Fantasy nerds rejoice: Your show has arrived.
Brutal, bloody, and raw, HBO’s “Game of Thrones” captures the unrelenting grit of an age defined by the sword’s edge and a genre re-popularized by Tolkien’s big-screen revival. This is medieval fantasy done right, from the characters to the conflicts to the vast, exotic landscapes that house the ambitious production.
A faithful adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s bestselling book series, the show introduces viewers to a world ruled by warring noblemen and held together by tenuous diplomatic ties among families and tribes. We meet the House Stark, rulers of the distant northlands, the House Baratheon, royal keepers of the throne, and the House Lannister, a clan tied to the royal family by marriage. On the outskirts lie the members of the House Targaryen, an exiled dynasty expelled from the throne by the Baratheons. The Targaryens want their throne back, the Baratheons and the Starks will mess some fools up to make sure that doesn’t happen, and the Lannisters are… hard to read. On top of that you’ve got a group of badass nomadic horse people, some shady druidic natives, and whatever else may happen to lurk outside the kingdom walls.
Make no mistake: The story is big and the characters are many. Unless you’re watching the show with a pen and paper, furiously taking note of every name and battle and alliance that the characters casually name-drop, you’re not going to catch everything the first time around. But that’s hardly a bad thing. It just indicates how deep the story runs, and how much potential it has to envelop viewers in its complexity. Keep in mind the show is based on an ongoing seven-part novel series. “Epic” hardly begins to describe this story.
Fortunately, “Game of Thrones” boasts capable writers, a slew of talented actors, and cinematography that paints this enormous world in a vivid light accessible to anyone willing to lend their attention. What’s more, there’s just enough humor and sex to break the story’s dark exterior from time to time, providing viewers with brief glimpses at the lighter side of a tale dominated by dramatic overtones and morbid intrigue.
No doubt, “Game of Thrones” is a welcome addition to the genre, and a worthwhile pursuit for fantasy buffs and newcomers alike. Just don’t forget your notebook.