A Game of Thrones
Airdates: Sundays starting April 17 at 9 p.m. on HBO
Slice of SciFi Rating: 5.0 out 5.0
A Game of Thrones is the television event of the year and it exceeds every expectation and hope we had for it.
Years ago, HBO showed that cable could do just as well, if not better, than the networks in providing audiences with solid, award-winning, critically-acclaimed dramatic programming with its first hit series The Sopranos.
So, when news broke that HBO was looking at adapting George R.R. Martin’s epic fantasy series A Song of Fire and Ice as a television series, fans of the novels were cautiously optimistic. The optimism came from a long string of hit shows like The Sopranos but the caution came from how the best-selling Sookie Stackhouse novels were turned into True Blood–the books are used as a starting point, but the series has spun off in entirely new directions under the producer-ship of Alan Ball.
Adapting a best-selling, beloved fantasy series for television is fraught with its own perils. Be too slavishly devoted to realizing every moment from the book on screen complete with every character who graces the pages and you run the risk of losing the mainstream audience. Don’t put in enough of what made the originals so loved by the fans and you run the risk of alienating your core audience.
Thankfully, HBO’s A Game of Thrones walks a fine line between being accessible to those who may not have read or memorized every last details about Martin’s original novels while keeping the essential pieces of the original story enough to please fans who’ve read and loved the novels. I’m sure there will be some fans who won’t be happy with what they see starting Sunday night, but I suspect they will be in the minority.
A Game of Thrones has had a lot of hype surrounding it and the good news is that not only does it live up to it, it exceeds it.
In many ways, Thrones harkens back to the HBO’s first big hit series The Sopranos. That story was driven a lot by the politics of the New Jersey mafia. Thrones is driven by on-going political universe of the land of Westeros. And while there is an epic sense of scale to the political dealings and maneuvers taking place on-screen, the series never loses sight of the impact these dealings have on the characters and their relationships.
Given Martin’s background in writing for television, it’s not surprising that a lot of what he created in the novels translates well to television, at least from a character standpoint. The series is packed with characters, but it’s rarely confusing. Audiences will quickly latch onto Sean Bean and Peter Dinklage as familiar faces in the unfamiliar universe of Westeros. But you’ll soon find yourself just as intrigued by the other inhabitants of Westeros and their roles in the political drama unfolding on-screen.
Bean and Dinklage are both superb in their roles, but the real revelation early on comes from two corners. The first is Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen and the other is the child actors chosen to play the younger members of the houses Stark and Lannister.
The citing of these actors shouldn’t make you think the rest of the cast is any slouches. It’s just that early on, these characters stood out in this well-rounded, richly talented cast.
That said, be prepared to be frustrated that the show only runs an hour at a time. HBO sent the first six episodes of the series for review and I quickly found episodes were like potato chips–I couldn’t eat just one. Not only is the narrative rich, but each episode ends on a note that will leave you thirsty and eager for me. (The only bad part about seeing the first six episodes is that now I have to wait until June for the story to continue on-screen!)
If you’ve read the novels (I’ve read the first and the others are on my to be read pile), you’ll love this adaptation. If you’re new to Westeros, the series will quickly draw you into its world and may have you running to the bookstore or library to pick up the originals. Either way, if you tune in Sunday night to HBO, be ready for a treat. A Game of Thrones is the television event of the year and it exceeds every expectation and hope we had for it.