“Winter is coming.”
With the eighth and final season beginning this month we’re looking at each season to see where we’ve been so far. You can read our Game of Thrones 101 here, and our season 1 recap here. For now we’re going to look at season 1 as a whole, and whether the hype surrounding the show is merited.
Based on the popular book series by George R. R. Martin, A Song of Fire and Ice, Game of Thrones centers on the fictional land of Westeros. The land is ruled by whoever sits on the iron throne, and through the years the leaders of the seven main houses have fought for the right to rule the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. The series became an immediate hit for HBO, and helped define the idea of peak TV.
There’s a bit of a give-and-take with the first season of Game of Thrones. The show does an excellent job of telling the viewer everything needed to know about the world of Westeros, but in doing so it can at times feel clunky. The dialogue is heavy, and filled with names and places that often don’t mean much unless you really understand what is going on and the importance of things. Going back to the first season after watching the whole series gives the viewer so much more to find and take note of. But at first glance it feels off-putting and can take a few episodes to get into. But there are elements that help keep viewers hooked moving forward.
The show benefits from fantastic performances from the entire cast, and excellent writing which helps us truly become interested in the characters involved. More than anything the performances of Sean Bean as Ned Stark and Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister, elevate the show to a whole new level. Bean helps in that he’s been in so many films and TV shows that everyone has a favorite performance of his. But his performance as the honorable man in a backstabbing kingdom is what makes the viewer truly care. In the same sense, Dinklage’s performance as Tyrion, helps bring levity to the show and although he’s part of a family that are the main antagonists of the series, he seems to be the one good man with the name Lannister.
There really isn’t a bad performance in the entire cast, but with such a large cast and the show constantly introducing new characters – and at times barely touching on established ones – it’s hard to know what’s important at first. By the end of the first season we essentially know that for the most part, the show is going to be about Cersei, Jon, Daenerys, Tyrion and Arya. In a way the show does a good job of setting up these characters without us realizing how much we know about them or are invested in them until the end. At first they bleed in with the others as an ensemble of interesting people. But by the end we see that these characters will continue on, and we want to see where their paths lead.
Game of Thrones always worked well with the ensemble element, constantly juggling many characters and plots that all interweave, but are different and interesting in their own right. If you can get past the litany of exposition in the first season, it’s definitely worth the watch, and worthy of your time. It’s also the type of show that makes you want to know not only what happens next, but towards the back half of the season, you want to see it out till the end. When I first watched the series it took me four attempts to get through the first four episodes. But on my fifth try I powered through and after episode five I was hooked, and by episode nine I vowed to see it through to the end.
Even if you’re not a fan of the usual medieval fantasy epics, Game of Thrones showcases immense talent, and intriguing plotlines that are more than worthy of your time. There’s a reason the show has been nominated for and won numerous awards. And if for some reason you’re just now getting into the show I highly recommend you check out the first season, no matter how many attempts it takes.
Game of Thrones Season one through seven are currently available on DVD, Blu-Ray and Digital formats, and can be found on demand from any HBO provider.