Monday 24 October 2016

I don't worship Game of Thrones - is there something wrong with me?

Liam Cunningham in Game Of Thrones
Liam Cunningham in Game Of Thrones

THE season 5 premiere of Game of Thrones on Sky Atlantic last night had pretty much everything fans of the show have come to expect.

Full-frontal female nudity? Oh, yes.

We were barely past the imaginative opening titles when several pairs of perky boobs were competing for the attention of our eyes. It was all as gratuitous, cynical and redundant to the script as ever.

As though deliberately baiting critics who claim the copious naked female bodies in the series are there simply for the purpose of titillation, there was even a moment when a prostitute, having stripped to the waist, disrobed downstairs as well, only to be told by a male character that she didn’t need to.

Whoops! Too late! The cat’s out of the bag and you can’t put it back in now.

There’s male nudity in Game of Thrones as well, of course, though predictably it’s always shot from the side or the back (God forbid the boys would have to compete to show whose dangly bits look most impressive in HD widescreen).

To be honest, I giggled last night when Daario Naharis, played by Michiel Huisman, poured a post-coital drink while standing behind a strategically-placed table. It was hard to forget how the first Austin Powers movie spoofed the hell out of such scenes.

Violence? You betcha. Early on, someone had their throat slit in glorious close-up, while the episode ended with Mance Rayder (Ciarán Hinds) being horribly burned alive for not bending the knee to Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane). Or he was being horribly burned alive until Jon Snow (Kit Harington) delivered a merciful arrow to his heart.

And as ever, Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) got all the best lines. Rolling out of a cramped wooden crate in which he’d been spirited away after strangling his ex-lover with a chain and shooting his father Twyin (Charles Dance) dead with a crossbow at the end of last season, he spat: “Do you know what it’s like to stuff your shit through one of those air holes?”

Business as usual, then, and if you’ve been waiting impatiently for more than 300 days for our fix, you’ll be delighted. My problem is I haven’t been waiting impatiently.

Well, that’s not the actual problem, merely a symptom of it. The actual problem is . . . deep breath, eyes closed . . . I’m not really a Games of Thrones fan.

I don’t hate it. I don’t even dislike it. In fact, there are many things I admire about it: the brilliantly-realised production; the vivid performances by a cast of seasoned old hands and younger talents; the epic scale of the storytelling. But although I’ve watched it on and off, I’ve never felt compelled to stick with it for the long haul. I can take or leave it.

It’s nothing to do with not caring much for fantasy, because I know (because people are always telling me) that Game of Thrones is not fantasy in the sense of Robert E Howard or Michael Moorcock’s books.

I know (also because people are always telling me) it’s really about politics and intrigue and loyalty and betrayal and all sorts of other things that have nothing to do with swords and sorcery or dungeons and dragons, even though it has lots of swords, a bit of sorcery, a couple of dragons and the occasional dungeon in it.

And maybe therein lies the real problem: people are always telling me. “You’ve just GOT to watch GoT!” they say.

My neighbour, a lovely guy whose taste in books and movies frequently tallies with mine, has even been urging me to read George R.R. Martin’s series of brick-sized source novels.

And maybe I will. Someday. Maybe I’ll even buy the boxsets of seasons 1-4 and start from the beginning. Someday. Maybe . . . if people stop telling me to. Someday.

Game of Thrones, Sky Atlantic, 9pm, Mondays

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