Game of Thrones Essay

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Game of Thrones


Even though the series has officially ended, everyone is still talking about Game of Thrones.  However, this high-fantasy epic, which ran on HBO, was not for everyone.  Whether because of lack of access to cable programming, concerns about the violent subject matter, or just plain lack of interest, there are actually plenty of people out there who never watched Game of Thrones.  This article is created as a primer for those who have never seen the series or were casual viewers.  It discusses the series, including main characters, overall plot, the ending, ratings, and whether there are any spin-offs or potential spin-offs being planned.   


Game of Thrones is a television show on the cable network, HBO, which was based on the George R.R. Martin fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire.  The television series took its name from the first novel in the series, A Game of Thrones.  More than many other novel adaptations, the series stays true to the events as depicted in the novels, though that was complicated by the fact that the series progressed more quickly than the novels themselves, resulting in the television writers having to choose directions for the characters.  The series premiered in April of 2011 and quickly became a pop culture phenomenon, with millions of people tuning in to see what would happen next. 

While HBO had already seen tremendous success for some of its drama series, like The Sopranos, Sex and the City, and True Blood, none of their prior series efforts attracted the same number of viewers as Game of Thrones.  The show very quickly became a hit with both critics and fans.  The show was popular enough that it boosted the fantasy genre in general, and naturally aligned with a devoted fan base for high fantasy material.  Many people believed that the scope of the story, the devotion to the story as told in the novels, the actors, and the complexity of the overall story line combined to make it one of the best television series of all time. 

However, the show is not without its detractors.  The series is one of the most violent series to be found on any type of television.  While it became a pop culture phenomenon with many children as fans, the material presented in the show was anything but child-friendly.  Not only did the show feature significant nudity, sexual behavior, and violence, it also featured a significant amount of sexual assault and even incest.  While these events may have been true to the depictions in the novels, they also ensured that even though the show was wildly popular, it was not for every viewer.  

Main Characters

The complexity of the plot is one of the things that fans of the series love, but the more complex the plot, the more main characters one can expect, and Game of Thrones certainly supports that idea.  It has what may be the largest ensemble cast of main characters of any drama TV series.  The size of the cast, combined with the popularity of the series, means that many of today’s most popular stars can trace their beginnings to Game of Thrones.  However, because the series creators and runners were not afraid to kill off beloved characters, not all of the popular stars who were on Game of Thrones lasted until the series’ conclusion.  

The series, at least initially, is divided by houses or families.  Therefore, in order to understand who the characters are in relation to each other, it is important to understand those houses.  The head of House Stark was Eddard Stark, played by Sean Bean.  Known as Ned, Eddard Stark was a Lord in a remote region.  He was married to Catelyn Tully, portrayed by Michelle Fairley.  Catelyn and Ned have five children together: son Robb, played by Richard Madden; daughter Sansa, played by Sophie Turner; daughter Arya, played by Maisie Williams, son Bran, played by Isaac Hempstead-Wright; and son Rickon, played by Art Parkinson.  In addition, Ned had an illegitimate son, Jon Snow, played by Kit Harrington.  Jon Snow is also a member of the Night’s Watch, a military-like group that is responsible for guarding the Wall that serves as one of the borders of the land controlled by House Stark.   

As one would expect with noble houses, they also have allies.  Characters who begin the series associated with House Stark include the Night’s Watch.  The Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch is Jeor Mormont, played by James Cosmo.  Samwell Tarly, played by John Bradley, is also a member, as well as Jon Snow’s friend.  There are characters living north of the Wall, and they are known as Wildlings.  Wildings include Gilly, played by Hannah Murray; Tormund Giantsbane, played by Kristofer Hivju; and Ygritte, played by Rose Leslie.  Other characters associated with the starks include Ned’s ward Theon Greyjoy, played by Alfie Allen; Roose Bolton, played by Michael McElhatton; Bolton’s illegitimate son Ramsay Snow, played by Iwan Rheon; healer Talisa Maegyr, played by Oona Chapin; the blacksmith’s apprentice Gendry, played by Joe Dempsie; the assassin Jagen H’ghar, played by Tom Wlashiha; and the warrior Brienne of Tarth, played by Gwendolyn Christie. 

The king at the beginning of the show is Robert Baratheon, played by Mark Addy.  The king lives in King’s Landing, along with his family and friends.  These include his wife, Cersei Lannister, played by Lena Headley; and her twin brother, Jaime Lannister, played by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau.  An important plot element, which is also crucial to understanding the characters is that Cersei and Jaime are not just twins, but also lovers.  They have a younger brother, Tyrion Lannister, played by Peter Dinklage.  Tyrion is a dwarf.  Tyrion’s mistress is Shae, played by Sibel Kekilli.  Tyrion also has a mercenary soldier that he has hired to protect him named Bronn, played by Jerome Flynn.  The Lannisters’ father is Lord Tywin Lannister, played by Charles Dance.  Cersei has two children, who are presumed to be the King’s children, as well, but the King suspects that they are not his.  Those two children are Joffrey, played by Jack Gleeson, and Tommen, played by Dean-Charles Chapman.  Joffrey has a body guard, Sandor “the Hound” Clegane, who is played by Rory McCann.  

There are some other characters associated with King’s Landing.  These associates of the King may be friends or foes; it is difficult to tell at the beginning of the series.  They include Master of Coin Lord Petyr Littlefinger Baelish, played by Aidan Gillen; spymaster Lord Varys, played by Conleth Hill; Stannis Baratheon, played by Stephen Dillane; the priestess Melisandre, played by Carice van Houten; Sir Davos Seaworth, played by Liam Cunningham; Margaery Tyrell, played by Natalie Dormer; and the religious leader the High Sparrow, played by Jonathan Pryce.  It is also home to Ellaria Sand, played by Indira Varma, who is an enemy of the Lannisters.  

There is another family that plays a role in Game of Thrones, though they are not associated with a particular land.  Instead, the Targaryen family is composed of exiles.  Their family was overthrown by King Robert Baratheon.  The family consists of Viserys Targaryen, played by Harry Lloyd; and Daenerys Targaryen, played by Emilia Clarke.  Viserys arranges a marriage for his sister with Khal Drogo, played by Jason Momoa, who is the ruler of a nomadic tribe of skilled horsemen and warriors.  Other characters associated with the Targaryen include Sir Jorah Mormont, played by Iain Glen; Missandei, played by Nathalie Emmanuel; the…

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…Daenerys leaves him alive, in anticipation of the battle with the Night King.  The Night King arrives at Winterfell.  There is an epic battle (the Battle of Winterfell), but the undead quickly defeat part of the army.  Jon and Daenerys take to the skies on the two remaining dragons.  The Night King falls from the dragon he has stolen, but escapes and raises the dead to keep them from pursuing him.  


After defeating the White Walker, they turn their energy to King’s Landing.  They cannot decide whether to support Jon or Daenerys.  They are ambushed by Euron Greyjoy leading troops, and he manages to kill one of the dragons (Rheagal) and destroy many of her ships.  Cersei brought the people of the city inside the Red Keep to prevent Daenerys from attacking the Keep.  Daenerys attempts bargaining, but it unsuccessful.  Jaime is taken prisoner, but Tyrion frees him.  Tyrion tries to get Jamie to convince Cersei to surrender in order to save the city, and she eventually does.  However, Daenerys begins to destroy the city, using Drogon to barrage the city with fire.  

Cersei attempts to escape.  Arya is there to kill her, but the Hound convinces her to escape instead.  Jaime gets into the Red Keep and finds Cersei.  However, their escape route is blocked, and they are killed by the crumbling rubble of the city.  Tyrion resigns as Daenerys’s hand, and is taken prisoner for treason.  Jon visits Tyrion’s cell and asks for advice, and Tyrion recommends that he kill Daenerys.  Jon follows that advice.  Drogon melts the Iron Throne, then picks up Daenery’s body and flies away.  Tyrion faces trial, but manages to get Bran declared the ruler of all but the North, which is ruled by Sansa.  Jon is sentenced to life on the Night’s Watch.  

Ratings and Awards

Game of Thrones was HBO’s most highly rated series, with more viewers than any other series.  In addition to being extremely popular with viewers, the show was also very popular with critics.  According to Wikipedia, the series received 47 Primetime Emmy Awards, three Hugo Awards, a Peabody Award, and was nominated for the Golden Globe five times (2019).  In addition to the show, many of the actors on the show won awards for their performances.  


So far, there have not been any spin-offs to Game of Thrones, but there are rumors that HBO is developing several different spin-offs.  These spin-offs would be created with the aid of the author of the original source material, George R. R. Martin.  Rather than following the characters after the events in the television series, the different spin-off series would be structured like prequels.  They may or may not be set in Westeros.  HBO has commissioned a pilot for at least one of the prequels, but it is not going to a spin-off in a traditional sense.  Instead, it is set thousands of years before the events in Game of Thrones.  It is believed that these prequels will help fill in the backstory about things like the foundation of the houses, the history of the White Walkers, and the Andal invasion.  Because it is set thousands of years before Game of Thrones, none of the actors or characters from the show would appear in the prequels.  However, while these prequels have been discussed, none of them are in production.


Game of Thrones is not only the most popular show on HBO, but a true cultural phenomenon.  It helped lead to a resurgence in interest in high fantasy, and launched the careers of many of today’s most famous stars.    Even for people who have no interest in watching the show, understanding its basics can help complete an understanding of modern culture. …

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