Having never read any of his books, I nevertheless enjoyed mocking George RR Martin for his extreme tardiness in continuing the series. There are some fascinating theories about the books (this proposes that Martin wanted to write a mostly standard fantasy but got sidetracked by fans into endless intrigue), and I had heard lots of good things, but despite being comfort food, fantasy isn’t high on my reading list, gritty almost non-supernatural fantasy even further down. Then lots of boardgamers I know started singing the praises of the new HBO TV series; Fantasy Flight has released a lot of excellent Game of Thrones-franchise games (the main boardgame is a slimmed down Diplomacy, the CCG is designed for multiplayer, and the miniatures game is a modified Battlelore) so the intellectual property has a lot of currency in the hobby. Intrigued, I finally made the jump and saw the first episode.
The costumes, sets, and CGI landscapes are largely convincing and very pretty; the actors fit their roles and perform well, alleviating concerns I had that the production would be Hercules and Xena style campy. The production values are not movie quality and I feel a lingering unease, but I’m very happy to enjoy the show. Martin’s storyline is gritty, and there’s plenty of on-screen decapitation, disembowelment, sex, nudity and strong language to match. The plot was fast-paced and held my interest, at the cost of significant stilted expository dialogue – but that’s a forgiveable sin. I enjoyed the horror elements at the beginning, and the minor twist at the end of the episode. (For some reason I assume incest everywhere.) The opening credits are excellent, with a fantastic mechanical map conceit that subtly showcases the plot via the Houses’ symbolic animals.
Apparently each episode makes $2.5 million, and the series was renewed for a second season right after the pilot aired. I look forward to the rest of the series, though wonder what will happen when they reach where Martin has yet to continue.