I was rather harsh on the show last week, and I'd like to add a note on why I feel entitled to be so critical. I am neither an expert on film, on television nor on the fantasy genre, so when I throw down bolts of lightning from Mount Olympus, it's out of love. I read a zillion fantasy books as a kid, and GRRM's Song of Ice and Fire series was, for me, the first fantasy series that wasn't a Sword & Sorcery adventure like Conan, a Save-The-World epic like Lord of the Rings, or a combination of the two. I wouldn't say that Game of Thrones transcended its genre, but it came closer than anything I'd read before. It's for that reason, and some promising interviews/trailers for the series, that I believed HBO's Game of Thrones had the potential to appeal to non-Fantasy geeks. It had the potential to open up television to future shows in the genre that aren't written off as "stupid" in the first 8 minutes by mainstream audiences. To me, episode one of Game of Thrones would have scared off anyone who wasn't already a fan of the genre, and that was a big let down.
- Episode two, however, was an improvement. Scenes actually lasted longer than 30 seconds. Characters had real conversations that were only partially exposition to the audience. There was even a drop in sweeping lord-of-the-rings exterior shots, which helped a great deal in lending credibility to dialogue (and cut down on bad CGI).
- Cersei is coming into her own a little. Her presence still isn't believable as the Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, but as a political player and controlling wife she's been pretty effective. The scene where she manipulates King Robert in front of his friend Eddard showed a glimpse of what she could be throughout the show (conniving bitch).
- I have very quickly warmed up to Mark Addy as Robert. He's a caricature of the merry, irresponsible king, but somehow I actually see depth in him. I think Mark Addy just might be a talented dude who is somehow able to inject a wide spectrum of emotion and weight into a goofy figure.
- The added scene of Jaime Lannister talking to Jon Snow was a great building block to Jaime's character as well. His devil-may-care, ironic point of view of the game of thrones and life in general is that nugget of redemption that is so very important to Jaime's story arc. I'm glad the show took that angle instead of just making the kingslayer seem cruel.
- Catelyn Stark's casting is perfect. It's difficult to shower love on her simply because she was the figurative villain in the books, in my reading experience, but I have to admit that not only is she exactly how I pictured her, but her story is a lot more intriguing when you don't have to read 15 page chapters from her point of view. She also has established herself as the first character whom you really get to know in terms of what she wants, what she's afraid of, etc.
- I'm already worried about Jon Snow's scenes. The actor looked so much more promising in the first episode, and while I think he came off great in his (very important) scene with Arya, he was a dead fish in his scenes with the Lannister brothers, and the storyline at The Wall just won't be as colorful as King's Landing. If the actor doesn't have the presence to make life as a soldier interesting, then those scenes will be dry spells in the show.
- Sean Bean as Eddard Stark, probably the most exciting piece of news to hit when HBO first picked up the show, has been one of the worst parts so far, in my opinion. While it's true that Ned Stark is a solemn man, Sean Bean has for some reason decided that pouting is going to be his character's one dimension. The worst of it is the scene where Sansa's dire wolf Lady is sentenced to death, which is a key piece of characterization for Ned. In the book he must retain his stoic demeanor in front of his children, which I believe is an important detail. Sean Bean instead QQ's all over the royal court.
- Where is Hodor?
- Theon Greyjoy is one of those important side characters that have really missed the mark for me. He is the weasely "step brother" of Robb Stark, a rather unattractive and timid person so far, which goes entirely against the dashing and cocky person (the love-to-hate-him persona) I always pictured when reading. If the show decides not to pursue Theon's subplot, then this is forgivable, but if the Iron Islands stay in the picture, his sister Asha better be awesome.
- Alas, of course, I must complain about The Hound. As my favorite character, he really hasn't established himself as anything but a nondescript bodyguard of Joffrey. The worst part is that The Hound is probably the easiest character to develop ever, and yet they decided that the burns on his face weren't going to be that bad, which kind of makes him seem more of just an ugly dude than a monster. The latter impression is an important characteristic.
- The Dothraki scenes are still just unbearable for me. I can't get past how stupid everything looks, how unrealistic everything seems. The scenes with Dany so far are making so little sense because Dany looks so much older than her character is supposed to be (and she looks so much older than the actress is trying to portray), which is just coming off as a disaster in my opinion. Those sex scenes are so stupid because they're lacking the effect of a 30+-year-old raping a preteen. That was kinda the point.
- I forgot to mention last week how badly I wanted to vomit when I saw the opening sequence. You know, when a camera pans over a toy fantasy map with a cheesy fantasy font showing the credits. That plus the music has kept me faintly sick to my stomach throughout both episodes, and I hope the Westeros community lobbies to get both of those things changed by season two.
Episode 2: C. It was a step in the right direction and I am hopeful that episode 3 takes yet another step forward.