I can thank Bill Simmons. Yep, the Sports Guy is the one. Without him, I never watch HBO’s Game Of Thrones, never become engrossed in this side-winding, intense, seemingly never-ending tale created by George R.R. Martin, the guy who wrote the books the show is based on. Without Simmons, I never read the books – “A Song Of Ice And Fire.” Basically, without Simmons, I never watch the HBO show that seems poised to realign what good television means.
So how does Simmons fit into this? Well it went like this: He’s famous for his pop culture references, and made one in particular that suck with me during the NBA playoffs last season. So I went digging for another series besides Entourage, Boardwalk Empire and the rest of the “cool” shows in order to increase my “pop culture IQ.” I recalled seeing a promotion for a show back during the first season of Boardwalk. It sounded fresh. Interesting. Most importantly, different.
As I said in a piece on Boardwalk on the eve of it’s second season, at times, a show catches an audience with one powerful scene or one major character who’s worth rooting for. With Thrones, it wasn’t that, especially considering the first few episodes of last season are quite slow in comparison to the rest of the story. The appeal just happened, and felt almost instantaneous. The complex characters and the depth of nearly every scene left me confused at first – “Who’s he talking about?” “They are brother and sister?” “Where are we?” – but it had a scope that was unparalleled, and a smorgasbord of completely grey characters. It was so good, and the rewards promised to be so awesome, I didn’t care that the race was initially too fast for me.
The world of the second season has gotten more grand, more dangerous and the violence is so encompassing that it almost makes the murderous violence of a sociopathic teenage boy king feel mundane. If we had a Game of Thrones power ranking system for the season’s premiere on Sunday night (9 p.m. ET), the top five would probably go something like (depending on my mood) Joffrey Baratheon, Tyrion Lannister, Tywin Lannister, Robb Stark and Renly Baratheon. Considering there are five kings fighting for one iron throne (hence the line “War Is Coming”), and yet I only just now named barely half of them, shows you how engaging this narrative is. I also didn’t mention the exiled princess and her three creatures with the potential to eventually destroy entire civilizations, as well as a paranoid queen who thinks she’s just a little smarter than she is. The players are everywhere.
Considering I’m applauding the merits of a show like this on a website like Dime, I already know the response I’ll receive. Thrones isn’t “cool.” It’s not about drugs and the corner (The Wire… which is actually probably the closest comparison for the entangled storyline of Thrones). It’s not about gangsters (Boardwalk, The Sopranos). It’s not an intimate look at the machinations of the real world (Breaking Bad, Mad Men). It’s not a cop show either (too many to recollect). It’s a fantasy dwelling in a real world existence that’s impossible to pigeon hole or describe, and has a legion of fans that too many critics (I’m looking at you, New York Times) have already tried to reject and shun by making them sit at the nerd lunch table while labeling them with the pathetic Dungeons And Dragons description.
For the majority of readers, I’m betting your initial resistance stems from this.
But from the sex to the violence to the beautiful women (seriously, there are almost too many to keep up with), you shouldn’t be afraid. I knew this show had changed the game for me when I realized my two favorite characters were a young, headstrong girl a continent away from the action, and a dwarf who fights with his tongue rather than a war hammer. For someone like myself, who honestly never should’ve been watching Thrones in the first place, this proved the unique nature of the series. It isn’t even fantasy. It’s a genre all to itself.
Game of Thrones might not be your type of entertainment, but if you’re not at least giving it a chance on Sunday night, you’re missing out. To me, this is the best show on television.
What do you think of Game of Thrones?
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