April is coming. HBO’s “Game of Thrones” was one of last season’s most popular programs, and fans are excited that it is finally returning to the small screen for its second season. The series established what co-creator David Benioff described as a world “where the Sopranos was set in Middle Earth.” If you are not already watching this enigmatic series, here are 10 reasons you should be watching “Game of Thrones.”
Substance over style
A show like “Game of Thrones” could draw a majority of its audience with its action and fantasy settings alone. But the series works first and foremost because show-runners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss emphasize the characters and story above everything else. Viewers become so invested in the characters because they are presented in a way that makes them relatable to contemporary audiences, despite taking place in a medieval setting.
…but the style is great too!
The writing staff of “Thrones” may understand the importance of portraying compelling characters, but that should not suggest the technical elements of the series are lacking. The visual effects, art direction, cinematography and musical score are all superior when compared to most television programs. HBO continues to produce television series that have the look and feel of a major motion picture.
It’s not TV, it’s HBO
Along with offering the best of the best aesthetic work, “Game of Thrones” thrives with the premium channel’s programming style. Broadcast programs that air on channels like ABC and NBC typically have to produce twenty-four episodes every season and must remain family-friendly. This large episode order and censorship issue leave many stories stretched out, repetitive and restrictive. HBO stresses fewer episodes per season in order to keep the stories fresh and equally exciting on a week-to-week basis. Additionally, more adult-themed content can be used to drive the narrative forward in a more realistic way.
Sex, sex and more sex!
What separates “Thrones” most from typical medieval fantasy stories is its more accurate depiction of relationships during the time period. There is little to no heroism and chivalry involved with men and women on this show. Instead everyone is sleeping with everyone and bastard children serve as prominent characters. This was not a civilized time, and “Thrones” showcases a realistic look at sexual tendencies of the time period.
Swords, kings and magic
Like most fantasy tales, “Game of Thrones” is filled with these three excellent attributes. “Thrones” features several characters all vying for the crown of the mythical “Westeros,” and many fight to the death in their attempts of attaining that. Co-existing with these power-seeking men and women are several entities that feature supernatural abilities. What else could an audience member ask for?
The main title sequence
“Iron Man” director Jon Favreau tweeted last summer that “The credit sequence from Game of Thrones is more entertaining than most TV shows.” He was not exaggerating, as the imagination and attention to detail in the opening title sequence is tremendous. With a sweeping musical theme from composer Ramin Djawadi playing over an intricate map of Westeros that highlights the settings of that particular episode, the “Thrones” title sequence is the perfect way to begin each episode.
The shock factor
The issue with most television programs is their inevitable predictability. For a series to have any longevity, major plot points and character departures need to be withheld for later seasons. Viewers know the main characters will be back each week, and that major conflicts will not be resolved for some time. “Thrones” breaks all of these rules, as major events took place in the first season, which consisted of just 10 episodes. Yet fans do not have to worry about the writers running out of material, as each season of the show will focus on individual book entries of the “A Song of Ice and Fire” series by author George R. R. Martin.
The writers won’t hold your hand
A big pet peeve for many television viewers is the tendency of the writing staff to over-explain what is happening with pointless and boring exposition. Benioff, Weiss and the entire “Thrones” writing staff instead trust their viewers to fully understand the plot because they have faith in their viewers and do not insult their intelligence. Very important story elements even occur off-screen, forcing the audience to quickly accept what has happened and move on with the characters despite not seeing the event in question actually happening. It may be frustrating at times to not see certain events unfold, but it makes the story move quicker and leaves more time for characterization.
Again ignoring most fantasy troupes, “Game of Thrones” does more than pit good guys against bad guys. The series actually explores why these people are fighting each other and presents both sides of the issue. Most of the characters are morally ambiguous individuals who take part in back-room deals, lie, cheat and trade information in order to get what they want. Several of the political debates are ones that are still relevant today.
In case reasons one through nine were not convincing enough, there are dragons in this show. And on top of it, they look incredibly real. “Game of Thrones” returns this Sunday night on HBO at 9 p.m.
Kevin Romani can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Kevin on Twitter @KevinRomani.