Game of Thrones: A Tale of Liars and Vice

* Note: If you are looking for House Sigils or  pictures of characters, feel free to click on the embedded links.

How is it that HBO is so successful in putting out original programming? While the networks struggle to put out quality television, the venerable Home Box Office rarely suffers a misfire. In the last ten years, network television has given us ten (and I’m being generous) outstanding series. That’s ten shows across five networks. In ten years, HBO has given us The Sopranos, Flight of the Conchords, Carnivale, The Wire, Six Feet Under, Treme, Deadwood, Rome, Big Love and countless mini-series. With that said, I’m amazed that HBO has succeeded in putting out another astonishingly good series in Game of Thrones.

The first episode is a beautiful example of how to set up a series. From the beautiful opening credit sequence to the jaw-dropping closing seconds, everything serves to inform the viewer about where the show is going. The set-up is simple enough: King Robert Baratheon visits his old friend, Lord Eddard Stark, to ask him to become his right hand man. Across the sea, the exiled heir to the throne plots his return by essentially selling his sister to the ruler of a nomadic tribe that he plans to use as his army. What ensues is the clash and scheming of four families.

Houses Lannister, Stark, Baratheon and Targaryen are as different as can be; shades on a spectrum of political scheming. Jaime, Cersei and Tyrion Lannister embody deceit and treachery of the highest order, not to mention practitioners or rather peculiar sexual acts. For all of his imperfections, King Robert Baratheon is a man who wants to do the right thing but seems to give in to his baser instincts and the political & familial pressures around him. Eddard ‘Ned’ Stark strikes an imposing figure as the head of a large and incredibly noble family. Sure, they have their issues, but it seems that one thing a Stark is incapable of is denying their duty. Finally, the Targaryens are not so much siblings as a glorified pimp and his unwilling whore.

All of this is wrapped in a setting that feels like Lord of the Rings 1,000 years after all of the magic and mythical creatures have faded into nothing. Dire Wolves? Dragon Eggs? The Nights Watch? The Wall? All of these things have an epic and mythic air to them and hint at larger goings on. There is no doubt that, beneath the cold, political and family politics of this show, lies a fantasy epic of massive proportions.

But it all starts with character. The bastards (literal or otherwise) Jon Snow and Tyrion Lannister stand out among a cast of fascinating characters. They are the black sheep of their noble houses and have dealt with their lots in life in different ways. The Stark Bastard, Jon Snow, has externalized his issues by being the best sibling he can be. He is deadly serious and a doting brother who looks over all of his half-siblings. The dwarfish Tyrion Lannister is a diminutive badass who holds his own in the intellectual arena to make up for his physical shortcomings. Each leaves for the mythic ‘Wall of the North.’ Their reasons? Snow has chosen to defend his people as part of the ancient order of the Nights Watch while Lannister simply wants to climb to the top of the wall and piss off the side. Make no mistake, these are two very different men who, despite their differences, yearn for acceptance by their families.

Only two episodes in and Game of Thrones has me on the edge of my seat. It combines the magic and myth of Tolkien with the drama and political scheming of the West Wing. I think that’s quite the combination.
See you all next week.

3 Responses to “Game of Thrones: A Tale of Liars and Vice”
  1. Fernando Carrion says:

    Rick, After viewing the first 2 episodes with you, I have a hunch that the war King Baratheon is talking will involve the Lannisters and the Starks. There is already bad blood not just with the adults but the kids as well. Game of Thrones will hopefully last 3 -5 maybe 5 seasons and not suffer the fate of Rome.


  2. Davor says:

    got one question – where did you get Stark’s direwolf house sign…I really like the heraldry look and would like to ask the artist some questions?

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