OF ICE AND FIRE
|July 14, 2011 | SHOW||Posted by melissa|
I am heartbroken. The last episode of newly brokered show, Game of Thrones is patiently awaiting my viewing but I just cant bear to do it. My hand hovers over the remote and trembles as I attempt to press play.
I’m not normally this overwrought but Game of Thrones is something else. At first glance, the show seems like the usual clichés typified of the genre: it’s a fantasy based serial taking us through the world and events of the magical land of Westeros where Kings, Queens, noble houses, valiant warriors, evil plots, sword fighting girls, “white-walker” demons and fire-born dragons clamor and clash.
I’ve never been a big fan of fantasy nor have I read the books by George R.R. Martin on which they’re based yet there is something about the series that will keep one’s bottom glued to one’s royal seat. I’m not the only one who agrees: the ratings for the series have blown through the roof as the show has persisted; uncommon to many programs these days. The reasons, however, are numerous. There’s the deftly written characters and joust-like banter, the insanely complicated political machinations and flawless CGI-seamed shots boasting of a budget craftily stretched. Throw in a dash of really explicit sex and a pinch of brutal violence and even the plebs will be entertained. It’s no wonder they call this the “fantasy Sopranos”.
To solidify its brilliance, in the penultimate episode they dropped many jaws by making a move I have yet to see in any other TV show ever. It was devastating, surprising, heart breaking and it changed the “game” for everyone – even the fans. There was a great uproar across the online communities and forums afterward with many calling to boycott the show. This didn’t last long with the show faring over 3 million viewers on its finale, a jump of 150% since it’s debut.
Like Lord of Rings, it transcends the stigmas of the genre. Fantasy shows are often seen as low budget, non-mainstream and definitely un-cool. People often associate them with Sci-fi and while Sci-fi can be good, it can also be horrifyingly bad: Game of Thrones should not be associated in any context with films like Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus.
Akin to the great Robert Altman, Game of Thrones also lends a good deal more focus to the characters than on the rolling drama and adventure of most fantasy. It takes pains to invest us with them and their daily ordeals yet never shies away from making us hate them, love them and toss to and fro and in between. Their handling of the female characters is also something to marvel at by defying the black and white fantasy archetypes of sexy warrior bitch and demure gentlewoman. This is especially apparent by the rise of one of the main characters, Daenerys Targaryen. She begins as submissive princess sold by her brother as a prize to a barbarian warrior and ends as a fearsome Khaleesi (warrior-queen) who “births” three dragons from her husband’s funeral pyre in order to take back her rightful kingdom. GoT is not discouraged from making girls bad ass in a very real and disgusting way: Danerys eats a horse heart to win the love of her hoarde, Lady Stark protects her son from an assassination attempt by pulling a raw blade away with her bare hands, Queen Cersei is portrayed as a cunning and ruthless tactician who can play the “Game of Thrones” better than any of the men who plot against her. I can’t fault a show that makes men and women as vulnerable and despicable as each other.
Surprisingly, the production quality is also exquisite, a factor that often lets down other flourishing fantasy series such as 2005′s Tin Man and 2009′s Alice. You won’t get poor CGIed creatures, cardboard cut-out castles or Americans prancing about with poor British accents. The characters are excellently cast – most being of Scottish or English origin and having quite the actorly chops. They also scored Sean Bean. The Sean Bean. Bringer of the wise gravitas to any of his roles. Well, except for National Treasure but let’s just ignore that. As for the costumes, sets and effects: there is little to fault. Everything seems impeccable, well researched and beautifully made and designed. There is an aura of a well put together show through and through from the giant North Wall sets to the intricate hair designs of the Southern women. Behind the scenes, they also have some talented directors on board including Tim Van Patten who directed their first episode. Tim’s worked on shows like Boardwalk Empire, The Wire, Deadwood and The Sopranos. HBO has to be taking this seriously if they got Van Patten.
At the moment, the buzz around Game of Thrones is unbelievable: critical acclaim, potential numerous Emmy nods, a growing viewership spanning several million in the States alone. Maybe you’re like me and you hold off from watching such shows because of the hype. “It can’t be as good as all that!” It does take a lot to convince anyone to pick up a non-comedic show that does not revolve around lawyers, doctors or “pretty white people with problems”. I suggest trying it because your mind needs a break from reality crap and by-the-book sitcoms and deserves some sharpening by this diamond in the rough. Immerse yourself in Westeros and before you know it, you’ll be wanting to lead your own horde of barbarians to take back the great Iron Thronet!
Or, maybe that’s just me.
Game of Thrones is premiering on Foxtel’s Showcase, July 17th.
Words: Melissa Kutten
Tags: america, author, betrayal, deception, fantasy, game of thrones, George R R Martin, hbo, medieval, Of Ice and Fire, politics, Review, sean bean, showtime, tv series