It’s easy to forget that Game of Thrones was a cultural phenomenon. After the disaster that was the eighth season, the love and acclaim the series had enjoyed for almost its entire runtime almost instantly evaporated. Nowadays, no one mentions how good the earlier seasons were. They focus exclusively on how bad it was in the end.
Me? I didn’t watch much of the show. I was one of those assholes that would always talk about how much better the books were. I watched some clips and an episode here and there. But I preferred to sit in the back of the room with my nose in a book.
Which made the sex scenes involving younger people all the more uncomfortable, as they aged the characters up in the show.
Recently, I got bored and decided to put the show on in the background. It had been a while since I’ve read the books, after all. Most of the story had vanished from my mind and I don’t have the time to read the books again (at least not until Storm of Swords, which I haven’t reviewed yet). May as well give it another shot.
So, how was it?
It’s hard to summarize the story of Game of Thrones, as it is divided among so many different characters. But to put it exceptionally simply: the Hand of the King (he’s basically the vice president if the vice president did all of the actual work) died of mysterious circumstances, so King Robert Baratheon goes to his old trusted friend Ned Stark to take the job. Not too long after arriving in King’s Landing, he begins to unravel a conspiracy that could put the future of the Westeros on the path of war. Meanwhile, Ned’s family all deal with their own struggles and, across the sea, the daughter of the usurped king, Daenerys Targaryen, marries a powerful warlord to raise an army and reclaim her homeland.
Yeah, there is a lot of story crammed into this season. Every single episode is so densely packed with information that it demands your absolute attention. Look away for too long and poof! You’ve lost the plot.
Not that you’ll want to look away. The writing on display here is phenomenal! Even when the show is at its least stimulating on a visual front, the dialogue is so rock solid that you can’t look away! Every exchange feels like a duel. Some friendly, just for the sport. Others for blood.
That said, not all of it works. Certain characters are dragged down by some truly obnoxious dialogue that makes you roll your eyes whenever they’re on screen. Sansa suffers this problem the worst; she is as annoying as an actual teenage girl and I cannot stand it. Everyone else has really natural and intriguing dialogue while she feels ripped out of a soap opera.
Which… Game of Thrones kind of is. But it’s a good one.
While the writing here is certainly impressive, it’s nothing new. If you’ve read the book, you know what to expect here. But this version does have an edge over its source material: the visuals.
This is a show that relies very heavily on practical effects. That alone would have made it an automatic win in my book. But then you look at just how good it really looks and you can’t help but gasp. It looks incredible!
Each and every set is so highly detailed that you can’t help but think that it’s a real place. Whether you’re atop the wall far to the north or in the middle of King’s Landing, never once do you question the reality of the setting. Better yet, each one feels completely distinct from each other thanks to their use of color; King’s Landing is very yellow, the Wall is white and blue, so on and so forth.
The costumes look pretty cool, too. There are simple ones, like suits of armor or a lady’s dress. But then you have the more elaborate costumes, like the dothraki tattoos and the black clothes of the Night’s Watch. Each one fits the character perfectly and add another nice layer of reality to the world.
Still, it isn’t perfect. CGI doesn’t go completely unused here. In certain shots, the dire wolves look like either a) a computer generated image or b) an actual dog on a blue screen that’s been sized up in editing. The dragons are also CGI and they haven’t aged all that well. Thankfully, both of these are rare in appearance, so it isn’t absolutely insufferable.
Music wise, this season is just okay. The opening tune slaps! But I genuinely don’t remember any of the music used in the actual show. I’m half convinced that there wasn’t any!
Overall, this first season is pretty strong. It’s a faithful adaptation of a great book that is super compelling to watch. It’s easy to understand why this became such a big thing.
Before, you know, they ruined it.