LAST YEAR, in urgent need of a new show to devour, my wife, Stephanie, and I decided to make a go of Game of Thrones. We watched the pilot, and although we found it well made, it didn’t really pull us in. But we were desperate—we were coming off the first season of Homeland, and we needed a new TV opiate of similar sublimity—so we decided to keep watching, in the hope that we’d get swept away in George R. R. Martin’s world of faux-medieval dungeons and dragons and swordplay and incest. Ten minutes into Episode Two, we threw in the tunic.
Fast forward to this weekend. Again desperate for a new show, and on the recommendation of “The Sports Guy” Bill Simmons—who, like us, had shunned the program for a long time—we decided to give Game of Thrones one more try. This time, I’m pleased to report, we made it to the end of the second episode. But that’s as far as we’ll go. As the credits rolled, we looked at each other and uttered the same single word: “Eh.”
Stephanie’s post on the world’s foremost forum for artistic criticism (Facebook) summed it up nicely: “We just can’t do it. It’s our third time trying to get through an episode. Why invest? Lots of unfair and violent things happening to blathering, long-winded people with English accents who desperately need to wash their hair.” Indeed, theirs is a world in dire need of levity, color, moral goodness, and Garnier Fructis.
For the purposes of posterity (insofar as that concept exists in cyberspace), I’m sharing my impressions of the first two episodes. I’m going to rely completely on my memory here, and not use my usual writerly trick of using IMDB to look up the names of the characters so I appear smarter than I actually am.
Note: there may be spoilers, but not very many.
HBO just kills these things: The Sopranos, The Wire, True Blood, and now this. The game, the gears, the art design, the music: wow. Would that the actual show were this cool.
Our hero, imbued with noble bearing and the greasiest hair in Christendom. Not in any way related to Tony Stark, alas, although I suppose you could call a seasoned warrior who swings a mean broadsword “Iron Man.” Pretty sure Sean Bean was one of the kings in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I’m not a big fan of hobbits, either, but at least Tolkien knew better than to saddle his protagonist with a pedestrian name like Ned (Stephanie: “That name exists so Dr. Seuss can rhyme it with ‘bed’.”).
Keepers of the Night Watch
A band of celibate sentinels who dress all in black and guard a big wall at the edge of the northern border from possibly mythological creatures from even further north. Which means Santa Claus and his elves have no truck with the Stark children.
King of the Bleached Blonde Bad Guys
Didn’t catch his name, but he’s the most loathsome character on the show, which is saying something, because these people are all horrible. That said, I’m still not entirely convinced this is not Andy Samberg with an albino wig filming a protracted SNL Digital Short. I keep expecting Justin Timberlake to appear on a black steed, crooning, “I’m on a horse, muthafucka!”
Brother-sister love is to Game of Thrones as BDSM is to 50 Shades of Grey. On the side we’re supposed to root for, the queen is fucking her brother, whereas in the Land of the Bleached Blonde Bad Guys, the king is fucking his sister. Hey, you can’t accuse the show of not being morally ambiguous. I wonder if George R. R. Martin holds his family reunions at Plato’s Retreat.
Dogged instruments of deus ex machina…or deus ex canine, as it were; just when one of the characters is about to get it, woof, these handsome creatures appear to save the day. More attractive and more interesting than any of the humans on the show. The Starks do not require the services of Cesar Milan in chain mail.
Ned’s Younger Daughter
She takes after her old man: she’s feisty and she likes to fight. She’s basically Merida from Brave except that she doesn’t pay an old witch to turn her mother into a bear, and I can understand her when she speaks.
The petulant heir to the throne. Not his actual name, obviously, but the same hair color, the same haircut, the same condescension, the same lack of even a shred of goodness as the one-dimensional J.K. Rowling creation. Now that I’m thinking about it, Game of Thrones is like Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings played out in a D&D module. (Stephanie: “He sort of looks like a cute Lesbian.” She said the same thing about Justin Bieber).
Pretty sure this is his name. It might be Bram, or Dram, or possibly Flan. He’s the wide-eyed little kid the queen’s incestuous brother pushes out of the window at the end of the first episode, to preserve the secret of their disgusting affair. Fie, HBO. There’s nothing more emotionally manipulative than the defenestration of a small child.
This is the tribe of muscle-bound warriors with weird facial hair whose silent king marries the sister of the King of the Bleached Blonde Bad Guys. I can’t watch this Dothraki king without being very aware that he’s an actor, and in real life, is probably in a West Hollywood Whole Foods right now, grooving to Kings of Leon on his iPod, buying fresh avocados and cilantro. (I have the same problem when I try to watch the old episodes of Star Trek). How do these guys say their lines without giggling?
Sir Richard Carlyle
That’s his name on Downton Abbey, where he plays the rich newsman Mary almost married. Here, he’s the bearded ambassador to the Dothraki (which involves eating a lot of horse meat) and the trusted advisor of the King of the Bleached Blonde Bad Guys (which involves putting up with a lot of horse shit). A mortal lock to be dead before the end of the first season.
Bleached Blonde Queen of the Dothraki
She looks like she wandered onto the Game of Thrones lot by mistake from next door, where they’re shooting Girls. And her ladies-in-waiting are even more anachronistic. Was there Skinemax in medieval times?
George W. Bush
Apparently his severed head was used as a prop. I’m sort of curious to see if I can pick that out, like looking for the dwarf who hung himself on the set of Wizard of Oz, but I can probably just YouTube it and save myself the time.
Not sure if I got the name right. A man both great and small, Lassiter is the best character on the show, played to the hilt by the astonishingly talented Peter Dinklage. Bill Simmons calls him one of the ten best TV show characters of all time, and he may well be right, but I’ll never know.
Conclusion: If I’m going to spend an hour a week watching a show about the heartless machinations of a privileged but talentless family driven by greed, cruelty, money, sex, and fame, I’ll stick with the Kardashians.