(1.1 "Winter is Coming")
I'll be honest, I have no idea how to talk about this show. My head is thrashing back and forth between that-was-different-than-the-book nitpicking and did-you-see-that-shit giddiness. Please bear with me if this post ends up being total gibberish, I'll find it before the season ends.
Now that I have excused myself from being coherent, organized, or focused, Game of Thrones was damn cool television.
What you need to know: Ned Stark (Sean Bean) rules the North from Winterfell where he lives with his family: wife Catelyn (Michelle Fairley), sons Robb (Richard Madden), Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright), and Rickon (whose name I cannot find on IMDb), daughters Sansa (Sophie Turner) and Arya (Maisie Williams), and bastard son Jon Snow (Kit Harington). When Ned's mentor John Arryn dies, Ned's lifelong friend King Robert (Mark Addy) travels to Winterfell with his wife Cersei (Lena Headey), his son Joffery (Jack Gleeson), and Cersei's brothers Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Tyrion (Peter Dinklage), to offer Ned the position of Hand of the King (a truly thankless job). Across the sea, Viserys (Harry Lloyd) and Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) the surviving children of the Targaryen King that Robert defeated 15 years before are engineering their return to Westros by marrying Daenerys to Kahl Drogo (Jason Momoa), the leader of a large and powerful horse-lord tribe. When Ned and Catelyn receive word from her sister Lysa Arryn that John Arryn was murdered, they decided Ned must accept Robert's offer and find out the truth of what's going on in the capital. Unfortunately, Bran finds out a truth when he catches Jamie and Cersei having sex, a discovery for which Jaime throws Bran out of a tower window.
Now let's all try and remember there is no way, no possible way, for every detail from this massive book (the first in a massive series) to make it into a TV series. That said, I am blown away by just how much they managed to get into this first hour, and how well they did it.
So what's different? The most noticeable thing to me is that they have aged the Stark children. In the book Robb and Jon are 15, Sansa is 11, Arya is 9, Bran is 7 and Rickon is 3. To me, Robb and Jon look more like 18 or 19, Sansa says she is 13, they say Bran is 10. I'm inclined to think this was a good decision on the parts of Misters Benioff and Weiss. While it might stunt the emotional impact of certain events, it will be less distracting in the long run when it comes to wars and marriages, since the viewer will not have to keep reminding him/herself that the characters are barely older than children.
The second most obvious change is they have made Catelyn's hostility towards Jon completely out in the open. In the book (at this point) Catelyn treats Jon with repressed hostility, not the open contempt she looks at him with when he was cleaning up the arrows from Bran's target practice, and Jon was included in the feast for the royal family, though he was no allowed to sit with his siblings, while in the show Catelyn does not allow him to attend, on the pretext that his presence would offend the Queen. Here is where I have to admit my bais, where my opinions formed from the book influences the way that I'm watching this show, because I think making Caetlyn's attitude towards Jon so apparent is a spectacular choice on the show runners' part. Jon is one of my favorite characters and Catelyn might be my least favorite. (I'm actually hoping that the show can maybe make me hate Catelyn less, but that won't happen if they stick to the source material.) I think that the way she treats Jon exposes her pride and folly, and that the viewer now has a very good grasp on the principles from which she is going to make her future decisions.
A third difference as we move medium is Jamie's prominence. In the book Jamie is one of the main actors who shapes events: it is his (impulsive) choices that others must respond to, and if particular characters are not directly reacting to something he did, they seem to still be talking about him. But for all that, I found, Jaime to be almost absent, like he was in my peripheral vision and I knew he was there but I couldn't see him. (Part of this is undoubtedly narrative structure, since Jaime does not speak in his own voice until the third book.) It seems like they are trying to establish Jaime as a character and not just an idea and in the scene between him and Tyrion they did an excellent job of solidifying the former and introducing the latter.
And what an introduction! Tyrion Lannister announced his presence in all of his drinking, whoring, witty magnificence. I will refrain from saying Jamie and Tyrion's interaction was sweet, because well, facilitating your brother's orgy so that he isn't late to dinner is pretty icky, but on the sliding scale of Lannister-dysfunction, it shows that Jaime does care for Tyrion. Tyrion is such an interesting contrast to Robert; a man who has to indulge in his appetites in private rather than public because his gifts are intellectual rather than physical. While I think that the whole cast (so far) is superb, Dinklage's sly delivery and watchful demeanor are exemplary.
On a really silly note, they weren't what I was expecting, but I really liked the opening credits. It was like a Lego map, a tiny whimsical moment in what will most likely turn out to be a less than light series.
All in all, a great start.
The TV Girl