I’m late to the party here because it’s a tv show, and we all know how I feel about tv these days, but Fluffy has seriously freebased all of the episodes of Game of Thrones to the present in a matter of three marathon sittings and can’t wait for more. HBO has hit the ball out of the park with this one– the acting, the writing, the costuming, the production value, even the music are all grade-A superb. Based on George R.R. Martin’s mammoth epic fantasy A Song of Ice and Fire, the series follows several warring factions of the fictional Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, most with the intention of taking or holding the Iron Throne of the king. While this is a fantasy series, Harry Potter this is decidedly not– far from family friendly, though a few of its legion of protagonists are children or teens, GoT focuses on seedier, more sinister aspects of the genre, and does this so well that being offended is not an option. (Well, I guess it’s an option, but if you feel that way, go watch some reruns of Growing Pains or something, and have fun in your Smurf village.) There has been some criticism from some quarters regarding the show’s treatment of women and the excessive (some say unnecessary) amount of of nudity featured therein; one reviewer even coined the term “sexposition” to describe the frequent relaying of backstory or motivation to prostitute characters in various states of undress. To this, Fluffy says we all have bodies, they all pretty much look the same, looking at them doesn’t bother me, and the show boasts two or more of the strongest female characters on television at the moment, so whatever.
As I said, the acting is sublime. Peter Dinklage even has the Emmy to prove it. As the sarcastic dwarf Tyrion Lannister, he often gets the best lines, as well as the distinction of usually being the sharpest character in any scene in which he appears. Small in stature and disliked by the rest of his wealthy, calculating family, he is nonetheless a formidable foe or a powerful ally. Almost none of the characters, with one or two notable exceptions, are presented as purely good or evil; most are painted in shades of gray, uncommon in the fantasy genre and a unique change of pace. For instance, first-season protagonist Eddard “Ned” Stark (the inimitable Sean Bean) is presented as an honorable man, yet is the father of a bastard son, Jon Snow (Kit Harrington), outside of his otherwise happy marriage to Catelyn Tully (Michelle Fairley). In contrast, the off-putting character of Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), the knight who slew the former king, is engaged in an incestuous relationship with his twin sister Queen Cersei (Lena Headey) and has pushed a child out of a window in an attempt to conceal that fact, but is depicted as the only member of his family who maintains kindness and friendship with his dwarf brother Tyrion. Almost no character is truly a traditional hero or villain, excepting bad-seed boy king Joffrey Baratheon (Jack Gleeson), who is actually the product of his mother’s affair with her own brother and has no redeeming qualities whatsoever. Even the youngest and ostensibly most innocent characters have flaws– Ned Stark’s daughters, Sansa (Sophie Turner) and Arya (Maisie Williams), are prime examples, as Sansa is, at times, almost criminally stupid and trusting, and Arya is quite capable of lying and killing to protect her own neck. That said, Williams as Arya is a real delight: having escaped King’s Landing after the (spoiler) execution of her father, she has managed to get far too close to the stern Lannister patriarch Tywin (Charles Dance, one of the most underrated actors alive), and the scenes with Dance and Williams verbally sparring as he unexpectedly warms to the little girl are a treat in themselves. Arya, in my opinion, is one of those characters I’ve mentioned above– among the strongest female characters currently on television.
The other character here who is firmly placed in that class is one Daenerys Targaryen, played with effortless luminosity and steel by Emilia Clarke. Dany, who has been in hiding across the Narrow Sea in Essos for years, is the child of the last Targaryen king of Westeros– the king who was killed by Jaime Lannister during the rebellion which placed Joffrey’s supposed father Robert Baratheon on the Iron Throne. Over the course of two seasons Dany has matured from a meek, subservient younger sister to her abusive brother Viserys (Harry Lloyd) to a force to be reckoned with. When her brother married her off to a khal (leader) of the savage Dothraki horse lords in exchange for an army to take back the Iron Throne, he unknowingly gave Dany the keys to her own growth– and signed his own death warrant. Killed in a particularly apt manner by Dany’s husband, Khal Drogo (Jason Momoa), Viserys was unworthy to carry on the Targaryen legacy, but Daenerys herself has grown into it. Tempered into a strong-willed leader during her marriage to the fierce Drogo, Dany was certain that their child could rule both Westeros and the Dothraki, but a witch’s spell cost her her husband and her unborn son. In revenge, Daenerys burned the witch alive on Drogo’s funeral pyre, on which she had placed three petrified dragon eggs given to her as a wedding gift. Unexpectedly, Dany walked into the flames herself– emerging at daybreak unscathed, and holding three baby dragons, long thought to be extinct. This action proved her the true Targaryen heir (“Blood of the Dragon”)– and quite possibly the future queen of Westeros. My money is definitely on “The Mother of Dragons.”
At any rate, the series is a rare near-perfect gem, and well worth your time. Just be warned: you’ll want to devour it all at once, and there’s just not enough of it.