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Episode 10: Fire and Blood

I’m not sure where to begin with this review. The season is over, and I cannot believe it. It feels like just yesterday that it was Christmastime, and the Game of Thrones teasers were flashing across the HBO airwaves, and I was burying myself in ASOIAF lore in an attempt to sustain my fangirlish hunger until the show debuted.

A few months later HBO announced the premiere date: April 17. But that was still months away, so I had to trudge through internet message boards and Tower of the Hand essays to get my fix. And then the first episode premiered, and nine more episodes came and went. The last ten weeks have flown by, and now we have to suffer through an entire year without any Thrones. As the opening credits played for the Season Finale, I experienced a Pandora’s Box of emotions: anticipation, pride, excitement, fear, grief, despair, and longing. The theme song, which in the very least deserves the over-used adjective “epic,” made me feel like I was finishing the first leg of a terribly fantastic adventure.

I’ve been breaking down my reviews by location/character, but in order to preserve the power of the finale, I have kept this one chronological.

*As usual, this post contains spoilers for the Episode 10 and the ASOIAF books.

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Episode 9: Baelor

Sean Bean as Lord Eddard Stark

*This review contains spoilers for Baelor, Episode 9 of Game of Thrones, as well as the first ASOIAF novel, A Game of Thrones.*

Wow. And there it is, guys. For us book-readers, the one episode we’ve been anticipating all season. The instant we knew would shock, anger, drive away and reign in viewers who had not read the novels. A hallmark moment in A Song of Ice and Fire. Perhaps the most important sword swing in the series, and at least in the first book. The day that changed the course of Westeros forever, and the hour that cemented the fate of a widow, six children and a kingdom’s worth of commonfolk. Okay – you get it by now, right?

I’m writing a little bit late, as life has unfortunately kept me from finishing this review. But it’s been wonderful to see the reaction and be able to incorporate that here. I deeply, thoroughly enjoyed catching every “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!” or “HBO didn’t!” or “How COULD they?!” These seem like angry responses. And they are. But they also indicate passion – that people cared enough about Ned, or his children (or that they hated the Lannisters enough) to take to their Twitters or their Facebooks or blogs or Youtube channels and scream out their rage to the seven hells. Anger like that shows a connection. And if that’s the case, then we can say HBO has won. The biggest gamble going into Game of Thrones was whether or not viewers, especially those unaccustomed to fantasy, would care enough about the characters to wade through generation-long winters, packs of direwolves or schools of dragons, and a few ancient spells to keep coming back week after week.

I’m going to get into the actual review soon, but let me start off by saying I don’t know if this is the best episode. That’s a terrible choice to have to make, and I think the episodes from “The Golden Crown” up until now could all be in the running for the title. But in Baelor, there were scenes that clearly rank among the most emotionally poignant of the series to date. Written by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss, this episode was an expression of the spirit behind this production. Although George wrote the story, and the design teams created the world, and the actors bring that world to life, it is the combination of David & Dan (D&D – I feel they must always be combined by an ampersand) that connects all the threads and weaves them into a tapestry. They are the cerebellum of the show – the seat of power that tells the feet where to walk and the hands what to grab and the eyes what to see and the mouth what to say. So, it was insightful and gripping to see what they chose to express on screen in their episode.

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Episode 8: The Pointy End

Maisie Williams as Arya Stark

I’ve written a book about this episode.  But I felt like there was so much I wanted to say.  I’m not sure if this was my favorite episode of the season (the last few weeks have been fantastic), but there’s no denying the excitement caused by the mere fact that George R.R. Martin himself wrote the screenplay for this hour.  I imagine that opportunity was almost like a way to write “alternate scenes” or to change things GRRM may have thought he would have done a different way after having nearly 15 years to ponder his work (A Game of Thrones was first published in August 1996).  For that reason, a lot of what I discuss demonstrates the differences between the text and show.

*This review contains spoilers for Episode 8 of Game of Thrones as well as the first four A Song of Ice and Fire books.  Please proceed with caution.*

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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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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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