April 13, 2011

Take the feuding families and crime organizations of dramas like The Sopranos and Boardwalk Empire and toss them into the fantastical world of Lord of the Rings with a lot more grit and darkness and you’ll have the stellar new series that his Game of Thrones. It will be hard to miss the new fantasy series since the cable network will be running the premiere across HBO, HBO2, HBO Signature, HBO Comedy, HBO Zone and HBO Latino simultaneously. But if you’re thinking of skipping over this spectacular new drama, then you’ll be making a big mistake. Read my take on Game of Thrones after the jump.

This sprawling fantasy wastes no time with bloodshed as the opening scene creates an ominous tone that runs through the series first few episodes. From the beginning we can tell that this will be a dark journey into the land of Westeros as winter, and something much more dangerous, seems to be coming. But there are more pressing matters in the kingdoms as corruption, deception, incest, and a struggle for power plague many houses. Though understanding all of the characters and their relationships with each other is a bit confusing at first, slowly but surely their motivations and actions make things clearer. But this challenging, interwoven story forces you to pay attention and makes the series that much more captivating.

There’s the House Stark led by Eddard Stark (Sean Bean of Lord of the Rings) who has close ties with King Robert of the House Baratheon. But her wife Queen Cersei Baratheon (Lena Headey), who was born of the Lannister House, is none too trusting of the Stark family and makes no secret of it. Along with her two brothers, the strong warrior Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and boozing womanizing dwarf Tyrion (Peter Dinkage), it’s clear where the corruption lies. Then far away, House Targaryen is anxious to reclaim the Iron Throne and all Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. In order to do so, Prince Viserys Targaryen III (Harry Lloyd) forces his sister, Princess Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) to marry Khal Drogo (Jason Momoa), who is the leader of a menacing, intimidating tribe of warriors.

Like I said, it’s a little complicated, but well worth taking the time to understand. The drama that arises between the leaders of each house is compelling on its own, but even the family dynamic between parents and children is engaging. Since the young children amongst these houses will one day step up to a throne of their own, their actions must be just as meticulously planned as their parents. The youngest son and two daughters of the Stark family are the source of much drama in the first and second episodes, and their drama just adds fuel to the fires already burning around their parents’ struggles. As these stories progress, it’s clear the ten-episode run of the first season has been very carefully planned from George R.R. Martin’s book series.

Of course, because this is a fantasy series, there’s some mythical elements to be found, though they’re not overbearing. References to dragons and White Walkers are abound, but only hinted at to be important down the road. So be patient, because as many of the characters are leery and worried of an impending winter, within the first six episodes, it take some time to really get into the fantastical nature of the series aside from a few little elements. Otherwise, the series really holds the same weight and complex, yet riveting drama of something akin to Rome without forcing fantasy just for the sake of fantasy.

However, as it stands, Game of Thrones is a compelling journey into fantasy that only HBO can deliver. There’s carnage, sex and some of the saltiest language I’ve ever heard in an epic series of this type. It’s strange seeing a character in a medieval like fantasy world dropping F-bombs amongst other choice words, but it makes the series that much more gritty and jarring. Complete with stellar writing, a phenomenal cast and stunning visuals, this is a series that delivers on an epic scale both literally and figuratively.

Game of Thrones premieres on HBO, HBO2, HBO Signature, HBO Comedy, HBO Zone and HBO Latino on Sunday, April 17th at 9/8c.