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Game of Thrones Review: So What Does a Book Virgin Think of the Show?

Game of Thrones Poster HBO

Winter isn't just coming, people. It's here. Game of Thrones, super-duper highly anticipated HBO adaptation of George R.R. Martin's masterpiece septology, premieres this Sunday at 9 p.m., and it's amazing.

We've seen the first six episodes, and knowing that the book fans have, um, a few concerns about the series which will make their beloved books world famous, we requested questions from those fans as a way of diving into covering this series.

So what pops on screen, and is it worth your time? Whether you run your own GMMR fansite, or whether you're just intrigued by HBO's ubiquitous billboard campaign, we've got the answers that tell you everything you need to know about this blockbuster new drama. Read on:

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Keaton: Thanks for doing this; it's refreshing to get the opinion of someone who hasn't read the books. I must know: how susceptible do you think the general public will be to this show? As a new viewer, did you find the breadth of the show to be overwhelming, or even intimidating? Does the show move at a brisk pace, or is it slow and deliberate, like Boardwalk Empire?
(1) Susceptibility of general public: I can only tell you that I was very skeptical of the show. I was afraid of being bored by the political machinations or just the detail of it all, which I now realize is like being afraid of being bored by the story of one platoon's experience landing on D-Day during World War II. Just because you're not watching the 10,000-foot view of the war doesn't mean you're not in as much or more suspense about the outcome. Going into it, I thought the producers might be blowhards, I thought the fandom and hype were absurd and annoying, and I thought I might be burned out on supernatural swords-and-sandals epics in general. Having seen the show, all those fears are allayed. It's like looking at a diamond in sunshine. So many different facets flash, and it's mesmerizing. My feeling is that it might start off slow, as far public reception, but by season's end, the show will take over the zeitgeist.

(2) Breadth: I think yes, the scope is overwhelming and intimidating, but somehow that's OK. It's clear that the many "POVs" are part of a mosaic being filled in over time. What I'm gathering is that even if one character's story is only a small part of the epic, it matters simply because that person is still a person, with a life that matters. That said, it's hard not to want to put all your hopes on one character. I like the comfort of a hero's journey, because then I know where to look, and I have some sense of security about what might happen. Without the familiarity of "a hero will rise," it's a little harder to keep my balance as a viewer. Watching/participating in Game of Thrones is a bit like standing on a ball—you have to constantly rebalance yourself to stay upright.

(3) Pace: It moves fast, but not fast enough. As you get into the story, you're definitely left panting for more information and more forward motion, because it's so plainly evident that everything that's going on is going to have consequences.

Game of Thrones: Jason Momoa HBO/Helen Sloan

Mirax: What do you think of the non-Westeros portions of the episodes? Yes, Drogo is hot, and Dany is absolutely lovely, but does their storyline blend well with the other storylines in the series or is there a jarring difference whenever they are on screen?
I wouldn't say that the jumps across the Narrow Sea are jarring, but because Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) appears to be somewhere in Turkey or some other far reach of a "Mediterranean/Middle East" region of this world, and the Starks seem to be up in Westeros' version of Scandinavia, there is a drastic visual difference between those storylines, so you decidedly notice the switch in setting. However, it's clear that the gravity of the story is pulling them all in to the same arc. Two key scenes (one is at a picnic and the other is in the Stark crypt) with King Mark Addy and Ned Stark (Sean Bean), plus one or two scenes between Dany and her sleazy brother (Harry Lloyd) have just enough of an exposition download that you realize that Dany is in exile but that she "belongs" back in Rome/London/the capital, or at least that she has roots there. Her "foreign-ness" to the quasi-Babylonian world of the Dothraki is also visually, linguistically and narratively apparent, so again it's clear that she's a narrative outlier, but that she's a key part of the overall geo-political drama we're seeing with Baratheon/Lannister/Stark, et al.

Game of Thrones, Peter Dinklage Helen Sloan /HBO

Katie: Jennifer, who so far is your favorite male and female character?
Favorite male character so far is Tyrion (Peter Dinklage), without a doubt. And favorite female character so far is Arya Stark (Maisie Williams). Ask me for more detail on the definition of "favorite" or give me a different adjective and I might pick others. But so far, Tyrion is a hilarious wise bookworm, and Arya is a little Buffy the Vampire Slayer. What's not to love?

Mirri: Who are your least favorite characters?
Villains Cersei (Lena Headey) and Joffrey Lannister (Jack Gleeson) are obviously more toxic waste than human; and on a not-unrelated note, storyline-wise, I can't say I'm a fan of Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner). She's a ninny and I cannot abide by ninnies. Which is also, I suppose, why I largely dislike Mark Addy's King Robert. Viserys is also, obviously, odious, but he's almost beneath contempt, and he quickly becomes more ridiculous than dangerous. (P.S. Is it wrong that I love Littlefinger and the obese obsequious eunuch spymaster courtier guy?)

Jennifer: I am wondering about the deaths. I always tell new readers to the series to "not get attached," because no one is safe. I will be greatly disappointed if everyone is safe (or really popular characters), just because the show runners don't want to lose a particular actor/actress.
I think it's pretty clear they're not going to skimp on the deaths of the lovable. They might minimize some of the particularly gruesome deaths of children (I've read a few book spoilers and good gracious!), but based on the contemplative and respectful vibe I got from executive producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss at the Television Critics Association in January, they're fully aware that those deaths need to happen for the story to have the necessary impact. Also, the show is on HBO, and HBO has no problem killing people. (Remember when the car rolled over that guy's head on The Sopranos?)

Jessica: One of the things that is really striking about the books is the scenery that is described. We've seen glimpses of some of the landmarks—the Wall, Winterfell, etc. —but how do they hold up? I'm worried they'll look cheap and CG, which would be very disappointing. Also, are they addressing much of the backstory? The seeds of everything that happens in the books is a war 20 years before, but that seems like it could be difficult to work in without a bunch of awkward flashbacks. Thanks for doing this, I'm very excited for this show!
They're meting out backstory exposition very carefully. I think the writer-producers do show (not tell) what they can, but I suspect a lot of Westeros history will be delivered to fans in "extended media experience" stuff and dizzyingly detailed fan wikis, as was the case with Lost. Also, people can always read the books. Hee.

Game of Thrones: John Bradley, Kit Harrington Nick Briggs/HBO

Perob: 1. Have you seen all six screener episodes? 2. What are your favorite part(s) so far?
1. Yes.
2. Favorite parts so far, no particular order:

a. Everything with Jon Snow (Kit Harington) in boot camp, the entire mythology of the north (What is Winter? Why does the north need a Warden? What are the White Walkers?) and the decaying, neglected Wall.
b. Scenes between Dany and that overeducated, too-smooth, ex-slaver exile Targaryen ally guy (Iain Glen) are intriguing, along with anything Dany learning her new Dothraki culture or spending time with Drogo.
c. Pretty much every closeup of Sean Bean as Ned Stark; man, that dude can emote.
d. Pretty much everything Tyrion says and does
d. Old Nan's (Margaret John) stories
e. Two particular scenes (and one line) at the Eyrie are just ripping good fun.
f. All the tantalizing questions still unanswered (by the show at least), like why Jamie (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Cersei Lannister are the way they are, what exactly happened to Ned's father and brother, and what's to become of Dany.
g. There was one really arresting scene with Bartheon's brother (Gethin Anthony) than made me want to see more of him.
h. The litter of dire wolf pups!

Griff: I'm disappointed in how Catelyn Stark looks (not sure if they make her look that way or the actress just looks that way). I mean she isn't supposed to look late 40s. Ned is only 35 in the book, and she is younger than him.
Without knowing the books, IMHO aging up Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley) is a good choice. She has to be older than her many teen/young adult kiddos, and the actress just has tremendous gravitas. She's got a genuine rustic beauty, and she seems to represent everything that Ned gives up to serve his numbnuts king loyally and well. Especially in the first three or four episodes, Catelyn represents the human cost of the "game of thrones," and she does it well.

Cougarbelle: Quite frankly I'd like to hear some more about the hotness of Khal Drogo, but then again, I'm a fan-girly who never heard of GOT until he got the part. Excellent book series by the way. So just how hot was he?
Jason Momoa
as Khal Drogo is ragingly hot and would obviously be the ideal plundering romance novel husband. Drogo and Dany have smouldery good chemistry, and I became very attached to Drogo very quickly. Without delving too far into book spoilers, let's just say that as far as Drogo is concerned, if I ever have the opportunity to meet George R.R. Martin again, I'm going to have words with him about the whole Drogo deal.

Kevin: Did you come away with much of an impression of Theon Greyjoy? He's a minor character in the first book, but becomes very important in book two.
I have virtually no impression of Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) other than I am aware he exists, and that seems to be something of a shifty, unreliable character; I'm worried he's going to do something bad to the Starks.

Game of Thrones: Sean Bean, Miltos Yeromelou, Maisie Williams HBO/Helen Sloan

MJ: What two characters have the best onscreen chemistry?
I wouldn't dare choose one couple over another at this stage, but notable chemistry-laden "pairings" from the six eps I've seen include: Arya and her Water Dancer fellow (Miltos Yerolemou), Tyrion and everyone, Jamie and everyone, Jon Snow and Sam (John Bradley), Dany and Drogo, and Ned and Catelyn.

Jorge: How were the performances of the children in the cast?
The performances of the children in the cast are generally outstanding—there's isn't a cloying ham in the bunch, although I think the kid who plays Joffrey has a bit of the Draco Malfoy problem. He comports himself well, but it's such an odious, mincing part that it's hard for any actor, especially a child, to make much of it.

MP: Those fans who have read the books probably can assume where the first episode will end. How impactful would you say the first episode will be on general audiences?
There will be a collective gasp heard across America as it ends. If HBO has any sense at all they will tack an extended sneak peek of the rest of the season onto the end of the first hour, to tantalize the newly vulnerable into joining the Games of Thrones cult and signing over all their time and money for the next two decades or for however long it takes to tell this tale.

Will you be tuning in to Game of Thrones? Are you a book fan or just intrigued by the show? Hit the comments with your anticipation for the show, as well as any other burning questions you might have. We'd love to try to answer them in a future GOT post!

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