Trying to find words to adequately sum up a behemoth like Game of Thrones – and keeping it to a mere 900 of the buggers – is going to be the hardest thing about writing this. Especially if I faff about with meta nonsense in the first paragraph.
But that’s how I roll, much like the heads of roughly half the men and beasts unlucky enough to appear in the saga.
We’re now a substantial chunk of the way into series 2 and it’s getting better and better with each betrayal, beheading and boob. But the sex and violence aren’t really the main attractions (though don’t get me wrong, both are substantial selling points) – after a few episodes of confusion and on-the-nose plot development, the sheer bloody politics of it all starts to take over.
The series could have just as easily been called “Now That’s What I Call Regicide”, where the most dangerous place isn’t on the battlefield or in the bedroom, but on the titular throne(s). It helps that there are actually more kings per square mile than peasants – seven in Westeros alone.
What there aren’t that many of yet are ex-kings – it’s a pretty terminal condition, yet one to which pretty much every main character aspires. Indeed if you try to avoid becoming king then BAM, suddenly there’s a pointy metal thing on your head and a battleaxe plummeting towards your neck.
Queens are no better, though their survival rates are a lot higher as long as they avoid childbirth (though spawning monstrous black shadow-demons is okay).
So far, season two is a Machiavellian wet dream. The four noble families of Westeros – the Starks, the Lannisters, the Baratheons and the Targayens – more or less loathe each other, yet their respective fortunes fluctuate in a mutually dependent yet murderously unstable ballet. Each is determined to found a dynasty for the ages, despite the painfully obvious fact that all it takes to be king is a bigger axe or a bigger penis than the predecessor.
And that includes the queens.
While some are more “good” than others, it’s never that simple, even within each family. And finding out who’s good, who’s bad, who’s bad pretending to be good, and who’s good pretending to be a whore-obsessed smart-arse pisshead dwarf* is pretty much the essence of the story.
After a first series of teasing and phoney war, everything’s kicked off in series 2. The beheading of Eddard Stark, Hand of the King and patriarch of the Northern kingdom of
Sheffield Winterfell, has resulted in open war between the odious, incestuous Lannisters – who have the dubious advantage of Draco Malfoy Joffrey, son of the late king Robert Baratheon, actually in possession of the throne – and Eddard’s much more disappointingly-named scion Robb and his increasingly impressive armies.
Confusing matters is the claim of Stannis Baratheon, also in possession of vast swathes of fighting men. Eddard believed him to be the rightful heir as Joffrey is in fact the spawn of incestuous union between Queen Regent Cersei and her brother Jaime. Who killed the last-king-but-one, obv.
Stannis’s hot brother Renly, who seemed to hold all the aces an episode ago, rather abruptly bought the farm this time round, stuck through the heart by a supernatural smoke-blade (yeah, me neither); while Daenerys Targaryen, flaxen-haired desert fox across the seas and, uniquely, possessor of actual dragons, is determined to reclaim the throne of her – hang on – father? AKA the “mad king”, who appears to have been the only sane one among the lot of them.
There’ll be a test on this at the end.
But of course it’s not this simple. A whole host of counsellors, warriors, relatives and whores just have to stick their oars in (and often into each other). And all the while, Arya Stark, 11-year-old tomboy daughter of Eddard, has managed to evade the Lannisters in the least obvious way imaginable: by becoming a servant of the most powerful Lannister of the lot, the patriarch Tywin (played by Charles Dance, who you can always rely on to do what it says on the tin). I reckon we should watch Arya closely.
It may sound ridiculously complicated, and in a vacuum it is – doing research for this article, I discovered whole bloodlines I’d somehow missed the first time round (including the marvellously-monikered “Onion Knight”). But if you watch the whole thing, it forms a terrific, swirling narrative.
The whole series feels like watching (ridiculously sensationalised) history in action, on fast forward and on some fairly hefty uppers. If that sound a bit commonplace, that’s where the dragons, the 6,000-year-old monsters, and the boobs come in.
I’m not quite sure how to talk about the latter, but there’s a sense that the producers went way beyond gratuitous and managed to add a layer of real, sensual physicality to an already overloaded realm. I’ve long been over nudity in drama (it’s so 1989, darling), but it’s somehow so *right* in Game of Thrones that it works, absolutely and arousingly and with bold, curvaceous aplomb. You even get to see willies.
This is a silly series, overblown and absolutely full of pomposity, but my god it’s addictive. It offers everything you could ever want in a hyperreal, glossy orgy of mythology and murder. And I fancy virtually everyone in it, male and female.
It’s Skyrim made flesh, and there’s no bigger recommendation from me.
* Seriously, Peter Dinklage plays Tyrion Lannister with such style that you forget his veins flow with pure evil and root for him regardless of foe. Best character ever.