Saturday, June 25, 2011

Game On, Swords Out, Heads Off

Beautiful sets are part of the appeal of the series.
Every summer we get HBO so we can watch True Blood. This year we happened to get it a bit early, so I thought I would check out Game of Thrones. I'd never heard of the books, since fantasy epics have not generally been part of my literary diet. I am not apt to pick up a book set in another world where the characters have weird names like Cl'ad or M'rn. But there was so much buzz about this show that I had to check it out.

Tyrion should have his own series.
Daenerys deserves a dragon.
First I will say that HBO has created a remarkable series. Even the opening credits are gorgeous. The set design and costuming work well in creating mood and place. The cast is good to excellent. At first I found the story intriguing, but after a while I'm like, meh. I've read reviews praising the moral complexity of the characters. Um, yeah, right. Oh, she is fiercely loyal to her family; too bad she kills people. That's what is meant by "complex" I guess. The bad 'uns are pretty much bad to the bone and the good 'uns are, from what I can tell, en route to being corrupted or killed. I like Eddard's feisty daughter Arya and Tyrian, the dwarf, who has been given the best lines (and Richard Dinklage, a marvelous actor, obviously relishes his role). I'm also fascinated by the character Daenerys, daughter of the assassinated former king, now in exile, who starts out as a fragile, ethereal victim but becomes increasingly kick-ass. But most of the characters are annoying, willfully blind or downright vicious. The only really stand-up guy, Eddard Stark, screws everything up because he can't outmaneuver all the other power players. Here's a piece of advice, you shouldn't tell the queen that you know her deep, dark secret after the king, your only ally in the court, is dead, particularly not after your wife has kidnapped her brother. Also, when your crazy-ass wife kidnaps a member of the queen's family based on questionable evidence from a third-party and puts him on trial at the crazy-ass family headquarters, you should not be supportive. This is a good time to play the "I'm so sorry but my wife is unhinged with grief" card. Just sayin'.

Working girls in training.
Since HBO can, they dump as much blood and brutality as possible into every episode. Within the first few minutes of episode 1 I was treated to a scene of hacked up corpses arranged is some sort of mysterious symbol (at this point I don't really care what it means or who did it) and in every episode since I've had to close my eyes at various points to avoid having some new horror seared into my psyche. Most recently a scene took place while an animal is being butchered and skinned, which I'm sure conveyed the utter coldness of the Lannister patriarch, but I could have got that with less squishiness, thank you very much. And it being HBO there's lots of gratuitous sex. Seriously, is there ever a really sound narrative reason for an explicit sex scene? Oh, puhlease. No, there isn't. I don't get, for instance, why a scene of two women practicing "the business" is dramatically necessary. While the whore training was in session, the brothel owner was busy telling his life story to one of the "trainees," who turned out to be very good at multi-tasking. I suspect he may have alluded to something important in that little talk. Or not. In any case, I gather the character of the prostitute Ros was written specifically for the TV show, because, you know, an epic without whores is kind of like popcorn without butter and salt.

When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die.
You must have to find Machiavellian politics and strategy much more interesting than I do to really enjoy this series. Or you have to really enjoy stories in which family loyalty trumps morality and humanity nine-tenths of the time. Not filial affection, mind you, just cold-hearted, unthinking, brutal loyalty.

So, next season, I might give Game of Thrones a miss. Except now they have dragons.


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  2. I love the True Blood Books but don't enjoy the series.

    As for Game Of Thrones, we don't have Sky so I haven't had the opportunity to watch this but all my friends seem to agree that they won't be watching next season, the promise of dragons are not.

  3. Petty, the characters in GOT are truly infuriating. I'm just not sure it will sustain my interest. But the books series is still going on, so I guess they have a lot to draw upon. I love the Sookie books but I love the True Blood series, too. There are some things I think they did very well in developing the story for the screen (and some characters on the screen that I wish were in the book), but the TV show is almost like a riff on the books, more interested in certain motifs than in closely following the original storyline.

  4. I just can't get into the show, but I am relieved that they have a resident whore and plenty of random, unnecessary skin-on-skin showdowns.

  5. So much of what fans love about TRUE BLOOD stems from the series on which it's based including the dreary and atmospheric location.