Game of Thrones
George R.R. Martin, David Benioff, and D.B. Weiss, 2011–

After we finished watching The Sopranos, Elizabeth wanted to watch a show about some maddening men, but as that show was by one of the main Sopranos guys, I said I'd rather watch something different first. We tossed around some titles and eventually she suggested Game of Thrones, which I knew nothing at all about except for the fact that someone on my Facebook list had mentioned that she'd heard some positive buzz about it. (Jess H., that would be you.) But on that basis, I voted to give it a look.

So we started up the first episode, and it quickly became clear that we were looking at a Tolkien knockoff with pseudo-medieval guys fighting creatures drawn straight out of the D & D Monster Manual. Given that one of the most visited pages on my site is my account of being bewildered by the Lord of the Rings movies, this didn't look promising. "I am guessing that this will not turn out to be my thing," I typed to Lizzie.

I guessed wrong! Yes, Game of Thrones features several dungeons and even a few dragons, but this is largely a saga of intrigue, with various factions vying for the throne, threatening to declare independence, hiring mercenary armies, arranging royal marriages, striking backroom deals... and I frackin' love that shit. It feels like it's made of the same substance as the classical history classes I've audited, or a fleshed-out game of Europa Universalis, and to me at least these are selling points. Even the fantasy elements have largely been to my liking — the irregular and variable seasons, the open-concept dungeon in the Eyrie, the corvid-based postal service.

Then there are the characters, who may not be especially deep but are extremely effectively written and portrayed: the villains are truly loathsome, the heroes wonderfully sympathetic, and the gray-area characters very engaging. To name three:

  • The first and to date only season revolves around the house of Eddard "Tony" Stark, who has four sons (Tony Jr., Sad Bastard, All-Bran, and Who's That) and two daughters, Redhead and Baleful. Baleful is a pretty standard tomboy character and yet she could hardly be more awesome. Her uncompromising sense of justice; the self-confidence in her voice when Tony tells her that she will someday be the mother of knights and she says, "No, that's not me"; the joy on her face when Tony gives her a sword of her own, and when she's in the middle of her ninja lessons... how can you not adore Baleful? (And for that matter, how can you not think very highly of Tony Stark? It's not just any pseudo-medieval dad who'd be open-minded enough to hire a swordmaster to give ninja lessons to his baleful daughter.)

  • Across the Narrow Sea, there's Princess Bleach, beauteous flower of maidenhood, whose brother marries her off to Genghis Khan in hopes of using the Mongol horde to take the throne. Not only does Princess, or, now, Queen Bleach turn out to have awesome superpowers (squeee), but even more squeee-worthily, she quickly learns how to leverage what little power she has as a female foreigner in an alpha-male culture, skillfully working the system while remaining the picture of doe-eyed innocence. So how can you not love Queen Bleach and revel in her eventual transfiguration?

  • Then there's the Dwarf. The Dwarf is a lovable rogue. Those who have read some of my earlier articles know how I tend to despise lovable rogues. I read all 3000 pages of The Baroque Cycle and I spent 2500 of them actively wanting Jack the Lovable Rogue to die. But the Dwarf is that rarest of creatures: a lovable rogue who actually is lovable! It's fun to listen to his wry commentary about the intrigues going on around him and even greater fun to see him talk his way out of various scrapes.

And I haven't even mentioned the anything-can-happen plotting, or the interesting scenarios (can the vile Prince Recessive be stopped by, of all people, the out-of-her-depth Redhead?), or the timely appearances of the dire woofs, or the frequency with which someone pretty will take off her clothes. All told, this is, if not (yet?) great art exactly, top-notch entertainment. The only problem is that, unlike The Sopranos, which I watched four years after the series had ended, this one is still in progress, so now I have to wait seven months for the next episode like a chump.

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