Sunday, April 1, 2012

Game of Thrones Day

Having now seen the whole first season three times...(SPOILERS, obviously. If you haven't seen it yet, what the hell are you waiting for?)


--Dany's relationship with Khal Drogo. For all the nice bits of characterization that the showrunners lent to many of the characters, this business in the first couple of episodes felt like they were going down a plot checklist, and of course there was the dubious wedding night scene that makes Dany seem like a victim of Stockholm Syndrome. They also missed a nice chance at a reversal--I feel like we should have been watching Viserys and expecting HIM to be the important character, so it's more of a shock when he gets kacked.
--The Dothraki in general were treated a bit too much as Noble Savages, except without the "noble" part. We sort of came around to them by the end of the season, but for large stretches in the early going, you half expected them to pop Dany into a cartoonish cast-iron pot and try to eat her, the racial stereotyping was so unsubtle.
--The lack or mishandling of the dream sequences, and magic and supernatural in general. I realize part of the appeal of this show is that it's "grounded" and doesn't have people tossing fireballs at each other or fighting krakens all the time, but it's still a fantasy show, and in the books, when magic DOES show up, Martin handles it amazingly. Here, with one exception, everything remotely supernatural is stripped of its poetry or impact--it's back to the aforementioned checklist. Particularly disappointing is Mirri Maaz Duur's healing of Khal Drogo, which for some reason takes place in broad daylight, without the awesome visual of horrific shadows dancing on the tent wall (how much would that effect have cost? Seriously!) and with everyone just treating her use of magic with a shrug or, at worst, mild disdain. Dany's sudden "oh, can you do some magic?" was a particularly huge gaffe, because she's never supposed to have seen anything like that in her life. Ditto the White Walkers' attack on Commander Mormont late in the season--that at least had a nice horror-movie vibe, but it was too perfunctory, and the Night's Watch in general seems too comfortable with the idea of the supernatural. Even if they are on the bleeding edge of Westeros, they really ought to be as surprised as anyone that the dead might suddenly spring back to life. There's too much Harry Potter syndrome here, where magic is something you can take for granted. That can be powerful in other fantasy stories, but here it's supposed to be something wild and terrifying.
--Aiden Gillen, the one cast member I find unconvincing. His performance is mannered and kind of bizarre; not for a second would I trust him, making his heel turn kind of a "well, DUH" moment. It reminded me of Zack Snyder's moronic Watchmen adaptation, where he all but holds up a sign pointing at Adrian Veidt screaming "THIS DUDE'S EVIL!!!" which kind of makes the whole mystery aspect pointless. GoT wasn't as bad as all that, but why waste an opportunity to keep the audience guessing?


--Ned the chowderhead. Obviously he's not supposed to be the sharpest tool in the drawer, but D&D really make him seem like a complete cretin at a few points, and Bean's slack-jawed performance doesn't help. Not saying I didn't like Bean in general, but there's a few scenes where he comes off as borderline stoned. Particularly dodgy is the first part of the scene where he strips The Mountain of his titles, where Littlefinger exposits at him like a developmently disabled child, and the bit where he twigs to Joffrey's parentage.
--Everybody Hates Theon. There's obviously a need for Theon to feel a bit resentful towards the Starks, since he's a more sympathetic character in the show than the book (I'll say no more for people who haven't read them). But they do it by having basically everyone treat Theon like a dick for no reason, including and particularly his adopted brother Robb.
--The underpopulated Dothraki horde and tournament, plus battles that egregiously take place offscreen. This is obviously a budget thing (and yes, the battles were mostly offstage in the books, too), so I give it a bit of a pass, but it's still a bit ridiculous to see Tyrion conveniently knocked unconscious right as the fight starts.
--The direwolves. I give this a pass because I know there was a lot of behind-the-scenes turmoil with the dogs, and budget issues. Still, it's a shame we didn't see more of them.
--Ros. Nuff said.


--That amazing cold open (literally cold, in this case), the one exception to the whole "mishandling the supernatural" thing. Set up too high a set of expectations for the later White Walkers to live up to, though I'm sure they'll correct this in the coming seasons.
--Turning minor characters into awesome supporting players. Bronn is the all-star superpro here--he was a complete cypher in the books, part of the scenery, but I'm guessing he's a lot of people's favourite character in the show. Slightly more important in the book but still elevated hugely by the actors: Shae, Varys, Barristan, Renly, Yoren, Gendry, and Viserys.
--The entire cast, really, aside from Gillen. Just an entire world of awesome characters here--someone said in a forum that this is one of the few shows with lots of sprawling storylines where you're never disappointed when they cut back to a particular set of characters, and I agree.
--With special props to Peter Dinklage, of course.
--And Maisie Williams. Obviously Arya's an important character in the books, but Williams leaps out of the screen and demands attention. Even more so than Dinklage, who was handed a great character to begin with, Williams makes Arya one of the stars of the show in a way I'd argue she wasn't in the books.
--Making the Lannisters more sympathetic out of the gate. Except Joffrey, who they've delightfully cranked up to eleven on the Douchebag Scale.
--New scenes with King Robert. Mark Addy knocked them out of the park, and made his otherwise somewhat abrupt death seem like a sad inevitability.
--Pretty much everything I haven't mentioned yet.

On the whole, a somewhat uneven first season that shows signs of being rushed...and yet still a compulsively addicting piece of television, with every sign that it's going to improve vastly from here.

No comments:

Post a Comment