Television Revision: Game of Thrones – Season 1

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By Andrew Williams
July 16, 2013

Television Revision is a weekly feature in which our tuned in TV critic trawls through the best the box has to offer, giving you a primer on some of history’s finest shows (and warning you away from the specific episodes – or even seasons! – that might have ruined their reputation). 

Now, this is a story all about how: Ned Stark (Sean Bean) is the Lord of Winterfell, husband to Catelyn (Michelle Fairley), and father to five Stark children. He’s unexpectedly summoned by King Robert Baratheon (Mark Addy) to become ‘Hand of the King’ in the capital city of Westeros, King’s Landing. That’s about ten per cent of what happens in the pilot.

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Happy days? Currently sitting atop the pop culture landscape, it’s easy to forget Game of Thrones was, at the time of its making, a considerable risk on the part of HBO. It held enough promise to become television’s Lord of the Rings; an expansive fantasy epic with mainstream crossover appeal. It might have also become television’s Eragon; a pale imitation appealing purely to the fans of the books and no one else. But from its very first scenes, it becomes clear Game of Thrones was far destined to be the former.

My favourite thing about Game of Thrones is how it takes almost every fantasy element we know and love – the honourable hero, the dastardly villain, the righteous quest, the beautiful princess, and the supernatural force – and turns them squarely on their head. If you’re the type to shy away from anything featuring swords, goblets, and dragons for fear of hoary cliché or well-worn trope, this is for you. While it may take a little while to get going (mostly due to the ridiculous amount of ground, both metaphorical and literal, that needs to be covered), everything great about Game of Thrones is right here in Season One.

The final frontier: A confident, beautifully made beginning to what would become a pop culture phenomenon and a terrific start to a terrific show.

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Top three episodes: 9) Baelor. A truly shocking moment in television history and a wonderful exercise in tension-building makes it clear that this is not your grandfather’s fantasy series. 6) A Golden Crown. Some TV moments are grandiose, meaningful, hilarious, or poetic. Some are just badass, and sometimes that’s enough. This has one of those. 1) Winter is Coming. The pilot (which was extensively reshot and recast) is even better the second time around: economical, beautiful, and with a great cliff-hanger.

Worst episode: 3) Lord Snow. It’s a pattern for HBO shows that their third episode also be their worst. After the set-up and ramifications of the pilot, Lord Snow is tasked with introducing a whole bunch of new characters and storylines. It all pays off later in the series, but it means there’s a lot of heavy lifting to be done here.

Season MVP: Despite the show being very well cast and acted, Peter Dinklage is the clear standout. Come the end of Season One, his Tyrion Lannister – the drunken, disrespected brother of King Robert’s wife Cersei (Lena Headey) – is the series’ most fully-formed and fascinating character, and that’s a combination of great writing and this actor’s superlative performance.

4.5/5

Game of Thrones is available on Quickflix.

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