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Seamus Coogan
06-20-2012, 03:49 PM
Game of Thrones: A new ‘I Claudius’ for the 21st Century?

“The common people pray for rain, healthy children, and a summer that never ends. It is no matter to them if the high lords play their game of thrones, so long as they are left in peace…They never are.”

So said Ser Jorah Mormont to exiled Princess Daenery’s Targeryan. The daughter of a cruel despotic madmen Aerys II, murdered by his bodyguard in a popular uprising against his family. Daenery’s was under the deluded notion the locals back home awaited her return with open arms. This line my fave, effectively sums up the theme for the upcoming conflicts in the story.

The Game of Thrones TV show on HBO takes its name from the first book of the series ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’. The programme is not as good as the books (shows and films very rarely are with the exception of say 'Fight Club'). But it gives a fair swipe at it. Part of the reason for its success, is that the dialogue matches the books insights most of the time. It’s a heady mixture of intelligence, lewdness, sensitivity, anger and wit in much the same way ‘Robert Graves’ brilliant ‘I Claudius’ was bought to life all those years ago. Yes, I think Game of Thrones is on that level in some ways (but not all). However, while I Claudius was regarded as rather salacious and scandalous at the time. It pales in comparison with GOT and other modern day television shows in terms of lewdity. It’s these base over indulgences which still lend me to favour the BBC adaptation of Claudius, as one of the best politically based shows of all time. Nonetheless, GOT’s is compelling enough to watch and too even make comparisons with the former. Indeed, the reason why I enjoy GOT’s has more to do with how pleasantly surprised I am enjoying something, I thought would be woeful and horrific!

Background and Influences

For those of you on the forum who are not yet versed in the books or show, here's a little background. George RR Martins continent of Westeros is based more or less on the British Isles. While the central story that unfolds ‘The War of the 5 Kings’ is essentially a take on the English ‘War of the Roses’ and what appears to be ‘Ivanhoe’. It is a tale of how a kingdom realigns itself after the overthrow of the cruel despot Aerys Targeryan II, aka the ‘Mad King’ which ended the 300 year rule of his family as overlords of the kingdom. Where GOT departs from I Claudius, is in its sheer scope and scale. Claudius (Derek Jacoby) focussed on the fortunes of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, from the perspective of the aged Emperor himself and contained many comedic elements. GOT retains some comedy, but becomes more like Dune with its numerous competing dynasties. What makes GOT compelling as a book, and different from Frank Herberts vision, is that it derives its legend from multiple personal narratives. That being the perspectives of individual ruling families and every now and again the serfs affected by their decisions. There are at least 12 prominent houses in the 7 kingdoms of Westeros, with 6 of them earning the lion’s share of the books and TV show. They are the Starks, Baratheon’s, Lannister’s, Tyrell’s, Greyjoy’s and the exiled Targeryan’s. These families give the reader myriad avenues and opinions to explore or avoid (as we shall in the case of Daenerys Targeryan). Of course the television show cannot replicate this with even a simple narration. However, the acting of the characters representing these houses has been pretty much on the money!

Nice Touches

One of the things I enjoyed about the books, not to mention one of the things I liked about the show. Is that the use of magic and magical powers do not predominate. They also come with limits, for instance magic users are not brave, maverick wizards like in Tolkien’s world. In this reality they are invariably weak, secretive, lecherous and servile. They also expend great amounts of energy to get anything out of an incantation and/or their powers can only be harvested in a certain cycle. This adds a slightly more earthy quality to proceedings and does away with the “My wizard is bigger than yours” type of thing that has plagued many lesser works of fantasy literature. Another key aspect is accents and use of languages. I have no problem with the American accent per se. Indeed there are many pleasant ones. Nonetheless, I’ve never been a fan of its use in fantasy or ancient settings nor in the burgeoning fantasy vid gaming world. While the idea of using modern English is also a stretch, the U.S accent is far too modern and it often takes away from the suspension of disbelief in such settings. As a kid growing up in NZ reading Tolkien and other fantasy writers, I never envisaged any American accent being spoken let alone a Kiwi one. This is why I have the utmost respect for George RR Martin (an American) and the production team for insisting upon English and European accents being the default vocalisations. Indeed they have done superbly. Individuals from the south talk in either a cockney or more gentrified manner. Those from the middle tend to have a ‘brummie’ or midlands accent and those from the North talk as if they have come out of a Yorkshire pub or a Leeds United match with the occasional Scouse, Mancunian, Geordie and Scots dialect thrown in for good measure. Those from more exotic locales tend to have Spanish, French and Eastern European influences.

Another credit to the show has been the acting and the budget. The cast generally speaking are a superb collection of English, Scottish and Irish talent. Jack Gleeson (Joffrey) Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (http://gameofthrones.wikia.com/wiki/Nikolaj_Coster-Waldau) (Jaime Lannister) Cersei Lannister (Lena Heady), Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance), Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley), Bronn (Jerome Flynn) Eddard ‘Ned’ Stark (Sean Bean) and his family, most notably his sons Jon Snow (Kitt Harrington) Rob Stark (Richard Madden) and his youngest daughter Arya Stark (Maisy Williams) all a joy to watch. However, the star of the show is Emmy Award winning American actor Peter Dinklage, who plays the charismatic and rapier witted dwarf Tyrion Lannister. I’ve been a fan of Dinklage ever since I saw him in the wonderful 2005 film ‘The Station Agent’, since then he has played a number of diverse roles. But there is one English actor who has come on like a black sheep on heat. He is the superb Alfie Allen. Son of the talented irritant Keith and brother too musician Lilly, his performance as noble misfit Theon Greyjoy, is one that induces intense sympathy, and hatred. His portrayal of Greyjoy is so good that in the second season he even came close to outshining the superb Dinklage, which really takes some doing. Dinklage’s interactions with Charles Dance, Lena Heady and Jerome Flynn are wonderful. While Allen’s appalling decision making and errant ego make for some of televisions best solo moments in recent memory. The budget of the show has meant that for the most part, it has also avoided the cheap, garish, trashy look predecessor fantasy shows like 'Hercules' and 'Xena Warrior Princess' pioneered and tainted televised fantasy with for a generation. The opening credits, graphics and theme are very nicely done. I can't stop humming the main tune myself.

What Sucks!

Of course any good TV show has its weaknesses. GOT is no exception. Occasionally there are continuity glitches and characters strangely go errant. Sometimes the weapons seem a little too light and fake (Tyrion Lannister’s wielding of a seemingly weightless axe at the Battle of the Black Water is a case in point). Some of the plot deviations from the book also seem a little inane. Arya Stark’s skipping around the ruins of Harrenhal in season two (almost totally unnoticed issuing fatwa’s against her enemies in broad daylight) was a little silly. I’m no prude either, but I have always found sex scenes lame and pointless soft porn filler. I have no idea who finds this sort of thing enticing and it’s here that HBO’s otherwise passable shows like ‘Rome’ and the ‘Tudors’ were cheapened irreparably by the antics of the producers and directors. AMC’s utterly awful ‘The Walking Dead’ doesn’t need gratuitous sex and it achieves massive ratings, as does the brilliant ‘Breaking Bad’. An incidental positive of the show is the lack of non-silicone breasts, the general lack of plastic surgery amongst its cast members not to mention Botox (a very rare thing these days) is a welcome sight. However, its small compensation for borderline materail.

As for the storylines, Daenery’s Targeryan’s one is by far the worst, indeed it’s the weak link in Martins novels as well. It seems as if they have gotten the worst actors, scriptwriters and costume designers and have decided to dump them in the middle of the Gobi desert. The only character worthy of interest in this palava was the offensive prat Viserys Targeryan (Harry Lloyd) the Princesses evil older brother. With his removal out went any edge from that part of the story. Further that, I found it difficult to accept that while Maester Luwin (Donald Sumpter) describes to a young Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) the Dothraki’s use of bows from the age of four. I have yet to see any hint of their use by any Dothraki on screen. Instead they run around with wholly inadequate stupid sickle like blades. Which is pretty ludicrous considering the fact the Dothraki’s are based on Sioux/Cheyenne/Mongols/Scythians. I mean how could this bunch of campy looking, sun bunny’s be feared warriors with unarmoured horses, a lack of spears, decent armour, clothing and no horse archers. The latter of which were a staple of practically all horse based nomadic peoples. To add to their lameness the Dothraki’s on the show look terrible as well. I mean Khal Drogo (played by the quite awful Jason Mamoa) has extremely gay looking eye liner on, not to mention some stylised blue stripes running across his shoulders which makes him look like something from the WWE. The prospect of these sunbaked turnips invading the rugged and cold Westeros, would hardly be a frightening prospect for the inhabitants of Westeros. In the North or the Iron Islands, there is a slight chance the Dothrakis might prevail due to these hardmen dying of laughter. I mean Shagga from the Storm Crows makes Khal Drogo look like a nonce.

Getting Political: Key Elements of Plot

If you can survive the pilot episode (in which they seem to pack everything bad about the show into an hour and a bit). As the series progresses the strength’s definitely begin to outweigh the negatives. For those of you who love the ins and outs of shows with dark plots and intrigue, GOT has more than enough of this type of thing for anyone. Aiding this plot is a pretty well envisaged political system. While it doesn’t engage the smaller folk too often, we do seem them clambering on for dear life as the elites amongst them make one shite move after another. The most militant example of peasantry in arms is the Nights Watch. This band of brother’s guard the massive 800 foot Northern wall. They are a collection of illegitimate heirs, thieves, rapists, murderers and political dissidents. Many of the above convictions are false or based on scant evidence. These individuals have often been powerless in defending themselves against the actions of the noble families in their vicinity, these are the individuals who have often committed the crimes. One such member of the Nights Watch, Pip a servant boy fled to the wall after he was sexually assaulted by a highborn. These unsung heroes win no glory, have no songs sung about them and die in pain at the Northern frontier.

Even good noble families like the Stark’s and the relatively ‘okay’ ones like the Baratheon’s, bring many a peasant to a cruel and early demise. Indeed, if it is not the elites killing them it is their peasantry trained as soldiers who inflict horrific atrocities on the other common folk. The spectre of rape and murder for civilians looms ever large. Even the Starks men at arms when unseen by their superiors, show few scruples in performing base deeds! This isn’t a world for shrinking violet’s or much of a one for a guilty conscience and the politically correct. The aforementioned political intrigues thus revolve around a number of key areas, illegitimate and legitimate claims for the throne, while standard fare for any regally based book or screenplay. It is the Individual’s instigating miniature rebellions in their own territories (which are sadly not as prevalent in the TV show as they are in the book) which provide some interesting angles. Their omissions are understandable due to budgetary and script reasons, regardless the writers have made up for this with the rather fascinating Greyjoy family plotline. Their being underlings to the Starks makes for an extremely interesting one as it is through Theon Greyjoy’s follies we experience their familial failings and aspirations. What’s rather appealing about the war setting that the people of Westeros face, is that they are dangerously wrapped up in their own insecurities. Like the ancient Romans were. There are Barbarians slowly massing on the borders in the North. So too are the 'White Walkers' a powerful magical race of necromancers long since thought dead or a myth, for whom the Wall was built an epoch ago to keep out. Daenery’s Targeryan’s silly romp in the Eastern wastes may well bring her some benefit eventually (her dragon eggs have hatched finally) and she may thus create another Dragon induced dynasty.

The aforementioned ‘intrigue’ is framed by in-house power plays and private intelligence networks in the capital ‘Kings Landing’ in the South. At the centre of the myriad tides in the book are the powerful Grand Maester of the citadel Pycelle (Julian Glover) influential pimp Lord ‘Little Finger’ Baelish (Aidan Gillen) and eunuch Lord Varys (Conleth Hill (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0384152/)) who vie for the roles of spymaster and king maker behind the throne. However, their reign at the top is under threat. They now have to contend with competition from Tyrion Lannister, who has become hand of the king (numero uno adviser). Lannister is a man with far more moral scruples than all above. However, he is also more streetwise to the comings and goings of court than the last two honourable hands of the King. The message is clear those not keen on self-interest and self-preservation I.E non competitors in the Game of Thrones are liabilities. The ever complex Queen Cersei Lannister put it thus.

"When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground."

All in all folks as stated the books totally trump the show. I must also reiterate that due to some of the sexual gratuity, not to mention stupidity in the plot it's nowhere near as good as the much lower budget Claudius. I can also understand the complaints from some fans about its being dumbed down for a television audience. This was never really a complaint from the adaptation of Graves work. Which adds even more lustre to the BBC production. In saying that for all its criticism’s and (there is room for improvement). Fantasy has never really been done better on the small screen. The show could have been far worse off I.E ‘Xena’ than it is. Another bonus is that here’s a little something for everyone I guess. What the show has got for myself, is a slightly subversive tinge to it. The competing powers are unmasked behind their facades of benevolency, intelligence networks and age old bureaucracy enshroud the plotters with all manner of legal and illegal ways to manipulate the system. With their ulterior motives laid bare, we share with the largely unseen peasents, the vein hope that nicest asswipe in a bunch of assholes ultimately win's out. I hasten to add the producers of the show also got in trouble for having George Bush's head on spike in a screen shot.

My advice is to give the show about three to four episodes before calling it a night or progressing. It took me that long to appreciate what it had to say. Also leave a note and some comments when you get a chance to watch. If you are not keen on the show then at least try the books, it's unfair to judge the books based on the inferior show.

Vasilios Vazakas
06-21-2012, 06:24 AM
Seamus

All my friends were urging me to watch it since they claimed it was the best series ever. i watched the first 4 episodes and no more, i thought there was too much of unecessary violence and it was kind of tiresome.
I prefer Fringe, Dexter and the new BBC series Sherlock, which is the best Sherlock i have ever seen, even better than the latest movies. Mentalist is also ok.

Seamus Coogan
06-21-2012, 07:49 AM
Seamus

All my friends were urging me to watch it since they claimed it was the best series ever. i watched the first 4 episodes and no more, i thought there was too much of unecessary violence and it was kind of tiresome.
I prefer Fringe, Dexter and the new BBC series Sherlock, which is the best Sherlock i have ever seen, even better than the latest movies. Mentalist is also ok.

Lol at least you made it that far. No I wouldn't call GOT the best I've ever seen. But it's got just the right mix of turn off you're brain and engagement. Like I say fantasy hasn't really been done anywhere near as good as this on the small screen. There's tons of room for improvement. I've heard Sherlock is excellent by the way. Im not a huge fan of Dexter. But Breaking Bad is something else thats fantastic. Try and watch I Claudius sometime. It's dated a little and its filmed entirely in a studio. However it is brilliantly written and executed with a stellar cast.

Lauren Johnson
06-21-2012, 03:01 PM
Seamus,

I am big on Breaking Bad as well. Now that Walter "won," now what? Does he breath a sigh of relief and walk away? No way. Does he start building his own empire? What does that mean for his own family? Skyler? She's in it up to her chin. His son? What about Hank and Skyler's sister? What about Jessie, who never wanted to be big time? He just wants to have some extra money, play video games, have a girl friend and maybe a family? Does Walter try to take over the whole operation and become like Gus? I say he will try.

Another recommendation: read the Hunger Games series. Short and fast. Very good.

Seamus Coogan
06-22-2012, 05:46 AM
Seamus,

I am big on Breaking Bad as well. Now that Walter "won," now what? Does he breath a sigh of relief and walk away? No way. Does he start building his own empire? What does that mean for his own family? Skyler? She's in it up to her chin. His son? What about Hank and Skyler's sister? What about Jessie, who never wanted to be big time? He just wants to have some extra money, play video games, have a girl friend and maybe a family? Does Walter try to take over the whole operation and become like Gus? I say he will try.

Another recommendation: read the Hunger Games series. Short and fast. Very good.

I tend to avoid teeny and vampire stuff. I saw the Hunger games and of course its not as good as the book. But I've looked into it via online sources and hmmmm nah the premise is good but its not really my thing at the moment. My niece is about the age to almost get into it. However love...BB is brilliant!!!!!!!

What's good about shows like this is that they have a set number of years in which they gather up their shite. BB was planned for a 5 year stretch if successful. Indeed Girlfriend, it appears that Walt will definitely be killed off at the end of the series (judging by comments from the actors and the production crew) and possibly his wife as well...probably trying to save him...maybe betraying him? She's a dodgy lady! His boy god you gotta love that guy! Hmmmmmmm, I think he'll be fine. He'll probably find out about it however. Hmmmmmm! Well Walt become a king pin? I dunno love remember how Saul (brilliant character) said he and Jessie were shite at running meth! Oh god and as for Jessie hmmmmm despite him being a murderous little cretin. He is probably the real moral voice of the show in his weird way. I think he might make it out alive or do something heroic near the end. I.E they'll all die in an explosion or something taking the bad guys with them. I mean that stuff is flammable as! That fucken idiot Badger my god! The brother in law is a smart guy however. Hmmm I dunno what to expect really bar Walt getting killed.

Anyhow check this out if you haven't its the BB website for Saul and it's hilarious also check out his business cards!!! http://www.bettercallsaul.com/index.php. And if you get a chance love check out GOT!!!!

Lauren Johnson
06-22-2012, 11:41 AM
Seamus,

I am big on Breaking Bad as well. Now that Walter "won," now what? Does he breath a sigh of relief and walk away? No way. Does he start building his own empire? What does that mean for his own family? Skyler? She's in it up to her chin. His son? What about Hank and Skyler's sister? What about Jessie, who never wanted to be big time? He just wants to have some extra money, play video games, have a girl friend and maybe a family? Does Walter try to take over the whole operation and become like Gus? I say he will try.

Another recommendation: read the Hunger Games series. Short and fast. Very good.

I tend to avoid teeny and vampire stuff. I saw the Hunger games and of course its not as good as the book. But I've looked into it via online sources and hmmmm nah the premise is good but its not really my thing at the moment. My niece is about the age to almost get into it. However love...BB is brilliant!!!!!!!

What's good about shows like this is that they have a set number of years in which they gather up their shite. BB was planned for a 5 year stretch if successful. Indeed Girlfriend, it appears that Walt will definitely be killed off at the end of the series (judging by comments from the actors and the production crew) and possibly his wife as well...probably trying to save him...maybe betraying him? She's a dodgy lady! His boy god you gotta love that guy! Hmmmmmmm, I think he'll be fine. He'll probably find out about it however. Hmmmmmm! Well Walt become a king pin? I dunno love remember how Saul (brilliant character) said he and Jessie were shite at running meth! Oh god and as for Jessie hmmmmm despite him being a murderous little cretin. He is probably the real moral voice of the show in his weird way. I think he might make it out alive or do something heroic near the end. I.E they'll all die in an explosion or something taking the bad guys with them. I mean that stuff is flammable as! That fucken idiot Badger my god! The brother in law is a smart guy however. Hmmm I dunno what to expect really bar Walt getting killed.

Anyhow check this out if you haven't its the BB website for Saul and it's hilarious also check out his business cards!!! http://www.bettercallsaul.com/index.php. And if you get a chance love check out GOT!!!!


Just call Saul!! Great character. Walt is a complete wolf. I say his replacement in the DEA, who is such a duffus, is or will be on the take. I say he has been all along. Dramatic tension.

Seamus Coogan
06-22-2012, 03:24 PM
Seamus,

I am big on Breaking Bad as well. Now that Walter "won," now what? Does he breath a sigh of relief and walk away? No way. Does he start building his own empire? What does that mean for his own family? Skyler? She's in it up to her chin. His son? What about Hank and Skyler's sister? What about Jessie, who never wanted to be big time? He just wants to have some extra money, play video games, have a girl friend and maybe a family? Does Walter try to take over the whole operation and become like Gus? I say he will try.

Another recommendation: read the Hunger Games series. Short and fast. Very good.

I tend to avoid teeny and vampire stuff. I saw the Hunger games and of course its not as good as the book. But I've looked into it via online sources and hmmmm nah the premise is good but its not really my thing at the moment. My niece is about the age to almost get into it. However love...BB is brilliant!!!!!!!

What's good about shows like this is that they have a set number of years in which they gather up their shite. BB was planned for a 5 year stretch if successful. Indeed Girlfriend, it appears that Walt will definitely be killed off at the end of the series (judging by comments from the actors and the production crew) and possibly his wife as well...probably trying to save him...maybe betraying him? She's a dodgy lady! His boy god you gotta love that guy! Hmmmmmmm, I think he'll be fine. He'll probably find out about it however. Hmmmmmm! Well Walt become a king pin? I dunno love remember how Saul (brilliant character) said he and Jessie were shite at running meth! Oh god and as for Jessie hmmmmm despite him being a murderous little cretin. He is probably the real moral voice of the show in his weird way. I think he might make it out alive or do something heroic near the end. I.E they'll all die in an explosion or something taking the bad guys with them. I mean that stuff is flammable as! That fucken idiot Badger my god! The brother in law is a smart guy however. Hmmm I dunno what to expect really bar Walt getting killed.

Anyhow check this out if you haven't its the BB website for Saul and it's hilarious also check out his business cards!!! http://www.bettercallsaul.com/index.php. And if you get a chance love check out GOT!!!!


Just call Saul!! Great character. Walt is a complete wolf. I say his replacement in the DEA, who is such a duffus, is or will be on the take. I say he has been all along. Dramatic tension.

Yes the replacement at the DEA is potentially big time. I never thought much about that so bloody good call love. Oh yeah sorry to say as well I didn't mean to say they were teeny topics. But the Hunger games are more or less adaptations, of the Japanese 'Battle Royale' series. This is tucked in with a little of Arnies surprisingly entertaining 'Running Man' and Ice T's rather lame 'Surviving the Game' live action thrill killing hunt sort of idea. An interesting take on this sort of kill sport genre was the excellent Douglas and Penn film the Game!!!! I think you'd like it.