5 reasons why Game Of Thrones rules
With a wonderfully dark, measured opening, the new season of HBO's "Game Of Thrones" confirmed that this is still the sharpest, most imaginative drama series on television.
The season premiere, "The Two Swords," raked in HBO's highest ratings since 2007. According to Rolling Stone the show attracted 6.6 million viewers on Sunday night, with two replays boosting that number to 8.2 million. HBO's streaming service, HBOGo, crashed as a result of the massive onslaught of ravenous fans.
Like "Walking Dead" and "Mad Men," there's something about "Game Of Thrones" that makes it tap into a public hunger for bigger stories with a human touch you just don't get at the multiplex.
Now in its fourth run, the grand, complex adaptation of author George R.R. Martin's bestselling fantasy novels continues to bring a breadth of imagination and literary storytelling you don't see anywhere on the big screen.
Here are five reasons why "Game Of Thrones" towers above its peers when it comes to television binging.
5. The music
The music by Ramin Djawadi has become instantly recognizable. Especially the theme song which has become an cultural staple on par with past TV themes such as Mark Snow's theme for "The X-Files." With it's brooding strings and vibrant notes the theme is classical yet instantly catchy, baroque yet modern. The sound of the theme instantly evokes the series's opening title sequence where the map of the show's fantastical world manifests itself and the various castles, halls and kingdoms the characters inhabit build themselves like tiny miniatures.
"Game Of Thrones" is great television because it combines classical fantasy with very modern, hard-edged drama. One key example of this are the dragons that belong to the princess turned warrior Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), one of the players in the great war for the Iron Throne, the seat of power at the city of King's Landing. In the first season the dragons were merely hatchlings, born from eggs Targaryen carried as family heir looms from a time long ago when they were a mighty dynasty. Now in the fourth seasons the dragons are adolescents and are bigger and more dangerous. While Daenerys has used them as powerful weapons in her quest to gain an army and liberate various slave cities, it is becoming harder to control them. In this sense the dragons represent the risk of having great power, and how easily powerful weapons can spin out of control.
3. The Visuals.
Television is fast becoming a grander medium for creative storytelling than even movie theaters. Television allows for longer, broader story lines and even greater risks. The mix of drama, sexuality and gritty violence in "Game Of Thrones" is of the kind you rarely find in major feature films, especially summer blockbusters. Visually the series even beats most Hollywood productions. The scene that opened the first season was grand and elegant. In the scene Tywin Lannister watches as a blacksmith melts down the great sword that once belonged to the Stark family, who were mostly cut down in last year's notorious episode "The Rains Of Castamere" in the infamous Red Wedding scene. The steel is used to make two new swords to be claimed by the Lannisters who now rule supreme over the other clans in this saga. Lannister then proceeds to toss the skin of a dead "Dire Wolf," the symbol of the stark family into a fire. No dialogue is used, none is needed, with pure cinema the brutal truth of one group, one nation overcoming another is brought to life.
2. Peter Dinklage
Without a doubt the most recognizable character in the entire series is Tyrion Lannister, played by Peter Dinklage. A dwarf, the character of Tyrion has become a cultural icon, a staple of the times. His character outsmarts the great web of intrigue around him as families go to war and betrayal lurks in every corner. He survives on his wits and devours books. The character of Tyrion is also groundbreaking in that never before has a dwarf been given such a prominent, yet non-stereotyped role in a major TV drama. Tyrion towers over all the other characters as a beer-guzzling, poiitically savvy yet noble man who in the new season finds himself married against his will to the much younger Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner), who remains trapped in King's Landing under the eyes of the ever more psychotic King Joffrey (Jack Gleeson).
1. The Relevance
But the aspect of "Game Of Thrones" that has allowed it to touch such a deep chord with audiences is because in its own, unique way it taps so well into the zeitgeist. The world of "Game Of Thrones" is not so different from our own. The various clans and families fighting for power are like the great powers who today fight over territory and geopolitical influence. The writing in the series is brutally true to human nature. The characters are flawed, they lie, they love tragically, they kill, they are driven by deep pains and vendettas, or religious messianism and a thirst for conquest. The House of Byratheon for example follows a fire god known as the Lord Of Light, while the Lannisters will play any Machiavellian card necessary to get what they want, even if it means butchering an entire wedding party.
Other aspects of the show resonate so well with our times. There is a great wall that separates the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros from an untamed, ice-covered frontier where the tribes known as Wildlings refuse to be dominated or conquered. In this sense Westeros is no different from modern America or Europe as internally nations face turmoil as we remain mired in wars in distant lands we know little about.
Above all, "Game Of Thrones" is simply a spectacular entertainment and great drama. But like any great art, it works because it also reaches into the deeper recesses of its viewers.