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"Winter is Coming" is an introduction to a wonderfully bleak journey that honors its source material with stellar execution and an impressive cast.
The plot is intentionally complex, too, while the scale of the production is astonishing: with its sumptuous scenery and nifty camerawork, Game of Thrones looks like a Hollywood movie.
It's grim -- and beautiful, if you're into that kind of thing (and I am).
I must say that while it was by no means perfect, HBO certainly appears up to the task.
Many fine actors on display here, who are often required to establish what their character is about in very short order, and usually do.
The network has another hit on its hands that will not only please fans of Martin's work, but draw in new viewers, thanks to its realistic world, complex characters and good old fashioned sex and violence.
As an opening chapter of a story, Game of Thrones is impressive. However, in several instances I'm still mystified about what the series is going to be about.
What struck me within the first seven or so minutes was that this is quite possibly the first time I've ever tuned in to a television series and found myself thinking I was watching a film.
In one episode, the ways of the Starks and Lannisters were forged and we learned a lot about who we can and cannot trust in the two main houses.
And there you have your pilot-a very different one from many first episodes, even on HBO, in that it didn't so much tell a single story or establish symmetries among the subplots. Rather, it just set a very large table.
I was only occasionally confused, and never outright lost. Much of that's to the credit of the many fine actors on display here, who are often required to establish what their character is about in very short order, and usually do.
Fans of the books can't complain. This was an absolutely faithful adaptation. Menacing, brutal and complex, a solid start.
The overall sense of this is that of a terrific TV series just getting its legs underneath it. This is gorgeous, well-acted, smartly written TV, and even if it takes a little while to get going, it's clear from shot one that we're in very good hands.