So I've been VV EXCITED about the HBO Game of Thrones adaptation, because I've been a fan of that series since forever (my copy has the old, ugly artwork of Some Guy Who Doesn't Appear to Be Ned, But Who Knows? riding randomly around Winterfell, I Guess). Obviously I went into the stratosphere when they cast Jason as Khal Drogo, because YES, OF COURSE YOU DO THAT -- it's like casting Alan Rickman as Snape. OF COURSE YOU DO THAT. You have to do that.
Anyway, it premiered last week, obviously, and I have some thoughts. I'll tell you the biggest, broadest ones right up front, but the single thing I reacted to most intensely goes under the spoiler cut.
In general: holy hell, it's pretty. It's gorgeous. So yay for that. I also am generally really pleased by the actors, with a couple of question marks in my head about casting/performance choices. Mark Addy is doing a fine job with Robert, but it's just slightly off to me: in dwelling on Robert's dissipation, they kind of seem to be missing the underlying sadness of Robert's character, which is that he is a *fighter* above all else, a man who was an amazing, competent warrior and commander, then got shoehorned by a society that worships prowess in war into governance, which, SURPRISE, requires an entirely different skill set. Robert is a shitty king and he doesn't enjoy it and has never been truly happy a day in his life since he took the throne, but he was once a giant among men, and it's the awareness of that comedown (his awareness and ours) that makes him easy to sympathize with, even through all of Robert's bullshit. I don't know that I see the former greatness in Addy's portrayal, although maybe it'll come out along the line. (They're doing a similar dance with Tyrion, whose "perversion" in the book was always much more about being a brilliant and bitter guy who was brutally honest about things that other people pretty up, more than about actually being more decadent or self-indulgent than anyone else -- which I don't think you'd get from this episode -- but maybe they're building to it?)
I'm also not totally sure about the guy who plays Jaime, but you know, Jaime is a difficult character, since he's probably changed more over the course of the series than anyone else. I'm keeping an open mind on that. I find the dude a little funny-looking, which is a slight hindrance with a character that everyone says all the time is the Handsomest Man in Westeros, but maybe that's me, and Jaime's a complicated enough character that they're smart to go with a good actor over the Handsomest Actor in Westeros, if the decision comes down to that.
In general the adaptation reminded me of how much of the wordcount of GoT (and the whole series, although probably less so than in this establishing book) is all about the internal worlds of these multiple viewpoint characters -- how much of what's interesting about it is Martin's existentialist perspective that the rules or the facts of building Westeros as a secondary world are not as significant at *the way that his characters believe Westeros works.* Everything you get as a reader is filtered through the inner voice of one particular character, so that there isn't really an authoritative narrator voice in the series -- the world is what people believe it is, and every conflict in the book comes, at the end of the day, down to people who have irreconcilable differences in the way they believe the world works.
In some ways, tv is a great medium for that, because the audience has the same perspective on all the characters: we aren't limited to any one point of view, even for the duration of a chapter. In other ways, tv is going to fail miserably, because you just can't get deeply enough into anyone to understand how who they are colors the facts you're watching unfold. It's most obvious, I think, with the Jon Snow stuff: yeah, you get that Jon Snow is the bastard son of the lord, and you get that the lord's wife doesn't like him. But because you get a lot in the book from *both* Ned's and Cat's viewpoint, there's just a huge amount of richness as to why Ned's sense of honor makes his kindness to Jon inevitable, and why Cat's sense of honor makes his kindness to Jon feel like a huge insult. There's no flatly correct answer given to that -- although modern readers with their modern values are going to default, in probably 100% of cases, to being nice to kids who had nothing to do with their parentage, Cat's *not wrong* that the obvious favor Ned shows to Jon reflects badly in the eyes of the world on the whole family. Robert provides for his bastards, but everyone understands that Cersei would fucking murder him in his sleep if he brought one to live with her kids, because it would be a gruesome insult. Cat lives with a gruesome insult every day from a man who otherwise appears to love her very much, and she's pissed about that and has no one *but* Jon to take it out on. Once you see that from her point of view, and you see from Jon's that he feels very keenly the lack of a mother in his life, since all knowledge of his own mother is kept from him and the woman who mothers his siblings can't bear to be near him -- it's just really poignant and complicated, a terrible situation where you can sympathize with everyone involved. That's the kind of stuff that makes the book intelligent and truthful, in a way that I'm just afraid the tv show never really can be.
Okay, but still, it's really gorgeous to look at, and I have high hopes that a lot of the intrigue plotlines are going to come out very well -- can't wait for the scene where Arya gets trapped down among the dragon skulls!
So, then. About Daenerys and Drogo. ( Hoo, boy. )