Spoiler alert! For the first episode only.
I'll start with the confession that I haven't read the “Song of Fire and Ice” series by George R.R. Martin, largely because I find literary fantasy quite boring. It's just not my flavor of geek; the politics bore me, the strange and impossible to pronounce names make my head hurt, and the pace drags too much to hold my limited attention span.
However, “boring” is not a word that can be used to describe anything to do with this show.
The episode starts off with a group of gruesomely hacked-up bodies arranged in some sort of presumably symbolic pattern in the nearly colorless winter forest near The Wall. The whole scene is incredibly creepy and atmospheric, not to mention insanely gorgeous. Everything from the cinematography to the costumes to the pitch-perfect casting is breathtaking. There is also plenty of gratuitous gore, which certainly caught my interest. As the action ramps up we are also fleetingly introduced to some creatures who are presumably not human, but who do seem to be a combination of an Uruk-hai and a 28 Days Later rage zombie... an idea cemented by the apparent reanimation of the corpse of a small girl. I had no idea there were going to be monsters in this, let alone possible zombies, and all I have to say about that is AWESOME.
The rest of the episode is a lot of introductory political hum-drum, but the framework is laid out through a series of lovely, dark, and fascinating scenes that keep the dullness of the politics well hidden. We move to Winterfell, which is presided over by the blessedly simply-named Lord Stark (Sean Bean). After a disturbing lesson in the morality of the land and the introduction of several squee-inducing direwolf pups (WANT), we move briefly over to King's Landing, where (conveniently enough) King Robert (Mark Addy) resides with his wife (Lena Headey), her smarmy twin bro (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), and their drunken lout of a dwarf brother (Peter Dinklage). There are about a thousand other awesome actors and characters, and if I take the time to list them all this review will be one giant IMDb entry.
There is one more group worth mentioning though, and that's the blondie siblings (Harry Lloyd and Emilia Clarke), and the warrior-clan leader (Jason Momoa), who we meet in Pentos as they plot some more political stuff. I'm sure it's all very important, but all I could think was how delightfully creepy some of the sibling relationships are on this show. Blond brother feels up blonde sister for a bit, then offers her for marriage to the scary and intimidating warrior-clan leader who, as far as I'm concerned, is best off remaining shirtless as much as possible. Woof!
Back in Winterfell, the queen makes inappropriate remarks during the feast and the King asks Lord Stark to come back to King's Landing with him to be his right-hand general or something. Then we return to Pentos in time for blonde sister's wedding to the pectoral warrior. The wedding dance includes lots of bare boobs and humping and fights ending in flailing intestines. Because they're savages, see? I give blonde sister two weeks before she's completely bonkers.
Lord Stark agrees to go off with King Robert and they celebrate by going boar hunting. Then Stark's youngest son accidentally catches the queen having sex with her twin brother. Just when I thought this show couldn't get more awesomely disturbing, they haul out the twincest. Oh, and then the brother casually tosses the kid out the window of a 50 foot parapet as his adorably anxious direwolf pup watches.
Holy hell. I am in love.