TV SERIES REVIEW
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A SIERRA NEVADA
(MICHAEL MADSEN & JOHN SAVAGE).
It's rare when the opening credits to a movie have an imaginatively inventive way to prepare the audience for what they are about to see. And when that does happen, it is rarer still when the movie lives up to the credits. For the two to merge together in a synergy that I find myself describing as magnificent, just might be unique.
GAME OF THRONES has such magnificent opening credits that fans find themselves marveling over it.
This series begins on another world, similar to earth, but clearly alien with an alien past. A trio of men pass through the heavy iron gates of a great Ice Wall. They ride in silence, two young men and one grizzled veteran. One of the young men is in a position of leadership, the other is a coward. All three are there to investigate a rumor. On the other side of the Great Ice Wall, they find a camp of butchered pioneers. The trio is soon overwhelmed by the same horrific power that lies on the other side of the wall. The whispers are true: something has re-awakened there!
At the farthest most northern regions of the kingdom Westeros, the nearest noble house of the kingdom is in Winterfell. The House Stark is led by Lord Eddard Stark (Sean Bean: THE LORD OF THE RINGS [all], EQUILIBRIUM, THE DARK, THE ISLAND, SILENT HILL), an aging warrior who wants to live out his remaining years with his wife and family, raising his children, and repairing the rift he once cut in his marriage to his beloved Catelyn (Michelle Fairley: HIDDEN CITY, THE OTHERS, CHATROOM, HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 1).
The rift began nearly 18 years before, when Eddard returned from years of war, bringing a child: his bastard son. Because the bastard cannot be heir to the House or Throne of the lord, he cannot have his father's name, and so Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) fights for recognition from a father ashamed of his indiscretion and his father's wife, who abhors him.
Jon's half siblings are Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead-Wright), the youngest child and son who is only now learning to wield a sword. The youngest sister, Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) who is learning weaponry far faster than is desired for a girl. The oldest sister, Sansa (Sophie Turner), whose hormones and thoughts easily turn to affection, regardless of the quality of the potential suitor. Robb (Richard Madden: COMPLICITY, CHATROOM), who, as eldest son and rightful heir, wishes to be the equal of his aging, warrior father.
Lord Eddard soon hears of the horrors from the other side of the Ice Wall, but has no time to investigate. His old friend and Liege, King Robert Barathen (Mark Addy: THE ORDER, IT'S A WONDERFUL AFTERLIFE) of Westeros, has come bringing his entire family in tow. A secretive, deadly power struggle for the throne is afoot. This has resulted in the death of King Barathen's closest advisor. Stark is the only other man that Barathen trusts.
Unfortunately for King Barathen, he accepted an arranged marriage into the powerful, yet corrupt and decadent family Lannister. Now the House Stark, are unwilling subjects of the king's conniving in-laws and Queen Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey: THE CAVE, THE BROTHERS GRIMM, 300, TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES, LAID TO REST). The possible source of the power struggle becomes apparent to us, even while it remains hidden from Eddard and his family. Other noble families have sensed the weakness of King Barathen, and are drawing their own plans.
Just as there is with Jon Snow among the Starks, there is a joker in the deck of the Barathen-Lannister family and that is the lusty, well-read Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage). While Tyrion loves his siblings, he also knows his lowly place among them, as he was born with the defect of being a dwarf. As such, he and Jon Snow begin to form a bond unseen by the other families.
Jon Snow: What do you know of being a bastard?
Meanwhile, across the sea and unknown to the nobles of Westera, another plan is hatching against King Barathen.
King Barathen is not into royalty born, but fought a war against the former ruling family, the Targaryens. Of the two surviving children of that royal family, older brother Viserys (Harry Lloyd) sets into motion his return to power. Vain, foolish, and sadistically ambitious, he will stop at nothing to regain the family throne he never possessed, even if that means whoring out his only sister Daenerys (Emilia Clarke). Especially if that means whoring out his only sister.
To that end he arranges a marriage between Daenerys and the mighty barbarian warrior king, Khal Drogo (Jason Momoa: PIPELINE, STARGATE: ATLANTIS), a man who gained his own kingdom in battle and has never lost a fight. Viserys plans to use the might of Drogo's powerful armies to win back his place as King of Westera. We quickly see that Viserys is so blinded by ego and sense of entitlement, that he doesn't understand that he is orchestrating his inevitable doom.
This is the backdrop against which the machinations of politics and war turn and screw. The visuals are amazing, the characters captivating, but the story, based upon the fantasy series by George R. R. Martin, is arguably the most powerful ever told on cable television and that includes the Sopranos.
Kudos to creators David Benioff (STAY, X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE) and D.B. Weiss.
GAME OF THRONES is the stuff of television legend!
5 Shriek Girls.