Game of Thrones: As good as anyone could have expected.
It betrays its TV roots by having most of the important plot developments narrated, rather than shown. We learn through exposition about Jon Arryn’s murder, about the bond between Ned Stark’s dead sister and King Robert, about the Targaryens’ need to raise an army to reclaim their throne. Such are the limits of shooting on a tight budget. It’s all skillfully done, but it suggests the limits of the “language” of television.
That said, the casting is phenomenal. Not just because the actors all look their parts – the offensively handsome Jaime, the cynical imp Tyrion, the jovial King Robert, the beautiful but proud Daenerys and her mad brother Viserys, and so forth. But because the actors all have amazing chemistry. Jaime and Tyrion have one scene together, yet it communicates perfectly how a handsome swordsman and a twisted dwarf could get along. We get a sense of Magister Illyrio’s unctuous scheming in just a few scenes. And even characters we haven’t properly been introduced to yet – the Hound, Theon Greyjoy – make their mark with one or two tossed-off lines.
I’m not thrilled with Sean Bean as Ned Stark. But Bean does grim well, and Ned Stark’s supposed to be honorable to a fault. Catelyn Stark hasn’t been given much to work with yet, but she’ll have more material in later episodes. And of course the best characters haven’t arrived yet – Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish, Lysa Arryn, and all the colorful minor characters that turn this story into a world.
So now there’s this, plus The Borgias, plus The Killing to watch. Time to quit my day job.