Game of Thrones: A Review

“Winter Is Coming.”

So last week I finished watching the first two seasons of Game of Thrones based on the popular George R.R. Martin novels. I was then informed by several friends that I was obligated to write a review.

Be careful what you wish for.

I’ve had other friends hype this show up like it was the second coming and more often than not, HBO consistently produces quality television.

This show right here? *SMDH*

I’m debating whether or not I’ll even watch season 3 but as a buddy and I agreed, there is a certain shiny train wreck factor to the show that simply cannot be denied.

Before I begin the review, let me put up the disclaimer. I have not read the books and at this point I have no intention of doing so. As a number of my friends have pointed out, quite emphatically I might add, there are certain plot elements that are handled far better in the book than it is in the tv series. Having not read the books, I will not argue that point.

So I am only reviewing the television series only in this review.

The Good

Bran Stark- He’s strong, wise and decisive but he’s not impulsive. The times he has had to make tough calls or even arguably bad calls, were situations that would’ve stumped most adults. Despite repeated attacks made on his life and suffering a life-altering tragedy, he still carries himself like a true king. Unlike the other Starks, he thinks things through and and doesn’t act on impulse. The fact that he has psychic dreams is also interesting and I enjoy watching this young precocious character’s journey.

Arya Stark- My ride or die chick right here. Don’t let her age fool you. She refuses to be weak or docile. She kicks ass and takes names. She somehow manages to keep herself alive and stay one step ahead of her foes. She’s a true warrior princess and would make the finest Hand of the King.

Tyrion Lannister- As it was pointed out to me by a buddy. This is my hetero patronus. What makes Tyrion a bonafied badass is that he plays his position and he plays it well. He’s not a strong or a skilled fighter nor does he pretend to be, but he’s no less dangerous. He knows how to maneuver and talk his way out of any situation. Always outnumbered but never outgunned. He’s usually two steps ahead of everyone and has an uncanny knack for self preservation.

Also, Game of Thrones writers. I notice you keep referring to Tyrion Lannister as an imp. You forgot a ‘p’. It should be pimp. You may wanna fix those typos in the script.

The Lannisters- These medieval Nazi Aryan purebloods are hands down one of the most villainous families in history. But damn it are they entertaining to watch. And moreover, the Lannister clan is led by my Dear Sweet Brother Noompsi (20 points of awesome to anyone who knows that reference).

The shocking twist that goes down in episode nine of season one.

The FAIL

The Stark Clan- They are the stereotypical trope that you see all the time from white protagonist families. They are headstrong, stubborn but their boorish ways will win the fight. Ned, Catelyn, Rob and Jon are especially guilty of this. They are some of the most obnoxious nauseating characters ever and they’re supposed to be the sympathetic protagonists. Ned refuses to properly utilize the information he discovers about Joffrey’s birth and it gets him killed and starts a war. Jon is too busy trying to get to third base with some redhead in the middle of a blizzard wasteland while he’s supposed to be hunting zombies, I mean white walkers. Catelyn releases the one bargaining chip the Starks had for a prisoner because she’s impulsive and weak.

I’m not going to even discuss the rampant misogyny in this series. Wait, I lied.

Let’s start with the “small stuff” first:

Catelyn Stark releasing Jamie out of the hope that the Lannisters would have mercy on her kids kinda played into the old trope of a woman being too emotional and weak to make pragmatic and realistic decisions.

While I saw glimpses of potential with her character, Daenerys aka Dragon Girl often acts like Bella Swan. Men fall at her feet for no reason and want to give themselves to her. This is especially the case for men of color. And I had to appreciate the entitlement she constantly displayed. Often she had nothing to barter or negotiate with yet she constantly made demands of strangers like they owed her something.

This doesn’t even count the really fucked up shit:

Dragon Girl gets raped in the first episode, develops a severe case of Stockholm Syndrome, learns the mystical ways of giving good sex so she can properly satisfy her rapist in ep 2. Then there’s the repeated attempted rapes of other female characters, or discussion of rapes throughout the season. I’m not even talking about the over-the-top nudity, brutalization and abuse of women. Look, I get this is HBO and this is to be expected but this shit is over-the-top and ridiculous even by HBO’s standards.

Then there’s the rampant homophobia. The two resident gay characters who are a frikkin homophobic punchline.

One gay dude who is vying to be king is living on the downlow and trying to figure out how to “rise to the occasion” for his wife. And in a most violent world where killing and violence is a fact of life, he’s soooo scared of all of that violence and blood.

The other, his secret lover (his wife’s brother), is prissy as all get out, has long flowing goldilocks and is known as the knight of flowers or some crap.

So you mean to tell me that in a world of brutal hardcore badass warriors, it is impossible for a warrior king and an accomplished knight to be masculine badass warriors. They both have to be weak and prissy.

AND THEN THEY KILL OFF THE CUTE ONE! FUCKERS!!!!!!

And what the hell is up with all the incest on this show? I’ve noticed HBO has been toying with the whole incest theme in their shows for the past several years.

They teased and hinted at it with 6 Feet Under, then Rome, then Game of Thrones (it’s been a free-for-all) and now True Blood.

I’m starting to wonder if this is a required mandate from HBO brass.

Speaking of Rome, I’m seeing a lot of the same themes, tropes and idioms in GoT.

While Joffrey is living proof why incest is an abomination, the fine ass of Jamie Lannister proves why some abominations aren’t a bad thing. And yes I did see the 10 minute video of Tyrion flexing and keeping his (p)imp hand strong across Joffrey’s face. It was GLORIOUS!!!!!

The only thing more entertaining than this trainwreck of a series is the weak ass arguments Martin apologists try to make.

“Martin wants to convey historical accuracy about how bleak and dark this world was.”

Historical accuracy. That argument went out the window when the white walkers arrived and Game of Thrones became a medieval Walking Dead prequel.

And then there was the fail in the comments of this most excellent review:

http://www.fangsforthefantasy.com/2012/04/game-of-thrones-season-2-episode-4.html

The Final Verdict: D+ and this is me being generous. Game of Thrones does the political intrigue and the soap opera elements well. But certain buildups fall flat and battle sequences and aftermath are cut out like they’re about to go over budget. More than that, I’ve seen the same tired tropes and the same cliched characters over and over and over again.

There’s this ongoing argument that speculative fiction is supposed to be progressive, forward thinking. We’re supposed to explore different concepts. Yet I see the same stories about straight white people for straight white people.

While Richard K Morgan’s the Steel Remains is a mixed bag for me, at least it has a dark skinned woman and a gay man as the central protagonists. At least it’s giving us something different other than the straight white power fantasy with extra helpings of rape.

I may watch next season for the snark factor but if you haven’t seen the series, I wouldn’t bother.

But above all else, remember kids: when you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.

32 thoughts on “Game of Thrones: A Review

  1. Damn, makes me glad that I did not watch the series after I read Sparkindarkness’ review of the books. I heard about how much rape is in it, but I’m glad you watched and reviewed it for me.

    I had no idea about the stereotyped gay couple… wow, way to write the homophobia, Martin.

    • Those book reviews were the Sword of Truth series – Martin is guilty of much, but that particular crime is not his.

      We have reviewed and recapped every episode of GoT on Fangs though and devoted a few Friday discussions to Motherhood and Disability portrayal in the GOT

  2. I usually agree with you, but this time I can’t. Yes there’s rape in the series. There isn’t any excusing it but it’s a fact of war, especially in medieval times. Yes is there is misogyny, but that’s how women were taught to act. As far as homophobia, I do find the 2 gay characters a bit over the top. Although I also do take into account that the gay king must rise to the occasion for his wife, he need

    • “There isn’t any excusing it but it’s a fact of war, especially in medieval times.”

      This is a fantasy series that features zombies and dragons, not historically based so that argument is invalid. It’s one thing to showcase rape to illustrate the hardships that women endure, it’s completely another to romanticize it in the manner GoT does.

        • In Hollowstone there was a scene where a woman was attacked (off camera). However the attack also showcased how rape culture is so pervasive in our society. When justice was sought at the school more people tried to cover the tragedy rather than take action.

          The scene was actually based on a real life situation. And when myself and others spoke out, we got shut down by certain powers that be.

          I do believe male authors tackling the rape of women can be possible but it’s something that needs to be researched and handled with care and respect. Which granted, many authors don’t bother to do.

          • Actually, I’m fine with it if it were like that. What I had in mind was male authors writing a story revolving around the rape of a woman or when they throw in rape of women and try to pass it off as being about the hardship of women or that they’re totes feminist because she takes revenge or whatever fuckery they cook up.

            I’m just so sick of how pervalent rape and rape threats are in female and queer narratives and would rather not come across another one in something which is supposed to be entertainment.

    • Not exactly. The Medieval religion *did* acknowledge rape as a crime. It happened, yes, but it was seen as a Very Bad ThingTM and the people who did it (were at least supposed to be) never got off scott-free. And this is limiting the discussion purely to Catholic and Orthodox Europe. In the Muslim world, things were this but moreso. And at a fundamental level in High Fantasy, if you’ve got magic and dragons and the Witch King of Angmar’s frosty zombie hillbilly cousin, you can’t quite say realism, at least to me. Even moreso when your name for undead nasties is a direct copy-pasta of Tolkien’s Wights. Then you can’t even plead originality.

  3. The funny thing about the whole “HOMOPHOBIA AND MISOGYNY IS HISTORICAL” argument is it isn’t. The sexual and gender mores of Westeros are not really historical… at all. They’re modern bigotry projected backwards and writ large. It would be historical if the show were Mad Men, maybe.

    It’s… ngh. It’s Whig history, is the word I’d use. It’s total horse shit. This shit legitimately pisses me off because misrepresenting the gender and sexual mores of the past distorts our understanding of those of the modern day. The pretense societies were always super-misogynistic and homophobic in ways that just so happen to mirror the ways we are sexist today, that serves to justify and normalize the sexism and heteronormativity of today.

    The gender roles of Westeros bear an almost completely coincidental resemblance to the gender roles of the real Medieval Europe. They are far more closely modelled on those of the 1950s than the 14th century. Joan of Penthièvre rode to battle against an enemy host that included Joanna of Flanders (just for one example). Women could and did lead armies in the Middle Ages, and one can only presume that they weren’t constantly insulted by their soldiers for their sex. The punishment for rape in England during the Middle Ages was either castration and blinding or death, depending on the exact point in time, and other ancient societies were similarly harsh in its punishment.

    Homosexuality was legal and basically completely ignored/tolerated/normalized throughout Europe by secular authorities until like the 12th century (about 70% of the Middle Ages occurred before this), and it only started to get shat on because the Church needed to prove that it had some kind of moral authority and decided to define every sex act except PIV sex, missionary position, with the intent to have a child as “unnatural” and “wrong.” That was about the same time they decided nocturnal emissions were a sin, so, yeah.

    • Whoa! Thanks for the knowledge drop.

      Don’t suppose you know of any history texts to recommend on the subject matters you brought up. If not in the comments then I’d welcome an email.

      • The Origins and Role of Same-Sex Relations in Human Society is (as the title suggests) a pretty broad and all-encompassing book, but it spends a lot of time on the emergence of “sexual neurosis” (as the author puts it) in Western society, as well as the sexual mores which predominated before then. It has a huge bibliography which can point you to other books on the subject too. I can’t recommend any particular books on gender roles in the middle ages though.

        • Much appreciated. I can see myself going through this over and over again for years to come. And the bibliography you mentioned really is huuge.

  4. The fanpoodles for Game of Thrones are extra rabid it seems

    And I hate the historical accuracy excuse. And it says a lot for the mindset of the people making it – they’re fine with dragons and zombies and 10 year winters – but gays not being attacked and women not reduced to property? NO! THIS IS UNBELIEABLE

    Watching the show I was also beyond sick of the boobies every 5 minutes – adn the corresponding sparisty of equal male nudity (especially with the one gay couple before GAY DEATH hit)

    And Daenerys – I loathed that they turned a consensual sex scene with her and Drogo in the book into rape – which forever skeevified her relationship. But she did grow and become every stronger and a better character – albeit an annoying white saviour as well (ultra white saviour with super blonde powers) and then she hit Qarth and “strong” became “I AM AN ENTITLED BRAT! GIMME STUFF! Don’t make me wave my lizards at you! RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAWR! RAAAAAAAAWR!”

    And peopel can’t show bleak and dark without prejudice? Why can’t it be bleak and dark for everyone? why do marginalised people have to be singled out for extra bleak darkness? Hey hey, I’ll have my fantasy with extra magic, hold the prejudiced bleak darkness please

    • Because things can only really be bad if women are raped and minorities have it super extra tough… those are apparently the rules for writing dark, edgy, and realistic

      And I’m sick of the historical accuracy bit too. Viking women, for example, were every bit as tough, strong, and fearsome as the men, and would not only ride alongside them in sacking England, but would go out on their own for jaunts to the English coast.

      That and, as Neo pointed out, this is a shot tht has DRAGONS and ZOMBIES… so unless someone can dig up records on there being dragons and zombies running around in our past, the GoT fans can take that historical accuracy garbage and shove it right down their own throats.

    • Back the fuck up for a sec.

      “And Daenerys – I loathed that they turned a consensual sex scene with her and Drogo in the book into rape – which forever skeevified her relationship.”

      WHAT?!!!!!!

      • Oh yes, in the book Daenerys is not raped (beyond the young age that is common in the book series – everyone is younger). Well, not in the same way anyway (she’s still married off to Drogo regardless of her consent, so sex was expected to happen reagrdless of her consent -her consent was never anyone’s top priority don’t get me wrong and after the weddng it was clear Drogo expected sex every night no matter what she wanted).

        But that wedding night scene? In the book she cries and Drogo wipes away her tears saying “no” (the only common tongue word he knows), backing off when he saw she was upset. He stroked her hair, murmured warm sweet nothings, she unfastened his long braid, they spent hours gently touching each other and he asks “no?” and she says, in response “yes”, and SHE takes his hand and she puts his hand on her vagina.

        I’ll not say it’s a paragon of consent by any means – the pressure, the young wedding, the expectation of sex every night thereafter, the fact that Drogo seduced her into sex that night rather than just backing the hell off – but it’s a far cry from what the TV series depicted.

    • Yes, when J.R.R. Tolkien is more anti-misogynist than thou, you have a major problem. At least in Tolkien you have Eowyn and Galadriel being badass women *in the actual book* (and counting the Silmarillion there’s Luthien, Haleth, Galadriel (again), and Melian) and fighting the bad guys and even in the case of Galadriel smashing a fortress to rubble. And this is from Tolkien, the guy who invented most of the more racist aspects of High Fantasy to start with. Martin doesn’t exactly have a leg to stand on here (and I’m not denying that there aren’t major issues with Tolkien, either).

  5. In terms of the female characters as much as I loved Ayria, it pissed me off beyond belief that she was the only example of thinking rational female character. How is it that a child has more common sense than grown women? When this is factored into the constant overt sexualization and violence aimed at women, calling GoT misogynist doesn’t even seem strong enough to me. I like the series but at the same time wish that we would see more honest analysis like this rather than the fanpoodles gathering to defend their precious at all costs.

    • “In terms of the female characters as much as I loved Ayria, it pissed me off beyond belief that she was the only example of thinking rational female character.”

      And part of me suspects the only reason Aryia gets handled with respect is because for all intents and purposes, she’s considered “an honorary boy.”

  6. Don’t blame you for not reading the books or listening to audio recordings of it. And not just because of what everyone else has brought up too. But they’re also llloooong and rather dry. But thankfully not as dry as a Harry Turtledove work. And then even if you do slog through it you still have to put up with the usual crud that everyone has mentioned.

    Hopefully too many of the wrong GoT fans won’t stumble into the comment section like the last few threads about fantasy works about Tolkein and grimdarkfantasy.

  7. Honestly, if Martin wanted to write realism, then dragons and magic should never have shown up and it should have been a Ken Follett-style distortion of medieval times.If Dragons and magic exist, then realism is less applicable than mistaking Grimdark for realism, which is an unfortunately too common mistake. And 8Mph Ansible, Turtledove books have a huge deal of homophobia and troubling issues in their own right.

  8. I stopped watching around episode four of season two, Dany is my favourite character and what they were doing with her was horrific. :(

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