In the frozen wilderness beyond the Wall, a handful of rangers run across the restults of an attack while tracking restless Wildlings. One of them gets away and goes as far south as Winterfell, where he tells them he saw the White Walkers– and he gets killed for desertion. On the way back, Ned Stark and his sons find orphaned direwolves, which also shouldn’t be on this side of the wall, and the sons convince him to let the family raise them, since it seems they’re a sign. When they get back, they have word from the far south: the King is coming to visit, and he wants Ned to be his new Hand, since the old one died. Ned’s oldest daughter, Sansa, wants to go home with the Prince, Joffrey, because all she’s ever wanted was to be a princess and maybe one day queen. Since King Robert wants their families to be tied, she’ll get to go. Ned’s wife, Cat, gets word from her sister, who was married to the Hand that she thinks he was murdered, and she’s gone away from the captial to hide herself and her son. Cat doesn’t want Ned to go, but he feels honor-bound to accept.
Meanwhile, across the sea, the last two members of the previous royal family, the Targaryens, ousted by Robert a generation ago, plan a return– Viserys marries off his only sister to the strongest of the barbarian warlords, Khal Drogo, to secure himself an army. At the wedding, she meets Ser Jorah Mormont, who served her father, and is gifted with three dragon eggs.
There was concern that there wouldn’t be enough space in an episode (or even in ten) for this show to make any sense the way the books do, but it’s amazing how well they’ve done. The story makes sense and covers the most pertinent points: Tyrion is very smart, but hated; Bran is reckless and adventurous; Arya is rebellious; Sansa is ambitious; everyone hates Jon Snow and he wants to go north to the Wall; Ned’s sister was supposed to be Queen, but died and Robert still misses her; the new rule isn’t all that secure and there’s the possibility of mutiny on several sides; Viserys is somewhat of a sociopath, if not worse; Joffrey is a jerk; Cersei and Jame Lannister are in a torrid affair despite being twins; Ned cannot buck tradition or obligation. So much in only an hour; this show could have easily been two hours and would have been just as wonderful, but in one hour, they managed to get all this information across without once feeling like it’s rushed, or like anything is skipped.
And the show is gorgeous. Dirty, grimy, bloody, dark, and cold, but extremely good looking. The clothes and settings look accurate to what one would expect from a semi-Medieval world. The weapons look wickedly real. Everyone looks like they are in desperate need of a bath. And still it’s beautiful. The establishing shots of the various locations are perfect, and the opening sequence, which does a really useful overview of the map is amazing.
With so many characters, it’s hard to get all of them in, and yet we manage to get three royal families and at least a visual overview of many of their courtiers and hangers-on. It’ll be interesting to see how the balance lasts as all these other characters–not to mention the new ones as everyone starts moving around– get to have more to say and more to do in an episode or two.
This is a violent, sexy, scary world we’ve been introduced to, and this reviewer, at least, can’t wait to see next week.
– Everything! The look, the feel, the tone, the subtlety of the acting, the quality of the filming and the production. It feels real on all levels.
– Arya hardly has a line, but is beautifully pointy.
– Drogo is HUGE. Jason Momoa is pretty massive anyway, but pairing him with such a tiny, frail girl makes him even more impossibly large, and it’s exactly what the character should be. Plus, he plays Drogo as a consummate warrior, but there’s also just this tiny hint of something gentler, though not anything that will make him not the lead warrior in a society made entirely of them.
– Jame and his total disregard for anything but himself and Cersei. SPOILER, be he pushes a little kid out a window. Who does that? Jame does that.
– It needs to be mentioned again: that opening sequence is fantastic. Whoever came up with it deserves awards.
– It’s dark enough that sometimes it’s hard to tell what’s going on.
– It would have been nice if the sunny south was a little brighter and more vibrant, as a higher contrast to the north, but Pentos across the sea is, so maybe it’s all a continuum.
– If you didn’t like the first episode of True Blood or The Tudors because of all the boobies, you probably won’t like this that much. Of course, if you’re reading this, and if you’ve seen the ep, it’s likely not a problem, and it’s true to the books, so that’s more than good.
Game of Thrones airs Sunday nights at 10 on HBO.
Follow Samantha’s tweets about TV and more at twitter.com/pirategirljack