“What Do We Say To Death?”

Maisie Williams as ‘Arya Stark’ in “Game of Thrones” (season one)To celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee this week, I’ve been working my way through the first season boxset of Game of Thrones… a timely reminder of how exactly royals get to be “royal” in the first place: Arranged marriages, inbreeding,  and a bit of the old ultra-violence. Fair warms the cockles of your heart, don’t it?

For those who don’t know, this blood-and-boobs-filled HBO series is adapted from a series of medieval-fantasy novels, written by George R. R. Martin, following the fortunes of several highborn, feuding families (or “houses”), from the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. And that’s pretty much all I can write about that, since summarising the many twists and turns, betrayals and bonds that occur over the course of these plot-packed ten episodes would take from now until next winter!

Back when Camelot was airing over here, I kept seeing people sneering online that it was just a poor man’s GoT… and while I still think the former deserved a second season, I can at least understand where those sneers were coming from now. GoT isn’t perfect by any means, but it is an incredibly impressive achievement, and a mightily entertaining televisual “page-turner” all the same. First of all, I have to say how much I love that title, because it perfectly encapsulates how precarious a perch the iron throne can be. Like a game of musical chairs, there’s no point getting too comfy, because soon enough someone else’s anthem will start playing, and your arse will hit the ground with a bump! One of the show’s major strengths is that nothing is ever as black-and-white or clear-cut as more romantic, simple-minded souls like myself might prefer it to be… and this is particularly apparent when it comes to the dubious honour of wearing a crown that everyone else covets, while your closest advisors secretly conspire around you, spinning wheels within wheels to cover their own backs.

Emilia Clarke as ‘Daenerys "Dany" Targaryen’ in “Game of Thrones” (season one)Another quality that sets this show apart from the more simplistic Camelot, is the epic, continent-spanning scale of it all. I’m sure the long-simmering tensions between House Stark and House Lannister would have provided more than enough fodder for a pretty great story by themselves, but on top of that you have the threat of invasion from the North by legendary supernatural creatures known as “White Walkers”, and the nascent resurrection of House Targaryen across the Narrow Sea. So there’s always something juicy going on somewhere, to keep your attention focussed on the screen. And there are so many colourful and sympathetic characters in every faction, that it’s difficult to really pick a side in the conflict… not that anyone is ever likely to score a decisive “win”, of course…

All the same, it’s pretty easy for me to pick my favourite characters… and so far my allegiance to them hasn’t wavered at all since the moment they first appeared on screen! On the male side of things, it has to be the crafty, deadpan dwarf ‘Tyrion Lannister’, played by Peter Dinklage. I’ve been a fan of his ever since I saw Living in Oblivion back in my student days, so it’s great to see him scoring a headlining credit here, and absolutely rocking this role. Even if his “RP” accent does wobble a little from time to time, the quality of his Emmy-tastic performance never does! There isn’t really anyone else who comes close to him in my eyes… although I’ll admit to a grudging attachment to ‘Lord Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish’ (Aidan Gillen), Master of Coin (and lord of the brothels!), and the “Kingslayer” ‘Ser Jaime Lannister’ (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). I wouldn’t want either one of them as a frenemy, of course, but they do make for fun antagonists… and I admire the way that Jaime continues to be just as smug and acerbic when he’s losing as he is when he’s winning! Shows consistency, if nothing else…

Lena Headey as ‘Queen Cersei Lannister’ in “Game of Thrones” (season one)On the female side of things, my first pick would have to be ‘Arya Stark’, played by Maisie Williams. I’ll always have a soft-spot for tomboys, so I was on her side from the very moment she skipped out of her needlepoint practice to shoot a bull’s-eye with her bow, and embarrass her brother. I also appreciate how supportive her family were of her adventurous ways, gifting her with a size-appropriate sword, and arranging proper fencing lessons for her. Bless ‘em. Of course, I know she’ll probably have to make some uncomfortable compromises along the way, and no one is this cast is ever really “safe” as such, but for now she’s the closest thing the series has to a pure-hearted heroine, so I’m glad of any opportunity to cheer her on. Fun fact: Williams is right-handed, but decided on her own initiative to fight left-handed, to match the character in the books. Dedication! Coming a pretty close second would be ‘Daenerys “Dany” Targaryen’ (Emilia Clarke), who survived a truly gruelling “baptism of fire” (pun!) to become one of the strongest, and most (potentially) powerful women in their world. Also, the prettiest. I can’t say I have much sympathy for ‘Queen Cersei Lannister’, but I do enjoy the way that Lena Headey plays her, with a sort of distant, curious disdain for everyone around her. It was a little disconcerting to hear the actress swearing like a docker on the commentary track though, dropping an F-bomb every f*cking time she opened her dainty f*cking gob! There were also a number of uncommonly attractive and outspoken prostitutes sprinkled through the kingdom, stealing scenes in saucy supporting roles, while romping around in their nameday suits… but I’d gladly trade them all for one crazy-eyed cameo by Eva Green!

About Dee CrowSeer

A comic book writer with an interest in feminism, philosophy, and affirmative action. He/him.
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6 Responses to “What Do We Say To Death?”

  1. Smash says:

    I just finished the first season of this show and I immediately had to swing over here and dig up some of your posts, because I knew you’d have some interesting thoughts to share.
    That first season, it really was heart-wrenching! Cersei steals the screen every time she’s on it, and I love to loathe her, but I agree with you that rooting for the tomboy will be a lot of fun as the series progresses. I was very distraught when Ned died though… I wasn’t ready for that at all and it caused such an enormous emotional reaction. That’s what I like best in this show, it really gets you riled up!

    • deecrowseer says:

      I’m glad you were able to go into the first season spoiler-free… because it really looked like Ned was going to be the main character of the series (or him and the Stark family unit, at least), especially with that grossly misleading cover photo of him all cosy on the Iron Throne… so the way he’s killed off is properly shocking.

      But it also lets viewers know that this isn’t a typical TV series, where there’s a main cast who’ll keep surviving near-death scrapes because their contracts say they will, even if the viewers are bored of them already… here, if a major character died in the book, they’ll die in the series too… and not always in the season finale! It could be anytime, anywhere! That’s what makes it so surprising and exciting to watch… because, as you say, it really gets you riled up, and keeps you on your toes as a viewer.

      As for Arya, no spoilers, but her story is still just as compelling as ever, and Williams continues to rock the tomboy role, bless her.

      Oh, and have you seen the super-adorable video where they reimagine the first season as a 16-Bit computer game? Check it out!

      • Smash says:

        Yeah, the only real spoilers I got were that the series will shock at times, so I went into it very fresh. And even though it broke my heart, I do appreciate bold storytelling that isn’t afraid to risk upsetting its viewers.

        Those damn Lannisters… I can’t wait until they get theirs, especially Joffrey. Someone that vile will eventually have to face his karma. I’m excited to start season two, but also a little more wary about falling in love with the new characters…

        • deecrowseer says:

          Well, now you’re just trying to bait spoilers out of me! :)

          But since Martin hasn’t finished writing all the novels yet, no one can say for sure who will live to see the final end credits roll, or what state they’ll be in when they do! I have my fingers crossed for Arya and Dany tho… bless ’em. They’ve both been through so much, they deserve a happy ending… if such a thing even exists in Westoros.

          • Smash says:

            Well let’s both hope so with all our hearts that at least one of the characters that we love comes out of this alright in the end. Martin can’t be that cruel, can he?

            • deecrowseer says:

              We may have to organise a campaign of subliminal-suggestion-type mind trickery to make him feel overwhelming nausea every time he even *thinks* about killing off our fave characters!

              (I’d drop a reference to the Christian Slater show “Mind Games”, but I’m not sure anyone else actually saw that…)

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