The Game of Thrones Begins

In between all the stuff I read for Uni, I am currently in the middle of A Song of Ice and Fire (just finished the third book). Of course I was excited to learn that it was turned into a series, with Sean Bean, no less! But I was also afraid they’d muck it up. (Spoiler Alert…)

At first I was apprehensive, thinking of what had been done to Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series – in short, I believe that could have been done a lot better and especially a lot closer to the actual books. Good casting isn’t everything. And Game of Thrones has magnificent casting. I cannot even begin to comment on them all: Robert was great, the Targaryans and Mormont as well. The characters have been portrayed true to the books, except for one thing: the age of the children. I don’t know how old Sophie Turner is, but I imagined Sansa to be half a child, still. In the books she was eleven, in the series they decided on thirteen. I can see how it would have been hard to convince viewers of the courtly longings of a little girl, although that which we’d possibly find premature, a medieval world wouldn’t. In that respect, making her thirteen (going on sixteen, judging from Turner) works for me. It’s not a huge problem – but she does look older than Joffrey! Just saying. I also imagined Robb and Jon (can you say: hot!) to be younger, they were supposed to be 15ish, here they look 19. But hey, it still works.

The setting is just grand, but that was to be hoped for. It is a great accomplishment of Martin’s that through his words he creates such vivid landscapes in one’s mind, without drawing it out too much. The series stays true to that, giving us stunning views that don’t flay out into scenery porn. Speaking of porn: Although the series has been listed as being wonderfully “realistic” before it aired – lots of sex, gore and the like – I didn’t find it too much. The books are full of sex and violence, and it gives Martin’s world a certain rough texture that some fantasy works simply lack. In Sword of Truth, for example, there is a lot of that stuff too, but so bluntly presented, so glorified, that it becomes artificial and unreal. There is so much pain all the time, it loses its meaning. Not so in Game: there is death, incest and splattered intestines, but they actually made all of it seem very “natural” and fitting the world. One can reject and criticise that, but it’s true to the novels.

Everything in this first episode was made to be lavish – especially the language. They really love that motto of Stark house – ‘Winter is coming’ – and kept repeating it a few times, just for the chills. I read that Game is supposedly loosely based on the war of roses, and I think they tried to hint at that by giving the Northerners a thick northern English accent – “Win’er is cumin'” – and many lords and ladies from the south speak in an affected ‘royal’ style. (This can best be seen in the first scene of the episode, where, I swear, Waymar Royce and Will’s exchange made me snicker.)

Conclusively, they can say what they want about cliché fantasy settings and the indulging in medieval settings, so far, this series looks to stick as close as it can be to its source. Martin’s books are less cliché than they may seem at first glance, and I hope the series goes along that path as well. Should be fun!

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