As far as the Fantasy genre goes, this is one large step forward, the only real step forward the genre's seen since THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy. The story here is rich with intrigue, political drama, supernatural elements and some magic, though in all honesty it's pretty rare. That's okay though as GAME OF THRONES doesn't need to rely on fancy sleight of hand or pretty fireworks to put you under its spell, the characters are intricate, well balanced and fun enough to win you over without all that. Now for the veteran fans of the books, we know a thing or two about George R.R. Martin's character style and his obvious "no one is truly safe" writing tactics. People unfamiliar with the books are in for an emotional roller coaster ride and some may not be particularly happy with the end result, but rest assured this is one (of many) things that elevate Martin's storytelling above the norm and yes, as much as we may curse him at times, this is definitely a good thing.
When it comes down to the cast, I was very impressed. Naturally Sean Bean nailed the role of Eddard Stark but of that, I had no doubts whatsoever. Lena Heady was also a fitting choice for Cercei Lannister. Now it's been about four years since I've read the books but I couldn't help but think Cercei was supposed to play a larger role than she did. Her attitude and wrath are as sharp as I'd envisioned but she felt like a back ground character. Mark Addy's portrayal of Robert Baratheon was marvellous. His emotional lines packed a lot of punch and that scene with him and Cercei being truthful to one another was riveting to say the least. I enjoyed Peter Dinklage as Tyrion and was pleasantly surprised by Nikolaj Coater-Waldau as Jamie Lannister, Emilia Clark as Daenerys Targaryen and Kit Harington as Jon Snow. The entire cast worked, don't get me wrong, it would take another two paragraphs to fully convey my impressions so I'm cutting it short but I had nothing to complain about in the casting and acting department.
The pace and plot moved along nicely but as you can imagine with so many characters, the building of tension does take some time. One of my favourite things about the books is that each chapter is labelled by the character's name in which we're seeing the chapter unfold through. Obviously this couldn't be done here but I felt each character was properly attended to and done justice. The dire wolves should have played a larger part in the story but then again, they were a detail I wholeheartedly enjoyed in the novels. It's easier to write about them I suppose, but it's one thing I did feel a little disappointed with. Drogo's army didn't feel as ominous as I'd imagined either, but again, some things are indeed easier to write about. The assassination attempt on Bran, the Bravosi sword practicing sessions and pretty much every scene with Robert Baratheon were some of my personal favourite highlights of the series. Also, The Wall looked phenomenal and the final scene with Daenerys was pure gold.
GAME OF THRONES took the world by storm and couldn't have been done better by anyone other than HBO. The books are written in a very adult tone and thankfully this is exactly how they were portrayed on screen. I read an article by some Los Angeles Times Television Critic, bitching and moaning about female frontal nudity. Her article (what as surprise, she's female) boats about HBO's tendency to show more than what's needed and then sites various shows that she felt were culprits of this foul play (she didn't seem to mind all the male nudity in SPARTACUS though, as that series wasn't mentioned despite not being on HBO). What a joke. Look, I review films, TV Shows, games and I write psychological thriller novels and if there's one argument I've fully backed over the years it's this: Life is rated R ladies and gentlemen and to properly (not to mention realistically) portray life in an effective, provocative, believable and entertaining way, you absolutely need that R rating. Staging an all out orgy every ten minutes would be a debatable rating's tactic but no such thing happens here. Sex and violence are part of our every day and to disclose them from a story for any reason is ridiculous. It's a give and take subject to be sure but there's no reason to get into a huff about this show (or any show for that matter) in that regard. GAME OF THRONES left me foaming at the mouth for more (I was hoping for more episodes, twelve at the very least) and I was overjoyed to hear season two got picked up so quickly. I have nothing but high hopes for the future of this series and I think I speak for everyone when I say thank God April is right around the corner.
The Complete Guide to Westeros: Each episode has a "built in guide" feature which lets you take a closer look at all the locales within the series. Add added bonus is that these maps and features are narrated by the actors (in character) which adds to the flavor.
Character Profiles: All 15 actors have a profile for their characters which are short, but sweet.
Anatomy of an Episode: A Golden Crown: This episode really starts to lay things on thick, and with series, especially if you didn't read the books, things can come at you very fast. Thankfully, this will give you more than enough explanation of who's who, and what's what.
Making of Game of Thrones: As I said, there's much ground to cover in this series, especially if you're a newcomer, so if you're craving more details, this is definitely a solid watch. Of course, it's a good watch anyway.
From Book to the Screen: A brief extra couple words that pick up where the last feature left off. A bit of a recycler, but still not bad.
The Night’s Watch: The Night's Watch was explained pretty damn good this season, but there's still much more to see. Here we get a tour of the wall and bit more info on our heroes in black.
Creating the Show Open: A big deal was made about the opening sequence for the show as each week they would add more landmarks to it when those landmarks would appear in the series. A small thing sure, but still worth mentioning.
Creating the Dotharki Language: It's easy to let yourself fall into a language like this when it's being spoken in the show, but there was a lot of work put into the Dotharki tongue and this gives us some of that insight.
Previews: There are some HBO trailers here, as well as a few hidden Easter Eggs. Happy hunting.