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The best example of being shown a character without being told about her antics was every scene with ARYA STARK. She is clearly not happy with the needlepoint lessons with her sister SANSA and longs to be practicing with the laughing boys. Later on, she revels in messing up her sister's face by spraying her with mushed peas, which cements her tomboy character for the viewer. All this was achieved without Arya having more than five lines of dialogue in the whole episode. Her scenes prompted my wife to say she's a "great character." Hehe, just you wait ...
The scenes with DAENERYS TARGARYEN and her brother in exile were perhaps the most truncated for the show. By the end of the pilot, she's already married to the savage KHAL DROGO which loses a lot of the pathos of VISERYS' creepy manipulation of his younger sister. I am glad though that he warned her not to "wake the dragon" though; that's a key piece of dialogue that stuck with me from the book. And even though the violence and savagery of the DOTHRAKI were shown excellently with the fight at her wedding over who would get to bed a dancing woman, I was upset with how the producers portrayed the consummation of Daenerys and Drogo's marriage. In the book, she is clearly frightened at losing her virginity to such a powerful man who she has just met, but Drogo surprises her with tenderness that leads to true love between the mismatched pair. In the show, we cut away as Drogo pushes his new bride into a more convenient position. Not exactly tender. Also, and this is a quibble, they were supposed to make love in the plains under the stars after a long ride on their horses, not on a rocky beach. The Dothraki are the nomadic horselords, and distrust the "poison water" of the sea. That was the only part of the show that didn't ring true to the source material for me.
Introducing Peter Dinklage as TYRION the IMP immediately post-orgasm from the ministrations of a Northern whore was a bold choice, and the "interruption" from his brother JAIME LANNISTER bringing in four more ladies further lets the audience know that the pair are complicit in their lechery. Dinklage's performance was incredible, and I look forward to where the story takes the character even if my wife wondered if he is normally endowed or not. Sigh.
Jaime Lannister was interesting but I wasn't completely sold on his relationship with his sister, CERSEI. They only have one scene together and I don't think it conveyed the complications between them. The blonde queen isn't even named, but the power she has over Catelyn Stark and the other women in WINTERFELL is creepily demonstrated from their first interactions in the courtyard. My wife did not immediately understand why, but she recognized there was a lot of tension in that scene and wanted to know more.
The final scene with Bran witnessing the incestuous coupling of Jaime and his twin sister and the subsequent delivery of the line, "The things I do for love," was just amazing. That's the point in the book that I remember being completely sucked into Martin's story - They are screwing?! And then he kills the boy? Crazy! - and the writers Benihoff and Weiss made an excellent choice to end the pilot on that cliffhanger with poor Bran falling into the camera. My wife and mother-in-law gasped when that happened, and I couldn't have asked for a better reaction.
The first 60 minutes of Game of Thrones didn't disappoint. There is a huge list of characters for a new audience to understand, and the writers hedged their bets by allowing many to simply appear without being identified - THEON GREYJOY, I'm looking in your direction. The biggest worry that I had going in was that the large cast would make it difficult for people to understand what was happening. Watching the show with newbies was a bit frustrating because there's so much that I was asked to explain, even though I implored my wife to wait until the end of the show to ask questions. I spent about fifteen minutes telling them about JON ARRYN and the letter from his widow, and how she was related to Catelyn, and that the Lannisters were implicated in the murder, and that the Targeryans were the true rulers who KING ROBERT BARATHEON and Eddard Stark deposed ... There's a lot there that just didn't come through from a single casual viewing of one episode. A careful eye attuned to the plot can see the hints of all these threads, but it was a lot to ask for my wife to make all these connections based on a line or two of dialogue.
The biggest downfall of the pilot episode for me was that my mother-in-law didn't immediately recognize that the brother and sister Lannisters were doing it together. I had to tell her it was incest, which kind of ruined the moment of discovery for her.
Despite that, both my wife and mother-in-law honestly said that Game of Thrones was good and they were excited to continue watching it with me. How much the two of them would have enjoyed it if I weren't there to talk about the complexity of the plot, I'm not sure, but the superior acting and the visceral depiction of violence and sex was definitely enough to captivate them almost as much as the book did for me 15 years ago.
We're all looking forward to the second episode.
Greg Tito can't wait to hear Sandor Clegane speak through that awesome dog-shaped helm.