Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Game of Thrones, Season 1 (Part 2 of 2)

If you missed yesterday's post where I mention my surprise that Game of Thrones has an audience and talk about my dislike of some of the more egregiously "HBO" scenes, read it first.

One of the reasons it's been such a pleasure watching Game of Thrones (the TV show) is how well it's followed A Game of Thrones (the first book in A Song of Ice and Fire--won't it be nice and confusing next season when we're watching Game of Thrones based on A Clash of Kings?).  I haven't read the first book in a long time (maybe a decade?) so I don't remember its fine details well, but nothing seems jarringly out of place.

While the Unburnt scene is the proper denouement for the first book/season, and probably the one that's going to have the most important consequences for the series as a whole, my favorite scene in A Game of Thrones has to be the King in the North scene.  And it turned out awesome--if the Greatjon taking out his sword and saying "there sits the only king I mean to bend my knee to" doesn't give you chills, you're watching it wrong.  It could have used some broad shots of various castles in the north raising the Direwolf (one part of the book that I definitely do remember, and vividly).  But otherwise, that scene--and virtually all of the first season--is both good television and a good match to the books.

Where the TV show has really excelled, though, has been in the characters.  Sean Bean expectedly nails Ned Stark, and the rest of the Stark family is pretty spot-on too.  The Lannisters are comparably well done: Cersei and Jaime are great, Tywin is better, and no discussion of the first season would be complete without praising Peter Dinklage's Emmy-worthy Tyrion Lannister.  Because I read the first few Song of Ice and Fire books at around the same time that the Lord of the Rings movies came out, I couldn't deconvolute the two series' "dwarves," and I've had this ridiculous mental image of Tyrion as looking like Gimli for the past decade.  Credit to Mr. Dinklage for showing me exactly how Tyrion is supposed to look, act, and behave.

That's been the best part of the television adaptation: getting reasonable depictions of all of the characters.  Some characters are relatively important to the plot, yet if you asked me based on the books to describe them, I'd be at a loss.  In particular, Syrio Forel and Littlefinger are shown much more vividly in the TV show than I could have envisioned them.

Only a few characters were portrayed significantly differently than in the books.  The biggest misstep was probably Renly Baratheon; where the Renly of the books is a charismatic, influential adviser to the king, the Renly of the TV series is reduced to Loras Tyrell's gay lover.  Robert Baratheon's drunkenness and misogyny are emphasized at the expense of his former diplomatic ability and skills as a warrior, which is not as much a mis-portrayal as a difference of opinion.  And both Cersei (in emphasizing Robert's lechery) and Tywin (in showing that he has a sense of honor, albeit a self-serving one) are portrayed much more sympathetically than in the books, an interesting and not unwelcome take.

Next season, I'm looking forward to seeing Stannis, Mance Rayder, Jaqen H'ghar, and Roose Bolton.  But I'm most interested in seeing Melisandre; a good decision in casting her could lead to the most evocative TV villain since the smoke monster from Lost.

Currently listening: "Is Patience Still Waiting?", the Juliana Theory

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