TV reviews: Game of Thrones

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

The opening of "Game of Thrones" is some of the most arresting television ever produced. We're introduced to the Wall - the massive ice barrier protecting the continent of Westeros from northern savages - and the Night's Watch brotherhood that protects it.

When three warriors venture outside the Wall, they encounter a mysterious and deadly adversary called the White Walkers, a race that was believed to be extinct. Gruesome violence ensues in a magnificently haunting sequence.

I've never read George R.R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" books - the TV series is based on them - and I can only describe my introduction to this saga as friggin' epic.

After sprinting out of the gate, this fantasy tale slows, laying out the players vying for control of the coveted Iron Throne of Westeros.

When King Robert Baratheon's (Mark Addy) right-hand man mysteriously dies, he requests that our hero, Lord Eddard "Ned" Stark (Sean Bean), take the position as second in command, aka the King's Hand.

Bean (Boromir in "Lord of the Rings") leads an excellent cast - Lena Headey, Peter Dinklage and newcomer Emilia Clarke are remarkable - and gives a strong, stoic performance that even non-fanboys can revel in.

There are plenty of other gripping characters and plots in the pilot, not to mention the next five episodes, but it's way too much to cover here. Confusion alert: Those who haven't read the books can benefit from character cheat sheets.

"Game of Thrones"

9 p.m. Sundays on HBO

3.5 stars out of 4