Monday, June 18, 2012
"Game of Thrones"; Some Remarks
I don't get HBO, so awhile back I bought the first season of "Game of Thrones" on DVD. Yesterday evening I watched the final episode. I haven't read the books, but I'm sure they would be the sort of thing I like -- certainly, the TV series was. It could be called high fantasy or heroic fantasy, but with a particular slant -- set in an imaginary world that is treated realistically. I consider that LotR, with all its magic, fits in that category. "Game of Thrones" tends more toward the realistic side -- there is some magic or paranormal elements -- walking dead (zombies, in effect), dragons (terrific!), the use of black spells (with disastrous consequences), the worship of those wonderful ancient trees with the weeping eyes -- but the impact is definitely one of realism and consistency.
What makes this series so effective is the quality of the acting and the writing. It's superbly cast. Of course, my favorite characters are, first, Eddard Stark. Sean Bean plays him with such restraint -- a single look conveys the most complex emotions. Second, there is Tyrion Lannister. Who can not be fascinated with Tyrion? I wrote a post not long ago about the character types found in epic and heroic literature, and one of those is the trickster. Tyrion is the trickster in "Game of Thrones" -- another example to add to my list! He's the physically powerless but cannily intelligent character who survives and prevails by his wits, and he's played terrifically by Peter Dinklage. My third favorite character is Daenerys, the person who has to grow the most. Finally, there's Arya -- who could not love the plucky daughter of Ned Stark who is a bit of a trickster character herself?
The impact of the final two episodes is what made me decide to write about my impressions. I'm not going to play the spoiler in case there is anybody out there who hasn't seen the first season, but I was totally shocked by what happened at the end of Episode 9. I've followed a lot of TV SF/F series and I'm accustomed to the convention that you can't kill off a major character unless you want the series to go down the tubes. Of course, here they're not presenting a typical series but adapting a group of novels with a plot structure of their own. And then the conclusion of Episode 10 is absolutely remarkable! Daenerys rises like Aphrodite rising from the sea in Botticelli's painting, only with a fantasy twist that can't help but make you be in a hurry to get the second season. And the thing she rises from is not the sea.
Many of these DVD episodes are accompanied by commentary from actors, producers, or writers. Some of these are not very effective. When you get several people doing a voice-over with the orginal sound track playing in the background, it all becomes a muddle, especially when the commenters talk fast in high-pitched voices and giggle a lot. On one of these commentaries, I couldn't understand a word that was being said, so I gave up about a quarter of the way through. The best one is the episode entitled "The Pointy End." The script was written by George R.R. Martin himself, the author of the books, and he did the commentary. You could understand every word he said -- no problem with losing the thread there!
I was warned when I bought these DVDs that the nudity and violence were ubiquitous, and that's true. I certainly wouldn't recommend "Game of Thrones" for children. Some of the nudity is justified, I think -- for example, the view of Daenerys descending into the scalding hot bath near the beginning, and also her final appearance. But I found some other nude scenes and explicit sex to have no purpose -- they could have been easily omitted or shortened. As for the violence, I'm a fan of NCIS and I've kind of gotten inured to a lot of gory stuff. However, there was one scene in "Game of Thrones" that really got to me and it wasn't gory. Again, I won't play spoiler -- I'll just say that it involved molten gold.
I can't end this without saying a word about David Peterson's Dothraki language, since I'm a member of the Language Creation Society, of which he is president. It adds hugely to the realism of the series. It really makes you feel that the Dothraki are a race apart from the peoples of the land of Westeros. (And a final word on Khal Drogo -- it took me a little while to realize that the character was being played by Jason Momoa, whom I remember well from "Stargate: Atlantis." I was happy to encounter him again.)
So there's my take on "Game of Thrones." I won't speak for other old ladies, but this one can't wait for the DVD of Season 2! She really wants to see Joffrey Baratheon get his comeuppance!