By GUY D’ASTOLFO
Although its time and place are open questions, HBO’s “Game of Thrones” is a skillfully made period-drama series.
Set in the fictional kingdom of Westeros — which appears to be Britain around the year 900 (give or take 300 years), it’s a time of swords, horses, the supernatural, brothel girls and plenty of mead-quaffing.
Like “Rome,” that other great HBO series from ancient times, it also has a rich group of juicy characters and a complex story involving treachery from afar and within.
And its detailed authenticity — the glorious sets, the costumes, even the sound effects — will leave you giddy.
David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, writers and executive producers, filmed “Game of Thrones” in the woodlands and castles of Northern Ireland and Malta.
The premiere episode (9 p.m. Sunday) starts off strong — three scouts happen upon a gruesome scene in the uncharted northlands — and finishes in an even more-startling manner. You’ll be hooked.
Although the title sounds more like an adaptation of a video game, “Game of Thrones” is actually a grandly realized drama based on the fantasy novel “A Song of Ice and Fire” by George R.R. Martin. With its high levels of graphic combat and sex, the series probably will be irresistible to fanboys. But the one-hour episodes go way beyond the genre in their appeal.
As the story begins, King Robert (Mark Addy) rides north with his queen, Cersei (Lena Headey), and their entourage to visit his friend Lord Eddard (Sean Bean) in Winterfell. The king enlists Eddard as his right-hand man in the face of several threats to his throne.
Meanwhile, demons lurk in the mysterious snowy northlands beyond a giant wall that keeps the Seven Kingdoms safe. But seasons last for years in northern Westeros, and all signs ominously point to another long, dark winter.
The cast also includes Harry Lloyd and Emilia Clarke as a brother-sister team plotting to regain King Robert’s throne; Michelle Fairley and Lena Headey, wives of Lord Eddard and and King Robert, respectively; and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Peter Dinklage and Jack Gleeson as members of the smug and scheming Lannister clan.
They are the core of this large and colorful ensemble, all dressed in medieval clothing and expertly woven together in a far-reaching story.
“Game of Thrones” contains nudity, graphic violence, sex and adult language.