The Game of Thrones hype is reaching its peak as we count down the hours to the release of the final season. Eight years on and the show has successfully captured the hearts and imaginations of millions worldwide – making it one of the highest-grossing, most popular TV shows ever made. Game of Thrones seamlessly integrates magic into a very realistic medieval world, with plotlines and twists which span multiple seasons and keep the audience captivated. It has set a new precedence for TV shows due to the ruthless uncertainties about the fates of our most beloved characters and its unparalleled ability to attract even the most diverse viewers.
Game of Thrones is a world-building series, making it incredibly cognitively engaging and watching each episode turns into a ritual of concentration and conspiracy as you try to understand the plethora of subplots and follow the personal life stories and histories of each character. This is partly what adds to the show’s charm, as it can be watched time and time again yet still reveal hidden details and links you completely missed beforehand. It’s a show upon which you can spend hours trawling through internet theories, or similarly hours discussing it with family and friends, yet still never truly reach the bottom of the information pit that is Game of Thrones fandom. By watching the show over and over you begin to sew together the threads of foreshadowing which make total sense of future events, like in the very first episode – spoiler alert if you are one of the few people who have not actually seen the show – when the Starks find a dead stag and a dead direwolf. Both creatures had inflicted damage upon one another and died, yet the direwolf’s pups survive. This tiny subtlety hints at the wider plot of the show, with the death of the house Baratheon (represented by the stag) and the death of many of the Starks (represented by the direwolf); yet the pups remain, as do many of the Stark children, thus alluding to the saying that “the wolf dies, but the pack survives”. It is not only within the screenwriting that we see such obvious insinuations; within the title sequences the cities involved in each episode are shown on the map, with tiny details changed (such as the simulation of Winterfell burning after it was attacked); or within the costumes (as the seasons progress, winter draws near and chaos ensues, the character’s costumes include more heavy metalwork and armoury and they all wear more black). It may sound a little like I’m leading a secondary school English class here: “the characters dress in black because it foreshadows bad things happening”, yada yada; but, it truly is in the minute details that the show’s overall greatness proclaims.
Arguably, Game of Thrones has some of the best written characters in any TV show, especially in highlighting strong, complex female characters. It’s also an absolute credit to the writers how they’ve managed to create very dense and complex character developments and change the audience’s opinions of characters so drastically. I remember the pure hatred I had for the smarmy, big-headed Jaime Lannister in the first few seasons, yet now he is one of my favourite characters and has blossomed into a strong, kind and fair man. The writers have managed to produce character complexities which exist in the real world. No person is 100% “good” or 100% “bad” – every human being is highly complicated – and they’ve mirrored this in the show’s characters. We were all desperately rooting for Ned and Catelyn Stark because they were honest, family-orientated people (with strong Northern heritage, which automatically pulls at my own Northern heartstrings); yet, they were truly awful at politics and often made bad decisions which led to their horrific downfalls. Equally, very violent and rude characters, such as the Hound, often have very likeable attributes and we see these moments of heroism and kindness shine through, melting the hearts of the audience. All in all, the characters’ actions are so unpredictable and motives change so much that we have to sort of give up on trying to figure out who the “good guys” and “bad guys” are; but this is what makes the show so exciting and relatable and you keep coming back for more because nobody is safe, no plotline is absolute and so, season after season, the tension and anticipation still exists.
Now, I’m not saying Game of Thrones doesn’t have faults. The show has suffered as time has gone on and the audience demand has forced the show to surpass the books. George RR Martin was meticulous in his writing, ensuring there were no contradictions or plot holes. Unfortunately, the show didn’t have that luxury of time and so they have made mistakes as they have progressed. Also, Martin was adamant that he wanted the story to avoid too many fantasy tropes; but, with the explosion of fire-breathing dragons and the army of the dead, Game of Thrones has yielded to some other fantastical fictions, such as the fact King Robert’s Warhammer is so heavy that the average person would struggle even lifting it, let alone fighting with it.
Overall, however, many of the criticisms Game of Thrones faces are arguably shallow. Following the old mantra “nothing is perfect”, for such a complex show it really doesn’t have that many faults. It is a show that you can recommend to absolutely anybody, even those who don’t typically enjoy medieval dramas or politics or blood and gore – it employs so many different tropes and has such a huge pool of characters and storylines that it becomes likeable to everybody. The sex, the drinking and the fighting we see on our screens appeals to our primal and medieval sides. From the actual screenplay and the CGI to the costumes and props, Game of Thrones is meticulously produced with an impeccable eye for detail. It is based on actual history and with enough research you can mark out which characters and stories mirror those of our genuine past. It is a history lesson based on medieval feudalism with a greater aim for making a case for pacifism. So, I shall be sitting, in all but a few hours’ time, beer in my hand and popcorn at the ready as we await the finale of the epic rollercoaster that is Game of Thrones.