HBO’s new series, Game of Thrones, premieres on Sunday. This week, we’re featuring five different takes on the show, which is the first foray into fantasy for a network that has built its programming on grimly realistic stories like The Sopranos and The Wire. Atlantic correspondent Alyssa Rosenberg began the conversation, and The American Prospect’s Adam Serwer continues it:
The most concise summary of Game of Thrones comes from the character King Robert Baratheon, as he recalls the first time he ever crushed the life out of someone with his war-hammer. Speaking to his brother-in-law and the aging leader of the Kingsguard, the wine-drunk Robert recalls how the slain man defecated on himself shortly after dying.
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“They don't tell you that in the songs,” he spits.
George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series is nothing if not an attempt to mash together two seemingly contradictory genres of literature: realism and fantasy. It wants to tell you precisely what is not in the songs troubadours perform: the callous ambitions of nobles, the suffering of their serfs, the paralyzing social conventions of life for the mostly lowly blacksmith or highborn lady. While the producers of Game of Thrones might have been tempted to portray the epic battles of Robert's Rebellion in 300-style flashbacks, this history is instead rendered verbally, much as it is in the book, through the war stories of old men who are no longer the heroes they once were.