The HBO series, Game Of Thrones is a sprawling, epic saga based on George R.R. Martin’s fantasy book series A Song of Ice and Fire. Series creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have done a masterful job bringing Martin’s world to life.
When approached about adapting his work for the small screen, Martin had some reservations. He was no stranger to the process, having worked in Hollywood for ten years adapting many works by other authors. “You are always a little bit afraid when you sell a work of yours,” Martin says, “because there is a history of people just keeping the title, changing everything and totally missing the point”. But Benioff and Weiss understood the books and wanted more than anything to create a faithful adaptation of Martin’s work.
Although Game Of Thrones is, in essence, a fantasy, Martin drew on historical events like The War of the Roses and the medieval Crusades to create the land of Westeros and the struggles for power that take place throughout the series. Unlike a lot of fantastical stories, magic does not play a big part. “I think too much magic can ruin a fantasy”, Martin explains. “If everyone has magical superpowers, it becomes like a superhero kind of story where they are all dealing with these powers”.
Characters like King Robert and Lord Stark are not simply black-and-white caricatures. They, like all the players in Game of Thrones, are imperfect and human. The villains have their moments of humanity and the heroes their moments of weakness. This fact, as well as the attention paid to detail in all aspects of the production, makes for compelling and engrossing viewing.
The story concerns two powerful families engaged in a “deadly cat-and-mouse game for control of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros.” These are lands where summers last for decades and winters can last a century. “Betrayal, lust, intrigue and supernatural forces shake the four corners of the Kingdom.”
Viewing these episodes is like immersing oneself in chapters of a long, long book. In the fourth and latest installment, entitled “Crippled, Bastards, and Broken Things”, we find Jon Snow up north by the Wall, defending the fat, incompetent Sam. At first these two seem to have nothing in common but, in many ways, Snow is as much an outcast in life and in the Night’s Watch as Sam is. Ned Stark investigates the death of his predecessor and digs up some surprising information for his trouble. Dany has grown more deeply assured in her new role as a Khaleesi bride and has read her insufferable brother the riot act for perhaps what is to be the last time. And Tyrion (a wildly charismatic character and my favorite) finds himself in a bad situation. He happens into a tavern where Catelyn accuses him of trying to kill her son Bran, then commands her supporters to take him in hand. The episode ends on a chilling note when nearly everyone in the tavern surrounds Tyrion with swords drawn.
Those familiar with Martin’s books will have an easier time keeping the complex web of characters and plot lines straight. Without that foreknowledge, you may need a scorecard, or you could watch these episodes more than once to get a clearer picture of who is doing what to whom.
Game of Thrones is impressive in its scope and imagery. If you stick with it, you will be rewarded.
Game Of Thrones airs Sundays at 9PM ET on HBO.