‘Thrones’ brings new life to book series


With the cinematography of “The Life of Pi,” the complicated plot of “Donnie Darko” and the magical twist of “Harry Potter,” HBO’s “Game of Thrones” brings a new sense of fantasy that has not been seen on television for years. Adapted from the book series by George R.R. Martin, the show creates a captivating world loved by book fans and newcomers alike.

The show is set in the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros where families of the “Great Houses” fight for control. King Robert of the House Baratheon (Mark Addy) holds the throne. He remains in a loveless marriage with Queen Cersei (Lena Headey), though she and the rest of House Lannister are plotting against him. Lord Eddard Stark (Sean Bean) and his House, friends to the king, discover the conspiracy and attempt to reveal the scheme. Meanwhile, Princess Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) of House Targaryen, exiled from the Seven Kingdoms, is sold into marriage. Though initially discouraged, she plans her return to Westeros to seize the throne.

Each episode is perfectly exhilarating. Dramatic conversations and short bursts of action slowly build the tension for the majority of each episode before climaxing into a mindblowing cliffhanger. One of the most dramatic is the sudden execution of Lord Stark in Season 1 Episode 9. The writers of the show keep viewers on their toes, always guessing what will happen next.

The show’s cinematography is unreal and remains one of the show’s saving graces when the plot gets a bit slow. “Game of Thrones” was filmed all across Europe, in locations such as Northern Ireland, Croatia and Iceland. In fact, many of the countries where the show was filmed are using the publicity to increase tourism. Northern Ireland’s Office of the First and Deputy First Minister estimates that the show earned £25 million ($38 million) for its economy — with good reason. Viewers are transported to Westeros by the magical scenery, making each episode an unforgettable experience.

The show’s strongest advantage though is its cast, which is no small feat. With an ensemble of 74 total and main cast of 18 in Season 1 and dozens more in the following seasons, it’s amazing that so many characters can be so developed and relatable with only so much screen time available. Peter Dinklage plays Tyrion Lannister, the dwarf brother of the queen. Winning an Emmy for his portrayal, Dinklage easily delivers the well-placed sarcasm that makes him one of the most entertaining characters to watch, such as in Season 1 Episode 8; when asked how he would like to die, Tyrion replies, “in my own bed, at the age of 80, with a belly full of wine and a girl.” Dinklage however also conveys the compassion necessary to play the black sheep of the Lannister family.

Lena Headey plays a convincing Queen Cersei Lannister. She exudes the regal appearance of a cruel, unapologetic leader, best shown when she smoothly manipulates her husband into ordering the death of the Starks’ wolf. Headey’s condescending portrayal makes viewers hate her, yet ever be entertained. One of the best of Headey’s performances is in Season 1’s fifth episode; Queen Cersei has a rare genuine conversation with King Robert and sorrowfully reveals that she once had feelings for him.

But that’s not to say that the large cast doesn’t have its negatives. Viewers who aren’t familiar with the show or read the book will often lose track of the characters’ names, faces, houses, and even what they’re doing. In Season 1’s fourth episode, Tyrion Lannister torments Theon Greyjoy, a character rarely referenced by name up to this point, about a historic battle viewers (who haven’t read the books) don’t know anything about. Game of Thrones requires lots of time and effort that will put off a lot of viewers. Watching the show would not be enjoyable to anyone looking for an easy time.

“Game of Thrones” is a spectacular mixture of well-played characters and magical presentation. Although it has its complicated twists and turns, for those who have the time, the show can be that escape into fantasy that everyone needs.