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Game of Thrones - Season 1 (DVD)
Member Name: caseybrady1992
Game of Thrones - Season 1 (DVD)
Date: 04/10/12, updated on 04/10/12 (105 review reads)
Advantages: A myriad of interesting characters & excellent acting; well balanced; strong story; music, visuals
Disadvantages: Distressing scenes and ruthless nature
Created by: HBO, David Benioff, D. B. Weiss
Starring: Sean Bean, Lena Headey, Mark Addy
Episode runtime: approx. 60 mins.
Out Now on DVD and Blu-Ray
Based on George R. R. Martin's 'A Song of Ice and Fire' and further the first novel in this fantasy series with the same name as the TV series (with the addition of an 'A'), 'Game of Thrones' is a HBO production. Set in a fantasy world but with clear references to the medieval times, it tells the story of a number of noble families' fight for the throne. This season in particular establishes the main characters and plotlines in preparation for the war for the throne, and the end of a summer a decade long. Winter is coming...
-== The Plot ==-
I could be here all day with this. The strength that Game of Thrones (herein 'GoT') possesses is that it creates a solid balance wherein numerous characters and storylines are present. You may not see one character for an episode or two, but their stories are progressed nicely. I haven't read the novel, but from watching the ten episodes of this series, it would have been IMPOSSIBLE to fit this into a feature-length film.
GoT is set in the fictional continent of Westeros, where seven kingdoms lie, including its capital: King's Landing. Here King Robert Baratheon (Mark Addy) rules, with his queen Cersei Lannister - a brilliantly evil Lena Headey.Their marriage is political, and their relationship empty and loveless. Their son Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) is heir to the throne. But the Lannisters are the richest and most noble family in the land; notably, there's Cersei's father Lord Tywin (Charles Dance), her twin brother Ser Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and her younger dwarf brother Tyrion (Peter Dinklage), who lifts right out of the family - so is hugely likeable and provides great entertainment value. The family is immoral and corrupt, and serve as the villainous family in the story.
Lord Eddard Stark, or 'Ned' (Sean Bean), is the head of the Stark family in Winterfell of the North. With him are his wife Catelyn (Michelle Fairley) and their children: Robb (Richard Madden), Sansa (Sophie Turner), who is set to marry Prince Joffrey, the mischievous Arya (Maisie Williams) and Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright), while Jon Snow is Ned's bastard son and is sent to Night's Watch, a military order that holds the 'Wall', the border of the north. Meanwhile, a third family, the Targaryens look to take over the throne too, as it was King Robert who overthrew King Targaryen. The (grown-up) children aim to seek vengeance: Viserys (Harry Lloyd) and his sister Daenerys (Emilia Clark). The former plans on offering his sister to win an army, and she marries Khal Drogo of the violent Dothraki army.
Now, with characters in place, some plot: a deserter is caught and returned to Winterfell, where he will be executed. He claims to have seen the 'White Walkers' in motion, a mythological race that has lie dormant for thousands of years. Meanwhile, King Robert makes his way to Winterfell, his first visit in years, to ask Ned to be the Hand of the King. While Catelyn tells him he still has a choice, Ned feels obliged. Catelyn receives a letter from her sister Lysa (Kate Dickie) that it was the Lannisters who killed the previous Hand of the King, who was also her husband, and very close to Ned. They look to investigate further, while Ned travels south with the King.
-== The Review ==-
Many of you will be put off by the word 'fantasy', others will be put off by the word 'medieval'. But GoT is very much a drama, set in a very medieval fantastical land. Yes, there are heavily medieval elements present, such as horses, swords and castles, and there are hugely fantastical elements present too, like dragons, witches and magic, but they're not overly prominent; rather, they provide a backdrop to the story. As aforementioned, there are a lot of character and plotlines to keep in touch with, but you never feel lost. Across 10 episodes ranging from 50-60 minutes, the majority of characters actually receive a small percentage of overall runtime, which is interesting, and justifies the need for multiple seasons - season three will be out next year. But the protagonist, Ned, receives a higher percentage than others, although he too doesn't have a great deal of screentime in certain episodes. What I like about this programme is that it doesn't necessarily rely on one character or actor to run the show - it has balance. Sean Bean is fantastic in the role of Ned, however; his character is hugely likeable, diplomatic, moral and proud, and Bean conveys this excellently. His antithesis is the corrupt Queen Cersei, and Lena Headey provides a cold-hearted bitch of a queen tremendously well. Other characters/actors worth noting are the child actors, most of who have never starred in a film or TV production before! However, you may recognise Prince Joffrey, Jack Gleeson, from 'Batman Begins'. Peter Dinklage is great as dwarf Tyrion also - cunning, hilarious and willing to get out of any situation by offering 'lots of [his family's] gold' - while Emilia Clark, who plays Daenerys Targaryen, is excellent, conveying a convincing sense of progression to her character. The cast, interestingly enough (for an American show) consists mainly of British actors, but I suppose it achieves the Medievalism far more accurately. Season 1 was filmed primarily in Northern Ireland, but is also shot on-location in Malta and Iceland amongst other places.
While I stress that this is a 'drama', there are many differing components to the programme. Firstly, there is combat, whether that be one-on-one sword fights, brutal murders or battles. The combat scenes are very exciting - fresh and never too long. Secondly, there is a leaning towards the appeal of nudity and sex to heighten the programme. There are full-on sex scenes, random nakedness and sometimes more subtle approaches. Thirdly: the fantastical elements, although I will not elaborate further on this. Also worth noting is that there are many a distressing scene in GoT season one - some so distressing that it may deter some from watching. GoT features its fair share of gore, strong language, animal cruelty (although its obviously not real) and quite centrally, incest, in that it forms a vital part of the main plotline. There is a merciless quality in GoT, to the point where it almost completely ignores its audience and provides some highly uncomfortable scenes and storylines. This is a word of warning: do not expect easy viewing 100% of time - or 50% of the time for that matter. That said, overall, the series is absolutely superb. The story is intelligent and composed very well. It explores the politics, corruption and greed of Kingly subjects engrossingly, while constructing convincing characters and relationships. It does seem to gloss over certain aspects and it tends to move very fast at times, but that's simply the nature of adapting novels. The series isn't as spellbinding as a series such as 'The Walking Dead' and 'Homeland', in that its not full of shocking twists, turns and cliffhangers; rather, it finds its shocks and strengths in plot development and characters.
Elaborating on a previous point, the setting is phenomenal. Instead of relying heavily on CGI, like certain productions do, the decision to shoot on-location is a great one, but probably quite unavoidable. Northern Ireland provides a familiar British landscape, and while you could more or less place the likes of Malta and Iceland, the exoticness and lack of familiarity adds formidably to the fantastical elements. The costumes do too - they're excellent, and again contribute to the experience. Ramin Djwadi provides the soundtrack - a German-born, half Iranian composer who rose to prominence thanks to Zimmer's 'Remote Control Productions' - he's one of Zimmer's minions, as I like to call them. His music avoids typical Medievalism, but rather is percussion-driven and on the most part admirably understated. I really like it, and although his theme song isn't immediately enthralling, it improves with repeated listens, which you will inevitably have to do if you watch it, as the brilliant two-minute title sequence is shown at the beginning of every episode - unless you skip it, that is.
-== The Verdict ==-
This could go one of two ways for you. Firstly, the series is sublime, but whether or not you take to it is personal. Game of Thrones has a lot going for it: acting, story, characters, visuals & sound and cute dogs to name but a few, but it runs a few risks in its sheer brutality. I, for one, will take a break before watching the second season, and I think anybody that has seen the first series might relate to that. It's a tale of corruption and struggle that despite possessing fantastical elements, is powerfully realistic in its ruthlessness and characters. I just love first seasons. While certain shows may have superior later series, there is always something magical about the first season. Game of Throne season 1 is a solid entity; it soldiers through confidently, convincingly and excellently and doesn't look back.
Summary: A powerful, brutal first season
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