A Dissertation of Ice & Fire – Episode #1

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HBO's combo of food, beer & Game of Thrones was an epic victory

With the first installment of A Dissertation of Ice & Fire, the new weekly column here on Gunaxin, things will be a little different once the show actually begins. That being because the series premiere was a little different for me.

How so, you ask?

Well, this is because for the first time in a while the perks of writing about media far outweighed the perks of writing about sports. On Tuesday night, I was privileged enough to see an advanced screening of HBO’s adaptation of Game of Thrones. Therefore, this week’s review will come a little earlier than usual.

***Just a head’s up here; there may be some minor spoilerage in this column. I won’t go into details too much this week since the episode has yet to air to the public. But in future features, it will be spoilers ahoy!***

First off, I can’t say enough about HBO and how they treat their guests. They were gracious enough to treat us to an open bar and an endless amount of delicious hors d’œuvres before the screening started. Our hosts also provided us with some paraphernalia that had Game of Thrones artwork and promotional pictures. Inside there were maps of Westeros, the fantastical land where this epic takes place, and descriptions of the primary houses of families which all included detailed family trees (I snapped a picture below). This was quite a treat for a fanboy like myself. HBO does it up right and I can’t say enough about how they treated us. But, onto the show!

Having seen the 14 minute preview on HBO a week and a half ago, the beginning was obviously nothing new. Except there was now a one minute credits sequence. An opening title that was so grand that it could only be explained as a “Medieval Google Earth.” I can’t take credit for that title though. I heard it somewhere else and it just made sense. Each actor’s name was displayed next to the house vigil of their character; it was a nice touch for the purists watching ready to criticize every little move. The music wasn’t bad, but nothing I found myself humming the rest of the episode. Perhaps as time goes on. As the show progressed past the parts I had seen in the preview, the real fun began.

I tried to go into this as a person who had never read the books so I could give a fair review. This was admittedly difficult because as every new location or character appeared on screen, I couldn’t help but geek out seeing these things brought to life. However, I stayed on task and watched with a non-reader’s eye.

The results? I will admit that for a newcomer to this series, you’re going to feel overwhelmed at first. Things are moving at a blazing speed and you’re getting introduced to so many characters all at once, you’re bound to get a bit confused. Also, it works hard to make clear who you are supposed to be cheering for, but this is something that will constantly change through the series, so no worries there. In short, this was the fastest 62 minutes of my life because they nailed it. They went above and beyond to make the pilot episode easy for Song of Ice & Fire virgins to understand whilst not alienating long-time readers. You can very much tell the show creators, David Benioff and Dan Weiss, are huge fans of the source material.

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The booklet that I received pre-screening was truly a nice addition for any Song of Ice and Fire fanboy...

One of the highlights of the first episode, Winter is Coming, are the Starks discovering the dire wolf pups and Eddard deciding to let his children keep them as opposed to letting Theon, his ward, put them out of their misery. And by the end of this episode, almost everyone watching is going to want a dire wolf of their own.

Another thing that really stood out was the chemistry between Eddard (Sean Bean) and King Robert (Mark Addy). You really believe these two guys were old friends and had gone to war together. And did I mention the kid actors? Bran and Arya are going to be scene-stealers the entire series, I can tell already. I also can’t say enough about Peter Dinklage as Tyrion. Any time you can introduce a character who is receiving oral gratification from a whore and you laugh about it, you’ve got a keeper.

Really, there is too much good to list here. What about the not so good?

Really, the only gripe I would have is that the story moves at a lightning pace. This, of course, is great for someone like me who already knows all the backstory and history of the land. But to a newcomer, it may seem like too much and they may lose interest. But if the viewer hangs on until the end of the first episode, they are more than likely going to be hooked by the cliffhanger ending.

Now, for something I am going to do at the end of every review. I am going to list a few of my favorite personal items about that particular episode. These categories will change from week to week.

Best Overall PerformanceHarry Lloyd as Viserys Targaryen

Although his time on screen was rather limited in the pilot, no performance channeled their character in the book quite as remarkably. Simply an incredible job at playing such a hated character.

Best QuotePeter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister & Nicolaj Coster-Waldau as Jaime Lannister

Tyrion’s “All dwarves are bastards in their fathers’ eyes” was one of my favorite Tyrion lines in the book. I’m glad to see they kept it here as he tries to drunkenly relate to Jon Snow.

Jaime’s “The things I do for love” was as terrific on screen as it was in the novel. And with where and when it is delivered… well, you’ll see.

Best VisualWinterfell

While King’s Landing and The Wall looked incredible brought to life, nothing matched my imagination quite like Winterfell, the home of the Starks.

With HBO doing a free preview this weekend, there is no excuse not to be watching this Sunday evening. Unless you have young kids, then in that case you may want to DVR it and watch later. The violence and nudity (there are about six nude scenes in the premiere) are usual HBO standards. I know I’ll be watching again to see if there is anything I missed the first time around. As far as this column goes, with a week and a half from the second episode, I’ll wait and preview it sometime next week after the premiere has aired and the show is hopefully declared a runaway success.