Last night, the first episode of the second season aired in the UK on Sky Atlantic (a day later than our American cousins) and has subsequently been met with strong praise. The second series retains the trademark dark, cynical and complex take on the fantasy genre and rode into town on its monstrous televisual warhorse, slaying all unbelievers with the power of HD visuals projected onto liquid crystals.
That said, I have to admit that Game of Thrones is a difficult sell to someone who is a fantasy-sceptic (read my piece about genre snobs here), but nonetheless appears to be gathering viewers. Hoping to emulate the Lord of the Rings film series’ mainstream crossover success, it has had strong numbers already, evidenced by this article at The Guardian that throws out there that GOT had almost 5 times as many viewers as Mad Men in the first episode of their respective new seasons.
When a fantasy series rates so strongly against a critically-lauded, viewer-beloved series such as Mad Men, you know that this is more than the sum of its parts. What am I saying though? You should know this already, after all, it is an HBO show, it has talented actors (who previously plied their trade in film, stage and screen), and an eye-wateringly high budget, which is the envy of many feature films…I should say that I’m not directly comparing Mad Men and Game of Thrones though, they both have their own considerable merits.
So, after all that fawning foreplay, you probably want to know what the first episode was like? I hate to be so predictable, but I can only say positive things about this hour of televisual delight. A hell of a lot of plot, scene-setting and characters were introduced with minimal ham-fisted exposition, and they even found time for some violence and nudity (hey, it is HBO after all), best of all though, was the welcome return of Peter Dinklage, who brought his wry take on Tyrion Lannister back to our TV screens. If you haven’t watched the first series (as a certain Guardian critic confessed before uncharitably criticising this episode), go back, watch that first. Like The Wire, The Sopranos and Mad Men, the dense plot and character relationships only make an iota of sense with the proper set-up. I’m looking forward to the next ten weeks of screen-based delight.
I haven’t read the books, but if the series continues in this vein, we could be talking about the Television Event of the Year. In April.