'Game of Thrones' premiere review: Let the 'Game' begin, smashingly

If you haven’t read the book it was based on, Game of Thrones may not have been what you were expecting. The ads made it look like a dark, gritty, grim historical epic packed with violence and sex. Turns out, it was a swift fantasy adventure rooted in the emotions of ambition, greed, and lust. In this make-believe universe, there’s a ferocious realism in both dialogue and action. This distinction in setting and tone is crucial; it’s what makes Game of Thrones rise immediately far above such history-based costume dramas as The Borgias, Camelot, or Spartacus: Gods of the Arena.

The opening hour, “Winter Is Coming,” did a canny job of laying out every theme that will be explored in this character- and plot-packed series… and did so by following the simplest, shrewdest, yet least often followed strategy in literary adaptations: It followed the text of the book. I know, right? Amazing.

Ominousness was established immediately with a journey along The Wall, one dangerous boundary-line in author George R.R. Martin’s imagined world. We got a taste of the kind of blunt terseness that will characterize the entire series in the dialogue among the mounted guards, and caught a glimpse of the eerie, deadly White Walkers.

After that, there was a luxuriously smooth introduction of the House of Stark clan, led by Sean Bean’s hard-boiled Lord Eddard, as well as a few of author Martin’s key imaginative inventions such as the beautiful-but-fierce direwolves. The hour had a lot to get across to its audience. How Eddard was loyal to his old friend, now the king, Robert Baratheon (a robust Mark Addy). How the Lannister clan had designs upon the King’s throne — well, at least Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and his sister, the king’s queen, Cersei (Lena Headley) did. Their brother, Tyrion (a Peter Dinklage seeming to revel in his character’s sarcasm, drinking, and general wench-squeezing), holds his small self above that fray as much as he can.

Another plot seemed, during this initial episode, to exist almost outside the rest of the story: The delicate princess Daenerys Taragaryan (Emilia Clarke) being given to the gigantic warrior Khal Drogo in an arranged marriage also designed, ultimately, as a power-play for the throne.

By the end of the hour, we had an almost literal cliffhanger: Eddard’s young son Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright), climbing a high wall, came upon the sight of Jaime and Cersei having sex. The act left him frozen; the incestuous couple knew they couldn’t risk being exposed, and so — push! Down went Bran.

The daunting task of turning a massive epic fantasy novel into a merely huge fantasy TV series has been met with bravery by the makers of A Game of Thrones. And by bravery, I mean that writer-producers David Benioff and Dan Weiss have taken George R.R. Martin’s capacious prose and adapted it with fidelity for its large fan-base.

HBO has been promoting Game of Thrones in so many places, with such persistence, you get the sense the channel is a wee bit nervous and a whole lotta proud of what it’s offering here. The show needs to grow beyond its book-readers right from the get-go, because there are only ten episodes to lay out this universe, and get you invested in its multiple plots and characters, in the hope that this is the beginning of a multi-season series that will adapt the other volumes of Martin’s Song of Fire and Ice.

I’ll bet a lot of people watched the first episode. The question is, how many will come back?

Are you on board for the rest of Game of Thrones?

Twitter: @kentucker


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  • Jackie

    I thought it was great.

    • joblo

      Me too. I never read the book and did not know much about it – I was a bit skeptical actually. But I turned it on and after a kind of weird opening once it shifted to Boromir’s family I was hooked. Love the intrigue and there’s some great acting there. Couldn’t believe the kid got pushed!

      • PJ

        You mean Eddard Stark’s family. Boromir is LOTR. :)

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        —– lay out this universe, and get you invested in its multiple plots and characters, in the hope that this is the beginning of a multi-season series that will adapt the other volumes of Martin’s Song of Fire and Ice.

      • Lily

        @joblo – I could not believe that little boy got pushed either!! YIKES. Didn’t read the book but thought the production was fantastic. Amazing. I’m officially hooked on Game of Thrones. I’ve always been hooked on Sean Bean ;-)

      • Katherine

        Haha I love that you call him Boromir because even though I’m currently reading the first book, I still called Sean Bean Boromir every time he came on screen last night!

      • sarah

        woohoo, new fans! and yeah, the author knows how to put his heroes through the ringer. poor bran. i can’t believe they put that in the first episode.

      • Sara

        I’ve never read the books either and I’m hooked.

      • ashlee

        Ditto. Did not read the books. But, intrigued by the cast, decided to watch. I’m hooked. Tyrion steals his scenes and became my favorite character immediately. I was shocked Jamie pushed Bran off the ledge and turning to Cersei,cheerfully announced “the things I do for love.” I can’t wait for next week.

      • Ryan

        JoBlo, you are in for a treat then. I will say, and this isn’t really a spoiler, the “weird” opening just sets things in place for the future, not even this season, but future seasons. Just to set the presence of a threat.

        The rest of the episode that you loved is what you can expect more of this season. The intrigue, backstabbing, and just general craziness. I think you’re in for a helluva ride.

        Oh and I kept thinking Boromir got beefy….lol

      • Steve

        “On board”? More like “I’m bored”. After all the hype, and a fantastic 5-minute opening sequence, the rest of the episode was just deadly dull. I bet it loses at least 1/3 of the audience by the 2nd episode.

      • Joanie 22

        Like you, I thought the first few minutes were boring, but it finally kicked in and I will there for the next one. Felt so sorry for the little boy and that poor girl married off to that brute. I hope things get better for her.

    • Roger Pedersen

      I truly loved the first episode.. If the series continues to improve, then this one will become a smash hit:D

    • Layne

      Since I have not read the books I had trouble keeping up with all the new characters and what their standing was to each other. I played it over again, but I missed that the queen was doing it with her BROTHER in the tower. Can’t wait for the next one. I will be cheering for Boromire and the white haired queen. I hope she lets her husband’s whole army and their horses have him.

      • Nic.

        Not just her brother, but her TWIN brother. Double ick! I’ve just started reading the series, but I hope they both get what they deserve.

    • Rafika

      Hi Dave! You make a great addition to the show. Please come back for more! And Roth come back! Missed you! Fringe will have 1 week of snootihg Season 4 when it comes to SDCC. And Josh Jackson, is not on the list for appearing for Fringe this year! O-O! Which is driving fan fear and speculation crazy. If folks pick up any chatter about this, please pass it on. Falling Skies feels like a retread of so many other similar post-Apocalyptic shows. Too depressing and dreary. Time for a change of tone. Need something with joy and passion and wide-eyed enjoyment about the future. Like what the original Star Trek had. Does anyone remember optimism? Quite enjoyed Game of Thrones but found it more solid than stupendous. Reading the second book now. Love live Tyrion! Can’t wait for Spartacus and Breaking Bad to return. On the lighter side Warehouse 13 and Haven also make welcome returns soon. As usual, keep up the great casts. Really enjoying this and way more than anything that the professional on network and cable TV are doing. Hope you can work it so all 4 of you are on. The Four Musketeers!

  • Deets

    It’s not my genre, so I had never heard of it before but thought I’d give it a try. I’ll be back.

  • Ser Andrew

    Ready to take the Oath!

    • sarah

      i loved it! do we have a count on ratings yet? i really hope it does well.

    • Joni

      I am also a book lover. I checked out You Are An Ironman from the rbilary yesterday but haven’t started reading it yet. I bought Mile Markers after enjoying Kristin’s column for years. It was a great book. Gift From the Sea is another favorite and I thought about it this morning while I was running on the beach. They are doing renourishment of our beach so there are alot of shells being dredged up. I found a beautiful whole one with no chips that took my mind to the book Gift From the Sea. I just finished A Stolen Life which offered an interesting perspective from a kidnap victim. I enjoy your posts and want to recommend a good book called SEE by musician Steven Curtis Chapman and wife Mary Beth Chapman who are heavily involved in international adoption awareness and have two adopted daughters. The book is about the tragedy of Maria’s death a few years ago when their 17 year old son accidentally ran over Maria when she ran out to welcome him home. It is part their story and part adoption awareness.

  • MN

    Peter Dinklage stood out with his wonderful performance. It helped that his was the most care-free libertine of a character, but he chewed up the screen. Awesome!

    • MentalPause

      I have just finished rereading the entire series to date (come on July!) Tryion is my favorite character to date. The other is Briene, who has not even been introduced yet.

      • Stephen Bourque

        Tyrion is my favorite as well…tickled you mentioned Briene, fantastic character, which immediately made me think of Jaime…so much to come!

      • Becks

        I don’t know what strongwine you’ve been drinking, but the best part of Brienne is Jaime Lannister. She was even worse than Cersei in AFfC.

    • Hutchy

      Just wait, bro. If you havent read the books, you have no idea of the awesomeness that is Tyrion Lannister. Tyrion in season 2 will absolutely blow minds with the sheer awesomeness.

      • Stephen Bourque

        ABSOLUTELY!

  • Delro

    I’ll definitely be watching the whole series – I’m a huge fan of the books! Even subscribing to HBO now JUST because of the show… a feat even the Sopranos did not manage to accomplish!!!

    • Sara

      I did the same. I got the most basic cable package and the HBO package just for this one show. I’m normally a big downloader so this is huge for me.

      • California

        I am sooooo tempted to do this. I really want to see this series and not wait for the DVD. But I also have finals in 3 weeks so it’s totally the wrong timing. Ugh. In the mean time I’m probably going to pick up the books, which I haven’t read yet. (although I also want to read the Hunger Games series and am now torn on which I should read first).

      • AB

        Hunger Games will only take you a week, with finals maybe a little bit longer. They’re a good read but not time consuming and not alot of plot to keep straight. Read that first. LOL

    • Chris

      I also only have HBO right now for this series! Hugh fan of the books, I love how true they stayed but the key will be pulling in the non-readers, and it’s hard to judge how successfully that was done with the first episode. Can’t wait for more!

    • Merry Bear

      Me, too. Glad it’s good! My attempt at supporting quality programming.

    • cookingwithpots

      Yep, same. Ordered HBO just for Game of Thrones.

    • Daddy D

      I did the same thing. Never had HBO before and bought it now JUST for SOIAF. Huge fan of the books, LOVED the first show. Watched it with a friend who had never even heard of the books, freaked out when they pushed Bran out the window!

      He (and I of course) will be back as long as they are putting the episodes and books out.

    • Daniel B

      I also bought HBO just for this. I know everyone says that it’s all about attracting new people who haven’t read the books yet, but I’m betting HBO makes a good chunk of change off of existing fans of the books who weren’t subscribers before, because I see these comments (I bought HBO just for this series) all over the internet.

    • Daniel B

      Also, I was watching with my sister and brother, and my sis has never read the books. She really thought it was great, and had an almost visceral emotional reaction when Bran was pushed. I warned her that Bran’s push is not the most shocking thing to come in this storyline. Ain’t seen nothing yet… :)

    • Jennifer

      Didn’t get cave and get cable myself – but I DID offer to cook my mother dinner for every episode I can come over and watch. HBO takes too damn long to put their shows on DVD. I think I struck a good bargain!

    • Zeal

      Infmoariton is power and now I’m a !@#$ing dictator.

  • SIR THRIVE ALOT

    I like this new fantasy series. It looks epic and has a lot of substance. Cool clash of the cultures.

  • Annie

    I really enjoyed it. I haven’t read the books but I’m planning to.

    • DE

      Me too. I’m not familiar with the story at all so it was hard to follow at first but by then end I knew I was hooked. I want to go out and get the books but I’ll wait, i did that with True Blood and had a hard time dealing with all the plot changes. I’ll just enjoy the show as is for now.

  • kingkong

    so far, so good. however, wtf was on top of cierci’s head @ the banquet? looked like a bad weave +glue gun. I am a huge fan of the series (but am tired of waiting for the final books). The books get increasing complicated so it will be interesting to see how the dynamics are handled. Tyrion has always been my fav. character b/c he is so complicated. I hate to admit it, but I sort of had a crush on Jamie through out the series of books. I know he is horrible and all that but he kind of, sort of, in a way, starts to redeem himself eventually. Read the books.

    • Hutchy

      Admit it: during book 3, that crush grew to full blown love. Dont be ashamed, it happens to everyone. The bear pit scene is undeniable.

      • Dietra

        Yup. Jaime and Brienne. The Odd Couple.

      • kingkong

        sigh….you’re right……and jamie and brienne.

    • Dan

      Tyrion and Jamie are definitely my favorite characters because they’re complex and raised in a ruthless setting, yet both have goodness and honor in them. Jamie especially has become an awesome character in the later books. I can hardly wait for ‘A dance with dragons’! Less than 2 months left!

  • cindy

    Yes, I’ll watch the series.

  • Lone Wolf

    Thrones looks great! I’ll be watching every Sunday.

    Really hope the show continues because i’m done with Camelot. Thrones has done in one episode and a few mini featurettes on OnDemand, that Camelot could not: make us wonder what happens next with the main characters.

    • Reenie

      That’s unfair. EVERYONE knows what comes next for the characters of Camelot. They’ve been repeating the same patterns for 500 years.

      Arthur pulls sword from stone, becomes king, marries Guinevere, Morgan gives birth to Mordred. Lancelot comes to Camelot, Lancelot and Guinevere sleep together, everyone finds out. Mordred and Arthur kill each other. It’s always the same gd story

  • Jonathan

    Great…huge fan. Was unimpressed with A Feast for Crows but A Dance of Dragons will drag me back. Its been years and years since I have read the series so not missing what what left out…if anything was! I love Jon Stark and the Others. I hated losing so many loved characters but it did make the story much more loved. I will be here every

    • Sara

      I was disappointed with Feast but I don’t think it’s a bad book. It just doesn’t have the characters you want in it. Looking forward to Dance!

      • Hutchy

        Takeo ut the utterly useless and tedious Brienne chapters and you would have a better book.

      • Karine

        that the first episode did a poor job of xpaleining the nature and history behind the seven kingdoms and the continent of westeros or the various houses. No one can accuse GRRM of not writing multidimensional characters male or female. Some of the transformations of the female characters over the course of 4 books is something rarely seen in fantasy literature.I would suggest that if you have the time then read the 4 books. The fifth (which has taken Martin a long time to write and it still isn’t finished) comes out in July. There are few fantasy book series like the A Song of Ice and Fire . I am glad that HBO will bring new readers to the books. Maybe that will get Martin to crank them out faster.I also fear that we might never see seven or more seasons to cover the seven planned books because of the enormous expense of the production .Deadwood and Rome never got satisfying conclusions and I doubt this will.

    • s,

      Frankly, I couldn’t get through a Storm of Swords – I think I only read the chapters on Arya and gave up trying to read the rest. I’m hoping the mini-series is better due to editing.

      • Daniel B

        Surprised by that, as I thought Storm of Swords was the best of the bunch. I remember after reading Game of Thrones thinking ‘he won’t be able to top that’, and then Clash of Kings was even better. And the I thought the same thing for Clash of Kings, only to find Storm of Swords even better. Feast for Crows was still great, but just not as good as the first 3. But as was said previously, I think that was due to the fact that a lot of my favorite characters weren’t even in Feast.

      • Titian

        that he will be filming this Saturday and from the diorceptisn of his costume, it sounds like he might be a wilding. Perhaps this will be the scene where we first meet Osha? We know filming of Winterfell scenes are set to begin soon and it sounds like Saturday may be the first.Lastly, about the filming of the tournament has surfaced. You’ll have to click the link to read it as it contains some small spoilers. Also of note, I’ve heard that the tourney scenes were directed by Brian Kirk.Tags: , | By on August 31, 2010Filed Under: One of the newest cast members, Joe Dempsie, was recently interviewed by the Liverpool Echo. In he talks quite a bit about Game of Thrones, in addition to Skins and his ties to Liverpool. Here is an excerpt:Joe, who still has family living in Crosby and south Liverpool, admitted to being nervous.a0He said: “The fans are rabid waiting for this and they know exactly how they want their characters to look.a0Gendry is described as being tall and muscled, with thick black hair. I am hoping I can live up to two of those because I am only 5ft 8in!a0I am not really a gym person, but this has certainly got me going more often.”Joe … will also star with The Wire’s Aiden Gilen and 300’s Lena Heady.a0He said: “I hope to learn a lot from them, not only in acting terms but in how to act off camera.a0I am also looking forward to being part of something which is already so popular and so many people love.”Also, The Liverpool Echo reporter, Gary Stewart, is a fan of the books and a WiC reader. He contacted me with some additional info that he wasn’t able to put into his article, but that might be of interest to Game of Thrones fans.Joe seemed really nice but admitted he hadn’t read the books. He said he just started reading AGOT but said fantasy wasn’t really his thing (even though he’d been in Merlin).Having said that he is looking forward to the series as HBO don’t make bad TV.He said he originally went for the role of Jon Snow last year but didn’t get it and was asked back to try out for Gendry.He said his audition for the role was the scene were he’s talking to Arya about getting rid of dead wood (Hot Pie I think?) and he described Gendry as ‘not sophisticated but also not stupid’.He got his scripts in mid-August and he only has scripts were he has lines.He’s due to start filming in mid September.He also said he has previously met Lena Headey when he spent a month in LA last year and said she and her husband were really nice to him.Winter Is Coming: A big thank you to Gary for providing us with the additional info! Some good stuff and another little piece of the filming puzzle. It’s also nice to see some of the new cast members getting some press. Dempsie sounds like he’s got a good idea of the character, despite not having read the books yet. I’d be interested to hear what he thinks of the book, if he finishes it, because I’ve known lots of people who aren’t necessarily into fantasy that still fall in love with the series.Tags: , , | By on August 29, 2010Filed Under: , , Let’s take a quick trip ’round the web for some Game of Thrones news and notes, shall we?To start with here is a with Alfie Allen over at ITN. Alfie talks briefly about his role on Thrones and reveals that he has to “do an accent” for the role. At first, I figured he was just referring to the RP affectation that all the noble characters are said to be adopting, however when the interviewer asked for more details Allen said he couldn’t talk about it. So maybe he is doing a slightly different accent than the rest of the nobles to indicate he is from the Iron Islands?Second is with Dothraki creator David J. Peterson over at the GeekDad blog on Wired.com. Peterson talks about many familiar topics, such as his inspiration for the language, his process of creation and how he was selected by HBO. He does however gives us a new Dothraki phrase and provides this tidbit about his involvement with the on-going filming:As for the actors, they get a ton of material (including phonetic pronunciation guides and .mp3’s of me speaking all the lines), and are in good hands on set (I’ve been in communication with the dialogue coach there, Brendan Gunn, who’s done a lot of great work in the past). I’d love to be on set, but I haven’t found the time to jaunt on over to Belfast just yet… I’d love to see Malta, though.Next up is over at Big Think that talks about the hype surrounding Game of Thrones and takes a look “inside the relationship between modern fan culture and entertainment marketing.” The article is a good read and contains some interesting analysis of not only the show’s potential but also the books themselves and the long wait for A Dance with Dragons.Lastly, for those who may have missed it earlier in the week, Joseph Campo is back with of Get Joe on the Show. In this week’s episode, Joe tells us that his next video will be the audition itself and gives us a little taste of what’s to come. He also manages to work in a WiC mention!

  • Dave

    I quite enjoyed it. I haven’t read the books, so I didn’t have much prior knowledge about the show. But it was cool and I’ll definitely be coming back.

  • Walter

    Was amazed at how well a 1 hour show stayed true to the books. Of course not everything was shown, but still very impressed. Of course I will be back, I just hope people who are not familiar with the books get as hooked as us Martin fans are. Keep bringing the hits HBO!!!!!

  • Elizabeth

    Yes, definitely hooked. Haven’t read the books but have the first one sitting in my huge To Be Read pile. Also could not believe the adorable child was pushed. And was rather surprised by the incestuous relationship.

    • Darren

      just the first of many

      • KT Chong

        Pretty sure Cersei and Jaime Lannister are the only on-going incestuous relationship in the books. The Targaryens practiced sibling inbreeding to preserve their dragon bloodline, but that is in the past and not a part of the on-going story.

      • Martin

        I think that Darren meant just “the first of many surprises” in response to Elizabeth, who hadn’t read the books… ;)

      • Hutchy

        When you see how Viserys was checking out his sister’s 24k gold plated booty, I think he might have a different opinion on that LOL

  • Shawna

    I haven’t read the books, and this normally isn’t my kinda show but I found out Sean Bean was going to be in it and I thought, “well I’ve seen a lot of his movies and liked them so I’ll have to check this out”! I was blown away! I thought it was awesome, I’m so hooked! Can’t believe the kid got pushed though, excited to see how the plot is going to play out.

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