If during the last few months you've strolled into the midst of a conversation about Baratheons, Khaleesi and Stormcrows and pondered for the sanity of those around you, fear not, the world hasn't turned insane, it is merely suffering the latest bout of HBO inspired addiction thanks to the wonderfully epic and epically wonderful fantasy epic, Game Of Thrones. The following guide does include a few little spoilers so navigate well and welcome to the world of The Seven Kingdoms...
Fast becoming one of Game Of Thrones' greatest characters, Arya, daughter of Lord Neddy, started off as a fairly unidimensional tomboy in season one before she was thrust into the cold harsh reality of life outside of her Winterfell home. In acting terms little Brit Maisie Williams holds her own among the adult cast, with her recent scenes battling wits with Charles Dance particularly standout. Even if we can't shake the fact that she has the exact face of a tiny Jaime Winstone.
Sure Sopranos had a plentiful supply of strippers while Sex And The City had Samantha's 80 year old mammaries but nothing else on TV (outside of the channels in the high 900's) can compete for skin on show. Being HBO there's an occasional wang and man bum too, but above all Game Of Thrones proves conclusively that the B in HBO really does stand for Boobies.
Not just a choice line of dialogue and a season one episode title, Cripples, Bastards and Broken Things is also a great summation of what's so undeniably brilliant about Game Of Thrones. It really does root for the little guy, for the underdog. Whereas a great deal of both fantasy and American TV is preoccupied with all things manly and chiselled of jaw, here the chiseliest of jaws belongs to an incestuous asshole and the manliest of men are slain only for their womenfolk and children to rise up and better anything they ever did. And the bald chap in the picture below had his nuts cut off. How's that for broken things.
Yep dragons. Stuff of legend for many in the Seven Kingdoms, a trio of little scaly buggers make their entrance toward the end of season one, offering up a major curveball to anyone's plans of sitting on the Iron Throne. Considering the lack of ground-to-air missiles in deployment throughout the lands of Game Of Thrones, a fully grown dragon doing your bidding represents a Didier Drogba-sized match winner. Spectacularly well handled in regards to character and plot, the arrival of said beasties doesn't register as anything abnormal even for those used to 'TV realism'.
Not yet receiving the showering of award plaudits it deserves - especially in relation to the critical consensus and viewer love (currently sitting at a rating of 9.4 on IMDb) - Game Of Thrones has managed to acquire a couple of statuettes for Supporting Actor and Title Sequence. While it may garner more come next awards season, if it doesn't replicate these wins there may be riots from fans dressed head to toe in cosplay fur and armour.
“You put a crab in hot water, he’ll jump right out,” offers the show's creator, “But you put him in cold water and you gradually heat it up — the hot water is fantasy and magic, and the crab is the audience.” So talk of dragons and kings and cosplay might make the average idiot box viewer baulk at such 'childish silliness', those without their heads up their backsides gave the fantasy a chance and were richly rewarded. Although that crab analogy does mean as an audience we're going to get boiled alive.
Picture in your mind's eye what you think a fantasy writer might look like. Now look below. That's a bingo! Having penned the first in his A Song Of Ice And Fire series way back in the early 90s the bearded wonder had to wait a long time and hand over quite a bit of faith to get the saga adapted to the visual medium. Originally intended as a four book series, Martin is currently writing the sixth instalment as we speak, with a seventh to come. Yay, a decade of Thrones awaits!
Celebrating being 40 years old this year, Home Box Office have done it again with Game Of Thrones, making an addictive, thoroughly entertaining show unlike anything else on the small screen. The kind of show that like its forefathers Oz, The Sopranos and The Wire, gets people talking, endlessly. But that's because it's not TV...
Doing more for Northern Ireland than a thousand George Bests, Game Of Thrones has reportedly pumped over £40m into the Northern Irish economy. There's also talk of it capitalising on Throne style tourism much in the way that New Zealand saw its lands overrun with hairy footed Hobbit wannabes. So next time you're in Belfast and you see a bearded guy take to the streets to give a grandiose speech against conflicting dynasties don't worry that Gerry Adams is up to his old tricks it's probably just a GoT fanatic.
If you screamed the word c-word “Cunt!” at the opening picture, well done you. Those who haven't yet watched the show won't fully understand how a fictional character can create such unadulterated hatred but once you've succumbed you will. Oh you will. And you'll start to hate Batman for not killing him when he had the chance in Batman Begins. Even though he's just an actor. Named Jack Gleeson. Playing a role. Still we hate you for not killing Joffrey, Batman.
The gender politics of Game Of Thrones are certainly debatable (bare breasts vs dangling dongs notwithstanding) but in Khaleesi aka Daenerys Targaryen aka Mother Of Dragons the show makes a hell of a case for strong, powerful women. As a timid girl sold by her brother, Emilia Clarke's character is annoyingly placid yet once she starts deciding not to live under oppression she becomes the most likeable female fantasy figure since Leia. And she eats a horse's heart in about 30 seconds. Which in the land of the Dothraki means she gets it for free.
No we don't mean the colourful type spewed by The Full Monty's Mark Addy (he's all about the shits and fucks) but rather the true test of a geek show, the made-up language of the Dothraki. In decades to come episodes of The Big Bang Theory will centre around arguments of which is better, Dothraki or Klingon. The arguments will utilise the 3,163 words in the former. At the end of the episode Sheldon will cough up a lung. And everyone will laugh.
“A crappy way of describing it would be The Sopranos in Middle Earth”. So spaketh showrunner David Benioff before Game Of Thrones first came to fruition. As crappy as it is to mash up a couple of shows with a location it's still a pretty accurate description. Like The Sopranos it's inherently adult, plagued by death and preoccupied with power. We'd even happily throw in a The Wire comparison for its myriad plots and phonebook-style cast list. There you go, “It's The Sopranos meets Lord Of The Rings plus The Wire.”
SPOILER ALERT Lord Eddard Stark of Winterfell or Neddy to his mates is played to perfection by Sean Bean, Seen Been, Sjorn Bjorn but a mere mention of Sharpey gives a little game away, seeing how the man is one walking, talking, finely bearded spoiler himself. It's testament to the performance and the writing that even after Sean did what Sean does best, his legend still pours out of every plotline. The reason for his absence in season two being one of the greatest motivators for audiences imploring violent retribution, to the point that Gandhi himself would be crying for justice for Ned in the bloodiest way possible. SPOILER OVER.
The actual granddaughter of Charlie Chaplin, Oona plays the Florence Nightingale-esque Lady Talisa Maegyr who finds a soft spot for Robb Stark amongst sawing off legs and chastising him for having a war and a penis. Another female character with interests outside of the main TV staples of 'shoes and cock', Talisa's reason for giving up her title for tourniquets and treatments is represnted in a touching piece of backstory which will hopefully mean she'll be around for a bit.
The truest 'hero' of Game Of Thrones, Peter Dinklage's time on screen might not be much greater than anyone else's but he's blessed with the dialogue of a God and, most importantly, the ability to delivery it, making sure every moment is a treasure. Hopefully Tyrion's impact will inspire people to seek out Thomas McCarthy's The Station Agent for more Peter treats and perhaps, make feature filmmakers realise that in any role great acting is great acting.
Couldn't find a decent Q so here's a couple of bit characters. Can't say that either was particularly memorable but the former is described as having “cruel eyes and quick hands” by one Game Of Thrones fansite and “small eyes and quick hands” by IMDb. So, look out for the guy with small, cruel eyes. And quick hands. Everyone can agree on the speed of his hands at least.
Season one drew a decent 2m-plus in viewing figures back in 2011, eventually ending closer to 3m. And despite losing some beloved characters season two came in even stronger, with the première episode boasting a total of 3.9m. Last week it lost the top spot to the NBA playoffs but considering it's almost doubling AMC's Mad Men figures all seems pretty happy in Westeros.
The box-set for season one of Game Of Thrones comes with it's own pull out map and family tree. You don't need them, but by God they're handy if you wish to avoid melting brain syndrome. “Who's that?” “Why is he angry with him?” “But isn't that her brother?!” will be just a few of the questions that will rear up if you don't get a decent handle on the Seven Kingdoms and what every one of them strives to gain. Although “The North” is easy to get a grip on, that's Scotland. Obvs.
It's already been spoofed by The Simpsons. It's that good.
Before Sopranos regular Tim Van Patten took charge of season one, episode one, writer/director/actor Thomas McCarthy shot a never aired pilot. McCarthy's recounting of events is as spectacularly classy as you'd expect from the guy who directed The Visitor and helped write UP, citing it as just one of those things. As massive fans of his work we'd love to catch a glimpse of it.
Beheadings, jousts gone wrong, beheadings gone wrong, hangings, charred remains, hot rats in buckets (which incidentally would be an awesome name for a death metal band) there's pretty much nothing off the torture table when it comes to violence in Game Of Thrones. Just making someone sit on that big iron throne seems like a pretty nasty torment. Bet Joffrey's got haemorrhoids the size of canoes.
Having both made their name as authors first, DB Weiss and David Beinhoff are the showrunners of Game Of Thrones. With their backgrounds making them well placed to understand what makes a tome work the two D's have become known as two of the most pleasant showrunners in the business.
We've covered most of this in Boobies but it was difficult settling on an X, even in a fantasy world such as this. So we're back to the sex. And why not. The making of the beasts with two backs certainly isn't the USP of Game Of Thrones yet when it comes to finding a stick in which to attack 'Everyone's favourite new show' the stick does seem to be unsurprisingly cock shaped. A recent SNL skit (taken down from YouTube) reasoned that a 13-year old 'consultant' might have something to do with it.
With the propensity to whack more characters than a Bada Bing owner, there's a need to replenish the cast with new faces fairly often. One such new face for season two is wildling Ygritte, played by Downton Abbey's Rose Leslie. Wrapped in 57 layers of clothing Ygritte still managed to leave quite a lasting impression on Ned's 'bastard-virgin-son' Jon Snow with some well-played arse grinding. Expect to see a bit more of the red haired wild one in season three. If she doesn't get whacked in the next two episodes.
The level of character interaction and strength of engagement in story is so high you often forget you're watching a show with dragons, mystics and yes even zombies. While nobody says the Z-word and they only pop up occasionally north of the Wall - bearing scant similarity to the brain eating bastards of Romero-world - their inclusion does mean that Game Of Thrones can be described as "Lord Of The Rings meets The Sopranos plus The Wire added to The Walking Dead. With hundreds and thousands on top. And a flake."
Tune in to Sky Atlantic to watch the culmination of season two of Game Of Thrones.