HBO finally unleashed upon us its much anticipated Game of Thrones and boy was it ever worth the wait. It’s essentially perfect television. Now I’ve only seen the pilot, but it was enough to have me never miss an episode, it’s the best new series to come along since The Walking Dead. The pilot was never boring, it moved along briskly and introduced its many characters and central plots smoothly and with ease. It’s ambitious sprawling plot could have relied on the viewer being able to maintain an almost encyclopedic knowledge of the world, but instead it’s easy to follow without ever pandering, or condescending to its audience.
To attempt to summarize the juicy immense history would be pointless, basically it’s a battle of warring houses for the throne of Westeros. The catalyst of the pilot is the death of the king’s top advisor which sets in motion the events of the pilot which has the King (Mark Addy) seeking out his old friend Ned Stark (Sean Bean) to take his fallen aides place.
The cast is outstanding, one of the best ensembles ever established on TV. Sean Bean’s Lord Eddard (Ned) Stark is the main character and anchor of the series, a lord of the north, husband and father. Stark is the moral center, a towering former warrior rewarded for his loyalty with land and title. Bean’s performace is understated but by no means simple. It takes a skilled actor to make a warrior compassionate but have him still be terrifying. Bean’s Stark is that warrior; his dedication to his family, his love for his bastard son, his alleigance to his king all make him a force to be reckoned with. Michelle Fairley also does strong work as Cate Stark, Ned’s wife, conflicted about her husband’s loyalties and a fiercely protective mother to 5 children, I especially like Maisie Williams as younger tomboy daughter Arya.
Mark Addy who most recently slummed it for years in the CBS shitcom Still Standing, is excellent as the fat king, worried for his safety and desperate to keep his grasp on the throne. The King’s duplicitous wife Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey, below) and her twin Jamie (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) are the closest thing this series has to a straight up antagonist. With a glance Headey betrays her Queen’s calmness and gives hints of the nastiness beneath and golden boy Jamie is gleefully and cavalierly evil. Their imp brother Tyrion played by the great Peter Dinklage (above) is the series’ secret weapon. A hedonist, who’d taken to craftiness to make up for his literal shortcomings. Dinklage was born to play Tyrion the way Arnold was born to play the Terminator, he steals every scene he’s in often adding a bit of lyrical whimsy to his lines.
But that’s not all, across the narrow sea, the heirs of the House Targaryen who held the throne until King Robert. Harry Lloyd plays Viserys Tangaryen as an blonde, blue eyed, effeminate power hungry sociopath. He was effectively creepy when engaging in mild incest and telling his sister she’s to be married to a warrior in exchange for his armies. Emilia Clarke (on the right) plays his sister Daenerys, a wide eyed young woman unhappy being married off to a Dothraki warrior named Khal Drogo (Jason Momoa, above left), but does it anyway, her mission to return her nomadic house to the throne that was taken away when her nad her brother were just children.
Not all the performances were great, Kit Harrington has yet to find his comfort zone as Stark’s bastard son Jon Snow. He’s a little to broody and emo for a show of this level, but I have faith in him finding a balance along the way, he’s still new to acting. Jason Momoa doesn’t have the luxury of that excuse. I’ve never been a Jason Momoa fan, I’ve found him to be wooden and unexpressive since 2004’s North Shore. Lucky for him as the warrior Khal Drogo, he doens’t have to emote. Other than an ideal aesthetic for the character, Momoa adds nothing. I’m not rooting for him to fail and I’m actually hopeful that he’s able to pull his shit together.
There was plenty to love; asides from the great characters and engaging plot there was backstabbing, sex and violence galore in the premiere. And a lot of incest. If Viserys grazing his sisters’ breast wasn’t creepy enough, you get the Lanniseter twins engaging in dirty twin sex. The nudity isn’t gratuitous or distracting (like in Starz’ Spartacus), rather it only serves to move the plot forward and propel the motives of the chacters.
Though there is a lot of competition on TV right now (Justified, The Good Wife, Fringe, The Killing) but if thrones manages to keep the pace set in its stunning and awesome premiere it may just end up as the best series on television.