“Game of Thrones:” Three Episodes In, And I’m Hooked… For Now

There was a crazy story out of Florida not too long ago. Apparently, two young men who were watching Game of Thrones got in a fight over who was going to “win” on this show. The fight escalated quickly, and one of the men ended up arrested. Ok, fair enough, we at Enchantment Under The Sea can certainly understand getting invested in pop culture. But a fight over who’s going to “win?” What does that even mean? It’s not like this is American Idol; this is a narrative fantasy epic.

But then again, it might be fair question: can there really be a winner on this show? So far, we’ve been shown the machinations of a few different power-hungry individuals. And we’ve also seen hints that there is not enough power to go around. So there obviously DO have to be some losers. And the stage is being set for a really interesting ride to finding out just who wins and who loses in this world.

To get oriented: picture a Lord of the Rings-style fantasy epic, but made by HBO, and you’ll know exactly what’s on offer in Game of Thrones. Like any serial HBO drama, there’s family tension, dramatic conversation, detailed sets and costumes, and a lot of sex and violence. And sexual violence, actually.

But in addition to HBO’s hallmarks, it’s also got the hallmarks of any great fantasy epic: we’ve got a noble family man (with the unlikely name of Ned) destined for righteous power, pitted against scheming courtesans (like the expertly snarly queen) and slighted dynasties (the almost-albino wraiths across the Narrow Sea). The third episode even starts to paint some specifics on the standard fantasy-narrative impending apocalypse overtones. It’s all essentially what you’d expect from a capable fantasy epic given the HBO treatment.

I do have to say that there are some things that stand out as better than standard after these first three episodes. First of all, the countryside is absolutely beautiful. The show opens with a really eerie, really beautiful sequence in a snowy wood. In fact, all of the scenes that take place in the snowy country near The Wall are starkly beautiful. And the atmospherics are all dead-on, from the snowy gloom of The Wall to the glittering streets of the capital. There’s some really beautiful, really cinematic stuff happening in this show.

But the acting is probably what elevates this show the most. Peter Dinklage’s worldly, bawdy dwarf, for instance, is a joy to watch. The chemistry between Sean Bean’s Ned and his wife Catelyn (played by Michelle Fairley) is understated and believable. Emilia Clarke’s Daenerys is pitch perfect, slowly transitioning from being the broken pawn of her brother’s power games to the empowered queen with a glint of scheming behind her eyes. And Arya, Ned’s youngest daughter, is the center of a fascinating story about power and gender, anchored by a really solid performance by Maisie Williams.

In fact, Arya’s story is probably my favorite so far in the series. For a traditional fantasy epic in which the female roles are usually populated by either dim sex-objects or shrill wenches, there are some pretty interesting and complex roles for women in this show. And Arya’s story is proving to be a very good example, a story demonstrating the gendered symbols of power and how supremely satisfying it can be to see those symbols shift across gender lines.

Arya’s only one example among many of strong acting and interestingly-drawn characters. All told, this cast is filled with totally capable performers.

That’s the thing, though. Three episodes in, and that’s all I can really say: aside from some standout highlights, Game of Thrones is essentially imminently capable. I can’t say it’s groundbreaking or it’s the best example of its kind. But it is totally competent, certainly as good as any of its fantasy peers.

Maybe taking fantasy seriously and being capable is enough. In some ways, Game of Thrones is, after all, traditional epic fantasy’s first big television break. It’s taking this genre really seriously, and that’s already a step up from the goofy children’s story this could be.

Maybe I shouldn’t get too hung up on how revolutionary this show could be. In the final thrilling moments of the third episode, Ned sees the power welling up within his daughter Arya, and we can see his terror at what this power brings. Moments like this already make Game of Thrones really fascinating to watch, and it’s got swords and direwolves and just a hint of magic. That’s all I really need for now.

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One comment

  1. Before I say anything else, let me state this. I love the show. I am osbsseed with it. Ok on to my issues. I think at this point, my biggest complaint with the show is their handling of Daenerys. She is NOTHING like in the books. Every definitive scene that we experience her in how she grows, how her relationship with Drogo develops, how she begins to believe and know she is Khaleesi, have been completely destroyed. Where she is in the show right now, by this point in the books, we know Dany is a force to be reckoned with, and her growth and development make sense. In the show, she is still this unsure little girl who is victimized at every turn. This is not Daenerys. Like the scene in this week s episode for example. In the books this is the first time we see her stand up to Viserys. There were two instances in that scene that were changed that drastically change the tone of the scene, and their relevance to Dany’s development. Why the writers are choosing to do this, only they know but I sure hope that we start seeing Dany come into her own because she is one of the main characters of these books, and she just doesn t feel that important to me in the TV show, even though she is getting the screen time. Another big beef I have is Drogo. In the TV show he is nothing more than a rapist barbarian, and in the books, he is so much more. He is actually one of my favorite characters, and it makes me very sad that he is not getting the treatment he deserves. The lack of importance given to the relationship between the Stark children and the dire wolves is also bothering me a lot, but I understand that there is only so much you can do here. Now -this week s episode. For a third episode I thought it did its job. It wasn t as fast paced or intense as the first two, but we were introduced to some of the major players at King’s Landing. I think one of my favorite scenes was Arya and Syrio. It felt very authentic though I disliked the fact that the scene with Ned and Arya that eventually leads up to Arya and Syrio was completely changed. Maybe I m being overly critical but for me, it is these nuances that the TV show seems to be skipping, that make these books so fantastic. Catelyn s arrival to King s Landing comes to mind. One scene that I loved but again, had issues with (I m such a complainer lol) was Tyrion and Jon Snow when the boys are putting their swords away. It wasn t a big deal to me that they removed the black smith all together, and gave Tyrion the lines instead, but this scene was important because it made Jon realize that though he is a bastard, he still has it better than most, if not all of the boys at the Wall and this was not as potent in the speech that Tyrion gives Jon. I have so much more to say, but I will keep the rest simple. The casting for Petyr Baelish is perfect. Renly left me a bit unsatisfied, Varys is perfect and I will leave off with the question I have been asking myself in each episode WHERE IS GHOST?????? (sorry if this is all over the place. wrote this at work. don’t tell on me)

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