The allure of ‘A Game of Thrones’

In this undated image released by HBO, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau portrays Jaime Lannister in a scene from the second season of
In this undated image released by HBO, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau portrays Jaime Lannister in a scene from the second season of "Game of Thrones." (AP Photo/HBO, Helen Sloan)

Callie Sutton

Special to

With lords battling it out over the throne, cunning royal siblings trying desperately to do away with each other and young girls being promised in politically-appropriate arranged marriages, “A Game of Thrones” seems like a typical Knights of the Round Table story.

Yet, this HBO original series has captivated audiences worldwide. It has 11 Emmy nominations in 2012, including Outstanding Drama Series and Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series. It also has a Facebook page that has garnered over four million “Likes,” and is reported to be the most pirated series of all time.

This is surprising because, at first glance, the “Game of Thrones” storyline seems to be a basic lackluster king-is-being-overthrown type of fare. Granted, there is the weird zombie/supernatural side story brewing, but aside from that, the characters are relatively conventional for a medieval series. There are noble knights, corrupt councilmen, and brutish barbarians. These characters never seem to stray from their expected roles of decency, hypocrisy, foolishness, and/or arrogance. Upon closer inspection, however, there is something alluring about this series.

“A Game of Thrones” is based on the epic series of novels “A Song of Fire and Ice” by bestselling author George R. R. Martin. The first season of the HBO series very closely mimics the first of Martin’s books. Reading the novel after watching the first season of “Game of Thrones” actually clarifies some of the details and solidifies some of the characters. It almost seems as the novel was written as a detailed “behind the scenes” guide to the show, complete with maps and family trees.

Of course, the first novel was published almost 15 years before HBO even started filming the show, so that couldn’t be. It may be that a well-written, critically-acclaimed book has finally been given what it deserves—a beautiful, on-screen adaptation that invests the time it really takes to tell a magnificent story in its entirety.

Dedicating a full 10-episode season to each novel was a brilliant move by HBO. The story can unfold slowly enough to give the audience time to love or despise each character. Because there really is no true central character of the story, each character is given adequate time to develop in every sense of the word.

Likewise, the novel actually reads like a well-thought-out television show. Each chapter is titled with the name of the character whose perspective is given in that particular chapter. This allows the audience to get a full circle view of what is actually going on in the realm. Each viewpoint in the story gives a different piece of the puzzle that, when put together, paints an epic picture of deception, destruction, hardship, and even hope.

Of course, there are some scenes in the show that are not in the book, seemingly added to help clarify certain details that would be missed since the audience can’t hear everything the characters are thinking, as readers can in the novel. There are also many graphic sexual encounters, which may not have been necessary to tell such a captivating story, but may be what HBO subscribers have come to expect from the pay channel.

Overall, the allure of “Game of Thrones” is firmly entrenched in the show’s rich storytelling. This is not the stereotypical medieval war story. It expects an audience with a brain, and requires an investment of thought during the show. There are no neat and tidy conclusions or happy endings. The only thing that seems to be promised in this series is that the fascinating characters and cliffhanger endings will have people talking and blogging long after it has aired.

Character to watch: Tyrion Lannister played by Peter Dinklage

Tyrion is truly the unconventional character of the show. As the dwarf son of a noble Lord, and brother of the Queen, Tyrion has been ridiculed for his appearance for as long as he can remember. Rather than become meek and cowering, the “half-man” uses his wits to outsmart those around him, usually with success. Tyrion offers a somewhat modern viewpoint to an otherwise medieval story. He seems more enlightened than the characters who surround him, dedicated to doing the right thing, as long as he stays alive. Peter Dinklage won the 2011 Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series for his portrayal of Tyrion, and has been nominated again in 2012.