Game of Thrones is regularly classified as an “epic fantasy” story, a drama series created for television by the studio HBO. Created by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss it’s an adaption of the fantasy novel series “A Song of Ice and Fire” by George R.R. Martin. “Game Of Thrones” is the first in the series by Martin’s and sets the scene for the TV series.
Filmed mostly in a studio in Belfast, Ireland, many other locations are used as backdrops for the series including Malta, Croatia, Iceland and Morocco. Game of Thrones first premiered on HBO in April 2011 and has continued to increase in popularity ever since. Today it is widely considered to be the most watched series on the small screen.
The show is set on the fictional continents of Westeros and Essos and follows a number of varying plot lines at the one time. The primary story centres on several noble houses in a time of civil war, all seeking control of the “Iron Throne” of the “Seven Kingdoms”.
A second story line takes viewers to a world of snow and ice and an emerging threat of an endless winter in which mythical creatures emerge from the northlands. The sense of an inevitable merging of the stories evolves throughout each season, as the main focus appears to be the relevance of the Iron Throne.
The third story chronicles the tale of resurgence of the exiled last scion of the realm’s deposed ruling dynasty and her attempts to reclaim the Iron Throne. Incorporating morally ambiguous characters, the series explores the subtleties of social hierarchy, civil war, religious beliefs, crime and punishment.
Fan Base and Budget
Game of Thrones is easily the most popular TV series to have ever advanced the popularity of the fantasy genre. It’s massive budget ensures it’s continued success and extensive run as the cult like following it has developed grows larger and larger with each passing season.
The series fan base is broad and international, now airing on every continent and the widespread acclaim by critics ensures it popularity will only continue to bloom. Having won numerous award nominations including two primetime Emmy Award nomination for outstanding drama series and a Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Dramatic Presentation in long form.
In 2012, Vulture ranked the series fan base as the most devoted in popular culture, ahead of Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber and Harry Potter. The BBC News reported in 2013 that the “passion and extreme devotion of fans had brought about a phenomenon unlike anything related to other popular TV series”.
The budget for the pilot alone was estimated to have cost HBO between US $5 and $10 million, the total budget for season one was reportedly in excess of US$50 million. A 15% budget increase was secured for season two.
Killing Off The Cast
Casting is a feature of the series that has never been frightened to “kill off” its main players. The ensemble cast includes Peter Dinklage (Emmy Award and Golden Globe winner) in the role of Tyrion Lannister. In 2012 a study revealed the series was second in a list of 40 TV drama series for deaths per episode, with an average of 14.
Referred jokingly by series creator David Benioff as “The Sopranos of Middle-Earth”, Game of Thrones has one of the largest ensemble casts ever compiled for a TV series.
How Long Can It Last?
Having its roots in an existing story there are concerns that extending the series beyond ten seasons would kill its sense of momentum. Reports suggest that producers would prefer the show end prior to the release of the final novel in Martin’s fantasy series.
With each season running for 10 fifty-minute episodes, HBO is believed to have hinted that eight seasons are possible with scope for some 80 hours worth of material. At this stage four seasons have been ordered. The first two seasons were adapted from individual books in the series. The third season is an adaption of the entire series, allowing for flexibility to move events back and forth across the entire story line.
Critical response to the show has been largely positive. Both of the first two seasons appeared on Time’s Best of lists for 2011 and 2012. The Washington Post also listed season one in their best of 2011 TV series.
Critics in reviewing the series have noted the high production values, well-realized worlds and compelling characters. Performances of the largely British and Irish cast have been widely praised. Several critics have also noted the child talent presented in the show with 14-year-old Maisie Williams a stand out.
Entertainment Weekly praised the series storytelling, describing it as “vivid, vital and just plain fun”. The Hollywood Reporter wrote the show made a “strong case for being one of TV’s best series”.
Most criticism of the series has been levelled at the amount of sex and nudity shown on Game of Thrones, particularly in scenes labelled as incidental to the plot. The New York Times was disapproving of the characters, suggesting a lack of complexity as well as a ‘meandering plot’.
Another criticism cast by more than one reviewer is aimed at the levels of torture portrayed in the series. Jezebel described some scenes as “senseless, objectifying violence and sexual imagery”.
Popularity and the unique nature of the series suggest several years to come for fans to be treated. With viewer numbers estimated at over 10 million per episode, Game of Thrones is now the third most popular series in HBO history.