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TV Review: "Game of Thrones" Has A Heart of Geek

by Caryn James
April 8, 2011 1:00 AM
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“I am a khaleesi of the Dothraki!” If that sentence makes you say “Huh?” or “I don’t care,” I am here to tell you that you can live the rest of your life quite happily without ever watching Game of Thrones, HBO’s superhyped, superexpensive new fantasy miniseries.

Set in a vaguely Arthurian time and place, the saga involves a complicated set of feuding families vying for power and the right to sit on The Iron Throne. Yes, this is the kind of fantasy that invents realms and thrones and magical petrified dragons’ eggs even though dragons are extinct, and ... you can see, you really need to have a taste for this kind of thing. And while the series does have lots of grownup drama, much of it lurid and some very sinister – incest and a plot to kill a small child among them – the entire project has a heart of geek that never lets the rest of us in.

That is not what you’re likely to hear from fans of the series’ source, George R.R. Martin’s bestselling novel series, A Song of Ice and Fire. I haven’t read the novels, so I can definitively say this: don’t let anyone tell you the series isn’t confusing. It takes a couple of episodes before you can begin to sort out who’s who, never mind why they’re waving swords at each other.

In short, Sean Bean is the star. He plays heroic Ned Stark, lord of the northern land called Winterfell. He has six children, one of them a bastard, so he’s not that heroic. The House of Stark’s motto is “Winter is Coming,” because nothing is too obvious for this group. In fairness to them, they live in a place where winters and summers can last for decades, and you never know when a season is going to creep up on you.

Ned is called to become number two to his old pal the King, Robert Baratheon, who has married into the most vicious, manipulative family around, the Lannisters. Unlucky for Robert, lucky for us, because the Lannisters are thoroughly wonderful villains. Lena Headey is the ever-plotting Queen Cersei, who has the devotion of her two brothers: dashing twin Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and the learned, intelligent dwarf Tyrion, nicknamed the Imp, played by Peter Dinklage with blonde hair, a British accent and the kind of suave, venomous delivery that might belong to some 1930’s cad. I love the evil Lannisters.

If Game of Thrones had left the power plays there, geek wouldn’t even be a factor. But wait. “Across the narrow sea,” because that’s the way everyone talks, there are ridiculous families that seem to have come from another planet. They include the deposed House of Targaryen, which is basically two people, Prince Viserys and his sister, Daenerys (Emilia Clarke, photo below), both with flowing white-blonde hair. I think of them as The Albinos, just for clarity. (They’re not, I know; the novels give them silver hair and purple eyes.) That narrow sea must have something to do with global warming and climate change, because while Stark and the others are riding horses over green hills that are about to turn to ice, the Targaryens live in some exotic desert where people roam around half naked.

Viserys marries off his virginal little sister to a brutal but mighty warrior of the Dothraki tribe, which has its own Elvish language. In Dothraki, a warrior is a kahl, his wife is - here you go! - a khaleesi, and eventually Daenerys tells her belligerent brother, “I am a khaleesi of the Dothraki!” so he can just back off. That kahl, by the way, wears a long braid and heavy eyeliner and likes to take his women doggie style, at least until Daenerys gets some lessons from a friendly courtesan and tames him. You can see the female empowerment plot riding into the desert already.

That’s just the beginning of the sex and scandals, and there are even more Houses with their noses out of joint, but you get the idea. Whenever you begin to think there’s a brain behind this drama - and David Benioff, who wrote and produced with D.B. Weiss, has written The 25th Hour and other smart films and novels – everything turns fanboy silly. It can look very sumptuous, though, and occasionally just CGI’d.

I have to admit that Game of Thrones at its best has genuine narrative pull. If you decide to give it a try and haven’t read the books, don’t even think about heading in without this: HBO’s handy character cheat sheet.

Here's a quick glimpse at the series, which begins next Sunday, April 17th.

And here's a 15-minute preview:

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  • Limbo | April 22, 2012 10:10 AMReply

    I don't particularly agree with you on all your points. But I love fantasy and didn't particularly like Game of Thrones. I found it boring. Please keep writing and ignore the juveniles on the internet.

  • Cyndi | April 6, 2012 9:35 PMReply

    this is one of the BEST shows ever on TV!! very well made - love it! the acting is awesome! special effects - actual locations - you have to be nuts not to love Game of Thrones. Emmy Award!!

  • Jose Manuel Lopez | June 15, 2011 6:36 AMReply

    Seriously, stop writting and start thinking.

  • Kimmy | April 28, 2011 5:42 AMReply

    Hi there! Fan of the show here. Glad to see you liked it. Are you going to keep watching?

    Found the Dany stuff boring in the books too...

    [JEEZ people, a lady who likes the lannisters as villains can't be all that bad, can she?]

  • Bill | April 28, 2011 2:23 AMReply

    Do you seriously not comprehend that the north in this world has ice, the middle is lush and the south is desert?

    That's hard to understand?

    I think your a volunteer or something?

  • Scrivener | April 26, 2011 9:45 AMReply

    I think some reviewers are just mad 'cause HBO didn't use the large-budget expended on Game of Thrones to bring back their favorite show for an extra-special, season-long, post-series finale set in the desert entitled Sex in the Mojave: Wacky Female Empowerment Sandwiched Between Two Camel Humps. Sex in the City; Now that was a show that stretched the limits of credibility (insert joke about Sarah Jessica Parker's shnoz here) Wocka-wocka-wocka!

    I Apologize. My previous comments were completely uncalled for, and to avoid being mistaken, I certainly didn't mean to imply that Ms. James enjoys Sex in the City... or the Mojave for that matter. I'm sure as a professional who is paid to write critical reviews (she is paid, right?) Ms. James completely removed all bias when attempting to provide her readers (she does have readers, right?) with a thoughtful, informational assessment of the relative merits and/or shortcomings of this particular production. Otherwise she'd just be offering up her personal opinion and viewing preferences, and you can find those written all over the internet (often better articulated) by slobs and snobs alike, that are just looking to express themselves. I, for one, would never attack Ms. James journalistic credibility by presuming that she was using this as a forum to spew her notions concerning those she feels are beneath her on the cultural chain.

    As for Sex in the City, well, I'm not that particular brand of cola's target audience, so let's just say... if I ain't got nuthin' constructive to say, I'm better off keeping my big trap shut. Unless of course someone wants to pay me to be an opinionated, smarmy, rabble-rouser on the internets. In which case, I've already got a big back catalog of personal opinions and plenty of friends on Netflix and Youtube from which to draw some stellar material.

  • Pixiestixx | April 26, 2011 7:55 AMReply

    One last thing. May this reviewer die in a chemical fire n

  • Pixiestixx | April 26, 2011 7:54 AMReply

    This reviewer is either mentally handicapped or blind. Perhaps both! I've never read the series, yet magically I had no issue with following the current plot twists of the first 2 episodes. My friends also followed along just fine. We must be some super alien race I guess, since we were able to follow along with Soooooooo many characters /sarcasm.

  • thoth | April 22, 2011 4:02 AMReply

    you are a terrible writer.

  • Joakim | April 17, 2011 9:14 AMReply

    James' preferences are obviously incompatible with Martin's world, and there's nothing wrong with that, tastes differ. But I don't agree with what she writes in her review, that "the entire project has a heart of geek that never lets the rest of us in". There are some predispositions that can make appreciating Thrones difficult, but "not being geek" is far from one of them.

    Some will have trobule swallowing the otherworldly settings and the (relatively) few fantasy elements, missing the true qualities of the show. But you don't have to be a fantasy buff in order to appreciate it. Quite the contrary, I think you have to be allergic to any form of fantasy if those elements distract you from enjoying the story that is being told, with its rich characters and interesting plot development.

    Some will understandably struggle a bit with the subplots and the large array of characters, but one shouldn't underestimate the viewers. The Wire and Lost are two highly regarded and/or popular shows with many of similarities in those regards. Game of Thrones requires quite a bit from the viewer, but it pays dividends in the long run.

  • Chief Geek | April 17, 2011 8:51 AMReply

    Earth calling geeks.
    The review is actually quite a positive one. Stop getting so precious and giving us geeks such a bad name.

  • Sergio | April 16, 2011 2:05 AMReply

    Check out this review of Return of the King by our very own Caryn James:

    It's very apparent that she just has a vendetta against all fantasy. And along with Ginia Bellafonte, it seems as if there is a cadre of devoted fantasy-hating women who work at the NY Times.

  • Savant | April 13, 2011 9:15 AMReply

    That's an example of a negative review. Please, try to learn something from it so you won't embarrass yourself further.

  • Martin | April 13, 2011 8:11 AMReply

    This isn't a review of Game of Thrones. It is just a lazy dismissal of the entire fantasy genre.

  • James IV | April 12, 2011 12:02 PMReply

    Hmmm... perhaps your biggest mistake was not realizing us geeks patrol the internet in hordes. Easily angered hordes.

  • Scott | April 12, 2011 5:56 AMReply

    Look at all these comments. You are getting served. What were you thinking when you wrote this? Your own words make you sound stupid. Pro-tip: Don't go around freely admitting that a semi-large cast of characters confuses the hell out of you. I mean, seriously, there are like 6-7 characters in the first book that are actually very important. The rest you could probably ignore and still totally follow the story. Is that really asking too much?

    Also, when someone says, "Across the narrow sea," it's not geek code. They just mean across a literal body of water. You know, into a different continent perhaps. Where the climate is different. I guess us geeks are just asking too much here for the norms like you to understand what "a narrow sea" is. Just more geek speak right?

    Realistically though, let's just call a spade a spade. You've got some weird butt hurt feelings about nerds so you decided you'd use this opportunity to challenge them and in the meantime get some hits for your rinky-dink website. Your mistakes were A) Thinking this would earn you some friends somwhere and B) Thinking we don't all see through this vapid display for attention. Enjoy being raged at for a year or so.

  • Joe greps | April 12, 2011 4:06 AMReply

    This review somewhat reflects my only real reservation for the series - truly great stories don't materialize in a few chapters or an hour of film and a series with the depth of Game of Thrones is simply going to require an investment that will outlast the attention of the more simple minded type that wrote this review.

  • Wayne | April 11, 2011 11:35 AMReply

    I found the review to be rather partonising as opposed to what she thought - clever and witty.

    Fine that she liked some of it but Dany's chapters are more than just "geek fantasy" - I mean "Dances with Wolves" deals with somebody immersing themselves in a culture without any choice but to survive. The fact that Viserys has a real plan in that to wed his sister to the Dothraki lord so that when he returns he will have an army behind him. This is no diiferent from how many historical campaigns where waged - wed the daughter or sister to a king of another country so that they will be your ally when you go to war. Nothing fantastical about that. Sure there are fantasy elements such as the dragon eggs and the supernatural elements that you'll see in the prologue but these barely matter in the grand scheme of things as the story takes on a far more human element in its socio- political core.

    I also have to point out that you think the weather in the North is far different from that in the South. Well as George handily gives us a map and a scale of the size of the lands and if you were to overlay them over Europe. The Wall would be somewhere over Norway and Dorne in the south would be in the middle of the Meditteranean. Therefore "Across the Narrow Sea" would be North Africa and guess what? It's cold in Norway and it's a desert in North Africa. So again hardly a giant shift in climate change.

    So perhaps you have been a little harsh in your criticism or perhaps you hold up that big card that says NO whenever you hear the word Fantasy - which is ironic because if you think that teenagers burst into sponataneous song and dance to perfect choreography at the drop of a hat then I think you need to redefine the words fantasy. Don't you?

  • Savio | April 11, 2011 10:21 AMReply

    honestly, if you had placed the sentence "I don´t like fantasy" and a final dot would have saved a lot of time for you and the readers, if you wanted to explain it in a funny/witty way it pretty much failed because of the geek discrimination.

    Mention apart, as a review it fails in the same constant attacks to a genre apparently you loathe, where´s costume design? camera direction?? photography??? acting??? the only thing people will get when reading this is that your judgement gets blinded when talking about fantasy.

    You have great reviews but in this case u seem like the fusion of brainy and grouchy smurfs... which probably you don´t know who they are ´cause.. well... you know, it´s a cartoon, a fantasy.

  • Weicher | April 11, 2011 4:27 AMReply

    My lady, what is thy opinion on Homer, Chretien de Troyes, Tolkien, Thomas Mallory, E.T. Hoffman, Lovecraft, etc.? What a complete bullshitting review.

  • Sammy Jenkis | April 11, 2011 3:12 AMReply

    You clearly don't like fantasy. If you're coming into a review with a bias against the genre as a whole, you probably shouldn't be writing that review because you're not going to give a helpful picture of the show to potential viewers.

    If you want to give an insightful review, I suggest you develop some suspension of disbelief, engage it and give the show another bash. Also, you might want to read up a little on the War of The Roses, then you might have an idea of what the real world analogue for this series is (the multitude of royal houses, shifting alliances, atrocities and scandals really aren't that far-fetched).

    Personally, I've had my fill of hospital dramas, police procedurals and glorified soap operas, I'm ready for something different. Good drama transcends genre, it's desperately unfair to write something off just because of its genre.

  • Jonathan | April 10, 2011 10:32 AMReply

    A person who shows such a appalling disrespect for many others just for liking something she do not care to understand doesn’t deserve any respect.
    No one is obliged to like the show or the books but if you dislike it – bring some real reasons.

  • Charles | April 10, 2011 7:41 AMReply

    Too geeky to let other people in? That has nothing to do with it. The bottom line is you get the plot or you don't, as Game of Thrones is no more convoluted than the Sopranos. It has nothing to do with being somehow geeky enough to "get" what's happening here.

    To each their own, of course. I sense you're the type who would rather watch Dancing with the Stars, a show which induces revulsion in me. But at least I'll admit that.

  • Michael | April 10, 2011 6:31 AMReply

    Well, this is all just kind of a wash, isn't it? The implied statement that fantasy is not for "grown-ups" has now been thoroughly debunked by nearly thirty years of fantasy being taken seriously as an academic genre, with increasingly sophisticated studies of its narrative conventions earning fantasy a status that actually trumps mundane and simplistic realism. Unfortunately, this is the kind of viewpoint that is perpetuated by adults who lack the intellect to "get" what fantasy is about, or who simply don't have enough will to care. Of course, when one's job is to write critical evaluations of genre television, it is actually the JOB of the critic to care and to inform him or herself of those narrative conventions. Clearly, this hasn't happened here, so clearly, the review can be dismissed.

  • Sheena | April 10, 2011 5:27 AMReply

    I appreciate reading a review from someone who hasn't read the books. However, I wish you had got the name Lannister right. You did once but then a few sentences later called them the Lassiters. That kind of messes with your credibility for me.

  • Fartr | April 10, 2011 5:15 AMReply

    What a bad, bad discriminating review. You shouldn't have written anything about this show if you can't cope with anything fictional apart from your comfort zone of real world shows / movies.

  • CrastersBaby | April 10, 2011 4:51 AMReply

    It's nice to know that elitist, "literary" criticism has not failed to cross over into film.

    If the reviewer is unable to get over the genre aspects of a story (without realizing that genre "conventions" are everywhere, even in mainstream "literary fiction") then I fail to see any reason to continue reading this person's work.

    Perhaps George RR Martin said it best himself in an article:

    "Teachers would take away the [genre] books from me in school – this is Heinlein and Asimov they were taking away – and say, well, it’s good that you’re reading, but you should read a real book, not this [stuff]. Science fiction and fantasy have both gotten considerably more respectable and certainly the audience has gotten larger. In literary culture, you see writers using science-fiction and fantasy tropes. In many cases, they’ll say, “I’m not writing science fiction or fantasy – it may look similar, but it’s not.” There’s still that little thing: “I don’t want to be put in a cave with the geeks.”

    Guess you're safely outside the cave, lady. But, throwing passive aggressive comments toward "us geeks" from safety is a little nasty, don't you think?

    I get that people have opinions, but come on.

    P.S. To the people who disagree with this "writer," I don't see the point in using foul language and calling names. Disagree or don't, but drop the freaky stalker-esque fan-boy/girlness. It's making us "normal geeks" look really bad.

  • Suprbeast | April 10, 2011 2:48 AMReply

    I am also concerned about the writing to some extent. But your example illustrates an overly ditzy-seeming disregard for words that dont sound American. By the time those words were uttered it should be clear what they mean. Unless when they were first introduced you completely ignored them since they amounted to foreign jibber jabber.

  • Sir Dayne | April 10, 2011 1:22 AMReply

    This "reviewer" is an ugly, bitter idiot. What garbage. Don't waste my time with such baseless nonsense.

    You were trying to be different and give a negative review so your website could get hits. How did you even get an advance copy of the show? Your arguments are poor at best lacking in any substantive merit.

    You lack professionalism and objectivity, and therefore have no credibility.

  • Alex | April 9, 2011 12:46 PMReply

    I wonder if it's only Ms. James' fault that she has gotten some things wrong or if the production was too unclear.

    Ms. James may not be geek-smart but one assumes that even she shouldn't find it incoherent that different parts of the world can have different weather if it's clear that there is a very great distance between the locations. So perhaps the production was unclear on this point?

    Tyrion being devoted to Cersei is of course nonsense for anybody who knows the books but the parts of the series Ms. James has seen may not yet have made this clear.

  • Chris W. | April 9, 2011 12:41 PMReply

    I get the impression that you're trying to be funny.

    It's not working.

  • Saso Alauf | April 9, 2011 12:24 PMReply

    Maybe the review you made would be clearer if you did it in short bullet points. I did that for you, hope you don't mind...

    here are the 10 points the reviewer thinks you should know if you're considering even watching the series:

    1. if the language isn't american it's not worth the bother

    2. it's the bad kind of fantasy, the kind that is inventive and creative and has good grown up drama

    3. there are over 4 main characters which makes it confusing

    4. Winter is coming is a saying that the northern folks need because they're too dumb to remember it otherwise

    5. the Lannisters are a family the reviewer loves and that is somehow a bad thing

    6. Cersei, a female Lannister has the devotion of her brother Tyrion, who thinks he's all that because he has blonde hair, is a dwarf and speaks not-american

    7. Across the narrow sea (a sentence way too geeky), there are weird alien creatures who look perfectly human, except they either have blonde hair or ride horses and speak not-american. Could be some weird not-american culture the southern heathens have

    8. The weirdest made up thing is this insane weather phenomenon where it's cold and snowy in the north while at the same time it's hot in a desert in the south

    9. The Dothraki speak elvish and there is absolutely no way you can figure out what the word Khal or Khalessi could mean unless of course you're a geek

    10. Whenever you start liking the show, just stop and remember that this is fantasy and you will immediately start hating it again even though it has genuine narrative pull, good characters, good acting and has an intelligent story...we sure wouldn't want any of that would we?

  • Chris | April 9, 2011 11:32 AMReply

    " Lena Headey is the ever-plotting Queen Cersei, who has the devotion of her two brothers"

    Wow really? Did you really watch it or were you already confused with the characters? Though there aren' t so many dwarves in the show ...

    " But wait. “Across the narrow sea,” because that’s the way everyone talks, there are ridiculous families that seem to have come from another planet. "

    Yeah, crazy that there are different civilisations in a/the world... So crazy, I mean aren't we all exactly the same everywhere? duh...

    You don't like fantasy, fine, but that should be your only argument...

  • Fred | April 9, 2011 10:21 AMReply

    I'm ok with reviewers thinking stuff is only aimed at a small section of the population, and therefore warning off the mainstream - but let's face it, since the Lord of the Rings films hit it big, since Quentin Tarantino, since Spiderman and the Dark Knight and so on... has Ms James considered that maybe she's not in the majority anymore? People who will dismiss a work of fiction because it contains dragons, rather than the totally plausible plots of Desperate Housewives, are a shrinking minority. Ms James literally states that it's actually really good, but then implies that it's silly because it contains magic... So let's just ignore her and her, let's face it, antiquated views.

  • you | April 9, 2011 7:35 AMReply

    People shouldnt write about stuff they dont understand. It makes you look rather stupid. But ok, It is obvious this kind of story is way to hard for you to comprehend so i hope you enjoy Jersey Shore. Have a nice day.

  • DA | April 9, 2011 6:47 AMReply

    This is not a review. It is a self-important mockery of an entire genre and fanbase.

    On behalf of those of us who enjoy great drama in any setting - from drug dealers in Baltimore to saloon keepers in occupied Africa to nobles in Westeros - I hope you enjoy your smugness as much as the rest of us enjoy this how.

  • EvilClosetMonkey | April 9, 2011 5:33 AMReply

    I'm going to go ahead and agree with many other posters. If you don't like the show, that's fine. You're entitled to your opinion. However, if you're going to REVIEW a show, you should really make an attempt to approach the show in question objectively. The tone of your review is condescending and mocking; yet, the content doesn't really tell me why you disliked the show other than that it is fantasy. You could have saved yourself some time and just posted "Is hard. Is fantasy. Me no like."

    Disliking a show because you have preconceived notions about the genre is perfectly acceptable. I may disagree with that stance, but you're entitled to it. What really bothers me is that you purport that this is an actual review of the merits of the show. Clearly, this is not the case. As others have said, this is equivalent to stating that you don't like a musical because singing is stupid. You can give that as your opinion, but no matter how many different ways you wrap that basic idea, it is not a review of the musical.

  • Sara | April 9, 2011 3:48 AMReply

    @BC Armstrong: Yes, you're right, feeling offended by this review is fanboyish. I'm even a supporter of sarcastic and nasty reviews.
    But, simply, this review seem to me rather fruitless. (I haven't watched the show yet, so I don't know if it's good or bad. But I know the books).
    The only point I find interesting is that it's confusing, because it's really a risk that existed.

    If a fantasy has a sort of medivel setting, honestly I don't think that an american accent is a good idea. But it's true that fantasy is often chiche ridden. Indeed I'm not a fantasy fan and I dislike a lot of things in this genre.
    But Martin's novels, even if the Medival setting isn't an original setting at all, have a story and a character development that are interesting and not so banal. (But I don't know if the tv series conveys that). And yes, there are funny moments too, even if the trailer doesn't show it very much :)

  • tecmoboy | April 9, 2011 2:36 AMReply

    Funny thing - I thought you had to be a geek or "fanboy (or fangirl) in order to even be a film or TV critic! Oh well...

    And another thing - I thought that in order to have a professional opinion, you have to display some professionalism! Or maybe this is not a profession, but rather a side-gig or something?

    And yet another thing - I originally loved the books because of the LACK of fantastical elements and for the DEPTH of the story, characters, and the intricate connections. I don't consider myself a geek/fanboy in the traditional sense. I read the books because someone suggested them to me, and that person was no geek. I have suggested the books to many people, all of which have ended up absolutely LOVING them, and most of those readers are not geeks and have no love for the traditional fantasy genre. In fact, I think the books have TURNED us all into geeks!
    Ms. James' critique does not really appear to be a review, but rather a "gossip" piece written by someone still concerned with the whole high-school notion of popularity...

  • LT Dan | April 9, 2011 2:22 AMReply

    Having a difference of opinion is one thing; being condescending to an entire fan-base because of your bias toward the fantasy genre is totally different. You clearly ventured into asshole territory with this "review."

    Were you even reviewing the series, or just trying to bully "geeks" and "silly fanboys?" You lost all your credibility as a journalist with this horrid review.

  • Tom | April 9, 2011 1:46 AMReply

    Wow. I imagine this no name reviewer is loving all this attention. Just write a bad GOT review and your hits go way up.

  • Peter | April 9, 2011 1:39 AMReply

    Ms. James, while I disagree with much of your review, I respect your opinion. I've spent much of the past few weeks on cloud nine w/ anticipation and sometimes a dose of humility or an outside perspecitive is a good thing.

    Your review gives an overarching impression that you don't have much experience with fantasy, which is fine. But one of fantasy's great strengths, which you implicitly yet relentlessly criticize here, is its endless ability to bring out the best in human creativity. And to be creative you have to let your mind loose and really think outside the box...embrace difference and even craziness...imagine things that not only don't exist but are just weird by real world standards. Your review dismisses this basic concept.

    Many people write off wild imagination as something appropriate only for kids (“grownup drama” vs. “heart of geek that never lets the rest of us in”). But kids often have the right ideas about life, and the only thing keeping you “out” is yourself. I say those adults are missing out. It's really too bad.

    I do take issue with your 6th paragraph. The comments about "ridiculous families...from another planet" and "global warming" sound naive, as if you lack experience traveling our own planet. I've visited numerous places whose people are equally varied as the Dothraki, Targaryens, Dornish, Yunkai, wildlings, Flints, Braavosi, Greyjoys, Summer Islanders...with equally varied climates. Let's be honest here, in these respects Martin/HBO haven't created anything we don't have on Earth. If your point was the show’s incoherence due to its great variety (as you noted in your later post), why didn’t you just say that to begin with? Clarity would have made a big difference.

    As you say you haven't read the books, which is also fine, and perhaps the show is confusing for the uninitiated. But Ms. James I guarantee if you read the books you'll come back to this review afterward and realize your opinion of the TV show has changed dramatically. The books aren’t just good fantasy, they’re good writing.

    To everyone else, I think it's important to remember that Ms. James has seen at least one episode and most of us haven't. I'm reserving final judgment until April 17.

  • thotk | April 9, 2011 1:34 AMReply

    What a horrible review. I may print a copy out to use as waste paper. Go get a job as a greater at Walmart, you'll find it is closer to your "level" and you can spend all day ogling Twilight posters.

  • BC Armstrong | April 9, 2011 1:32 AMReply

    The petulance of most of the comments on this review makes for a much more strongly disparaging critique of fanboy/fangirlism than the review's author did.

    I hope Martin's books have more humor and wit than appears to be available to his readers. Certainly the grim, ponderous trailers for the series don't display much. I would follow Peter Dinklage into dramatic hell, however, so perhaps I'll find the show worthwhile. (Funny how "fantasy" always seems to require a British accent; pity that a genre that should be filled with wonders and marvels is really so deeply conservative and cliche ridden. No wonder fans are so easily offended by those who aren't so easily impressed.)

  • wushuguy | April 9, 2011 1:12 AMReply


    You have made some valid comments for not liking the series. The reviewer did not. She just basically said, "Fantasy is for nerds, and that's why I don't like it." Also, you really shouldn't post major spoilers without warning first. That is just very poor judgement and taste.

  • Dekar | April 9, 2011 1:08 AMReply


  • Raspberry | April 9, 2011 1:02 AMReply

    As someone who's read the first book, I have to say that some of the criticisms that Ms. James makes are valid. Yes, the book was confusing (too many characters... I should have made a spread sheet.) Argue as you will, there is some pretty dense sexism in the book. Most of the characters were, to me, pretty unlikable (except for Tyrion!) And, of course, the twin-incest was just creepy. Suffice it to say, it was not my style and I did not read any of the other books.

    What Ms. James is offering is a review of the series, or as much as she saw. It's not a special on the History Channel--it's a REVIEW. That means by nature it is biased. All of these comments about how the series is the BEST EVAR and all of this vitriol aimed at someone who disagrees with an opinion you've formed on something you haven't even seen yet (but she has) is just making you look like rabid fans who are just as biased as she is, but in the other direction.

    Watch the show. Make up your own minds. And stop calling strangers the c-word for having the gall to not like something you are in love with. Sheesh.

  • Carrie | April 8, 2011 11:49 AMReply

    As a 40 year old lady myself, I'd like to add that I'm also offended by the condescending remarks toward the fan base as being immature or silly. Obviously you don't know much about the fans.

  • Maester Aemon | April 8, 2011 11:35 AMReply

    This article started with a bias and ended with a bias. I thought journalism and editorial review was supposed to discuss the content without slant or prejudice; and this article could not be further from that.

    You clearly have disdain for the material, but you also unfairly condescend to the audience or potential audience of this story.

    Your review of A Game of Thrones is insulting - not to the series, but to the fans of this genre for which you are writing this article.

  • Daniel | April 8, 2011 11:08 AMReply

    I'm not really a fantasy fan, but my friend suggested GoT to me and got my interest. I haven't read the book yet but the idea interests me and I'm probably going to watch it. However, so far any negative reviews have no really helped me decide. The few I've checked which are unbiased usually suggest that the series is awesome, but the negative reviews are all just complaining that this is fantasy.

    To be honest I'm kind of getting bored of the lawyer/doctor/investigator dramas. House, Bones, CSI, etc.etc. Its too bad Americans never get tired of being fed the same things. Anything remotely different is dismissed as 'silly', 'nerdy' or 'geeky.' This review didn't help at all, I'm quite sure you just wrote a negative review to piss people off and get extra hits on your website.

  • ikertzeke | April 8, 2011 10:13 AMReply

    I am still waiting for an unbiased bad review, yours is pure "pride and prejudice", you don´t like fantasy, we get it, you are superior to us "silly fanboys", we also get it.
    Thanks for your "review" ;-)

  • Yossarian | April 8, 2011 10:06 AMReply

    Jonathan - thank you for the link to that review. It was extremely helpful.

    Caryn - I hope you take some of the criticism of this review to heart. I think a lot of the fan base might be a bit enthusiastic to lash out at you for having a negative review, but the main criticism seems to be pretty constant. The review that Jonathan linked to, though the author had a different opinion from you, was presented in a way that made sense to me (as a non-fan.) It wasn't pro or anti fantasy. It told me things I was curious about - was the pacing good? Was the storytelling effective? Is it stiff and humorless, or is the acting strong and tone varied?

    These are things "the rest of us" want to hear about.

  • Jd | April 8, 2011 9:58 AMReply

    Hello - now there are even different climates in regions of the same latitudes!!!!!
    Gulfstream, Andes, Chainsaws vs. Rainforest, and other mysterious geological realities be thanked!
    WoW (wink at fellow geeks) - i even have white blonde hair myself.
    I must be an alien.

  • superdeluxe | April 8, 2011 9:23 AMReply

    Way to address none of the legitmate concerns that was raised about your 'review'.

    You really only see this as a 'difference of opinion' really?

  • Joonas Taipaleenmaki | April 8, 2011 9:21 AMReply

    I'm not a violent person but, after reading this clearly biased, spiteful, piece of s'''t "review", I will punch you in the nose if I ever get the chance.

    Best regards

  • wushuguy | April 8, 2011 9:16 AMReply

    "I was a smartass about the climate change—obviously a fantasy world has its own rules, I was just hoping for more coherence. "

    I am completely baffled. Do you really believe that having it snow in one place, and being warm in another is some type of fantastical occurrence??? Many comments here have pointed out that this occurs here on earth, yet you still think that it can only happen in a fantasy land. It is truly unbelievable that a grown adult can not grasp this idea. I.... wow... I'm just at a complete loss of words. Amazing.

  • DendasGarrett | April 8, 2011 9:09 AMReply

    I'm sorry for all the negative post you are receiving, but as you can tell, this story mean alot to alot of people, and not because there are swords and monsters (there plenty of books out there that have swords and monsters.) This series has alot to offer in the way of real drama, real emotion, real situations, and is loved by fantasy and non-fantasy fans alike.

    It just hurts to hear someone dismiss them so quickly because of the Genre, the same way people don't like being judge by the way they look (or the color of their skin, or the car they drive.)

    On behalf of all the Thrones fans, I'm sorry, and I hope you give the series a chance and an open mind. If you don't think you can do that, can you at least restrict yourself to either just reviewing the show's pros and cons (good acting, hard to follow story), or pass the assignment along to someone who might be half-interested.

  • Pete | April 8, 2011 9:06 AMReply

    The line that really got me in the review was "ridiculous families that seem to have come from another planet."

    First off: what is so ridiculous about two orphaned children trying to get home, understand their past, regain what was taken from them? Did you also have an issue with Harry Potter? Dorothy in the Wizard Of Oz? Did you not root for Rapunzel in Tangled to find out she's a princess and get back to her parents?

    Ok, so they have white-blonde hair. Harry Potter had a lightning-bolt shaped scar. Rapunzel had hair that healed people. What's ridiculous to me is the inability to set something like that aside and just go with the story.

  • Cat | April 8, 2011 8:55 AMReply

    Elio, it could have been about the show and should have been. Mr, James seems gracious to your comment pointing out that some people will dislike the show and we are aware of that reality. We don't expect but hope those who have not read the series on appreciate the genre would join in on our enthusiasm for the show.

    However, Ms. James felt the need to disenfranchise the brainless, fanboy geeks love of the fantasy genre by publicly declaring them silly, not part of the grown-up world, where doggy style requires taming. She was rather discourteous.

  • DendasGarrett | April 8, 2011 8:55 AMReply

    Think of the Narrow Sea as the Atlantic... People in Canada may be cold, but people in North Africa aren't. The problem is, I don't know if you saw the southern part of Westros, did they show any of King's Landing in the episode you watched? It is roughly the same Longitude as the Dothraki Sea (closer anyway) and it is shown as hot. Its not different "Rules" because its fantasy, its very realistic, you were just abit too quick to judge.

    And yes, “I am a khaleesi of the Dothraki”, may not be "It was the best of time, it was the worst of times," but its a single line and very realistic, the name is just different. Would you say "My name is Timmet" is bad writing simply because you've never heard the name Timmet?

  • L March | April 8, 2011 8:53 AMReply

    So after all of those legitimate comments, you only address the one person who kissed your behind? Classy.

  • Pete | April 8, 2011 8:38 AMReply


    "I am a khaleesi of the Dothraki" roughly translates to "I am the queen of England." It's not good writing, it's not bad writing; its a simple declarative statement.

    Coherence implies lack of consistency; there is nothing inconsistent about the weather; it is warmer in the south and colder in the north.

    I get it, this wasn't your bag of chips, but after reading your review, I'm still not quite sure why.

  • Caryn James | April 8, 2011 8:20 AMReply

    Thanks, Elio, for being so gracious. As I've said before, I think criticism is about differences of opinion, so I respect others, even is at times GOT made me want to throw the remote at the TV. Sorry, but I'll never think that first line I quoted is good writing.

    I was a smartass about the climate change -- obviously a fantasy world has its own rules, I was just hoping for more coherence.

    And, as Simon suggested in the very first comment, if you're a fan, none of my objections are likely to bother your enjoyment of the series.


  • Chris | April 8, 2011 8:15 AMReply

    Who is Caryn James?

  • Kayla | April 8, 2011 8:15 AMReply ARE aware that New Zealand and Antarctica are divided by a "narrow sea" as well, right? I find your comment about the weather HILARIOUS. No to mention that it is a made up world, but still, wow.

    Congratulations on getting 47 comments on this article (so far) btw. Looks like 47 more than your last few.

    Seriously, I don't want to come off as some geek defending her obsession (P.S. yes I said 'her,' I am a 25 year old girl and I don't play dungeons and dragons in my basement. Actually I work in fashion and simply have this weird preference for interesting characters and layered storytelling). Anyway, you don't have to like GOT. You are entitled to your opinion. But geezus, at least give it a shot! Try to look past the weather patterns you are so troubled by (and foreign languages too! are there seriously subtitles in this thing?) and see if maybe there is a character you can connect to or a story thread you find appealing. If it's not the power plays, maybe at least the family drama? The pretty people?

  • johan | April 8, 2011 8:15 AMReply

    i like how this review begins with a quote that is supposed to be a perfect example of what this whole series is based upon. if you don't like the word "khalessi" then this isn't for you. how stupid is that? could you be more shallow?

  • keatris | April 8, 2011 8:13 AMReply

    A good novel tells us the truth about its hero; but a bad novel tells us the truth about its author.
    G. K. Chesterton

    Can also be rendered:
    A good review tells us the truth about its subject; but a bad review tells us the truth about its author.

  • Cat | April 8, 2011 7:28 AMReply

    I resent the fact that you consider this 'fanboy' material being a 40 year old female myself.

    "And while the series does have lots of GROWNUP drama, much of it lurid and some very sinister – incest and a plot to kill a small child among them – the entire project has a heart of GEEK THAT NEVER LETS THE REST OF US IN".

    You just blatantly mocked all geeks by declaring only the rest of you are grownups.

    "That narrow sea must have something to do with global warming and climate change, because while Stark and the others are riding horses over green hills that are about to turn to ice, the Targaryens live in some exotic desert where people roam around half naked. "

    Go to Google satellite maps, Type in Cape Town, Africa, zoom out and look South. Is that Antarctica across the Southern Ocean? My goodness!!! How weird is that?!

    "Whenever you begin to THINK THERE"S A BRAIN behind this drama - and David Benioff, who wrote and produced with D.B. Weiss, has written The 25th Hour and other smart films and novels – everything turns FANBOY SILLY."

    Those poor, poor fanboys! How difficult it must be for them to live without a brain!

    You're review in complete insult to people who admire the genre that is fantasy. You could have be constructive, yet you chose petty. You are not a grownup, you're a bully.

  • Cat | April 8, 2011 7:27 AMReply

    I resent the fact that you consider this 'fanboy' material being a 40 year old female myself.

    "And while the series does have lots of GROWNUP drama, much of it lurid and some very sinister – incest and a plot to kill a small child among them – the entire project has a heart of GEEK THAT NEVER LETS THE REST OF US IN".

    You just blatantly mocked all geeks by declaring only the rest of you are grownups.

    "That narrow sea must have something to do with global warming and climate change, because while Stark and the others are riding horses over green hills that are about to turn to ice, the Targaryens live in some exotic desert where people roam around half naked. "

    Go to Google satellite maps, Type in Cape Town, Africa, zoom out and look South. Is that Antarctica across the Southern Ocean? My goodness!!! How weird is that?!

    "Whenever you begin to THINK THERE"S A BRAIN behind this drama - and David Benioff, who wrote and produced with D.B. Weiss, has written The 25th Hour and other smart films and novels – everything turns FANBOY SILLY."

    Those poor, poor fanboys! How difficult it must be for them to live without a brain!

    You're review in complete insult to people who admire the genre that is fantasy. You could have be constructive, yet you chose petty. You are not a grownup, you're a bully.

  • Turnipseed | April 8, 2011 7:17 AMReply

    What a horrible review. Now I know better than to read anything by this writer, let alone even get on this website. Fire this idiot and get somebody than can write an unbiased review and keep their condescending, unfunny shtick to themselves.

  • Daniel | April 8, 2011 7:09 AMReply

    No where in your rambling incoherent response did you come close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. We are all dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points... and may God have mercy on your soul.

  • Austin | April 8, 2011 6:25 AMReply

    Not liking a show just becuase you dislike Fantasy nor have even read the books and understood the full meaning behind them speaks volumes for your ability to give a decent review on anything.

    I really hope your bosses see all of these comments and rethink their investment of you posting reviews here. I am currently going to just add this website to the list of websites I avoid to their inability to be objective in their reviews.

    People: Those of you who don't even like fantasy: You will like this show. This show is more about the characters and the plot instead of the fantasy aspect.

  • Just Annie | April 8, 2011 6:12 AMReply

    Enjoy your hit count on this extremely poor review contrived to drive it up, because it will never be this high again.

  • Ace | April 8, 2011 5:58 AMReply

    Haters Gonna Hate.

  • Papa | April 8, 2011 5:57 AMReply

    So, your caliber of writing, and insightful opinions weren't bringing around the traffic, so you write an intentionally, degrading, inflammatory review, of a highly anticipated, and accordingly marketed show...
    Seems more likely than you being that inept of a reviewer.
    Rush Limbaugh has made a fine career out of spewing garbage with no basis in fact....good luck with that.

  • Codex | April 8, 2011 5:55 AMReply

    This review tells us more about the reviewer than the show. Not the function of a good review.

  • superdeluxe | April 8, 2011 5:45 AMReply

    Very clever way of driving up your hits to this nothing blog.

  • Ben | April 8, 2011 5:42 AMReply

    It's cool, Karyn. I find the simple concept of global weather patterns and differences in climate to be vastly confusing as well.


  • m4st4 | April 8, 2011 5:22 AMReply

    Weather system of Westeros is crucial to you? Guess what, George R.R.Martin just wrote 'A Dance with Dragons', he'll explain it alright but I suppose you won't stick around.

  • Yaron | April 8, 2011 5:20 AMReply

    As a reviewer by trade, you should be ashamed of yourself for publishing a review which has almost nothing to do with the actual content in question, and more to do with your clear hatred for the genre. Readers look at reviews to see if the basis of the subject matter is of a high caliber, not because they want to hear your personal grudges with fantasy in general. As a reviewer, you must leave it to the reader to decide whether the genre is for them or if it isn't.

    Your entire responsibility as a reviewer is to comment on quality, and in this regard you failed miserably. Again, you should be ashamed of yourself for publishing this biased, ignorant trash of an article.

  • Jonathan | April 8, 2011 5:10 AMReply


    I think this review is objective The writer does give a glowing review, but he never read the books and is not a fanboy.

    Ms. James, could you be more condescending, I'm still not sure whether you like fantasy or not. I agree, it doesn't make any sense that a continent across the sea could possibly have different climate and different looking people. Your review is spiteful without offering any objective criticism and you are--here you go!-- a real c u next tuesday.

  • Yossarian | April 8, 2011 4:51 AMReply

    I wanted to chime in here, as someone who is not interested at all in Fantasy in general, but curious about this show.

    It is certainly fair to not like a show, and when I hear a review, I want to hear an honest to goodness response.

    My worry with this review is that a lot of the main objections were based on genre (not ALL but certainly most.) As a reviewer, you can't judge a series from that place. If you don't like the genre, you should either pass or at the very least refrain from aiming your criticism at genre specific details.

    Tell me about scenes that struck you, and why. Tell me about moments that you found infantile or lacking in some way. But I don't want a review that is basically an eye roll at the genre. That serves nobody.

    If I'm a reader not into fantasy as a genre, your review serves no function - I already don't like fantasy and all your review is telling me is that "Yup, it is fantasy, and I don't like fantasy." And if I am into fantasy, then I just feel attacked (as evident by the other responses here.)

    This review tells me nothing about the show. Someone brought up Cabaret early - that is a great point. If I see a musical, I expect singing, so I don't want to hear a criticism that simply states "singing is stupid." I want to hear "They sang on key" or "The singing is lackluster."

    What I want to hear from a review is whether or not this show is a GOOD fantasy or if it is a mediocre one. I want it judged in that context, I don't want to hear criticism based on the existence of fantastical elements - I expect fantastical elements.

    Any genre can have mediocrity, and any genre can have greatness. Not having much exposure beyond Lord of the Rings, I want to know if this is worth my time. The hype has made me notice. I don't want a review by someone blinded by genre prejudice. And if you do have genre prejudice, then I don't want to hear about it.

    Just like I wouldn't trust a review from someone who has read all the books and is super entrenched in the world, I can't trust this one.

    What I'm interested is an honest take. The negative reviews I've read, like this one, have - across the board - seemed to be based on genre bashing. The positive ones seem largely to come from nerd culture high-fiving itself. Is there any review out there from someone being objective?

  • Art | April 8, 2011 4:47 AMReply

    Weak review for many, many reasons, as others above have explained much more cogently than Caryn James explained her dislike for the show.

    Let me just add a few points.

    1) "Heart of a Geek" Is this supposed to be an insult? If you were actually intelligent Caryn James, you'd realize it's a compliment. Isaac Newton was a "geek" for thinking about stars, moons, gravity, and the mathematics that describe them. Jules Verne was a "geek" for opening people's minds to inventions (submarines and airplanes) before they were invented. Bill Gates was a "geek" for introducing personal computers to the masses. Mark Zuckerberg is a "geek" for turning social life into a digital realm. "Geek" is a term that dumb people use to insult smart, creative, and open-minded people.

    2) Since you probably only care about ratings and dollars, perhaps you'll understand this better. Be prepared to eat crow when Game of Thrones becomes a huge hit. Think it won't? Tell that to "Star Wars", "Lord of the Rings", "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", "Harry Potter", "Avatar", and on and on.

    3) It's called abstraction. True and timeless concepts that are common across seemingly different manifestations. While you only see "swords, whores, horse-people, 'elf-language', blood, etc", if you actually thought for a minute you'd see: politics, conflict between family and responsibility, corruption, nature vs nuture, greed, infighting vs. uniting against a common threat, and more. Sounds like the "real world" to me. Maybe if you read more books (ever heard of Gulliver's Travels?) you'd learn that the point of a good story is often more than meets the eye.

  • derek jeter | April 8, 2011 4:47 AMReply

    Bias much?

    Why review a genre that you have a clear disdain for? You can't even get some of the basics right.

    Dothraki language sounds nothing like Elvish. Too many characters? again you and people of your ilk may find it hard to comprehend a show that has more than 4 main actors. Tyrion and Cersei have a clear devotion to each other? are you DAFT? They get along about as well as Hamas and the Israeli Military.

    We get it, stick with your mindless shows, simple plots and predicable writing. Do us all a favor and stick to reviewing your happy go lucky simpleton network shows or jump off a cliff.

  • JC | April 8, 2011 4:38 AMReply

    This is a terrible review not because it dares to criticize the series but rather because it is vague and biased in its negativity and doesn't pinpoint anything concretely bad about the series. You spend pretty much every paragraph mocking the fantasy factor as if the fantasy element inherently makes this a bad series. I'm kind of stunned that someone as narrowminded as Ms. James actually has a blog hosted on indiewire.

    The first post has already pointed out the ludicrousness of mocking "I am a khaleesi of the Dothraki!" in your first paragraph by comparing the phrase to a similar one in Lawrence of Arabia.

    Your second paragraph basically sums up the speculative elements of the show and then mocks it for being imaginative, showing off your bias - "Yes, this is the kind of fantasy that invents realms and can see, you really need to have a taste for this kind of thing." Do you know what fantasy is? Obviously, fantasy involves a great deal of invention. That's an inherent factor. You don't like the genre itself so you spend nearly your entire review mocking it rather than giving valid critiques of this particular production.

    Your third paragraph vents that it is confusing - fair enough. This is possible considering the complexities of the story. But that's the beauty of HBO, their willingness to take on complex storytelling like this in the hopes that people WILL take to it and be able to follow.

    Your next paragraph only makes one criticism - "The House of Stark's motto is 'Winter is coming,' because nothing is too obvious for this group." Okay, this is the kind of criticism that makes me reassess your complaint that the series is confusing. If you can't understand the subtext in that phrase (i.e. You have to be prepared for the inevitable dark turns in life) then maybe this series needs to be MORE obvious so that even someone like yourself could understand it.

    The paragraph following this is one of the few positive things you have to say although you certainly get some things wrong.

    Paragraph six is where you flat out make a fool of yourself. I fail to see the problem inherent in the phrase "Across the narrow sea" - apparently, you want everyone to be speaking contemporary English, despite the series taking place in a more medieval setting. This makes me wonder if you have the same problems with Old English or the elaborate wordplay of Shakespeare. "Ridiculous families that seem to have come from another planet...I think of them as The Albinos, just for clarity." Okay, this is almost borderline offensive. I can just imagine you making the same comments on Asians with other perjorative terms in place of "The Albinos". Do you not understand different races of people will (obviously) look different? My favourite part of this reviewis the following: "That narrow sea must have something to do with global warming and climate change, because while Stark and the others are riding horses over green hills that are about to turn to ice, the Targaryens live in some exotic desert where people roam around half naked." As others have pointed out, that land is a southern land. This is such an idiotic criticism that I think someone should seriously consider revoking your reviewer rights. Apparently, according to you, if it's snowing and miserable in Nunavut or Alaska, there cannot possibly be deserts or a warm climate in the Caribbean or Mexico or Japan or Australia or any other place in the world. No, if it's snowing in Alaska, it must be snowing in every other country in the world. Please educate yourself.

    Next paragraph: "That kahl, by the way, wears a long braid and heavy eyeliner..." Um, again, just mocking the races in the show. You can't even hide the drip of mocking viciousness behind your paragraph. "You can see the female empowerment plot riding into the desert already." - Do I detect some bitterness over this point?

    Second-to-last paragraph: "That’s just the beginning of the sex and scandals, and there are even more Houses with their noses out of joint, but you get the idea." Um, no, I don't get what you're trying to say about the series except that 1. it's clearly fantasy since there's lots of inventive, creative work in it and 2. you hate creativity in world building. "Whenever you begin to think there’s a brain behind this drama...everything turns fanboy silly." You still haven't shown me what 'fanboy silly' means, although I'd imagine it to be along the lines of your hilarious inability to understand subtext and the idea that it can simultaneously be snowing in one place but warm in another. Newsflash: Even on Earth, that is possible.

  • Israfel070 | April 8, 2011 4:33 AMReply

    Mildly sarcastic Game of Thrones review on some nowheresville site in the remote regions of the internet; 30 comments within 30 minutes and counting.

    "Jeremy Irons and those Sexy, Scheming, Irresistible Borgias" review on same site; 0 comments three weeks later.

  • Mike | April 8, 2011 4:33 AMReply

    I've seen the first several episodes (and love the books) and I liked them quite a bit, though I see the author's points. Having not read the books, Ms. James is at a disadvantage (Ned may actually be the hero his bastard seems to suggest he is not; Arthurian legends have little or nothing to do with the plot). But some of the criticisms don't make much sense - if we've already determined that "across the Narrow Sea" is a country other than the one in which we watch the main action of the plot unfold, could it not perhaps be a country to the south? And would that maybe explain the warmer climate? (Geographical spoiler: this is the case.)

    It's perfectly fine to be allergic to fantasy. If it's not for you, then it's not for you. But a lot of the assumptions here about where the story is going, both physically and narratively, are off the mark. I'd suggest everyone, including Ms. James, continue to watch, if only to see the wild places the story ends up.

  • Israfel070 | April 8, 2011 4:26 AMReply

    Narrow Sea is the proper name of that body of water, just fyi.

    Did you really just rip on a film setting for containing both hills and a desert?? Is that ecology too complicated? If you need something simpler and easier, Spartacus is that way ->>>>

  • Chris Beasley | April 8, 2011 4:23 AMReply

    I find the line about the series not having a brain to be kinda offensive, it gets my hackles up anyways.

    I am very well read, I've ready numerous authors in the fantasy genre, in science fiction, standard classics from Shakespeare to Dickens. I also consider myself well watched, I watch lots of independent artsy movies.

    The plot of this book series is one of the smartest I've ever read. Better than Tolkien, better than season 1 of Battlestar Galactica, better than the better parts of Lost, better than Breaking Bad, better than Dexter. There is not a doubt in my mind that in 100 years people will be reading these books.

    Anyone who says this series is just dumb visuals, boobs, and beheadings, is going to feel really stupid by the end of the first season.

  • James | April 8, 2011 4:21 AMReply

    Don’t let anyone tell you Pulp Fiction isn’t confusing. It takes a couple of viewings before you can begin to sort out who’s who, never mind why they’re waving guns, swords, and needles full of Adrenaline at each other.

  • K | April 8, 2011 4:15 AMReply

    We should probably also never watch Indiana Jones, with its fictional 'Hovitos' and 'Forrestals.' What the heck are those? Just some silliness (despite having good acting and production values and a narrative pull).

    Or Star Wars. Obi-Who?

    Honestly, I was prepared for SOME bad reviews, but this one is ridiculous. It somehow sidelines an entire genre, critizes it for being too creative (honestly, the thing that first got me to give the Game Of Thrones books a chance was the idea of winters lasting decades...I thought that was brilliant), and for being about a new world that needs to be learned. Honestly, I don't think it's any more challenging than Lost or The Wire, it's just set in a place that is unfamiliar to us (though I would argue, my experience is probably closer to GOT's family drama than it is to plane crash survivors stuck on a mystical island).

    You didn't like the show. That's your right. I just wish you'd pointed out what didn't connect with you, what you didn't like, vs. reiterating over and over again that you dont get the genre. That's like reading a review of "Cabaret" where someone keeps complaining that the characters are singing.

  • DendasGarrett | April 8, 2011 4:02 AMReply

    @GUS, Perfectly said!

    I agree that fantasy (including this series) may not be for everyone, but these books and this show are the most accessible fantasy that I've ever read.

    I know that you may not like fantasy Ms. James, but don't discourage others from trying this show with ridiculous lines about strange languages. If Martin had written about Kahns instead of Kals, it would be historical fiction instead of fantasy. Change one letter and you assume this story is just for geek fanboys?

    The story is very humanistic, with characters you can relate to and feel for. As a TV critic, does that not count? Are you unable to watch a show like True Blood because, after all, Vampires are a ridiculous concept.

    You don't want to give it a try, fine, but Fantasy has a hard enough time being taken seriously without you dismissing it out of hand, and telling others to do the same.

    Don's miss out on this story and these characters just because the word Kahl Drogo isn't a historical figure (and Genghis Kahn is.)

  • Gus | April 8, 2011 3:35 AMReply

    “I am Auda Tayi of the Howetat!” If that sentence makes you say “Huh?” or “I don’t care,” I am here to tell you that you can live the rest of your life quite happily without ever watching Lawrence of Arabia, A British superhyped, superexpensive production.

  • Matthew | April 8, 2011 3:34 AMReply

    I suppose Lost would have been better without the mystery of the Island, just people trying to survive on a beach. Maybe before enjoying a movie like Independence day, you need to have a supplemental book, explaining the physics properties allowing fighter planes to fly in outer space.
    So your thought process is...
    Good acting. Check.
    Production values. Check.
    Writing. Check.
    Good directing. Check.
    Blond haired people, and hot and cold climates without mention of global warming...

  • David | April 8, 2011 3:29 AMReply

    The criticism boils down to the show's lack of realism, which is kind of unfair when you consider that the show is fantasy. I don't like opera, but I wouldn't presume to dismiss a particular opera because of all those people singing in a foreign language. I would just say that it may be a fine opera as operas go, but I don't like opera so I didn't like this. In other words, I would tell the reader that I am not really a good person to rely on for a review of opera. Too bad you couldn't be as honest.

  • Ludwig van | April 8, 2011 3:09 AMReply

    To my fellow commenters: "Lassiters" is a joke by the author, as it refers to a western pulp series from the seventies. It shows Ms James' contempt for the series in particular and its genre - speculative fiction - in general.
    Too bad that she is unable to experience something that does not slavishly follow the commonly 'accepted' cultural genres and tropes with an open mind.

  • Gecc1 | April 8, 2011 3:08 AMReply

    I appreciate the honest review. But consider this.

    At it's core, this is a story of a family torn apart during war.
    And as it often happens in war. All sides will be affected and know both triumph and loss.

    For those who do not feel excluded by foreign sounding words and can perhaps relate to what may happen to love and relationships during times of upheaval, you will find a marvelous story here.

    If not, do stay from films like Dr. Zhivago and Life is Beautiful as well. You are also in danger of finding many of the same things.

    If not, do stay away from Dr. Zhivago and Life is Beautiful as well, they also suffer from many of the same issues.

  • Regina Thorne | April 8, 2011 3:05 AMReply

    " Whenever you begin to think there’s a brain behind this drama - and David Benioff, who wrote and produced with D.B. Weiss, has written The 25th Hour and other smart films and novels – everything turns fanboy silly."

    I think this is kind of a needless insult towards fans of fantasy. After all, C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien who essentially invented the genre of modern fantasy were both professors at Oxford. But maybe their brains were cancelled out by the fact that they liked to invent fantastical worlds, so by all means, dismiss all fantasy fans as silly fanboys. (Ignoring, of course, the fact that there are a lot of female fans of the genre as well.) Surely it's possible for a writer like yourself to say that fantasy is not your thing without insulting the intelligence of people who *do* like the genre.

    As for complicated plots and a plethora of characters, HBO's shows like "The Wire" and "Deadwood" certainly didn't make it easy for a casual viewer to figure out who was who (or even what language they were speaking), but "The Wire" in particular is widely acknowledged to be a masterpiece of television.

  • Anne | April 8, 2011 3:00 AMReply

    Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I do wish you came into this with more of an open mind. The series is set in a fantasy world that doesn't follow our world's natural and human laws. How hard is that to grasp? And some of the issues you bring up (the weather issue, how could a hero like Ned have had an illegitimate son) are questions you're SUPPOSED to be asking. The comments on the Dothraki are just ridiculous; if they were about another human culture's foreign language, and not a made up one, they would be insulting. You can't accept new words and terms? Anyway, I am a little confused by the review. You are drawn in by the characters ("the Lassiters"??? Really?) and the story has a 'narrative pull' yet you didn't like it? Aside from your lack of experience with the genre (which is fine) what exactly didn't you like?

  • nick | April 8, 2011 2:59 AMReply

    the sticking point of the article for me is that you say that there is "genuine narrative pull" when the show is at its best. if that's the case, why can't you just focus on the story & the characters that inhabit this fantasy world? why dismiss the entire project because of what is essentially window dressing instead of embracing the heart of the show?

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