‘Game of Thrones’: Five reasons HBO series may be a royal success

Jan. 30, 2011 | 8:44 a.m.

Dense and compelling, packed with deceit and danger, the “A Song of Ice and Fire” series has been a bookshelf sensation for author George R. R. Martin. Now the medieval fantasy epic is moving to the screen as HBO presents “Game of Thrones,” an ambitious new series from creators David Benioff and Dan Weiss that premieres April 17. One of the fans excited about the show is blogger Amy Ratcliffe and today she drops by the Hero Complex to give us five reasons she’s counting the days.

game of thrones 3 Game of Thrones: Five reasons HBO series may be a royal success

Sean Bean in "Game of Thrones" (HBO)

“Summers span decades. Winters can last a lifetime. And the struggle for the Iron Throne has begun. It will stretch from the south, where heat breeds plots, lusts and intrigues; to the cast and savage eastern lands; all the way to the frozen north, where an 800-foot wall of ice protects the kingdom from the dark forces that lie beyond. Kings and queens, knights and renegades, liars, lords and honest men … all will play the ‘Game of Thrones.’

Intrigued by that prose from George R.R. Martin? Good, you should be. I am too. I’m also eager to see how the epic does in the hands of HBO, which has shown such a flair for tribal characters, be they mobsters (“The Sopranos“), vampires (“True Blood“), outlaws (“Deadwood“), cops and drug dealers (“The Wire“)  or Hollywood agents (“Entourage“). A sword-and-shield story may not seem like an obvious fit for HBO, but it has a chance to be something truly special. Why? Let me count the ways …

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"Game of Thrones" (HBO)

1. This is not your father’s fantasy series: You may be thinking, “I’ve seen ‘The Lord of the Rings,’ isn’t this just more of the same sword-clanging?” Sean Bean is in the show after all. It is more than “Boromir: The Series.” The Martin books are epic fantasy at its grittiest. The characters aren’t polished and shiny and very few, if any, are true innocents. The first indication that something is different is the language. Martin doesn’t make up fake curse words for the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. Servants and nobles are as raw as Tony Soprano in one his best Jersey rants. The characters have plenty of sex, though probably not as much as the toga-crowd in the series “Rome.” There is incest, blood and murder — not necessarily in that order. So think of a medieval version of “The Sopranos,” but with a few supernatural beings hanging on the fringes of the story.

2. Cliffhangers and double-crosses: “The Song of Ice and Fire” series is labeled as a fantasy, but if you still have trouble with that word, think of it as a human drama. Each character has endless layers. You can’t separate them into tidy good and bad columns. Some of them are evil by nature, but others are forced into questionable behavior by circumstance. Past actions don’t dictate what someone will do next. The constant political intrigues put people in hard positions. The unpredictability is riveting in the books and contains the intense story pivots that lend themselves to episodic television.

game of thrones 1 Game of Thrones: Five reasons HBO series may be a royal success

"Game of Thrones" (HBO)

3. A storytelling tapestry: In this series, everyone has a big part to play. There are no sidekicks, no minor characters. The books are narrated from a third-person perspective, the chapters alternating between different characters and their points of view. This style makes almost everyone integral to the progression of the story. Strong characters abound, and they fight for attention. Since one of the prominent themes is the fight for the throne, this narrative style works well. The number of primary characters might be confusing — the show’s creative team may need to pare down some roles to keep it all manageable — but if they pull it off, the series will be a complicated group portrait of a community of conflict, not unlike “The Wire” with battle-axes.

4. Direwolves, the Wall and the Iron Throne. Oh my: The Seven Kingdoms are rich with odd creatures, interesting architecture and pointy thrones. This means plenty of on-screen eye candy and HBO put some significant money into the Northern Ireland production. Some of the things I’m eager to see? In the story, the Stark children find six direwolf pups and take them as pets — but they are far more than fluffy companions. The Iron Throne is the throne of Westeros, the one everyone is fighting to sit upon. Blades from defeated enemies were used to build the royal seat. It is featured in the latest teaser. The Wall — a huge ice structure standing 700 feet tall — protects the land from the Wildlings and the Others who roam on the other side and represent an ongoing threat. The Wall is guarded by the Night’s Watch.

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"Game of Thrones" (HBO)

5.The “Game” master is on board: Martin is a co-executive producer and writer for the show. You only have to glance at his blog to see his excitement about the series. When casting started, he would play games with readers. He dropped obscure hints about the actors before the network made official announcements. He was present during much of filming, and it seems that he had a lot of room to give input. HBO has a large and loyal fan base to make happy. It makes a huge difference that readers can see Martin’s involvement and enthusiasm. Speaking of involvement and excitement, wouldn’t you be more engaged with the quest if you read the books? Now’s the time to start. Remember, winter is coming. Thousands of pages about the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros await you.

— Amy Ratcliffe


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27 Responses to ‘Game of Thrones’: Five reasons HBO series may be a royal success

  1. Westeros says:

    An excellent piece, Amy. :) The one bit that stood out to me where I would want to quibble just a little bit is "Past actions don’t dictate what someone will do next", which could be construed to suggest there's no consistency in characterization and that Martin just writes whatever he pleases from one page to the next.

    In fact, past actions do dictate what someone will do next… but they don't necessarily indicate what will come next. The most reviled of knights may well be motivated towards redemption because of past and present experiences, and the best of men may turn traitor for similar reasons.

    There are definitely many, many twists and turns along the way!

    • Anon says:

      I agree, but we also don't always know about a character's past when we see what they do. So you go from first impression to a shocking reveal to understanding. Every action is justified in the mind of the character, and we come to see just how rounded out and realistic they are over the course of the books. :3

    • Stev e says:

      Say, rather, that we see everything through the eyes of different characters, and therefore actions and motivations are not always understood until we are literally put in the shoes of the character in question. Many of the things Jamie Lannister does, for instance, seem more reasonable once we've walked a couple chapters in his boots, so to speak.

  2. The Beyonder says:

    One reason why it will be a success

    Boromir is back baby!

  3. Kevin says:


    • DeniseF says:

      AMEN! We can’t wait forever…

    • deepwater805 says:

      A Dance with Dragons, the fifth book, will be available on Amazon in July. I’ve had mine re-ordered for a few months already. It’s like waiting for Christmas already! I sincerely hope that the HBO series will be available on Blu Ray soon.

    • Guest says:

      No kidding. I read AGOT when it was first released – what? nearly 15 years ago? – when I got my copy from SciFi Book Club so it really has been dragging on a long time for some of us "older" fans. I suspect that many younger fans were able to pick up the first 3 or 4 books at once and haven't had to w.a.i.t for this very slow author to crank out another one. Maybe HBO will motivate him to write faster. Surely he has the end game in mind.

  4. ducky says:

    Excellent piece! I'm waiting anxiously for the series to start, and am looking forward to seeing how Martin's vision – which is incredible – will be translated on screen. The show will be from an outside perspective, so this will make things interesting. The Stark children and their connection with their direwolves should be amazing, as well as seeing them in their stories outside of my head…it will be wonderful to see it all come to life!

  5. Marcos Gonzales says:

    I'd say, finish the series! I would be following this one for sure!

  6. xenopulse says:

    Five reasons this show will be great:

    1. Peter Dinklage

    2. Peter Dinklage

    3. Peter Dinklage

    4. Peter Dinklage

    5. Peter Dinklage

  7. Hector says:

    Nice post and I agree with almost all of it, although I'm not sure what you mean by "there are no minor characters" in #3… there are literally hundreds of minor characters.

  8. Skylark Thibedeau says:

    I admit that when I read the books Tyrion appeared in my mind as Peter Dinklage too. He is perfect for the role. To me Tyrion Lannister is the most nuanced and perplexing character in the book and would require a great actor like Dinklage to bring him to life on the screen.

  9. Jousterjohn says:

    The books are narrated from a first person perspective. This plays into how information is presented and interpretted for the reader. Some scenes are even remembered later by characters differently than what actually happened.

    • Rebecca says:

      No, the books are narrated in third person limited perspective. "First person" means that the story is literally told from a character's pov. Ex.: I walked to the park and spoke with John.

  10. deepwater805 says:

    Hopefully this series will be available to buy on Blu Ray soon. This is part of an epic series of books by George RR Martin. He’s coming out with the final (?) book: Dance With Dragons, in July.

  11. Andrew says:

    It’s great that the original writer is on board, too often a lack of involvement from the original creator seems to mean that the show or movie will stray too far from its original source material. I’m extremely excited for this show. I was a bit bummed about the premiere date. Being that I will be out of town on the 17th. But I’m glad I’m a DISH Network employee/subscriber, this made me finally go ahead and get the TV everywhere app set up. Now I can take all my programming, live stuff, DVR recording the works, with me everywhere I go. It’s so cool I wish I had done it sooner. It really is so convenient and now I’ll be watching the premiere on my iPad in my hotel room rather that sitting around wondering what I was missing and having to wait.

  12. Tamara says:

    I feel as if I have been and am still living under a rock . . . I have searched HBO and still can't find what day or what time this series begins.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Five reasons this show will be great:

    1. Sean Bean

    2. Sean Bean

    3. Sean Bean

    4. Sean Bean

    5. Sean Bean

  14. zozo says:

    game of thrones

    game of thrones Storyline game of thrones Seven noble families fight for control of the mythical land of Westeros. Political and sexual intrigue abound. The primary families are the Stark, Lannister, and Baratheon families. Robert Baratheon, King of Westeros, asks his old friend Eddard Stark to serve as his chief advisor. Eddard, suspecting that his predecessor had been murdered, accepts so that he can investigate further. It turns out more than one game of thrones enjoy http://gameofthrones10.blogspot.com/ http://gameofthrones10.blogspot.com/ http://gameofthrones10.blogspot.com/ http://gameofthrones10.blogspot.com/ http://gameofthrones10.blogspot.com/

  15. GOT Books says:

    Read all 5 books from A Song of Ice and Fire saga, even listened to 2 audiobooks, but watching HBO series of Game of Thrones is a chapter for itself. The only downswing is waiting for shooting of all the seasons on HBO. So if anyone can´t wait as I coudn´t, hit the books :) http://www.gameofthronesbooks.org/

  16. JustAnotherJonSnow says:

    Really enjoyed the first season, and can't wait until April 2012 for season 2 :). Does anyone know if they are going to change the title slightly for each season? Like Game of Thrones:Clash of Kings for season 2, or just stay under the generic Game of Thrones title. Finally started reading the books, after reviewing them at http://www.gameofthronesbook.com, now I have no free time :(. So far it's worth it though :P, definitely worth checking out.

  17. Mark says:

    As we are all awaiting GOT Season 2, there is little to do beside anxiously searching for peeks and previews of season 2 or news about ASOIAF book 6. I wrote a GOT Book vs. HBO review on my blog: http://www.gameofthronesreview.com/a-game-of-thro… . If you find any additional differences, please comment on them.

  18. Geun Wu Park says:

    "Game of Thrones Season 2 in Spring 2012!!!
    Game of Thrones is my favorite HBO series. The game of thrones has really good stories ,and I like the main character in Game of Thrones because he is strong and handsome!"

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