Game of Thrones, Season 1 (USA, 2011)

Season_1_PosterCreated by: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss. If you’re wondering why I waited so long to check this out, I refer you to my rambling tirade against television in my recent post on Louie. The gist of it is that I have a deep mistrust of the time-wasting and addictive nature of television, because I know myself too well, so I pick my shows carefully. I used to only watch shows that had already finished, and if they received consistent acclaim, they were worthy of the time investment. Exhibit A on this argument is always Battlestar Galactica—if I had listened to all my friends at the time and dove into it when it was really popular, I would have been hooked. And when the inevitable mid-series slump came, I would have still been watching all along, not enjoying it. What was unanimous praise quickly became unanimous regret at having invested so much time into what turned out to be a clunker. In the case of something like Lost, which a lot of fans told me got pretty bad towards the end, still sounds like something so bizarre (and it’s over now, and much more manageable), I’m still intrigued enough that it’s on my list—when I have a few dozen hours of my life to spare in one chunk. As for Game of Thrones (or Game of Boners, as I’ve affectionately come to know it), even though it’s still in progress, and the books haven’t even been finished yet, and I don’t really consider myself a big fantasy-nerd, I was tired of seeing my entire internet world overflow with articles and discussions about this show that I didn’t know. And, of course, once I started watching, it instantly became a race to beat the spoilers and catch up to everyone else. What’s Red Wedding? What’s Purple Wedding? Who is going to die next?????

This show is bizarre because I was hooked almost immediately, but this first season didn’t actually really grab me that much. It was a slow burner for me. After the first episode, I was pretty unimpressed—a soap opera with a giant budget, and HBO’s license to show boobs and violence. Setting aside the argument that soap operas are a noble and legitimate artform, this show had all the ingredients of a soap, but slightly more “mature”, by which I mean, a soap with incest, wolves ripping people’s throats out, heads on pikes, and even a kid in a coma with a When Will He Wake Up? cliffhanger. As far as the fantasy element goes, this first season was hardly a fantasy at all. Some talk of dragons, some talk of dangerous creatures in the north that no one believes in, but mostly it was just an allegory for medieval European history; a sort of alternate fever-dream universe where the basic form of Old World history is there—an East/West divide, religious wars, the arbitrary subjugation of women, cutthroat political scheming—but the particulars are all made up, and the whole thing is warped and made more colorful with the addition of some magic and fantasy creatures. As the whole thing started to unfold, and the day-to-day drama started to reel me in, I was also being pulled in by the overall world. I was intrigued at what Ned Stark was going to uncover, I started to slowly see the glint in Daenerys Targaryen’s eye, I wondered what was up with that kid with the dreams, but what was really intriguing was The Wall. What’s going on with that Wall? To me, this was the really interesting part—European history has no counterpart (except a whole slew of possible metaphorical counterparts) to a massive Wall of ice and magic, thousands of years old, installed to keep out the dangers of the northern wilderness, a place of ancient history, mythical horrors, and bad weather. And, of course, I couldn’t help but notice that for all this talk of winter coming, it was never winter in this place, because their seasons last for years, and when winter does come, it will be a bad bad thing.

Overall, I was pretty happy with the show, though, and I knew from about the second episode that I would be with it for the long haul. For some reason, after seeing the covers to the DVD sets at the library, I confused this cover for Season 1 for one of the later seasons, so I was watching the entire first season safe in the knowledge that Ned Stark (good old Sean Bean!) would be around for at least another season. So I was genuinely shocked, right up to the last second. (It really looks like he’s done for, I wonder how he’s going to get out of this one! Ohhhh….)

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3 responses to “Game of Thrones, Season 1 (USA, 2011)

  1. Pingback: House of Cards, Season 1 (USA, 2013) | Offhand Reviews·

  2. Pingback: List of Judgements, Anno Domini 2014 | Offhand Reviews·

  3. Pingback: Cape Fear (USA, 1962) | Offhand Reviews·

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