‘Game of Thrones’ is engaging television

I would have never thought that a large-scale fantasy epic, akin to The Lord of the Rings, could make invigorating television. Sure, the genre is naturally episodic, which would lend itself to a weekly series. And many of the storylines involving warring families and ancient feuds have a definite soap opera feel. But how would a show keep one’s interest? How would a show offer believable acting and superior special effects? Why not just make a movie?

Well, HBO’s brand-new series, Game of Thrones, proves that it can be done. Simultaneously epic and intimate, the series proves to be an addictive saga that will hopefully satiate the hunger of its viewers for many seasons. All of the important elements are accounted for: good acting, an engaging plot, beautiful landscapes, an earned sense of history.

Game of Thrones is wonderful entertainment.

To describe the plot is a difficult task. There are more than a dozen characters, all of whom receive ample space to grow. This makes their relationships and histories difficult to decipher at first. I would recommend checking out HBO’s helpful viewer’s guide (click here) for a few pointers.

Sean Bean plays Eddard Stark, known as Ned. He serves as warden of the North (known as Winterfell), and is a dutiful servant of the king, Robert of Baratheon (Mark Addy). The two are close friends, almost like brothers.

Ned’s wife, Catelyn Tully (Michelle Fairley), runs the household. Her and Ned have five children, plus Ned has a bastard son, by the name of Jon Snow (Kit Harington).

Now, although the House Stark is the focus of Game of Thrones, there are in fact nine houses within this fantastical universe. Without going into too much detail, here’s a synthesis…

The king’s family is the Baratheon clan. It includes the king’s wife, Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey), and their three children. The Lannister clan includes the wife’s twin brother, Ser Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), and her dwarf brother, Tyrion Lannister (the great Peter Dinklage).

There’s also the Targaryen family, with brother-sister Viserys III (Harry Lloyd) and Daenerys (Emilia Clarke). The two have been cast off the continent of Westeros (the land where King Baratheon reigns), but they want to come back and rule what they believe is their worthy right to the throne. To achieve that, Viserys III essentially pimps out his sister to Khal Drogo (Jason Momoa), a Dothraki horselord, with the intention that the horselords will plan an attack on Westeros.

All in all, pending violence is in the air.

We come to learn of everyone and their relationships to one another when the king’s hand (an official title meaning right-hand man) is found dead. Was it a natural death, or was he murdered? The dead man is Jon Arryn; his widow is Lysa Tully, Catelyn’s sister.

Confused? You will be. That’s why you should reference the viewer’s guide. Game of Thrones is too good to get lost in the convoluted plot. It takes some dedication, but is well worth the effort.

The series was created by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, and they owe much credit to Peter Jackson and his world of Tolkien. Although Game of Thrones is distinct, the show has clearly been influenced by other fantasy epics. The series is based on George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire books, and hopefully the audience stays dedicated. Many great seasons of television could be enjoyed if Game of Thrones doesn’t run out of steam.

By John Soltes / Publisher / John@HollywoodSoapbox.com
  • Game of Thrones

  • HBO, Sundays at 9 p.m.

  • Created by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, based on a series of books by George R.R. Martin

  • Starring Sean Bean, Peter Dinklage and Mark Addy

  • Bubble score: 4 out of 4

  • Click here for more information.

John Soltes

John Soltes is an award-winning journalist. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Earth Island Journal, The Hollywood Reporter, New Jersey Monthly and at Time.com, among other publications. E-mail him at john@hollywoodsoapbox.com

2 thoughts on “‘Game of Thrones’ is engaging television

  • May 26, 2011 at 1:53 pm

    George R.R. Martin’s books keep me engaged and so does the HBO series. With Sling Technology from DISH Network, I’ll never miss any episodes of The Game of Thrones. I was hooked after watching the trailer and had to start watching immediately. I’ve been a fan of the Ice and Fire series of books and I’m glad HBO is doing an on screen adaptation. I never miss any episodes because I can use my iPhone to watch shows on my lunch break at work. Being that I am a customer and employee of DISH I can’t recommend the TV Everywhere feature enough to anyone who likes TV on the go, thanks DISH!

  • May 27, 2011 at 7:59 am

    Thanks for the great comment and recommendation!


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