We came to watch the popular HBO fantasy series, Game of Thrones, well after almost everyone. Friends and family had watched it, and as often happens, they recommended it and we, eventually, followed their advice. I had heard and seen snippets of the show as they watched, and decided, before viewing the series, to read the first book – A Song of Ice and Fire by author George R. R. Martin.
I read science fiction and fantasy a very long time ago, but it’s not a genre I now favour; however, the novel was a quick and entertaining read. The first season, like book one, is violent and sexually explicit; it’s further enlivened by dragons’ eggs, dire wolves, and sorcery. Family loyalty, fealty to regional lords, and deceptions and betrayals are at the heart of the struggle for the Iron Throne. Seasons two and three provide equal measures of intrigue and brutality. Set in a mythic-medieval time of sword play, castles, and kingdoms, each episode of the series provides conflict, political machinations, and fantastical creatures. Martin has mined history to showcase every sort of torture from the sawing off of digits – a favourite treatment of captured enemies among many tribal peoples, to the common Roman practice of crucifixion. Blood flows.
We watched the first three seasons of the series over the winter months and it was both addictive and repugnant – the former beating out the latter. The series provides a sensual array of locations from the hot desert birthplace of the dragons, to the perpetual cold beyond the Northern Wall – home to the Wildlings and the White Walkers. What further enriches the show is that the plot line moves forward without the usual retention of favourite characters. Heads roll, throats are slit, and good does not triumph.
The “Red Wedding” episode late in season three aptly illustrates this point. The bitter and vengeful Lord Walder Frey promises his guests, on the occasion of his daughter’s wedding, that: “The wine will flow red and the music will play loud . . .”, but feast turns to slaughter. There is violence, sex, (the nudity is mostly female, of course), and struggle for order, power, and peace – the human story – with a twist. The new season begins in April – can’t wait.