Game of Thrones ★★★★☆

A tricky but faithful adaptation of a huge and complex novel into a tightly scripted, gorgeous TV show with solid acting and eerily good casting — most of which cannot be appreciated without reading the book, but it’s sure entertaining for fans.

There are three glaring flaws that dulled its edge: (1) a puzzling lack of wolves, (2) several overly earnest monologues that there’s just no room for (an HBO trademark that ruined Deadwood for me), and (3) the worst of which was so irritating that I almost jumped ship: actor Aidan Gillen was given the thankless job of portraying Petyr Baelish’s moral bankruptcy by bloviating about his ambitions while urging two whores to have sex. That was a dire lapse in dramatic judgement, but fortunately most of the series is much smarter.