Liz Tells Frank What Happened In the “Game of Thrones” Pilot
So because you and I are both literate adults, students and appreciators of fine pop culture, we are both very in tune with HBO’s tradition of quality television. What does a series stamped with the HBO brand promise? Extreme violence, plenty of boobies and power struggles (the power struggles are what make it classy). Does the first episode of Game of Thrones deliver? Hell yes it does.
The Game of Thrones pilot, based on the books by George R.R. Martin, is, like many pilots, a bit of a shakedown cruise — there’s a roughness to the characterization and the performances that will likely no longer be there in a few more episodes (not to mention a crap-ton of exposition), but is worth forgiving in advance because oh man already so many power struggles! There are pretty much three storylines, which I’ll attempt to summarize quickly and succinctly:
Meet the Starks! Eddard Stark (aka Sean Bean) is the patriarch of a family which reigns over Winterfell, AKA the northern lands of this crazy fantasy kingdom where everything takes place. He has a lady wife, five legitimate children and one bastard son — all of whom get puppies! Well, giant wolf puppies that the bastard kid, John Snow, and his half-brother Rob find in the snowy woods while they’re out executing a member of the Watch for desertion–
Shit, okay, this pilot is not super-easy to explain. Backing up: The beginning of the episode introduces us to a trio of red-shirts who belong to the Night’s Watch, a crew of soldiers guarding the wall protecting the kingdoms from the super-crazy-wild north. How super-crazy-wild is this north? MOTHERFUCKING ZOMBIES murder two of the three who are exploring beyond the wall’s reach, and then when the third kid runs away from the MOTHERFUCKING ZOMBIES WHO BY THE WAY KNOW HOW TO USE SWORDS, he gets caught and beheaded for desertion. Sucks to be that guy AMIRITE? I’m right.
Anyways, lots of manly awesome “The man who commits the sentence swings the sword” bravado gets tied to that execution, and then it’s back to hanging out Winterfell-style.
But eh oh! Because this is a fantasy kingdom, there’s a King. And when the King’s Hand (essentially, the King’s Leo) dies, the King plans a road trip up to Winterfell. There’s not much beating around the bush — the King is heading north because he wants Sean Bean to be the new Hand, because the King and Sean Bean were besties back in the day and the King doesn’t trust anyone else. Sean Bean knows this means ditching the relatively peaceful Winterfell life for the city and conniving and manipulations and probably an early grave, but besties isn’t a term thrown around lightly, y’know?
The King, by the way, is played by Mark Addy, AKA the Saran Wrap guy from The Full Monty. Which is the only thing keeping me from taking him completely seriously.
The other Starks I haven’t mentioned include two daughters, Sansa and Arya. Sansa is 13, a total girly-girl, and totally into being betrothed to the King’s son Joffery, who without a single line of dialogue is pretty clearly a prat. Arya has about the same amount of dialogue as Joffery, but without saying a word escapes an embroidery lesson to shoot a bullseye with a bow and arrow, dresses up in chain mail and helm like a boy, and in general is an awesome tomboy. I’m seriously considering naming any daughter of mine Arya, in the hopes that she will be like her namesake.
That’s the Starks. Meet the Lannisters! The Queen (AKA Sarah Connor) is a Lannister, and she has two brothers, Jamie and Tyrion. Jamie is a strapping Aryan duder who’s way too pretty to be trusted; Tyron is blond as well, but a little person. And here, BTW, is how you know how fucking good this show is — they got the most talented of all little people, Peter Dinklage, to play the role. It probably wasn’t too hard to seal the deal — Tyrion is a sly, womanizing, crafty jewel of a character, a role any actor of any size would die to play. But there is no one else alive who could do the job as well, and thus it is deeply satisfying to see him playing the part.
The Lannisters are the kingdom’s major power players, having been influential in overthrowing the previous king and totally into the whole power-struggle thing — however, that previous king’s heirs? Still around. Meet the Targaryens!, a brother and sister team living in exile in a city by the ocean. The brother, Viserys (AKA “SuperCreep” and played by Harry Lloyd, who is very good at being super-creepy) considers himself to be the rightful king, very much wants his throne back and has thus hatched a plan whereby he’ll marry his younger sister off to the ruler of a tribe of savages, and use their military strength to retake his kingdom. Daenerys, the sister in question, is less than thrilled, what with being like thirteen — but she’s not given much choice in the matter.
So then it’s a wedding night with this guy!
It’s pretty rape-y, not gonna lie. However, she does get dragon eggs out of the deal (as a wedding present) — dragons are long extinct in Crazy Fantasy Land, exposition tells us, but the eggs are still very pretty.
And then we go back to hanging with the Starks, because Sean Bean’s 10-year-old son Bran is about to get into some trouble– Okay, Frank, I’m sorry to do this to you, but I’m gonna stop here. Why? Because right now I’m in an interesting position where I have already know the story of the first book in the Song of Fire and Ice or whatever I always blank on the actual title of this series of books, and if the first season of this show actually matches with the first book’s plotline, HOLY SHIT are we in for a ride. And this plot point I was just about to divulge? That was the moment which officially hooked me on the story when I was first enjoying it. That moment — which concludes the episode — is when shit gets real.
So just this once, Frank, I’m going to deny you knowledge so that you’re forced to check out Game of Thrones on your own. If you watch the first episode and you’re not a fan, then I will totally LTFWHI the first season once it’s all done so you can be fully informed. In the meantime, you have homework.
But a warning in advance, Frank — you have a sister, just like I have a brother, and we both have no trouble with the concept that that SIBLINGS ARE NOT FOR FUCKING. However, it’s a lesson some of the folks in Game of Thrones have to learn the hard way. And they do not learn it particularly well.