This is a bit of a crazy review, as everyone else is on about series twenty of these two, but when they first came out in 2010/2011, I wasn’t really interested enough in television to realise that good things existed.
It wasn’t planned, but it was pretty interesting watching these Boardwalk and Thrones in close succession. I started off with Boardwalk Empire, set in Prohibition era New Jersey, about the gangsterism and corruption that exist in all strata of society, from the lowest to the very top. The star of the show is Steve Buscemi as top politician Enoch “Nucky” Thompson – based on real life New Jersey.
I just couldn’t get into it though 😦 I watched three episodes, and then asked my friend Jane whether it gets any better. She said No, and as all the rest of the episodes were clogging up my 3-discs-a-month LoveFilm package, I decided to give the rest of them a miss.
The problems to me were:
– It’s very male. Not just all the shooting and posturing, but the female characters are either downtrodden or frivolous. Having a good strong female character in a story has always been quite important to me.
– The look of it. It’s too glossy! Sure, there is a place for some serious opulence among the political corruption settings, but even the interiors of the rough clapboard houses owned by the drunken labourers looked like something out of a hand crafted goods brochure, and everyone’s clothes were far too clean.
– It’s ve-e-e-ry sl-o-o-ow. I’m not used to this pace of drama. I can see that it’s quality stuff, with serious things to say about how society works, but there’s no layering of plot for me to admire.
– Although it has intriguing characters, with conflicting, realistic interior drives, they don’t get me, in the heart, where it matters. And I think this is where the problem lies.
Jane wasn’t too taken with Game of Thrones, either: “It’s just lots of killing.” She wasn’t wrong; the opening scene was eye poppingly gory, with all sorts of gristly bits. I looked away from the screen for most of this part.
Thereafter, we reverted to ye olde mediaeval/fantasy world, with lords and kings and fights and honour or otherwise. I quite enjoyed it; it was basically children’s television for grown ups, long on action, short on subtlety. I wouldn’t say I can see myself loving it, although I’m only two episodes in, so I’m giving myself time.
Unlike Boardwalk Empire, Game of Thrones is very grubby! Characters wandering around with mud all over them. Probably very expensively placed mud, and I imagine a nightmare for continuity, but I like it, it shows a sense of willing.
Some of the female characters are pretty good too, although it does seem that all televisual/filmic high caste families seem to be moulded from one cast. From Downton Abbey to Brave to Game of Thrones your Head of Household always loves his wife, who, while wedded to duty, will be equally torn by her own suppressed desires, and his children, who will be of various number and gender, but of whom one will be a feisty daughter and another a bit of a sly, slippery character. Sometimes it’s HoH’s duty to perform unpleasant tasks, for the sake of machinations bigger than himself, although I don’t think Downton’s Hugh Bonneville has yet stabbed a dog or beheaded a man, unless I missed those episodes.
I’m still undecided though on the sexual politics of it though. For example, one of the characters is exploited by her creepy brother, who first gropes her and then marries her off to the grunting leader of a tribe he wants to get in with. I’m not sure whether Dothraki bedroom technique (or lack of) needs to be quite so graphically illustrated. It’s all a bit Miley Cyrus – who’s being exploited here?
I’m sure I’m feeling a bit pre-menstrual, because on driving back from the leisure centre today, I suddenly felt tearful remembering the ending of episode 2, where a lovely children’s game on a river bank suddenly turns very dark indeed due to the appearance of one of the baddies, the spoilt and dangerous Prince Joffrey, and something very bad happens to one of the children 😦 You only see him for about two minutes! But I still cared about him and wished that someone would run a sword through that horrid little Prince.