November 21, 2018
‘Shame, shame, shame’: Why I Finally Started Watching Game of Thrones and Why You Should Too
You know that face you make when you casually drop a globally well-known pop-culture reference to someone and they just go, “I’ve never seen Star Wars” or “what’s a Bat...man” or even “Beyoncé made a video game called Halo?” And you sit there in complete and utter befuddlement, because somehow someway this person has traveled through space and time and not once did they intersect with any of these cultural-defining moments.
Well, I’d like to tell you this is the story of how I was the person left in befuddlement. But no, this is the story of how it took me six “YOU’VE-NEVER-SEEN-GAME-OF-THRONES?!” years to finally watch the show that has become one of the most well-known fictional universes on the planet.
Some answers to your questions right off the bat: I like magic. I like fantasy. I like dragons. I like big action set-pieces. I like twisty-turn plots, and I like stories about honor, legacies and “the family name.”
I’ve just been busy.
For 6 years?! It’s true! And after every season I planned to catch up, but just never got around to it. Not until our resident Senior TV Editor became the latest person to drop a reference that went over my head before shaking her head and basically yelling, "shame, shame, shame" in the middle of a meeting.
My editor added this and I don't get it...yet.
It was with this backstory in mind that I finally agreed to watch (and document) my foray into Game of Thrones for the bemusement of the general public, my coworkers, my friends and family, and start to catch up the premiere of its final season in April of 2019.
And this is "what happened next..." - spoilers for season one ahead, but I'll wait while you go marathon it real quick if you want.
So, right off the bat, I’m already impressed by the production value.
Mostly because it feels like I’m watching the first movie in a franchise that is the all-eggs-in-this-basket priority for the studio, but also because the show has aged incredibly well. This episode aired a full seven years ago and it still looks beautiful. With my surround sound headphones turned up as loud as I can stand, this already feels special.
The other thing I’m also intrigued about is the establishment of some pretty dark world-building rules right out of the gate — children aren’t safe. It's a small, but important detail to call out because most shows put their characters in “danger” every week only to see them rescued by the time the credits roll. From an early death of a child-aged Wildling to the unknown fate of one of the main cast's children, this doesn't seem to be one of those shows.
This one I got but I don't appreciate it.
I'm also really enjoying how the show is taking great care to push character development over lore. Sure, I’m soaking up a lot about lords, kings, royal power dynamics and knights, but it's in the periphery. No one is stopping the entire narrative to break down how things are done for the benefit of the audience. I dig it. Sit up straight and pay attention, and the rest will come in time.
And perhaps the biggest selling point to me personally is I really thought there was going to be a lot more overt supernatural elements at play. So far they’re only hinted at, which tells me that when these characters are finally confronted with such things, it’ll be just as out there to me, the viewer, as it will be to them. Cool.
Talk about lit
My favorite storyline so far is the one following Daenerys (Emilia Clarke). Having NOT lived under a rock for the past seven years, I know that at some point she's supposed becomes a boss. So, I’ve been very curious to see how that story of ascension would play out and so far, it's been a lot of fun watching the gears turn in her head. Sold as property to Khal Drago (Jason Momoa) in the series premiere, she’s beginning not only to acclimate to her surroundings but to take command of them. There have also been a few moments where they’ve teased that she seems to have a resistant to various forms of heat. Subtle inclinations to otherworldly payoffs down the line, perhaps?
And really, to take a step back, this show very clearly has big plans for its female cast. I don’t recall if this has been a topic of conversation that has persisted throughout the years that the show has already widely been known for, but I’m also having a lot of fun watching Arya (Maisie Williams) and her bladed companion "Needle" becoming fast friends. These scenes feel like they're setting up an awesome moment where all this training culminates in a very character-defining clash for Arya somewhere down the line, and I’m locked and loaded for that moment.
Hold me closer, tiny water dancer
At this point, I have a much stronger understanding of the narrative gravity of the "The Wall". Jon Snow (Kit Harrington), whose reputation from a first-time watcher's perspective preceded him, is masterfully used to introduce the audience to the world of Westeros. A world that has been around for so long, that it can no longer remember why their ancestors put certain things like The Wall into place to protect them. Not only that but the soldiers that guard The Wall are essentially just a collection of societal outcasts — to potentially be lead at some point down the line by Jon Snow himself. I’m getting Spartacus and Maximus vibes here.
Here's hoping he bucks up in the future seasons...
I’ve been a fan of Peter Dinklage since The Station Agent (#deepcut) and he’s popped up here and there in roles that he always executes flawlessly. But he’s been on an elite list of actors that I’ve always believed the industry didn't quite know how to unleash. This episode is the moment that I’d been waiting for (and that has sadly been available this whole time).
Some of the most memorable scenes on TV and in cinema involve a character masterfully manipulating the world around them. And only Tyrian as portrayed by Peter Dinklage is making it look effortless. Not only does he manage to not lift a finger to defend himself in a very contentious episode, and manage to continue to highlight just how far the Lannister's wealth reaches, but he has somehow managed to earn my sympathy. He clearly wants to just live and let live but is somehow being caught up in his brother and sister's web of deceit.
Look at these two chillin'
With only a few episodes left in season one, we find Lord Ned Stark (Sean Bean) imprisoned, his wife now without her leverage and both his daughters in mortal danger with Ned now branded a traitor. It's his oldest son Robb Stark (Richard Madden), then, that the burden of avenging the family has fallen upon.
Based on an invite from Queen Cersei Lannister (Lena Heady) written by his sister Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner), he mobilizes all of Winterfell’s army to rescue his father and his sisters and reunite the family against the Lannisters.
This is a really cool character moment because he’s been taking jabs all season from people about him being young, being green, and not really being up to any sort of task for a man. Not out of his inability to do so, but mostly out of this idea that he’s always lived in a world of peace. He’s never had to stand up to defend his family name. And now that the call to action is before him, he’s taking the necessary steps to do so.
Can't say I blame him
Moments like this are underscoring just how much palpable momentum the show has achieved in only eight episodes. It’s become a show where a single event, a child witnessing the transgressions of adults, has spiraled into a world that might have otherwise played out with minimal bloodshed. And now, we’ve come to a place where the seven kingdoms must go to war. After seeing dozens of movies in the past few years where characters are on a collision course with war, Game of Thrones is a refreshing perspective on when there's no other choice but war.
What makes a good show great, is its ability to leave you with no idea of what’s coming next. But that whatever that is, feels inevitable. The death of Ned Stark is what makes Game of Thrones a great show.
He's gone to the great Keep in the sky
I’ve never read the books, so I had no idea this was coming (outside of the decade's theory that Sean Bean must die in everything). I’ve inferred from a variety of friends, family, and coworkers and everyone on earth who has been watching the show that no one is safe. What’s amazing narratively about his death, is that there’s no negotiation between the impending war that will bring about peace now. Blood must be spilled until there is clearly a winner and a loser. It also solidifies Cersai as a force not to be reckoned with. She knows that the women of this world only have so much power, but her practically installing her son allows her to be a puppet master now to the seven kingdoms. All of the Starks are now seemingly at the mercy of fate.
This episode also introduces the supernatural aspects. Once dead soldiers are now alive again, and with haunting blue eyes. As I’d hoped, this is practically madness to all parties who bore witness. But based on the lore from the world, this has been seen before thousands of years ago and is a part of a prophecy. Again, more great foreshadowing peppered in and around the characters dealing with more immediate and pressing issues.
My favorite storyline of the show has finished its first chapter, Daenerys walked into a fire ritual to lay beside her fallen Khal and awoke with three baby dragons. Robb Stark was proclaimed the true King of the north, by the men he's fighting side by side with in battle. And King Joffrey (Jack Gleeson), now king of the seven kingdoms, his overconfident swagger grows by the nanosecond.
This just got real, y'all
Wherever this show goes next, it has an incredible foundation to build upon and whose character journeys after only ten episodes will be a treat to see characters finally sharing screentime together.
I am genuinely and pleasantly surprised to be as hooked into this show as I am now. And if you’ve been on the fence, there are some truly well-thought-out details in the show that are small but powerful.
I’m really looking forward to catching up with the rest of the seasons and to finally see what schemes these characters think up next, and of course, who survives to season 3.
Join me on my trip to the wonderful and awful Westeros! You can watch all seasons of Game of Thrones on HBO with DIRECTV and catch an all-day marathon on HBO2 this Saturday (11/24) - even if you're not a subscriber you can watch it live!