#6: Game of Thrones - Season One

Is rating Game of Thrones among the six best seasons of TV drama ever a bit reactionary?  Perhaps, but that certainly isn't going to stop me from doing so.  While I will not hide my personal love for well-written fantasy, Game of Thrones appeals to a much broader audience.  While white walkers, magic, prophetical dreams, and as of last night FUCKING DRAGONS are all featured in Game of Thrones, the core of the show pits honor vs. corruption in the struggle for power of the Middle Earth-esque realm of Westeros (in fact the producers of the show jokingly suggested promoting it as "The Sopranos in Middle Earth").  In spite of the centrality of the competition for the Iron Throne, Game of Thrones lets us in on a major secret from the get go; that, in the words of the Starks "winter is coming" and coming with it is a threat to the Seven Kingdoms much greater than each other, the supernatural White Walkers.

As the show begins, the major protagonist is Lord Eddard ("Ned") Stark of Winterfell, played by Sean Bean (of Lord of the Rings fame) and his family.  Stark is summoned to the capitol of Westeros by his old friend and current king Robert Baratheon to replace the recently departed Hand of the King (the Game of Thrones version of consigliere) Jon Arryn, who we know was murdered by the Lannisters (the house of the manipulative queen, Cersei).  While the primary plot of the first six episodes is Ned's attempts to find out who killed Jon Arryn, and what motivated them to do so, we also are introduced to a plethora of wonderfully written and intriguing characters.  Peter Dinklage is likely to walk away from this year's Emmys with some serious hardware for his portrayal of the sharp-witted dwarf Tyrion Lannister.  Jon Snow, Daenerys Targaryen  Lady Stark, Arya Stark, and Jamie Lannister all are extremely compelling characters.  However, almost every character in the show is perfectly written from the savage Khal Drago to the dueling instructor Syrio Forel.  Much like the Wire, it is just not possible to laud the virtues of every character and the actor/actress who portrayed him/her without writing a dissertation on the show.  This opulence of wonderful characters is shown to be an intentional move, when Ned Stark in imprisoned and eventually beheaded (if there was a way to bet on a Sean Bean character dying, I would do it every time) for discovering the truth that Jon Arryn died for (its slightly perverse how much I would relish a potential Joffrey death scene in future seasons).

"Even a bastard could rise high on the walls"
Game of Thrones is also unique on this list in that it is based on the first novel in George R.R. Martin's Song of Fire and Ice series (quick sidenote: why is it that every fantasy author chooses to incorporate multiple initials?).  Having both read the book (I began it with two episodes remaining and finished it last night) and watched the series, I can honestly say that the TV series did about as good a job in bringing a novel into visual media as one can do.  Sure some exposition and back story were left out and a substantial amount of nudity and prostitute sex was added (but hey it's HBO).  In fact I kind of love how the character of Ros, the prostitute, was added primarily allow inclusion of various back story for multiple characters who would monologue in the afterglow of solicited sex, while Ros was still wearing nothing (again, it's HBO), or as IGN has cleverly dubbed it "sexposition."  Back to the topic the last two episodes of season one delivered a series of bangs that would even make Ros blush and has everyone who enjoyed season one of Game of Thrones feeling that April 2012 cannot come soon enough.