"Game of Thrones" Plays for Keeps (**Major Spoilers**)
After Sunday night's episode of HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” Twitter and Facebook lit up with the outrage of faithful viewers because the main character, Lord Eddard Stark (Sean Bean, pictured below), a man of truth and honor, was summarily beheaded at the whim of a petulant and illegitimate, teen king, Joffrey Lannister.
I was watching the Tony Awards and didn't get to see "Game of Thrones" until a repeat showing later in the evening and luckily didn't read any spoilers.
Good thing too, because I loved it!
Not poor Ned getting it in the neck, of course. The last time I was that upset by a TV beheading was when Anne Boleyn lost hers in "The Tudors." But at least with her I knew it was coming.
With Ned, I was stunned and truly saddened. I've never read the books by George R.R. Martin the series is based on so I had no idea and watched in total disbelief.
But the reason I loved it was because it was fearless.
What makes good serialized shows into great ones like "Lost" or "24" is when the viewer knows the writers play for keeps. Anyone is at risk, anyone can go at any time. That kind of tension in a show can't be built any other way and not being able to predict what will happen adds to the excitement.
Sticking to Ned's death, which follows the first book in the series, "A Song of Ice and Fire," was totally appropriate.
"Game of Thrones" is not usually my kind of show because for me, fantasy that’s too fanciful is a turnoff. But like “The Lord of the Rings”films--one of which also starred Sean Bean, in a role where he got killed off, go figure--“Game of Thrones,” is not only set in a fanciful, alien world, it has marvelously, intricate characters, complicated, conflict-filled relationships, and plenty of visual goodies and action.
Add to that, incredible sets, costumes and a kick-ass opening title sequence, and it's first class entertainment.
“Game of Thrones” is set in a world of the Seven Kingdoms. At the beginning of the series, the leader of the realm, King Robert (Mark Addy) summons his good friend, now the late Ned Stark of Winterfell to be Hand to the King—a sort of second in command. Ned reluctantly agrees, leaves his family behind and instantly finds himself at odds with King Robert’s in-laws, the Lannisters.
Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) is married to King Robert, but also having an affair with her brother—yeah, you heard me right—her brother, Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau).
Oh and did I mention The Wall and the zombies and the White Walkers? And the marvelous Peter Dinklage as the black sheep Lannister, Tyrion, a dwarf with a quick wit and a randy eye for the ladies?
Believe me, this show’s got it all.
Be warned, however, it can be quite violent and the portrayal of women in the series has caused some viewers to raise objections.
There’s a feudal bent to all the kingdoms and in keeping with that women often get the short end of the stick. For example, whereas Lady Stark of Winterfell has a certain level of power because she’s Ned’s wife, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke, pictured below) has no choice when her brother Viserys (Harry Lloyd) marries her off to the leader of the tribal Dothraki Clan, Khal Drogo (Jason Momoa), in exchange for an army to unseat King Robert.
There’s lots of sex and some of it more than a little eye-opening. Like the scene a couple of weeks ago when the proprietor of the local brothel, Lord Petyr Baelish (Aidan Gillen), also known as Littlefinger, verbally instructs two of his prostitutes in the correct way to seduce a man, with the women using each other to demonstrate.
But back to Ned, now that he's gone, who knows what will become of his daughters. There's the oldest, Sansa (Sophie Turner, pictured below), who was engaged to Joffrey before he had her father killed, and my favorite, young Arya (Maisie Williams, pictured above) whose love of fencing may just keep her alive during the madness.
Next week is the season finale of the show's 10 week run, but you can still catch up with the first nine episodes on HBO GO.com or on HBO On Demand.
Even if you never plan to watch the show, if you're any kind of tech geek, check out those kick-ass opening credits I mentioned. The graphics are designed to show where all the kindoms are located and how they relate to each other, and they are very, very cool.
Images courtesy HBO
Megan Smith is a BlogHer Contributing Editor covering Television and Movies. Her personal entertainment blog is Megan's Minute, quirky commentary around the clock.