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Thoughts on the 'Game of Thrones' Sneak Peek Unveiled by HBO

by Maureen Ryan, posted Jan 7th 2011 11:45AM
'Game of Thrones' won't premiere until April, but media types got a tantalizing 15-minute taste of the upcoming HBO drama on Thursday night.

HBO's presentations at the biannual convention known as the Television Critics Association press tour are scheduled for Friday afternoon, but to whet the appetites of the assembled media hordes, the networks screened the sneak peek Thursday night.

If the point of the long trailer was to get people more interested in the fantasy saga, it definitely did the trick. Of course, it's not possible to assess the show in a substantial way until it premieres in April, but the highlight reel offered some compelling moments.

For one thing, the first glimpse of the Wall was amazing.

I'll list my five favorite moments and some notes and thoughts on the sneak peek below. I'd love to spend hours cataloging every scene in the trailer, but the able bloggers at Winter is Coming have done that. (Sidebar 1: That site's account of the 15-minute clip is here. Sidebar 2: It was a great treat to meet Phil and Kenny from Winter is Coming and Kenny's wife Celia at the screening.) In any case, forgive me if this post isn't as long as you'd like. I've got a long press tour ahead of me, and time (and sleep) are precious commodities at this event. But never fear; I'll also write up some thoughts on the 'GoT' panel with members of the cast and the executive producers; that takes place Friday afternoon.

Some general notes: An HBO representative said that the footage came from several different episodes, and that the clip would not be shown publicly, probably ever. Also, the music that was played with the clip was temporary and not the real score.

You could group most of the footage into several major categories. There were scenes with Eddard (Ned) Stark and his wife, Catelyn, at their castle, Winterfell; scenes of intrigue or conversation among Cersei Lannister (the queen of Westeros) and Ned or her siblings, Jaime and Tyrion, at the Red Keep (the home of the king of Westeros); scenes set in the North, where Ned's illegitimate son Jon Snow is going to become a member of the Night's Watch; scenes set among the Dothraki, a war-like tribe who have given refuge to a noble brother and sister with claims to the throne of Westeros.

Certain things weren't in the sneak peek. Characters such as Arya, Sansa, Joffrey, Littlefinger, Robb and Hodor were either unseen or barely glimpsed at all. There were no pitched battles and there weren't many wide, sweeping shots of the landscape or castles, etc (there was one wide shot of a palace in the Dothraki scenes). Presumably the vast majority of the more epic shots need more special effects work before they're ready.

The footage was shown on the closed-circuit system of the TCA hotel in Pasadena late in the evening, but those who showed up for an earlier sneak-peek screening in a meeting room at the hotel got a special treat: George R. R. Martin himself attended (Martin wrote the books on which the HBO series is based). Martin was in good spirits and chatted with whoever stopped by his table, and he said he was on the path to recovery from a nasty infection that had put him in the hospital over the holidays.

Someone asked him how it felt to see his imagination come to life. "Pretty cool," he said.

By the way, the first part of this Favorite Moments writeup is safe to read if you've never read the George R.R. Martin books on which the show is based. There are no spoilers in that section. Beyond that is a section meant for those who have read the books.

Most favorite moment: The Wall. There was a brief wide shot of the Wall, an ice wall hundreds of feet high guarded by the men of the Night's Watch. I don't want to speak for the Winter is Coming contingent, but we all agreed that the Wall looked most impressive. In fact, all the scenes set in the North and around Castle Black had the kind of realistic, lived-in look that you'd expect from a top-flight HBO production.

Second favorite moments: Daenerys grows up. I've voiced concerns before about the story line of Daenerys, an exiled royal whose story takes place far away from the main action of 'Game of Thrones.' She was always a hard character for me to like in the books, but there were two scenes in the sneak peek that showed Dany asserting her power and coming into her own as a woman and a queen. Clarke played those moments very skillfully and I was impressed with her work. I have more to say below about various characters' wigs, but I'm wigging less about Dany's wig, and the actress herself may yet make me invest in this character's fate more than I had in the past.

Third favorite moments: Conversations between King Robert Baratheon and his old friend, Ned Stark. As King Robert Baratheon, Mark Addy is everything you'd hope for -- forceful, blunt, lively and powerful. And of course Sean Bean brings the necessary iron and gravity to the role of Ned Stark. They do appear to have the chemistry and history of old friends.

Fourth favorite moments: Catelyn and Ned Stark together. Catelyn had several good moments in the trailer, but one of the best was when she expressed her misgivings about him going to King's Landing to serve as the King's Hand (essentially his most important advisor). Michelle Fairley has a lot of earthy presence in the role. I'm glad she stood out in a good way; Catelyn is a key character in the tale.

Fifth favorite moments: Ned Stark and Jaime Lannister face off. There were some delicious confrontations between the proud Jaime and the tough Ned.

Least Favorite element: I have a new thing to nitpick. In one or two scenes, Khal Drogo (Jason Momoa) is wearing heavy eyeliner. I don't like it. It just looks wrong, sorry. I don't believe he wore the guyliner in all his scenes, so I'm just hoping it doesn't make a frequent appearance in the show.

Speaking of grooming issues, in a recent post, I noted that in other preview clips and photos, Dany's white-blond hair bothered me. At times, the wigs worn by Dany, Cersei and Viserys have looked very much like wigs. In the clip shown Thursday, the wigs worn by Dany and Viserys do look a little off here and there, but the majority of the time, their hair looks at least passable or just fine.

Aesthetically, 'Game of Thrones' generally looked good, and some of the settings and rooms were quite impressive. But I have one more nitpick: I don't like the stained glass in the throne room of Robert's palace. The primary colors don't fit in with the ancient majesty of the Iron Throne, in my opinion. This may be one of those times that what was in my head as I read the books clashed with what I saw on the screen.

A final thought: I wish there had been more Tyrion in the preview clip, given that I think Peter Dinklage was perfect for this role. As Tyrion, Dinklage speaks with an English accent, and I found that accent a little more pronounced and noticeable than the accents of the other actors. It wasn't a bad accent, it just didn't blend in as smoothly as the accents of other characters. It's not really a nitpick, but I do wonder if his accent will settle in a bit more over time.

Here are a few more notes on those favorite moments for those who have read the books. Spoilers ahoy:

FM 1: Among the scenes from the North, there was a scene of Jon Snow fighting, a scene of Tyrion reminding Jon of his illegitimate status and a very effective scene of Maester Aemon and Lord Mormont talking to Tyrion about the Night's Watch needing more help and support from the king's court.

FM 2: In one excellent scene, Dany is shown standing up to Viserys, after he throws the "Dothraki rags" she gave him back in her face. He sneeringly asked if he should begin to braid his hair as the Dothraki do, and she shot back, "You've no right to a braid! You've won no victories yet." He began to beat her, but she fought back and asserted her role as wife and queen of Khal Drogo. It was one of the best moments in the sneak peek. In another scene, she conferred with Jorah Mormont, her advisor. She told Mormont she'd come to believe her brother would never reclaim the throne of the seven kingdoms. It's one thing to read about Dany losing faith in Viserys, but to actually see those realizations wash over her face was powerful.

FM 3: When King Robert and his retinue arrive at Winterfell, there's a moment of silence from the assembled household, and then Robert says to Ned, "You got fat." That moment played well in the conference room where the trailer was played, and the rest of their shared scenes were excellent. "You helped me win the Iron Throne," Robert says at one point. "Now help me keep the [expletive] thing."

FM 4: In her best scene, Catelyn confronts Ned over the choice he makes -- to go to King Robert's court and act as his Hand. "You do have a choice, and you've made it," she says with tears in her eyes. There's also a scene of Catelyn (and a direwolf) defending Bran Stark, and yes, a key Bran moment was shown in the highlight reel.

FM 5: In one confrontation, Ned notes that there isn't a mark on Jaime's fancy armor. Jaime replies that those who attack him always "seem to miss." "You've chosen your opponents wisely then," Ned replies.

By the way, there was also a scene full of subtext between Ned and Cersei (they both talk about how they've been trained to kill their enemies). I look forward to seeing more of Lena Headey as Cersei; the character is certainly not the most sympathetic one in the books. Headey was fine in her scenes, but there wasn't really enough Cersei in the sneak peek to judge how this difficult character will come off in the TV series.

One last note: More photos will be unveiled by HBO later today. I'll put them on the new 'GoT' post that should be up Saturday morning.

Follow @MoRyan on Twitter.

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Victoria Cole

I am curious as to why you found Dany such a hard character to like in the books.

January 13 2011 at 1:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

aha, so this is why the next book isn't out yet. well, the series will be good fun!

January 10 2011 at 10:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Waiting for your FULL report...
We need a photo of THE WALL!!!

January 08 2011 at 12:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Bronn Stone

Wait? Am I reading the third (very very minor) spoiler item correctly? Robert tells Ned that Ned got fat??? Sounds backwards to me.

January 07 2011 at 11:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Bronn Stone's comment

I'm sure Robert meant it as a joke. It's not like Ned would actually say such a thing to Robert.

January 08 2011 at 8:32 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mo Ryan

You're right about that line, Sirana. Thanks!

I never ever ever ever spell Dany's name right the first time. That's why I usually go with Dany ;)

Thanks for the fixes and the reactions!

January 07 2011 at 8:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Totally awesome and I'm totally jealous. Man, am I jealous. A friend turned me onto those books years ago and I've been eagerly awaiting the 5th book and had to be revived when I heard HBO was making a series.

I will eagerly await the premiere of the series and of course your recaps.

Any idea what night of the week the show will run? Sundays I'm guessing.

Loyal follower,

January 07 2011 at 4:06 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to G4Fan's comment

HBO just confirmed it will debut on Sunday, 17 April 2011. Presumably it will skip Memorial Weekend, so that means it will run through 26 June. Which means TRUE BLOOD will be back late this year, in July rather than June (unless they run the first few episodes alongside the last couple of THRONES).

January 07 2011 at 7:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I cannot wait to watch this! I even started re-reading the books, which is no small task.

I wonder how they're going to deal with some the dicey stuff, even though this is HBO. I mean 13yos in forced marriages, having babies at 14? Incest? That played a pivotal role in the story, in more than a few characters lives. Still, can't wait!

January 07 2011 at 3:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Lisa's comment

They upped the ages of all the kiddoes.

January 08 2011 at 8:30 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'd like to get exicted about this, but it's HBO. They killed off Deadwood & Rome becasue it was too expensive to keep producing. Why would this be any different?

January 07 2011 at 3:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to ABElia's comment

GAME OF THRONES's budget is about half that of ROME's, so it's nowhere near the expense. In addition, DEADWOOD appears to have at least partially been cancelled due to Milch wanting to move on to other projects.

So with THRONES costing much and less and not being dependent on a particular producer (Benioff could leave say in Season 3 or 5 or whatever and someone else could take over).

January 07 2011 at 7:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Craig Ranapia

Well, is there a network that hasn't cancelled a good show (IMO, of course) before its time. If I'd shunned everyone who'd ever disappointed me on that score I'd never have watched 'Battlestar Galactica' because of the truly appalling way 'Farscape' was treated by SyFy.

January 11 2011 at 12:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply


Thanks for sharing your reservations though. Almost everything I read about the show is hype! Hopefully deservedly so but it's really hard to keep expectations down. So hearing doubts about wigs and accents is refreshing. If that makes sense...

Nitpick: Daenerys, not Danaerys. I always used to do that too though.

January 07 2011 at 2:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Thanks for the very detailed write up. Great that some of your concerns have been alleviated. :) It sounds like this show is coming together very well!

January 07 2011 at 2:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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