Monday, 19 December 2011
Game of Thrones, Season 1 – reviewed by Stephen Theaker
To a viewer who has not read George R.R. Martin’s original novels, it’s striking that the story told here bears little resemblance structurally to fantasies like The Lord of the Rings and its imitators. It’s not a simple quest from A to B, nor a straightforward narrative of good versus evil – although there are the first signs of an overwhelming evil to come from the frozen north. This story of great houses battling for supremacy, of intrigues, betrayals and assassinations, reminded me of Dune more than any heroic fantasies I had read. (Early on I wondered if this was in fact science fiction rather than fantasy, the long but irregular winters suggesting an alien planet, but later developments establish that this is a magical setting.) And that structure makes it ideal for television, because it throws the characters repeatedly together, constantly in conflict, rather than dispersing them on interminable hiking trips. The balance of power jerks violently about, every episode a game-changer.
If it weren’t for the slightly over-enthusiastic use of female nudity, and its budget-led coyness about showing the actual battles, I would love Game of Thrones unreservedly. There are lots of fantastic programmes on television, and there are lots of fantasy programmes on television, but this is one of the rare, joyful occasions on which the two categories overlap. It’s a shame that Sky’s decision to show it on Sky Atlantic has blunted its impact a bit here in the UK, but if you’re not a satellite customer, don’t worry: this is one you’d want to own on DVD anyway.
This review originally appeared in BFS Journal #4.