I’ve had the chance to catch the first two episodes of A Game of Thrones on HBO the past two Sundays. Having read the series, my perspective might be different from someone who hasn’t read any of the books before. I could definitely see how someone who hasn’t read the series could easily be confused with all the characters/families and the back stories. Personally, for example, I don’t feel the series has done a great job yet with explaining how Daenerys Targaryen and her brother, Viserys, ended up exiled away from Westeros. Also, I’m sure the place names can be confusing: Westeros, Essos, The Free Cities, The Seven Kingdoms, King’s Landing, Winterfell, etc. And even though the series hasn’t mentioned all these by the different names yet, it has touched on all of them.
If you have the books, it’s much easier to keep everything straight by referring to the maps and appendices, which visually map out the family trees. If you don’t have the books, hopefully the HBO series will make everything clearer as the show progresses. Even when reading the books, it can be confusing, but it definitely helps to have the supplemental material.
As far as the characters, I don’t really have a problem with any of them so far, in regards to who the show cast to play the various parts. Everyone at this point is pretty much how I pictured them from the books. They really haven’t done much with Viserys yet though. As a viewer, you’ve yet to see how controlling and mean he is to Daenerys and how whiny he can be. Also, the show actually made me feel sympathetic for Cersei at one point when she was talking about one of her children she lost, and I don’t remember ever feeling sympathy for her character in the books. She is one character I never had a problem with disliking from beginning to end. Characters like Jaime have their redeeming qualities, but Cersei has none.