At the moment I’m clocking three simultaneous TV shows that are currently being broadcast. That may be a lifetime record, as I hate TV. Number one and two are comedy shows, the excellent Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle and the brilliant South Park, now in its 15th season. The third show, and the topic of this blog, is Game of Thrones, a super-hyped cross between Lord of the Rings and [insert long-running TV show that you like].
Forever the sceptic, I dismissed most of the Twitter brigade when the show first came out in the States, but finally caved in to curiosity just after the fifth episode was broadcast. Now those who know me will be aware of my distaste for fantasy and its illogical nonsense. I don’t even like LOTR very much. It annoys me with its lack of relatable content.
So step forward Game of Thrones, a TV show that doesn’t feature Orcs or Trolls. It’s a programme that’s light on the supernatural and heavy on the super natural. Lengthy political dialogues and complex interweaving storylines make up the bulk of the plot, with stylish flourishes of fighting and grandiose environments simply enhancing those moments, as they are contrasted with the generally mundane regular scenes. Mundanity doesn’t mean boredom though, and it is clear that GOT is in it for the long haul, perhaps in a similar fashion to The Wire. It’s believable; realistic within the context of its own world.
The show is based on an as-yet uncompleted series of books, denoting that the story is paramount to the whole thing. The narrative comes first, and the features and language of the medium follow. When you create a piece of art, a TV show, with the format in mind and not the story, you end up with things like 24 or CSI, where the form dictates the content. GOT is blessed in the sense that the story does not buckle to the formula – climaxes of each episodes that must end with a cliff hanger, or accessible, exposition-drenched episodes for newcomers to the series to dip in and out of. There’s no ‘previously, on Game of Thrones’. Well, actually there is, but it’s the type of show that shouldn’t.
The parallels to real life are the clincher for me. I simply cannot grasp Middle Earth. It doesn’t make any sense to me. It’s entirely removed from reality and I subsequently cannot relate to the characters, the story or the setting. GOT is quite obviously set in ancient Britain, sometime after the Romans left but before the Tudor monarchy. Fables of dragons and exotic myths remain, though are (as yet) unsubstantiated, much as they were at the time. Races are not the silly child-like Dwarves or Hobbits, nor are there wizards or elves; rather there are Targarians and Dothraki, basically ethnic human groupings.
The land mass of the more tanned, tribal beings is akin to Europe. Menial things happen, not just Earth-shattering events, and the biggest fears are intra-kingdom wars and overseas coups, not evil omnipotent magical spirits that want to take over the world and kill people and shit (yet). The bad guys have motives and are not just inherently evil. Every character has their own set of goals, desires, histories and social standings, but most importantly, they are all flawed in some way; they are human.
It’s good in the same way 300 or Gladiator are good. It’s a warped version of essentially historical things, with artistic storytelling flourishes to excite and entertain, with a mild distorting of reality the penalty. The plot and characters would remain strong even in another setting, much like Battlestar Galactica would if you took it out of sci-fi. Maybe I’ll change my mind by the third series, once the paranormal and the dragons are all over the place, wreaking havoc on my ill-placed dreams of semi-believable fantasy. There is definitely still room for dragons though.
Also, whoever the casting director is, they have incredible taste in actors. Especially the sexy girls, who are naked for a nice amount of screen time. Don’t worry ladies, it’s not all macho-sex-lads-stuff: not only has it got Sean Bean in it, but you also get to see various scantily-clad hunks all the time and the occasional cock ‘n’ ball.
It’s great. Watch it.