George R. R. Martin

Photo Credit: Melanie Westfall | Daily Texan Staff

Spoiler alert! "Game of Thrones" will give away the ending for George R. R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” books.

For Martin’s loyal readers, this poses a conundrum: Should they stick with the show to the last episode, or should they stop watching the show and wait until the final book is released?  

The threat of others spoiling movies, shows and books defines how people watch, read and talk about them. People often have to make sure everyone is up to speed with a show or a novel before discussing it.

“Spoiler alert” warnings pervade websites that leak tidbits of film productions, just in case a visitor doesn’t want to click on an article that will ruin a twist.

The Internet makes it hard to avoid spoilers, but don’t worry: Spoilers aren’t as bad as they seem.

Radio-television-film professor Kathryn Fuller-Seeley said online streaming makes it possible to view movies and shows at one’s own pace, allowing audiences to hold off on watching a show and binge watch it later.

People jump into movies and shows at different speeds, meaning some will know more plot points than others. The fewer episodes someone has covered, the more spoilers he’ll have to watch out for.

“In my classes, I can’t find anything that everybody has seen together,” Fuller-Seeley said. “That idea of riding the narrative of a story like an amusement park ride, of being surprised — that is at risk of being lost when we don’t watch everything at the same time anymore.”

Trolls also lurk the Internet, dropping spoilers for all forms of entertainment left and right.

But spoilers can actually improve your experience with a movie, show or book. Without having to stress about how a book ends, audiences can appreciate how it is written. With movies and shows, people can pay more attention to the acting, music and cinematography.

“You’re not limited in your view to just following the story, of riding one roller coaster,” Fuller-Seeley said. “You get to try out the whole theme park.”

Radio-television-film freshman Preston Poole said he learned about “Iron Man 3”’s infamous Mandarin twist before seeing the film. Audiences who went into the film unspoiled could only talk about the unpopular plot point.

Poole said he enjoyed the film more because he got over the shock before seeing it, allowing him to admire how the twist served the movie’s themes.

Fuller-Seeley said she wishes she’d had “Frenzy,” a crime thriller by Alfred Hitchcock, spoiled for her. She saw the movie during a class screening in graduate school.

“A good friend had been murdered the week before, and the professor didn’t give me the spoiler alert,” Fuller-Seeley said. “I get to that scene of the woman’s death, and I am so traumatized. I freaked out and yelled at the professor. Without the spoiler, I got so drawn into the story that it [shocked me] all too well.”

“Game of Thrones” will give away the conclusion to its unfinished source material, but spoilers won’t necessarily make the books any less exhilarating. Readers who know how the story ends will be able appreciate how Martin sets up the finale and admire the nuances of his work. Spoilers won’t ruin your experience; they’ll make it better.

As season two of HBO’s ambitious series “Game of Thrones” opens of Sunday, the despicable young king Joffrey Baratheon (Jack Gleeson) occupies an uneasy throne. (Photo courtesy of Game of Thrones)

Spoiler warning: this review contains major spoilers for the first season of “Game of Thrones,” and mild spoilers for the season two premiere.

Last year, HBO’s tagline for their ambitious adaptation of George R. R. Martin’s fantasy book “Game of Thrones” was, unforgettably, “Winter Is Coming.” No, it really was unforgettable: in addition to being splashed across every promotional poster and teaser video HBO put out leading up to the show’s debut, we were constantly reminded that “Winter Is Coming,” as the mantra was consistently repeated in every episode.

This season, which premieres this Sunday at 8 p.m., it seems that things have changed in the fantastical realm of Westeros, if only slightly: this season’s tagline is “War Is Coming.” And in the season premiere, it seems as if the encroaching winter and looming war go hand in hand, as the numerous pieces of “Game of Throne’s” bafflingly expansive chessboard move into place to prepare for what promises to be an explosive battle for the throne of Westeros.

For the purposes of this review, it’s futile to try to summarize last year’s season of “Game of Thrones.” Martin’s world is so vast, the alliances and rivalries of the various clans and families so convoluted and the cast of characters so bewilderingly extensive that, rather than trying to catch up through recaps, it’s easier just to go back and watch the first season in one breathless marathon (or, better yet, read the books).

It is, however, somewhat easier to lay out the state of Westeros as it stands at the season premiere. Practically the entirety of the first few episodes of the season are devoted to setting up the cataclysmic rage of a war that promises to end during this round of 10 episodes. King Robert Baratheon (Mark Addy) has died, and though his young teenage son Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) has now inherited his title, the position is precarious and up for grabs by a myriad of competing forces — because word has gotten out that Joffrey Baratheon is illegitimate, a product of incest between his conniving mother Cersei (Lena Heady) and her twin brother, Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau).

Meanwhile, the repulsively spoiled 13-year-old King Joffrey is doing a predictably horrible job of leading the kingdom, spending his days throwing elaborate parties and tournaments and harassing his court along with his tragic young fiancee Sansa (Sophie Turner), whose father he’s just had executed. The Queen Regent Cersei is the one who’s really been governing the kingdom behind the scenes, but her vicious ruling style is winning her no love from her subjects, who are restless and on the brink of rebellion.

Cersei is in constant struggle with her dwarf brother, Tyrion (Peter Dinklage), for the upper hand in the capitol city of King’s Landing. Some of the most delightful and entertaining scenes of the premiere involve the expertly written and dynamically acted back-and-forth between the siblings, their repartee seething with both malice and wit. (“You love your children. It’s your one redeeming feature. That and your cheekbones,” Tyrion jabs at Cersei).

Showrunners David Benioff and D. B. Weiss’ real challenge, at this point, is to keep their massive canvas from becoming too unmanageably broad. But judging from the tidily rapid pace of the season’s first four episodes, “Game of Throne’s” devoted audience is in good hands.

Printed on Friday, March 30, 2012 as: War comes with second 'Thrones' season

TV Tuesday

Amid a massive amount of media hype and fan anticipation, HBO premiered its ambitious serialized television adaptation of George R. R. Martin’s sprawling fantasy book series “A Song of Ice and Fire” last Sunday night.

“Game of Thrones” is an incredibly dense, layered story with innumerable characters and detailed histories. Those who haven’t read the books may find themselves overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information the show drops within its first hour. Various royal families and their respective kingdoms, their relationships, family histories and political and personal motivations are certainly complex.

However, at its core, the show centers around the feudal, medieval land of Westeros, which is divided into seven kingdoms and all ruled precariously together under the Iron Throne, a position fiercely sought after by myriad opposing powers. In addition to the various dynastic forces vying for the Iron Throne, there is also a great Wall protecting Westeros from shadowy, unknown creatures from the barren north.

In the first episode, titled “Winter Is Coming,” the Iron Throne is uneasily occupied by King Robert Baratheon (Mark Addy) and is being heavily sought after by his scheming Queen Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) and the rest of her clan. To keep his kingdom under control, King Robert recruits the help of his old war buddy Eddard “Ned” Stark (Sean Bean), ruler of the northern Winterfell land and patriarch of the sprawling Stark family. The Iron Throne is also under siege by the Targaryen siblings, the exiled children of the previous king of Westeros. Scheming Viserys Targaryen (Harry Lloyd) sells his sister Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) off to be the bride of a brutal leader of the nomadic Dothraki people in hopes that the massive Dothraki army will help him regain their fallen family’s throne.

Even this summary of characters and events doesn’t encompass the number of things going on in the show’s first hour. The pilot is largely expositional, spending much of its time establishing the plethora of kings, queens, lords, ladies, princes and princesses and their various associations to one another. As a result of this, the series can initially feel somewhat confusing.

Because of this need for introduction, it’s difficult to assign any kind of broad judgment upon the future course of “Game of Thrones” based solely on its premiere; the show is deeply serialized, with extensive, overarching plot lines that promise to stretch throughout the duration of the 10-episode season. To those unfamiliar with the novels, it’s unsure where the story is eventually going to go, which is incredibly enthralling.

In purely visual terms, “Game of Thrones” is stunning to watch, boasting incredible production values with lavish sets, sumptuous costumes and spectacular scenery. Filmed in North Ireland, Morocco and Malta, the breathtaking landscapes deftly transport audiences into the embattled land of Westeros. Even the credit sequence, a moving, three-dimensional steampunk-style map of Westeros, gives the show a sense of gorgeously layered scope.

For a fantasy series full of desperate power struggles and horrific monsters, “Game of Thrones” is fairly dialogue-heavy. The show often relies on lengthy, impassioned monologues and heated back-and-forth rather than an overabundance of action sequences to establish the sense of impending doom that hangs over Westeros.

Fortunately, that dialogue gives the fantastic ensemble cast some meaty bits of material to work with. In particular, Peter Dinklage as the diminutive-but-ingenious prince Tyrion Lannister and young Maisie Williams as the adventurous and headstrong Arya Stark both give early standout performances.

That isn’t to say that “Game of Thrones” doesn’t fulfill HBO’s seemingly obligatory “sex and violence” requirement. The opening sequence, depicting an attack by a group of hyper-eerie “wilding” monsters from the wilderness side of the Wall quickly establishes the show’s ability to create an uncompromisingly brutal and bloody atmosphere.

“Game of Thrones” follows in a rich tradition of feudal fantasy stories, and it certainly lives up to its influential forebears. Any fan of mythical lands or fast-paced political thrillers would be remiss to skip out on “Game of Thrones” — It’s well worth the effort it takes to follow.