Well the first season of Game of Thrones has come and gone. For the past ten weeks we have had a new episode to discuss on Monday morning. But not this week. So I thought it would be good to discuss the first season as a whole. What did you like about it? What did you dislike? Favorite characters? Favorite moments? What was your overall opinion of the show? Was it a successful adaption? After the break, you can read my thoughts and then share your opinions in the comments.
Let me start off by saying, this first season was great. Fantastic even. A very faithful adaptation. Much more so than many of us had hoped. (Seriously, go back and look at some of the early posts on this site and see the kind of stuff people were talking about cutting. Some people were even suggesting cutting Dany’s storyline out of the first season entirely!) But more than just a faithful adaptation, what we got was a fascinating and entertaining TV show. And it seems to have captured the imagination of the general public.
But there were a few areas of the show that I thought didn’t work and hopefully could be improved upon in the second season. Starting off with too much sexposition (© Myles McNutt). This oft-discussed criticism is a valid one, in my opinion. It’s not just the use of sex and nudity while giving exposition that is the problem. It is the fact that the writers went to that well a few too many times. And some of those scenes worked better than others. I felt the Viserys-Doreah scene was an example of good exposition. While the Theon-Ros scene was bad exposition. As for the controversial Littlefinger scene? I liked it. The double-meaning behind Littlefinger’s “training” monologue was fantastic. And contrary to the many complainers, I don’t think he was spilling his guts there. Rather he relayed a fairly well-known story while still leaving his true motives and ultimate end-game vague. A good bit of writing. Although the whores could have been a tad quieter.
The other disappointment I had in this first season was the lack of scale. While some areas of the production felt appropriately large, (the Wall being the best example of this), others felt much smaller on screen than they felt in the books. Drogo’s khalasar is supposed to 40,000 strong, but yet we only ever see a hundred riders at a time. The tournament was supposed to be a huge affair with elaborate stands and thousands in attendance, but what we got was a makeshift grandstand and an audience of several dozen. While some might say this is due to budget constraints, I think with proper planning these things could have been improved upon. Just look at other premium cable series such as Spartacus or The Borgias as examples. Both had large scale crowds and battles.
The lack of battles in Thrones was particularly disappointing. The entire season had been building to a conflict between Stark and Lannister forces and the whole thing seemed robbed of any tension or drama with Tyrion getting knocked out and Robb riding safely out of the Whispering Woods only seconds after learning of his daring plan. I’m not saying we needed Helm’s Deep-type battle scenes, but a little more time spent on the action of the battle or the drama of there being a tipping point here where either side could come out on top would have made the build-up to the moment feel more worthwhile and satisfying. And would have provided some gripping and action-packed sequences to the later episodes.
There are dozens of other nitpicky items that one could bring up but they are so minor I don’t think they are worth discussing. So enough of the bad, how about the good stuff?
I think, first and foremost, when praising this show you have to start with the acting. So many amazing and memorable performances. Here were my favorites: Peter Dinklage, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Michelle Fairley, Harry Lloyd, Emilia Clarke, Iain Glen, Jason Momoa, Miltos Yerolemou, Maisie Williams, Sophie Turner, Jack Gleeson and Mark Addy. And the rest of the cast was fantastic as well (well, except for that stableboy). Those were just the few that stood out above the crowd to me.
I also really enjoyed getting to see the new scenes invented for the show. “Deleted scenes” I called them in my pre-air impressions and I think the term still fits. You can tell Benioff and Weiss really get these characters as many of these scenes would have felt right at home in the pages of the book. More than a few times I thought a scene was from the book when it wasn’t. I think the best of the new scenes was the one where Robert and Cersei discuss their marriage. Just a fascinating look into the lives of two characters who we never really saw interact much in the book. A well-written and well-acted scene.
The last thing I have to praise are the success of the big moments. When those who read the book heard they were going to adapt it to television, a few scenes immediately popped into their head as ones that they absolutely had to nail. I speak of course of Ned’s execution and the birth of the dragons. And both scenes were home runs. The execution was shocking, but also emotional and poignant. While the birth of the dragons was a “jump out of your seat and pump your fist” moment. They had to get those two moments just right to really grab hold of those new viewers and they did. And for those who knew what was coming, those scenes were still highly emotional and worked just as well on screen as they did on page. Maybe even better.
So what about you? What were the high points for you? Or the low points? What worked? What didn’t work? What were your favorite characters or moments? Discuss them in the comments below. We will use your discussion as a basis for our upcoming end-of-season awards. So please share!