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33 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A bit like Dallas, but with naffing great swords, 7 Mar. 2013
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This review is from: Game of Thrones - Season 2 [DVD] [2013] (DVD)
Meanwhile in the kingdom of Westeros...

Tyrion Lannister finds himself in the position of the King's right hand man. Unfortunately, the King happens to be Joffrey, a pasty faced teen with a penchant for ripping out tongues and lopping off heads (tsk! That's teenagers today for you!). Plotting against the young king are his half brothers Stannis (aided and abetted by a rather sexy witch) and Renly (he of the gorgeous little beard). Unfortunately, they both want a seat on the throne - who will win the right to assault the city of King's Landing? In the North, Rob Stark is also set to march on the royal city, seeking revenge for his father's death at the hands of Bad King Joff, but why is Robb's best friend Theon looking so shifty? Surely he's not thinking of betraying Robb? Surely not! Even further north, Robb's bastard brother Jon has fallen in with the wildmen of the icy forests, one of whom is a rather fetching and feisty (and surprisingly well-scrubbed) red-haired lass. And across the Narrow Sea, Danerys (yet another pretender to the throne of Westeros), accompanied by her three baby dragons, a crusty, blood-stained old knight-of-the-realm and a rag-tag bunch of murderous, barbarian horsemen, is looking for somewhere to live. Seriously, if they turned up on YOUR road and knocked on YOUR front door, wouldn't YOU hide behind the sofa 'till they went away?

And so... the second series of HBO's epic adaptation of George RR Martin's equally epic tale of medieval-fantasy-political-soap-opera-drama, A Song of Fire and Ice. The word "epic" is a horrendous cliche these days, but there is no better subject, no more apt use, than this - ten episodes, each running to forty minutes and that only a seventh part of the expected (anticipated? hoped for?) full set. Martin has delivered five volumes and promises two more and HBO has dedicated a season to each of the first two books. If all goes well (dare I mention the word "Firefly"?) this series will still be running in 2020.

Season 2 carries on, as one would expect, where Game of Thrones - Season 1 left off, but appears to have built considerably on its predecessor's foundations; it is no less epic, no less wide ranging, no less ambitious by any stretch of the imagination. The canvas is broad and richly painted, ranging from craggy, arid deserts and warm mediterranean climes to sweeping grasslands, icy tundra and freezing forests. It looks magnificent and the accompanying sets are just as marvellous. Some considerable CGI will have been used to build the vast cities and ruined castles but it has been done so well that, for once, the computers' imaginations don't rule this world.

The cast is just as eclectic, with a broad admixture of fresh faces and old hands (playing many new characters and plenty of familiar ones too). The front liners do their job well indeed and there are some brilliant portrayals - my two favourites are Jack Gleeson's wonderfully 3D King Joffrey (he'd make an excellent Bond-baddie) and Peter Dinklage as "The Imp" Tyrion Lannister. The second line cast are rather more variable and it seemed to me that Danerys' handmaidens had all been to the same Hollywood School of Supporting Acting (TM) where they learnt to Act (with a capital "A"). The extras are also a little patchy with plenty of "Third Peasant, Rolling a Wine Barrel" or "Serf 6, Carrying Random Bushel of Straw" plying their thankless and monotonous trade in various castle keeps or military encampments. You can't have it all, I suppose.

The plot is a lot easier to follow now. Perhaps the familiarity gained from watching the first series and reading the books (I haven't got past Volume 2 yet) has helped to cement the faces and motives (frequently ulterior) of the bewildering dramatis personae. It is not a simple story, however and a second viewing is almost essential. Despite the demands of a televisualisation, HBO have remained very faithful to Martin's original story - the necessities of editing have trimmed it down quite a lot, but the books and the TV series remain very close in spirit.

Season 2 does struggle in terms of continuity. The structure of the book and the big geographical distances between some of the leading characters means that individual events and characters seem disconnected and isolated and in some episodes there are long periods between appearances of some of the main protagnists. The penultimate episode is a good example - the entire ep is (quite correctly) given over to the siege of King's Landing which means that the /last/ episode is basically no more than s breathless 50 minute canter around Westeros and outlying regions, catching up with everyone who wasn't at the siege but was clearly very busy doing other important stuff. This is an extreme example but most of the episodes do struggle (unavoidably) to keep us informed of everything that everyone is doing and some characters do indeed disappear for long periods at a time through out the series.

One big deal with the TV series and an aspect that HBO most certainly "beefed-up" is the nudity. There's just as much in S2 than there was in S1 and both are a good deal "saucier" than the books. You can be sure that (with very few exceptions) if a female character is introduced, somewhere along the line you'll get to see her perfectly formed boobs and exquisitely trimmed/waxed thatch. Now as a bloke, I won't complain too much about this, but the amount of shagging (and some rather explotative sexual violence) does render the series out of the reach of the younger viewer who may have read the rather less explicit books. Along with the copious amounts of gore, the 18 Certificate is very well deserved. Note that the series itself is rated 18 but the individual episodes carry their own rating - 15 and 18 - depending on the content. Also note that the 15 rated episodes are still fairly explicit. I've added some additional thoughts in this review's comments section, below.

There's a plethora of extras on this five disk set, including commentaries, character bios a couple of mini-documentaries and so-on. Even if the series does falter in later seasons, A Game of Thrones will inevitably remain an ambitious and breathtakingly well-produced piece of TV history. Great value at whatever price.
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Showing 1-8 of 8 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 7 Mar 2013 21:06:29 GMT
Kev Mooney says:
Great review Crookedmouth.

I don't watch much telly so don't have the all powerful 'SKY' so haven't seen any of these. I've thought about buying these seasons but haven't as of yet. You've convinced me! Sounds brilliant.

Posted on 12 Mar 2013 15:06:12 GMT
Last edited by the author on 12 Mar 2013 15:17:05 GMT
Crookedmouth says:
Regarding the scenes of sex and violence, one might claim that the 18 Cert gives it away - what more (or less) should you expect? Fair comment, I suppose, but I do believe that over the last few years, the explicitness of sex & violence on film has increased considerably so that an 18 today is far more bloody and sexy than a general release 18 from a couple of decades ago. Perhaps I'm wrong, but compare the defining moment in, say, Alien with any one of the C18 episodes from GoT. Alien: some thrashing around, a lot of blood and an exploding tee-shirt (no entrails). GoT - throats and faces slashed open, entrails everywhere, tongues ripped out and held aloft and so-on and so-on.

I am no prude, but I was genuinely shocked that a US-produced TV serial should include such explicit s&v. Perhaps I just haven't been paying enough attention to the trends.

Posted on 12 Mar 2013 15:12:07 GMT
Last edited by the author on 12 Mar 2013 23:58:59 GMT
Crookedmouth says:
Then there's the sex. Perhaps the defining scene in GoT is the "Joffrey's birthday present" scene. I found it very interesting that the build-up of that scene included some shots that are most definitely soft-core material - perhaps a little too long-shot to see much detail, but defnitely verging on porn. The culmination of the scene is where Joff makes one of the ladies rape the other with his sceptre. That part of the scene is NOT shown - the camera looks elsewhere and the screams are brief. I thought that was a terrible cop out by the producers who could have used the scene to say something worthwhile about sexual violence and exploitation, but no - in the end it was there for nothing more than a bit of gratuitous, exploitative tittilation.

I honestly wonder, if this is representative of a real trend in attitudes towards this sort of content, where it will end up and how soon it will get there.

In reply to an earlier post on 22 Mar 2013 14:30:48 GMT
C. Murray says:
I believe that a lot of the 18 rated films from the 80's would attract no more than a 12 rating today.

In reply to an earlier post on 27 Mar 2013 09:51:02 GMT
Last edited by the author on 27 Mar 2013 09:55:41 GMT
Sam Woodward says:
I suspect it's down to Spartacus, which unashamedly appealed to the lowest common denominator in order to get noticed. I feel it wasn't necessary for GoT to take the same route since it had a lot more going for it from the offset, such as a huge fan base inherited from the books & a much better story. But there you go.

A certain amount of savagery is consistent with the feel of the books, where heroism doesn't guarantee a characters' survival in the same way it usually does in books/films. This is the attitude which I feel is becoming/has become a trend in TV shows, books & films - HBO's other series, The Walking Dead, also covers this theme, although I'm more familiar with the graphic novels than the TV series. But personally I don't think it justifies HBO shoe-horning in additional explicit content, all filmed close-up in HD widescreen. I certainly don't recall the sceptre scene being in the books.

In reply to an earlier post on 27 Mar 2013 09:56:53 GMT
Crookedmouth says:
"Spartacus" - I acidentally tuned into that once and saw a couple of large, muscular men with nae clothes on.

And when I say "large"...

Anyway. I quickly switched back to Cash in the Attic, I can tell you.

In reply to an earlier post on 27 Mar 2013 10:25:07 GMT
Sam Woodward says:
To Cash In The Attic via Bulging Sacks (Of Cash) In The Basement

In reply to an earlier post on 31 Mar 2013 11:40:46 BDT
I can't help but feel sorry for all the actors who have to strip off and perform in order to give us a few minutes to nip off and put the kettle on and make a brew before the story gets going again.
I enjoyed the first series on Sky, which I've since unsubscribed but the sheer, relentless, overwhelming volume of the nudity and sex was really beginning to irritate me, and constantly interrupting the pace of the story .
Was thinking of getting the DVDs for series 2, but maybe I'll wait until it all appears on Lovefilm, as not sure I'd ever wish to actually plough through or repeatedly fast forward past all the heaving and grunting more than once after I'd caught up with the story.
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