s a decent man.  Arya is a fiery gal who likes to get into mischief. I like her. She would rather practice sword fighting than learn how to be a lady. Ned is asked to be Robert’s “Hand”, when the previous one is murdered by an unknown assailant. The King’s Hand is essentially his main advisor.

There is a lot going on in this show. Politics, sex, betrayal, and looming war are all on the horizon. The Targaryen’s want to reclaim their birthright, but Robert will not allow it. Robert knows war is looming, so he wants Ned’s help. Ned doesn’t want to help, because he’d rather remain with his family. Ned is a decent man though and often does what he is asked to, especially when it is his king asking. Jon is trying to find his place in this world.

There’s also a lot of other subplots that, again all revolved around politics, sex, power, etc. People are always looking out for themselves, some kind of conflict is always on the verge of breaking out, and somebody dies, gets raped, or gets screwed over some other way, every episode or two. That’s sort of my problem with this show. It’s always on. There is zero build up and when that happens, there is no payoff. Nothing is surprising or impactful when it happens so often. Frankly, I’m surprised this show is so popular and more people don’t see through that approach. This show’s main strength is shock value and I’m sorry, but that gets old quickly. It’s well-acted and aside from the lame intro the production value is solid. But this is not a great show. Breaking Bad is a great show.  Justified and Battlestar Galactica are great shows. Lost, Dexter, Bates Motel, The Americans, Orphan Black, and Hannibal, are all very good-to-great shows. This is not. This is hype stemmed from shock value. I didn’t expect to feel that way either. I thought I was going to love this, but in all honesty, after really thinking about it, I didn’t even like it. I have no desire to see more of it.

Rating: Thumbs down.

This review was written for your reading pleasure on June 18, 2015.

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