Don’t let the beards and swords intimidate you. Based on fantasy author George RR Martin’s acclaimed books, Game of Thrones has way more kudos than Dungeons and Dragons, with storylines as sordid as The Sopranos – you just have to be willing to embrace it. With season three debuting on OSN on Monday April 1, we fill you in on everything you need to know about this medieval soap.
So why should I watch it? Isn’t it just a cut-rate Lord of the Rings? It’s set in an olde-timey fantasy land, but otherwise it couldn’t be further from the hairy-footed amiability of Tolkien’s cosy, occasionally plodding ring cycle. Complex, unpredictable and brutal, and featuring a perfectly judged mix of Machiavellian intrigue and thunderous action, it’s less Lord of the Rings, more a stylised, limb-lopping spin on the War of the Roses (the 15th century dynastic conflict, not the 1989 Michael Douglas film). But with more dragons…
Dragons, eh? Still sounds like Lord of the Rings to me… Stop going on about Lord of the Rings! George RR Martin’s source novels placed rootsy realism over mumbo jumbo and monsters wherever possible, and TV network HBO – in order to keep the budget down, one imagines – has embraced this approach wholesale. The remaining supernatural elements never threaten to overwhelm the drama.
So what is it actually about? With the kingdom of Westeros up for grabs, five successors press their claim to the throne. Cue an epic, labyrinthine roundelay of battles, diplomacy, schemes, double-crossings, heroics and scads of inappropriateness as the Stark family attempts to keep the kingdom from tearing itself to shreds. Everyone is out for whatever they can get, death is never more than a heartbeat away and trust is just a word. Imagine Mad Men with mead and mayhem instead of mixed drinks and ‘ironic’ misogyny.
It’s all starting to sound quite involved. Won’t I get confused? There’s no denying that you’ll need to pay attention, but the storytelling is exceptionally sure-footed, and should easily guide you through the more intricate plot developments.
To be honest, I’ve always fancied getting into it, but my other half hates these sort of things… But didn’t they also balk at the violence of The Sopranos, the initial complexity of The Wire and the sheer bloody-mindedness of Lost? Game of Thrones is more compelling than any of those, with the very first episode offering a cliffhanger so gobsmackingly daring, your other half will be begging you to immediately fire up episode two. Games of Thrones airs on Mondays at 11pm on OSN First.