Has Game of Thrones become a Game of Yawns? Hardly. Any show that can combine history, violence, incest, whores and bracing lessons in realpolitik will always win me over. Not so keen on dragons but these ones can toast the fish they catch (on the wing) before they eat them, which is rather cool.
To the uninitiated it may look like The Lord of the Rings, but it's rather closer to something by Hillary Mantel than Tolkien, as it's loosely based on the historical period known as the Wars of Roses.
Monday last I texted a friend to remind her not to forget to watch or at least record GOT which was about to start on Soho, in New Zealand, just three hours behind America, the centre of the known universe. "Oh I watched it this afternoon" came the reply. Even though she has Soho? Such is the anticipation I guess.
Halfway into episode one, I have it say it was kind of boring and had me wondering if the spell the show has cast over me is beginning to fade in the way that these things do. True Blood season one is a case in point, the steady decline since, the wearing out of the welcome, the "oh my god is it still running?". Homeland also squandered much in series 2, like a runner who made the break from the pack too early, it made series one an exciting thing, but by the end of two I was often shaking my head and contemplating strapping explosives to a fetching vest.
Like a real life relationship, I fear that from this point on the show is something that I shall have to work at, not that it will be as arduous as any of the grim journeys that the poor schlubs dressed in dead animals are involved with. While we all have our own 'white walkers' to deal with - GST, bleeding gums, aggressive tinea, debt - they would make a less satisfying watch than the dramas of the mythical families of Westeros. And so far, this has all been terribly satisfying.
Not everyone is a fan of course. Another friend who began watching after much "you'd love it, it's real cool and not sucky like LOTR" wasn't impressed, dissing it as an "adolescent rape-fantasy."
The Onion described the opening of the new season thus: Game Of Thrones Season 3 Opens With Every Character Getting Fingered While Discussing Arrival Of Winter." Which is pretty funny though not completely accurate, there was actually very little of the usual soft-core porn on offer save a scene of cunnilingus-interruptus, involving the mercenary and his lady-servant.
The plot is convoluted enough to keep it satisfying and the characters are as solid as Casterly Rock. My favourite plus sized character Samwell Tarly (John Bradley) started the ball rolling by making a grim discovery in the snow before being growled at with a "You had one job!" He almost seems like a normal person thrown into this world of pain, like an overfed viewer who has somehow crossed from the couch to the killing fields.
Other highlights included the granite-like Charles Dance as the boss Lannister. His spiteful encounter with the Imp, Tyrion Lannister, (Peter Dinklage) is one of the reasons I know I can't escape the show. Despite his heroism in the great battle that concluded last season, Tyrion has not found favour with his dad, and when he asks for a rightful gesture, the family pile at Casterly Rock, he's subject to an outburst of bile. "I will let myself be consumed by maggots before mocking the family name and naming you the heir to Casterly Rock." Ah that's right, it's the language that wins me over on this show, as much as the whoring and political shenanigans, and it's violence that keeps me awake.
A pivotal scene that reminded me of this came when Daenerys met up with some evil swarthy warlord who was hawking his troops to the highest bidder, and naturally as she was building an army she was more than a tyre kicker.
In a scene that would make Willie Apiata wince, a soldier had his nipple cut off in a demonstration of unflinching obedience and battle-readiness, but worse was to come. We learnt that as initiation the men had to kill a new-born in front of its mother. Given that Daenerys is somewhat of a feminist icon (with a very small f) we can only surmise that she will not become this man's BFF. But will she use his army of nipple-less baby killers? Sadly that is something I need to know. Damn, after a summer of gorging on DVDs and backed up Mysky shows, one episode is not really doing it for me these days.
Game of Thrones: Mondays, 8.30pm Soho.