by Brek the David
Game of Thrones is HBO’s newest series premiering this Sunday, April 17th. Based on a series of novels by George RR Martin, it takes place in a fictional medieval world where the good guys don’t always win and winter is coming. Set quite a few years after a civil war to depose a mad king, Game of Thrones revolves around the greater noble houses that have survived the war. There are elements of the supernatural here and there, but these are few and far between. There are no elves or orcs or trolls, nor is magic commonplace, but it does exist. The now dead mad king belonged to a family that once rode dragons into battle, yet these ferocious, elemental, mythical beasts are now extinct, just a fading second hand memory. Brutal death by the blade, however, is still as real as the sun rising every morning.
The continent that most of the action takes on is called Westeros or more commonly referred to as the Seven Kingdoms. Majestic castles rise at places like Dragonstone, Winterfell, Casterly Rock, and the capital, King’s Landing. The knights that serve these houses aren’t chivalrous and some are even brutal murderers and rapists. The picture painted isn’t some pristine portrait where the light of justice shines as a beacon of hope. The motto of House Stark for instance is Winter is Coming. The Starks are northerners and used to cold weather so the motto does have literal meaning. Also the seasons last decades and winters are long and extremely harsh. This motto, Winter is Coming, is more metaphorical. It teaches the lesson that the world is a dangerous place and it’s wise and even mandatory to prepare for any threat that looms. Winter is inevitable, and so are the dangers that any man or woman faces. Be prepared for it at all times.
The three other houses that this first season of Game of Thrones deals with are House Baratheon, House Lannister, and House Targaryen. The Baratheons boast the current king, King Robert, also known as The Usurper. Robert spear headed the war to unseat the former king, the patriarch of House Targaryen. The only surviving members of the Targaryens are in exile, the son and daughter of the former insane king. King Robert is married to the only daughter of House Lannister, thus consolidating power and forcing alliance between Baratheon and Lannister. Also, since Lord Eddard Stark of House Stark is like a brother to King Robert, the Starks and Baratheons know an alliance that is bound by honor and friendship. Alliances, however, are always tenuous at best in this world.
While Game of Thrones is considered epic fantasy, this series really throws fantasy conventions on their heads. There is never any certainty that justice will prevail. In fact, it very rarely does. This can be a wicked world, one that very much mirrors our own. Chivalry and honor exists in a rare few of the main characters. Deceit and dishonor almost always wins. Might makes right, and brutality is pervasive throughout the novels. This is a dark gritty world, its characters realistic, morality is shades of gray, and things end badly often. The novels are told from various characters’ perspective and often the same events are seen and interpreted completely different from character to character. This makes for fascinating reading, and should make for a great television series if they remain true to the essence of the novels. The good news is that the preview of the first fifteen minutes is great stuff. It captures the tone and feel of Martin’s magnificent prose brilliantly. This should make for some thrilling television for the next three months and everyone should be watching this show whether they like fantasy or not. Game of Thrones will be that damn good.