George R.R. Martin may not believe in deadlines, but I am glad that HBO executives do. True to their word, the HBO original series, Game of Thrones released on April 17th and is already 3 episodes old. So far, the show has exceeded every expectation and has already been renewed for season 2.
Based on the still incomplete fantasy series, A Song of Ice and Fire written by the reigning world champion in procrastination, George R.R. Martin (who, yawn, has announced ANOTHER release date for the fifth book), this TV series follows the lives of several ruling families in the land of Westeros and their many political and bedroom intrigues.
If you have not read the books, let that not deter you from watching the series. That is, assuming you’re into medieval sword-and-sorcery tales of violence, sex, re-animated corpses and other terribly exciting things. Oh, and dragons. However, you should stop reading this post as there may be some spoilers ahead.
Now that we’ve shaken off the philistines and barbarians, let me answer the question that has been plaguing us since they announced the making of the TV series, “HOW IS THE CASTING ARE THE CHARACTERS ANYTHING LIKE I IMAGINED THEM OH GOD THEY’VE RUINED IT HAVEN’T THEY?” You may now rest easy knowing that the casting is perfect and the show is e p i c. That should not be surprising considering the fact that GRRM retained a degree of control over the casting and since the story is supposed to be in POV format, a good cast should’ve been their top priority. Even I could not have done a better job and I’ve spent countless hours pondering this very question.
The Starks are the obvious favourites: they don’t wear pretty garments and decorative armour. They’re grim, tough and mean business. Ned Stark (played by Boromir) is just as I’d imagined him– dutiful, honourable and weary (does anyone else see the startling similarities between him and Duke Leto Atreides I from the Dune universe?). Catelyn is more matronly than expected but the meatiest part of her role is yet to come. Bran is sometimes a darling little boy and often a solemn man. Arya is a spitfire, and Sansa is prissy. My favourite character, Jon Snow was a bit… healthier than expected but the actor has done a great job of portraying his resentment and love for the Starks and determination to make something of himself.
So far, Daenerys Targaryen only looks wistful and wears diaphanous garments. As for Khal Drogo, unfortunately I can only picture him running across a beach in slow motion wearing red swimming trunks. But that’s my problem, not Jason Momoa’s.
As for the Lannisters, the “the things I do for love” scene is so chilling and beautifully executed, that in those 15 seconds, the true natures of Jaime and Cersei are laid bare. And yes, Jaime is suave, irreverent and awesome. But the award has to go to Peter Dinklage (playing Tyrion), who brings the character alive in a way that makes all the others look two dimensional. It helps that he got the cheekiest dialogue (“Go celibate? The whores would go begging from Casterly Rock.”) and Dinklage delivers them so much better than the voice in my head ever did.
Coming now to the plot itself, many were afraid that they would not be able to do justice to the seemingly weighty tomes, but, if you think about it, GRRM devoted reams to describing sigils, mottos and symbols, that when translated to live action, they’re able to devote enough and more time for the characters. Also, despite being told in POV, the books are highly plot-centric. Characters have fixed personalities and are slow to evolve. Varys oozes around the place, Viserys is a horrible beast, Robb Stark is Lord Noble McDutiful, and are slaves to the plot. Few of them change without a major event happening to them, so I doubt a TV adaptation could do much injustice to the characters. A commendable thing about the show is that they’ve spent far less time on back story than expected with no lazy voice overs, and yet have managed to keep the story coherent.
At the end of the day, A Song of Ice and Fire is “The Bold and the Beautiful” of the fantasy book world with suspense, family feuds and amorous affairs. I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy them; on the contrary I’ve subscribed to every blog that may have information on the fifth book’s release date. But it does not change the fact that all the women are Vixens, Xenas or Barbies, the plot can be predictable, the descriptions clunky and dialogue cringe-worthy on occasion. That said, this is a great series to be adapted to the screen.
While staying true to the books, the show is not shackled to them. It could’ve descended into a mess of clashing story arcs or become another easily replaceable period piece, but instead, they’ve distilled the characters, retained their best dialogues and scenes and given it a Sopranos (if they had swords and wore cloaks instead of guns and ill-fitted suits) feel, with graphic scenes and grittiness tempered with witty conversations and some beautiful cinematography that lingers instead of sprinting through the story just to hit all the check points (like the seventh movie about a certain boy wizard with a peculiar scar). Often, deeply intimate moments like a father watching his daughter learn fencing betray more about Westeros and its political climate than the plot exposition.
Now is it too much to hope that they won’t scrimp on the CGI budget and the dragons Rhaegal, Viserion and Drogon won’t look like the love children of the dragons from Dungeons & Dragons (2000) and Dragonheart(1996)?