Television Series DVD
Game of Thrones: The Complete First Season
Distributed By: HBO
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
Some time ago, having just finished reading A Game of Thrones, the first book in A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin, I was offered the HBO channel for free for a weekend. I decided to check out the first two episodes of the television series based on the book series and was instantly amazed. I decided I wanted to see more of the first season of Game of Thrones and asked for the Game of Thrones: The Complete First Season DVD for Christmas.
It all begins in the north country, where the climate is cold and the mysteries of the wood are guarded by the men of the Wall. It is here that we get our first glimpse of White Walkers, undead beings roaming the woods, believed long gone, but still very much a presence in the wild. It is also here that we are first introduced to the Stark family of Winterfell as Ned Stark (Sean Bean) carries out the death sentence to a Ranger who has deserted his men after seeing a White Walker attack.
Shortly after performing his duties and explaining why he had to be the one who performed such a dirty task, Ned and his family come across a dead Dire Wolf and her very much alive pups. The Stark family sigil is the Dire Wolf, as Jon Snow (Kit Harrington), Ned's illegitimate son points out, and there is a pup for each of Ned's children, including himself. It is a sign, possibly of hard days to come...so hard that a Dire Wolf may be a man's only trusted ally.
When Ned receives word that the King of the Seven Kingdoms, Robert Baratheon (Mark Addy) is coming to Winterfell, the news comes with mixed feelings. Ned had long treasured his friendship with Robert and fought beside him in battles against the "Mad King" in an effort to save the Seven Kingdoms. He helped place Robert on the throne and, had his sister not died, would have been Robert's brother-in-law. But Ned knows the only reason Robert would come to Winterfell is to offer him a position in his kingdom that Ned doesn't want - that of the Hand of the King. Not to mention that the last King's Hand died under mysterious circumstances...some say murder.
It is with great misgivings that Ned accepts the position and the request to move to King's Landing, especially after his son Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) nearly dies during the King's visit. It is believed he may have been pushed. Ned leaves his oldest son, Robb (Richard Madden), his wife Catelyn (Michelle Fairley) and his two youngest sons Bran and Rickon (Art Parkinson) at Winterfell while he travels south with his daughters Arya (Maisie Williams) and Sansa (Sophie Turner). Sansa is promised the hand of the King's son Joffrey (Jack Gleeson), and is therefore excited to be on the journey, but Arya has great misgivings about leaving Winterfell. Meanwhile, Jon Snow decides to join the defenders of the Wall.
The going is hard in King's Landing - not because of monetary reasons or harshness of climate. Instead, the hardships at King's Landing come from an inability to know who can be trusted. Robert's own wife, Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) is never above suspicion, nor is her brother Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), her most staunch supporter and something more as well. Even her youngest brother Tyrion (Peter Dinklage), a dwarf with a thirst for knowledge, wine and women, is not above suspicion. And there are others...close councilors to the King with more than the King's welfare on their minds.
As Ned digs deeper into the death of Robert's last Hand, he discovers truths that put his life and the lives of his children in danger. And that's not the worst of it - across the sea, descendents of the original Seven Kingdoms rulers are uniting with the nomadic warrior tribe known as the Dothraki in hopes of taking back the crown. Once a meek follower, Daenerys Targaryon (Emilia Clarke) has emerged as a leader of men...and, it would appear, a resurgence of dragons.
With plots hatching within the realm and without, all set on one thing - taking over the kingdom - how can Ned hope to save his own life, let alone the lives of his family members? As Cersei put it best, "When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground."
I was astounded at how well the creators of the show kept to the book upon which the series is based. In watching this series, I was actually watching scenes I envisioned in my mind's eye while reading come to life. The costumes were amazing, the sets spot on from what I had imagined. The actors were well chosen for their roles and believable in their performances. I have never seen a television series or film more faithful to the original work it is based on than Game of Thrones.
It not only holds true to the author's story in visual aspects, but also in storyline, keeping to the plot twists and betrayals that George R.R. Martin created in his novel. So often, television series based on novels stray from the path, creating a show that the powers that be believe will be more entertaining to the view than the actual book. Thank goodness, the powers that be didn't decide to do that while making Game of Thrones...well, with the exception of extra nudity and sex scenes which appear to be thrown in there for ratings sake.
Perhaps my only complaint about the Game of Thrones: The Complete First Season DVD set was the packaging. Rather cumbersome, the set has a paper slipcover that must be removed, then the heavy cardboard covering, before you can access the discs. And even then, you must open the booklet to both sides before accessing specific discs.
Packaging aside, I did enjoy the extras which included a number of featurettes about the show's creation. Making Game of Thrones discusses the various aspects that went into the making of this series and includes interviews with cast and crew regarding the concept of bringing a book to screen, the set production, costumes, casting, special effects, music and more. Creating the Show Open is an awesome look at how that incredible computer generated title sequence featuring the kingdoms of Game of Thrones created from gears and machine parts. From the Book to the Screen delves more into the challenge of bringing the epic novels to HBO. The Night's Watch takes a look at the order of men sworn to protect the kingdoms from what lurks behind the Wall. Creating the Dothraki Language is an interesting featurette about the creation of the language spoken by the Dothraki tribe. Who knew that a language expert had been brought in to create a whole new language just so it would look and sound authentic when spoken by the actors? Wow! Also included in the DVD set are commentaries, a Complete Guide to Westeros and Character Profiles.
While I did enjoy reading the book more, I found Game of Thrones: Season One to be incredibly faithful to the novel, a fact that is refreshing considering all the bits and changes usually made to enhance things that only seem to rub true fans of the work the wrong way. Fans of George R.R. Martin should definitely check out this series, if only to see their imaginations brought to life!