Game of Thrones premiered on HBO last night, and since it was a free preview weekend, I decided to tune in and give it a try. I generally only have HBO when True Blood is airing, since Bethanne and I also run True-Blood.net. After hearing so much about GoT from critics, publicists, and hopeful fans of George R. R. Martin’s novels, I almost didn’t want to watch the premiere so I wouldn’t be out the extra $15/mo when I got hooked. So, am I ordering HBO tomorrow? That would be a resounding…maybe.
I’ve not read the books, so everything about the story was new to me. Names, places, histories, politics, religion – my head was spinning within the first 10 minutes. Fortunately Sean Bean arrived and gave me a touchstone. He’s Eddard “Ned” Stark, patriarch of the Starks who rule Winterfell, a stronghold in the north of…something. Westeros, I think, although that might be another region. At any rate, Ned is married to Catelyn (the excellent Michelle Fairley, who I kept thinking was Frances Fisher) and father of five legitimate children and one illegitimate son. Just as I’m wrapping my head around all those connections and the necessity of beheading a deserter who is “babbling nonsense” about being attacked by White Walkers (note to Ned: he was telling the truth), we switch to a castle in the south where the Queen (hey, it’s Lena Headey without the wife beater and semi-automatic!) is being chastised by her brother. Turns out they’re twins and, um, a lot closer than this viewer is comfortable with, even if this is HBO.
On top of the twincest and beheadings, we have the ethereal Daenerys and her brother, Viserys, the last of a former ruling dynasty who are plotting to retake the throne. Well, Viserys is plotting and Dany is his pawn. After a disturbing scene in which he disrobes her and tells her to make the most of having a woman’s body, we learn that he’s marrying her off to a renowned warrior, who doesn’t speak any of the languages she knows, just so Viserys can have an army when he’s ready to invade. The wedding celebration involves public sex and an evisceration, followed by what looks like rape by the seashore for the wedding night. WHY AM I WATCHING THIS???
Violence and gore, sex and nudity are a vehicle for showing how these various cultures pursue and solidify power (what I mentioned above? not even half of the R-rated material in this first hour). Underneath all of that seems to be an interesting story about the quest for power both personal and political, and perhaps an examination of gender and power as well. I am interested to see how Daenerys fares with her warlord husband, and whether Viserys’ arrogance is the hindrance I hope it will be in his attempt at becoming King. Ned’s reluctant rise to second in command to the current King ought to provide drama, while his six children seem poised to give him gray hair in abundance. The Queen appears to have an agenda of her own, but I wonder if Catelyn Stark will end up foiling her plans.
So the real question is: can this Nice Girl get past the gross and the kinky to enjoy the rest of the story? At first glance, I didn’t think I could, but further consideration has me curious about so many of the plots, I think Game of Thrones deserves another chance. What did you think? Will you keep watching?