Monday, April 18, 2011

Game of Thrones Review

If you haven't read "A Game of Thrones" by George RR Martin or watched the debut of the HBO adaptation of the book, you may want to stop reading now, because there will be spoilers from here on out.

About a year and half ago, Chelsea and I sat down and had a discussion about whether or not we were going to renew our cable service.  Cable is nice to have, but it's expensive.  You also pay a lot for things that you don't use.  Like, I never watch the Golf Channel.  Or the Big 10 network.  Or NBC, CBS, ABC, FX, Me TV, WGN... you get the idea.  Of the hundreds of channels we subscribe to, we probably watch about 12 with any sort of regularity.  Finally, we watch more and more "TV" through the Internet (Hulu, YouTube) and through Netflix which we stream through our PS3.  Cable just makes less and less economic sense for us.

Then, we found out that HBO was adapting George RR Martin's "A Game of Thrones"- the first book of my favorite series of books ever ("A Song of Ice and Fire")- into a TV show.  HBO does not let you watch their programming online unless you have a paid TV subscription.  Hopefully this will change in the future, but this single show convinced us to (for now) keep our cable subscription.

Basically, we kept Cable primarily to watch this one show.

Fast forward to last night when the show debuted.  We decided to make an event of it. For Chelsea and I, the debut of "Game of Thrones" was our Super Bowl.  We approached this the way most regular humans approach major holidays.  About a dozen people came to our apartment- most of whom had read at least "a Game of Thrones" if not the whole series.  We served food that was loosely based on dishes described in the books- ham, fresh baked bread, mussel soup, leek soup, turnip mash, mulled wine, and lemon cakes (of course). 

And with all of the build up, how was the show itself?

Kind of great.  Really great actually.  A premiere episode is always tough for any show- plot and character development usually take a backseat to establishing ground rules- who are these people, what is this place like, etc.  The show did a great job of introducing main characters and giving them each at least 1 scene to establish who they are, and what their motivations are, while also beginning the story, and moving it forward.

What else did I like?

-The opening credits.  Holy crap that may have been my favorite opening credit scrawl for a show ever.  Did anyone expect an animated steampunk map of Westeros to kick off the show? Because I didn't.

-The actors.  The actors were all great.  They may not all look exactly how I envisioned them from the books, but appearance is secondary to talent, and this cast has an excess of it.

-The setting.  Westeros looks real.  You could practically smell the food in the dining hall of Winterfell.

-The adaptation.  For fans of the books like me, it's important that the show is faithful to the spirit of the series.  It is.  It is VERY faithful.  At the same time, it's just as different as it needs to be to succeed as a TV series.  Television is not the same medium and changes will need to be made here and there.

-It was fun! Sex, violence, witty dialogue, monsters- who doesn't want those things on a TV show?

What didn't I like?

-The Dany plotline felt a little rushed, but only a little.

-Not to nitpick, but Robert Baratheon's hair color (jet black) is actually an important plot point.  I'm sure it won't be an issue, but the fact that his hair wasn't black kind of struck me.

And...that's about it.  I actually kind of had to struggle to think of those two things.

Overall, a great start to the show.  And what better way to watch it than surrounded by friends with a belly full of good food?

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