Game of Thrones – episode 1 review
Review By Tim Carson
BASED on George RR Martin’s bestselling A Song of Ice and Fire novels Game of Thrones opened with a bang as three black-clad riders plunge deep into a snow-covered forest to discover a mysterious circle of dead bodies before perishing at the hands of someone or something.
It was a scene that could have come straight from Lord of the Rings trilogy and immediately made it clear that this was a fantasy epic in every sense of the word.
Set in the mythical land Westeros and its Seven Kingdoms it follows the battle for power as several noble families stake their claims to the Iron Throne.
The first episode introduces us to the current encumbent King Robert Baratheon (Mark Addy), who’s just lost his right-hand man and turns to one of his oldest friends Eddard Stark (Sean Bean), Warden of the North and Lord of Winterfell, to replace him.
The contrast between the two men couldn’t be more pronounced as the King is more interested in “whoring and hunting” and Stark in doing his job guarding the North for his Kingdom and trying to raise his many children in the right way.
His task his made worse by the King’s wife Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) and her scheming brothers Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Tyrion (Peter Dinklage). They too appear to be more concerned with power, corruption and lies than nobility.
Meanwhile across the sea, the son of a deposed king, Viserys Targaryen (Harry Lloyd), forces his sister Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) to marry a barbarian warlord, as he plots to take back his father’s kingdom from Baratheon. Oh and there are strange goings further north as rumours that supernatural evil White Walkers have returned after thousands of years.
So there you have it the first episode delivering everything you’d expect from a “fantasy epic” – good, evil, mystery, honour, lust, treachery, violence, feasting, swords, candles and mud.
Yes there’s lots of mud just to underline how grim it is “up north” in Stark’s kingdom of Winterfell. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, and it does give the show a gritty, realistic atmosphere it’s just a bit dreary.
Thankfully, there’s plenty of action to detract from the drab background and the episode rattled along. Sean Bean gives a solid, noble performance as Ned Stark and holds the whole show together. Peter Dinklage sparkles as the debauched Tyrion Lannister, lighting up the few scenes he’s in, and newcomer Emilia Clarke is excellent as Daenerys making you feel her sorrow at being forced into marriage at the command of her brother.
The rest of the characters get too little to do in the first episode to really make an impression but no one looks out of place and no one struggles with the occasionally difficult dialogue.
Game of Thrones didn’t wow the way some of the build up had implied it would but with some striking scenes and plenty of hints at the treachery to come it had enough to hook you in and make you come back for the second episode. And with a tale that’s as epic in scope and populated with so many characters that’s an achievement in itself.
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