Living in the UK it can sometimes feel like we’re living in a never ending Winter, especially at this moment in time, where I swear it’s colder than it was in December; the promise of Spring feels like an illusion. In the world of Game of Thrones this is literally the case. Winters last for years and it is feared that if they can’t beat back the dark creatures emerging from the North, then the current one may never end. Set in a harsh and brutal world, Game of Thrones downplays its fantasy elements in favour of displaying many factions vying for the Iron Throne of the fictional land of Westeros, which ever so slightly resembles England.
Game of Thrones entered my life at a time when I wasn’t watching any new TV drama at all. All the shows I liked had either been cancelled or ended naturally, the new crop doing little to impress me. A few friends had told me to watch the show, many of whom compared it to Lord of the Rings, but I told myself I couldn’t believe the hype. I finally gave in during the Summer months last year, in the period between graduating from university and finding a job when I had far too much time on my hands. I loved it from the first episode.
During the first season we are introduced to boorish King Robert, who appoints his loyal friend Ned Stark to be his Hand; essentially his main adviser. Pretty much everyone in the King’s court is plotting to take the throne for themselves, particularly the twisted Lannisters. Over the shore the previous King’s children, the Targaryen’s, having fled Westeros following a rebellion, attempt to raise an army to reclaim their kingdom. We are introduced to Ned’s children, who all have different goals. His bastard son Jon travels far North to become a member of the Night’s Watch, protecting the land of Westeros from the mythical creatures which are believed to exist on the other side of The Wall, a massive wall of ice. Along the way we are presented with graphic violence, gratuitous nudity and the occasional bit of incest. As Queen Cersai chillingly states at one point “When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.”
My favourite character of the massive cast is Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen. Sister of the true heir to the throne, her family are renowned in history for their powerful dragons. Dragons have long since been extinct and her father was deposed by the current King, but the blood of the dragons burns through her, making her a formidable foe.
The most surprising break out character is Tyrion ‘The Imp’ Lannister, played beautifully by Peter Dinklage, using his wit and intellect to overcome his dwarf status. At the start of the series he comes across as a bit of a dick, but as it progresses he becomes a far more endearing character. He is capable of great comedy, as well as more dramatic scenes. Ned Stark (Sean Bean) grounds the first season of the show, as the honourable hero. When he becomes less of a focus towards the end of the season you know bad things are about to happen.
The second season introduces some new pretenders to the throne. Stannis (the silent and fearsome Stephen Dillane) the technical rightful King, who is being manipulated by an evil witch, Melisandre (Carice van Houten). He stands as the main adversary of the series as he threatens invasion. His attack on King’s Landing provides the most epic battle of the show so far, while also laying the stage for many key events in season 3. Jon Snow travels beyond The Wall to explore the mythical land on the other side. Arya Stark flees the capital, while her sister Sansa is trapped with the cruel Lannisters, as their older brother Robb plans a rebellion.
What’s impressive is how real the characters feel, all having their own motivations with hints of intriguing back-stories Melisandre is a very powerful witch, whereas for the first season no magic was on display, yet the way she is portrayed keeps it grounded. When she does her first real spell it isn’t a beautiful event, as it might be in Buffy or Charmed, but a horribly gruesome act. Every character feels totally 3-dimensional and there’s rarely an actor who isn’t of a high standard.
The show features a lot of long dialogue scenes, yet these don’t drag. One between Queen Cersai and her brother Tyrion in the second season goes on for a good 15 minutes and keeps you totally engaged. The conversations between Ned’s daughter Arya and the villainous Tywin Lannister across the season are intriguing in the ways they try to pry information from one another.
During the long wait for the third season I began reading the books. Having already got ahead of the show I can promise you that there are some amazing events to come. Jon Snow faces some adversity beyond The Wall, Daenerys finally starts to build her army to reclaim the Iron Throne with a fair few shocking twists and the ‘red wedding’ to look forward to along the way. But if they don’t stop trying to kill each other they could lose Westeros to the Whitewalkers. This season has the chance to be the best one yet, so now is the perfect time to get into it.
Seasons 1 and 2 are available on Blu-ray and DVD now as well as On Demand on Sky from the 31st of March. Season 3 starts on April 1st.