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Didn't really like it...
Just saw the pilot episode last night. I got all the hype for the series (and have heard of the book, but never got around to reading them... too much else to read!) and so was expecting something very, very good.

By the end of the episode, I had a rather vague understanding that there was intrigue going on at the capital, there was some renewed evil 'white walkers' thing going on North of 'the Wall,' and this ex-princess (who's brother is trying to take the throne) is being used as a bargaining chip and got fossilized dragon eggs (which will obviously hatch, despite, ya know, being fossilized).

Now don't misunderstand where I'm coming from: I love fantasy. Lord of the Rings was a favorite (books and the movies, both great in their own ways). I've played Dn D (and all kinds of other RP Gs... Dn D not being a favorite, but thats for another review...) and generally I'd consider myself (and most would consider me) pretty good at understanding and appreciating complex plotlines and the various other traits that Game of Thrones is attributed with. Perhaps most importantly, I have no aversion to grittiness, sex, violence, etc, taking part in a series. (Pillars of the Earth was pretty darn gritty, but it was just about my favorite tv series ever, around the same area as Firefly).

Now, I want to make sure that I'm not missing something from this series that makes it great. But, it seemed to me, it was basically just a bunch of sex scenes— which is taking the easy way out to explain relationships.... not that bad in an of itself, but the fact that they managed to make such a long episode consist of about 30% sex shows how gratuitous it really was. Other than that, they had rather poorly explained ideas that there would be upcoming intrigue (the white haired fellow is clearly planning an invasion, while something is going on with all the royals.. the second in command being killed...but not much else has been explained as of yet). For the most part it was just discussion of whether Boromir would accept the king's job offer... with a lot of associated narmy acting.

Looking into it (I wanted to know why it was so popular when to me it lacked any substance) basically lead to "its like the book!" so why is the book so popular? Is it just out of sheer grittiness? Surely there must be more. So, what am I missing?
You're not missing too much as of yet - the episode is indeed very faithful to the book, which has a rather confusing start indeed. You're basically dumped right into the story of the kingdom and get to absorb it as the plot pans out. My suggestion is to give it a bit of time - We'll definitely get down to the juicy grittiness and intrigue soon enough. This pilot set the table, placed the pieces, and started the clock. The Game has only begun. We'll see by the next episode, but I have a good feeling about this so far.

Edit: As for the sex, it's HBO, and was indeed present in the book... So hey. Enjoy the show :P
comment #7302 Aerials 18th Apr 11 (edited by: Aerials)
Same effect as the book. The start isn't that good, to be honest. I got my cousin to read the book, but it begins really disjointed and confusing. He lost interest several times, but once he got into the story, he got more hooked than I was!
comment #7303 rubendevela 18th Apr 11
Just to clarify on two points: 1) I intend to watch the next episode. I did have a feeling that it might pick up (as many shows do)... I just wanted to express disappointment in the next episode. 2) My problem isn't so much sex, its that it felt like so much screen time was basically devoted to sex, when it could've been better used explaining what was going on. Granted, sex IS a way of explaining some of the relationships, it just felt kinda like a waste of time.
comment #7304 forlaughs 18th Apr 11
I suppose if you go around talking to fans of the book about this viewpoint you'll get a lot of us saying "well the beginning is like that". I share your apprehension, though. Hopefully things do pick up in the later episodes, though the way things are going I guess it's going to be up until episode three or four before they do. Overall I think your review is fair; I got the same impression, though I am a bit more hopeful since I've read all the books. Fingers crossed.
comment #7316 teejaymc 18th Apr 11
Well, for starters it seems to have trouble expositing properly on the backstory and relationships of characters. Admittedly, by this point in the book the details of the schemes were pretty unclear, but basically the queen and her brother (the people in the last sex scene, which was pretty plot critical) are believed to have killed Jon Arryn, the former Hand of the King. Also, everyone distrusts the Lannisters (the queen being one of them) because during the civil war they blatantly stood on the sidelines until the last minute, and Jamie Lannister was a royal bodyguard who killed the previous king.

Also, the Stag is the sigil of the king's house and the Direwolf is the sigil of house Stark, so when they found a direwolf that had been killed by a stag everyone got all paranoid.

The White Walkers remain pretty mysterious even in book four, but basically they're evil ice monsters who conquered most of the world ~8000 years prior.

In the books this was mostly expoisited in narration, and they don't seem to have figured out a way to fit it in.
comment #7322 nameheregrrer 19th Apr 11
I picked up the book about a month ago in anticipation of this series, and I have to say I actually really like the way it starts out. A friend described it to me as a "Low Fantasy," in contrast to stuff like Lord Of The Rings or D&D, which are High Fantasy, and I think that's something you need to know about Game of Thrones going in, in the sense that, while Westeros *is* a fantasy world, that detail is completely incidental to everything that happens in that world.
comment #7323 MarthWMaster 19th Apr 11 (edited by: MarthWMaster)
I'm reading reviews to try to get a feel for how well this series relates to the books. If, as you say, it is "sheer grittiness" that drives it, then, yes, it is EXACTLY like the books. I absolutely despise them, initially liking the first two but having such a vitriolic reaction to the third that I can't stand the entire series. Several thousand pages of rape and murder and plots that sort of wither away; not too much in the way of narm, though, which I actually would have welcomed, finding most of the characters to be wooden and uninteresting. Tyrion and, to a much lesser extent, Jon, are the only two I wouldn't cheerfully watch get run over by an 18 wheeler. So, yeah, not really a fan... If they do the second book, expect to get really confused due to several competing factions.
comment #7337 psycher7 20th Apr 11
In regards to the substance of the show in the first episode, it should be noted, this is a common effect in serial tv dramas. I had the same experience with The Sopranos, Deadwood and Lost. Each one of them took until the 4th or 5th episode to really hit their stride. It is likely because, all those shows (and Go T) were trying to establish a world and characters first as a foundation, so that you are primed for when the series really begins to take off. If, on the other hand, you have read the book, much of the beginning is interesting because you are coming at it with extra knowledge of what will happen in the future.

I would probably recommend the same thing that I recommend to any friends of mine who want to watch the previously mentioned shows. Wait until the 4th episode, then make your decision. It tends to be a better indication of where the show is going. With serials on DVD I even recommend trying to watch the first 4 episodes in a single block, so you may want to dvr the show and try that. Hopefully you can avoid spoilers for that long if you go that route.
comment #7359 elhorible 22nd Apr 11
"In regards to the substance of the show in the first episode, it should be noted, this is a common effect in serial tv dramas. I had the same experience with The Sopranos, Deadwood and Lost."

I can't exactly remember how Deadwood started, so I won't comment on it. But I can say you're wrong about The Sopranos and Lost. The former embedded the audience pretty firmly in the mind of the protagonist, whom eventually if asked they'd watch watching paint dry; the latter introduced perfectly in the form in which they'd persist the hero (Jack), his annoying sidekick (, the adventure, the ensembleness, and the mystery. In fact, Lost's pilot has pretty much become a classic by now, or rather was a classic before the finale jerked everyone around and banished love of the series back into the recent past.

As for when and where they hit their strides, okay, point taken, both got better. Tone was originally a problem for The Sopranos, as, partly thanks to Analyze This, people assumed it was a comedy. "College" shot it off like a rocket, fully demonstrating it's skill at balancing humor, violence, sentiment, sex, and tension. But it's not as if nothing beforehand was good; it's just that it improved.

Lost didn't take off for me until "Walkabout," mostly because my favorite characters were Locke and Sawyer. But I don't think it was much worse before, only a little.
comment #7360 tublecane 22nd Apr 11
re: "what am I missing?"

The appeal of the series is compelling, extradinarily well-developed characters and character arcs. It will take some time to start to appreciate them.

People like me, who have read the books, find it almost instantly appealing - I loved the first episode, and I thought that Jaime's pushing of Bran out a window as well as the reveal of his incestuous affair with his sister was a very good clffhanger and hook for episode 1.

As to the graphic sex, that's part of the tone of the books - gritty realism, and an assumption that real people in a harsh medieval environment would behave this way. Many scenes in the books are straight-up pornographic, and the series doesn't shy away from that. People who like "True Blood" will probably like "Game of Thrones", and the converse is true.

As to details being left out like scenes and names with the wolves, Tyrion encountering one, etc., they can't possibly screen every last scene from the book. But give them time, as I suspect they will choose enough important scenes to produce similar emotional reactions.

They are trying to bring in new fans, but their obvious first priority is to lovers of the books, and I for one greatly appreciate that. It is a pretty good formula for success; witness the Harry Potter movies, and the Twilight movies, which are great commercial successes and became so by inviting the authors to participate in the creation of the screenplay and direction, and sticking to the source material almost religiously, which is a paradigm shift for Hollywood - most previous book adaptations made major changes for their film versions which were very jarring and off-putting to their fanbases, and almost always led to commercial flops which were considered unfaithful to their source material and alienating to both the original fans and newcomers.

comment #7412 belgarathmth 24th Apr 11 (edited by: belgarathmth)
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