Category Archives: Game of Thrones

Season 1: Episode Recap

Now that Season 1 is over, I want to do  a general “season recap” that approaches the show from various angles.  Using my 10 episode reviews to keep me organized, I went through the details as well as my impressions of each hour.  In doing this Episode List Recap, I decided that Fire and Blood and The Golden Crown were the most flawless episodes.  The three episodes between those two were also phenomenal, but I thought Episodes 7/8/9 each had something missing.

I think the acting was amazing in every episode.  I could have listed it under “The Good” for each segment.  Also, “The Good” section is by no means exhaustive; if I wrote down every praise I sing for this show, this post would be far too long!

*This post contains spoilers for each episode of Season 1 of Game of Thrones*

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Episode 2: The Kingsroad

Sophie Turner as Sansa Stark, with her direwolf Lady, in HBO's Game of Thrones.

*This post contains spoilers for Episode 2 of HBO’s Game of Thrones.  If you haven’t yet seen the episode, go watch it and then come back and read!

Last week, the first episode of Game of Thrones provided a foundation layer of exposition. The second episode, The Kingsroad, built upon last week’s setup and drove us further toward the series’ central plot.

Although the second half of the episode showcased a good amount of action, the first half was still very character-driven. Anyone who’s read A Game of Thrones knows the characterization is rich. However, for television, a good source book is not nearly enough. Great TV-from-literature requires world-class actors to breathe life into the pages, or else viewers will not believe what they see. Fortunately, Game of Thrones delivers this in certain abundance.

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Episode 1: Winter is Coming

Isaac Hempstead-Wright as Bran Stark in HBOs Game of Thrones.

*Warning:  This post contains mild spoilers for Episode 1 of Game of Thrones.

Episode One. Winter is Coming. I’d waited for this hour of television more than I’d ever waited for anything on TV. And it was marvelous. Not perfect, but a great start to something I hope gets better and better with each passing week.

When a great master would begin a painting, he started from the beginning. He drew up several sketches and transferred the final drawing onto a canvas. Next he broke out his paints and laid down the imprimatura, a first layer of paint that essentially primed the work for the more detailed and intricate layers that would follow.

David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are our masters. HBO is their canvas. All the fantastic actors, set dressers, costume designers, and crew members are their paints. And Winter is Coming, the first part of this 10-episode series, was their imprimatura. We didn’t get a lot of plot, but we were given a hazy view of the direction in which the work is heading. More than anything, the first episode gave us a basic understanding of the story’s central characters: a father struggling to be honorable in an unjust world; a scared and lonely princess, exiled from her home; an outcast dwarf putting mind before might; a young girl who would rather wear gauntlets than gowns; and so on. George R.R. Martin fuels his novels with his characters, who constantly change, follow unexpected paths, and challenge our morality. I whole-heartedly expect HBO’s version to follow suit, and they’ve already painted the base needed to create a beautiful and emotional final work. Each week they will give us another layer to the painting, and by episode 10, we’ll be able to discern the moments they’ve been working toward since the beginning.

Even though the most intense scenes are yet to come, this episode had its moments as well. In the Winterfell crypts, King Robert Baratheon remembers Lyanna Stark, his one true love, who he lost long ago. Actor Mark Addy shows such grief and regret that part of me wanted to weep (an urge I didn’t feel with the corresponding passage in the book). During the king’s feast, Tyrion Lannister, a dwarf, both enrages and instructs Jon Snow with his use of the word “bastard.” An unspoken, implicit bond is formed between the two outcasts. And in the tensest moment of the episode, Ser Jaime Lannister shocks us all (even if we know what’s coming!) when he proves just how far he’ll go for love.

The first episode of Game of Thrones was not perfect. Some of the scenes felt rushed, bits of the dialogue felt off, and there were perhaps too many shots of people just standing against beautiful backdrops doing nothing (Theon and Jory at the execution, Robb and Ser Rodrik in the direwolves scene). The episode is mostly exposition. But that in no way invalidates it. The series has to start somewhere, and with so much to establish early on, it can only tackle so much in its first hour. And I have the utmost faith it will only get better: Just as a Renaissance masterpiece would fall flat without its foundation layers, so too will Game of Thrones find itself lifeless unless it builds up from the beginning.

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With the hour of the Game of Thrones premiere upon us, it seems hard to believe I’ve been following the production of this show for so long.  Never before have I so eagerly anticipated any television debut.  Considering the circumstances, I’ve decided to countdown my five favorite Game of Thrones moments leading up the big moment.

5.  Peter Dinklage is Tyrion Lannister

Several years ago, before I had ever touched a George R.R. Martin book, a friend of mine told me about an epic fantasy series called A Song of Ice and Fire.  He listed all the reasons I should read the series and told me how the books may be adapted for television.  He also went on and on about this actor Peter Dinklage, and how he HAD to play Tyrion Lannister, a dwarf who featured as one of the story’s main characters. None of this meant anything to me at the time, but my friend’s confidence in Peter as Tyrion always stuck with me.  He has always been Tyrion in my mind, and after I finally read the books and learned he indeed had been cast, I thought back to my first ever exposure to ASOIAF and just felt as though everything had come full circle.

4.  Direwolf Puppies

As a fervent admirer of cute things, and a zealous proponent of direwolves, seeing the puppies for the first time was a big highlight for me.  The photo of Bran and Robb holding them immediately became my desktop.

3.  Maisie Williams Cast as Arya Stark

Arya has a complex, heavy storyline, so it was important that HBO got her just right.  From the minute I first saw Maisie as Arya, I knew they’d found the perfect girl.  She was fantastic without any speaking lines in her intro in the first episode preview, and she has garnered praise in nearly every review I’ve read.  Now give her an Emmy!

2.  The First Full Trailer

We’d had teasers and clips, we’d had photos, write-ups and behind-the-scenes videos.  It seemed like we’d been given just about everything except a full trailer.  And then HBO gifted us with that two-minute and twenty-second gem that showed the Wall, the Starks, a fantastically smug Jaime, Viserys crazy eyes and so much more.  The first trailer isn’t even my favorite trailer, but it was a moment when I truly said to myself, “This is actually happening!”

1.  Game of Thrones Takes Manhattan

My friend and I spent a crazy week chasing Game of Thrones around the Big Apple.  It started when we visited the HBO Store to see the props display.  Upon entering, we abandoned all sense of composure and began to squeal in delight.  Our fangirlish excitement was so extreme the security guard was laughing at us and the employees began coming over to talk with us about the series.  We left with a GoT high, so you can imagine what happened when we came across a MASSIVE Ned Stark billboard in Times Square.  I think we confused Americans and tourists alike with the amount of pictures we took.  The high continued with several stops to the Game of Thrones food truck, a brilliant marketing strategy put together by HBO and Campfire with help from Tom Colicchio.  Not only did we sample some delicious Westerosi fare (lemoncakes!!), but we met some great people.  This ranks at the top of my list because it wasn’t just a trailer that I watched alone on my computer.  It was a gathering of people who shared a passion for the same thing.  And I realized just how lucky we fans were to have HBO on our side; throughout the entire lead-up to the premiere, HBO has always been pro-fan, and that makes this whole Game of Thrones experience remarkable.

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