Game of Thrones: Winter is Coming

“The man who passes the sentence must swing the sword.”

Game of Thrones

It is official.

I have been struck by the juggernaut which is Game of Thrones.

A confession: I have watched five episodes of the epic fantasy TV series in approximately thirty-six hours. I have nothing better to do with my life, apparently, than watch people with too many vowels in their names kill each other in various interesting and inventive ways.

Because, if you haven’t heard already, Game of Thrones is extremely very…graphic. Not in a horror-film-type way; it doesn’t revel in its graphicness or its gore; it’s simply quite matter-of-fact about it, which, of course, makes it all the more shocking. There’s a beheading in this first episode – in which it is established that a winter which may last for ten years is coming, the king of the Seven Kingdoms is a fat idiot, and someone who looks a lot like Boromir is trying not to piss off his power-hungry cousins too much – which is so swift and so unsanitised (you see the neck stump and everything) that you have to blink a couple of times to remember if that really happened. This is a world in which violence is commonplace, life hazardous; for one tribe of horse-people, we’re informed, a wedding without at least three deaths is a bit of a washout.

So I’m not sure why I kept watching this, because I’m really not very good with goreI can barely watch Casualty without wincing – and fantasy stories about morally ambiguous politics like this one usually bore me to tears. But what I do know is that at no point did this fifty-eight minute medieval extravaganza ever lag. At no point did I look at the clock and think “only half an hour left before I can go to bed”, as I seem to do with too much telly nowadays. Perhaps it’s the sheer unmitigated brutality of this world that’s somehow fascinating; or perhaps it’s the fact that the characters, all of them, are richly and deeply drawn, distinct and vital. Perhaps it’s the production design, all those fur cloaks and pretty dresses and dragon eggs; perhaps it’s the fact that the female characters are just as clever and driven as the male ones, despite living in a world which plainly discriminates against them; perhaps it’s simply the fact that you never quite know what’s going on around the corner. What I do know is that Winter is Coming is a damn good introduction to the Seven Kingdoms, full of big-name actors who inhabit their roles with conviction and flair and some terrific writing.

I would say that I’m looking forward to the next one, but I’ve already watched it, thanks to the genius of box sets. So I guess I’m looking forward to reviewing the next one.

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