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The dragons they are a-dancing: George R.R. Martin, king of all media

The mainstream finally embraces A Song of Ice and Fire

Strange snow this. I like it not.
Strange snow this. I like it not.

Well, it’s official: the latest installment of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire is at the publisher and there’s nothing you or I or anyone else can do about it except wait patiently for it to be published. Until then, we’ve got HBO’s TV adaptation of A Game of Thrones to tide us over—which I’d sure have a hell of a lot more to say about if they hadn’t sent me that mean DMCA copyright infringement notice the other day. (It’s really hard to watch stuff that isn’t on your computer’s hard drive and never, ever was in the first place.)

As it is, I have to base my observations on that partially-cheesy, partially-compelling, pre-DMCA-notice first episode that I also did not download from anywhere at any time and which, despite its charms, totally failed the crucial can-I-watch-it-with-my-wife litmus test. Sadness. Some thoughts:

1. The snow is not cold at The Wall. Breath is not visible. Wish I hadn’t noticed that, but I just watched Quintet where everyone is really, truly, convincingly cold (as well as really, truly, convincingly stoned out of their gourds).

2. The show, like Martin’s book, throws a lot of characters and cryptic references at you without explaining them. In a fantasy novel, this works. In a 60-minute TV show, it bugs. E.g., casual viewers might not get that Jaime Lannister and the queen are twins (this is dashed off in a single line of exposition and become very important later in the episode) or who the hell the Targaryens are. On the other hand, the only way to solve this problem is to make the show twice as long and I’m not sure I want that either.

3. The dramatic theme song and SimCity-style title visuals: nice. The canned medieval lute music during the feasting scene: aarrrgh!

4. Every scene not pulled directly from the book: aarrrgh!

5. Casting is largely pretty good. Tyrion Lannister, Jon Snow, Ned Stark, Jorah Mormont: yay; Arya Stark: we’ll see; Jaime Lannister: not crazy enough; Cersei Lannister: not evil enough; Khal Drogo: too much mascara.

6. Pentos = Penthouse. Half-naked women submitting to the lust of barbarians is not necessarily a bad thing, but there is a prurient Heavy Metal-magazine gloss to these scenes that makes them a bit ridiculous and pretty much substantiates critic Ginia Bellfante’s claim that the story is “boy fiction”. Yet if nipples are inherently entertaining (they are), these scenes rock.

7. I guess we’ve decided that every quasi-medieval fantasy world is filled with miscellaneous British accents. OK, I guess I’ll have to accept that.

8. Who the hell keeps all those candles lit in Winterfell? They must have a Captain of the Candles who runs his staff ragged.

“Lord Snow,” Game of Thrones episode 3, airs in New Mexico Sunday, May 1, at 7 p.m. and immediately thereafter throughout the universe on torrent sites that I do not now and will never visit.


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