Created by: David Benioff, D.B. Weiss
Cast: Sean Bean, Mark Addy, Lena Heady, Emilia Clarke, Peter Dinklage, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Michelle Fairley, Iain Glen, Harry Lloyd, Jason Momoa
Synopsis: This is the first in a new series made by US channel HBO, based on a series of novels by author George R.R. Martin. It is a medieval story of political intrigue in a mythical land. Eddard “Ned” Stark (Bean) control’s the realm of Winterfell. The King (Addy) makes a month’s journey north to Winterfell to ask his old friend Stark to be King’s hand, following the murder of the last man to hold that title. It seems that someone is after his crown.
This was the other major cable network series that I have been waiting for, in addition to Torchwood Miracle Day, that is now available to view on Foxtel. I am therefore very grateful to friends and family that have Foxtel as I myself am not currently signed up. As an added bonus for me, watching Sunday night’s episode, as pats of the show are filmed in Malta, Bride of Film Nerd was interested in seeing her family’s native country on-screen. So we sat down to enjoy this one together.
Being a series by HBO, it does not shy away from violence (there is a beheading in the opening scenes), nor does it shy away from nudity, which there is an abundance of in the second half of this episode. So far, so True Blood. However, despite these elements perhaps being a drawing card to an audience unfamiliar with the source material, it does not take long for the real agenda of the series to become apparent. This first episode is a slow-burner in the tradition of any good exposition opening episode. Slow does by no means indicate dull in this case, as a lot of intrigue is built as we are introduced to different families, royal and common. There are apparently supernatural beings that inhabit this world too, but to begin with they remain on the sidelines. When the violence and nudity do occur, it is to support an element of the story being told, and as such though abundant, may not necessarily be labelled as excessive.
All I have discussed so far is really window dressing. The real delight of this first episode are the characters and how they interact. Bean’s Stark is clearly noble and accomplished by nature. He takes his responsibilities to his family and to his comrades very seriously. He is capable of a sense of humour, but is well aware of time and place. In some ways he is an older, wiser version of Bean’s own Richard Sharpe. Mark Addy plays the King Robert Baratheon, and does a marvellously convincing job. He is lecherous and a glutton, but when required to be in command, he has a quietly forceful presence. A long friendship exists between these two men, and this friendship is played with ease by them both, while Stark realistically weighs the problems associated with accepting his friend’s request. Former Sarah Connor Lena Heady is the Queen Cersei, who is making her own plans with her brother Jaime (Coster-Waldau). This alone provides the biggest shock moment of the episode. They also have a third sibling, the amazing Peter Dinklage’s Tyrion, whom seems a debauchery prone lout, though shows later in the episode his opinion is of great worth. We also follow a separate story of former monarch Viserys Targaryen (Lloyd), who seeks to raise an army to reclaim his realm. To do so he essentially sells his sister Daenerys (Clarke) to Drogo (Momoa, next to be seen in the Conan: The Barbarian reboot) , leader of a barbarian warrior clan.
Despite the supernatural elements, what is mainly on display is the politics that one can easily believe existed in ancient times. Women are pawns in political gains, uniting forces through marriage, not often considering personal choice or desire in the matter. It is so accepted, that two mother’s are even seen coldly conversing over the prospect of marriage of their children. Men have the role of protecting their domain, spending time learning the arts of warfare, while women are off crocheting. This said, the women themselves have a strength and a major role to play in coming events.
A fascinating first episode, full of intrigue and deception. I am not familiar with the source novels, so I shall sit back and enjoy where future episodes are to take me.
4 stars out of 5.