Sunday, 14 February 2016

Game of Thrones by Martin, Benioff & Weiss

I've come rather late to the Game of Thrones party. People have been raving about this TV series, and recommending it to me, ever since it debuted in 2011. But events have conspired to prevent me watching it up until now. (Okay, I was too cheap to buy the boxed set until it turned up in a charity shop at a bargain price.)

Having watched the first couple of episodes, though, I was completely hooked. Once I'd seen the first two seasons I sincerely concluded that this is the greatest serial television drama ever made. Of course, I am an admirer of Breaking Bad, The Wire, The Shield, Rome, etc. but none of these have the epic scope of Game of Thrones.

The series has its origins in a sequence of (huge) novels collectively entitled A Song of Ice and Fire, the first of which is A Game of Thrones. They are the work of George R. R. Martin, a fantasy and horror writer whom up until now I principally knew through his riverboat-vampire novel Fevre Dream. 

George R. R. Martin has also served his time in the television trenches, writing for the 1986 revival of The Twilight Zone and doing a lot of the heavy lifting on three seasons of the series Beauty and the Beast (1987-1990). 

But Game of Thrones was developed for television ("created") by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss — known as Dave and Dan to their co-workers. Weiss has a background as a TV producer while Benioff has a number of impressive screenwriting credits on feature films, starting with Spike Lee's 25th Hour (which was also based on Benioff's novel) and the Brad Pitt epic Troy. 

Benioff and Weiss have written numerous key episodes of Game of Thrones and they're bloody good at what they do. George R. R. Martin contributes one episode per season and these are also pretty damned marvellous.

But then so is the whole show, a combination of gripping family dramas, royal court intrigues, quasi-medieval history, sword and sorcery and horror. It has a genuine sense of wonder to it. Oh yes, plus lashings of sex and nudity. 

In fact Game of Thrones became famous/infamous for "sexposition", the use of sex and nudity to keep the viewer interested while presenting exposition in dialogue. To be fair though, I don't think this was as calculated or contrived as viewers like to claim. Although it certainly works.

Game of Thrones is a masterpiece of storytelling. It scores in every department. Not just the writing, but the directing, design, photography (mostly digital, though the first version of the pilot was shot on 35mm film), makeup, costumes, sfx and music. But a special word must be said about the cast, which is uniformly spectacular, right down to the young children.

I was at a party last night where someone told me she hadn't watched Game of Thrones because she "doesn't like science fiction." Well, leaving aside the small fact that it isn't science fiction (it's fantasy, folks, there's quite a difference) there is the big fact that Game of Thrones is simply superlative drama, and utterly addictive.

Try it and you, too, will be hooked. Even if you "don't like science fiction."

(Image credits:These bits of 'wallpaper' were taken from Ace Show Biz.)

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