If you’re willing to skip Netflix for a month and set aside some money for HBO, “Game of Thrones” is well worth the watch.
From the memes to the story lines, here are a few reasons why you should binge all six seasons of the blood, guts and sex thriller before the seventh season premieres on July 16.
1. Bound to the Book
Whether you read the books or have been looking for more reasons to start, you should know that the “Game of Thrones” you’re watching on Sunday nights is based off of a written story, not just invented for the screen. The series comes from George R. R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire,” a series of well-written fantasy books that have everything the show has and much, much more.
The books are arduous, so you have to be someone who likes to read if you want to take them on; if that sounds like you, the series may be one of your favorite of all time. Unlike most movie adaptions, the TV show allows for more detail to be put into episodes, and although a few details are left out, there’s nothing major that corrupts your understanding of the story.
2. Multiple Angles
Right from the start, the show makes it clear that the narrative will be skipping from one point of view to the next. In doing so, the sensation that you are in a contest, a “game of thrones” if you will, is heightened, as viewers get inside the heads of the characters, revealing not only their battle plans, but their fears and motivations as well.
Plus, if you’re someone who gets bored easily and find themselves uninterested in the plot line currently on the screen, give the show twenty minutes and it will jump to another story, probably one featuring a character intent on slitting the throat of the individual whose plot line was putting you to sleep only a few minutes ago.
If you’re really lucky, the story will even bring together some of your favorite characters and have them join forces, like Daeneryus Targaryen and Tyrion Lannister or Arya Stark and the Hound. The showrunners work closely with Martin to make every chance encounter something special, so nearly every time two characters meet, they share a backstory that makes their intersection that much more entertaining.
3. Revenge of the Everyone
If you get a kick out of people getting what they deserve, paying people their dues or sometimes just slaughtering someone to clear their mind for a second, “Game of Thrones” has what you need. Though the characters, locations and winds of fortune may change, the one constant that runs through the show is that your favorite character is probably going to die. And, if they die, then of course someone has to avenge their death, and then someone has to avenge that death, and after all the avenging has run its course, audiences find themselves with entirely fresh character landscapes, which only offer manifold new opportunities for story development.
So yes, the Red Wedding did have the unwanted effect of making you hate David Bradley, the man formerly known as Filch, but it also introduced a plot line so tantalizing that maybe Arya should have served it instead of her fingernail-laden puff pastry. Where there is revenge, soon after comes damn good television.
4. The Feminist Throne
If you were to tune into “Game of Thrones” right at the end of the last season, you might have sworn that the show was a feminist manifesto. Nearly every corner of the map is led by a single individual, and almost every one of them is a woman. And while all of them are gritty, the women run the gamut in terms of personal affect. You have the classic gender-role-defying rebel in Arya, a girl who always felt more at home with a sword and shield than a doll, right beside her sister Sansa, a heteronormative vision in pink who wants nothing more than to get married and start a family. What do they both have in common? A history of abuse and a ruthless ability to kill anyone who stands in their way, proving that women of all personality types are more than capable of running shit.
Although everyone hates her, Cersei Lannister is a cunning politician who has screwed and stabbed her way to the top. While her moral compass may be in the gutter, her tenacity is undeniable, as is her family instinct. In fact, if you listen to the rumors circling King’s Landing, she might even love some members of her kin a little too closely. Still, given that she currently sits atop the Iron Throne, those whispers are pretty quite at the moment.
Then of course there is the inimitable Daenerys Targaryen, the only woman on the show whose powers extend beyond charisma and into the realm of magic. Her rise to prominence required an imperviousness to flame, an ability to hatch dragons and the fortitude to watch her brother die an agonizing, if not fabulous, death. Even more than her idiosyncrasies though, her zeal for justice stands out. She comes from a legacy of rulers who have abused their authority, and Daenerys, more than any of the other characters, is engaged in a constant inner battle between the desire for victory and an obligation to fairness. Her growth in personal maturity has been inspiring to watch, and she represents perhaps the likeliest challenger to sit on the Iron Throne.
5. The Map
The opening of “Game of Thrones” has spawned a fan club all its own, as the show’s intro displays the geography of Westeros with a giant fly-over of an animated map at the beginning of every episode. As the series progresses, it’s crazy to think about how a character got to where they are compared to where they began at the beginning of the series. Also, when you think about which characters might run into each other, it’s pretty satisfying.
What’s more, all the locations are creative mash-ups of historical, fictional or mythic cultures, which makes identifying their hodgepodge influences half the fun. The city of Mereen strongly resembles a pharaonic Alexandria, with its desert surroundings and massive, slave-built architectural wonders, whereas King’s Landing, the bustling metropolitan city that houses the Iron Throne, feels like ancient Rome in all its squalid splendor.
In addition to the architecture, the show also pays homage to different cultures who have wildly different social values. The Dothraki, for instance, live a nomadic lifestyle, riding from camp to camp on their beloved horses, and value physical strength over all else; despite all their bravado, the entire populace fears crossing the ocean, simply because their horses can’t drink the salt water. Then you have the Wildlings, also a nomadic people, but one composed of various different sub-cultures that all share the common ground of living north of the Wall, which means eking out a harsh existence among the cold winters and White Walkers who roam the barren country.
In many ways, with the show’s physical and racial heterogeneity, part of the program’s appeal is almost sociological. The game of thrones proves almost less about the characteristics of the individual at the front of the army, and more about the army and people who make it up. Will discipline and order rule out? Loyalty and pragmatism? Cunning and treachery? Tune in July 16 to find out.