It is practically impossible to find a person in an English speaking country right now who hasn’t heard of Game of Thrones. The HBO show has taken western culture by storm in a way that is almost unrivalled by any other piece of modern popular culture. Based on the still unfinished series of novels by George R. R. Martin, the series has launched the fantasy genre into mainstream viewing in an almost unique way.
It has become such a pervasive part of the social landscape that even the most out of touch people have a basic grasp of what’s going on in Westeros. Even if you’ve never seen an episode, it’s easy to get an idea of why it has proved so popular and why such a roundly non-nerd audience has finally admitted that dragons and castles are cool.
The show makes use of some truly stunning locations, shot all over the world, showing off some of the planet’s most striking places. This, combined with award winning special effects for the more fantastical elements of the show, makes for a series packed with incredible visuals. The attention to detail and creative flair passes over into the character design, with the costume, make up and even prosthetics artfully crafted to make for some really beautiful television.
This is evident, even if all you’ve ever seen is a single still.
Take, for instance, this one.
The series is renowned for its sense of humor and whit. Tyrion Lannister‘s best comments have even been compiled into a little book of motivation and joy. People who barely know what a Tyrion Lannister is still recognise that immortal line about the god of tits and wine.
The show’s humor also links into the darkness weaved through its core. It allows to viewers to indulge their more sinister sides, through the occasional jokes as much as the more dramatic aspects of the plot.
It’s blunt and sometimes brutal portrayal of humanity at its basest and cruellest is presented in such a way that it allows us to take a little rare pleasure in those small, secret parts of our own personalities. The part of us that revels in the violence and the deceit and the betrayal and the gore, that we wouldn’t actually want to experience in the real world, but still relish when it happens on TV.
The more controversial aspects of the story are some of most talked about – and perhaps that is their purpose, to generate discussion about these taboo topics that society hasn’t quite come to terms with yet. Equally, the way the show has been crafted – in terms of the way every scene looks as well as the nuances of its writing – is constantly on the lips of a good chunk of the population.
And doesn’t that just perfectly sum up humanity, already? A compelling balancing act between beauty and depravity?
This is all the stuff that everyone knows about. If you really want to, you could probably get a steady stream of entertainment from the Game of Thrones franchise, and even engage relatively competently in the discussion surrounding it, without ever actually watching it yourself.
But if you’re having this much fun without taking the time to watch it, imagine how awesome life would be if you did.
Game of Thrones is a pretty unique show for its structure alone. Carrying the multiple interwoven plotlines over from the books was a risky move on HBO’s part that definitely paid off. Not having one main protagonist for viewers to follow made for a more complex series, which could have put off some of the potential audience from even trying it. A lot of the time, people just don’t want to put the effort in to understand things when they get complicated.
But the story and the characters are compelling enough in Game of Thrones for people to want to make that effort, and that makes the number of deep, layered characters such a great way of constructing the world. The lack of a single protagonist means that viewers have a choice of who they identify with. They don’t feel ostracised by a protagonist that is nothing like them and they get to decide for themselves who they’re rooting for.
This adds an element of tension to the story as it unfolds. In a show that has become infamous for its careless slaughter of its primary characters, there’s no way to tell who’s going to go next. No one is protected just because they have a narrative character status.
This grip is only enhanced by a stellar cast, carefully chosen and clearly committed to knowing every inch of the roles they play.
The books make it fairly easy to understand what each character is going through, through the direct link offered into their thoughts, reactions and instincts in the story itself. You don’t get the directness of that kind of narration on televion. Instead, you have to trust the cast to convey that information effectively through more subtle cues – and this is not a group of people who ever disappoint in that respect.
The sheer number of awards and nominations given liberally to actors involved reflect this – from Peter Dinklage‘s ever growing multitude for his portrayal of Tyrion Lannister to the accolades offered to Emilia Clarke, Lena Headey and Diana Rigg, to mention but a few.
The cast aren’t only awesome when the script tells them to be, either.
Everyone knows that Peter Dinklage has been simultaneously a badass and a force for compassion in the world for as long as he has been in the public eye, and Maisie Williams who plays Arya Stark has been making headlines recently, too. A cool, confident young woman in the real world, she has recently been noted for talking about gender equality and plotting with HBO to prank Game of Thrones fans into acting out their favourite scenes in exchange for free merchandise.
Now on the cusp of the seventh season, it’s about time for anyone still out of loop to start catching up.