After months of anticipation and hype, this Sunday will see HBO (and HBO Canada) unveil GAME OF THRONES, based on George R.R. Martin’s page-turner of a best-selling book series of the same name
Or so we’ve heard.
Because here’s the thing: The one teensy bit of information you should probably be aware of before diving into our review is that prior to the news that HBO was adapting this blockbuster book series for the small screen, we had… dare we say… never heard of it. What’s more, the fantasy/historical genre has never exactly been, to borrow a line from one Austin Powers, “Our Bag, Baby”
Yes on the surface, complete with lavish production values, appealing British accents and copious amounts of sex and violence, shows like GAME OF THRONES should be appealing. Unfortunately we have a not-so-storied history of being turned off by the cornucopia of plot twists, collection of characters, and sheer amount of energy it traditionally takes to keep track these type of shows.
Luckily for HBO, not to mention writers and executive producers David Benioff (Troy, The Kite Runner) and D.B. Weiss, GAME OF THRONES has managed to succeed where a long line of high-concept, big-budgeted shows such as SPARTACUS, THE TUDORS and ROME have failed.
In fact, viewers who have been anxiously anticipating this adaptation (yes, we’re talking to you @ProgGrrl) will be happy to learn that GAME OF THRONES succeeds on virtually every level. Not only were we wowed by the extraordinary visuals and scenery beautifully shot in Northern Ireland and quickly engrossed in the politically charged fictional world of Westeros that sees various factions of the seven kingdoms do anything (and we mean anything) to reclaim the Throne, we’re thrilled to report that we were actually able to follow the story.
Suffice to stay, the fifty to sixty million dollars HBO spent in translating Martin’s books from page to small screen would have been all for naught if the average viewer was incapable of following along. And thankfully for this GAME OF THRONES neophyte, what completely sets this series apart from the long line of aforementioned shows set in historical/fantasy times is how easily we were able to follow what could have been an incredibly complex set-up, which for the benefit of fellow THRONES newbies we’ve attempted to sum up like so:
There once was a mad king who ruled the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. We say “once,” because said King was killed, quite literally stabbed in the back, by Jaime “The Kingslayer” Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) whose twin sister with whom he shares a very unusual bond with Cersei (Lena Heady) is now coincidentally enough married to current King Robert (Mark Addy). Unfortunately for Robert, not everyone is pleased with his ascension to the throne. Enter Viserys (Harry Lloyd) and Daenerys (Emilia Clarke), two of the last known surviving members of the Targaryen clan who of course have a plan to reclaim the throne they (and many) believe is rightfully theirs. A plan that involves Viserys marrying off sister Daenerys to Khal Drogo (Jason Momoa), leader of a group of savages known as the Dothraki Bloodriders. In other-words, it’s war! Which is how our story begins as King Robert enlists his old friend Ned Stark (Sean Bean), warden of the North, Lord of Winterfell and father of five children (each of whom have a curious connection to a pack of wolf cubs) to protect the throne.
Full disclosure: We’ve barely scratched the surface. That said, all one really needs to know is that GAME OF THRONES has something for everyone. Top notch acting (Sean Bean! Peter Dinklage! Lena Headey! And an adorable litter of Wolves that will have animal lovers standing up and cheering!), ridiculously cool set pieces (Wait until you get a load of that Northern Wall!), and best of all, a mythology that while easy enough to follow still managed to both challenge and leave one clamoring for more (Note: Bookmarking The Daily Beast’s GAME OF THRONES for Dummies will only add to your enjoyment). So much so that the only negative we can think to mention is that HBO Canada only sent us the first six episodes. Grade: A-
GAME OF THRONES premieres on Sunday April 17 at 9PM on HBO (HBO CANADA)