With the third season underway as of Sunday night, it’s time to recognize that Game of Thrones is truly the king of contemporary TV. It’s no longer a show about gratuitous nudity and even more gratuitous violence, but rather it’s a modern epic, superbly designed, acted, and produced. But for some reason or another, there are a lot of people out there who haven’t seen it. That’s understandable, namely because it appears on HBO, which requires a pricey subscription, but that doesn’t count as an excuse. The DVDs are already on the shelves of your local electronics store and every episode can be purchased on Amazon Instant Video or iTunes. It’s time to relinquish your hesitancies and bow to the “Thrones.”
Here are a few reasons:
1) Every single character is compelling in their own right.
Most TV shows these days have one or two characters that drive the story forward. Usually those heroes are shiny, intelligent, and charismatic, each of them the epitome of their show’s ideal of perfection. Meanwhile, the supporting cast drags behind, weighing down the plot and wearing away at your patience. With Game of Thrones, it’s hard to pick a favorite character since they’re all so deeply developed. There is no flawless hero and there is no villain to loathe without some shred of sympathy. Do you root for Robb Stark, the son forced into waging war against the crown because of his duty to his family? Do you cheer for Tyrion Lannister (played by the Emmy-award winner Peter Dinklage), the dwarf with a sharp tongue and a knack for outsmarting his opponents? What about Arya Stark, the tomboy bent on avenging her father? Or Jon Snow, the illegitimate son trying to make a name for himself as a hero? Or even the striking Daenerys Targaryen, whose beauty is only exceeded by her relentless ambition and pursuit of retaking her father’s kingdom? There’s literally no character for you to dislike.
2) The overwhelming amount of acting talent.
The headliner of the first season is Sean Bean, the famous actor from Fellowship of the Ring and GoldenEye, who rules every scene with his steely stare’s burdened sense of emotion. With a sharp eye, you’ll also notice a swath of recognizable faces, such as Chris and Carrie from the first two seasons of Skins (the UK version) or Tonks from the Harry Potter series. And, of course, you have Peter Dinklage, who can’t go through a scene without making you laugh at least twice. His ability to communicate fear, intelligence, and loneliness while still cracking jokes should compel you to at least give the first few episodes a try.
3) The production value.
Every set piece, ship, and castle is laden with its own intricate detail. Each character’s armor has its own unique design. Each city and town not only looks different (unlike many TV show sets, which are often repurposed and reused from episode to episode), but they also have their own individual feel to each them. Qarth positively shines in the sun. Winterfell aches with biting cold and hard-packed mud. Westeros’ warm beauty belies its poor, downtrodden citizens.
4) The meaning in modern times.
Even though the series may on the outside appear like another piece of throwaway fantasy entertainment, its true meaning actually delves into our notions of humanity, morality, justice, and government. It often asks us who has the right to rule: the people, the man with the strongest army, the woman whispering in the king’s ear, or the young girl with the birthright? What is justice? Is it fair to sacrifice hundreds of thousands of lives in order to save just one? Is torture truly a means to an end, or is it just a form of sadism? What about love, marriage, and sex? Can we trust in monogamy, or are we bound to slide into seeking carnal pleasure elsewhere? And, lastly, what is honor? Does it even exist? Who sets the standard for what is right and wrong? Are we accountable to ourselves, our gods, or our friends and family?
As I said, it’s not hard to catch up on the series. The first two seasons comprise of only 10 episodes apiece, so you can easily grind through them in a weekend or two. Jump on the bandwagon of this pop culture phenomenon while you can, and enjoy the fantastic ride to follow.
New episodes of Game of Thrones air on Sunday nights at 9pm on HBO.