Game of Thrones, Season 1 Review- Better Late Than Never

Spoiler alert- the guy in the picture didn’t win

Okay, I get it now.  I didn’t necessarily resist joining the cultural phenomenon on purpose, although I admit to having a contrarian nature.  It just seemed like too much work to get into a series that sounded like it had an identity crisis.  What genre was this?  It looked like an adventure series, sort of like a modern-day Neverending Story (ironically set in the Middle Ages), yet it sounded like there was a lot of pornography and other disturbing stuff going on.  And yet nearly every single person I encountered that had watched the show over the years- and I mean literally nearly everyone- LOVED it!

I binge watched Breaking Bad, right as the series was ending, because it came on a basic cable marathon, and had a very easy to understand narrative- a down-on-his-luck high school teacher gets cancer, so he starts selling meth to provide for his family.  Shocking, original, and straightforward, even if the series inevitably took some twists and turns.  But THIS thing?  Dragons?  Debauchery?  Nudity?  Incest?  What the hell??  I punted, until about a week ago, when Twitter lit up with every single trending topic dealing with Game of Thrones.  Finally, I gave in.  And boy, did I ever!

Basically, this thing does combine seemingly disjointed genres into one insane but riveting package.  What if Tony Soprano gets killed before the end of Season 1?  What if Joaquin Phoenix’s character in The Gladiator had free reign, without a Russell Crowe-like protagonist to stop him? (Ned Stark basically had Tony Soprano’s power and respect, with The Gladiator’s moral compass.) What if the Malfoys got their hand on the deathly hallows?  What if the family from Blades of Glory, quite literally, succeeded in stealing the gold?  What if there was more than one kid that had The Shining?  And this is only the first season- apparently, there are seven more of these!

There’s also another story line lurking, literally beyond the horizon, involving some ghastly ghouls, surely teasing yet another genre that was touched on in the first scene of the first episode- horror.  It didn’t seem to go anywhere in season one, but I trust the writers have something really incredible- and probably not for the feint of heart- just waiting to be unleashed at the right moment.  My guess is that it’s an allegory for people squabbling about petty problems, without any awareness about REAL danger that threatens them all.  But we’ll see.  Or at least, I will.

Here are some other thoughts I had about season 1-

  • I’m a pretty squeamish guy myself, although there was only one moment that really unnerved me- Khaleesi’s ruthlessly ambitious but idiotic brother- basically, an older version of Joffrey without the network to back him up- thinks he’s going to be coronated, instead gets burned to death by liquid metal, in a sadistically ironic “ceremony”.  There were far more gory moments in the series, but it wasn’t the visual aspect that bothered me so much- it was the psychological, instead.  As deserving as he was of this fate, being murdered during a time where one is wrapped in their own vanity feels very cruel- which, of course is the point.  Jason Mamoa’s character smiling as he says in a gravelly voice, “A crown fit for a king,” makes the whole thing that much more chiling.  (This isn’t just a product of fiction, by the way- search for “execution of the Romanov family” sometime, if you must.)
  • Ned getting killed was brilliantly painful, but it was strangely heartfelt, as well.  The two Stark daughters, on complete opposite ends of the spectrum personality wise, both felt incredible pain as they watched their father die in undeserved disgrace.  One of the greater disappointments of the Harry Potter series was that Draco Malfoy never amounted to much more than a brat.  Harry had tons of worthy enemies, but none that were his peers.  With very few exceptions throughout the series, Malfoy’s presence seemed more designed to distract, and allow Harry’s friends to band together.  By transitioning Joffrey from entitled brat to evil ruler,  the story becomes that much more enthralling, particularly as the main protagonist is killed before the end of the first season!  Speaking of which…
  • As someone who couldn’t avoid hearing and seeing tidbits of Game of Thrones throughout the years, I was always under the impression that Khaleesi was the main protagonist, seeing how the actress who plays her was on a plurality, if not majority, of the all the pictures I’d seen of the show.  Clearly she’s the most famous face- and body, *ahem*- of the show, so I was surprised at how much smaller her story was, relative to a few of the other main characters, particularly Ned Stark.  I’m guessing that her role is much bigger in season two and beyond, and the final scene seems to imply that, especially with poor ol’ Neddy out of the way.  Again, speaking of which…
  • One reason why I probably wasn’t as horrified/sad/whatever as I should have been at such a powerful scene as Ned Stark getting beheaded was because I was actually kind of expecting something like that.  Given that I could only remember seeing him in one picture, and I knew the show was (in)famous for killing off primary characters (I’ve seen the South Park parody, and been warned several times), I figured he would be cut down (literally, apparently), at some point.  I admit I was surprised at HOW early he was cut down, but it’s not like there aren’t enough other characters to follow along!
  • The Lannister storyline of lust that dare-not-speak-its-name was also something I’d heard about.  Initially, it seemed like a gratuitous shot, implying that they were depraved, soulless people, because they engaged in this act- sort of how gay characters would have been portrayed in the not-too-distant past.  I was definitely wrong about this, as it was anything but gratuitous- it simply showed just how in love with themselves they were!  From their “logic”, it makes sense- since nobody was as awesome as they were, nobody else was worthy enough to “breed” with them.  Twisted, but consistent with what we know about these characters.
  • As original as this show is, they couldn’t help but to engage in a few tired tropes, particularly as the Dancing-With-Wolves/Avatar native celebration/savagery/etc..  The romantic language was cringe-worthy, as well- “my sun, my moon, my stars, my planet, my solar system…” My GOD!  Stop it!
  • I also found it problematic that Khaleesi falls for the guy that starts out raping her.  This season was filmed in 2011, and the book written way earlier than that.  I’m guessing (hoping?) such a storyline would have been modified, had it come out today.  There were other aspects of the show that were a bit…much, but it’s hard to define that line, as the line is different for everyone.  But the Khaleesi thing?  It reminds me of a sick joke in Monty Python’s Life Of Brian- “You were raped?” “Well…at first.”  And at least that was a joke, intended to offend and sound absurd!  Sorry, I don’t think there’s a place for something like that, even for a show like this.
  • What was the deal with Khaleesi’s right-hand man?  That guy had the easiest acting job on the show.  “The Dathraki are mating with their pray.  Basically, they’re sexual Klingons.”  He seemed more like the narrator of a nature show, than a character on this show.  When Khaleesi’s brother says to him, “I see the way you look at my sister,” I thought to myself, “Really?  You do?  How does he look at your sister?  I thought he was too busy doing anthropology research on the Dathraki to look at anyone else!”
  • Oh, I almost forgot this one, probably because I was TRYING to forget- the most disturbing thing in REAL life was the kid breast-feeding off of his TV mom.  How is that even legal?  The world of child acting is shady enough to begin with- what parent says to a kid, “Hey junior- we found the perfect role for you!  Make sure you get the audition right the first time, okay?”  It wouldn’t surprise me if he screwed up the scene on purpose a few times.  I probably would, if I were that kid!  Moving to the opposite end of the spectrum…
  • I was most sad when Aria sent her dog away, after he protected her from The Dork Prince.  (See what I did there?)  I felt so bad for the pooch- he must have been so confused.  It was probably a throwaway scene for 99% of the audience out there, but not me.
  • Even a show with multiple layers often reveals consistent patterns.  In Game of Thrones, it’s clear that the writers have a soft spot for people who have gotten screwed over by life but try hard anyway, and hate- I mean REALLY hate- anyone who brags about their inherited place in the world.  Whatever evil deed gets rewarded in this universe, flaunting your family’s status isn’t one of them.
  • I’ve seen a few complaints that the SJWs got a hold of the series later on.  I guess I’ll find out for myself, but for now, I personally appreciate a show that has strong but flawed female characters, and doesn’t seem to try preaching anything- just moves the stories along, with complex characters, that can’t seem to escape their fate.
  • Jon Snow seems like a nice guy.  I doubt his buffoonish friend (“Neville” in Harry Potter’s universe) makes it, though.

This review was supposed to be short.  So much for that.  I hope you enjoyed it.

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