Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Game of Thrones--Season One

by Catherine Giordano

I did a brief review of HBO’s Game of Thrones last year based on the first two episodes.  I then decided that I wouldn’t follow the show—there were so many other shows that I liked, and I only have so much time to devote to TV.  However, TV was very slow last week--all of my favorite shows had recently completed their season or were still on hiatus awaiting the start of their new season.  Even “Real Time with Bill Maher” was a rerun.  HBO On Demand offered all of Season 1 and 2 to usher in the start of Season 3 on Sunday March 31. I decided to give Game of Thrones a second chance since it is so highly acclaimed.  I watched episodes 3 through 10 last week.

Episode 3 was slow, and I thought about quitting.  However, I continued with episode 4 and I got “hooked.”  The plot is complex, the cast is massive, the show misses no opportunity to fill the screen with gore and sex, but the story-telling made viewing worthwhile.

I won’t even attempt to recap the plot. In very broad terms, it concerns the lives of the people of the seven kingdoms of Westeros.  It is a world similar to a mideval Earth, but with a few differences.  This is a frozen world, even the South during summer will reind you of Siberia.  It is characterized by long frigid winters and slightly less chilly summers.  The seasons are of indeterminate length—more like mini ice ages followed by partial thaws. One other important difference:  This planet is home to the “white walkers” who live beyond “The Wall”, a kind of undead who hibernate during the summers and stalk the planet when the longest coldest winters prevail. “The Wall” is manned by outcasts who are part of a force known as the “Night Watch”, a “band of brothers” dedicated to defending the planet against the unknown dangers that live beyond “The Wall.”

Instead or a recap, I’ll just discuss the characters that particularly interested me. As a woman, I naturally gravitated to some of the female characters. 

Young Arya Stark, daughter of Ned Stark, totally captivated me. You might call her a tomboy, except for the fact that she is proud to be a girl. “I’m a girl,” she loudly claims whenever she is mistaken for a boy, which happens quite frequently. She is given a sword that she names “Needle.” and she wants to learn how to use it.  Her father indulges her with “dancing lessons.”  Everyone thinks she is taking dancing lessons, but in actuality she is studying with “sensei” (as we would call him) who is teaching her to be a fighter. Little Arya is going to be a regular Joan of Arc in a couple of years. 

Another female character that captures my interest is Daenery’s Targargen, a seeming frail blond beauty, now known at Khaleesa.  She is sold off in marriage by her brother, Viserys, to Drogo, the leader of the Dothraki, a savage tribe of warriors. (Visery’s believes that he is the rightful king of the Seven Kingdoms and Drogo promised him an army in exchange for his sister.)

Af first, Daenerys is a victim, mistreated by her husband and her brother, but she learns to win her husband’s love and becomes a true partner to him and a strong leader of her husband’s people.  As she gains confidence and power, she rebels against her brother’s treatment of her, and her brother is killed by her husband. (It’s death by gold—this is the-not-to-be-missed-scene of the season.) Daenery’s status is improved, in part, by the fact that she is carrying Drogo’s child who everyone expects will be a son.  Daenerys comes into her own when her child is born dead and her husband dies of a battle wound. She arranges a funeral pyre for her husband, and enters the funeral pyre herself along with three dragon eggs. By morning, when the fire has burned down, Daenery’s is found unharmed with three dragon hatchlings.  Dragons have been extinct for hundreds of years, but the Targargens are the people of the dragon. “A true dragon (i.e. a person of the Targargen dragon clan) can never be destroyed by fire,” Daenery’s proclaims.  Most of the Dothraki deserted her when Drogo died, but she has assumed leadership of tribal remnants that have chosen to stay with her..

What is most compelling about Deanery’s is her leadership skills.  She can be kind and compassionate, but when the occasion calls for it she can be firm, resolute, and even cruel. I think she will one day be a great Dragon Queen.

Speaking about the women, I also have to mention the various whores that play significant roles in the various sub-plots.  These ladies of the evening are no mere playthings to be used for the pleasure of men; they are as plucky as they are beautiful, and they use their feminine charms with purpose.  They become more a mistress than a whore as they engage the affections of their consorts to gain power through him.

We have two young boys in this show who embody polar opposites, both child archtypes. One young man is Brandon (known as Bran), a boy about eight years old who was pushed from a tower by Jamie Lannister because he discovered the incestuous love affair between him and his twin sister Cersei, the wife of Robert Braetheon, the king of the Seven Kingdom’s. Bran survived the fall, but lost all memory of what he saw. He also lost the use of his legs. Although at first despondent about his paralysis, he soon rebounds. He learns to ride with the help of a special saddle and continues to increase his prowess as an archer. He also serves, along with a guardian, in his father’s stead as lord of Winterfell, one of the seven kingdoms. He is a solemn child with a grace and wisdom that belies his years. He is learning his duties and will one day be a wise and just lord. 

The other boy is a cousin of Bran, born to the sister of his mother, Catelyn. This boy is a pudgy spoiled brat. He’s about six years old and still nursing at his mother’s breast. He’s a stupid willful child who will probably grow up to be a despotic man ruled by his passions—if he lives long enough to reach adulthood.

Catelyn, by the way, is another strong woman. A sinewy woman who is fiercely protective of her family, as skilled in warcraft, as any of the men. She is a loyal advisor to her husband, Ned Stark, until his death and then becomes an important advisor to her son Robb, who is leading an army to avenge his father’s death.

Ned was executed by the orders of another young man, Joffrey Baratheon, the “boy king” who assumes the throne upon the death of his father, King Robert.  Except, he is not the son of Robert at all--he is the result of the incestuous relationship between his mother Cersei, the king’s wife, and his uncle Jaime. Ned has discovered the facts about Joffrey’s lineage, and the boy king orders his execution so that he can not reveal these facts.  Joffrey is a wicked scheming cold-hearted child, the “bad seed.”  I suspect that one day he will be known as “Joffrey, The Cruel.”

There is one last character that I must mention. This is the brother of Cersei and Jamie, a dwarf named Tyrion Lannister. The actor who portrays Tyrion, Peter Dinklage, has won acclaim for his performance.  Tyrion is referred to as ‘the half-man” and “the imp” by the other characters.  The latter sobriquet suits him well. He’s an imp because he laughs at the game of life; he has protected himself against the slings and arrows of a cruel world by developing a detached demeanor and a quick wit. He’s a survivor who can defeat any adversary. He is found of saying, “I love life” and he truly does.  He enjoys wine, women, and laughter. People may underestimate him because of his short stature and his devil-may care fa├žade, but he is a force to be reckoned with.

What’s next?  Season 2 awaits and then I’ll follow season 3, one episode at a time.   

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