HBO/Sky Atlantic, June 5-June 19 2011
Ned Stark is captured, Joffrey claims the throne and Khal Drogo meets his match…
Having spent all of episode eight (The Pointy End) locked in the dungeons, it was something of a shock (to those who haven’t read the original George R.R. Martin novels, that is) when Sean Bean’s Ned Stark was beheaded at the end of episode nine (Baelor). Actually, given this show’s propensity for dispensing with major characters (some played by big name actors), it should have been no surprise, really. However, some viewers felt conned by the fact that Bean was the poster boy for the series and now he’s gone… Ah well, story is king.
And what a story. Weirdly, as Game of Thrones has progressed it has more and more reminded this viewer of Babylon 5—with real locations and better actors, admittedly. The complexity of the relationships and the stories, plus the willingness of some characters to switch their loyalties as soon as it seems to their advantage all recall that late-1990s “novel for television”. This one actually is a novel on television.
By the end of the series Khal Drogo (Jason Momoa) is a goner, too, a victim of misjudged magic as well as his own hubris. Instead, we have a trio of dragons, reborn into a changed world. The slow reveal of the supernatural—in the form of zombie warriors and ancient ‘blood magic’, as well as dragons—has been one of the strengths of the series. It has been the people and their machinations that have counted, rather than any magical goings on.
By the end of the first series things are looking bleak for the Starks, but it is likely to be the Lannisters who ultimately suffer. Along with many viewers captivated by this saga, I’ll be back as soon as the second series premieres. Let’s hope HBO don’t pull a Deadwood but manage to see this show through to a proper ending…
Verdict: Gripping television of the highest order.
Episodes 8-10: 9/10
Brian J. Robb