HBO aired today its brand new fantasy show Game of Thrones, an action drama starring Sean Bean of the Lord of the Rings fame. Clocking in at a little over an hour, the series’ premise is kingdom strife with political instability and intrigue; and aside from a well done intro sequence suggesting some fantastical elements, little else.  Overall well done acting and costume design is marred by an uninteresting plot, predictable characters, and blatant sexism and racism.

Although billed as a fantasy drama, the first Game of Thrones episode spends much of its time introducing as many fairly mundane characters as possible without giving us a reason to really care about too many of them.  In fact Showtime’s The Borgias, another medieval era drama, chronicles the rise of the very real Borgias family to the papacy (pope-hood) of Rome, and features more action than Game of Thrones, a show with burly men with over-sized wolf pelt coats.

The show seems to follow Ned Stark, played by Sean Bean, and his invitation to serve the king of the land as his right hand man.  His two sons and wife must deal with his decision and their place in it – whatever it may turn out to be.  Other Characters include a brother, Prince Viserys Targaryen III, and sister, Princess Daenerys, who are estranged from their homeland and must amass an army through a political marriage to reclaim their lost Kingdom. So it stands to reason that this must be facilitated through a union with a stereotypical savage – read minority – and essentially involving rape. It  can potentially sour some of the appeal of the show to certain people.  The sexualization of women doesn’t come off as a historical detail as it does in The Borgias, but as a strong attempt to sell sex to a largely male demographic. It’s all very confusing to boot.

The issues mentioned so far sour the experience but don’t  make the show completely unwatchable.  There are several great moments which immerse you into the world and give a sense of what life is like in the different kingdoms of the world, even if some of it is based on stereotypes.   If the show can capitalize on some of these nuances, bring more of the excellent visuals, and make us truly care about it’s characters then the show would be better for it.

Of all the recent hit dramas including Dexter, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead and The Borgias, Game of Thrones had the weakest pilot episode.  If you’re a fantasy fan it may be worth checking out, just don’t expect the rest of the Lord of the Rings crew to join Boromir.  If not, then the show is probably a pass as the characters can’t seem to hold the weight of the premise of a ‘realistic’ high fantasy setting enough to really be cerebral and provocative.  Then again, who knows, the show may catch its stride at some point.

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