If I had any fears that A Game of Thrones on HBO wasn’t going to be faithful to the books, consider them quashed. Tonight’s premiere, Winter is Coming, was masterfully done and as far as I could tell nothing was left out. There were a couple of things that were added in, but they didn’t detract from the flow of the story.
As I said in my review of the preview, the scene with the White Walkers at the beginning was very creepy, something I didn’t even experience during my reading of the book. Everything about the episode was very well done, from wardrobe to the acting to the music and scenery.
The Wall looked ominous as ever, even though you don’t get to see much of it, and ‘Winterfell’ was exactly how it should appear. ‘King’s Landing’ was only shown briefly but from what I saw of it I have no complaints.
So many scenes were a welcome sight after wondering what they would look like on screen. It actually made me smile seeing Bran Stark climbing the castle walls and jumping across the battlements after always imagining it while reading the books. Seeing Sandor Clegane in his hound armor, and the Dothraki wedding are other scenes that first come to mind when thinking of the books.
One half of the story takes place in ‘Westeros’ at the Northern Kingdom of Winterfell, where Lord Eddard – Ned Stark (Sean Bean) rules with his family. We are first introduced to them all before it is announced that the King – Robert Baratheon (Mark Addy) is coming to Winterfell. Ned already knows why, since they have just heard that his good friend and current ‘King’s Hand’ Jon Arryn has died. Robert wants Ned to be the next ‘King’s Hand’ since they are also best friends.
Coming with Robert are his Queen Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) and her brothers Jaime and Tyrion. Jaime is a member of the King’s Guard, and Tyrion is a bit of a drinker and whoring man. Both are played to perfection by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Peter Dinklage. The Lannisters, like the Starks are a mainstay of the whole story, so don’t expect to not see them throughout the series.
The other part of the story takes place across the narrow sea, where the last surviving children of Westeros’s previous ruling family, the Targaryens, plot their return to power. I should say it’s mostly the brother Viserys who is most anxious for the throne, when his sister Daenerys simply wants to return home whether there is a throne or not. Harry Lloyd plays Viserys at his crazy best, who is only out to use anyone and everyone to become the next ruler of Westeros, which he feels he is entitled to. He is even willing to sacrifice his own sister to gain power, and says as much at one point in the episode.
As you may or may not learn in the coming episodes, the last Targaryen King was quite mad, which was one of the main reasons Baratheon, the Lannisters and Ned Stark moved to take him out of power. As the story goes on you will see the same madness ever increasing in Viserys. This is most likely due to the Targaryen habit of inbreeding with their own blood.
So as not to spoil anyone who has yet to watch the first episode, I will say that there is a start to the political machinations that will dominate the series. The Starks are brought word of another possible cause of death for the previous ‘King’s Hand’, and one of the Stark children has quite an “accident”. The next episode will really get things going as mysteries abound and suspicions arise in the little land called Westeros.
I recommend the series very highly for any fans of the books, but especially for those who haven’t read the books. There are so many shocking twists and turns in this series that those who haven’t been spoiled by the books like me, will be affected more profoundly than I could ever hope to be at this point.
The brilliant acting and aesthetics of the whole episode prompted me to give it 5 out 5 Bears. If they keep this up then there is no reason why the series can’t become the best show on HBO, if not television. It was everything I expected an more. I can’t wait to see more Tyrion and more Arya in the coming episodes! (Obviously my two favorite characters after Jon Snow.)