Shot largely on location in the fields and hills of Northern Ireland and Malta, “Game of Thrones” is green and ripe and good-looking. Here the term green carries double meaning as both visual descriptive and allegory. Embedded in the narrative is a vague global-warming horror story. Rival dynasties vie for control over the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros — a territory where summers are measured in years, not months, and where winters can extend for decades.
It’s true that Game of Thrones is so graphic that it was parodied on “Saturday Night Live,” with a “behind-the-scenes” skit in which a horny thirteen-year-old boy acted as a consultant. To the contrary, “Game of Thrones” is the latest entry in television’s most esteemed category: the sophisticated cable drama about a patriarchal subculture. This phenomenon launched with “The Sopranos,” but it now includes shows such as “Deadwood,” “Mad Men,” “Downton Abbey,” and “Big Love.” Each of these acclaimed series is a sprawling, multi-character exploration of a closed, often violent hierarchical system. These worlds are picturesque, elegantly filmed, and ruled by rigid etiquette—lit up, for viewers, by the thrill of seeing brutality enforced (or, in the case of “Downton Abbey,” a really nice house kept in the family). And yet the undergirding strength of each series is its insight into what it means to be excluded from power: to be a woman, or a “half man.”
If the best thing Game of Thrones does is its split narrative, its combat has got to be the worst. Throughout the game, you’ll come up against guards, wildlings, and bandits, and each engagement is just… flatly uninteresting. The combat system is something of a melding of real-time and turn-based combat in which you cue up attacks to, for example, knock your enemy off balance and then hit him with a crippling blow.