Game of Thrones: Best Sword and Sorcery Epic on TV
Read about the most popular TV show in the world
Game of Thrones is a medieval fantasy shown on the HBO premium channel. Dubbed by HBO enthusiasts as The Sopranos of Middle Earth, the series certainly has the look and tone of the Lord of the Rings trilogy loved by billions of people around the world.
However, compared to the Lord of the Rings, this R-rated fantasy epic has much more sex, nudity, graphic violence and adult language. This over-the-top aspect of Game of Thrones has garnered it numerous followers as well as detractors, though the detractors are much fewer in number.
At any rate, the series has won many awards and millions of people are downloading it illegally, more than any other TV show, a situation which certainly says a lot about its popularity.
Let’s learn more about Game of Thrones and see why it’s considered some of the best programming on TV.
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History of the Series
Game of Thrones is based on the novels of George R.R. Martin, whose series, A Song of Ice and Fire, tells the tale of a fantasy world somewhat like medieval England; even a map of the land resembles the British Isles. The HBO series is named after the first book in Martin’s series entitled, A Game of Thrones, published in 1996.
The TV series is filmed in various locales - Northern Ireland, Malta, Croatia and Iceland, adding a great deal of authenticity. The scenes filmed in wintry locales are impressive, particularly those in glacial Iceland - you nearly shiver when viewing the tundra, ice and snow! And where location footage can’t provide the imposing, precariously placed castles as described in the novels, the computer animation of such is stunning. The visual effects of supernatural creatures, demons, wraiths and dragons are also fabulous.
Most of the actors appear to be British – they speak with an upper-crust British accent, though cockney sneaks in occasionally. The series uses many writers and directors, although David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, both listed as writers and executive producers, have written most of the episodes. Numerous directors are also used, but the look and feel of the show remains consistent.
The first season of the series began broadcasting in April 2011. The budget for the first season was $50 to $60 million, making it comparable to that of the HBO series Rome, which aired from 2005 to 2007.
The story revolves around the royal families living in the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, all of which ruled by one king who sits upon the coveted Iron Throne. The Seven Kingdoms are also under attack by the wildlings living north of Westeros, as well as a roving tribe of barbaric Central Asian-like people who live across a narrow sea to the east in the land of Essos, a Middle-Eastern-like land.
There are three major families in the series, the Starks, Lannisters and Baratheons. The Starks are noble, righteous people, while the Lannisters seem willing to do just about anything to acquire and keep power. The Baratheons are perhaps in the middle of the other two families in terms of morality.
Another storyline involves an enormous wall of ice at the northern borderline of Westeros, where hundreds of men known as the Night’s Watch guard against the “Others,” which are supposed to be contained by the wall. The Others are people with ancient, mythical powers, who could rise up against Westeros at any moment, so it appears.
Another person who fancies sitting upon the Iron Throne is the so-called Mother of Dragons, Daenerys Targaryen, the last heir to the Targaryen dynasty. A petite blonde beauty forced to marry the leader of a tribe of nomadic barbarians called the Dothraki, Daenerys appears much tougher than her small stature would seem to indicate. Interestingly, at Daenerys’ marriage, she is given three fossilized dragon’s eggs!
Often in the series, characters provide exposition – backstory told during dialogue – while they’re engaged in sexual relations, usually men with prostitutes. This is a titillating practice and an effective one, as long as the viewer doesn’t get preoccupied with the onscreen action!
Some of the Main Characters
Lord Eddard “Ned” Stark, played by Sean Bean, is the head of the Stark family, perhaps the most likeable of all the families portrayed in the series. In fact, Ned Stark is such a decent, law-abiding fellow he approaches caricature. However, seemingly showing he is capable of transgression, he sires a bastard son.
Catelyn Stark, played by Michelle Fairley, is Ned Stark’s wife. Lady Catelyn does what she can to keep her five children safe. Moreover, Catelyn’s intervention in political affairs becomes indispensible when civil war erupts in the episodes of the second season.
King Robert Baratheon, played by Mark Addy, begins the series as the King of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. He is Ned Stark’s good friend and ally and, during the course of his life sires his share of bastards, partly because he doesn’t love his wife, Queen Cersei Lannister, and also because he simply loves whoring.
Jon Snow, played by Kit Harington, is Ned Stark’s bastard son, who is constantly reminded of his lack of pedigree, making him a kind of outcast. Snow joins the Knight’s Watch, whose sentinels keep vigil atop the towering wall of ice in northern Westeros.
Arya Stark, played by Maisie Williams, is one of Ned Stark’s two daughters. Arya, showing her tomboyish ways, takes lessons in swordplay. At one point, she must go into hiding, passing as a boy, when her father is thrown into prison after King Robert’s death.
Bran Stark, played by Isaac Hempstead-Wright, is one of Ned Stark’s youngest boys. Paralyzed from the waist down when Jaime Lannister pushes him out a window, Bran has dreams that seem to carry a message.
Queen Cersei Lannister, played by Lena Headey, is King Robert’s lovely blonde wife. During the aforementioned loveless marriage, Cersei takes her twin brother Ser Jaime Lannister as her lover, begetting Joffrey Lannister.
Tyrion Lannister, played by Peter Dinklage, is perhaps the most intriguing character in the series. Tyrion is the younger brother of Queen Cersei. Tyrion is a witty, outspoken, wine-loving dwarf, who seems an expert at statecraft. Tyrion’s allegiance and morality is ambiguous, which makes him a true wild card in the story.
King Joffrey Baratheon, played by Jack Gleeson, is Queen Cersei’s son. Queen Cersei places Joffrey upon the Iron Throne after King Robert’s death. Cruel, sadistic and ruthless, Joffrey likes to watch people squirm as he threatens them with torture or death.
Ser Jaime "the Kingslayer" Lannister, played by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, is Queen Cersei’s twin brother and lover. Ser Jaime, like his nephew, is also merciless. In order to escape from a wooden cage, Jaime murders one of his cousins. No crime seems beyond Ser Jaime Lannister.
Robb Stark, played by Richard Madden, is one of Ned Stark’s children. Robb Stark becomes enmeshed in the civil war spreading across the land after the death of King Robert. But, wanting no part of the Iron Throne and its political intrigues, Robb Stark simply wants to be King of the North.
Daenerys “Dany” Targaryen, played by Emilia Clarke, is one of the exiled children of a king overthrown by King Robert. While roaming about Essos in search of ships and an army so she can return to Westeros and reclaim her father’s throne, Dany finds a way to hatch the three dragon’s eggs she carries with her. Then she becomes the Mother of Dragons, as the scaly beasts grow huge and fearsome.
Stannis Baratheon, played by Stephen Dillane, is the eldest of King Robert’s two younger brothers. On his deathbed, King Robert names Stannis as the heir to the Iron Throne, though he only tells Ned Stark. This event precipitates the civil war that erupts during the second season of the series.
Tywin Lannister, played by Charles Dance, is the head of the Lannister clan and certainly rules with an iron fist, telling his sons and daughters exactly what they will and won’t do for the sake of the family and its allies. Performing his kingly duties at King's Landing, Tywin seems the most powerful man in the series.
Melisandre, played by Carice van Houten, is the foreign priestess who advises Stannis Baratheon. Melisandre, adept at the black arts, seems to have the heart of a serpent and, when threatened, has her enemies burned alive.
Ygritte the Wildling, played by Rose Leslie, has a romance with Jon Snow, thereby testing his loyalty to the Night’s Watch. Eventually breaking up at the end of season three, Ygritte fills Snow’s back with arrows as he rides away on horseback.
Margaery Tyrell, played by Natalie Dormer, schemes to marry King Joffrey and become his queen, even though he’s reputed to be a loathsome monster. Apparently gentle and compassionate, it’s hard to figure what type of person she really is.
Brienne of Tarth, played by Gwendoline Christie, is a tall, androgynous woman who fights like a man. Formerly a member of Renly Baratheon’s kingsguard, Brienne is given the task of returning Jaime Lannister to King’s Landing. Then she's ordered to find and protect Sansa Stark.
Tormund Giantsbane, played by Kristofer Hivju, is a tough-as-nails, wildling raider, who befriends Jon Snow when he’s captured by the wildlings. Later, during the battle at the Wall against the men of the Night’s Watch, Jon Snow captures Tormund.
Sansa Stark, played by Sophie Turner, is considered one of the best characters on the show, at least according to Rolling Stone magazine! At the end of episode five, Sansa Stark, quickly becoming a savvy young woman, along with Theon Greyjoy, escape the evil clutches of Ramsay Bolton, one of the most ruthless, sadistic and cruel people on the show.
Petyr Baelish, played by Aiden Gillen, is a master of court intrigue and seems involved in numerous plots, including the assassination of King Joffrey, for which Tyrion took the rap and had to flee the country. Often called Littlefinger, Baelish is ambitious, intelligent and crafty and uses these tools to acquire one title after the other, including Warden of the North. One only trusts Baelish if he or she has to do so, as his cunning seems limitless.
Theon Greyjoy, played by Alfie Allen, is taken hostage by Ned Stark and then raised with the Stark children at Winterfell. Later, to impress his father, Balon Greyjoy, Theon sacks Winterfell and betrays the Stark children. Eventually Ramsay Bolton captures Theon Greyjoy and then tortures him and gelds him, thereafter forcing Theon to become his servant and call himself Reek.
Ramsay Bolton, aka Ramsay Snow, played by Iwan Rheon, is the bastard son of Roose Bolton. Brave and skillful with a sword, Ramsay Bolton is also treacherous, heartless and unbelievably cruel, even to beautiful women such as Sansa Stark, whom he marries and then rapes on their wedding night. Decidedly sadistic, Bolton likes to torture and flay his enemies. In fact, he would probably do the same to his allies or friends, if it suited him.
Lord Varys, played by Conleth Hill, is a eunuch and spymaster with more words of wisdom than Solomon or God; in fact, he serves as the Master of Whisperers, perhaps because he seems to have spies everywhere. Nicknamed the Spider, Lord Varys is also a good friend and advisor to Tyrion Lannister, particularly after Tyrion’s flight from King’s Landing. Lord Varys and Tyrion then journey to Meereen, where the Mother of Dragons plots to re-take the Iron Throne.
Sandor Clegane, nicknamed “The Hound” and played by Rory McCann, is one of the greatest warriors in all of Westeros. Scarred in the face by fire since he was a child, Sandor is wounded both physically and mentally. Having killed a man in battle at the age of 12, he experiences much cruelty and death during his life. As part of the action in Season Three, Sandor captures Arya Stark and intends to ransom her to Arya’s aunt, Lysa Arryn. Before he can do so, however, he tangles with Brienne of Tarth, who nearly beats him to death in a swordfight. Now Arya is free to go, while Sandor is left for dead.
If dark medieval fantasy is your passion, then Game of Thrones is hard to beat. But the series’ violence, sex, nudity and foul language are not for everyone. At any rate, it certainly has millions of fans throughout the world - people from Albania to Zimbabwe have watched the series. Game of Thrones will continue for at least the eighth season, which will be shown sometime in 2019.
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© 2012 Kelley Marks