April 13, 2015

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Premiere Review: “Game of Thrones”



There’s intrigue behind the cameras as well as in front of them on GAME OF THRONES these days.  Series creators/showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have let it be known that they want the show to end in a couple of seasons, while HBO would like this to be just the midpoint of an epic run.  (Original author George R.R. Martin, who’s told Benioff and Weiss how the story will climax even though he’s still churning out the novels, envisions it all ending in a Peter Jackson-sized theatrical movie spectacle, but for the moment no one seems to be listening to him.)  It’s all rather delicate, because Benioff and Weiss are arguably the most important people in HBO’s universe right now, so no one wants them to be upset, but the decision about the show’s trajectory probably has to be made sooner rather than later, because the endgame of Thrones is likely to be a lengthy one.

All of that was particularly brought to mind by tonight’s Season 5 premiere, written by Benioff and Weiss and directed by Michael Slovis (a longtime Breaking Bad cinematographer/director), because it appeared to lay the first stone of what could eventually lead to the series conclusion, as Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage), now almost as much of a king-slayer as his brother Jaime (Nicolaj Coster-Waldau) after he punctuated his escape from prison by murdering his ex-lover and his father Tywin (Charles Dance), reluctantly agreed to journey with his eunuch sidekick Varys (Conleth Hill) to meet Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), Mother of Dragons (briefly if fearsomely glimpsed in the episode), with the idea of supporting her bid to become ruler of the Seven Kingdoms.  Danys’  storyline has, until now, literally been a continent away from the rest of Thrones‘ action, and the joining of those two ends of the saga–which may not even happen this season, considering how much Thrones enjoys its detours and twists–would provide a hint of closure to the sprawling epic.

Game of Thrones is the cash cow that pays for all of HBO’s Lookings, Togethernesses, Girls and Getting Ons, with ratings that, even available in only one-third of US households, qualify it as one of the most popular shows on TV.  (Multiplied by 3, it’s even bigger than football and The Walking Dead.)  It’s an incredible feat of storytelling that juggles so many storylines, many of which barely intersect with the others, that the season’s first hour didn’t even touch on some major threads.  (There was no sign of Arya in the episode.)  It’s also filmed with an unmatched lavishness, featuring giant battle sequences (and battle sequences with giants), those dragons, and in this hour, the spectacular removal of a massive statue from the top of the pyramid where Dany is currently residing as she deals with the moral issues of governing the cities she overthrew last season.

The whole enterprise works because of the superb writing (starting with Martin and continuing with Benioff, Weiss and their fellow writers), which never leans on its special effects, patiently building its story instead with expertly parsed plotting, marvelously developed characters and sharp dialogue.  The ever-increasing cast is also uniformly remarkable, with Dinklage, Lena Headey and Clarke usually first among equals.  Although we’ll miss Dance’s poisonous Tywin Lannister (he did return briefly tonight as the corpse), the premiere promised more of Aidan Gillen’s Littlefinger and Hill’s Varys than we’ve had lately, and taking Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) out of his castle and his brooding over prophecies, sending him into battle at The Wall, has livened him up considerably.

It’s easy to understand why HBO would want Game of Thrones, a smash hit with a seemingly inexhaustible plot, to continue for as long as possible, and also to see how Benioff and Weiss, who’ve spent 5 years creating the equivalent of 5 giant feature films per year (at what’s still a fraction of the budget a single movie in the genre costs) would be getting weary of their labors.  It’s to be hoped that this conflict can be solved without the need for warfare or a duel to the death; the TV throne can be as difficult to hold onto for long as the iron one.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."