Overall I find it difficult to imagine how a better adaptation could have been made. Sure I have some gripes (see below) but the series managed to be exciting, dramatic, shocking and emotional and told the tale with respect whilst serving up possibly the best looking TV show ever made.
All parts of the production seemed to be firing on all cylinders. From the amazing and evocative credits sequence to the costumes, sets and effects the production design was superb. It is certainly one of the best looking shows ever made. Every location looked the part, from the opening vista of The Wall to the squalid warm streets of King's Landing.
The scripts were great too, helped by the fact that Martin's writing is so chock full of memorable quotes and lines, but still managing to introduce many complex characters in a way that wasn't too difficult for newcomers to follow. Some of the lines could have come across as cheesy if the acting wasn't up to scratch, but like everything else it was top drawer stuff.
On top of that he show did just about everything else right as well. The cast was never less than good, and more often than not simply great. Characters that seem a little one-dimensional and one-note at the start began to be fleshed out (like Sansa and Joffrey). In my review of episode one I mentioned Maisie Williams by name as one stand out for her portrayal of Arya, and she continued to get even better as the series progressed. Even characters with only short screen time made an impact due to the great performances, and I loved Miltos Yeromelou as Syrio Forel, Arya's "dancing" master even more than in the books (plus wasn't it great that his "death" was just as ambiguous in the show?!).
This time I have to mention Jack Gleeson, who played Joffrey. He didn't make much of an impression initially, but I really think he's an incredible actor. I'm sure he's the nicest guy in real life, but his portrayal of Joffrey just makes me want to punch him as soon as he appears on screen. His performance really grew from a moustache-twirling villain into someone both venomous and dangerous. Oh well, I guess I'll just have to make do with watching this gif for a while to satisfy my Joffrey punching needs instead...
|Hit him again!|
The additions to the show were generally very good (though I did have issues with a couple, see below). This is a show that was not scared to let their characters have a five or ten minute speech, and I absolutely loved the scene they added between Cersei and Robert as they reminisced over their marriage. It was something we didn't see in the book (neither are Point of view characters) but it actually added to the story whilst maintaining the same tone as Martin's writings. I also enjoyed the scenes added between Littlefinger and Varys, which gave a fun and interesting insight into their political machinations.
The show also impressed me with it's fidelity to the books. I was hoping but still not 100% sure that they would have the guts to kill off Ned in episode 9. Sean Bean was used very heavily in the marketing of the show, and to non-readers it must have felt like the equivalent of killing off Jack Bauer or Tony Soprano after only nine episodes. One of HBO's other hit shows, True Blood, shied away from killing a popular character that died in the book, so I wasn't sure they wouldn't do the same here. It was a brave move but the impact it made seems to have been worth it (check out this link for a hilarious reaction of one reviewer).
As a reader and fan of the books there were a few issues I had with the show, but they were pretty minor in the grand scheme of things and certainly did not do anything to inhibit my enjoyment of the programme. If anything I was just a bit disappointed rather than annoyed, and to criticise almost seems churlish when we have been given such a respectful and well made ten hour adaptation.
|Psst, have you heard, Game of Thrones is really rather good!|
I also felt a twinge of disappointment that we didn't see any of the major battles on screen. In every other respect the show made the most of it's budget and looked amazing, but it would have been great to see some of the major clashes towards the end. In the book only one of the battles is seen first hand (the other is told from Catelyn's point of view, and she was not present during the actual fighting) but in the show we only saw the aftermath.
Both of these issues will need to be addressed considering what is in store for the next season, so let's hope HBO loosens the purse strings a little.
The only other issue I had with the show was a couple of the minor additions from the book. The character of Ros for example is not in the book, and seemed only to serve as an excuse for nudity and sex (even if some of it was to the brilliant exposition of Littlefinger's motives).
Like I said though, to complain too loudly would be to do the show a dis-service. It has been one of the best things on television for many years.
I am really looking forwards to season two, knowing what has to be covered. Tyrion's story really starts to take off as he becomes Hand to Joffrey's spiteful King, and Jon Snow is going to be tested to the limits north of The Wall.
The second season will have a lot to contend with. There are a lot of new characters to introduce; Stannis (who is Renly and Robert's older brother), Melisandre the Red Witch, and Brienne (one of Renly's knights and one of my favourite book characters) are only a few of them. On top of that the CGI will call for new direwolves who by now are the size of small horses, the epic Battle of Blackwater, and of course three hungry and growing dragons.
Based on how well handled the first season was however I have every confidence we are going to be in for another treat come Spring 2012. HBO deservedly have a hit on their hands with Game of Thrones.
To sign off I'm going to embed a fan video that is a trailer for a new buddy comdey called "One and a half man". Tyrion and Bronn made a great double act in season 1 and it's going to be great to join them again as the Seven Kingdoms break up and Robert, Renly, Stannis and Joffrey all compete for the Iron Throne whilst all of the Stark children fight their own private battles.