I’ve watched two episodes of HBO’s Game of Thrones series and wanted to share a few quick thoughts (yes, there are spoilers).
First, I think the shows at HBO have created a rich and marvelous version of Westeros. Things look a lot like how I’d imagine them to look like. The Wall is even grander than I’d imagined while reading the books. The visual aspects and attention to detail add a lot to the viewing experience. Yes, a couple scenes have looked pretty clearly like a sound stage, but that doesn’t really bother me too much.
Second, this has been quite true to the early parts of A Game of Thrones. It’s moving incredibly fast, but key scenes are being fairly accurately displayed. Some snippets of dialogue come straight from the book, but many are distillations of longer-running threads in the first novel. But overall, things are being well portrayed and characters largely seem to be who they were in the books.
In fact, the real problem isn’t that the show is insufficiently true to the first novel, but that without the help of a narrator or internal monologue, the show is fairly inaccessible to people who haven’t read the books. Throughout the first episode, I had to pause the DVR to explain what was happening and who was in a scene to my fiance. This happened less frequently in the second episode, but was still a part of the viewing. The opacity of the story through loyalty to the book without explanation reminds me a lot of my experience with the movie Watchmen. The film was a beautiful adaptation from the graphic novel of the same name, but failed to provide the context that was lost from the narrative. While it was easy for me as someone who had read the book to follow along, I knew a lot of people who hadn’t read it and as a result missed out tremendously while watching the movie.
Lastly, the show has faithfully replicated the brutality of Martin’s world. From the direwolf ripping the throat out of Bran’s would-be assassin to Daenerys’ rape at the hands of her husband Khal Drogo to the bloodied body of Arya’s butcher boy friend. Life is brutal for these characters and there is no lack of blood and pain on the screen. A lot of this is intrinsic to any faithful representation of Miller’s writing, but the HBO writers aren’t pulling any punches.
All that said, I’m really enjoying Game of Thrones. The plot is moving fast, but it’s exciting and even though my fiance hasn’t read the books, after the second episode she immediately wanted to see the third, which I take to be a really good sign for the show building support. There’s still a lot that isn’t making it into the show from the book, which is regrettable but predictable. Nonetheless, the first two episodes have been really great television and I’m hungry for more.