It’s often said that the life in the middle ages was nasty, brutish and short. George R.R. Martin’s intricately crafted world of Game of Thrones captures all of that; blood feuds, treachery, zealotry, fornication and death, transferred to the screen in all it’s gory glory by HBO. Mysogeny, nudity, swearing, and sex, with the entire Brtish acting profession spitting venomous lines at each other amid seamless CGI landscapes. In Ireland.
Until the last two episodes of season two I hated all of them. The Herod-inspired infanticide sequence in episode one didn’t help. They’re a nasty, unsympathetic bunch framed in medieval values.
Somehow I stuck with GoT despite not liking any of the characters. Until recently.
Yes, I know Season Two was all building up to the hideously expensive battle for King’s Landing.
Do not make the mistake of thinking this is a Peter Jackson Middle Earth romp, or Clash of the Titans, or even 300. It’s a drama, its a soap opera with chainmail; it’s I, Claudius with a budget. You can enjoy some fine actors in fine performances, with Peter Dinklage, Charles Dance, Aiden Gillan and Iain Glen quietly trashing everyone else.
This season, two British stalwarts feature, Patrick Malahide (Singing Detective, Hunted) and Stephen Dillane as another couple of no-nonsense, ‘trouble-oop-North’ minor Kings chasing the big prize. Ubiquitous Liam Cunningham also appears as grizzled smuggler supporting Dillane’s claim.
Every time we leave the Dallas/Dynasty climes of the sunny, neo-Byzantium/neo-Rome Imperial capitol King’s Landing and head North, we’re into a pseudo-Yorshire, Wars of the Roses, ay-oop, trouble-at-t’mill parody with added rain and mud. Robb Stark (Richard Madden) and Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) sport faces like smacked bottoms.
The one constant is the total mysogeny that blankets every female character in the show. Lena Headey continues to play a convincing Lady MacBeth as Cirsei Lanister; Danaeris continues to be hounded across the Eastern wastes; and every other woman in the piece is either a whore or property. Carice Van Houten’s (Black Death, From Time to Time) high priestess lasts two episodes before she gets her clothes off, Yara (Gemma Wheelan) gets felt up by her brother Theon (Alfie Allen) in a nasty incest moment.
GoT exists in such a brutal world, nobody has any moral choices to struggle over; it is pure Darwinist survival of the fittest by any means possible. None of the characters has any moral choice in this world, so there are no heroes, no villains, no one to root for or against, just survivors getting all angsty over the body count (or not).
Until episodes 9 and 10: Blackwater, the battle for King’s Landing, and Valar Morghulis, the wrap up of all the other season threads. Somewhere in all the blood and chaos, I actually started to root for some of the characters. Martin’s vast web of plots suddenly comes together. There’s finally some payoff for the investment of all that time; scene after scene of initmate and epic that finally work – Danaeris’ dreamscape reunion with Khal Drogo and their unborn son being a highlight of episode 10. Peter Dinklage as Tyrian is absolutley mesmerising as ever (in the way that a pint-sized Richard III should be). And Lena Headey finally got some decent material as her Lady Macbeth front finally crumbled in the face of imminent death.
Now I’m hooked. Let the game continue. RC
Related: Review: Game of Thrones Season One