Without being a fan of the fantasy genre, I can now safely say that I’m an addict when it comes to this show. As a late starter, I was resisting the hype surrounding the adaptation of the George R. R. Martin books being adapted for HBO, and having waited for their arrival on DVD, I was able to digest the whole thing in a few sittings.
I like the show because the drama is present and believable – it is earnest and has a distinct dramatic heft to it. While the names and places are elaborately coined and easily overwhelming, the narrative itself is compelling and satisfying. Its epic design, scale and look is reminiscent of that used in the entirely silly melodrama that is Neil Jordan’s The Borgias, but there is nothing messy or silly about this show (not silly, at least, until they start prattling on about dragons). The show is, for the most part, serious without being mired in pretence; it is as engaging and enjoyable as something from the fantasy genre can be (at least in the eyes of a newbie to the form – I’m also someone who never got on The Lord of the Rings bandwagon and probably won’t be lining up to see the first of two Hobbit films this year…)
It is not without its flaws. It’s so complex and cast over so many lands, families and interconnecting plots that it took (me at least) five episodes to get a full bottle on what was going on and who wanted what and where. The violence is ever-present and excessive at times, and the nudity, while functional, errs to the gratuitous at times. Is there a serious conversation going on in this scene? Hard to say. All I can see is hooters. For all the kingdoms, regions and such, it took me a whole bunch of time to figure out exactly what function all the action taking place on ‘The Wall’ served. A show with 12-13 hour-long episodes, adapted from seven epic novels is really in no genuine rush to get where it eventually is going.
In one of the stronger ensembles of British actors you’ll find this side of a Downton Abbey butterdish, Peter Dinklage is the best part of a first rate cast. As the ‘imp’ of the fiendish Lannister clan, he invests his character with humour and charm. He won the Supporting Actor in a Drama at last year’s Emmys; an award that was well deserved. While Sean Bean, Mark Addy and Lena Headey bring a world of old world acting class to the show, it’s Dinklage whose scenes are the most engaging, albeit while his accent is a trifle trans-Atlantic.
It’s tremendous stuff, with one of the more confronting, unexpected final two episodes of a debut season.
The second season seems mostly unpleasant thus far, although still riveting. I think the show may have coined a new idiom borne of Fonzie jumping the shark on Happy Days – a couple of episodes in the red haired witchy woman gives birth, and where a show once ‘jumped the shark’, they now ‘queef the black smoke monster’. Weirdness. I’m hoping for the best, and enthusiastic that it won’t go the way of Mad Men’s fifth season, which is mostly lacking any kind of urgency or consequence.