HBO reigns supreme with 'Game of Thrones'

“Have you ever seen Sunday night programming on HBO? It’s spectacular.”

Peter Klaven, Paul Ruud’s character in 2009’s “I Love You, Man”, could not have been more correct. Although the premium cable network has had some flops in the recent year, (2011 saw the cancellation of their original series’ “Hung” and “Bored to Death”) it has found a veritable cash cow with its adaptation of a George R.R. Martin saga in “Game of Thrones”, which achieves the modern rarity of successfully adapting a book series to television.

The original series, which premiered last April, is rooted in the book series “A Song of Ice and Fire”, by American author George R.R. Martin. Martin has often been compared to “Lord of the Rings” creator J.R.R. Tolkien, and aside from the appreciation they share for their initials, the two also share the ability to shape and create inspiring fantasy worlds.

Martin’s writing engages the reader as well as disgusts them from the first lines, “The morning had dawned clear and cold, with a crispness that hinted at the end of summer. They set forth ad daybreak to see a man beheaded, 20 in all, and Bran rode among them, nervous with excitement.”

With writing as eloquent as Martin’s, the network certainly has a lot on its plate with avid fans of the book series pointing out possible misconstrued details, but the fact that writer and executive producer David Benioff and D.B. Weiss had the full support of Martin, who worked with them closely on season one, should serve as a comfort to fans of “Fire and Ice.”

Within a few minutes of viewing, we are treated to action, fear, creepy scenes of the undead, and soon after, recurring themes of family, honor, tradition and courage. In addition to the writing, the series showcases beautiful scenes of fantasy landscapes.

Filmed in both Northern Ireland and Malta, the crisp snows and dark shadows created from extreme sunlight in both filming locations allow the effect of the visual representation of The Seven Kingdoms to be all the more hauntingly beautiful. These qualities make accessibility to the show for those who have not read Martin’s novels a strong point of the series. Its unexpected juxtapositions in both the thematic elements of the writing as well as the visual effects of the landscapes that give viewers an accurate sense of life in the fictional territory of Westeros.

In Westeros, several houses have fought for generations, each from their separate part of the fantasy country until one powerful family, the Targaryens, united The Seven Kingdoms.

Now, several years after their invasion, there is a complication over contention for the great Iron Throne, which sits in the Kings Landing. The pace and organization of the show allows many story lines to function without causing viewers to feel as though they are losing sight of the many characters’ moods and motivations.

Although the series can get fairly complicated at times, there are normally close to five storylines functioning at once. The writing often lends itself to unanticipated and even comical sub-plots. This type of writing allows viewers to feel truly connected to each of the characters and form their own house allegiances — something that Martin also assures in his literary versions.

Although, it is hard to point out the strongest aspect of the series’ adaption, credit should be given to HBO for even attempting to adapt a saga of this magnitude (the first book alone is almost 900 pages long). The acting in the series also should be praised, as it seems to distinguish itself from that of similar fantasy series.

Peter Dinklage, who won a 2011 Emmy for his portrayal of Tyrion Lannister, does a particularly fantastic job at lending some comic relief to the story line, while also shaping a well-rounded and complex character, and that is just the tip of the iceberg.

While many of the actors in the series are well-seasoned, especially overseas, (Lena Headey, Sean Bean and Michelle Fairley to name a few) it is really the inexperienced and child actors who carry the series in their portrayals of the age-old loss of innocence.

However, their acting is anything but cliché. Martin himself sings their praises. In an April 2011 interview, he said, “Some of the people who really impressed me the most were the kids.The children are required to do a great deal more [than a typical child actor]. They have to convey fear, grief, love and yearning in parts that would be challenging for even an adult actor with 10 or 20 years experience. All of them are great,” he said.

“Game of Thrones” successfully accomplishes joining the worlds of literature and television, even successfully enhancing some aspects of the written work through its spectacular visualizations of fantasy landscapes. I will rarely make such a bold declaration of support, but if you have not watched this series, you should.. Episodes are available OnDemand or at with a subscription. “Game of Thrones” returns April 1 at 9 p.m. on HBO forSeason 2.

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