TV Series Review
It's good to be the king.
With Westeros' old king now dead and the Iron Throne up for grabs, it's pretty obvious lots of folks want to sit on it. How many, exactly? As Queen Regent Cersei Lannister says, "I've lost count." Battles and wars and occasional spats of peace have been followed by more wars. And it seems as though everyone with a castle wants in on the action.
Truly the game in Game of Thrones is as brutal a contest as you can imagine.
It would seem the Lannister family has the upper hand. They're rich, powerful and ruthless, and besides, Cersei was married to the old king, Robert Baratheon. As such, her progeny would seem to be next in line—except that, technically, they're not Robert's kids. Rather, they're the flowers of Cersei's incestuous relationship with her brother, Jaime, a secret that all of Westeros has heard whisperings of.
There are those who support Stannis, Robert's brother, who's hoping the god of his newfangled monotheistic religion will help him go the distance. And then there's Daenerys Targaryen, the beautiful heir to Westeros' last usurped dynasty, who just happens to have a few dragons (this fantasy world's version of nuclear missiles) at her command.
If that wasn't enough turmoil and trouble for one kingdom, you have a fearsome force lurking behind a gigantic northern wall, an impending winter that could last several years, landholders who'd like nothing more than to rebel against whatever king eventually grabs the throne, and—
Well, maybe it's not so good to be the king after all.
HBO's Game of Thrones is being called a prestige drama—the most ballyhooed show from the premium cable channel since The Sopranos and perhaps the most widely acclaimed treatment of a fantasy epic since Peter Jackson's Academy Award-winning Lord of the Rings saga.
But Thrones, despite its liberal use of crowns and swordplay and gruff characters with beards, is far from a Tolkienesque fantasy, boasting noble characters fighting for higher purposes. HBO's show is a gritty, dirty, cynical study of sex, politics and familial intrigue—where all truly is fair in love and war, and where the most honorable character (Ned Stark) was beheaded in the very first season.
Perhaps there are those who would take up Ned's mantle of noble-mindedness, but they'll have a tough row to hoe in Westeros. Around the Iron Throne, honor is relative. In a land in which a nobleman marries his own daughters and leaves his newborn sons as a sort of sacrifice in the woods … a land in which kings demand deadly gladiator bouts to celebrate their "naming day" … a land in which brothel owners "gently" threaten to sell prostitutes to sadistic customers if they don't behave, folks who merely cheat, scheme and sleep around seem pretty decent by comparison.
Game of Thrones gives viewers the occasional honorable gesture or innocent action or even theological rumination. But for all its laurels, this series has its eyes firmly focused on the bestial in us, not the angelic. Politics are brutish, men are savage and women are, very often, treated as naked, sexually subservient chattel. Critics sometimes chide the show for its "sexposition"—that is, its habit of having characters recite loads of important-but-otherwise-boring dialogue in the beds of a brothel. And, frankly, most hard-R movies don't get as close to flat-out pornography as this series routinely does.
So in the end, we already know who rules this land: Violence and sex reign as king and queen, while graphic language and a hyper-cynical worldview squabble for scraps around the table.
Is it good to be the king? I don't even want to be in this kingdom.
Crude or Profane Language
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister; Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen; Iain Glen as Ser Jorah Mormont; Maisie Williams as Arya Stark; Alfie Allen as Theon Greyjoy; Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister; Jack Gleeson as Joffrey Baratheon; Michelle Fairley as Catelyn Stark; Aidan Gillen as Petyr Baelish; Kit Harington as Jon Snow; Sophie Turner as Sansa Stark; Ron Donachie as Ser Rodrik Cassel; Julian Glover as Grand Maester Pycelle; Amrita Acharia as Irri; Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Jaime Lannister; Richard Madden as Robb Stark; Isaac Hempstead Wright as Bran Stark; Stephen Dillane as King Stannis Baratheon; Carice van Houten as Melisandre; Liam Cunningham as Ser Davos Seaworth
Paul Asay Paul Asay